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Archive for the category “Celebration”

making things up: names and games

Kalkaska

The first thing kalkaskaI remember making up was a new name for my brother, Mark, who was born when I was three years old. I imagine I was not happy with all the attention he received merely for existing. When visitors thought they were being cute by asking me what my baby brother’s name was, I hissed “Kalkaska” and stomped out of the room. It was the name of a place where my father and his friends went hunting and the ugliest word I knew at the time. A few years later, I invented numerous ways to torture my brother, such as sending him out into the neighborhood dressed as an old woman.

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The look says it all: I still don’t get the point.

When my mother was expecting her third child, I was coincidentally agitating for a puppy. She suggested we have the new baby first and get a puppy the next year. I briefly considered the idea. But after my experiences with sibling number one, I decided it would be better to get the puppy first and a baby—if we absolutely had to have one—the following year. Needless to say, that didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. And it was another boy.

a proclivity for morbidity

During elementary school, I was the oldest of the neighborhood gang and both bossy and creative. After our ordinary games grew boring, I made up things for us to do. My parents’ backyard had several features that lent themselves nicely to these activities. The built-in brick barbecue grill, for example, had a large flat surface that proved ideal as a make-believe morgue slab. We kids took turns playing the “dead man” by simulating a deceased person spread out on top of the slab/grill, the cannibalistic aspects having escaped me at the time. Everyone else formed a semicircle around it chanting, “Dead man, dead man, come alive; come and catch me with your big green eyes.”

It was not poetry and it didn’t make a lot of sense, but it was great fun. The rest of us had to remain in place chanting away (there were more verses) until the dead man jumped up and started chasing us. The kid who was caught became the next dead man. As with any game, there were rules. In this case, lots of rules. In fact, we had frequent “rule breaks” to decide important matters, such as which neighbor’s backyard we were “legally” allowed to cross into.

a star is born?

ticketThen there was the wooden picnic table that served as a stage for several variety shows, in which all the other kids performed—complete with costume changes—to an audience of ticket-buying parents and neighbors. I was the writer/director/stage manager/promoter, and general whip-cracker. This was not unlike some of my later roles in life.

The shows were a natural extension of my playwriting hobby that began when I was quite young. I painstakingly printed every word of dialogue and stage direction, completing well over a hundred “great works,” all of which are long gone. I can imagine—although I can’t remember doing so—ceremoniously dumping them into the trash one day, upon deciding I’d outgrown that phase. It’s something I would have done.

and we get credit for this?

Still in elementary school, I volunteered for the Entertainment Committee one year. My co-chair and I were given specific dates—holidays and such—for which we were to provide some sort of entertainment for the class. We could do just about anything we wanted to do—and in front of a captive audience! Our stellar events included three plays that I wrote, cast, costumed, directed, and rehearsed in the coat room in the back of the classroom. We were excused from class for rehearsal. I couldn’t believe what an incredible racket we got to run.

The first two plays were, let’s say, not a complete success. By Christmas, though, I had it down. That play went off without a hitch and received sustained applause. Props included baked sugar cookies, which one of the actors frosted with real frosting I brought to school in one of my mother’s aqua Pyrex mixing bowls.

the unbirthday parties

My favorite creation from that time period was the series of unbirthday parties. One weekday near the beginning of summer, my next-door neighbor and I were trying to get her little brother to leave us alone so we could clean out a room in the basement of her house. I bribed him by promising we would have a birthday party for him later if he would go away now.

unbirthdayHe went for it and left us to our labors. When we finished, we talked my friend’s mother, who was a stay-at-home mom and a good sport, into helping us with the party. I will never forget that cake. I think it was one of my friend’s pre-Easy-Bake toy oven mixes because it was very small. The inside was chocolate and vanilla marble. The outside was covered in Kelly Green frosting and multicolored sprinkles. It was a cake only a kid could truly appreciate—or look at without gagging.

