Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gratitude, A to Z

A: I am grateful for my animals.
B: I am grateful for my two wonderful brothers.
C: I am grateful for my cars - they're dependable.
D: I am grateful for my sensitive, loving dad.
E: I am grateful for ears with which to hear beautiful music.
F: I am grateful for all of my family.
G: I am grateful for my dear grandparents, now in their 90's.
H: I am grateful that hope is still alive.
I: I am grateful for my fantastic, generous inlaws.
J: I am grateful for my job.
K: I am grateful for the kindness of others.
L: I am grateful for Los Cabos, my favorite place to visit.
M: I am grateful for my beautiful, talented mom.
N: I am grateful for my precious niece and nephew.
O: I am grateful for oatmeal. I love it in the mornings.
P: I am grateful for pals who love me.
Q: I am grateful for quiet moments in my day.
R: I am grateful for retirement accounts -- I just hope they're still there when I need them!
S: I am grateful for my sister-in-law.
T: I am grateful for the trust that I have in my husband.
U: I am grateful for an umbrella when it's raining.
V: I am grateful for a hardworking vacuum cleaner.
W: I am grateful for wellness.
X: I am grateful for x-husbands, who make me appreciate what I have in my life now.
Y: I am grateful for each new year -- another chance to start again.
Z: I am grateful for Zen moments of peace and enlightenment that occasionally manage to find me.

How about you -- care to share?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

My Body, Living Canvas

It's no secret that I am a tattooed woman. I have twelve on my body, which really does sound like a lot -- but most are configured in such a way as to actually comprise one design that spirals around my lower left leg. I jokingly call it my "tropical gam", because I got the initial piece in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, and continued adding designs of hibiscus and other exotic flowers, butterflies, and a bird. I've tried many times to take a decent photo of the art on this leg, but due to the spiral, it's impossible to capture it well, as you can tell by this pathetic attempt.

I have two on my lower right leg -- my "southwest art." One is a mountain lion surrounded by prickly-pear cactus. (I refuse to call the cat a cougar, as we all know the implication of that word as applied to a woman of my age going after younger men. I assure you, that is not the intent of the design!)

The other is an interpretation of an Anasazi pottery sherd. I have been fascinated by the Anasazi culture (an ancient Puebloan people who lived in the southwest region of the U.S.) for as long as I can remember. Just as the other designs hold personal meaning for me, this tattoo is highly symbolic of many blissful days hiking in the areas where the Anasazi once lived, exploring countless ruin sites, both well-known and very much off the beaten path. I'm thinking of incorporating a couple of petroglyph (ancient rock art) symbols into this design, but haven't quite decided how to do it.

And then there is the piece on my left shoulderblade, a rose intertwined with a beaded feather.

Because my tats are easily hidden beneath my clothing, people are often surprised (shocked might be more apt!) when they learn that I have them. People tend to have strong feelings about body modifications -- particularly ink -- whether they have their own or not. There's very little neutrality -- either you think they're cool, or you detest them. I'm usually asked two things by the inkless: "Why?" and "Doesn't it hurt?" To be honest, I'm not quite certain why I got the first one. I'm sure it had something to do with outwardly expressing a newfound liberation in my life, coupled with the fact that I've long wanted one and just decided to take the plunge! And yes, it's true -- once you have one, you may find yourself addicted to the process and becoming a collector. As for the question of pain -- oh yes, my friends, it hurts! It's difficult to describe the severe sting of the needle, but in a sense, it's a positive pain. It's a pain that takes you to another place inside yourself, where you find your mettle is tested, both fleshly and spiritually. It's an incredibly intense process. I know, I know ... sounds crazy, doesn't it? ::sigh:: Perhaps it is. But I like it.

The history of tattooing is extremely interesting to me. It's an artform that has existed since the dawn of mankind, and has played a vital role in defining and demonstrating who human beings felt that they were, and what they represented in this world. Tattooing has taken quite a journey in our own society, metamorphising from a freakish act committed by unacceptable outcasts to a more or less mainstream means of self-expression.

