12.12.2007

The holidays came early this year

Joared at Along the Way gave me the perfect gift today. She heard me. And she told other people that she liked what she heard. Joared gifted me with an absolutely amazing review in her blog, and at the same time, introduced me to some other truly wonderful, thoughtful, creative, world-changing people who are quietly blogging about things that matter to all of us, from the local to the global.

And elderbloggers rule! We've been there, tried that, given up, tried it another way, failed, succeeded, and learned from it. Now we want to share. Not only with other people our age, but with anyone who recognizes that we have something to share.

I invite you to visit the blogs joared recommended--you'll see what I mean.

Thank you, joared, this is an exquisitely thoughtful gift. I am humbled, and gratified.

S 1959--say goodbye to Grandma and freedom

How many of you know about S 1959? Have you heard anything via the MSM? I haven't. I first ran across it on Time Goes By, and figured I'd better do a little investigating.

If this bill goes through, you are liable to find your blogging grandmother in a federal pen at some unknown location, or worse, in a black hole in some country the US keeps on retainer to hide their most egregious human rights violations.

Again, this is not a Chicken Little post. The further I read, the lower my jaw dropped. This is the one, folks, this is the bill that will excise the First Amendment cleaner than laser surgery. The last door slamming on what used to be a free, democratic society.

This is the most audacious, stunning attempt yet in the witch-hunt to rid the US of any healthy, intelligent, fundamentally democratic debate. Not satisfied with simply lying, the administration is attempting to block our right to peacefully dissent by criminalizing free speech.

I urge you to read the bill for yourself. If it scares you as much as it does me, then educate everyone you know. Write your leaders, your churches/synagogues/mosques, your local and national media. Ask THEM if they've heard about S 1959. If they haven't, be afraid, be end-of-life-as-we-know-it afraid.

Want to know who the most courageous, patriotic Americans are in this country today? Elderbloggers who are trying their best to get the word out. Koko kisses to you all :)

12.11.2007

Christmas is killing the planet

This is my own conclusion after viewing "The Story of Stuff," by Annie Leonard--produced by Free Range Studios, who brought us "The Meatrix." Not that I have anything against the real Christmas. What terrifies the stuffing out of me is that we don't need to worry about terrorists as much as we do our own capitalistic society. Mass consumerism is devastating the planet to a much greater extent, and more quickly than all the so-called terrorist countries put together. Mass consumerism will get us faster than global warming, and I've seen enough change in my lifetime to notice.

It's us. We are gobbling up resources to the point that we are teetering on serious shortages. This is compounded by all the toxins that go into "stuff" gludging up the world. Toxic air, water, food, you get the idea.

I am not an alarmist. I've never uttered the phrase "The sky is falling" in my entire life. I am intelligent. I do read about and research controversial issues. So far, I've been able to sift the garbage from the truth, and never have trusted main-stream media as my own personal savior.

And spare me the "we need consumerism to support jobs, keep the economy strong" argument. That is utterly untrue and one of the three biggest piles of horse shit ever dumped on mankind (the other two being "We have to fight them over there to protect us over here," and "Don't worry, honey, I'll pull out in time.") I am living in a house built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930's. This program, under the Works Progress Administration created boodles of jobs, used local, natural materials with little or no extra chemicals, and were built so solidly they'll be standing for at least another hundred years or more. Many of our state parks were built and maintained by the CCC, and they're doing just fine. We could reduce our unemployment ranks to nothing by putting folks to work in alternative energy projects, sustainability projects, so many more intelligent, humane, healthy, SUCCESSful projects.

Annie Leonard is funny. Yep, you read that right. She's warm, and informed, and sings it out clear as a bell.

If you've not yet watched it, open another tab, copy and paste that url, sit back, learn, and enjoy! Here it is again: http://www.truthout.org/docs_2006/120907E.shtml. Annie said it was OK to spread it around, so do it :)

12.05.2007

The sublimation of Ronni Bennett

Ronni Bennett is retiring "Time Goes By," her ground-breaking, nationally known blog on what it's really like to get older. Authentic, warm, humorous, and intelligent, Ronni led the way for many bloggers over fifty, and was generous in sharing her knowledge and wisdom about the way things are for many of us as we age. She even shared her blog space, inviting elder bloggers to guest from time to time.

She crafted thoughtful memes for her readers and blogosphere to encourage them to engage with each other. In one, readers were to choose and visit a blog from her prodigious elder blog roll that was new to us, and report in the comments to that post.

Ronni created and will continue to maintain "The Elder Story Place," encouraging folks to write the stories in their lives, offering a space to record memories, or special wisdom we received from our elders.

Ronnie researched and wrote about global and personal issues on aging. You can count on Ronni to be rigorous and timely on the latest information. She did not flinch from the truth. She did not sugar-coat getting old. She did find and share vital facts, figures, comings and goings, inconsistencies, legislation, the whole nine yards, on the latest, expert reports about age, aging, and how the US treats its aging population.

She issued a call to arms to learn about and vigorously resist the insidious S.B. 1959.

Oh, frabjous day! Ronni has reconsidered! That doesn't change this post a whit. I am relieved that she is still with us on this journey into elderhood.

11.18.2007

Beverly Sills, music, and aging



This is where I spend most of my time at work. You will notice the wave keyboard and orthopedic mouse. Also the theater monitor screen, which is more for opening several docs at once for reference and comparison.

Just the floaters that swim around in my eyes (I know they really don't!) can make me swear there's a comma rather than a period at the end of a sentence.
Needless to say, unless I'm 8" from the laptop screen, I always bump the magnification to 150-200%. Don't get me started on dotted note values in music...

This issue of reading music is looming on my horizon. It may come down to a race between which goes first, the eyes or the voice. The limiting feature of musical scores is that the larger the notes/words, the larger and heavier the printed edition, and the more pages to turn. The only solution I can see at the moment is magnifying glasses. This would mean scaring myself or the conductor to death with alien bug-eyes, or relying on peripheral vision to watch the conductor.

I refuse to give up my musical endeavors. I just hope that I have the perspicacity and class to bow out before I 1) make a pitiful fool of myself, or 2) compromise the musicianship of a group. One of my sheroes, Beverly Sills, the gifted opera soprano, retired at the peak of her career. I admire her more for dealing with the personal loss she must have felt than for reasons 1) and 2) above.

Ms. Sills filled her life with activities just as meaningful as performing at the Metropolitan Opera. After retiring from singing, she became the director of the New York City Opera, elevating the organization to the top of the field. She didn't stop there--she eventually directed the Metropolitan Opera and Lincoln Center.

Even as she guided the fortunes of these stellar organizations, she managed to raise more than $70 million over ten years as national chair of the March of Dimes Mothers' March on Birth Defects.

My musical career is miniscule in comparison. I hope that when the time comes, if it does, I have the integrity to make as graceful an exit as she did.

Brava, Bubbles. You made the world a better place in many ways. We miss you.

11.16.2007

The dark side of Austin

I listen to NPR on my drive to and from work--KUT-FM, with studios on the UT campus. Mornings, I listen to "Eklektikos," hosted by the marvelous John Aielli. As he read a few announcements this morning, he paused, then spoke as if he was having difficulty controlling both his emotions and his words.

"The Austin Interfaith Ministry Thanksgiving dinner and gathering this Sunday announces a change in venue."

Pause.

"Originally scheduled at the (a prominent, central Austin Baptist church)... pause...the dinner has been relocated to (a central synagogue)."

Longer pause.

"The reason given for the venue change...was that the (HPBC) learned...that there would be non-Christians attending."

Even longer pause.

The silence stretched.

"Here's a song by (xxx), called 'Jesus Loves Me.'"

There followed a C&W song distantly resembling the Sunday School version, with significantly different lines such as, "Jesus loves me, but he hates you."

Longest pause of all.

Perfect.

Straight to pre-recorded piece. No further comment from Aielli. Good man.

I am not bound by the restraints of maintaining a sense of decorum in a conservative public forum. There is no way I can refrain from commenting, especially since my father was a well-educated, responsible Christian minister. This is not the Christianity he believed in and preached.

