Category Archives: On Being Human

Greatly grateful

This appears to beinspiration_John_Wanamaker_quote_about_gratitude a week in which I’m incredibly struck by my good fortune — in health, in family, in experience, in friendship. Once again I find a quote and an image that expresses that thought better than I can at the moment.

John Wanamaker happens to be one of the most interesting Philadelphians that lived in days gone by. The moving force behind Wanamaker’s Department Store (one of the first in the United States) and considered the frontrunner of modern marketing, he served as US Postmaster General and a religious leader as well as merchant. He was also widely known for his disdain of the automobile. John_Wanamaker_Phil

A controversial character in life, after his death in 1922, “John Wanamaker, Citizen” was memorialized with this statue located by Philadelphia’s City Hall, a block from the store that bore his name.

I’m not in the notion of commemorating those I personally want to thank with bronze, but I like its visibility; obviously the citizenry of Philly wanted John Wanamaker to be noted for his contributions.

How will YOU recognize those you appreciate today?


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Filed under Matters of the heart, On Being Human, other finds

Treasure box (8/18)

I’m a piler, I must admit; the employees at Dark Horse Books good-naturedly put up with my stacks of things, then I would try to get rid of at least one or two big ones before going away, even if it was just an overnight to Boise for an Arts Commission meeting.  I’m in that mode again, not because we have any trips planned at the moment, but because it’s part of the spring cleaning I usually start at the end of each summer….

So, over the last two weeks I have been going through a lot of old papers and baskets of collected memorabilia, clearing out what’s no longer relevant and finding some fun things along the way.  One of them was a “treasure box,” a reminder of an exercise that I created for a retreat of the Teton Arts Council.

The page inside was dated Oct. 28, ’00 — must have been when I was chairing TAC —  a few months before Spindrift was published, before I was appointed to the ICA, way before “instant sharing” of any sort.

But I remember the day, and prepping all the items to share with my fellow TAC board members. As I remember it, everyone took my silly bits of wisdom, expressed with a lot of cliches and puns, in the spirit they were given. Hope you all will do the same.

Some of the selections were “cosmic,” which means that everyone chose their own from a generous assortment. For example, I had saved little baskets, boxes, and tins for containers, the “treasures” included all kinds of things I would eventually use on my artwork (i.e., pieces of jewelry and junk, and toys, office supplies, etc.), and the wrapping paper was everything from Santas to wedding-shower-themed — get the idea?

Others from the list were passed around from a common source — a single roll of toilet paper and paper towels, a box of baggies, that kind of thing.

In case you’d like to put together your own treasure box, here are the original contents:

  • A cosmic container;
  • A clear plastic bag (to remember to try to see through to the heart of the matter);
  • A cork: must always celebrate life’s joys and more importantly — no whining!
  • A plain ‘ol clothes pin: sometimes it’s the most simple thing that can hold us up or keep us together;
  • A crayon — for color and beauty and talent;
  • Playing cards: regardless of what life hands you, you have to just deal with it;
  • Paper stuff used every day: a couple pieces of T.P. (no job is finished ’til the paperwork is done), and a paper towel — as there’s no mess so big it can’t be cleaned up — both also come in handy when you’re in a sweat (as Thomas Edison put it, “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”);
  • A piece of cosmic wrapping paper, symbolizing all that we’ve been given that isn’t able to be tied up with a bow (like friends, family, health, and inspiration);
  • More cosmic choices, of literary stuff: a pen and and a little notepad, since we all write our own story; an envelope (a reminder to push outside it, when you need to think creatively), and an eraser — to learn from our mistakes!
  • Sweets for the sweet: hot tamales, as variety is the spice of life, a “tootsie” to always “roll” with the punches, and kisses (you know that someone loves you!);
  • A cosmic “treasure,” be it playful, emotional, about a place, a time in your life, a particular loved one, something you need, or the answer to a question.  (I picked the stone heart today — not sure what that means, it just felt right).

In putting this together, updated after 13 years (!), I decided to add:

  • A kazoo, since music is important!
  • A pipe-cleaner (another under-appreciated bit that has more uses than one realizes, unless you’re decorating a Christmas tree or entertaining some kids);
  • A key and a shell, two things I usually add to my artwork — the former to honor the idea that “when one door closes, another one opens,” the latter to represent the natural world and all its mysteries;
  • A battery, a reminder that technology is a tool (and sometimes you just need to dig a little deeper to find your own personal “juice”);
  • A bottle cap — never a bad idea to consider “putting a lid on it” before speaking out of turn;
  • And some “smarties,” the final lesson to always be like a woodpecker and use your head.

