Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Themes for 2009

One of the folks I follow on Twitter suggested that everyone should have themes for the upcoming year. Thereupon, I decided that my three themes will be: audacity, reinvention, and self-image. Those three words pretty much cover my hopes for 2009. I am looking forward to having 2008 behind me, that's for sure. In retrospect, the theme for 2008 was sadness.


Of course, this is probably a popular theme I would think, based upon our president-elect's use of it in his book. I realize it takes a certain amount of audacity to use audacity--so what a great start to the year. I like the connotations behind it--take no prisoners, surprise!, getting out of a rut, in your face,....the list goes on.


Since I am out of a job, I certainly have to figure out a new way to make a living. And since my last job was at a company that did a product for the automotive business, I sure don't want to keep working in that area. Even with the bailout, I am not interested. I foresee a continually shrinking market as people have come to the conclusion that belt-tightening is healthy and they don't need a new car every two years. That being said, it adds up to a new job, career, career path, or something along those lines. The great news is, it looks like David and I will work on a venture together--and I am really excited! I have always wanted us to do something together, with a creative bent to it. It's a secret right now, but there will be more to come from it in 2009.


Losing a job is always rough on one's self-image. I have fought that during December, but vowed that I am done with it now. Yay! I will work on this aspect of my life every month next year.

So, there you have it. In my last post for 2008, my themes for 2009.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Recession hits Martha Stewart

I got my latest Martha Stewart magazine last week. It was immediately obvious that the recession has hit her company. I showed the magazine to David--it was about half the size as normal. In fact, it was about the size it used to be during the time span when Martha was under a cloud of suspicion, convicted, and in prison. The magazine was downright skinny during those days, a ghost of itself in better times.

So the moral is that the advertisers have pulled their ads--or at least some of them. The Martha magazine has been hefty the last couple of years, even up to the latest months. But the economics have caught up and those chicken advertisers are trying to save their dollars for better days. I don't think it will faze Martha though; she is a tough one. She certainly didn't let prison keep her down.

She has done two things that so many people would love to do--brand themselves and do what they love all the time. The rest of us should be so lucky.

Sunday, December 28, 2008


When I was a child, one year at Christmas time, my parents went to Sears and Roebuck (or maybe J.C. Penney's) and bought us a fireplace. It was made out of cardboard; I remember it was red and gray and white and black. They erected it in the living room for Santa to come down the chimney. The whole family was very proud of it, I recall. I have to strain to remember but this is something that I have never forgotten. Putting up the fireplace became part of the Christmas tradition for some years, just as we put up the tree and the ancient electric candle set that my mother placed in a front window--just as we taped all of the Christmas cards we received onto the front door.

The memory of that fireplace came to me just a few years ago, triggered by I don't know what. A long time has passed since I thought of it. Once recalled, I thought how pitiful it was, that fireplace. It felt symbolic of many things--our paltry income, the inadequacy of our little house that barely held two adults and six children, some naivety on the part of my parents. Yet how was the fireplace any different from the belief and ritual around Santa Claus? All the fireplace required was the suspension of disbelief, just as Santa did, and lo and behold, it was just another cheerful way of celebrating the holiday.

Recently I noticed that there was an iPhone application composed of a fireplace that filled the device screen, blazing and crackling away. I chuckled over it, thinking about my childhood fireplace. When I mentioned it to David, he pointed out that there are cable stations that do the same; show a lit fireplace. He remarked that these latest were high def versions of my own low def fireplace.

And so it goes. Evidently a fireplace is important for some folks, whether it is to aid in Santa's work or to provide a symbol of comfort and warmth in the wintertime. I wonder what happened to my parent's cardboard fireplace, which I am sure was thrown out long ago once it lost the magical appeal.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Accommodation: Let's do Both

Last night we went to our friends' place for a little apres-Xmas get-together. As it turns out they are a mixed religion family, the husband is Jewish, the wife is not, and their house wonderfully reflected both aspects of the holiday. The fireplace mantel was decorated with menorahs--gold and silver, all sparkling in the light. Next to the fireplace, the Christmas tree occupied its own place of honor, fully decked out in ornaments and ribbons, with presents underneath. As we wandered through the house, we found more of the same: a tablecloth covered with Jewish symbols showcased a lovely buffet including pork. It felt almost as if there were twins in the room, and one was black and the other white.

In thinking about it later, I imagined that there must be many families with the same approach which is symbolic of much larger accommodation in our lives. Rather than insisting upon or instituting one way or another, one religion or the other, they simply do both and accept both--it's easy. This is an approach in our society that gained momentum in the 80's and rippled onward, and it encompasses religion and politics and race relations and all of the issues that used to be of critical, visceral importance and just aren't anymore.

