Saturday, January 31, 2004

Music Makes the World Go 'Round

Thanks to Leah, I've been collecting CD mixes and more artists in my music library. I've started doing mixes and am enjoying sharing my moods in music with others. I'll be adding my collection to this site, but for now it only contains my wants.

Adverse Effects of Caffeine

It must have been the caffeine. I woke up this morning after dreaming about Ozzy Osbourne. Yeah, somehow I was working behind the scenes for Ozzy while he was on the road for a concert tour. I was in the know about an old school chum of Sharon's who was trying to reach her for a get-together. This is bizarre to me because I'm not a fan or follower of Ozzy's or of his family's. The most I know about that family is what I read about, oh bloody hell, what's the daughter's name?? See!?! That's proof enough! I read an article about the girl and can't remember her name! The article was in BUST and all I can recall is she doesn't want people to talk about her vagina.

Join Me?

The habit of giving only enhances the desire to give.
-Walt Whitman

Have you joined me in practicing a Friday ritual of randomly offering kindness? Random Acts of Kindness = RAOK and Friday is the designated day for giving as stated by the JoinMe non-cult. I'll be honest, I forgot about this until I received an email from a smail pal earlier this evening. (smail = snail mail = land mail) My dear friend was in torment over the kindness she was trying to give an older lady in a grocery store. Here's her story and friend, I hope you don't mind my sharing this. I thought it was too beautiful to keep to myself:

The person in front of me at the check-out stand was this elderly lady. Probably in her late seventies or early eighties. She had blondish-reddish-hair and a few really long hairs on her perfectly wrinkled chin. She bought $53 worth of groceries, and had 8 bags worth. She sighed a little when she paid, having pulled out some bills from her billfold, worn at the edges. She asked the cashier if anyone could call a cab for her. The cashier looked at another and gave each other 'a look' before pointing her to the payphone.

How rude, I thought. So, I offered to help her carry her bags and call her a cab. I called several cab companies, using both payphones and they were all busy. I figured that the phones were broken so, I told her that I'll try to hail her one. I stood outside for about 10 minutes, unable to find one and unsure of where another payphone can be located. I went back to see her, to tell her of my lack of progress and as I turned, I saw her frail hands waving me in sternly.

I came back and she told me that she'll manage. That her sister is nearby and that she could always ask one of the 'nice gentlemen' to drive her home. I told her that I'd wait for her, but she'd have none of it.

So, I left her there. My heart sinking with each step. Unsure of what to do. Knowing that I probably haven't done the right thing. (What if she's still waiting there?)

Oh, Juli. I had to hold back tears as I walked home. I reminded myself that I was overreacting. That she'll manage. Maybe she'll wait for a bit, but someone kind would surely notice and help her get home. I mean, it's not like I'm immaculately nice and helpful, but it's strikes me as sad that most people don't really take every opportunity they can to help, you know? *snip*

My friend wasn't doing this as part of JoinMe as far as I know. She didn't mention it so I believe it just to be the kind gesture she'd offer this person on any given day. She's of a kind heart that way. It's obvious. Her gesture may not have been enough to get the lady home, but it was a kind gesture all the same. She offered assistance to the best of her ability at that time and sometimes, that's all that can be done. I believe that the little something is so much more than the lot of nothing offered by others.

When I was in the corporate world, I had a commitment to myself to keep fresh flowers in my office. So, on Monday, a fresh bouquet went in the vase on the table for me to enjoy. Incidentally, others enjoyed the view as well as the flowers were in plain sight at the end of the hall where my office was located. The point is, I made a promise to myself to do something for me and others on a weekly basis. It wasn't a resolution, per se, but it was a to-do that I took seriously... as I do the Friday RAOK. I can't believe I forgot about that today. Once I read my friend's email, I started brainstorming on what I could do at 7pm on a Friday night. I was wearing my I'm-dressed-for-private-time-at-home clothing, ready to stay in for the night. I couldn't do that. I HAD to make the ROAK effort that I promised myself I'd do. The flowers were habitual... so will be the RAOK in time. After a few brief minutes of burning brain cells, I decided I'd buy someone a coffee tonight. I wrote a note in a handmade card I'd made while in Indiana stating that this was a RAOK and that I'd like to buy the recipient their next warm beverage. I mentioned JoinMe and encouraged them to pay it forward. I tucked a $5-bill in the card and sealed the envelope. I went to Borders because I knew they'd be open late enough to benefit the finder of the card. This was a difficult RAOK, I must say. I'm not confident enough to just walk up to someone and hand them the card. I think in time, I will be, but this is my 2nd week at this so I've got to warm up. Besides, I really wanted to remain anonymous. So, I wrote a note on the front of the envie that said: this is for you! have a great day! I left it in front of the register at the cafe. I ordered a chai latte and walked around the music section. I tried not to watch the envie but I just couldn't help myself. I'd planted a surprise and wanted to see how the finder reacted. The card sat and sat and sat some more. I got back in line and actually heard people talking about it... they thought it was just a greeting for the customers. Remember, I wanted to remain anonymous, so the idea of giving it directly to someone just wasn't an option. I ordered ANOTHER chai latte (can you say caffeine overload??!) and wrote more notes on the envie: TAKE THIS! OPEN NOW! I took my latte and cruised a bit and when I glanced back at the counter 15 minutes later, it was gone. I had to DEMAND what to do! People are funny... they were mildly curious yet cautious. No one wanted to open the sealed envelope for fear of intruding. Their name wasn't on it therefore it wasn't theirs to tamper. I hope that the person who did what they were told enjoyed the mystery... and their next warm beverage.