As one who appreciates art in so many different forms, I love being able to carry around my own special pieces everywhere I go. I cannot say with certainty when I will be done adding to my inky collection ... the menacing yet beautiful hum of the tattoo gun is such a seductive siren, and I'm drawn back to it, again and again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas ...

While it's highly unlikely to happen where I live, I still love the idea of a Christmas snowfall. With Texas being Texas, we could just as easily have unseasonably warm temperatures that would compel us to shed our winter coats in exchange for lightweight t-shirts. There is something so very magical about snow at Christmas, though.

A few years ago, my family and I spent the holiday in a lovely cabin in Pagosa Springs, Colorado. Snow heavily blanketed the ground and sat like a thick vanilla icing on rooftops, weighing heavily on pine boughs. With each foray into the outdoors, our cheeks reddened and our noses ran, and while the fresh air was scented with frosted evergreen, it was pure pleasure to return to the cabin and warm ourselves toasty by the huge stacked-stone fireplace.

I remember one Christmas Eve when it snowed at my grandparents' Texas lake house when I was about 11 years old. Someone looked up from the Scrabble board, or tore themselves away momentarily from the spread of goodies that Grannie had spent days baking, and glanced out the window to first notice that flakes had begun softly falling. We bundled up in our coats, hats, and gloves and stepped out onto the wide front porch to marvel at the fat flurries. I remember the feeling of complete enchantment as we gawked at the heavens showering us with those exquisite white fluffs. And always, always, I will feel and remember the warmth indoors reflected by the fireplace (and the central heat!), the lights twinkling happily on the tree, but most of all, the love and laughter of my family. The closeness of just being together in that place at that time. I really could not imagine having had better childhood Christmases, and I realize how truly blessed I have been.

The photo in this post is, of course, Technicolor Cottage in the snow. I wish I could say that it was indeed taken at Christmas, but it was actually snapped by a neighbor on a rare February snow day a few years ago. I did have the foresight to use this picture on our Christmas cards the following year, though. And although it so very rarely happens, it does give my heart a thrill to see my little house ... in the snow.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Pure, Unbridled Joy!

Oh! To have such a zest for life! This is wonderful, and definitely made me laugh out loud. I hope it makes you smile today too!

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Older I Get ...

Today I was pondering some of the good things that middle age has brought my way. I certainly won’t count the gray hair, the crow’s feet and the sagging skin (and other bits) as fortuitous, but beyond the surface of who I am, I’ve come to realize that a certain amount of favorable maturity has occurred. For that, I am extremely grateful! In no particular order, here’s a brief list of things I’ve come to count as truth:

1. It's stupid to drive too fast. As I watched in my rearview mirror, the young man in the souped-up tin can darted from the left lane and charged towards my bumper at warp speed, attempting to cut in front of the car that he'd just been behind. When he veered back into the lane next to me, I glanced over and caught a glimpse of his face – such a boy, and oh, so foolish. His face was set in lines of angry concentration, a thin veil for his obvious exasperation. I do remember being his age, and how I too could scarcely abide being "stuck" behind someone driving at what was actually a normal speed. Why was I in such a hurry? From where did that impatience and impertinence stem? More to the point, where did it go? In direct contrast to my youthful Speed Racing, I no longer care how quickly (or slowly) it takes me to get from Point A to Point B. I really don’t even care if I’m going with the flow – especially when the flow is fast and furious. I’ll get where I’m going in my own good time. It will take as long as it takes. I simply can no longer be bothered to rush when I drive.

2. Taking a nap is delightful. While I don’t exactly recall being forced to nap as a child, I undoubtedly was up to a point, and I probably rebelled against it as most children do. Nowadays, however, I think there’s little that's nicer than pulling back the quilt on a Sunday afternoon, snuggling underneath with a good book or the TV’s remote control, and drifting off to dreamland in the middle of the day. If our culture only observed the afternoon siesta, I’m sure we’d all be so much better at being human.

