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Showing posts from 2011

A Good New Year to All

May blessings true and tender And joys that bring delight  Be yours this day and render Your New Year fair and bright.

Christmas Greetings

Flash Sale! 24 hours only! No, 5 hours, now 2 ....

Who decided it makes sense to send me up to three different "sale" offers per company per day? Who decided "flash sales" are a welcome opportunity? My next five hours are all booked up, honey, so here's a "flash" for you marketers out there. Normal, busy working folk cannot take time off just to meet your sales deadlines. 

How about a sale opportunity that lasts a week? That would give me time to visit your site or store during my non-working hours, think about what I want to buy and whether or not the sale price is beneficial for me. That sounds soooo 1970s (or 60s or 50s), doesn't it?  So, unsuccessfully slow. It also sounds human. 

It would be humane, even enjoyable, to have time to think about a purchase. The more of my time these marketers rob with their deadline deal emails, post cards and other notices, the less time I'm likely to spend shopping with them, online or otherwise. 

There's another bit of "fall-out" that occurs fr…

In the Spirit of Christmas

I've designed some Christmas ornaments, using images of artworks, stained glass windows, vintage post cards, and other objets that are meaningful to me. My goal is to create ornaments that represent the quiet joy of Advent that too easily gets lost in this busy 21st-century world. A majority of the ornaments are visible in the flash panel above. However, there are more at my Zazzle store, which you can see by clicking here.

If you're missing someone these holidays, have a look at

a beautiful essay by Noreen Braman on my other blog, Getting Along with Grief. I keep calling her words to mind as I hear beautiful Christmas music that I used to sing and listen to with loved ones no longer present. 

Will Christmas ever feel quite right again without them? Of course, it will not. Which is why Noreen's essay about parting words is helping me find comfort.

If you or someone you know will be celebrating the holidays without those who used to celebrate those holidays by their side, Noreen's essay just might be the cup of comfort that they need.

A Wild Black Friday

Spent part of "black Friday" in the wild with friends and family. The prairie dogs were quite conversational, and I had an eye-to-eye moment with a bison. Seeing the great dark shapes of these hooved creatures against the prairie grasses and old, old mountains produces a soothing sensation within me. The pairing / visual juxtaposition seems at once incongruous and ideal.

There were many other people out exploring the wildlife refuge last Friday.  Proof that our society has not gone completely to the bags yet, and we can still decide to define shopping and not let shopping define us.

There's a reason why they call it Black

It can be a very enjoyable outing to go shopping with friends or family the day after Thanksgiving. Canbe. Used to be. While I know that some people truly enjoy camping out on a sidewalk to get into a big-box store before the rest of their fellow shoppers, I also think that this kind of "enjoyment" is a little like enjoying illegal drugs. It is remarkable--and frightening--what we Americans will tolerate having thrown at us in the way of messages that push, push, push us to buy, buy, buy. A man or woman selling drugs to children could not outdo these ads.

Have you seen the latest Target ad? I bet you have, but if not, you can see it here.  The You Tube title even calls the ad "Crazy Target Lady."

Target is a great store. I shop there a lot. This is not a great ad. And it is a worse message. But, Target will be far from alone in this kind of messaging.  You've probably also seen the news item about the Target employee who began a petition to fight back against …

Following My Own Very Good Advice

Do you remember this line from Alice in Wonderland?
"I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it."

Well, for once I am following my own very good advice about listening to more good music instead of more bad news. Today and yesterday, I have been listening to Lucille Chung's piano transcriptions of Saint-Saëns' music, and it's making my time in the car pretty happy indeed. It's also giving me a new and deeper appreciation of Camille Saint-Saëns, who, like his music was complex, multifaceted, a brilliant human mixture of harmony and dissonance.

Have you given yourself some very good advice lately?
Are you following it? Try it, it just might make you happy.

