30 July 2009

Real life reality

I am convinced that enough human drama and ridiculousness exists in every person’s life to generate an endless array of reality programs. All you need is a handful of quirky personalities, a backdrop of stress, and a few generally entertaining situations. Take my own life, for example. The cast of characters in a recent episode of my own real life reality program include my neighbor, a funny friend, a realtor and my girlfriend. The backdrop of this episode involves going out of town for a few days of rest and relaxation.

45 minutes after departure: cell phone call from unfamiliar telephone number.


“Hi Diane, this is Ann (not her real name), your neighbor. I found your kitty this morning in the alley and she is dead.”

“Oh no! Oh my goodness, this is awful. Ann, I’m not even in town right now.”

“Well I could wrap her in paper if you’d like.”

“That sounds like a good idea. I would really appreciate it.”

“What do you want me to do with her after that?”

Well, it is not easy to answer this question and the truth is I have no answer, so I reply:

“I need a few minutes to figure this out. So let me call you back if that’s OK.”

After 3 more telephone calls, and in only 5 minutes, my girlfriend and I have made arrangements for cremation and a very generous friend agrees to transport the recently departed to the veterinarian’s office. Within 30 minutes, 1 more telephone call and 6 text messages the episode concludes with confirmation: “The deed is done. That was one heavy cat.”

The backdrop of our next episode occurs the following morning. My girlfriend and I are enjoying a cup of coffee out on the porch overlooking a lake. Immediately below us is a street. As we are looking at the lake, a truck approaches and our gaze follows its path as it approaches. The truck slows and we catch a complete and unfortunate glimpse of the driver, sans pants. To make matters worse, this bottomless pervert is steering with only one hand because his other is occupied elsewhere.

Shocked and speechless, we both stare at each other in amazement for what seems like a full minute. The truck is long gone and we still cannot find words. We are both thinking – did we really just see that?

The backdrop of our next episode occurs the following afternoon. My girlfriend and I are returning home and have set up an appointment with our realtor to visit an active listing. The house is gorgeous. We both love it. The house is also huge and we are intimidated beyond description. We are almost tiptoeing through the property. We depart and immediately start discussing the possibility of extending an offer.

Ten minutes later we are home again and our realtor calls. Just making sure that we are considering both sides of the equation. As if we don’t have enough doubts on our own. Spoon on the stress.

Fade out - cut to station break.

28 July 2009

Slowing down

The pace of life is fast. We’re on a fairly constant schedule to get up in the morning, get to work on time, complete our assignments, respond to our email queue, generate and develop new ideas, drive home, run errands, feed the animals, water the lawn, pay the bills, do the laundry and in between this hectic mix of activity, we try to exercise, socialize, celebrate and explore alone and with others. Once in a while we even let go long enough to step into another existence for a few days; an existence that does not even resemble our lives. It’s called vacation.

That’s where I am now. Poolside on a hot Texas summer day, but perched up high enough in the hills to benefit from a comfortable breeze. I have not ventured far from this spot for nearly 7 hours. Everything I want is nearby – a cool drink, sunglasses, the sparkling blue swimming pool, a lounge chair in the shade and a shared smile with my lovely partner.

For the rest of the world, life is still moving as quickly as before. But I have stepped away temporarily; I am not moving at all. I have slowed down long enough to feel the sun warm my skin, watch hummingbirds chase one another, listen to the lonesome summer song of the cicadas, and gaze out at the horizon.

People often engage in fantasies while on vacation: how might we convert our vacation into a way of life? I don’t think I’m much interested in attempting to come up with the answer to that question, but I am certainly interested in maintaining a balance between the fast pace of regular life and the restfulness of slowing down.

25 July 2009


Thirteen is not such an unlucky number in my estimation.

About this time, exactly 13 months ago, I was seated at the patio table on my front porch conversing with the woman with whom I would soon fall in love. It was the night we first met. I prepared a simple dinner and we dined outside on the breezy porch, enjoying the warm summer night. She was startlingly pretty and our conversation flowed easily; no self-conscious intervals of silence. Time advanced so quickly; I was sorry to see her leave after such a wonderful evening.

I love her for the person she is without me: a sister, aunt, cousin, colleague, friend, dog-mom, and the person she is with me: my beloved partner in life. I love myself for the person I am with her and the person I am striving to become.

We commemorated this day in a rather ordinary way, sprinkled with love and tenderness, grateful for the infinite gifts of the day.