3. Choosing your battles is wise. In my younger days, everything was an issue, especially where the man in my life was concerned. If I felt he’d let me down in the slightest, you can bet that drama ensued. If his behavior was not quite on par with what I expected, I’d first pout (expecting him to somehow just know how he’d offended), and when he failed to assuage my hurt feelings as I hoped, oh boy – watch out! Somewhere along the way, I’ve lost the desire to dwell on trivialities. If Rocky disappoints me in small ways (which he rarely does, but being human, he’s bound to on occasion), I chalk it up to the fact that he, like me, is imperfect, and I choose to forgive him instead of harboring resentment. I can’t begin to tell you what burdens were lifted when I hit upon the realization that I don’t have to prove that I’m right, I don’t have to set others straight, and I don’t have to dwell on hurt feelings. Admittedly, this is an area where I’m still learning to make application; however, just knowing I’ve successfully grasped the concept is empowering to me.

4. Little children are worth watching. When I was younger, before my brothers came along, my family and I used to joke that many people we knew who had babies did nothing when they congregated except for “sitting around and watching the baby.” As I aged, I noticed those of my peers who were having kids of their own did the same thing – just sitting around and focusing solely on the child(ren). BORING! Adult interaction was infinitely smarter, hipper, more pleasurable. When my niece came along 6 years ago, followed almost 3 years after that by her younger brother, I began to notice that my icecap was melting. Something about having those new little lives in my family made me realize how very enjoyable it is to “sit around and watch the baby.” Not only are they precious in form – sweetly plump, all unlined innocence – but it’s fascinating to observe them as they take in the world around them. They are forever changing, growing, developing, and what an absolute privilege it is to be there as their discoveries unfold! Engaging with little ones not only brings to mind the blessedness of the entire circle of life, but also causes me to draw forth at least some small part of that child that still lurks within my middle-aged body. And how can that possibly be anything but healthy and good and right?

5. I’m not a wimp. I’ve learned that I can actually withstand a good deal of physical pain, whereas I once would’ve been certain I’d crumple and wither away at the slightest hint of discomfort. (How else to explain the fact that I have 12 tattooed designs on my body? And I used to think I was afraid of needles!)

6. It doesn’t all have to be done today. OK, so maybe this is really just an excuse for bone-idleness, but I’ve truly come to the conclusion that my seemingly never-ending “to do” list doesn’t really have to get done right away. I hope to accomplish everything some day, but many times, when I’d rather grab a good book or a cold beer, that’s what I choose to do. Thus, the list goes on, and the chores remain … but that's ok. It really is.

So, there you have it – a few things I’ve learned as I continue on my journey. It’s so nice to reach a new place of understanding, to take on a point of view that you perhaps never felt possible. Certainly we're all on this journey of discovery together, and as we make our way from cradle to grave, I believe it's important to take inventory every now and then of what we know. Sometimes, even the smallest things are amazingly, eye-openingly profound.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

The Turkey popped out of the oven
and rocketed in to the air;
It knocked every plate off the table
and partly demolished a chair.
It ricocheted into a corner
and burst with a deafening boom,
Then splattered all over the kitchen,
completely obscuring the room.
It stuck to the walls and the windows,
it totally coated the floor,
There was turkey attached to the ceiling,
where there had never been turkey before...
It blanketed every appliance,
it smeared every saucer and bowl;
There wasn't a way I could stop it;
that turkey was out of control.
I scraped and I scraped with displeasure
and thought with chagrin as I mopped,
That I would never again stuff a turkey
with popcorn that hadn't been popped.
written by Jack Prelutsky

"Contents May Settle"

Whether boisterous family and turkey (and pie!)
Or alone with your thoughts of Thanksgivings gone by
Whatever circumstances have brought your way
I wish you the happiest, most blessed day!

Lots of Love,

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wish I'd thought of it!

Do you ever get an almost overwhelming urge to do something naughty like this?

Well, I know I do. This made me laugh out loud, immature lout that I undoubtedly am.