Flurries in Florida

It snowed in Florida today. I like to think so, anyway. An online friend in Wisconsin, Mr. Soup, offered a jar of genuine Wisconsin snow to the first five takers on a motorcycle touring forum we both frequent. I couldn't resist such an appealing offer for the following reasons:

I have a love for Wisconsin.
I thought it was a super kooky idea.
I miss snow.
I love mail!

As promised, Mr. and Mrs. Soup mailed the snow. Here are the before and after photos.



Those are my neighbor's oranges still on the tree. We definitely see more oranges here than we do snow.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Samurai Smile

We went to see "The Last Samurai" last night and really enjoyed it. Call me nitpicky, but I had a hard time getting past Tom Cruise's white teeth. When I see teeth that white in a film that takes place in Japan, circa 1867, I'm reminded that I'm in Hollywood. It's very distracting to me.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Check List

You'll find ideas here on occasion of things to do. Photography assignments based on a theme, people to help out, etc. Today I took care of two things on the imaginary to-do list. For my Friday RAOK I donated a bag of groceries to the food bank in my community. For National Pie Day, I bought a cherry pie which will have a date with Breyer's vanilla ice cream tonight as my dessert. That task was so very difficult... ;)

Let Them Eat... PIE!

A Baker's Dozen Ways to Celebrate National Pie Day on January 23

Eat pie. Whether you make it yourself, buy it at a supermarket or bakery or order it at a restaurant, eat some pie on National Pie Day. Pie is great with lunch or dinner or as a late-night snack.

Make pie. Bake your favorite homemade pie on National Pie Day.

Share pie. If you make or buy a pie, share it. By its very nature, pie is meant to be eaten with others. Have a pie potluck get-together.

Teach pie making. Stage classes and demonstrations and samplings at stores and schools. Invite seniors who KNOW pie to teach a class. If you don't know how to make pie, ask a pie maker to show you or attend a pie-making class.

Hold a pie night. Gather family and friends for a pie celebration. Everyone must bring one homemade pie for the pie buffet. We have heard of events where more than 100 folks come with 100 pies.

Hold a pie-making contest. Invite the best pie-makers in town to compete for prizes in various categories. Be sure to include the kids. Ask cooking teachers, pastry chefs and pie lovers to be judges. (We'll send you a sample APC pie judging sheet.)

Hold a charity pie-throwing or pie-eating contest or a pie auction. We suggest you donate the proceeds to your local community food bank.

Hold a pie sale and sampling. This is an excellent opportunity for pie retailers and commercial bakers to introduce consumers to pie through special National Pie Day sales and promotions. Bakeries can also donate pies to a pie raffle or pie auction. Restaurants should offer a pie sampler plate or free pie with dinner on January 23.

Stage kid's pie activities. Have kids compete in pie-making, pie poetry and pie art contests. Show kids how to make pie and then serve it at lunch, preferably a la mode. Teach American and world history, math and science through pie.

Pass along pie memories. Our pie heritage is slowly fading away. Call older members of the family and ask them for pie recipes. Ask them to teach you how to make them. Talk about your favorite pies and the family history behind them. Publish pie memories and recipes. Make pie often and serve them to the next generation.

Eat more pie. You can always have another slice, preferably warm and a la mode.

Do pie stuff. Sing pie songs, read pie books, quote pie poems, make pie charts. Join the American Pie Council. Contact the American Pie Council, the only national organization devoted to eating, making, selling, promoting and enjoying pie!