24 July 2009

Recapturing Language

Some words in the English language have fallen out of fashion; we don’t use them in our daily speech very often. When I hear someone say a rarely-used word, I feel like an old friend has dropped in, right out of the blue, for an impromptu visit. Last weekend, my girlfriend offhandedly included the word ‘nuisance’ in a casual remark. Instantaneously, I traveled back in time to my childhood and heard the sound of my grandmother’s voice. Nuisance was a word that she used commonly, particularly when referring to the family cat. In fact, regardless of the cat’s given name, she called it Nuisance instead. No one ever says nuisance these days.

Becoming is another lovely word that I miss. My favorite recollection of the word ‘becoming’ in speech was in the film “Three Days of the Condor.” Remember? In a prophecy, the assassin warns our hero that he will meet the villain in the guise of a friend: “…And he will smile, a becoming smile. But he will leave open the door of the car…”

When I was a young girl, I recall that my mother often used the word becoming to describe appearance. So I associate a becoming look with ‘pretty’ and ‘grown up.’ No one ever says becoming like this anymore. Even though I am grown up myself, it still seems to me that telling someone that their dress looks very becoming is a far more meaningful compliment than simply telling them that they look nice.

Language is a beautiful, living organism. Recapturing the old-fashioned words that we treasure and resolving to keep them alive in our speech and writing is a wonderful way to pay tribute to language itself.

23 July 2009

Why should your heart not dance?

In my favorite book by C. S. Lewis, the heroine finds herself taking a difficult journey; she is certain that when she reaches her destination she will find the lifeless body of her beloved sister. However, along the way, traveling through a beautiful valley at sunrise with the first rays of the sun streaming over a mountain and the heavy mist lifting from the ground, she feels a surge of joy and hope welling up within her. As much as she attempts to suppress these feelings, stoically favoring a more somber mood, the constant reminders of life and beauty all around her command a voice inside her head to ask: why should your heart not dance? And a voice inside her heart replies: why not?

Indeed, why not? Why choose somber over joy, sadness over bliss, fear over love? Life gives us an endless supply of opportunities to travel down the happy path. There are times when the sad path is unavoidable, even required, but it is not fixed.

In the midst of sadness, finding the light of happiness may seem impossible; it may seem that the effort exceeds our ability. That is precisely the time to express gratitude, in advance, for the love and joy in our lives and imagine stepping into a golden pool of light, allowing the sweet energy of joy and hope to well up within ourselves. We are children of God and the golden pool of His love’s light shines down on us constantly; we need only realize it is there, inviting our hearts to dance.

22 July 2009

Summers in my memory

In the 1970s I was a school-age girl growing up in the suburbs of Houston. My nuclear family consisted of two parents and one younger brother. We also had a dog, a cat, a couple of hamsters and a community aquarium or two. Animals have always been present in my life.

One particular summer, a gopher turtle appeared in the backyard. The turtle seemed to be rather social, always venturing from the yard to the patio with no obvious level of discomfort at being handled by children. Our little turtle friend often shared summer evenings on the patio with us as we played. A favorite game involved presenting a variety of food choices to the turtle to watch it eat and discover what tastes turtles prefer. My brother and I would scamper into the kitchen to scavenge small samplings of random food: lettuce leaves, grapes, crunchy cat food, potato chips, uncooked hamburger, apples, strawberries, spaghetti. Our ambitions to share limited only by the food items within our reach.

We would watch, giggling, as we assembled tidy little piles of food, then invite the turtle to make a selection. I was always inwardly pleased when the turtle made the rounds tasting everything but pausing at the strawberry pieces to eat them all. This was indeed a turtle after my own heart.

The turtle shared at least two later summers with us after that first summer. We knew it was the same animal because the gopher turtle was missing one rear foot. But this disability didn’t seem to hamper its mobility: it wasn’t exactly a sprinter, anyway. From our observations, this turtle preferred lounging on the patio, leisurely enjoying a multi-course dinner.

21 July 2009

Gender and religion

Venturing into swirling politically charged waters, I plunge in to applaud a move by President Jimmy Carter, as published in the following article:


Neither men nor women are superior in the eyes of God, in my humble opinion. Both have the opportunity to build and nurture a relationship with God, strive to walk in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and love each other as God loves us.

20 July 2009

Novelty in advertising

Over the weekend, I noticed a television commercial by automaker BMW. It was brief, featured a video montage of an automobile creating a painting on a canvas the size of an ice hockey rink, and faded to white with a website address: http://www.expressionofjoy.com.

I have never seen an automobile create a painting of any size and I was intrigued by both the novelty of this campaign as well as the combination of movement and color in the painting itself. The website is equally gratifying, inviting visitors to linger over sections of the painting and explore the implanted video clips, each one providing additional clues to the methods employed in producing this amazing work of art and share in the collective excitement of those directly involved with the art project.