Happy Monday!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Around the House, Part II

Autumn in north Texas is a funny thing. Some days the winds blow cold and cruel, ripping dried leaves from their tentative hold on tired branches. On others the sun shines gloriously, relentlessly, and one would swear that summer is fast approaching. Naturally, these changeable days play havoc with one's allergies. And one's garden.

The bougainvillea didn't bloom all summer. Not until after our first cold snap did it burst forth with its gorgeous fuschia hue! The hibiscus has issued another tropically tangerine flower as well.

Leaves continue to fall ...

And this little guy, who resides on the front porch, could use a good dusting!

I picked up the little branch that's in the planter while on a neighborhood walk. It's perfectly shaped like a fork!

Yuccas and Sagos and Scarecrows, oh my!

And now I'm sneezing again. Let's move back inside. It's Technicolor teatime.

Is the front of your fridge as messy as mine?

A Huichol Indian beaded mask -- Fierce with color!

And here's something a bit sweeter:

This was a fun yard sale find. Perfect for holding our keys!

The day is turning dreary, but there's plenty of color to cheer me inside. There's also an "I Love Lucy" marathon on the tube -- And so I'm content, just to be home.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Two words, an abbreviation, and a groan ...

Bladder. Infection.


(Ugggggggggggghhhhhhhhh ...)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Paz, amor y musica Latina!

Peace, love and Latin music!

We're going to hear one of my favorite bands, Del Castillo, play this evening at the historic Palace Theater in Grapevine, Texas. Del Castillo is an Austin-based sextet who play the most amazing mix of flamenco-Latin rock imaginable, and never fail to give a soul-stirring performance that has everyone dancing in the aisles! Oh, what fun it's going to be!

Check out a few of their videos here:

And check out me (hee!) with Alex Ruiz (a/k/a "Lobo"), Del Castillo's lead singer.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My very first time to be TAGGED!

(Thaaaaaaaaanks, Luthien! ;-))

OK ... If I'm understanding correctly what it means to be "tagged": I am to write 8 facts/habits about myself, tag 8 other blogger friends and notify them. Here goes nuffin'!

The facts:

1. I could live on grilled cheese sandwiches. OK, so I would probably weigh 1,000 pounds and be extremely unhealthy and die prematurely, but what a way to go. Mmmmmmm ... cheeeeeeese. When I was small, I was a finicky eater and all I wanted was grilled cheese sandwiches. My mom asked the pediatrician for advice, and he said, "Feed her one for breakfast, one for lunch, and one for dinner. Pretty soon she'll grow so tired of the damned things, she'll never want another." Heh. Some expert he was.

2. My first home-away-from-home when I left my parents' nest was in Balibago, Angeles City in the Philippines. I was 19. It was an experience, to say the least.

3. I have an irrational phobia -- I'm freaked out by fish. Dead or alive, they give me the heebie-jeebies. Can't eat 'em either.

4. I never tire of "I Love Lucy."

5. I had emergency surgery to remove my gallbladder in March of this year, after 10 years of suffering from painful stones. Good riddance!

6. I am eerily fascinated by stories of Jack the Ripper. (And it's actually pretty gross that I'd follow up an entry about having my gallbladder surgically removed with a statement about Jack the Ripper, but there you have it.)

7. I excelled in shorthand in high school, back when it was deemed a vital skill for secretarial work. I still use it on a near-daily basis, although sometimes I can't read what it says for the life of me.

8. I think I come across as pretty outgoing, although I'm actually painfully shy much of the time.

And here's who I'm tagging:

1. Linda at Lime in the Coconut
2. The Yellow House at Our Big Yellow House
3. RoyalTLady
4. OhioMom at Cooking in Cleveland
5. Mindy at Good Times, Noodle Salad
6. Kahlanne at Long Ramblings
7. Darlene at Our Creative Life
8. Balego at Frayed Brushes

Here are the rules of the game :

1. Each player starts with eight random fact/habits about themselves.
People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.

