Saturday, February 27, 2010


March 5th is just around the corner. Why is this day meaningful? Because Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland opens at a theatre near me! I love Johnny Depp in anything, but I especially love him in roles that are really weird! As usual, this film version contains characters that actually only appear in the sequel, entitled Through the Looking Glass. My favorite aspect of the history of this story is the author's nicknames for the three sisters for whom this story was first told - Prima (Lorina Liddell), Secunda (Alice Lidell) and Tertia (Edith Lidell).

Alice in Chains will be in Nashville tomorrow night. I've decided that I am just too set in my ways to enjoy concerts anymore. My last concert was Prince in Phoenix a couple of years ago. It was an awesome experience, but I found that I was incredibly annoyed by drunken girls who were dressed in clothes that resembled streetwalkers. My three younger friends ditched me to go to an "afta party", which I sooooo did not want to go to.

You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant. Arlo Guthrie's song and story are 45 years old. Unbelievable! I honestly thought it was recorded when I was about 12 or 13, but I guess not! I love the original story about the Thanksgiving party and the garbage dump conviction that Arlo later claimed prevented him from being drafted and sent to Viet Nam (which wasn't really true). When I was a very young teenager, I knew this was a war protest song, but I somehow also got the impression that it was also a song about smoking pot. Now, when I look at the lyrics and the story that inspired the song, I see that it had very little to do with pot! Although, truth be told, pot was a part of almost everything in those days.

Alice B. Toklas died on March 7, 1967. She is most famous for being the lover of Gertude Stein. But did you know that marijuana brownies actually became popular because she published a recipe for them in 1954? The Alice B. Toklas Cookbook is a wonderful combination of recipes and Alice's memoir. She lived 21 years longer than Gertude, which allowed her to stretch and grow beyond the shadow of Gertude. It turns out that she was a delightful and interesting person in her own right.

Today is the last day of Black History Month, so let's end with a poem by Alice Walker:

Before you knew you owned it

Expect nothing. Live frugally.
On surprise.
become a stranger
To need of pity
Or, if compassion be freely

Given out
Take only enough
Stop short of urge to plead
Then purge away the need.

Wish for nothing larger
Than your own small heart
Or greater than a star;
Tame wild disappointment
With caress unmoved and cold
Make of it a parka
For your soul.

Discover the reason why
So tiny human midget
Exists at all
So scared unwise
But expect nothing. Live frugally
On surprise.

Monday, February 22, 2010

forbes rates memphis third most miserable city in USA

You know, I will have to admit that before I ASKED my company to send me to Memphis, I did not do my homework about the place. At the time I moved here, Memphis was the murder capital of the nation. It has, apparently, dropped into second place. Yay! But on the heels of that news comes Forbes announcement of the ten most miserable cities in America. And Memphis is number three on the list. Sigh.

The article says that they looked at weather, economic indicators and crime when they were ranking cities. Shelby County has a 21% unemployment rate. As mentioned above, Memphis is 2nd in the nation for murders. The weather is nice, though! Well, not all of the snow we've had. And okay, there are those pesky tornados. One took out the Kohl's near my house last year.

The First 48, a murder solving reality show on A&E, is often shot (if you'll pardon the pun) in Memphis. I am new enough to Memphis that I didn't even realize this, even though I watched numerous episodes. I actually had to be told this by one of my co-workers. Now that I know it, I notice when an episode includes a Memphis murder. It is scary.

Quite frankly, I don't get out much. It's not that I don't want to go out. I just work a lot of hours. So by the time I get home, I want to do absolutely nothing. But I do think about it when I am walking from the grocery store to the car. I think about it when I am leaving the campus late at night and going out to the car. I think about it when I am walking from the mall to the car. And I think about it when I am home and I hear a BUMP in the other room. (But that would scare me no matter where I lived!)

If there is anything about Memphis that makes me miserable, it would be things like conservative thinking, religion being used as a weapon of fear, segregation and an over-emphasis on race. It does sometimes feel like I have moved backwards in time. Having lived in places like northern New Jersey, Phoenix and Atlanta, I find Memphis to be somewhat contained at times, with only a very few people pushing up against the heavy walls. But, since I don't get out much, I am basing that on only a few experiences. So maybe all of that is wrong too!

I am content to be here for now. Are you content to be where you are?

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Someone is carrying anger in her heart towards me. It has manifested itself in such extreme bitterness that she invests energy into turning other people away from me. In a couple of cases, she has succeeded. I have been observing this for about three years, not really sure what I did to deserve her hatred. I even asked her once, but she was either unable or unwilling to explain. Her feelings are so extreme that I am still feeling the effects of it almost two years after I last had contact with her.

There is a part of me that is drawn to thinking about this situation and obsessing over what in the world I could have done to incite this extreme reaction. But then today, I realized that my head was in the wrong place.