Fer Chrissakes, even the puritan Pilgrims invited non-Christians to the first Thanksgiving.
Is not the tradition we honor based on charity and an open heart and mind? The event in question wasn't even scheduled in the church proper, but in another building. If what my father taught me is true, I hardly think Jesus would have turned anyone away from an expression of good faith and brotherhood. Maybe my daddy knew a different Jesus. Jesus Jones, or Jesus Garcia maybe, certainly not the Jesus that was born and lived his whole life in (gasp!) the Middle East, which is where Nazareth and Bethlehem and Jerusalem and all those towns are, according to the last atlas I consulted...

This decidedly un-Christian, hypocritical, inhuman, fear-based, appalling way of thinking is not only misinformed, it mirrors the same attitudes these so-called Christians so vehemently oppose. The scariest part is that this is the attitude that (dis)informs the current White House resident.

Verily, who(m) would Jesus bomb? Thus endeth the lesson.

11.11.2007

I actually have roots

I denied it for decades. A broadly-educated, cosmopolitan adventuress doesn't do roots.

I've just returned from Aunt Midge's funeral and memorial gathering. It was an unexpectedly satisfying and reassuring experience, one of the few times in recent history that my sisters and I have interacted with that branch of the family, as my father was a minister and pastored churches far away for a good portion of our lives. In spite of our limited acquaintance with Aunt Midge's husband's family, the day gave us a welcome opportunity to get to know our various cousins and their offspring.

It was daunting, absolutely, at least at first. How could counting the number of surviving family elders on one hand, and finding oneself in a benign but slightly alien scenario not be daunting? Participating in conversations and listening to stories revealed that we had in common a rich, enduring heritage that typifies the spirit of those tough, durable ancestors who migrated to Texas in the 1800's in the hopes of carving a decent life from the earth.

Two octogenarian women sitting behind us in the chapel whispered to each other as immediate family filed out at the conclusion of the service. I'm quite sure they didn't realize that their conversation was clearly audible--they unconsciously compensated for impaired hearing by whispering louder.

"That Roy Junior is a handsome young man." (Roy is at least four years older than I am, which puts his age between 65 and 70)

"Oh yes he is--a very handsome young man."

Adorable. My heart swelled with pride and love for a family that I've been away from for too long.

Ordinary? Yes. We come from hard-scrabble farmers who worked themselves to death in the struggle to survive and flourish in a frequently hostile environment, rarely completing more than a few years in school. They were needed to keep the farm producing. At times, the only option was everlasting physical labor under brutal conditions. And when Ol' Boll Weevil brought King Cotton low, these hard-working people turned to less risky, more dependable employment in the local butcher shop, grocery store, or filling station. A microcosm of an agrarian populace adapting to the changing world.

Extraordinary, certainly. These descendants of the original Texas settlers inherited and passed along the more useful traits of their sturdy ancestors: courage, resourcefulness, love and husbandry of the land, determination, the importance of family, honesty, and a natural wisdom sufficient to thrive.

Today was a marvelous, gorgeous, warm, late autumn Indian Summer gem, gentle, stray breezes giving notice of an impending cold front. Midge was buried in the Young's Prairie Cemetery with many of her ancestors. Earlier this afternoon, our little gang visited our Daddy/Papaw, grandparents, and other family spirits in the tiny Elgin cemetery, recounting childhood stories, with occasional interjections to clarify the relationship for my niece's benefit.

The late afternoon sun saturated the cemetery and surrounding farms in a soft, golden light. A profound, peaceful stillness settled over the land. Pecan shells crunching underfoot, we wandered among the old and new headstones as the service proceeded, our attention focused on the solemn ritual unfolding under the small, open tent, even as we processed the experience--one foot grounded in the earth, the other connected to the small group of people huddled together near the casket.

My sisters in our usual style--quietly making irreverent quips to one another, unobtrusively pointing out the cultural artifacts particular to Central Texas--headstones decorated in the school colors and symbols of the oldest college football rivalry in Texas: The University of Texas at Austin and Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College, better known as the tea-sipping Longhorns vs. the hard-drinking Aggies. A visceral manifestation of a long-standing Texas tradition.

Delicate tinkling sounds bubbled into awareness, drawing us close to an old pecan tree close by, where four silvery wind chimes danced in its wind-rocked branches, adding a pleasant, high-pitched polyphony to the minister's simple, elegant homily; weaving a magical contrapuntal progression into the murmured prayers and responses.

After saying our last goodbyes to Aunt Midge, we re-convened at a local family-owned Bar-B-Q establishment renowned for their smoked meats. We enjoyed the traditional two-meat dinner plate, with pinto beans, potato salad, sweet or unsweetened iced tea, onions, pickles, two slices of foamy, white bread, and a taste-tingling infusion of two humble ingredients: ground chile peppers and vinegar. Each bottle carries a warning label for the tender of foot or tongue. One of the grand-daughters brought a scrumptious, home-made lemon pound cake--a companionable finish to a Texas-style dinner.

Small town Texas, country goodness. Robust tales of days gone by. A gentle and reverent gathering to honor the passing of a well-loved and accomplished elder.

11.09.2007

Goodbye, Aunt Midge, please say hidy to Ann and Molly and Judythe for me

My aunt Mildred, affectionately known as Aunt Midge, passed away this Wednesday morning. Beyond the feelings of loss, grief, sadness, it is significant to me personally in that we were not particularly close, but that we recently reconnected after decades of wildly divergent lifestyles, tacitly agreeing that it was all water under the bridge, and discovered a fondness that has spanned six decades. Her spirit remained as robust and her mind as sharp at 91 as it was fifty years ago. I am fortunate to have such a vibrant, life-affirming heritage.

Aunt Midge is a legacy from the era of independent, hard-scrabble farming, the native Texan offspring of a Welshman and French belle who migrated from the Carolinas across Alabama and Georgia to the fertile sandy loam of central Texas. The Hill Country is a gentle remnant of the ancient Balcones Fault, which lies thirty miles to the east of Elgin.

The north-south fault line exposes a hundred mile long slash of granite, marble, and fossil-laden limestone formations, honeycombed by the myriad cold water springs that percolate through the matrix. To the east of the fault, the land slopes off to the fertile, black, loamy topsoil accumulated through the ebb and flow of archaic tides. A rich, alluvial plain gradually descends from the heart of the state to the Gulf of Mexico 130 miles east.

Long stretches of beige, sandy beaches ring the deceptively small, utterly treacherous bowl of water that regularly brews up ferocious hurricanes to batter, drown, and gouge out huge chunks of the coastline. The circumference extends from the Yucatan Peninsula of southern Mexico, north along the oil-soiled Texas coastline, across the swamps of lower Louisiana, the diminutive panhandles of Georgia and Alabama, to end at the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. The finger of land appears to stretch toward Cuba and other Caribbean Islands that dot the narrow mouth in an attempt to complete the circle. A tricky gap where cooler currents from the vast Atlantic to the east frequently and forcefully intrude into the shallow, bathwater-warm Gulf.

Alas, poor Florida! The straining finger is frequently bombarded from coast to coast when a big 'cane plows across the entire state unabated. Florida is the point of no return, deftly deflecting a big blow to the north, drowning much of the Atlantic coastline; or diverting the storm westward, to be whipped into a frenzy when the chilly Atlantic system travels over the tepid Gulf.

The Cherokee were one of the largest groups of Aboriginal people, with established communities in North Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia. My European ancestors commingled with these original residents to establish one of the robust, hybrid stocks common to Texas. So common, in fact, that I have Cherokee genes from both parents. An earlier product of the blend, Aunt Midge was closely connected to the land--she spent her entire life within a one hundred and fifty-mile radius encompassing Austin, Elgin, and the Gulf coast.

A few scant years after the second World War, Aunt Midge found herself a widow. Big Roy, my uncle, lost his leg in a lumber mill accident. Whether he died of complications resulting from the maiming, or from his inevitable surrender to alcohol, or simply from despair (it was never clear to the younger cousins), he left her with two young children still in school, and the burden of supporting a family as a single mother.

At some point along the way, she obtained a nursing degree, and embarked on a lifelong career as a practitioner and teacher of nursing, eventually retiring from the faculty of the UT School of Nursing.

My cousins were exemplary, negotiating the difficult years to excel in academics, participate in school activities, and make significant contributions to the community. Midge's daughter also earned a nursing degree, and became involved with the Travis County blood and tissue bank and other health service organizations. Midge's son also studied the sciences, retiring as a biologist for the Texas Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. A Water Ranger, as it were. Both epitomize the drive, passion, and acumen of well-educated, hardworking, diligent, salt-of-the-earth Texans.