I think that the accommodation led out from tolerance. Up through the 1950's and 60's families pushed their offspring to marry their own kind--both in terms of religion and race. Over time, as civil rights gained traction, more and more people came to view homogeneity as not nearly as desirable as it once was. There were too many other things more important things to worry about--and there still are.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Giggling Over Blago

My sister called this morning. She lives in Wilmette, Illinois. Previous to the last two weeks, residents of her state were in heaven over Obama's election to the presidency. Now, however, they are deeply embarrased over the situation with their governor, Rod Blagojevich. I have to say, he has pushed Obama's cabinet picks out of the top headlines. It is sad that the news media deems it more important to talk about this sleazy guy, rather than the important and positive news about the future governance of our country.

Leslie started to tell me about the long lineup of corrupt officials her state boasts. I was only a little shocked and pointed out that perhaps her state was the leader. She demurred; said she recently read an article and they were down at number 10! As she regaled me with various cases, we both dissolved into giggles over the situation. Blago speaks this afternoon; Leslie warned not to miss his press conference--said it should be good for some laughs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Interviewing Sam Bush

I just interviewed Sam Bush for a story in Marquee Mag. It's always fun to talk with someone who remembers your name, and says it periodically during the interview--makes you think, "hey, this guy knows me!"

Sam is a guru on the mandolin, part of the Newgrass Revival from the 70's and 80's that led into a lot of the modern bluegrass sounds like Nickel Creek and Bela Fleck. He's played with all the kings and likes to mix in some electric on top of the acoustic whenever he can. He plays an old mandolin that he calls, "Hoss"--a 1937 Gibson F5. He really loves Hoss, but the instrument is becoming too fragile to take around to all the dry and hostile climates (like that of Colorado), so he mostly plays some mandolins that Gibson built for him, called the Sam Bush model, and really copied after Hoss.

Sam was in Florida today and for the holidays. At the end of the month he and his band will fly to Anchorage, Alaska for a NYE bash with the David Grisman Quartet. And Hoss won't be going along. It was a fun interview.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Computer

My personal computer is getting there--to where I want it to be. I ordered it right before I started at my job at SkyWay Systems. When it came, I was already knee-deep in all the problems that the company had--hardware that didn't work, the need to hire any number of skillsets, and a spiffy website and application that had not yet been created. I was so busy at work, that at home I set up my computer on my desk and used it only for the most basic of processes. I didn't even set up its power-save settings. Until now. Now, I have explored all through it; I really like it--(two and a half years later!).

I was so excited when I ordered it, then when it came I ignored it except for email. Now it is my Friend! I instituted a no food or drink rule on the desk after I dreamed that I spilled a diet coke on it. What fun I am having with it....

Snow--and I like it!

It is snowing today. I am ensconced in my sunroom, cat next to me on the floor, and thinking that I like this. I feel safe and warm, yet look out to see the weather and know it is cold and wet and I don't have to go out in it.

I used to hate snow. When I drove for 6 years commuting to various jobs on the other side of Denver, I dreaded snow. I followed the weather neurotically from the first day of fall onward. I obsessed over the weather reports and slept little the nights when a big snow was on the forecast. I left very early to go to work and slipped and slid and maneuvered my way past stuck buses and spun-out cards. And I despised every minute of it. It didn't help me that I had to drive 35 miles one way to get to my place of employment.

As I think back, I haven't had to do that now for six years and I am so grateful. In the time since then, I have either worked out of my home, or not felt pressured to go in to work when the weather was bad, or had a short commute. I think that the commuting in the snow and on icy roads was a very stressful, unhealthy situation. Today I commuted to my desk, to this computer.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Remember: Death is not your Constant Companion

I was sad on Thanksgiving. It was hard to be thankful; the first thing that came to my mind in response to all the "be thankful" drivel was that my brother is dead. My family, back in Kentucky was sad, too; it was a very hard day.

When I talked about it to David, his answer was, "Remember, Death is not your constant companion." Yes--that is Death with a capital D. David, of course, is right, just like most of the time. Death only visits me irregularly.

Death is right there beside the people in the Sudan, the Congo, Somalia. He is next to them today and all the time. He strides throughout history, frequenting favorite places like concentration camps and Rwanda. He is greedy some days, and holds back on others--like a vampire.