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

#178 Superpowers

Most of us have seen the question on the chain e-mail that asks: If you could have any superpower, what would it be? Hear what others have chosen and why at This American Life. Have you listened to this show on public radio? If you miss the show on the air, be sure to check it out online.

Listening to my surroundings is something I thoroughly enjoy and try to do often. Maybe it is because I have voyeuristic tendancies or maybe it is because I'm simply nosey. No matter why, I think growing up listening to public radio helped fuel that hobby as did listening and watching Charles Kuralt on CBS's "Sunday Morning". He was such a wonderful storyteller, but to completely tell a story he included the entire setting, including sound. When listening to public radio, the sounds heard set the scene. You can easily close your eyes to imagine the setting of an interview and no camera is required. Your mind's eye becomes the lens and the story unfolds in an imaginative way. I sometimes have a hard time communicating with someone across a table when I'm engulfed in listening to a setting. One such time happened while at a Waffle House on a motorcycle outting. I couldn't stop myself from listening to the waitresses and the cooks yelling at each other. Their yelling was the standard method of communication, it wasn't out of anger. The waitresses would bark out an order in a Waffle House/roadside diner/greasy spoon code like "smothered, covered and scattered". The order would be repeated, one right after another, quickly without missing a beat. All the while, the waitresses were still carrying on conversations with the customers, they were talented, to say the least. In addition to the conversations were the expected sounds of oldies tunes playing overhead, glasses and cups tapping against the table tops and eating utensils clanking against plates. It was distracting in one way since I paid little attention to the conversation at my own table, but overall it was entertaining. I would bend my head forward and cover my eyes to look like I was yawning, but actually, I was closing my eyes to absorb the atmosphere that was so full of sound.

Emptying Thoughts

How can I ever accomplish anything when I'm so busy carrying on conversations in my head? I'm not hearing voices, so you can put down the phone, there's no need to send someone over to check on me. There's a voice, one single voice, in my head that just won't shut the hell up. She, me, I won't stop talking, asking questions, addressing issues, concerns. I've been told by people "you think too much" and I believe them but is it possible not to? How does one clear one's mind? I thought motorcycling would be the fix. Countless hours on the road can ease the pressure but I can still hear the voice inside my helmet. What can I do to ease the pressure, get answers to the questions, sweep out the cobwebs and use the remaining brain cells for something productive?

Join Me

What a story. This guy places an ad in a London newspaper asking people to join him. All they have to do is mail a passport photo to him and they're in. In what? They don't know but he received THOUSANDS of photos! Now it's a collective, not a cult, as the Join Me founder states in his website and soon-to-be-released-in-American book. Check out his story, it's a great one to read! And Join Me, won't you?

I've been a practicing RAoK'er for several years. I've not done it regularly, as per a schedule, but I've been actively kind in a random way for a while. Giving is something that surprisingly comes naturally even though I admit, I love receiving. When Oprah *collective moan* started promoting Random Acts of Kindness years ago, I jumped on the bandwagon of thought. I saw her show *collective gasp* on the topic and it left a mark on my memory. She encouraged people to anonymously give to someone else... randomly choose someone and give to them a kindness. People paid tolls for the driver behind them in line, people took cold lemonade to construction workers, you get the idea.

Giving doesn't always mean costing. Have you noticed an elderly lady reaching beyond her grasp for a box or can on a grocery shelf? Did you push your cart on by or offer to make the reach for her? It's the simple things that can make a difficult task easier for someone else. Our capabilities are different from someone else's at times. Share your ability, share a kindness. Do it because it is a nice thing to do, don't be discouraged if you don't receive a thank you but glow when you receive a smile.

We live in a skeptical world and I myself can take the driver's seat in the skeptimobile. I've been reminded over the years that I don't receive kindnesses very well. Perhaps I'm stubborn *the crowd yells NO!*, untrusting or too darned independent to have someone do for me. Perhaps it is a mix. Perhaps I'm truly the Queen of the Skeptidom, but don't hold that against me. I try to receive kindnesses with a thank-you instead of an interrogation. I try... at least I try. I'm optimistic that the more I give, the better of a receiver I shall become.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

What Do You See?