More significantly for the younger cousins, the older cousins consistently showered us with love and joy, and exhibited the endearing, sweet, caring demeanor that I associated with our father. My kind and handsome male cousin exuded that same kindliness and acceptance, and my female cousin was the distaff manifestation of this most benign and caring facet of the Snowden persona.

In processing such a significant life change, I am impelled to honor my ancestresses for their wisdom, experience, love, support, and courageous spirit--all the life-affirming characteristics of an exceptional and caring human being. I gratefully acknowledge the essential life force that connects me with my predecessors and progeny.

Oh, Fortuna! Velut luna. Status variabilis. The Wheel of Fortune inexhorably turns once again in ever-expanding consciousness.

Rest in peace, Aunt Midge. Your indomitable spirit above all else makes me proud to be a Texan. And give Daddy a hug for me, would you?

10.31.2007

Human Factors International report on trends in health information seeking

According to the latest issue of Health Factors International newsletter, World Usability Day this year focuses on health care. HFI released a report today on trends in seeking health information via the Web. There are some interesting implications for elders.

Comparing search habits in 2002 and 2006, as you would expect, the number of information seekers has grown significantly. At the same time, more and more specialized information has become available.

I am much heartened by this news, as I envision tens of thousands of us elders annually for the next few years hitting the ether to find ways to be better informed about our health and quality of life as we age.

In effect, this will eventually help lessen the burden on younger, smaller generations as we elders shoulder more of the responsibility for our own health care by staying connected to the community and continuing to learn.

Watching Ronni Bennett's presentation at Gnomedex and the robust Q & A period following, I was struck by the intense response of many of the younger audience to explore the issue of usability for a huge chunk of the population. Kudos to Ronni for making that conversation public and raising awareness, and to Chris Pirillo for offering her a high-exposure venue. Her presentation deserves much more comment.

Cool beans.

10.28.2007

Traumatic Brain Injury

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Fried Okra Productions was in beginning stages of promoting a benefit concert with Little Feat and the Brain Injury Association of Texas. There is already an overwhelming need for services for TBI patients, and new studies from the Iraq War show that troops are returning home with TBI not only from direct injury to the head, but from trauma sustained through just being in proximity to explosions. The shock waves pummel the brain and lead to degeneration of neurons long after the exposure.

Veterans medical services are just not footing the bill. We are fixin' to have a problem that we have no means of handling at the present.

I am very excited that my brother in law is attending a summit on TBI in Washington, D.C. next week along with only 30 or 40 other TBI experts from the private, public, and military sectors. Their consequent report will be a must read for all medical providers and TBI supporters.

Perhaps it's time to dust off the old plans and try once again to put together what we envisioned before the war. We have even more reason to do it. Originally, we were going to limit it to Texas, but I don't see why we can't start with Texas and go national. Takes a lot of grassroots effort, and we had some good traction. Some of the obstacles have disappeared, so the prospect is even more hopeful.

I'll need to retire from my day gig, though. At the moment, it's eating up my time, energy, and health. I love what I do, especially learning new tech. There's a limit to how much I'll give to the man on such lousy pay--much rather be doing something I love with other people I love for free all day long.

10.02.2007

Portraits from the Sixties

What to do with 6 large cardboard boxes full of slides?


So here are more of my friends. I really need a new scanner...

9.24.2007

Phenomenal artist and glass creations


Austin is such an artist's paradise. Well, at least there are many phenomenal artists who live here. Whether they consider it a paradise or not is something they'll have to tell you.

Rejina Johnson is a phenomenal glass artist. She works in other media as well. Please, please visit her Web site to see all the creative things she does with glass--just sand, but fired with the white hot passion of a visionary. Her work touches me way down deep.

I'm looking forward to visiting her studio/compound. I hear she is as phenomenal a woman as she is an artist...

Rejina, I hope you don't mind me uploading your pics. Your work is too good not to be shared.

Okra is good for you...really





Okra is loaded with nutrition, crazy amounts of some, and even has a high factor of anti-inflammatory components. This is boiled, naked okra--not fried in cornmeal, or in a dish with other ingredients.

A researcher has neat photos of the plant, blossom, and fruit. Thanks to Ravi Kochhar for permission to put them on my blog.

All about okra.

Lovely okra photos.

Props from Mother Nature.com

Nutrition facts.

9.19.2007

For Fred and Connie--musical legends in their own time




I wrote this for an early blog called The Hob Nob, named for the infamous bohemian cafe across the street from North Texas State University (now the University of North Texas) where all the music and artsy folks hung out. The story was meant to be an introduction for a series of vignettes about what college was like for a group of friends in the early 1960's, but somehow I never got around to the Denton part of the series.

The Hob Nob--A Prequel

Commerce Texas, December 1962. All Senior Honor Band at East Texas State Teachers College--Connie Seidel, Fred Tackett, me, and I was told later, Bill Clinton. The first three would continue on to ETSTC, later ETSU, now TAMU at Commerce, and into the pages of history. Bill... well, he has his own special place. It's a good thing he went into politics--his saxual talents didn't seem to raise a blip in my consciousness. On the other hand, Connie and Fred's musicianship blew...me...away...

On that day, I met a future husband, and two of the very best friends--both fabulous musicians and composers--and truly wonderful people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. We remain close to this day, and I thank whatever wise stars brought us together in that sleepy, backwater, conservative, teacher's college town. A town where, every Saturday morning, they forked hay onto the downtown square for a lazy livestock auction. During our two years at ET, the three of us were inseparable. Literally.

Commerce is the buckle of the Bible Belt and as this was the Pleistocene Era, I was required to live in the dorms. Connie and Fred, however, got to room with two other male music majors off campus. When we weren't in class or rehearsals, I would sneak over to their apartment until curfew, which was 9:00 p.m. school nights, and midnight Friday and Saturday. Grim-faced matrons, charged with protecting the virginity of their young charges against all odds, locked the door at the stroke of 9 or 12, and if you weren't inside, you were invited to the Dean's office the very next morning.

7:30 every morning found us in attendance for the required Music Theory I, II, III and IV classes. We were seated alphabetically, therefore we dominated the back row--Seidel, Snowden, Tackett--the Three Museketeers.

The professor for the ear training part of MT would play long chord progressions, wildly modulating in and out of major, minor, diminished keys, being especially careful to avoid the traditional cycle of fifths. After what seemed like hours, he would come to an abrupt halt, fling his hands up from the keyboard in a grand flourish, and dramatically demand, "WHAT KEY AM I IN?"

By that time, our classmates' eyes would be spinning, holding their heads looking ready to throw up. Connie and Fred would snigger, point to me, and I'd nail it every time. After three semesters of this, the poor prof had begun to cringe when he reached that particular exercise. After we returned from Christmas holidays the spring of '65, he was openly snarling at me, and relocated the three of us as far apart as was possible. Even that couldn't stop us. Somewhere between spring break and finals, he gave up altogether.

We even attended the same non-music Honors classes together--tromping from the Music Building to far-flung reaches of the campus, reconvening at the MB for endless, myriad ensemble rehearsals, jazz jams, lessons, practice room shenanigans, concerts, juries, and mandatory concert attendance to show solidarity for our fellow musicians.

Each fall, from 3:30-5:30 p.m. daily, would find us "guiding right" on the practice field, rain, sleet, triple digit heat, getting that half-time show together. In those days, schools could afford to take the marching band to every game. No flag or rifle corps, no Janet/Justin leave-nothing-to-the-imagination MTV extravaganza, just precision 8-to-5 or 6-5 military marching, heavy on discipline and standard repertoire.

The director would exhort us to snap off our right turns "I want to see white shoes SPARKLE on those yard lines!" We accommodated by muttering "sparkle, sparkle" while pivoting in exact 90 degree boxes. What began as a murmur built to a war chant--"SPARKLE, SPARKLE." We did have one of the best musical organizations in the state, I have to admit.

As much fun as we had, and as excellent as our conservatory-style musical training was, we always felt there was greener grass just over the hill. Over several hills--60 miles to the west, to be exact. Since we were underage, Connie used his prodigious artistic abilities to "rearrange" his driver's license and finagle a marriage license. We walked into the first church we could find in McKinney and convinced the pastor to marry us on the spot, and took that giant 60-mile step to Denton, the North Texas State U Music Department, Library, and the Hob Nob.