I’ll be taking the candy to the Community Foundation office to share with them at work this week. With any luck, the tin will just about close until the next time I need some inspiration — or when I rediscover it among some of today’s piles of papers — hopefully sooner than 13 years from now!


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Filed under August '13, Fun art, Matters of the heart, On Being Human, Scrapbook

Gimme strength (8/12)


This is the front of one of my favorite cards of all time, given to me by Susie Work, a longtime bookstore customer, my very good friend and a fellow board member of the Community Foundation of Teton Valley. I don’t remember what particular “hot water” I was in to warrant the card at the moment she gave it to me — years ago, in fact — but I’ve kept it for Eleanor Roosevelt’s wisdom (and Susie’s support.)

Today’s “hot water” is the removal of a 2-centimeter basal cell carcinoma from my back this morning.  Luckily it was a non-aggressive type organism.

The cheerful medical assistant asked me if I wanted to see what the dermatologist had cut out: note to self — next time say no.

It looked like a quarter-inch-deep section of an eyeball (same shape and with the bad spot in the center) — ick.

But as Peter put it, this kind of thing is a little bit like getting the oil changed in your car — not exactly a fun chore, but something that needs to be taken care of — so we did it.  (It was the second visit to the dermatologist for our family in two weeks; his was in a more prominent spot; good thing he looks so handsome in his sunglasses.)

Have spent the day mostly napping and “taking it easy” — code words for thinking of all the things I SHOULD be doing. Oh well.

As Scarlet O’Hara says in Gone With the Wind: tomorrow is another day.

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Filed under August '13, Matters of the heart, On Being Human, Sorting things out

March Madness: “On Being Human, τρία”

A couple years ago, I started a series of blog posts called “on being human;” amazingly, I only wrote two of them before I wanted to include some concept of God…. and was quickly overcome with the notion that I was underqualified to consider any Supreme Being with my own humble words. That attempt was only one paragraph long: τρία, which would be pronounced “tria,” I believe, is “three” in Greek.

Well, this morning, I rediscovered both this photo and what I’d originally written 26 months ago:

“Pockmarked and headless, the statue is Zeus, rescued from a seabed floor off the coast of Greece. Or perhaps it’s Jupiter, the Roman king of the gods — they mostly seemed to borrow the stories and symbols of the Greek gods. Sacrilegiously, my first thought is that its casual stance reminds me of God reaching out to Adam on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.”

Hmmm. Casual — God? Like he (or she, though that too is a bit outlandish to my raised-Catholic upbringing) has better things to do than worry about every petty decision each of us happens to make?

That all the wars fought in God’s name were really only human foibles, based on very human motivations like greed for power and wealth?

That illnesses like cancer or conditions like poverty are not punishment but rather ways we can learn more about our own selves and everyone else who shares our planet?

This ancient statue, though it seems quite simple in form, represents in some way the complexity of my own spiritual path. I rarely attend church, but honor those of strong faith who live with conviction. My prayers, meek and people-filled, are heartfelt though not of much standard order. My list of personal funeral music includes plenty of well-loved hymns (though I cannot imagine having a rosary said for me, complete with an open casket, like we did for our Mom three years ago).

I’m fascinated by the history and traditions of churches, and probably have more photos of cathedrals than castles in my collection of travel images. And we’ve been lucky enough to see plenty of the “major” ones.

For examHajia_sofia_door_w_frescos_and_Arabic_signsple, Hajia Sofia in Istanbul, now a museum, carries its first centuries as a Roman Catholic church and eventual ones as a mosque proudly. I loved crossing a footworn marble doorway, with its restored frescoes of saints above and its giant leather Arabic symbols inside. In that moment, we stepped into another culture quietly (but certainly as outsiders).

Another experience I vividly remember was spending an evening walking around Temple Square in Salt Lake City, and then flying directly to Rome and tootling around Vatican Square the very next morning.

To me, visiting holy spaces, no matter where they are, is all about being respectful. At the monasteries of Meteora in Greece, like other women tourists, I was asked to don a borrowed skirt over my yoga pants before entering. Who wouldn’t comply?