David's point is well taken. I am grateful to not watch people die around me all the time. This year has been taxing enough. I am still sad.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Cottage 505

We are staying at Chautauqua for the Thanksgiving holiday. I told myself I wasn’t up to having a houseful of people for turkey day like we normally do; and then I had that houseful of folks over on the Sunday before for a potluck and jam in honor of our friends Brian and Judy. Oh well, I had thought I wasn’t up to it. It was a great party!

We rented our cottage here for four nights, starting on Wednesday. It is darling—tiny and prettily done with light yellow walls, white trim, and wood floors. We guess it is about 500 square feet, with a living room, bedroom, fully-appointed kitchen and bathroom. You have to be neat—the things we brought with us would fill up the whole place if we let it. Instead I have stored most things away in the closet in the bedroom so that we have room to move and won’t feel cluttered.

Molly was quite excited to be going on a trip with us. She was very surprised when we put her bed down in the kitchen—she didn’t realize that our cottage would have a bed for her just like the one at home. She was entranced this morning by two fat squirrels and a pair of sleek mountain jays outside of our screen porch. Overall, she has been a very good girl.

Along with our dog, we have brought books, computers, instruments, food—the accoutrements we deem essential for a get-away. I read a whole book today: “Family Linen,” by Lee Smith—and it was wonderful (both the book and the reading). David hooked up a little ham radio and fiddled around with that for a while in the late morning. Now he’s plunking on a banjo, working on a new song.

It is very quiet here. We hear little of our neighbors. But we hiked this morning and there were lots of people and their dogs out on the Mesa trail. Everyone was exercising in preparation for “the big eat.” It was a day of gloomy skies and winter gloves and beautiful in its own right.

We are on a retreat. It feels good.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Smoking Cigarettes and Watching Captain Kangaroo

I am almost never around cigarette smoke. Every place here outside and inside of Boulder is smoke-free. Few people in my workplace smoke; those who do keep it low profile. One of my employees worked for me for a year and a half before I knew he smoked--and only then because someone else mentioned it. Here in this part of Colorado, it isn't something you brag about.

Yet, on that rare occasion when I catch a whiff of someone's cigarette, like walking to my car at the grocery store, it takes me back to my childhood. Yes, an odd thing, but I associate the smell of cigarette smoke with growing up in Kentucky. Although no one in my household was a smoker, I was surrounded by others who were. My uncle smoked; he is in precarious health today as a result. My beloved next door neighbor smoked; she has now passed away, but it was not cigarette-related. Lots of my classmates smoked; it was a rite of passage into adolescence, unfortunately.

Cigarette smoke reminds me of parties and picnics and concerts and going to college. It used to be that every other person I encountered was a smoker. Yes, I'd estimate 50 percent. Nowadays, it's down below 5 percent, I'd guess. Maybe more with the folks who don't let anyone know that they smoke. Sometimes I guess when I catch the faintest whiff on their clothes.

Last week when I walked out of the grocery store, I pushed my cart through the smoker's zone, and caught that familiar aroma. I was back in Kentucky in a flash, waiting for the bus outside of high school, not smoking but smelling. It feels so familiar.

Oh, and yes, I was a fan of Captain Kangaroo growing up.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Still Missing Oren Beach

Even after 18 years, I still miss Oren Beach. When I moved to Germany in the 80's, with two cats in tow and not knowing a single person, Oren was the guy who met me at the Frankfurt airport. He was tall and bushily mustached, with a cowboy hat and cowboy boots. He didn't exactly fit in, at a time when Americans were encouraged to keep a low profile. I don't think he could have fit in if he wanted to.

That day, he shook my hand briskly, welcomed me to Germany, and then waited with me for the next flight to arrive from JFK--as it turned out my luggage was on that flight, not the one I came in on. Oren then drove me haphazardly around the airport, in search of my cats, who were quarantined in some obscure corner of the place.

Oren was my "sponsor," a military-designated role, although he wasn't in the military. Like me, he was a DOD civilian employee. Any newcomer, military or civilian, was assigned a sponsor to help them assimilate into the community and the country. Oren took his assignment very seriously; in essence I became part of his family. When he dropped me off at my hotel that first day, he told me when he would be by to get me the next day. That became the norm. Oren was always telling me when to be ready to go to work, camping, to wine festivals, shopping, dinner at his house.

Oren's family welcomed me into their midst without question. He and his wife, Donna, and their two children that lived in Germany with them, became my closest, best friends. I recall many meals at their table, with people of all nationalities. At that time, the military presence in Germany was 300,000 strong, with a massive civilian support infrastructure. There were many folks to meet, to break bread and drink wine with. Oren and Donna were always ready to have a party at the drop of a hat. They seemed to move at the drop of a hat, too. I would really like the house where they lived, and they would tell me that they had found a better house and were moving. It went on that way for four years.

