Archive for November, 2009


Wednesday, November 25th, 2009

Next to Valentine's Day, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday.† I don't care about the food - any meal is fine wih me.† What I love about Thanksgiving is the "being thankful" part.† My friend Tami Spaulding calls it "gratitudes."† Those little moments of consciously thinking of something to be thankful about.

Earlier this year I purposely read through a series on my shelf, "Small Miracles: Extraordinary Coincidences from Everyday Life," The subsequent adjustment in my attitude of gratitude helped counter balance all the doom and gloom of political warring and economic woes.

I choose an attitude of gratitude

I choose an attitude of gratitude

I am only as happy as I decide to be.† And when I think of all the lovely people who enrich my life, I am a wealthy woman.† To me, success is not in how a bank account mounts up, but how many gratitudes I own.† Stuff like times shared, potlucks thrown together at the last moment, books passed hand to hand, phone calls just to say hello, that special touch that makes me skin tingle ... and some air in my lungs.

Oh yeah.† And I like the crazy-shaped hot air balloons in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. † Must have watched both versions of Miracle on 34th Street too much or something.

I am not naive.† I'm simply pragmatic about choosing my attitude.† Sometimes it is the only thing I have a choice over.

Inspiration Extraordinaire

Thursday, November 19th, 2009

A little over nineteen years ago I invited a scraggly, abandoned cat into my life. Little did I know the profound effect that decision would have on me.†

I wanted Snickers as soon as I saw his picture in the newspaper as the local Humane Societyís featured pet of the week. Besides convincing my husband I had to have this cat, I needed written permission from our landlord. All this took time. Time in which I feared someone else would adopt him before I could.

Once the hurdles were finally cleared, I dragged my husband out the door. The short drive to the animal shelter seemed to take forever. I rushed inside and scanned the cages. ìWeíre too late!î I wailed.

The woman at the front desk assured us Snickers was still in residence. We looked again and found the enclosure with his name. The dirty, matted creature huddled in the cage did not look anything like the picture Iíd seen in the newspaper. Turns out, the photo had been a close-up of his face, strategically taken not to show the bedraggled state of the rest of his body.

ìAre you sure you want this cat?î my husband asked. ìWe could get a different one.î

I stuck my fingers between the wire bars. Snickers rubbed up against them and purred. He had a gravelly meow, bright blue eyes, and beautiful seal-point coloring beneath all the dirt. ìIím sure,î I answered. We filled out the paperwork and took him home.

Our new cat was all weíd hoped for: intelligent, playful, and affectionate. He was also bossy, opinionated, and continually voiced his viewpoint in a loud insistent meow that virtually ensured he always got his way.

When I decided to write a childrenís novel, Snickers helped by curling up on my lap and rubbing his chin on my pencil while I wrote. It soon became our tradition. Heíd hop on the couch as soon as he saw me settle in to work. Somehow, staring into his deep blue eyes seemed to help the ideas flow. Not surprisingly, my main character had a cat who tagged along throughout the story.

ìCut the cat,î my critique group said.

ìI canít. Heís important,î I argued.

ìWhy? He doesnít do anything for the story.î

Why indeed? They were right, of course. But the cat didnít want to be cut. In fact, the cat wanted to take over. He was bossy and opinionated. His cocky personality seemed familiar. Then it hit me . . . He was Snickers!

Any cat lover can tell you the sum of their cat is more than its parts. Their aura of mystery is legendary. I found myself completely captivated by imagining my catís secret life.

I ditched my first book and started over. The main character of my new adventure story is Snickers, the hero who saves the feline way of life.

Not long after Snickersís twenty-first birthday, he stopped eating. After a phone call to our vet who is also a personal friend, I knew it was time. That night she came to our house and put Snickers to sleep on my lap while silent tears streamed down my face.

I canít help but think he lived so long because he was holding out for our book to hit the shelves. Like me, he fantasized it would be a run-away best seller and he wanted to see his name in print alongside of mine. Because of course, he knew that without his influence, Iíd never have found my story.

Someday our book will be published and Snickers will live on through all the children who read his story. But for now, the dedication page is only written in my heart. ìTo the real Snickers, my old friend and Inspiration Extraordinaire. Rest in peace.î


Wednesday, November 18th, 2009

Sunday Cheryl and I went to Denver to attend a concert.† It was more invigorating than sitting still and listening.† It was more vivid than mere images forming in the mind as the music flows.†† This concert was ... a whole-body, mind and soul experience.† And since Sunday I've been toe-tappin' and humming, turning over and over the attitude and message imbued in the unreal rock music Young@Heart delivered.

11/15/09 Program - Young@Heart in Denver

11/15/09 Program - Young@Heart in Denver

The chorus is aptly named, and their mere presence on stage drives that home.† Although the singers range in age from 73 to 89, they are wholly committed to their performances.† They don't let physical aches and pains stop them.† Some chorus members had trouble with the altitude; they hail from Northampton, Massachusetts and Denver is ... well, a mile high.† Others have crippling arthritis, but they keep up with rehearsals twice a week and a rigorous travel schedule.† They've been to Europe a dozen times, and Japan is next.

Backstage after the show they greeted groupies and visited amicably with fans.† Just think about how any guest who lives at sea level struggles when visiting here.† Out of breath, thirsty, a bit lethargic.† After these octogenarians used full lung power singing a two hour concert, they graciously played host and hostess!

Redefines what aging means to me. I haven't stopped thinking about it.† And I am glad I met them now, in my 50's, so I can make the choice to elder in a better healthier way.† Always said I'd go screamin' and kickin' rather than graciously accepting the inexorable march of time.† But after experiencing Young@Heart, maybe I'll rock on into aging with some attitude and a bit of my own moxie.