From that point on, our lives pretty much exploded...Fred side-stepped to Oklahoma City to finish his degree, work with the monster sax player Joe Laine Davis, and later with practically every musician known to man--Jimmy Webb, Bob Dylan, Bonnie Raitt, et al. Fred currently performs with Little Feat, touring between gigs as a duo with Paul Barrere, Feat's other legendary guitarist. (Check out Fred's son, Miles Om Tackett and his group breakestra--way cool)

Denton, here we come!

9.17.2007

Sally Field 1, Rupert Murdoch/Fox TV -100

I caught the tag-end of the Emmys last night, just in time to see Fox TV censure Sally Field's acceptance speech for best dramatic actress in a series. She made the reasonable, heart-felt comment that if mothers ruled the world, there would be no (bleep) war. Fox blipped it, showing a dark audience and stage for a second, then returned to the live show.

Tsk, tsk. For a station that claims to be unbiased, Fox continually shoots itself in the foot with amateurish, blatant censorship. According to FCC guidelines, the word "goddamn" isn't obscene, so there was no need to blip it. Unless, of course, it is part of a sentence that condemns the current administration's belligerent policy of war-mongering.

Today's Huffington Post carried the uncensored video as seen on Canadian TV. Go Sally! And what about '0l Greenspan? Too bad he didn't spill the beans when it might have done some good...of course, it has always been obvious that the real reason Bush is annihilating Iraq is for the oil, we just didn't push back hard enough. Money = power, and I'm short on both, even though that's not an excuse.

9.15.2007

Elder visits to medical providers

You may have heard this story on NPR a couple of mornings ago. Evidently, the medical community is waking up to the fact that their services are sometimes inaccessible to disabled and elder patients. Duh.

Do you find you have increasingly daunting hoops to jump through at the doctor's office, or x-ray machines, or just getting to the front door? More than once I've wished for handles to help climb up on a table, or even turn over without falling off! And I'm a young elder.

A woman related how difficult it is to negotiate those tables from a wheelchair. She searched long and hard to find a gyn who could accommodate her needs so that she could ensure a thorough examination. Some tests are not valid unless we are in a prone position--you can't palpate everything in a woman's body that needs a good palping while sitting in a chair.

Interesting subject for compiling a state or national database of elder-friendly doctors and medical services.

Don't get me started with how accessible our university isn't. Having to visit the restroom in another building does not jive with compliance. Neither does having the only restroom with doors wide enough to get a wheelchair through designated for "Women." What are the men supposed to do? Pee in the bushes?

America: the leading edge of medical research, the antiquated, drop-dead caboose of medical care and insurance.






9.12.2007

9/11--Brahms, flow, and Csikszentmihalyi


I was determined to not get all twisted up about 9/11 and put myself back in the stew of garbage since then. Singing Brahms was much better for my soul. Putting out heart-felt vibrations with my whole body and intellect. In truth, I've come to think of music and being a musician as a simple conduit for that ethereal life force that connects everything. Music, even 150 year old music, has the power to move and heal us, especially if we (musicians) transcend ego and simply let the spirit of the composer flow through us. I strongly believe that this flow is everywhere, we only have to sample the excitement in and of the air that we breath and sing with.

This is the essence of prana, the Hindu word for the breath/life force. It cannot be created, it cannot be destroyed. It just flows. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi has cool things to say about flow. One is most holy when one attains flow.

9.09.2007

More photos from the 60's

Fun shoot back in '68 or '69 (now how can I remember?). The lady on the left is no longer with us. The lady on the right was a news photographer with the Dallas Times Herald when it was still publishing. She taught me how to take photographs without a light meter. "Just trust your eyes," she said. And I did. The weird coloring is due to my crudded up scanner, not the actual photo.

The paper furnished her with a great Nikon system, so she loaned me her personal system and we processed film and made prints on the weekends.

We would drive around Texas, looking for interesting places to shoot, and took pics of each other and whatever caught our eye.

This was completely off-the-cuff, we constantly flowed between the back and front of the camera, using whatever was at hand for props, and mostly natural light.

After decades of operating an SLR as an extension of my body, I'm finding it difficult to work with a digital camera. Maybe I can find a used digital SLR that can reveal the world to me like a non-digital SLR. My digital photos have no soul. I can't touch the essence of the person or subject through a digital like I can with an SLR. Early in my adult life I set a goal of capturing the very best portrait of each of my friends that I possibly could. Now where did I put those??

Elder and assistive tech catalog

The International Society of Gerontechnology originates in the UK, but it draws members from around the globe. A recent post to the group included a link to "What's New: Newer Devices and Gadgets for Older and Disabled people." Very cool, the non-PC title notwithstanding. Talking labels, timers, remote control appliances, smart homes, and more. I'll try to find out if these products are available in the US. If not, then the catalog is a great resource for US developers and engineers. Surely we have the equivalent somewhere in America...

Photos of old friends, windows, stuff

Messing around with magnification.
Dusted off the printer/scanner to upload some photos. Friends, some of whom have passed away, others whom I haven't seen in decades. Should anyone who is represented object, just let me know and I'll take them down. They'll probably never see Fried Okra Productions.

9.08.2007

Blogging for Peace

If you want to know my true colors, here they are. You can join me in blogging for peace.

And if someone can help me figure out how to upload this image to the right nav bar so that it scales correctly, I'd be forever grateful.

Monkeying around with Survey Monkey

Came across the Blog Reader Project survey on Susie Bright's Journal, a feisty and insightful blog that always makes me 1) think, 2) wonder "How did she get in my head?", and 3) shout "Way to go!" The survey originates from blogads.com. Having worked in marketing and public relations, I'm always curious to take a peek, to see what the group is promoting and how, whether it has any redeeming or useful qualities, and the like. This one focuses on internet behavior and preferences, with a few sidelines thrown in, like preferences in tangibles like cars, spirits, etc.

If you're leery about giving out your e-mail address and blog site along with your preferences, you're probably wiser than I am. If you're still curious, Please take my Blog Reader Project survey.

9.03.2007

Elder blogging and new template


The photo has nothing to do with either title subject. I just happen to love the kitties in the blue wheelbarrow. Taken by my daughter on her visit to an old friend in Greece. This was on one of the islands, don't remember which one, but the blue, which islanders use to paint their front doors, reminds me of the blue that New Mexicans paint their front door frames to protect against evil spirits. After a little research, I discovered that the New Mexico tradition was brought from the Mediterranean. No wonder they remind me of each other!

A lot like the ShiShi dogs protect Okinawan households. You see scores of them on every roof and entryway. I guess the American equivalent is a horse shoe over the front door. Of course, you have to remember to nail it in a "u" shape, so the good luck doesn't pour out.

Elder bloggers: should you not want your blog to show up in the blogroll to the right, just let me know and I'll either remove it or move it to the "links" section, whichever you prefer. Linkees: if you are 60+ and want to be included in the Elder Blogger blogroll, drop me a line and I'll be glad to re-position.

Template: I'm experimenting with what's available in Blogspot, which I don't find especially aesthetic. Even though I love the greens of the old template, it's difficult to see, and elder blogging is all about whether we can read the print or not. If anyone has any opinion, please leave a comment. Life is an experiment--I'm flexible.

8.30.2007

Joseph Gordon-Levitt


has become my favorite young actor. He was cute and funny in Third Rock, but I've seen four of his films recently that just knocked my socks off. The guy can act, and is choosing kick-ass scripts. If you haven't seen Brick, The Lookout, Mysterious Skin, or the Shadowboxer, be prepared for some raw, thought-provoking scripting, directing, and acting. Definitely not for children.

Each of these movies were nominated for and won beaucoups of film awards. I can't wait to see the next script he picks. He isn't precious, doesn't believe in celebrity, and again, those screenplays are just unbelievable and he does a phenomenal acting job in each.

8.29.2007

Ladybird's Legacy










I had the honor to sing for a colleague's memorial service yesterday. The setting was the National Wildflower Research Center, established by Ladybird Johnson. Now a part of the University of Texas at Austin, it is a contemplative retreat, sustained by green technology, and a repository of precious wildflowers and seeds, sculpture, and education. It is a place to renew one's hope and reconnect with what is most beautiful about Texas. There is a water catchment system that irrigates the beds, and paths throughout the acreage, with commemorative benches placed here and there.