What I should be doing is focusing on situations that have occurred in my life in which I have continued to hold a grudge against someone or been unable to forgive someone. Holding on to a grudge is like wearing a heavy weight around my neck. It causes pain and strains my heart and eventually will make me stoop into an older version of myself. So, I need to focus on those folks who have hurt me in some way and work on changing my reaction to a forgiving one.

People are the ultimate fallable mammals. We do screw up spectacularly. Not every bad act is the result of someone wishing to do evil. Sometimes people cause pain because they are so caught up in their own lives that they don't realize the impact they are having on someone. Sometimes they have been damaged in their own lives and their behavior is a result of that damage.

The Buddhist faith describes "dukkha" as an uneasiness that we all carry within us. The work of the faithful is to focus on ridding ourselves of that disquiet. Some describe dukkha as riding in a cart that has a broken place on one wheel. Each time that broken place rolls around, we are jolted. Holding grudges or being unable to forgive is like having a wheel with a broken place. We can't travel through life on a smooth path nor focus on the beauty of life because we continue to be jolted.

Those who have hurt me over the years are just as human as I am. Clearly, I am capable of hurting other people, sometimes without even knowing how I did it. So, perhaps those who hurt me would be surprised to know how I feel. Perhaps by adopting a forgiving heart, I am somehow upsetting the apple cart of cosmic energy. Maybe that energy can heal those who are so angry with me. Maybe not. But I can at least be comforted by knowing that I am trying to let go of those dark spots on my heart. Ridding my life of dukkha and allowing joy and the light of the One who loves me most to shine on me - and through me - each and every day.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

olympic athletes

These Olympic athletes are lean, mean, fighting machines. I am enjoying watching them so much. Some of my absolute favorites:

Apolo Ohno

Lindsey Vonn

Hannah Teter

Shani Davis

Evan Lysacek

Shaun White

Friday, February 19, 2010


A co-worker (Barbara) attended a church leader meeting last night. Her job at my school is to assist students in finding employment after they graduate. So, last night her pastor suddenly said to the group of church leaders, "Let's talk about work. What do you need at work?" Barbara looked around at the other parishioners. Everyone looked as confused as she felt. Her pastor persisted, "Listen to your spirit and speak from your heart. What do you need at work?" After another moment of confused silence, a man spoke up from the row behind Barbara and said, "I need pharmacy technicians!"

Barbara turned and looked at the man in amazement. Our school has a pharmacy technician program and we really, really need as many job sites as we can identify so our graduates can go to work. The pastor knew this and pointed to Barbara and said, "Talk to this lady right here." Other people began to speak up and for every need, someone spoke up with an answer or solution.

Barbara spoke with the man who said he needed pharmacy technicians. Barbara actually works with the Medical Assistant program, but she figured she could bring the information back to the person who works with our Pharmacy Technician program. It turns out that the man is a pharmacist and works at a pharmacy that is extremely busy right now. Not only does he want to hire some technicians, but he is also interested in hosting some of our externs. (Our students complete an externship before they graduate.)

The man suddenly looked at Barbara and said, "You didn't say what you need at work. What do you need at work?" Barbara thought about it and answered, "I need to find job openings for my Medical Assistant graduates." The man replied, "I talk to doctor's offices all day long. I know I can help you find some openings. In fact, I will share my list of doctors with you so you can call them all."

How do I happen to know this story? Because Barbara was so moved by this experience that she decided to follow the next impulse that entered her heart this morning, which was to send me an email telling me that she was praying for me and that I had her support and that she could see that I had a lot of weight on my shoulders right now, but that she believed in me. I received that email only a few moments before I had to get on a conference call with the company CEO, the company CFO and my divisional president to explain our performance so far this fiscal year. This call happens once each month and it is stressful! Barbara's email arrived at just the moment that I needed to have some peace in my heart. The call went beautifully and I hung up the phone feeling confident and capable.

I pass this on to you in hopes that it will inspire you to ASK for what you need and that you will pass on some love to whoever your spirit calls you to reach out to. Amen!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Oh Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
From far and wide, Oh Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


There is a trend in Facebook this week for folks to change their profile photo to one of them and their beloved spouse or partner. This is very sweet, but also hard to look at, it being so soon after the closure of my long-term relationship with my beloved. We sort of sizzled out, so at least I don't have to suffer the memory of some big blow out or a ritual dumping. Neither of us is a dumpee.

Still, I couldn't seem to stop myself from changing my Facebook status to a quote from that wonderful cynic and queen of dry wit and sarcasm, Dorothy Parker, who penned these words - "Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song, a medley of extemporanea, and love is a thing that can never go wrong, and I am Marie of Romania." She sure got that right! Because really, everything that can go wrong with love usually does. People who stick with it, despite the moments when they want to strangle their lover, are the authentic valentines, not the ones who claim to have never had a fight.