Lucille Chung: One good reason why God invented the piano

Julie Albers, Alessio Bax, and Lucille Chung. Three young human beings that make me feel soaringly optimistic about the human race and its future. I was in the audience last night when Lucille Chung played the Concerto pour Piano Nº 2 OP.22 in G Minor by Camille Saint-Saëns. What a gift!

I heard Martha Barnette talking about the difference between mastery and artistry on this week's A Way with Words on public radio. A distinction that immediately set me thinking. Mastery is required, but artistry...artistry is the work of the soul, of the entire human being. It is, in my world, what happens when dance is applied to mastery.

Lucille Chung does not simply "play" the piano. She dances it. Every inch of her frame goes into each note. Even if you could not hear the music, you would remain entranced by her performance and its sheer physical beauty--the grace with which her hands rise into the air after a chord, the architectural slant of her body as she leans into a passage, …

Take a Bilingual Ride on the Red River / Un viaje poético por el Río rojo

In this case, I am referring to Red River Reviewan outstanding online poetry journal, which began "way back" in 1999. Current editor is Michelle Hartman, and Bob McRanie serves as Web master. This electronic journal is simply and elegantly organized, and the poetry it publishes represents a fantastic variety of  voices that bring real life to poetry and bring poetry to real life. 

In the introduction to this month's issue, Michelle writes: Dylan Thomas defined poetry this way: "Poetry is what makes me laugh or cry or yawn, what makes my toenails twinkle, what makes me want to do this or that or nothing." What happened to poems about sunsets, heart break, or golden leaves spiraling frivolously to the ground? I hear at workshops that these topics are dead, and all that can be said about them has been said. Has it? Isn’t that what poetry is all about, taking something that we observe every day and holding it up to a new light, using new tools of perception and lan…

Happy Halloween, Harvest, and Newness

Even as I see flashing orange orbs in neighbors' yards, greet the tiny pirate walking down my street, and hear a little girl scream when greeted by a gory mask behind a trick-or-treat door--all fun--I am more inclined to lean toward the ancient tradition of Samhain. You can read a lot about it from many sources, but, put very simply, the Celtic festival celebrated the harvest and formed a kind of new year celebration for those who participated in it. 

What I like about this tradition (and like about the Jewish new year, as well) is the earth connection to harvest time. In the northern hemisphere, this is a time of fruition, of gathering, of light becoming gentler and temperatures becoming cooler--not yet bitter. Somehow, taking harvest time as a time to begin a new year's cycle has much more appeal for me than our dead-of-winter January 1st date. This time of year feels to me more natural,  celebratory, and sensibly organic. 

Soon, we move from this time into Thanksgiving, anoth…

Poll Dancing

You probably heard the same news I did:  46% of Americans now support legalizing marijuana, according to a recent Gallup Poll.
Hooey! Gallup interviewed 500 Americans.  
It's stated clearly on their Website:

Survey Methods
Results for this Gallup poll are based on telephone interviews conducted Oct. 7-10, 2010, with a random sample of 1,025 adults, aged 18 and older, living in the continental U.S., selected using random-digit-dial sampling. Each question reported here was asked of a half-sample of approximately 500 national adults. How, why do both the media and Gallup's own publicity apparatus DARE to tell us that 46 percent of Americans think anything?  46 percent of the 500 people they talked to are in favor of legalizing marijuana. Yes, that is the highest percentage of people for pro-legalization ever. But the actual number of people is 230 Americans.  Yes, they choose those survey-ees from a random sample, and take into consideration age and other demographic information, but…

The Euro, Café, and Personal History

While living in Spain, I learned volumes about history by talking to individuals whose stories will never appear in a history book or program.

I'll never forget hearing a friend tell me what it was like to survive the poverty of the posguerra (the yearsimmediately after the civil war) in southeastern Spain. "A neighbor of ours slaughtered a hog," she told me, "and  shared it with my family. I hadn't eaten in a week, though, and after eating the meal we made from the hog, I threw it all up, and was soon hungry again." 