Ladybird was well-loved in this town, a gracious gentlewoman who has brightened not only Texas, but the U.S. with her love and sowing of wildflower seeds along our highways. There is nothing more breath-taking than driving around Texas in March or so, if we've had enough rain over the winter, and drowning in bluebonnets, Indian blankets, Indian paintbrushes, evening primroses, winecups, and all the other gorgeous weeds that grow here.

She was key in putting in the infamous 8.5 mile Hike and Bike Trail along both sides of the Colorado River that runs through the middle of town. To call the Colorado River at that point "Town Lake" is a misnomer. However, it opened up the opportunity to rename Town Lake as Ladybird Johnson Lake. A most fitting complement to the wildflower research center. Along the trails you can find trees with labels to tell you what they are, Stevie Ray Vaughn's statue, an off-leash dog park, benches, serious and not so serious walkers and runners, lots of jogging baby strollers, and the largest urban bat population that lives under the Congress Street bridge.

She was a lovely and loving woman, and we are much the better for her good works. The Wildflower Center was a stunning and appropriate gathering place to celebrate the life of our friend in joy and beauty.

Yay for Brahms!


Johannes Brahms (1833-1897) was a musician's musician and composer. He practiced counterpoint (think Bach Two-Part Inventions) for two hours every day before he put pen to manuscript to compose his own work. I call him the hemiola king. Makes singing interesting. Basically, it's shifting the metric pattern from a 3/4 or 6/8 (triple) time signature to what sounds like a string of duples. In other words, you're banging along 1 2 3 1 2 3 and the accent shifts to 1-2 3-1 2-3. You have to hear it...

At any rate, tonight was first rehearsal of the season for the Austin Vocal Arts Ensemble (AVAE), and we're doing a full program of Brahms, featuring the Liebslieder Waltzes. Brahms' style was Classical Romantic, rather than full-out Romantic. He respected the older forms of music (imitation, canon, fugue, et al) and adapted them to structure his work, as opposed to say, Wagner, who wrote what is known as program music--sometimes called a tone poem--which tells a story, or conjures an image, and may be through composed, which simply means the architecture doesn't divide up into neat sections. Think Prelude and Liebestod--restless movement away from a tonal center, never quite landing on a cadence (think the A-men at the end of most hymns).

Brahms wrote for nearly every genre except opera. His lieder (songs) are de rigeur for any singer, and his piano pieces are difficult, but supremely satisfying--you get to use the full range of the piano, and thunder away all your anger or depression. The symphonies are quite pleasant, but perhaps his best known work is Ein Deutsches Requiem (The German Requiem) for chorus and orchestra, which regularly shows up in every chorus' season. It isn't religious so much as spiritual. His tonalities reach deep inside your psyche and resonate with exquisite passion for the listener and the singer.

If you are in Austin on November 8, come listen. You'll hear lots of hemiola :)



8.20.2007

Elderblogger badge by Kay/Ronni

A shoutout to Kay of Kay's Thinking Cap for coming up with the idea for the elderblogger badge. She modestly credits Ronni Bennett for helping with the code, but it's all about the collaboration, eh?

I'm psyched that I qualify for the badge, and display it proudly. If you're too young to be an elderblogger, there's another badge at Time Goes By that says "Elderbloggers Rule," and if you meet the criteria, you can show your support for the elderbloggers in your life. Start a trend--go check it out.

Kay features the "Groaner of the Week" and "Kay's Wonderful World of Weird Words," both of which appeal to the twisted wordsmith that lives in my soul. It shouldn't come as much of a shock that she is also a big fan of the annual O. Henry Pun-Off here in Austin, just one of the cool things to do here. She subscribes to The Pundit, in the punny sense of the word. She turned me on to the fact that the pun-offs are up on YouTube, which means endless merriment and fascination, if you can stomach them. An extra helping, please!

I met some articulate, thoughtful, and sometimes hysterically or quietly funny elderbloggers during the week of guesting on TGB, and I'll slowly add their links to my list so you can enjoy them, too.

8.17.2007

Fried Okra Productions--what it means

Several folks have asked me why I chose the title Fried Okra Productions. There are two parts to the story.

My maternal grandparents had a great deal to do with instilling independence and self-reliance in their granddaughters. My grandfather came from a farming community in North Texas, and my grandmother's father was a school teacher and wood cutter in Arkansas. I learned how to cook from hanging with my Mamaw in her kitchen in Greenville, Texas.

Papaw always had a kitchen garden, plowing and planting the right-of-way situated between their house and the railroad tracks. Every year they grew squash, tomatoes, cucumbers, okra, peppers of all kinds, onions, and lots of other yummy veggies. Mamaw put up much of the food, shelving it in a little storeroom Papaw built especially for that purpose off the kitchen. Her piccalilli was the best in the state.

She did use recipes, but frequently measured dry ingredients with her hand: a handful of flour was about one cup, and the depression in the palm of your hand was about one teaspoon. That's how I learned how to make cornbread. A handful of flour, one of cornmeal, a teaspoon each of salt and sugar, two to four teaspoons of baking powder, one egg, and a cup or so of "sweet milk," as opposed to buttermilk.

The oven would be preheated to 350 degrees, and some sort of shortening or fat would be in the baking dish in the oven heating while the ingredients were being mixed. When she was ready to pop it into the oven, she would take out the baking pan, pour the grease into the mixture, stir, and pour all back in the pan. At about 20 minutes, she would stick a kitchen knife (not sharp) into the middle of the pan, and if it came out clean, it meant it was ready. If some of the batter stuck to the knife, it needed another 10 minutes or so. At that temperature, the color of the crust was a pretty good indication of doneness. I also learned that when it was cooked, the loaf would pull away slightly from the pan.

My favorite dish was Mamaw's fried okra. Mamaw's was always delicious. The okra had to be fresh and whole. She would prepare a plate or small paper bag with cornmeal and a bit of salt. Then she would cut the stem end off, and slice the pod crosswise into bite-sized morsels. Grease would be heating in a cast iron skillet, and she would cut and shake only enough for one layer in the skillet at a time.

The okra would be turned from time to time to brown crisply and evenly, then scooped onto a paper towel to absorb the excess grease. These crunchy little nuggets had a nutty flavor, and I adored them. These days, it's usually pre-breaded, using flour, and not especially noteworthy. Nothing like the "real" thing.

Mamaw's fried okra, along with Papaw's fried squash, which was prepared similarly, were the mainstays of summer meals. A typical "Mamaw supper" was fresh black-eyed peas, cornbread, collard greens, green scallions, and fried okra. For dessert, we'd crumble a piece of cornbread into a glass of sweet milk. Healthy and scrumptious.

The love and good eating made a lasting impression. I still cook using my hands to measure. That's the first part of the story.

The second part is a relatively recent adventure. Fred Tackett, musician/composer extraordinaire, who is now part of the legendary Little Feat, introduced me to the original group back when they first got started. Over the years, I've come to know and love the other band members. At one of their Austin concerts, I learned that drummer Richie Hayward's son, Severn, who was also Fred's son's best friend, had sustained extensive traumatic brain injury (TBI) in a horrific auto accident, and that they were having a difficult time getting the therapy he needed to function.

As fate would have it, my brother in law is heavily involved with the Brain Injury Association of Texas, or BIATx, and proposed combining the two groups to benefit both Sev and BIATx. The idea was accepted, and we formed Fried Okra Productions to manage the endeavor.

Things were proceeding apace when I suffered a f2f meeting with a concrete garage floor, which resulted in a broken arm, two sprained wrists, and a torn ACL in my good knee. That put me out of commission for quite some time, and the collaboration has been on hold ever since. I would love to get the benefit going again, but it will take more time and energy than I can spare at the moment.

Not to let a good title go to waste, I decided it would be appropriate for my blog. Now, if I can just find a good photo of fried okra prepared properly...

Chris Pirillo rocks!

I owe Chris Pirillo from Lockergnome an apology. He responded promptly to my earlier comment that Ronni Bennett's session at Gnomedex was omitted from the resultant broadcast. This was not the case at all, and I am mortified that I even considered jumping to a conclusion without considering the sheer magnitude of potential technical glitches in mounting the conference and getting the results out to the public. Really, that I jumped to a conclusion, period. That's not the way to foster problem-solving communication.

Had I read Gnomedex's philosophy before thoughtlessly drawing incorrect conclusions, I would have saved myself considerable embarrassment. I wholeheartedly support their mission.