What do you see as you move throughout your day? Can you tell me? Have you taken time to notice? There are moments, hours, days when I can't tell you what I see. I just move through -- oblivious to my surroundings. Recently, I noticed that I was taking notice without even trying. Something subliminal was telling me to look, view, see, observe, ingest, absorb. When I took notice, my memory drifted back to a journalism course I took in my college days. My prof gave us the assignment of asking questions about things we see while we're outside of the classroom. We had to return to class with a list of observances. We had to identify what we saw and list a couple of questions about those things. I remember asking about the white crosses at the side of the road. Who places them? Why place a distraction at the side of the road that could facilitate yet another vehicular accident?

The things I recently noticed within a five-mile drive were:

*A mom waiting in her vehicle at a bus stop near the end of the school day. She was reading a book I recently purchased, The Five People You Meet in Heaven. I recognized the cover that was nearly pressed in her driver's side window. This isn't a book that would typically make my bookshelf but I decided to read a little while browsing in a bookstore and it really appealed to me.

*A half-filled gallon of milk sitting in a field. This plastic jug has been sitting there for weeks? Months? I'd noticed it before but really took notice because it is still there. Is it someone's science experiment? How long was it there before I initially noticed and has someone been mowing around it? Should I take a picture? If I approach it, will it stink like curdled milk?

*There are still homes with holiday lights lit. Why? Are they forgetful? Are they lazy? Are they waiting to celebrate the holiday with someone who wasn't home for the occasion? Do they really think white lights drooping off of the gutter look like snow? Do they have children or are they adults who really enjoy the shiny bright lights?

*A van had broken down in a lane I was in so like everyone else in front of me, I went around the vehicle and went about my way. No more than five minutes later, I passed the broken down van as I was going the opposite direction. This time, two men had pulled off to the shoulder and were helping the driver move his van off the road by pushing from behind. That sight brought tears to my eyes for some reason. I appreciated that those people were kind enough to help that man who was in a bad position. Traffic was backed up and he was in a stressful situation. Those men were very kind and I hope that someone helps them at a time when they need because they are due a karmic kind act.

What do you see? Practice looking around when you can do so safely. Sit in a window seat the next time you eat out. Watch people as they exit their vehicles or as they enter the restaurant or cafe. Are they smiling? Are they holding the hand of another? When you're at a stop light, is the person behind you singing? Are they having a conversation with a child in the backseat? What do you see? Look.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Who is Hiding at Hanson-Dodge?

I couldn't help but notice that someone from HD visits my blog. I see you looking at me but I want to know who you are. :) Would you please email me??

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Well I'm Meetin' On Up

Last Thursday was my first time attending a MeetUp gathering. For the last two years, I've been receiving meeting notices from Bookcrossing and Geocaching and have never attended. Oh, I came close, I suppose. I mean, I had every intention of attending, I replied a couple times to the automated invitations saying YES, I'LL ATTEND. To the best of my memory, I can't recall ever telling Mr. MeetUp, hey yeah, I'll be there, and then leave him high and dry. So... recently, I received the Geocaching invite, I replied with the YES and I went. The meeting was held at a Starbucks on the west side. Around here, going to the west side is like going to California. You have to cross the river, take a bridge, go to the other side, to get there. Folks around here have real issues with distance and consider 15-30 minutes across town as a potential family vacation. As it turns out, I took the bad bridge to get to the other side. I took the Buckman at rush hour. Oh, you silly, silly girl. People drive stupidly as it is. Add a bridge, four lanes, that hour after the work-stop-whistle blows and you're asking for trouble. I saw one Isuzu trooper get a firm kick in the arse by a beat up little pickup truck. Thank goodness I was in the better lane. After successfully navigating across the St. Johns without personal incident, I made it to the Starbucks. Fifteen minutes past seven, but I was there. I ordered my standard chai latte, only a grande this time, not the venti, and scoped out the joint. Are there a bunch of geo-nerds here or not? No one was wearing a Hello, I'm a Geo-Geek nametag, so how was I to know? I didn't see anything resembling a GPS so I wasn't sure if the group gathered in the corner were geocachers or not. It was just all too much to think about so I went to a comfy seat on the opposite side of the shop. I was, at that moment, the epitome of a wallflower. I was too shy (?) to ask that group if they were there for the same reason as me, so I sat silently across the room, piercing them with my eyes and straining my ears to pick up on keywords like: cache, GPS, hunt, find, spiders, mosquitoes, or travel bug. They were a talkative group and seemed harmless enough so I decided to approach them. Afterall, my super-hero vision and hearing skills weren't up to par from across the espresso establishment. I politely interupted their light banter to inquire if they were geocachers and they all lit up like a super-powered GPS making a dead reckoning on a waypoint. They immediately shuffled seats to make room for one more of them. What a nice welcome! I was happy to have found my way. I wonder if I'd found them quicker had I used a GPS?