We all bought presents from the dime store and wrapped them before the party, which of course was held in the freshly cleaned and festively decorated room in the basement. It was such a blast that all the other kids wanted parties, too. There were seven of us altogether, so for the better part of two months we had weekly unbirthday parties, each one slightly more elaborate than the last. Both moms had to get involved when it was finally time for my party.

a rose by any other name would still call her brother Kalkaska

Eventually, I developed somewhat of a reputation in regard to my ring-leading nature and choice of activities, especially with my neighbor friend’s father. Whenever he thought something we were into was the least bit odd, he could be heard muttering that it must have been Joycelyn’s idea. Only he didn’t call me Joycelyn because that’s not the name my mother gave me. That’s the name I made up for myself some 40-odd years ago.

best five minutes of a perfect day

Pt.Reyes4It’s the middle of April, and I have been hiking a six-mile loop of trails at Bear Valley Trailhead in Point Reyes National Seashore: Bear Valley trail to Pine trail to Sky trail, and back on Bear Valley.

The best five minutes are in the early afternoon, when I’m about half-way and coming out of the trees and into the open.

The ground right here is hard and full of rocks and small stones instead of soft with the pine needles I’ve been walking on. The sun overhead is bright and glaring; it’s hot and I’m sweating hard.

In the mid-distance is Mount Wittenberg, but about an eighth of a mile ahead, the trail smooths out and winds to the left around a low hill completely covered in golden poppies waving and shimmering in the light breeze. It’s an amazing sight you don’t get to see unless you’ve worked for it, since it’s a considerable climb no matter which way you come up.

I’ve been anticipating this and I never, ever tire of it. I push ahead until the poppy-covered hill is on my right and a gradual, rolling, dark green, and lush drop-off on the left exposes specks of tents and tables from Sky Camp far below.

Beyond that is the blue-green water of Drake’s Bay lapping at the shore, sunlight rippling the surface. I’m so thirsty I stop and take a long drink of water from the plastic bottle in my backpack. The water’s warm but I gulp it, marveling at how much better water tastes when I’m hiking than at any other time.

I stand still, gazing at the distant water and letting the sweat evaporate from my skin. I smell the dust of the trail and the pine trees. I turn to look at the poppies again, drinking in the sight as a couple of orange and yellow butterflies flit in and out among them.

That’s paradise to me.

What are the best five minutes of your perfect day?

celebrating the senses: vision

eyeThe human brain processes around 11,000,000 bits of information at a time, of which we are only consciously aware of about 40. The vast majority of those 11,000,000 bits of information are related to vision. As John Medina says in Brain Rules:

Visual processing doesn’t just assist in the perception of our world. It dominates the perception of our world.

The things that are in our visual field, whether we’re aware of them or not, have an effect on us. I really became aware of that two years ago when I went through my living space from top to bottom to get rid of all the things I was no longer using. In the course of decluttering, I decided to make my space as cheerful and visually appealing (to me) as possible.

sunNow I have plenty of colorful things I enjoy looking at, including the sunflakes in my windows, the bright things in my office, and the two dozen pieces of talavera pottery in various locations. Most of the talavera critters are on the walls: frogs, geckos, salamanders, birds, and turtles. There’s a roadrunner (the New Mexico state bird) looking out the window of my office, a sun over the stove in the kitchen, a mushroom on top of a bookshelf, and several flower pots full of ivy.

My favorite color is red, so that’s the accent color in my kitchen. The pottery on the mantel over the fireplace belonged to my partner, and looking at it frequently reminds me of him, as does looking at the two stunning 4’x4’ paintings he created, one in the office and one in the living room. Of course, what I enjoy looking at the most in my apartment is my cat, Naima.

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Photo Source: TripAdvisor.com

Then there’s the great outdoors, which is what attracted me to the southwest. It’s hard to describe the nature of the light here, but it’s unlike the light in either Michigan or California. The sunsets can be spectacular. The clouds are different, too, or so it seems. And the Sandia mountains that always let you know which direction is east aren’t just a great place for hiking, they’re amazing and beautiful, especially when the setting sun turns them watermelon-colored. The picture above does not lie!

cranesfallI love to look at all the trees and the wildflowers in this area, along with the roadrunners and occasional coyote. The cottonwood trees along the Rio Grande bosque turn into a magnificent golden canopy in the fall. And the migration of sandhill cranes to the Bosque del Apache in November is another sight to behold.