Chris' reply deserves a more prominent location than the comments section. Here's his comment:

"Ah, no... the videos that are there now aren't the "official" videos. :)

We had conversion problems and are trying again with the source Mini DV tapes... trust me, we take Ronni and her message very seriously. ;)"

Thanks Chris, for being so gentle with a jaded, crusted, old lady ;) I'm extremely excited about exploring solutions to these issues, and I applaud your efforts.

Thank you, Ronni!

Imagine my shock when Ronni Bennett, of Time Goes By, invited eight elderbloggers to cover for her while she was away at Gnomedex and on vacation, and I was one of the eight! She chose quite a variety of bloggers, each with a strong voice and writing style (according to her lead-in *grin), and the posts have been marvelous. I heartily urge you to drop by and sample the pinch hitters and get TGB on your "must-visit" list.

Ronni has become the "grande dame" of elderblogging, and thoughtfully articulates the various issues of aging, particularly in a societal context. She is a strong proponent of tapping in to the wealth of knowledge and information of the Boomer generation, and a stunning voice in assessing the disconnect among the generations and more importantly, the commercialization of the myth of "eternal youth."

That she presented at Gnomedex (not to mention SXSWi and other techie conferences) and turned heads to focus on how elders are labeled as un-persons is an indication of the depth of her involvement. That Gnomedex put other presenters up on YouTube, BUT NOT RONNI, leads me to think that they need to take her much more seriously. I may call up Gnomedex and take them to task for slighting her. From all second-hand reports, she was easily the classiest act there.

That she is generous and confident in her own self is evident in her invitation to share her space with other bloggers.

It was a huge honor to be tapped. Thank you, Ronni, for your generous gift and your tireless commitment.

8.16.2007

Soggy Central Texas

Yes, it's raining again. This time it's the residue from Erin. That means bands of heavy rain with short respites in between. Since the water table is still full, we are automatically in a flash flood warning anytime it rains.

It also means the temp drops a bit. I don't think we've had a 100 degree day yet. Freaky. A few years ago we had 100 days of 100+ temperatures, a high bake.

I don't mind the rain, it's the mold that gets to me. Where there's moisture, there's mold, and my new allergy/asthma doctor has given me a ream of material and action plans and many new medications and devices (nasal irrigation is just plain weird) to help the old bod deal with the onslaught.

That's all OK, except for one thing: Linus can't come in my bedroom anymore. Maybe I'll get some of that special spray, for icy winter nights when he can't stay outside. The worst is no snuggling. I'm not willing to give that up. We nap nicely together.

8.09.2007

Mea Culpa

I apologize. I'm mortified. I espouse elder design and this blog is a good example of how NOT to design for elders. What was I thinking? Mushed up green peas? And the font size--I can't even read it myself.

I will not take on shame or blame, I will count it a lesson and find some time to make it easier to read muy pronto.

There are some scintillating writers in elderblogland. You already know of Ronni Bennett and Rosemary Daniell. I was recently introduced to the Joy of Six and Freydblog. Both writers craft exquisitely poignant gems that connect past, present, and future. Wise women all. You know that flash you get when a raw emotion zaps you out of the blue? Wrap that in a technicolor silk scarf of words, and that's kinda how they write.

Elder design. Ran into a new manifestation of the need to be mindful of a few limitations: eyeglasses. Specifically, frames that are so trendy the screws are extra tiny. Really. And the tiny screwdrivers in the eyeglass repair kit are too large. Even the facile young woman who tried to find one that would fit became frustrated.

I fixed them myself. With dental floss. Good thing I had my vision appointment this morning, the string has frayed to a mere wisp. We won't get into the two kinds of eyedrops business.

Nowadays I have three pairs of glasses to lose: everyday progressive lenses, computer with $10 discount store frames, and sunnies--UVA/UVB protection PLUS current ones are so over four prescriptions ago.

Which brings me to the second experience with elder design. Cellular phones. I need one with bigger buttons. Everyone will need one with bigger buttons sooner or later. The occasion was calling in two prescription refills. Do you know how many numerals there are in a prescription number? This pharmacy assigns twelve...with a dash thrown in. What are the odds a 60+ will successfully complete this transaction? Twice. With different numbers. Then comes the pickup time scheduler. "Is that a.m. or p.m.?" My fingers are so clumsy I have no idea whether I'm supposed to collect my prescriptions at 7:00 a.m. or p.m.

I'm being silly, but the point is that both of these experiences have little to do with cognition, and much to do with physical changes. Just because we are 5% down on our fine motor skills doesn't mean we're stupid. As a matter of fact, in a recent article about aging and the brain (I'll have to find the url) the author pointed out that some cognitive areas improve with age. Duh. How do you think the human race evolved? Somebody was smart enough to survive long enough to teach the youngsters how to evade a saber-toothed tiger, tell the chanterelles from the amanita phalloides, or build the latrine downstream. It's crucial to pass along collective wisdom. Like, what happens to you when you eat an amanita muscaria. I know, strictly from observation. The muscariats don't know, because they turn white, pass out, and wake up with nasty headaches and only remember snatches of weird dreams. That bit of wisdom is known by very few, but could possibly deter anyone else from attempting the same experiment. It turns you into a zombie--don't do it. There were only plain old mushrooms in my salad today.

The good news is that there is research leading to the development of brain exercise software and techniques to help the gray matter keep cranking it out.
I like being smart. I don't plan to stop, because as I get older, I always want someone intelligent to talk to, even when I'm alone.

Flashback: Stockholm, 1996. A friend shared a Swedish homecooked meal of chanterelles and reindeer in a savory sauce over mashed potatoes, with other veggies. It was divine. I do love the edible ones, especially the ones in my salad today.

8.06.2007

Designing for elders

I had a lovely Monday morning surprise. The July & August 2007 edition of the information and communication tech (ICT) magazine interactions--New visions of human-computer interaction was brought to my attention by a colleague. There is a special section on elder technology, and what has become one of my all-time favorite headlines: "Innovations for graying times--designing for seniors." Is that not priceless?

And not just one, this baby has eight, count 'em, eight articles, under the guidance of guest editor Jonathan Livingston from The Memory Project. Each author offers a vision of the "needs/attributes/solutions" approach to elder technology. These brilliant writers have created elegant, articulate pieces that will feed my current obsession with cross-generational tech design quite nicely.

I love being full of untapped potential.

Getting hot in the kitchen

Literally and figuratively. Literal as in kitchen with western window, so heat gain from cooking with gas is not appealing. Not to mention keeping up with the garbage...I'll say no more.

Figurative in that I am incredibly honored to have been invited by Ronni Bennett, a new shero, to be one of eight guest bloggers on "Time Goes By."

I gotta get my kitchen in order. No question it's gonna get hotter.

8.05.2007

Cat thinks he's a bird, takes up residence in tree


Linus defending his dinner. Dogs can't get to it, but other cats, squirrels, raccoons, and opossums can climb or fly up. They mysteriously appear out of nowhere when the kibble comes out. They're usually courteous, and wait until Linus finishes before polishing off his leftovers.

One year, a raccoon learned how to open my screen door with his clever little hands, and would take a swan dive into the plastic bin where I stored 20# sacks of cat food. He got away with it three times, each time with greater brio. The last time, he defiantly chattered at me when I asked him to leave, and took great umbrage when I scooted his rear out the door with a broom.

Opossums are so ugly they're cute. Especially the babies. Mama possums have 2-4 in a litter, and they follow mom everywhere in single file, their little rat tails bringing up the rear.

I hear they're good eating, but I'll pass on killing and cleaning one.

There's an armadillo who lives down the alley, but those guys are diggers. I've never seen an armadillo climb. Maybe some day he'll get curious about our little menagerie and join the fun.

A pair of beautiful, mauve-pink Inca doves live in a nearby tree. More prevalent are the white-wing doves, considered "trash" birds, because they eat up all the other birds' food. We have a whole flock of the white-wings. Waking to the sound of doves "cooing" is most life-affirming. Similar to waking to the sound of waves crashing on the Pacific coastline.

One of my favorite critters from childhood is the Texas horned lizard, or as we call them, horny toads. It breaks my heart that they're on the "threatened" list. We've destroyed so much of our biodiversity I can hardly bear it. All I can say is "STOP IT, DAMMIT!"

Spiders. That Attack.

Did that get your attention? It certainly did mine not long after I moved to Sydney. This 'lil page was in a Sunday supplement, and I immediately tore it out and taped it to the wall. The worst I ever encountered was the orange and green alert boxes above.