Thursday, January 08, 2004

The Great Gift Exchange a.k.a. Christmas

This past holiday season produced a lot of ruffled feathers among recipients. I'm not sure I've heard so many complaints about gift giving before. I read about it on websites, I heard it from friends, I read it in letters. It's a real shame that the commercialism and materialistic aspects of consumerism have come so close to me. I don't want to say that people are ungrateful, but in a way, they are. What is it in them that has made the o' mighty gift exchange such a vital part of their holiday experience? They judge the quality of their holiday based on the value of their bounty. I remember having that mentality when I was a child but over the years, the value gauge changed to moments, faces, smiles, hugs, voices and atmospheres. These things can't be wrapped in ribbons and bows and they're recycled into memories that stay with me for longer than the buzz of a well-spiked eggnog. I'm not slapping the hands of anyone who shared their disappointment with me. Instead, I send vibes of hope that they will indeed get more out of their next holiday season. What if this last holiday was truly to be their last? I doubt that they want to remember it by bitching about the gifts they received or didn't receive.

Mail Call

One great treat to coming home from a road trip is the mail that is waiting for me. There were many goodies in the proverbial mail bag after this trip and many thanks are due to many people. In addition to the gifts, envelope goodies, pictures, drawings, and wonderful words of personal thoughts and experiences were the following:

"People are like stained glass windows.
They sparkle and shine when the sun is out,
but when the darkness sets in,
their true beauty is only revealed if there is a light from within."
--Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

"Softly, gently in the secret night
Down from the north came the quiet white.
Drifting, sifting, silent flight,
Softly, gently, in the secret night.

White snow, bright snow, smooth and deep.
Light snow, night snow, quiet as sleep.
Down, down, without a sound;
Down, down, to the frozen ground.

Covering roads and hiding fences,
Sifting in cracks and filling up trenches.
Millions of snowflakes,
Tiny and light,
Softly, gently, in the secret night."

-- From the book "White Snow, Bright Snow" by Alvin Tresselt

THANK YOU for sharing these wonderful words and insights with me.

Break Be Gone

I'm back from my bloggin' break. It struck me that I'd not blogged for a long time nor had I written any correspondence of any depth or length. I'm back from a road trip and have lots to share so the words shall flow again.

My last road trip was a DRIVE (Yes, that dreaded five-letter word that motorcyclists avoid using) to southern Indiana where I grew up. (Grew up. Hmm. Did I? Perhaps it is where I merely tripped over that legal line from child to adult. It's all about numbers, anyway, isn't it?) The drive up was uneventful, just how I like it. The visits were great, just how I like it. I got to see a couple of girls I went to high school with whom I've remained close friends with over the last twenty years. I visited and stayed with a friend I've enjoyed for 16 years and survived her Stamp Camp! We had a goal of crankin' out some stamped cards and she wouldn't let me off the hook when the creativity and energy were less than abundant. She's a master with chalk and put me through the boot camp (again!) of chalking until mailable cards were created. I must admit to making a couple beautiful cards! **will post pics soon** I was happy that timing worked out well for me to visit with a friend from Canada. It'd been nearly two years since I saw him last so sharing time with him was a real treat... even though he DID win the US vs. Canada World Championship Backgammon Tournament against me. I was drugged... too many chai lattes. ;) We drove to Nashville to share in a lunch among internet motorcycling friends. We both got to meet new friends and visit with folks we'd not seen in a while. I spent a short bit of time with my sister and shared some laughter with her. It always seems to be good medicine at the right time.

No offense to any of the people I cherish, but the highlight of the week-long trip was the snow. Well, they were flurries, but they were SNOW flurries. I saw some very light sprinklings in Indiana but drove through a thick flurry in Tennessee. I was delighted to stop for gas so I could stand in the delicate shower. The flakes gathered on my black mittens and I can't recall EVER seeing such beautiful flakes. They looked as though they were shards and shavings of glass. They stayed on my mittens until I got back into the heat of the jeep. How I wish I could have brought them home with me. Those and the icicles I saw frozen from their drip along rocky walls lining the interstate. I'd have liked to break a couple off and suck on them as I did when I was a child. They were nature's treat on a sledding day.

I'm home now and happy for it. I l-o-v-e to travel and I love seeing the people in my life that make me feel complete but as Dorothy said, "There's No Place Like Home."
Here's what I miss when I'm gone...