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Showing posts from 2010

Great Causes to Adopt Before Year-End

Thanks to U.S. tax law, which allows one to deduct contributions to charity from tax totals, the vast majority of charities receive their largest total donations the last two to three days of the calendar year. Like me, you are probably receiving numerous year-end e-mails from charitable service organizations, asking you for donations. I receive so many of these emails, in fact, that I feel overwhelmed and powerless, because I cannot POSSIBLY donate to all these groups.  However, that feeling is a useless one, so I turn it around by thinking about what I can do, rather than what I can't, and by deciding not to criticize myself for making "small" donations. After all, what would someone rather have...none of $50 or all of $5? 

Many of us can make small donations, and by small, I mean even single-digit small. Take Unicef as an example. It has a matching funds program through December 31. If I donate $8, my $8 becomes $16.  Maybe you're reading this and thinking, "…

The Art of Adoption

My biological family never quite took the shape I  planned for it to have. The plan:  I would have two children. My brother and sister would each have at least one. There would be cousins at Christmas gatherings into the foreseeable future, just as there were at our Christmas gatherings of old. I would be happily married forever to husband Nº 1. My parents would live to a ripe, old age, enjoying all those grandchildren and their grandchildren's children, perhaps. You know where this is going, don't you?

My one child had no cousins. My parents' lives were shortened by unbeatable illnesses. Husband 1 and I, predictably, did not have a lasting marriage. This year's Christmas gathering was one I could never have imagined in my youth. My sister was absent, taken from us earlier this year. In my living room sat my brother, brother-in-law, and a close friend of mine. My son and his wife had flown to another state to be with a terminally-ill relative. A string of tiny colored …

Late! Late! For that important annual date!

I've made my own Christmas cards since childhood. In those "olden" days, I would color and address each card by hand, and ask my father for postage. As an adult, there were many holiday seasons when sending cards, much less making them, was beyond my means, thanks to the usual stresses of self-employment and single parenthood; my family's multiple December birthdays; illness--mine or a family member's; and a few years where my budget was so tight that it couldn't even include Christmas card postage. This year was going to be just right. I made my cards in October--October, folks! They were printed by mid-November. And then the illness card got played, taking me back to another childhood memory--strep infections.

Once again, I am mailing Christmas cards that won't arrive before Christmas.  Last year, I was smart: my card didn't have the word Christmas in it, so I wouldn't appear late with my mailing. Ah, deadline fever. What an irritating disease…

Education by Juxtaposition

My college art history professor used to test our knowledge of painters by showing us two slides at once. It might be Rubens next to Ribera or Van Gogh with Van Eyck. All periods and styles were fair game. Our job, as students, was to compare and contrast the pictures. What was similar? Different? How did the messages of each composition differ from or match its media naranja del momento? What could we learn from this pair that we could not learn by looking at them singly?

Lately, I feel as though I've returned to my beloved professor's class room. More and more, I see juxtapositions that make me meditate on the meaning of things.

Juxtapose 1: Chicken and Egg Economy
The U.S. Post Office is deeply in debt. They may have to cut service. My local post office during this busiest mail month of the year has only two employees handling everything. When one of them takes a well-deserved break, the clerk-to-customer ratio goes as high as 1 to 15. If they re-hired some of the employ…

A Thought for the Season

"Let me light my lamp," says the star,
"And never debate if it will help
to remove the darkness."
--Rabindranath Tagore

From Reverie to Reality--for a Moment

I've enjoyed turning my mind toward the Advent season. But, at times our "brave new world" bounces up into my face like a hard-to-conrol rubber ball. So, there goes my mind!

We have a new restaurant in town. Nice location, healthy food, pleasant atmosphere. I purchased a meal there last week and was given a special customer card. With this card, I can have a free 12th meal after buying 11. I can also receive a coupon for a free side dish. All I have to do is register online on their national chain's Web page.