2. At the end of your blog post, you need to tag eight people and list their names.
Don’t forget to leave them a comment telling them they’ve been tagged and to read your blog.

Remember to come back and leave me a comment after you've done your "duty!"

Happy tagging!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A Deluge of Color!

When at last I decided to end my own personal pity party yesterday -- to crawl out of my self-made black hole -- I sought out that which never fails to bolster my lagging spirit. Rocky made a simple but delicious meal for me at home. The kitties, who are much like faithful dogs in that they always greet me at the door when I return from work, lounged on my lap and shared considerable cuddles. I released those pent-up frustrations with an hour-long sweatfest on the elliptical trainer, and then I visited my old friend, the computer, to indulge in a bit of eye candy by one of my favorite artists, Stephen Morath.

I don't recall how, when or where I first became familiar with his work. I just know that I was instantly smitten. I've had the matted and framed print above, "Sunset Ride", for a number of years now. It presently hangs in my office, along with this one, entitled "Ajo Al's."

Stephen Morath began his studies at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and continued at Tufts University. He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1979 and began his full-time art career in 1984. His popularity has evolved from his colorful narrative paintings of the Southwest. At first glance his art may appear to be a simplistic, cartoon-like landscape, but upon closer inspection, the viewer finds a complex storyline. The paintings blend bright, expressionistic Southwest landscapes with a touch of humor and nostalgia. Whether capturing a bountiful table of delights on a Mexican beach or a parade of trailers through the desert countryside, Morath’s paintings express his obvious amusement and fascination with the Southwest.

Many of his paintings contain a commentary on contemporary life: "I love the Southwest with its Spanish towns, Indian Pueblos, sparkling deserts of southern Arizona and the beaches of the desert sea ... the neon honky-tonk strips, weird outrageously colored topography and the tourist traps in between."

In recent years the artist has begun painting outdoor still lifes containing brightly colored flowers and unusually-shaped, oversized fruits and vegetables. He also enjoys utililizing his unique personal vision while painting the native flora and fauna of the Southwestern desert.

Mr. Morath's whimsical, exuberant nature shines forth in all of his work. Here are a few more wonderful examples ... Enjoy!

"Gallos Blancos"

"More Snowbirds in Cactus Land"

"Gringo Pass"

"Evening Would Find Me"

"Afternoon Monsoon"

"Moonlight Harvest"

"The Last Beautiful Things of Autumn"

Left out.

Why, hello. Step inside. Welcome to my pity party ...

You know ... I really don't think I'm overly sensitive. Ordinarily I'm fairly well-balanced and able to shake off affronts by giving others the benefit of the doubt. ("Oh, they didn't mean anything by that ... They like me ... They wouldn't purposely try to hurt me.") And many times I just don't give a big ol' rat's patootie. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit that sometimes things do hit me the wrong way, and I get my feathers ruffled.

Lately, I've been feeling a bit left out of extracurricular activities around the workplace. The attorneys that I work as secretary for enjoy lunching together at various downtown restaurants on a daily basis. Shortly prior to noon each day, one or more of them will begin roaming the hallways, seeking lunchtime companions and proclaiming loudly that "it's time to eat!" Last Friday, one of the young attorneys strolled down my hallway and announced that he was in the process of "inviting everyone" to go out for lunch. Apparently, "everyone" is code for only the other attorneys, as he strolled right past my office, glanced into my open door, looked into my eyes, and kept walking.

I wasn't invited.

Then again, the support staff is never invited -- unless it's to mark some silly, Hallmark-induced occasion like "Professional Assistant's Day." And I'll be honest. I'm not really sure I even want to go to lunch with these folks on a regular basis, but it sure would be nice to at least have the opportunity to accept or decline an invitation once in a blue moon. As it is, the blatant snub has a way of causing one to feel like a non-entity, which doesn't contribute to positive workplace morale. At least not for me. When you hear with regularity, "Hey, we're all going to lunch!" -- and you know that you aren't included in the equation, well ... it stinks.