The manner in which my brain is wired causes me to give this campaign far more consideration than perhaps the average television viewer. Is the intent to sell cars to art lovers? I think not. I believe the intent is to engage audience fascination through an innovative multi-media communications concept that is bigger than the brand itself, and consequently, bestow credit to the collaborating partner (BMW) in terms of favorable opinion.

My sincere congratulations to the creative group that assembled the advertising campaign and developed the artistic project concept – I believe it was flawlessly executed. If I was in a position to select an automobile in the BMW competing class, I would definitely be favorably disposed toward BMW.

19 July 2009

Time transference

I was speaking (online) with an old friend the other day who mentioned that he needs to figure out what to do with his life. I know what he means; sometimes we all feel that way. As we reach a period of transition, we know that change is inevitable, but are not quite certain in what form the change will reveal itself to us. It causes stress and worry.

As an adult, the cycle of change is less absolute than the cycles of change from our youth. Dating, starting to drive, getting a part-time job, graduating from school, moving away to college, and getting our first apartments are all reasonably big life experience hurdles that occur in a fairly condensed period of time. Particular events and life activities chronicle these passages. Similar, obvious changes that adults experience—starting a family, moving to another city, changing careers, divorcing—are also marked by notable events. But there are more subtle, yet still profound changes, like the kind my friend is navigating, that require our energy, attention, and faith to fully find the new path upon which we are meant to travel.

This sort of change is not easy because it means that we will shed part of our identity. We must do this completely—recognizing the associated grief of this loss while carrying the banner of faith that the next path will present experiences and discoveries both joyful and fulfilling.

My most recent change occurred over a span of nearly 15 years and my father’s death was the watershed event initiating a lengthy period of reflection upon my time transferring from present to past in my own life. Without taking any action at all, time passes. Each day ends, becoming part of our collection of yesterdays. The question that continued to reverberate in my consciousness was: how am I spending my time? It is the personal version of the age-old question: what is the meaning of (my) life?

The transition that followed included periods of panic, anxiety, introspection, trepidation, fatigue, courage, serenity and joy.

I am certain that more transitions will occur in my future and I will repeat the process of saying both hello and goodbye to parts of my identity. Embracing this journey, and the companions with whom I share the travel, make the transference of time a splendid life experience.

17 July 2009

Twitter satire

Fun and clever video satire of twitter. I'm a fan of twitter, but this is just funny.

15 July 2009

Office gremlins

In today’s chronicle of technophobia, I am faced with the perilous task of troubleshooting a complex series of paper misfeeds in a photocopier. I am making my photocopies 2 hours in advance of my meeting, specifically to allow plenty of time to work around potential obstacles such as this.

After the warning beeps begin, my initial reaction is to collect my belongings and flee back to the relative safety of my office. I’m rather certain that no one will be able to identify that I am the culprit. But, I realize that this level of discourtesy is inappropriate, and besides, I would be leaving behind plenty of evidence regarding my identity in the form of partially created photocopies lodged within the bowels of this monstrous machine.

So, taking a breath and focusing on the tiny help screen, I follow the directions to open the door to the inner cavity and immediately assume that it must be a mistake. There are no excess papers readily visible. I close the door, but the pesky beeping continues. Now I begin pressing and pulling on the color coded levers and miraculously find a paper, then 2 more! But the beeping persists.

I discover that the machine is assembled in sliding drawer compartments just for the purpose of accessing the tiny spaces where paper can get stuck. 2 more pages. As I close the drawer, I hear a faint brushing sound and am certain that at least one more culprit remains. In the adjacent cavity of the machine, presumably where sorting, stacking and stapling occurs, I find the sheet but am unable to retrieve it with the tools available (colored knobs and levers). The page begins to tear and despair washes through me as I realize I have reached the limit of my technical ability with this machine.

At this particular moment, I am squarely at the bottom of the list of photocopier fans. I call our corporate facilities help line, but they defer me to the corporate technical support help line, who in turn, defers me to the photocopier vendor, who in turn suggests that I either study the online assistance guide for paper jams, or open a purchase order to dispatch a human photocopier super hero. I politely decline, since I do not have that level of authorization, and retreat. It is the lunch hour and no one will notice for a while…

13 July 2009

Artifacts and sentimentality

I love photographs. A moment in time preserved. Each image stimulates my mind’s eye to instantly recall associated feelings, touch, surroundings and light, representing an artifact of my lifetime. For many years I used the Agfa 35mm camera my late father purchased in the 1950s while he was in the service. It was not a simple point and shoot SLR. In order to limit film waste I learned to pay attention to framing, focal length and exposure. I bracketed in an optimistic attempt to yield at least one interesting image per dozen frames. Over the years, I was fortunate to capture a few lovely photographs, but the (pricey) assistance of the development lab was always required to produce a true finished print I could enjoy.