I happened to be in Spain during another transition, though not a violent one. It was an economic transition, the coming of the euro. I remember vividly the public service announcements on how to calculate the value of pesetas to euros. In fact, Doña Letizia herself presented many of those PSAs in her pre-princesa days.

I dreaded the change. A conversion formula of 1,68 pesetas per Euro was not something I could figure in my head. In spite of the…

Festival Both Meaningful and Fun

The Houston Poetry Festival was a great event. This festival is the brain-child of Robert Clark. He and the steering committee did a great job of organizing the event. The only organizational difficulty was presented by Mother Nature. Some areas of Houston received as much as 7 inches of rain last Sunday, the last day of the Festival. So, it took some very determined and hardy souls to make it downtown to the Willow Street Pump Station for the reading.

I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the works of my fellow poets, although I had to leave early in order not to drive back in both a rainstorm and darkness.  These poets included: Adamarie Fuller, Lillian Susan Thomas, and Maria Illich. If they have Websites, I have not been able to find them to link to them, but I encourage you to dig around and try to find works by these women. Also reading that afternoon were: Bradley Earl Hoge, Christopher Carmona, Angélique Fuller, and Garrett Middaugh. 

The Festival produces an anthology each year with one…

Houston Poetry Festival This Weekend

The 26th Annual Houston Poetry Festival will take place this weekend.  Here's the scoop: Houston Poetry Fest Schedule, Oct 7-Oct 9. Place: The Historic Willow Street Pump Station on 811 North San Jacinto.

Lots of people work on this event sponsored by the University of Houston, and it promises to be a fun and fascinating time. I am the guest poet on Sunday, October 9, and I'll read at 2 p.m.

Back in the Saddle, Writing About Friends ....

Had to wander away from this here blog fer a bit.  :-) But I've returned .... First news item: You're invited to contribute to my blog Getting Along with Grief. Through November 15, the blog's theme will be Friends, and The Importance Of.
Honor a friend who has passed away by sending a poem, memory, or image of that person as a tribute to him or her. We will also include pieces about friends who have helped us journey through a time of loss. See blog for details.
Están invitados a contribuir memorias, ensayos, poemas, y/o imágenes en el blog Getting Along with Grief, sobre el tema de los amigos y la importancia que tienen en nuestras vidas. Destacaremos a aquellos amigos que ya han dejado esta vida y a aquellos que nos han acompañado en nuestro camino después de la pérdida de un ser querido. Vean el blog para más información.

A Cat, a Dog, and Shakespeare: The Perfect Sunday Afternoon

One reason I keep paying a cable bill is to be able to watch Turner Classic Movies. I had just finished a batch of Sunday chores and was resting a moment on the couch, wedged between Chatterly the cat and Gypsy the dog (an Australian Kelpie), and saw that TCM was about to air Julius Caesar, directed by Joseph Mankiewicz, and produced in 1953. 

I read Julius Caesar for the first time when I was in sixth grade. It was a great time to read it, because it seemed fresh and real to me, even though some of the centuries-old English was challenging. 

The movie made me wish that Joseph Mankiewicz had directed more of Shakespeare's works for cinema. The balance the movie strikes is oh, so totally just right. It does not go so far into cinematic territory that we lose the work's theatricality, but travels far enough by camera that it provides a sense of seamless reality only a movie can create.  The casting was brilliant.  James Mason was at his best as Brutus, and he carries the film on h…

Friday Fun

I almost never do anything like this ... but that little tease copy on Firefox finally "got" me.  I went to Webify, took the quiz, and the wizard tucked away in virtual land created this collage based on my answers. I don't begin to understand it (which is part of its charm).

I used to travel to Chicago a lot on business and go to Europa Books there. They have a magnificent selection of books and periodicals in German, French, Italian, and Spanish. I took a colleague there with me one day. She stayed in the store just a few minutes. When I was done browsing, I found her outside, standing on the sidewalk, smoking a cigarette. And she said, "I don't understand anything that's in there!"  And I said, "I know. Isn't it wonderful?"