Oren had an almost larger than life personality. He was a hard worker, ready to give his all for any task that needed doing. He believed in being part of and nurturing his community--and in this case more than one community--the military community we were a part of, and the larger German community, as well. But his roots were in the western U.S.; he and Donna were originally from Kansas and had American Indian blood in their veins. I still recall going to his house for dinner, and he would announce to me, "Kathy--we have a great movie to watch tonight--the best! John Wayne!" And that's what we would watch--always his first choice.

After four years, Oren and Donna moved back to the U.S. Oren had a new job he was excited about; they were moving to Colorado, where they hoped to own horses again. The last time that I spoke with Oren was on my wedding day. He called that morning from the U.S. to offer me his congratulations and wish me well.

Some four months later, I got a call from a friend that Oren and Donna had been killed in a car accident. I could not believe they were gone after only four years as part of my life. And even now, I still miss Oren, after these eighteen years. His presence was huge in my life. No one ever had a better sponsor.

Friday, November 14, 2008

La Pie

The first snow of the winter is on the ground now. I am looking out at heavy, dark weather clouds and the light reminds me of living in Germany. I rarely get that feeling in the Colorado bright fall and summer days. Only in winter is the light sometimes similar enough to trigger my memory. It is the same light I see in a painting of Monet's called La Pie (The Magpie). The bird sits on a gate surrounded by snow and cloud; there is a pink undertone behind it. When the daylight is like this, I recognize it--I have for years now, since I moved from Germany to Colorado.

That is the light of today. There is no bright Colorado sunshine falling on my sunroom. Instead it is winter as the rest of the world normally sees it. I like these days. They remind me of other places and fun times.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

My Adventures in Social Networking

Suddenly, I am a social networking fool.

I have had two MySpace sites for a while--one for the band, Steel Pennies, and the other for the Altona Grange Bluegrass shows that David produced this fall. I just kind of go through the motions with those, periodically uploading new photos, approving comments and friend requests, removing songs as per the request of disgruntled band mates. I found that it had become a little boring.

But then things picked up when I set up a profile on Linked In. I kind of liked that one--decided to get it going for job hunting. I caught up with a lot of old coworkers and enjoy exploring where folks are and what they are up to. I had lunch with Scott Martinez, who used to work for me 6 years ago. He found me on Linked In, and a week later we were sitting in a Mexican restaurant, howling over our adventures in the corporate world. Then I got folks who I worked with to write recommendations for me--now that was an ego-enhancer! Stephanie, Jon, Ted, and Mike Kallet all took good care of me.

From Linked In, it was almost a natural progression to decide that I needed a Facebook page. I enjoyed putting it together, as I did my other profiles. Once I had that baby up and running, I was further delighted by two things. David Okay decided he would have one, too. And everyone on his side of the family is also on Facebook. Now we IM and write on each other's walls, and comment on each other's pictures--for me, living so far from family for so many years, it has been wonderful.

Now, as of today, I am tweeting. I set up Twitter about two months ago, but never did anything besides get the account going. Lo and behold, this morning here comes an email from Twitter telling me that GoodBlueGrass is "following" me. After wondering what Paul was doing on Twitter, I got myself organized and began to "follow" other folks, too. I even figured out how to compress the picture I wanted to use for my profile, and how to link Twitter to Facebook--awesome!

I am having so much fun.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Election High

I am still elated over the election. On Tuesday night, I joined my jam group at Lindsay's house. We ate chili, played music with the T.V. on but muted, cranked up the sound when there was something important to watch. It was very fun. I was so excited that Colorado was going blue--and embarrased that Kentucky did not. I thought both speeches were great--that of McCain and that of Obama. Obama seemed very presidential and serious--he knows how hard his job is going to be. His work is indeed cut out for him. I think he can handle it.

The next day I didn't go to work, but spent the first part of the day reviewing the election results and following the states that still hadn't been called--Missouri and North Carolina. I suddenly realized that my brother-in-law, Kevin, would be home and I called him to chat about everything. My sister, Leslie, and Kevin live in Illinois and have been die-hard Obama fans for a long time. The weekend before the election, Kevin went to Iowa for the Obama campaign and knocked on doors to get out the vote. When we chewed over the details of the election on Tuesday, he said that the Obama campaign had bussed 5,000 people to Indianapolis to get out the vote. Holy cow--it worked. Indiana, one of the most interesting battleground states went blue--with the help of 100,000 Obama votes in Indianapolis. Wow.