The Vancouver Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony featured a beautiful acrobatic performance by a young man, who performed to music by Joni Mitchell.

"Moons and Junes and ferris wheels, the dizzy dancing way you feel
As every fairy tale comes real; I've looked at love that way.
But now it's just another show. You leave 'em laughing when you go
And if you care, don't let them know, don't give yourself away.

"I've looked at love from both sides now, from give and take, and still somehow
It's love's illusions I recall. I really don't know love at all."

Since we're talking about hearts, let's not forget the thousands of purple hearts that have been bravely earned by our soldiers around the world. I worry that with the emphasis on the Olympics and Haiti, that we might lose sight of the fact that we have men and women in danger throughout the world today. I really wish we could bring them all home. I bet their sweethearts wish that too!

That Facebook status that I mentioned earlier? Dorothy Parker's quote just barely beat a quote from Matt Groening, creator of The Simpsons. "Love is like racing across the frozen tundra on a snowmobile which flips over, trapping you underneath. At night, the ice-weavels come." This quote perfectly encompasses the incredible breathtaking nature of love and its miserable counterpart, obsession. It makes me smile, but with a tear in the corner of my eye. Because who wouldn't take that crazy, wonderful gasp of love, even while knowing the ice-weavels might come?

Oh, Eros. You have been my muse and my temporary demise. You have given me my highest highs and my lowest lows. I have skated with you in a beautiful dance that took my breath away. I have been heated by you to such a burn that my brain nearly exploded with the intense pleasure of you. And I have sobbed with you, thinking my heart could not recover. But would I meet you again? Would I travel with you again? Oh my, yes. Yes, yes and yes.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

more snow - get it?

It is snowing lightly this morning. County schools are closed. City schools are open. I'm told the city school superintendent is from Massachusetts and "doesn't get" Memphis weather. I've lived all over this country and this is a common theme. Outsiders don't "get" some local fact that ought to affect them and doesn't. When I really push my staff to try to make a bigger impact on the lives of our students, at least one manager or Instructor will tell me that I don't "get" the Memphis native, that I just don't understand the limitations they are facing. This has no impact on my thinking, other than to say, "If you are maintaining that you are more of an expert than I about the Memphis native, then it is up to you to figure out how to have the needed impact. Let me know what you figure out! I am still holding you accountable for the results!"

But back to the snow! So, I have phoned in a delayed start this morning. The campus will open at 10 a.m., for now. I'm concerned that the temperatures will be dropping and that moisture on the roads may refreeze. So I will be watching things very closely. The last time I opened late, then closed early, there were folks who said that I should have been closed all day. It seems that second-guessing is something that just comes naturally to some folks! No doubt these are the same people who will never find themselves in the position to make decisions like this. So, they don't "get" what it's like. Now that's rich!

Monday, February 8, 2010

snow again

I just had to make the call to close the campus again. We have three inches of snow on the ground this morning. Nobody expected it to hit the Metro-Memphis area the way that it did. As late as last night, they were saying that the snow would be north of us, so I did nothing to prepare, expecting to be able to go to work this morning!!!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

saturday six

Sometimes I pop over to The Daily Meme to see if I can get a writing prompt. Today, I followed the link to Saturday Six, which gives you six questions to answer. Here are today's questions, along with my answers!

1.What’s the one thing that really annoys you?

I am typically most annoyed by bad drivers. And I am not talking about speeders, although they are annoying if they go flying past at 20+ miles per hour faster than the rest of us. I am talking about the ones who are driving slow in the left lane, the ones who veer into my lane, then back into theirs, the ones who merge onto the highway going 40 miles per hour, the ones who cut in front of me when they suddenly realise that they should be over THERE, the ones who drive an eighth of an inch from my back bumper even though there is a clear lane next to us, the ones who merge into my lane going 20 miles per hour slower than me, when they could have waited 5 seconds and merged behind me and MOST OF ALL - the ones who brake for no apparent reason. I even yell out "UB!", which stands for unnecessary braking. Yes, I know that is stupid, but it makes me feel better. Now that you have read this, you will not be able to stop yourself from doing it the next time someone brakes for no apparent reason in front of you. Then you will laugh out loud. Anyone in the vehicle with you will be contemplating having you committed to the nearest mental health facility. And you will have me to thank!

2.If it was the end of the world what be the last thing you would try to do?

Eat chocolate while trying to finish my book. I would hate to miss the ending of a great book! Actually, I am usually reading several books simultaneously. I hope I have enough time!!!

3.If you had the choice of designing a mobile phone what one feature would you add to it?

Auto Uh-huh. I could record myself saying "Uh-huh" and "Huh" and "Wow" and "Hmm". Then, when I was talking to someone that I needed to listen to, but I really wanted to be doing something else, I could push the button and my Auto Uh-huh would supply sound often enough to simulate full attention.