So, this is one of those things I don't understand, but it's a little wonder-ful.

A message from the Wildfire Relief Fund

This is the note I received after making my donation (See post below). Note the updated statistics:

Since January of this year, 3.5 million acres in Texas has been destroyed by wildfires, which includes 2,897 structures and more than 700 homes. Whole towns are being consumed. Not only is land destroyed, but lives are lost—both those of firefighters and Texans.
Volunteer firefighterscontribute the majority of the work in battling these wildfires. Grossly underfunded, these brave men and women often work without protective gear and 86 percent use personal funds to meet the day-to-day equipment and supply needs of their fire departments.
Your donation will directly benefit Texas volunteer firefighters by providing equipment, food, water, and fuel.

Wildfire Relief, How to Help

What a summer in Texas. 3.5 million acres burned, at last count, with fires still burning in central and north Texas. In millions of those acres, the men and women who fight the fires are VOLUNTEERS. Repeatedly this summer, they have risked their lives to keep these fires from doing even greater damage. Volunteer firefighters have no funding from any government. We, the people, are their only source of funds. Given the record-breaking heat, drought and increase in wildfires to be fought, those funds are now dangerously low.

Lack of funding means that volunteer firefighters have to fight fires with less-than-optimal equipment, making a life-threatening situation even more deadly. When you're not next door to one of these fires, it's easy not to worry. We have so much trust and faith in our firefighters, both employed and volunteer. I think of them as a staple of my community and my country, a continual resource. I walked out of my house one day and smelled nothing but smoke in…

Summer Day / Día de verano

Summer Day / Día de verano, a photo by Ysabel de la Rosa on Flickr. In celebration of the end of summer, or at least of hearing the news that this Saturday should be the last of our 98 100+ days (For those of you in Celsius Land, our temperature has been at 42 for way too long.), I've been reviewing images from summer and uploading some to my Flickr stream. This photo reminds me that summer can be beautiful.

If you meet the Buddha on the road, he will likely be a cat.

Since learning about yoga at age 14, I've engaged in various bouts of trying to achieve stillness of body and mind. The positions and exercises that even a basic and simple yoga practice provide have been a great help to me. This was especially true after being in a major automobile accident and surviving various musculo-skeletal injuries. Still (how to avoid this pun?), after many years, I had yet to achieve stillness. For a while, I tried Tibetan breathing techniques. I also use (and draw great comfort from) the time-honored "Jesus prayer" used by pilgrims for thousands of years (Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me). I could slow down, I could calm down... but utter stillness eluded me.

Then the cat came into my life.  He is not the first cat ever, but the first cat in more than 25 years to come into my life. Bear with me a moment while I tell you about the very first cat.

I was four, and my cousins gave me a beautiful Siamese kitten. While discussing what to call the …

Reading One's Way

Please click on over to my other blog,Getting Along with Grief, to learn about Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, and how traveling through a year of books can inform, delight, help and heal. While Jan Hoffman's article tells the story of how author, attorney, wife and mom Nina Sankovitch found solace from loss by reading a book a day for a year, the article is testimony to just how much books can and still do provide for us everyday. It motivated me to start thinking of books again as companions and see television and its commercials for the life-interrupting force it too often is.
Hasta pronto ....

What the Gods Have Not Taken from Us

In one of my favorite books by C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces, the author writes: "Weakness and work are two things the gods have not taken from us." I have recalled that sentence in my mind countless times in the 40 years since I read that novel, especially on nights when, already tired beyond description, I faced additional office work or housework. This summer, however, there has been a variation on that sentence coming to my mind: "Weakness, work and weather are three things the gods have not taken from us."

I live in one of this summer's drought-stricken states, Texas. Texans have long suffered hot summers and done so with no small degree of toughness and pride. This summer for me, however, has been like no other in my lifetime. This summer's drought and high temperatures have made the weather a source of death and destruction. Trees that have graced these plains for three generations or more have died. Ranchers had to sell entire herds of cattle, becau…