The world around me is full of both humdrum and wonder, all of it worth celebrating. I’m truly grateful for having the opportunity to see and appreciate it.

This post is the last of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

Thanks for sharing this brief journey with me.

celebrating zentangle

zentangle1Zentangle, you say? What the heck is that?

The short and simple answer is that it’s a combination of meditation and doodling. Maybe it could have been called moodling, but I like zentangle better.

I will let the folks who created this process describe it.

Anything is Possible One Stroke at a Time

At first glance, a Zentangle creation can seem intricate and complicated. But, when you learn how it is done, you realize how simple it is . . . sort of like learning the secret behind a magic trick. Then, when you create a piece of Zentangle art, you realize how fun and engrossing the process itself is.

Zentangle uses “simple deliberate strokes which build on each other in beautiful, mesmerizing and surprising ways.” The tools of this art are few, simple, and portable. You need some black micron pens, a couple of blending tortillons, maybe a pencil or two, and a handful of 4.5″ x 4.5″ tiles to draw on.

Opening (2)Although you can get creative with color if you like, most zentangle art is done in black and white. Using different width pens, soft pencils, and the tortillon for shading gives a three-dimensional appearance while allowing you to focus on the patterns. I have a few colored pens, but so far I’ve only used the black ones.

Fortunately no artistic talent is required to engage in this activity. Since I already had a habit of doodling, zentangling just took it to the next level. Above and to the right are a couple of my attempts. The first is called opening and the second springing forth.

Springing Forth (2)The “tangle” in zentangle is the free-form outline you begin with. In the example above you can see the rectangular outline and the strong lines running through it. The design is created by filling in the open spaces.

The one on the right is a little more loopy.

The appeal of zentangle is that it’s very relaxing, even meditative. One of the few rules is “no erasing!” So if you make a so-called mistake, you simply incorporate it into your drawing. It’s sort of like life, which also doesn’t come equipped with an eraser.

My favorite way to zentangle is to get out my pattern books and my supplies, create my tangle on a tile, and decide which patterns I want to start with. I always like to try one or two new patterns. Music is a good accompaniment. So is a cup of hot tea or even a glass of wine.

If you haven’t heard of zentangle yet, you’ll be surprised to discover how many books, websites, and even videos are available to show you how to do it. Should you decide to try zentangling, be aware that it can be addicting. But I suspect we could all use more quiet, focused time in our lives, and zentangle can be used as a practice, the same way meditation and writing and walking are used.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating favorite places

PtReyes1As much as I love New Mexico, my favorite place is not here but in California, where I lived for 30 years. It’s Pt. Reyes National Seashore, 70,000 absolutely gorgeous acres of park land and nature preserve located in Marin County. I’ve said for decades that if anyone were to gift me with a small cottage in Bear Valley and transport me into it, I would happily remain there for the rest of my days.

PtReyes2Although I had easy access to many hiking areas including Mt. Tamalpais, Muir Woods, and the Marin Municipal Water District, Bear Valley trailhead in Pt. Reyes was my favorite. Just as Pino Trail at Elena Gallegos Park in Albuquerque is my current go-to trail, my go-to trail in Pt. Reyes was a loop that included Bear Valley trail to Old Pine to Sky to Mount Wittenberg and back to Bear Valley.

Pt.Reyes4There’s an area along Sky trail that steadily inclines as you get closer to Mount Wittenberg. The path is gravelly and out in the open. The best time to hike here is in the spring, because just at the point when the thought might cross your mind that this is not so much fun, you turn a corner and are faced with a brilliant display of bright orange poppies against the side of a hill that is guaranteed to stop you in your tracks to celebrate the moment and the fact that you’re alive.

PtReyes3I haven’t been back to Pt. Reyes in almost six years, but the place always feels like home to me. I’ve hiked there alone, with groups, with various friends, and most often with my partner, who died 10 years ago. He was much more of an outdoor person than I was when I met him shortly after I moved to California from the flat land of eastern Michigan. I can still remember purchasing my first pair of hiking boots. They cost about $35, which seemed like a lot of money in 1975, but I didn’t have to replace those boots until I moved to New Mexico.