Yesterday my coworker began talking to me about a pregnant woman in another department, with whom we've both worked on occasion. "Did you realize she's due on December 31st?", she asked. "I must stop by Kohl's after work to pick up a baby gift."

"Oh? Is there going to be a shower?" I inquired. "Well, yes!" she exclaimed, "This coming Friday."

I wasn't invited.

As she continued to talk about the shower and the baby gift she planned to buy, I found myself growing increasingly hurt (and cross) and finally interrupted with a terse, "Look, I didn't get an invitation, so I know nothing about this." You'd think that would have given her pause and perhaps she'd have downplayed the event, but no ... she continued to talk animatedly about the shower. And this morning, she brought in the little pink outfits she'd purchased to show me. (Insensitive much?) Honestly ... I thought I'd made it clear that I felt excluded, yet she continued to act as though there had been no slight (intented or otherwise), cheerfully gloating over the baby clothes and the upcoming party. So I did what any self-respecting, grown woman who feels like she's in junior high school all over again would do. I feigned complete disinterest.

(Yawn. Your crummy shower BORES me.)

It definitely doesn't feel good to be excluded, but I know I'm somewhat silly for allowing myself a poor-pitiful-me wallow. It feels rather peculiar to be 46 years old -- to know that by this point in my life I should be able to rise above offenses that are of little consequence -- yet at times I do revert to reactions that call to mind mini-dramas from my early adolescence. My Grannie, who turned 91 last week, recently shared that she is often taken aback when she looks into the mirror and an old woman returns her gaze. She still feels like a young girl on the inside ... and I fully understand. I suppose we never really lose that inner child, for better or worse. Sometimes we still wonder if we're truly accepted and valued, if we're "part of the group." Sometimes we feel we're on the outside looking in, lonely even in a crowd of acquaintances. In those times when we experience the cold shoulders of others, I suppose it's common to turn our hearts toward home -- to that safe haven where we know we're loved and wanted, no matter what.

And that's how I'm feeling today. I just want to go home.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The elusivity of words ...

When I officially began blogging last month, I fully intended to write a bit about something every single day. While my first attempts yielded a fair result, I've discovered this isn't really as easy as I'd expected. In case you didn't notice, I've had a few days where I've just found nothing to say. Not because there's anything wrong -- not even so much that my thoughts are jumbled -- simply that the words don't come forth with enough verve to weave a fabric of ideas worthy of putting into print (let alone that anyone would care to muddle through reading).

At other times, words flow like a river (at least in my head). The post prior to this one was churned out around 2:00 yesterday morning, after I'd tossed and turned with words tumbling through my mind for at least an hour prior to rising and firing up the computer. I'd stirred from a most interesting dream in which I was writing a novel. Oh, it was a very good story too ... Plots quickly formed into paragraphs in my mind, and in my trancelike state I tried to remind myself: "Remember this! Put it on paper ...", but by the time I roused from slumber and rose to type, the details of my story had vanished.

I've enjoyed writing for as long as I can remember. In my job I am sometimes tasked with editing another person's work -- rather heady when the request comes from upper management, I must admit. Whereas I once tended to more or less rewrite someone else's work with my own words that I narcissistically deemed more expressive, I've learned instead to closely follow their initial endeavor and offer grammatical suggestions and make clarification only where necessary (thereby avoiding a presumptive appearance -- especially important when editing for the boss!).

I read a good deal for pleasure, and am often amazed at the number of glaring errors I've found that obviously escaped a proofreader's scrutiny. Sometimes I think I would've enjoyed editing as a profession. And sometimes I'm taken down a notch when I've revised someone else's work and discover, cheeks flushing, several conspicuous errors of my own.

Although words often elude me, I will continue to blog with as much regularity as my mind can muster. Blogging is a wonderfully challenging, creative outlet for expressing that which would ordinarily remain introspective. There's something so very liberating about allowing one's thoughts to discharge and to just flow freely ... when they finally do build to that point of a surge.