Digital photography did not capture my attention; my technophobic skepticism held it at arm’s length for years. But a couple of years ago, my stepdad showed me how to enhance and improve digital photographs with simple software utilities that I could download for free. Then earlier this year, at the encouragement of my significant other, I purchased a compact digital camera.

I read the manual and understand how to capture images, view them and transfer them to a computer for editing and storage. I realize my camera has significantly more features for capturing and stylizing images, but I would need to refer to the manual again to take advantage of these features—the icons don’t particularly help technophobes like me figure these things out on the fly. My real enjoyment starts after downloading the pics. Manipulating the digital image and organizing the results into a pleasing viewable montage is truly my idea of fun.

If I was more sentimental, I would assemble elaborate scrapbooks. I can envision colorful pages of photos trimmed with rickrack, ticket stubs, greeting cards and invitations tied down with ribbon, and all embellished thematically with hand lettering and drawings. Scrapbooking is an artform that truly pays homage to the artifacts of our lives. But, as much as I would like to be that sentimental, I recognize that I am not.

I have, however, enthusiastically embraced the digital equivalent of photo scrapbooks via
www.smilebox.com. Perhaps this is a promising sign. While I will undoubtedly never be an early adopter of current technologies, the winds of change may be blowing in my direction.

12 July 2009

Gifts of the ocean

Driving over the causeway, our hearts immediately start beating more slowly and our bodies relax noticeably. The sounds of the waves and seagulls are welcoming. For the next several hours we receive these precious gifts from the ocean and later, carry them home with us in the form of seashells mixed with memories.

At the shore, the wind and waves capture my attention and my eyes drift to the dark blue band of deep water at the horizon. Watching the water birds skim the top of the surf and sandcrabs scurry is fascinating. We play paddle ball, truth or dare and share the simplicity of the afternoon in joy.

10 July 2009

Funeral for a friend

A colleague and friend passed this week. She was an inspiration to me and so many others. She lived in contact with God’s love and she shared the light of that love easily, without really trying. It just poured through her smile. She also lived with the conviction that patients have the ultimate responsibility for attending to their health care. You see, she lived with cancer for 6 years and through her own tenacity, pursued diagnostic investigation for her initial symptoms when her primary care doctor attempted to dismiss her complaint. She pursued clinical trials, dietary therapies, and treatment for the side effects of her illness and medications. She took a list of questions to doctor appointments to be prepared for those important conversations, since she, like so many other cancer patients suffered from “chemo-brain.” She read about her illnesses and about her doctors, making it a point to ask them about their experience pertaining to her specific diagnosis. She read about the harsh drugs prescribed for her to be prepared for the fatigue, sickness and other inevitable consequences to her health. She had countless conversations with her medical insurance provider regarding the coverage status of her treatments.

She was a powerful role model for me and embodied so much of what I strive to become as a human. She did not have a perfectly slender body or perfect hairstyle; chemo has damaging effects on hair, skin and many other less apparent body tissues. However, she was thankful for being alive and her gratitude for life made her truly beautiful. I frequently noticed that other people frequently noticed her.

I will miss her wisdom, playfulness, serenity, and general perspective. I will miss discussing food, make-up, fashion, family and gossip. I will miss her for the rest of my life.


09 July 2009

Challenges and Accomplishments

I like numbers and order and logic. I find comfort in reading reports supported by information that appears to be reasonably sound. I try to do this in my own job and am no stranger to software that manipulates and organizes data. The wonderful organization for which I work is reaching a new stage of maturity in terms of having timely access to intelligence to support informed decisions. I would love to find a community within my nonprofit peer group with which to share insights.

Explanation of sorts

I have not always been technophobic. I’m a reasonably intelligent person and 25 years ago I enthusiastically integrated the instruments of technology into my daily life. Of course, 25 years ago, beepers were the only mobile communication devices in wide use. Thankfully, beepers are behind us, but honestly, I prefer to use my mobile phone for talking. Dial tone is essentially my only requirement. Programmable coffee pots, digital thermostats and iPods all baffle me.

However, my commitment to communication and admiration for innovation is stronger than my phobia, so I find myself engaged on the periphery of social networking. This is one step in that direction.

Find me on twitter at hou07grl.