The commentators on CNN were talking with awe about the Obama campaign--they all gave it a thumbs up for being the best run campaign in history. I heard that they targeted 600,000 voters in Florida who were eligible to vote in the last election--but did not do so. And guess what--Florida went blue. What a tremendous, smart, strategic effort.

This election means so much for the African American people. It brought tears to my eyes to see Jesse Jackson weeping in the crowd at Grant Park. Althought he did some questionable things during this election, he has been at the forefront of the battle for African American rights for a long time and this meant so much to him and so many others.

Finally, I can't close without talking about the halogram. I watched in amusement early in the evening when CNN explained they were going to bring a reporter into their newsroom via halogram. Lo and behold--she appeared. She was in Chicago, in a tent, with 30 something HD cameras focused on her. She remarked that she was following in the footsteps of Princess Leah--I thought--Yes! I studied her; she was just kind of floating there--just like Leah--or I recall a halogram used on a Star Trek episode or two. After a while, I thought, "Wow. It took this long for them to figure out how to do this! Yep--40 years or so."

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Putting the Garden to Bed

I am putting the garden to bed today, perhaps a fitting activity for me after all the funerals. The garden goes to sleep with always the promise of Spring and its rejuvenation. The trees are the color of drowsy--some are totally bare, others hang onto their leaves until the last dribble of fall has passed.

I enjoy the work--winding away hoses, storing cloches and watering cans. At the end of the season, the garden has been such work that it is a relief to have a break. I know that in the Spring, I will be out again with enthusiasm and excitement, awaiting yet another garden that is my best ever.

Five Funerals in One Year

Yesterday I went to my fifth funeral in a year. It has been dragging down, wearing over the time. The cycle started a year ago this week with the death of Hudson, my father-in-law. It continued on in April with Jelene, followed by the biggest shock of all in August, my brother Mike. Three weeks ago, VM Davis passed away, and yesterday I attended the service for our friend Frank, who finally succumbed to his battle with cancer.

I know that Death is part of the cycle of life, and yet, I resent that I have had to catch up so much this year. Prior, I could probably count the number of funerals I attended in my life on one hand. I have made up for all of that. I know the rote words to say: "I am so sorry for your loss." I know that those words can't really do much to alleviate the pain. Even though VM was 88 years old and had lived a good life, his family was still as broken-hearted over his loss as mine was over the loss of Mike.

I hope that I can have a break from all of this death.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Wreck of the Pine Beetles

David and I went to Walden, Colorado this weekend, to play at a gig--a community barn dance. Walden is out in the middle of nowhere--en route to Steamboat Springs. By the time we arrived there, we were pretty much shell-shocked after seeing the dead pine trees. It was a devastating sight. After we crossed the continental divide, half to three fourths of the pine trees were dead. They were turned a rust color and their branches drooped; they swooned as they died. It was so sad. What is even sadder is that the beetles have made their way across the divide and will wreak havoc on our side as well. The pine forests are going to be gone. We will not see them again in our lifetime, which is just stunning. David and I talked about how we need to spend time in the forest and trees next year, before they are gone. It is just unbelievable.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The Onset of Fall

I used to hate Fall. Fall was the precurser of Winter and Winter was my scourge--I had to drive in it. These were during the days when I was a road warrior, driving nearly 40 miles one way to the infamous Denver Tech Center. I dreaded snow. I dwelled on the weather reports and prayed for a warm front, or at least a phone call giving me a repreve on coming to work due to the weather. Those phone calls rarely came.

I can recall days when the roads were astonishingly bad. I prayed for hours solid--the same amount of time I spent in the car, skidding along those roads. Once I flew into DIA and upon arrival found a snowstorm going on. I drove to the nearest motel and stayed there for the night, unable to conceive of driving home in a near blizzard after a grueling trip to do lay-offs.

But now my outlook on Fall and Winter has changed. I like both of these seasons! The change came about when I spent three years working from my home; and specifically from the sunroom on our house, where I looked out upon the seasons. I enjoy Fall--the change in my trees as they drop their leaves and go dormant. I love sitting in the sunroom and watching the snow come down. There is something comforting about being bundled up in the safe indoors and gazing upon the snowstorm.

So now, this year, I observe the yellow and red and orange trees with pleasure, along with the remaining birds--blue jays and finches and a squirrel. I know the snow will be next and I will welcome it.