Thank goodness. A Sydney funnel-web spider (see above, if you dare) will rear up on its four hind legs, and leap at you, his front four legs clawing the air straight at you. Not a sight I would relish f2f. Gorgeous, nonetheless. As was so much else there. I loved it. I loved those people. I loved that place.

Zona Rosa Writing Day

(Publishing an old draft)

Today would have been Zona Rosa day, except it's Labor Day, which I'm taking to heart and working on my blog. The workshop is scooted to next Saturday, and I'll be there, listening to remarkable writing and sharing what I've done. Need to carve out some time for more extended pieces than blog posts, right after I get my house in order. Now how much of that is excuse, and how much is being pushed out the door by accumulated detritus? The following was from the August workshop...

Today was the first Saturday of the month, which means the sub-rosan Zona Rosa Austin meeting. It always feels good to do timed writing, it's like going to the gym and working out.

For me, it's the short ones. Two ten-minute exercises before lunch wore me out. I highly recommend stretching writing muscles using this technique, setting different periods of time.

La Zona Rosa herself, Rosemary Daniell, has hinted that there's a hot new book out there with stories by a galaxy of insanely good and sensually seasoned women writers, including herself. You can be sure I will buy a copy. At Book Woman, of course.

As soon as I get the press kit, I'll post it.


8.01.2007

Sunburns? In Texas? In August??


In my little cubicle at work, I now have a soft, soothing rug under every bit of it. It won't totally lie flat yet, just breaking it in. Keep my head down, get the work done, and the office will settle in. Just In Time. That's all that matters.

So we've had so much rain, everyone showed up with a sunburn on Monday. So? So? Why is that so mind-blowing? Because by August One in Central Texas, everything and everyone is burnt to a toasty crisp. Did you feel the earth shimmy a little when you had the awesome revelation that weather phenomena associated with our current environment is trying to pull the rug out from under us as we write?

Glad I have my new rug.

It's seafoamy and rivery and calming and softening. We're just gonna make it comfy. That's good.

So maybe next time another Motherly Natural environmental krrrrrnk! we'll ALL get hustling and clean things up. And I'll have a rug to ride out on.

Cause I'm all shook up...ooowe-e-e...yuh..yeah, yeah, yeah.
(Repeat to Fade)

P.S. Austin really is a fun place for this to happen. We sit on an ancient, crumbled, worn-out fault line. Thus all the springs and rivers and lakes and the Hill Country. I declare my heart is there...another song.

7.29.2007

Central Texas Rainforest

The psycho weather patterns have brought more rain to Central Texas than I've seen in years. It's slightly disconcerting to see green, lush lawns at this time of year, when we're usually in a drought and lawns brown because of major water rationing. There are unfamiliar wildflowers that normally don't get a chance to bloom for lack of water. The temperature hasn't even hit 100 yet, and by this time, we are normally sweltering.

We've been getting rain most every day, and with the lakes and water table to capacity, it has nowhere to go except up. It's tricky driving, as one never knows which routes may be flooded. Water rushing over a low-water crossing is extremely tempting to conquer, but most drownings occur when people think their SUV or monster truck can safely navigate. I use the word navigate on purpose. No matter how heavy your vehicle, water only a few inches deep can sweep it off the road and into a wild ride that generally ends in tragedy. Rapidly flowing water is a deadly force.

Global warming is here. Evidently, according to a meteorologist on NPR, normal patterns will be fluctuating like crazy for several decades before we go bottom up. I've always been energized and excited by extreme natural phenomena, but this is bordering on insanity. Knock on wood, I've made it through hurricane, fire, flood, earthquake, tornado, drought, et al relatively unscathed. At some point, the attraction will cease, and it will become just plain scary.

I learned that GWB's ranch in Crawford is completely green. Isn't that an oxymoron? Evidently, in a catastrophic event, he can survive most anything, because he's off the grid and can be self-sustaining for quite some time. Now, doesn't it seem logical that he would support eco-technology for the country? Oh, I forgot, he doesn't concern himself with us lesser beings.

Mold count is off the map. Not good for someone who is allergic to mold. I seem to be turning green, inside and out. On the other hand, I haven't had to water my outside plants all summer. By this time, they're either dead or languishing inside, not getting enough sun because I keep my blinds closed to help combat the heat gain in an old, upstairs duplex.

One of the first major floods left several inches of water in my office, and we've been "floating" around campus since then trying to find a location to plug in a laptop. My handy-dandy rolling backpack has helped, except in the rain. To keep files and laptop dry, I've had to schlep the pack on my back under an inadequate umbrella.

When physical plant sucked the water out of the offices and hallways, they discovered mold in the walls. They quarantined the area, replaced sheetrock, and repainted. All well and good. However, the first day back, I started coughing more and more, and broke out in a rash. So now I'm self-quarantined until they clean up all the construction detritus, and I get results from environmental allergy testing. Not the ideal work situation.

All during one of the busiest times of year. Lends new meaning to the phrase, "when it rains, it pours."

7.23.2007

Shifting paradigms


This is the post from my recent guest blogger inclusion at Time Goes By. Figured it wouldn't hurt to include it here as well...


Kokopelliwoman's paradigm

Working for a university these days is like taking one step forward and two steps back. We received a letter from the Prez saying that the Texas State lege budgeted precious few monies for the next biennium. Then I had to "choose" our single remaining insurance plan. Next week staff dial-up internet goes away. None of this is inherently negative or bad. It is rather disconcerting, however, to realize that my Golden Years may be more modestly funded than I had planned. Prompting a reality check that paradigm shifts come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Some appear in a blinding flash; others span decades.

There's a growing flood of elders who cannot afford to retire, regardless of whether or not we enjoy our work. This is not a matter of stopping all meaningful work to embark on some completely separate, magical journey; ceasing work that you truly love, that helps you remain productive. For me, this means remaining at my current job as long as possible, and supplementing with a side gig.

I tried that for close to a year. Selling and relentlessly/endlessly folding infant and toddler clothing in a high-end retail store for 20-40 hours a week on top of my day gig. Brutal. I fell asleep every time I sat down. Paradigm as rug yanked from under you. I did get an interesting scar...

That was several shifts ago. Lately, the frequency seems to be increasing. I'm beginning to believe that aging is a paradigm shift per se. The adventures never stop. This aging thing takes a lot of ingenuity, especially if you have limited resources. Acting against my instincts tends to attract negative shifts, so I've learned to depend on my intuition. The trick is to surf on top of the changes.

When I was six, my parents told us the Easter Bunny was too poor to visit that year. I felt like I'd been kicked in the stomach. In one fell swoop, all my childhood icons crumbled to reveal my folk's solemn faces in the dashboard light of our '52 Chevy. I swallowed the revelation with good grace. A pleasant fantasy, nourishment for a robust imagination. After all, I was growing up, and that was good. I was satisfied with my new perspective.

Since then, I've racked up a few "aha" moments. For instance, I assumed that everyone lived by the Golden Rule. Wrong. Took years to sink in that the world is not fair, and that it was unrealistic to expect it to be so. About that time, I finally understood that the only person you can change is yourself. A little later, I lived in Sydney for two years. Australians drive on the left. I actually felt the shift when my brain reversed directions. Driving was easy--when you see oncoming traffic, you'll automatically move to the left. It was much harder to adapt when walking. The childhood habit of looking right-left-right before crossing the street goes deep. Takes longer to make the flip. Oddly, walking didn't shift back when I returned. I continue to move left with oncoming pedestrians.

Recent shifts involve health issues. We've all been there. Some not especially good news that rips through your denial and turns your lifestyle upside down. That cold ball of fear in the pit of your stomach that tells you this paradigm shift means business. You are closer to death than to birth. Death and birth are cyclical, in a benign interpretation of that particular paradigm.

Some shifts sneak up on you. Think back to the early 1970's, and to the groundswell of concern about oil and the environment. We predicted that in thirty years we would be in an oil crisis. I allowed myself to be distracted. I lost that urgent drive to save the planet. Look what happened. The mess is worse than we predicted. We're hardly batting an eye while the current administration burns the house down with everyone in it. I guess some of us were not so distracted, and got busy manifesting that which we most dreaded.