4.Diamonds or pearls?

Now I do dearly love that song "Take Back Your Mink" from Guys and Dolls, which includes the following lyrics:

"Take back your mink
Take back your pearls
What made you think
That I was one of those girls

"Take back the gown
The gloves and the hat
I may be down
But I'm not flat as all that

"I thought that each expensive gift you'd arranged
Was a token of your esteem
But when I think of what you want in exchange
It all seems a horrible dream"

But I have to go with diamonds. They sparkle. They go with anything. They last. You can be rough on them and they still behave.

5.Silver or gold?

I was in love with a jeweler who tried his best to convince me to give up my affinity for sterling silver. He hated that I didn't love gold. My favorite piece of jewelry in the whole world is a ring that my Mother wears every day, which is a big honking piece of turquoise in a sterling silver setting. She has worn it for decades and it is still beautiful. I just prefer silver! Even when I was looking at some items at Tiffany, I found I was drawn to the platinum settings.

6.Are you at home or work?

What kind of person blogs while they are at work? Never mind. I probably work with people who do that! But no, I am at home. My work ethic wouldn't allow me to do this at work. I am in comfy, soft pants, a t-shirt and my slippers. My feet are elevated. Scamp is curled up next to me snoozing. I have a cup of coffee at my side. Ahhh.

OKAY! That ends the six questions. That was fun!


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

ice and snow in tennessee

Thursday night brought a cold, cold rain which froze on the ground and in the streets as the temperatures dropped even further. Next came the snow, so pretty to watch. I quickly recorded a message on the college's inclement weather hotline canceling Friday classes and reminding students and staff to check again for updates before traveling to the campus on Saturday. This decision was an easy one.

I woke up early on Friday morning, even though I could have slept in. Scamp did not want to go out into the snow, but he soldiered through and quickly ran back in. As the morning progressed, the snow turned to sleet, converting the snow on the ground into a crunchy mess. The next time Scamp went out, his skinny legs kept busting through the top layer of the crusty snow, startling him with each pop and crunch. He stopped moving at one point and looked at me with very scared eyes, shivering in the cold. I walked over in my slippers and scooped him up. Back inside, I held him close for a bit until he got over the trauma.

Friday night, I changed the message to include closure for Saturday massage clinic and office hours. The roads were just not safe. Saturday was cold all day. Scamp adjusted to going out, skirting around the edges of the yard where the snow wasn't as deep.

Saturday I got out the big oval slow cooker and began preparing the feast I had planned for my snow day. First, I rubbed bone-in chicken thighs with cumin, salt and pepper. I browned these in a pan over a medium heat. While the chicken browned, I peeled and cubed about 3 pounds of sweet potato and combined that with two cans of rinsed and drained black beans, spreading them evenly on the bottom of the cooker. I placed the browned chicken thighs on top of the bean and sweet potato mixture.

In the same pan I had browned the chicken in, I combined three minced garlic cloves, allspice and paprika and heated them just to the point where the garlic was beginning to soften, then poured in some chicken stock. I scraped up all of the bits of chicken (and all of the flavor in the pan), then added some salsa to the mix. This mixture was poured over the chicken. On went the lid and I cooked it on low for 8 hours.

I removed the cooked chicken pieces and carefully pulled all of the meat from the bones, returning the meat to the slow cooker as I worked. I gave the mixture a good stir and put the lid back on. While it stewed a bit more, I chopped up some roasted red pepper and threw that into the stew. Then I pulled the leaves off several stems of cilantro. Then I was ready for a taste test.

I got out a small creme brulee dish and spooned a small portion of the stew into it, then mixed in some cilantro leaves. I cut a small piece of cornbread and added that to the side of the dish. I sat down to taste everything. The first bite nearly made me swoon. It was delicious, probably one of the best things I have ever made. Thank you!

Sunday morning, I managed to sleep until 8:30 a.m. Yay! I got up and looked out the window. There was no change. But as the day went by, there was a lot of melting and shifting. I could hear pieces of snow and ice shifting up on the roof, then falling into the yard with a big swoosh. When I went out with Scamp at midday, it was warm enough to be out without my down coat. I shook the melting ice off the iron patio chairs. Scamp ran around like a maniac.

But when I watched the news, I saw that most of the roads were still not clear. The street I live on was certainly still a mess. The news people said that everything would be refreezing that night. I decided I better cancel morning classes and have faculty and staff report at 10 a.m. So I dialed in and recorded a new message. By the time it was over, I canceled all classes on Monday and sent the staff home at 3 p.m. I did not want anybody driving after dark. Those decisions are tough ones when conditions are not universal throughout the area. County schools were closed. City schools were open. What to do? But I believe that I made the right decisions for our students and staff.

It has been an eventful few days! And I am still enjoying the leftover stew!!!