Their concert made a groupie out of me!† I saw what I want for myself Sunday ...†† an engaged, active life for as long as there's air in my lungs.

Check out their music video "Road to Nowhere" here ... and don't expect Lawrence Welk!† This rendition of Stayin' Alive is such great fun.† See how the lyrics pop out more than when Travolta did it!
Since Young@Heart tours all over the country, check out their schedule often to see if they'd added a concert near you!

A poinant farewell

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

Last week Fred and I had the honor of attending a funeral. The father of our friend died suddenly, without any warning, on Halloween.† It was a shock to all.† We are so fond of our friend Chris, we wanted to be at the funeral simply to show him our support.

As it turned out, the funeral was a catalyst for reflection.† The service was truly a celebration of his father's life, with a slide show and cool jazz music.† But what touched me most was the Air Force honors.† Simple.† Silent except for taps.† Astounding in its grace.† (Listen here.) When the two uniformed men performed the folding of the flag, I marveled at each gloved snap-fold of the starred, striped fabric, completed in practiced perfection.

I was struck by the ways we remember - sight (delightful family photos in a slide show), prayer (Chris' dad was a beloved, active church member), sound (soft jazz playing in the background for much of the service and also piano/voice solos), tactile (memorabilia of his life including cameras, a metalwork bike, and more artfully arranged on a 10 ft. table), and food (shared by family and friends after the service in the church hall).

Most of all, I was touched by the respect accorded Chris' father by the militiamen, who in all probability, had never met the man.† But their complete attention, for the time they performed the Air Force military rights, was on their deceased comrade in arms.

Just days later the massacre at Fort Hood shattered the day.† And I could not help but think of taps ... and the respectful silent nods that would be paid those who fell there, too.

As human beings we can be so mindful ... and mindless as well.† No answers here.† Just more thinking and determination to be certain I accord due honor and affection to those around me still breathing.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day and I will be listening for the bell here in Loveland ... and remembering.

This story ... propells me to do my best!

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2009

Tonight I could not sleep.† So I thought I would just read a chapter or two.† I ended up finishing the book!† I read through to the last page, including all the authors' acknowledgements.† Well, as a writer myself, I always read those anyway.† But† these "thank you's" fairly shout with genuine gratitude. I'm so excited, I had to tell somebody!† So here I am.

If you are discouraged with the economy, read this book.

If you are wondering if you are on the right path, read this book.

If you are discouraged about anything, read this book.

These 273 pages sent my heart and resolve soaring!† The dialog sings with authenticity, and this story grabs you as it did me, William Kamkwamba's words will make you look around - at every one and every thing - and see with new eyes.

Go to William's blog and see the 5 minute video of him speaking at the 2009 TED Good Ideas Worth Spreading conference.† When I saw this short video, I Facebooked it, then immediately requested our local library get a copy of the book.† Today on William's blog I see Tweets saying The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind by William Kamkwamba and Bryan Mealer has been chosen as one of Amazon's Top 10 Best Books of the Year and Publishers Weekly's best book of the year.† Moving Windmills is a documentary of this young man's jaw-dropping feat.

Every once in a while I am touched deeply by a book.† I find myself thinking about it even when I am otherwise engaged.† This is one of those books.† The kind of book I am grateful was written, the kind of book I recommend to everyone I meet for several months.† The kind that I will read every few years just to re-live the amazing journey again.

From William I learned:† If you want to make it, all† you have to do is try.

Post Halloween

Sunday, November 1st, 2009

Yesterday I awoke and realized I was not ready!† I had no candy!† I wanted to greet our little visitors. You know, oooh and aaah over their costumes, give Trick-or-Treaters compliments on their creativity, make their parents smile with pride.† The usual stuff.

Secondly, I didn't want to temp fate and the eggings that might result.† Our van was egged a couple of years ago - ruined the paint on that door because it was parked on the street and we didn't notice the egg/shell bits baking onto the door that faced west.

Maryjo loves these skeleton earrings!

Maryjo loves these skeleton earrings!

So I hustled off to the store so I'd be home with Treats by noon.† With such nice weather after all the snow and cold earlier this week, I was certain the treat-seeking ghouls and gobblins would be out in the afternoon, taking advantage of sun and dry sidewalks.† So I decked out our entryway with purple bat lights and set a festive Halloween bowl filled with candy atop a tall stool by the door.† I made sure to dress all in black, wearing my fun Candy Corn necklace and jointed skeleton earrings.

And I waited.† And waited.† Finally, at 7:30pm the doorbell rang!† Four costumed youngsters stood at the door, their parents waiting in the driveway.† Pirouetting for me to see their outfits and ducking their heads in to see my bat lights, they politely thanked me for their Treats and left.

That was it!† Not one more "ding-dong" was heard.† No giggles coming up the walk.† No rowdy teens gawfing and teasing.† No opportunity to see how neighbor kids have grown since last year, or meet new neighbors.

Maybe it is just as well - safer for the kids to Trick-or-Treat at shopping malls.† Glad I had a ball when I was a kid, though.

Today I'm going to see Laurie Zukerman's presentation (1:00 pm) at the Loveland Museum/Gallery.† Her memorial art is simply amazing!† My favorite in this exhibit is "Red Scare" and the items she includes in this exhibit are astounding.† The items evoke strong memories for me, and it was fun to see things I had - play ironing board and iron, fringed "Indian" vest, picture books, games, etc.† How she sees potential these items as she collects them, and then arranges them in such organized profusion is simply amazing.† Laurie was scheduled to speak last Thursday, but got snowed out.

I hope the turnout today is good.† This artist deserves the kudo of attendance!† She'll have my presence as a thank you present for the gift she gave our community in this exhibit.† Sure hope she comes back again!