So I’m back to the questyion: why write NOW about God? I’m still just as humbled as when I jotted those notes about the statue. But I’ll bumble along anyway.

Perhaps it’s the sense of wonder as I woke up to the near-full moon shining into our bedroom window today; the notion of the science of the stars, as mind-boggling today, though we know more, as it was in Galileo’s time; the connections I feel with others, far away in miles but close in thought, as I make my daily invocations for their health.

Or maybe it’s just because someone said “God bless” to me this week, and I’m vividly aware of the many many blessings in my life.

Life is too mysterious and short and amazing to think there’s no Higher Power.

So, must simply end with this wish: God bless YOU, today and always.

Third in another month-long series of blog posts —
stay tuned for more March Madness.

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Filed under Journeys..., March Madness, Matters of the heart, On Being Human

New Vigor, 28: Fatigue

It’s late. I’m super-tired after a busy day.

The last time I was this pooped out was when we were, guess what, traveling.

Dealing with fatigue is a normal part of journeying. One can blame noisy airplane flights, jet lag, mixed-up meal schedules, sleeping in an uncomfortable and unfamiliar place. Combine any or all of that with the drain of adrenaline jolting your system in excitement at where you’re going — a recipe for exhaustion.

When this happens, I think the best course is to roll with it. Rather than fighting the whole thing, I prefer to take a couple aspirin, turn out the light, and just say “OK” and like Scarlett O’Hara, “Tomorrow is another day….” Then I try and get some sleep!

So, even though tonight I am tucking myself into my very own comfy bed (and thus have no real excuse), I’m taking that route.

But how does one “show” fatigue?

This photo seems to say a lot about going with the flow on a trip no matter what comes up.  Plus I like the idea of being in a place, faceless…. you know, we came, we saw, we…. left our shadows, rather than conquering, as the Romans did. Good night!

“Travel, voyage, and change of place impart new vigor to the mind.” ~Seneca

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The person still matters

We were about 20 feet above the ground yesterday on our way into Denver when the United pilot pulled up the nose of the A320. We ascended westward over the city, and after what seemed like much too long a wait for the explanation, it was announced that a Southwest plane hadn’t quite cleared the runway in front of us.

Within an hour, while grabbing a bite at our favorite B-concourse eatery, the fellow next to me said he was on the same flight, and mentioned he was glad there was a person at the helm rather than flying on auto-pilot. Yeah. Me too.

Travel much (and we love to) and a safe landing is easy to take for granted. After incubating the whole experience overnight, I’m not sure I’ll fall into that mindset quite so quickly on my next journey.

It cemented a lesson I’ve learned (and relearned); technology and its advances can’t replace the need for a person to make smart decisions.

And it goes deeper than that, too: when looking at how one feels about an individual, their skill set rarely overrides genuine personality. A person can learn how to do specific tasks, but few of us can revise our basic nature. The human connection is not just a company’s slogan advertised on TV.

I find this reminder most timely — maybe you do too. Have a wonderful Wednesday!

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Filed under Journeys..., On Being Human, Sorting things out

2 C — Art Changes Lives

The film created by the Idaho Shakespeare Festival, “Art Changes Lives” (as discussed in my last blog post) is available on-line here! In our lives, when distractions are rampant (and my own attention span seems painfully short sometimes) I encourage you to invest the 20 or so minutes you’ll need to watch it, straight through, without any interruption.

I know you will be as moved as I was by the eloquence of Sara, Colin, Anne, Micah and Beth — I just rewatched it and again, and was brought to tears (over and over!)

Lori Regan, ISF grants manager, sent the link and asked me (and anyone who sees this post) to share the video further. Plus she had this helpful advice, which goes for just about any video coming across cyberspace:  

“As you know, viewing video online has its drawbacks. This piece was shot in high definition and is a longer piece – all of which adds up to a rather large video file for to process. In high traffic times (evenings, weekends), it’s not uncommon for video playback to be jittery or halting. The best I can recommend in that situation is to put it on pause and let the video buffer all the way through before hitting play again. It works most of the time.”

Yahoo! Anyone who wants to view the film CAN. And for me, just now, early Sunday morning, it worked flawlessly and without any buffering issues.

Enjoy! And spread the word!!!

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Filed under Cool causes, Matters of the heart, On Being Human