Of course I miss Pt. Reyes and plan to visit it again, but I spent so much time there and have so many memories of my experiences in it that it doesn’t really matter if I ever get back. There’s a part of Pt. Reyes that’s inside me now and always will be.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating the enneagram

English: This is a colorful gradient version o...

  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s obvious to anyone who has been in the presence of a very young child—or even a baby—that we each come into the world predisposed to respond to it in our own way. Our basic temperament is part of us from the very beginning and usually doesn’t change significantly as we grow older.

The fact that we have such different temperaments has led to many systems of classifying people according to personalities. I’ve studied and used several of these systems, but the one that has held up over my 20 years of experience with it is the enneagram.

The enneagram is an apparently simple yet rich and complex system that reveals our strengths and weaknesses, our deeper-level motivations, and most importantly, the compulsions that often rule our lives. We move through this world under the impression we’re making authentic choices, but most of the time we’re just blindly following our compulsions, doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different outcome. We’re living our lives on autopilot; asleep at the wheel.

The nine points on the diagram represent nine core personality types, each of which has a unique perspective and approach to life. The theory behind the Enneagram is that we each polarize at one of the nine points. We then overdevelop the characteristics associated with that point, while leaving the characteristics associated with the other points undeveloped. So each point also represents a particular type of imbalance. Our core personality type doesn’t change over the course of a lifetime, but as we become aware of our imbalances, we gain the ability to moderate them. We are no longer ruled by them.

I’ve learned a great deal about myself and about other people as a result of studying the enneagram. It has helped me take myself and my foibles less seriously and to stop expecting other people to see things the same way I do. And that’s definitely cause for celebration!

There are at least 5 reasons to learn about the enneagram. You can read about them here.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating the senses: taste

raspberriesA friend and I had lunch at the Orchid Thai restaurant yesterday. I chose the Basil Fried Rice (with tofu), which I’ve enjoyed before. The tastes I like are the hot basil, bell peppers, green onions, tofu, and—most of all—the generous garnish of cilantro. I love cilantro. I love it so much that it also made it into my post on celebrating the sense of smell. As far as I’m concerned, cilantro pretty much makes any dish amazing.

Cilantro is one of my three favorite things to taste, the other two being ginger and raspberries. It’s not too difficult to pair cilantro and ginger, especially in stir-fry dishes or Chinese Chicken Salad. Chinese Chicken Salad has been off the menu for me since I became vegetarian a year and a half ago, but I recently discovered that Vinaigrette Restaurant has an Asian Chopped Salad that includes everything but the chicken.

Ginger and raspberries also make a great pairing. Fortunately for me, Heidi’s Raspberry Farm, located in the Village of Corrales north of Albuquerque, produces four varieties of raspberry jam, including one with ginger. Even better, another variety includes both ginger and red chile. Now that’s raspberry jam with an attitude—a delectable, sweet/savory, kick-ass (that’s the chile speaking) kind of attitude.

campariAmong the tastes I appreciate the most are very dark chocolate, dark roast coffee, strawberries, the occasional fresh baked scone, pink grapefruit juice, Campari, Campari and grapefruit juice, good (or even just decent) red wine, fresh basil, rosemary, blackberries picked from the bush, green chile, and the vinaigrette dressing I make with basil olive oil, grapefruit white balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard.

Since the taste buds are merely receptors that register sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, sourness, and umami (savory or meaty taste), we know it’s the brain that generates the variety and complexity of tastes we actually experience. We don’t know exactly how the brain does it, but imagine how boring it would be if it didn’t do it. What if everything tasted the same—or worse, had no taste at all?

There are so many things to eat and drink that both taste good and are good for us that we shouldn’t have to consume anything that isn’t a celebration of the sense of taste.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating sunflakes

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA suncatcher by any other name would be a sunflake. That’s what the artist who creates them calls them, and I’m not about to argue with her. It all began with a yen to find a single suncatcher to hang in my kitchen window. I searched retail stores and art galleries off and on for well over a year. I also searched online for almost as long before I came across exactly what I was looking for. It’s the one on the lower left in the photo below. But as you can see, it has company.