Once I register, they will know: my name, state and zip code, e-mail address, the number of people in my household, my birthday, and whether or not I'm a vegetarian. Not exactly the contents of an FBI file, but to earn the promised discounts, I need to swipe my card in their swiper machine every time I dine. Thinking about that, I had an epiphany (not of a religious sort).

If I register that card and use it at this restaurant, I will be tracked. Hunters track…

Christmas Present, Christmas Absent

I was beyond fortunate in the childhood I had, surrounded by a loving family. Our togetherness at Christmas made the holiday complete for me. It was a union that felt both perfect and inviolable. As the years pass, however, togetherness is tested and must change its shape. As millions of others do, I face another Christmas with a new absence. The grandparents and parents have been gone for a while now. This year, the new absence will be my sister's.

One year, after our parents were gone, my sister said to my brother and me, "Let's keep this simple." We gathered at her house for a Christmas dinner of soup and cornbread. It was delicious--and so easy to clean up! She gave each of us a forcing vase with a narcissus bulb nestled inside. Attached to the vase was a paper with the lyrics to this hymn:

In the bulb, there is a flower: in the seed, an apple tree; In the cold and snow of winter, there's a spring that waits to be, Unrevealed until its season, something God a…

Christmas and Christ: Coming or Going?

Will Christmas come to you this year, or will you be running into it? Do you remember that phrase, "What would Jesus do?" This is a good time to ask that question.

Think back to what we call the First Century CE. Not one electric light blinked for even a moment in a land where gnarled olive trees granted fruit and oil, but little shade, where crops were planted and harvested--harvested, if there was enough moisture--by hand. A journey of 10 miles could take a few days.

What surrounded Jesus was poverty--poverty that damaged those who suffered from it. The very word, poverty, makes me wince. Until. Until I see television commercials for luxury cars, power tools, techno-toys, and diamonds. Until I see countless strings of lights wrapped around trees, roofs, and storefronts. Until I see ads in church bulletins asking for people to "play" wise men, shepherds, and angels. Yes, even that tradition keeps us from knowing the poverty that can free us from the commercial…

A Thankful and Thoughtful Holiday

Happy Thanksgiving to all!
¡Feliz Día de accíon de gracias a todos!

In the olden days, when our family gathered for Thanksgiving and there was no "Black Friday" (what a foreboding name), we had time and leisure. We didn't spend money. We spent time--with each other. And during that time, we made it a point to tell family members and friends about our gratitudes in life. "And what are you thankful for this year?" my father would ask each of us at the dinner table.

One of the many things I am thankful for are the readers of this little blog. Thanks for the comments you post and send. Thanks for sharing this space and time with me. You do so much to keep me from feeling like that tree in the forest that fell--and no, no one heard it!

As a thank you to you all, I´m posting the camera-ready art that I created for my Thanksgiving Card this year. Click to enlarge the image at the beginning of the post, and you´ll have the card exterior. Click on the image below, and …


Well, I'm on my way to the post office, and I'm mailing out two copies of Living Lessons to two bright and beautiful women who I am now lucky enough to have following my humble blog.

For you writers out there, visit the Whispering Angels site to learn about publishing opportunities for their next anthology, Nurturing Paws.

New from the Whispering Angel of Books

Just published: Living Lessons, the latest anthology from Whispering Angel Books and Editor Lynn Johnston. It's a beautiful book of stories and poems about what we learn from family, friends, teachers--and maybe a whispering angel or two. My essay, "Lasting Lessons from a Little Sister," is included. The book sells for $16.95.

Living Lessons makes a great gift, and I'd like to give one to a deserving reader. What do you have to do to "deserve" it? It's ever so simple--and free! Become the 15th follower of my little ol' blog, and the book will be in the mail to you post haste. It would make me feel so complete to see that third row of followers filled in--three rows of five. Symmetry is sweet!

So . . . . if you follow, I will lead myself to the post office, and you will be gifted with a unique and meaningful book.

It's Alive! It's Alive!