Here's a happy shift: I don't care if anyone finds me attractive or even likes me. Great for reducing stress and saving money. I don't have to listen to commercials, read advertisements, or be bombarded with exactly why I'm not OK with the rest of the world. Makeup ads don't move me. IMHO, "looking younger" is a fantasy, and a complete waste of money. I'm not saying one shouldn't feel good about ones' self. That's part of being healthy.

Listen up--aging is not a sin or affliction--much in the same way that pregnancy and childbirth is not an illness. It's just life, folks. Growing old is cool, considering the alternative. Replace those worn-out, shallow paradigms with making someone's life a little better, take a trip to Prague, or write poetry.

Good or bad, I'm in for the ride. From daily minutiae to world-shaking events to mind-blowing revelations, I'll take any lesson the universal gear box torques out rather than live with a brittle, closed mind. Shifting can keep you agile and increase your options. Have you had a paradigm shift lately? Let's hear about it.

6.11.2007

Ach, du Lieber!

Boston, excellent city of revolution. A welcome escape from the Texas heat and flooded work spaces. Hoping to meet the Boomer Chronicler, a blogger extraordinaire.

It's a drink of spring water just to be here, with my daughter, wanting only to be of assistance, firm up for support, keeping up with life's inevitable changes.

Bronchitis and a flooded office have kept me from the blog. Learning principles of Web design, living, dealing with aging, making sense of the insanity that rules the country at this time, accepting the reality of a world gone insane.

Crappola. List things to hang on to sanity: family, friends, Liebslieder Waltzes next fall, the possibility of life after retirement, surviving until then.

Lygeia. It all fits together. And crumbles and recreates and dissipates into lost opportunities. List the doors I chose not to enter. List the doors I did. Full, jumbled, no sense, too much sense.

Ravings. Keep learning. Surf the crest of the wave.

Not a particularly wonderful return to blogging. So what? What.

Partial Green reunion. A rock 'n roll band I used to sing backup with. A long-lost friend some thought was dead, but I knew better. He's retired to Costa Rica and loves it. Old boyfriends. Just so--boy friends. Maturity brings some rather unwelcome realizations.

One thing to hang onto: it furthers one to hold to one's values. Tightly.

Adios, au revoir, arrevederci, sayonara to the past. It's done. Make the most of what's left of the future.

4.12.2007

Focus: senior Web design


Pacific Coast, Northern New South Wales, AU

It's time to look outside the sandbox and see what's going on out there. What I'm seeing is a shitload of Boomers who are intelligent, capable, tech savvy, and eloquent, presenting needs that must be addressed to ensure that the combined interstellar experienced body of knowledge of this generation can continue to benefit society rather than totally screw it up.


To do this, we need to accomodate our elder thinkers right from the start--design. The body of knowledge must be required research to acquaint our youth with designing across the spectrum. We're doing pretty well with technical literacy for the 21-45 age group (anecdotal guesses, at best). We could do much better with education, but it's coming along. The groups that have the greatest need (IMHO) remain able to communicate electronically as long as they wish are Boomers. We're beginning to face some real and show-stopping aging crises.

HUGE untapped workforce for ideas and change. DESERVING of a loving country that respects and reveres its elders and helps them remain productive and happy to the end of their days. Am I so wrooooong?

What the hell more do you want? I'm convinced we have a whole new market in designing specifically across the continuum. I am seeing some great stuff posted by us elderbloggers, real life answers to consolidate energy and have some to spare. Dang! There's the good'uns, and then...we can't read a comment that could change someone's life. Or at least offer them the opportunity to promote the health of us all by raising critical questions and participating in free, open dialogue focused toward regenerating and preserving humanity.

A new kind of corporation. A positive-outcomes oriented collaboration honestly working toward improving every person's life on the planet. There's no excuse for the governments to devolve to primitive political posturing when we have enough brain power, and the means for linking it, to solve a whole buttload of some nagging, fear-based reversals in human evolution.

I may be dreaming, I may be full of shit, but this truth I know: I will die sitting (or lying) at my keyboard, and I will do my best to make sure my friends can all do the same, so we can talk about it and write about it. :)

So how about it? I know that I'm at the far left end of the learning curve of researching exactly what's going on out there in the techie part of the senior usability equation, because I haven't met many yet. I need to change that. I met a few Appollonian and Dionysian designers and writers at SXSWi s, whom I would have loved to have more time to engage in that dialogue. There are so many savvy people I admire and would love to chat with. If you ARE a techie interested in a dialogue about this subject, then shoot me a comment. Or if you care to write about it, just let me know where to find you.

That should work, shouldn't it?

Wow. That class really got my synapses firing. Just finished two days with Pat Schnee, who teaches an oral presentation class (among other things) and she totally inspired me. Now, I do not use that accolade lightly. I saw her mold passionate speakers, break negative self-tapes, and produce a lively, loving boot camp on how to be an authentic, effective, and engaging communicator in front of a dozen plus strangers. Professional development as guerilla theater. Dynamite stuff. Got me going, obviously.

Pat pegged me as a rambler in less than ten seconds (duh)! And she understood me totally. I have never seen a trainer so involved with her students that she can relate to every single Myers-Briggs type. Her secret? She cares. She has a priceless well of knowledge and understanding. She's good. Incendiary combination.

So my area of remediation is rambling, did ya guess??

4.06.2007

Alcoholism: truly a family disease

I have so much to say and no legitimate place to say it. The blog must suffice. I received a call from my daughter who told me her alcoholic father is drinking again. Sounds benign, doesn't it? In reality it is a statement fraught with heartbreak, betrayal, loneliness, and a name for a family illness that is so deceptive, so powerful, that it has the audacity to ruin entire generations, crush the strongest psyche, break the most forgiving hearts.

How can others not see? The fume-laden breath, the slurred words, the stumbling physique...the signs add up to a sum that some don't recognize, some refuse to recognize, and some recognize, but are stunned with so much pain that they lose the power to objectively protect themselves, or communicate with...the rest of the world.

In her usual fashion, daughter goes through fire, retires, and takes one to three days to synthesize and take stock of the situation. Only then will she contact me, armed with a possible solution, hurt to the quick, but reaching out for some semblance of support.

I, removed from the situation by geography and time, am more able to support her actions, fortifying her decision to refuse any communication until the father takes control of his own life. I urge caution, attendance to that which makes offspring healthy and happy, no matter what the parental behavior manifests. Karma will resolve itself.

The ultimate enabler, now that the divorce is resolved in psyche as well as in fact, she is his most vital relationship, more important than new wife and children. The betrayal of parent to child, never appropriate, never positive, weighs heavily on the both of us. The final straw, "Don't tell B (the new wife)," reminds me of a series of "Don't tell this person that," as if by denying, it ceases to be true. Living a lie is one of the saddest and most toxic conditions of the human experience.

The ultimate heartbreak is that there is real love. The disease of alcoholism is so devastating that it blots out all reason, all care, all appropriateness. It becomes a recurring nightmare, feeding the disease and leaving a tale of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome and stress-related illnesses behind it, more often felling the family rather than the alcoholic.

All I can rationally do is support daughter's plan of action. What I WANT to do is fly to Princeton, and protect my child in a flurry of accusations, threats, and words of sharpened stainless steel. Annihillate the cause. Put it out of it's misery, and the pain that it causes others for whom the afflicted declares love.

This is not a a viable option, for her sake or mine. Instead, I reach out to a sister who has suffered the same pain, the same anxiety that her child is being consistently devastated by a parent whom they love, but are continually hurt by. They deserve better. My maternal instincts and hormones are bigger than life. I could easily overwhelm the transgressor and annihilate him in a holy jihad.

But this is not to be. I cannot fix this. Daughter must find a way to survive the frailties of the parent on her own to be authentic and to survive. All I can do is offer love, support, and understanding. It breaks my heart.

Mommy blog, indeed. A far cry from diapers and teething and first day of school. But more visceral, more instinctual, more protective. From a force that I have no control over, nor does the father, or the daughter. My instincts are raging, yet I must find my own way of discharging feelings of helplessness, being out of control, outrage, knowing that decisions I make while in the white hot heat of insanity must be correct and appropriate for my daughter to survive.

Humans are capable of such a polar panoply of emotions, conditions, reactions, behaviors. Would that this particular illness could be cured with an anodyne, a prescription. It isn't. It's real, devastating, and too easily perpetuated.

Deep breaths. Reminders to oneself to let go, detach with love, and simply be. Deep breath. Deep breath.