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I wasn’t able to stop after getting just one sunflake. So I thought maybe I’d get another one or two for windows in the living room. Sunflake #2 is the fourth from the right.

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It turned out that I couldn’t stop with two, either—or with three or four or eight. I now have close to 24 sunflakes hanging in front of the windows in my apartment. The ones in my living room, including this beauty below, sparkle at the first light of day, while the array (above) in my dining room window glints and gleams as the rays of the afternoon sun cross its path. The three in the kitchen reflect the last of the bright light in late afternoon.

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Here you can see it with a couple of its bright companions.

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The source of these beauties is Amber Bechtol of Natural Curve Creations in Leander, Texas. After I’d ordered several pieces from Amber, I realized she was willing to customize the colors of her designs. Of the several pieces she customized for me, this is my favorite. The design is called Zephyr and the color choice is rainbow. So I have a rainbow Zephyr hanging in my kitchen window!

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Although I wondered if I was going a little overboard while building this collection, I have to say I have never regretted acquiring any of them. I notice and appreciate them every single day. Each one is a celebration of light, color, artistry, and joy.

Thank you, Amber!

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating making a difference

animalhumaneOrganizations that make a difference in the community deserve to be celebrated every day of the year. There are two organizations in Albuquerque that I want to give a figurative high five to. My involvement with them has been on a small scale, rather than a large one, but the effect they have on people—and pets—is huge.

Albuquerque Reads

albreadsI participated for a few years in this program that operates in three local schools, pairing adults with kindergarten students to give them 30 minutes of individual attention several days a week. According to the Albuquerque Reads website:

During Albuquerque Reads operations the students have achieved impressive gains in reading levels. Typically at the beginning of the school year, fewer than 5% of the students enrolled were reading at or above grade level. Just nine months later, and with the help of Albuquerque Reads: 70% were reading at or above grade level, and another 20% were reading almost at grade level.

I really enjoyed Wednesday mornings at Bel Air School with Shan Diin, Shayla, Curtis, Patrick, and Dominic, the mischievous one, who was definitely my favorite. I got to read so many, many books. I was familiar with a few of them from my long-ago stint in the Children’s Room of the Bay City Public Library. But I also encountered many new books, such as Jonathan London’s Froggy series. We read Froggy Eats Out, Froggy’s Sleepover, and Froggy’s Baby Sister, but I think the supply of Froggy books extends far beyond those three.

The refrigerator art our students gifted us with on holidays was definitely appreciated and cherished long after the end of each school year.

Animal Humane New Mexico

animal humaneNaima the Wonderful, my most favorite of all the cats I’ve had, came from Animal Humane. That’s enough reason for me to celebrate this organization.

But they are amazing for all of the things they do, such as:

  • The donor subsidized veterinary clinic that provides low-cost services to low-income pet owners.
  • Cats-around-town, their off-site adoption program that allows people to encounter adoptable pets in locations all over Albuquerque.
  • The many training classes, behavior seminars, and workshops that are offered to pet owners to help insure they have successful relationships with their dogs or cats.
  • The internet cat video festival that offers a cash prize of $250 for the best cat video submitted.

animalhumane2Animal Humane New Mexico accepts animals from other shelters around the state, and the staff and volunteers do a fantastic job in terms taking care of the animals’ health needs and in training and socializing them. Both the pets and the pet lovers of Albuquerque are fortunate to have Animal Humane New Mexico in the community.

This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

celebrating public art

public art1No matter what part of Albuquerque you travel through, you’re bound to encounter one or more of the 800 works of public art scattered across the city. Many of them are the result of Albuquerque’s 1978 Art in Municipal Places Program, which sets aside 1% of City construction funds for the purchase or commission of works of art.

Whether you love or hate individual pieces, you can’t deny that all of these sculptures, murals, and colorful mosaics add immeasurably to the sense of place.

I particularly enjoy the gorgeous mosaics that decorate the entrance to my local library as well as the downtown Convention Center. This (below) is one portion of the Juan Tabo Public Library facade.

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Here are a few more. Which ones do you like best?

GE

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This post is part of April’s 30 Days of Celebration. To read more, click on the Celebration category link.

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