See Christopher Mims' article in Technology Review: "The Death of the Book Has BeenGreatly Exaggerated." No hype, very cogent.

"He Says Much Who Says Evening"

I first read that line in Lesley Blanch's book,
Journey into the Mind's Eye.
While taking a twilight walk this evening
after a long day of rain,
this flowering bush said much to me.

"Quien dice crepúsculo, dice mucho".
Es un dicho que encontré hace uno años en un libro
de la autora Lesley Blanch, Journey into the Mind's Eye.
Mientras caminaba durante el anochecer,
después de un día de lluvia,
me econtré con este arbusto en flor y
me decía mucho.

New Stuff on Site

Updates to My Website
Credits New additions and links to publications you might want to submit work to or read for pleasure and enlightenment.ArtifactsNew poem added, "Language Lesson."Prose Page has replaced Poetry Page for the time being--all new content.News item on the 2011 Texas Poetry Calendar (very cool cover art!). More news coming soon . . . .

And So September

has come to us quietly on the Southern Plains. The light has "turned"--not turned a color, but simply turned, shifted. Its quality has changed. It is less dense than August light, more revelatory and less penetrating.

And, although I purchased a Nook and think it's both useful and cute, I continue to turn real pages in three-dimensional books, latest among them:

Isabella of Castile: The First Renaissance Queen by Nancy Rubin
The Message: Proverbs, one of my favorite books in the Bible.
Texas Highways Magazine
España Mística, Photographs by Ortiz Echagüe
The Ecstatic Kabbalah by Rabbi David Cooper
Lone Star Man by Harold Preece
The Shallows by Nicholas Carr
The Father of Spin: A Biography of Edward L. Bernays by Larry Tye

All great reads. Making me feel like I'm once again going back to school, learning and exploring.
And making good use of September light.

Hasta septiembre

I'll be back in September. Happy end of Summer, everyone.

Have a Go at Anderbo

Anderbo is a fine online literary journal. Its new issue went online just recently. You can read the poetry section here, or start from the beginning at Anderbo's opening page here. Esquire thinks it's a good read, and that's high praise. I especially like the magazine's very clean and simple design. It's a refreshing change of pace from so many Websites and pages that lead to eye-bouncing. Anderbo's layout is streamlined, seamless, invites reading and re-reading. Enjoy.

About those medical records

Recently, I had some medical tests done in our local clinic. The clinic is moving to a paperless medical records system, and not until today, did I realize what this cost-saving measure insisted upon by our government may be costing us, the patients.

I asked for a copy of the results of the test, and the technician said, "I'd love to print that out for you, but I can't. It's all staying in the computer now."

All right--so someone saved some paper. Not all right--I don't "own" my medical records. The clinic does--in their computer. What if I change doctors? They can send those records electronically to another doctor, I'm sure. And that doctor will keep them in his or her clinic's computers. What will it take for me to have easy access to them? Just two years ago, I was able to walk into the clinic's medical records center and obtain paper copies of any and all of my medical records, so I could keep them in my files. It dawned on me today,…

B for Bastille Day, B for Black & White

Today, on Bastille Day, Turner Classic Movies aired the 1938 Marie Antoinette with the talented elenco of Norma Shearer, Tyrone Power, Robert Morley and others. Aside from the very good performances of its actors, the movie is a visual delight, in almost every single frame. This, thanks to the cinematography team of Leonard Smith, George Folsey, and Slavko Vorkapich.

Almost every single moment would create a perfectly composed still photograph. Many of the shots included time and space enough that my eye had time to roam a scene, to appreciate the costume details, the expressive shifts within an actor's gaze, and to place myself in the scene in my mind's eye.

Tight shots never gave up all space, as many video images do today, where we see nothing but lips or eyes, or just a slice of a human face, filling the screen. No, context was never lost in this film. I found myself thinking how luxurious it was to allow my eye to revel and relax in the many shades of black, white, grey--…