DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, TRAVEL, WRITING

The Year I Tried Too Hard

Travel Here:  Sometimes Your Plans for Christmas Go Awry

I was asked to participate in a Women’s Program at church.  The pastor’s wife suggested I read a poem or a story that reminded everyone to keep their focus on the reason for the season.  I looked around for something in my library or on the web, but I kept thinking I’d lived the perfect example of getting off track.  So I wrote a poem based on a very funny Christmas Day, that wasn’t quite so funny while I was living through it.  I’ve shared it with the ladies at my church and am now sharing it with you.  I hope you enjoy it.

The Year the Hot Rolls Stole Christmas

T’was a few days til Christmas and I was all ready.
The dinner was ordered and the weather was steady.
I’m not a kitchen hero like my Mother and Aunt.
They’d have done it better, that much I will grant.

Gourmet turkey and fixings, pecan pie and more
Would be waiting for me at the grocery store.
I had made a good plan for a perfect dinner,
Had it gone as I’d planned, it would’ve been a winner.

We know what they say about those good intentions.
How many catastrophes have been their inventions?
My Waterloo started with an innocent request
And a very sweet lady who wouldn’t let it rest.

“Can I help with Jane’s dinner?” Eddie Jo asked my mom,
She meant it for good, of that I have not a qualm,
But it turned into a disaster before we were done
I can say that nothing about it was very much fun.

Eddie Jo’s baking prowess was realized far and wide
At a Baptist church known as Lakeside,
But Mom was the baker’s best friend by a mile,
So she was constantly delivered sweets with a smile.

The urge to say no was strong and most wise,
‘Cause Mom’s freezer was full of Eddie Jo’s cakes and pies,
But mother gave in so she could please her friend
And suddenly my peace was about to end.

“How about some hot yeast rolls?” my mother opined.
She had no desire to be mean, cruel or unkind
In her mind she saw formed rolls ready to bake.
She wanted it easy for her daughter’s sake.

‘That’s a wonderful idea,” Eddie Jo agreed with glee.
She wanted to do something thing for little old me,
But a pan full of rolls was not what she provided
A bowl of dough is on what she decided.

When I called my mom, as was my daily habit,
She told me of the rolls, quick as a rabbit.
In spite of my concerns, I did not a fit pitch,
Even though I realized this was a big glitch

“You’ll need to drop by on the day before,
Even though you’ve got errands and chores galore.
And though I know it’s inconvenient, tell her you’re glad.
Any other response will make her very sad.

So, I rearranged my life to pick up the baking sheet
Of yeast rolls to put into the oven and heat.
That’s what my mom told me that I could expect,
When I picked up the bowl, I thought, “What the heck?”

I heard her instructions wearing a terrified smile,
Feeling I’d been given an unnecessary trial.
I called my mom and was filled with terror
She thought I’d succeed without any error.

Twas the morning of Christmas when I pulled out the dough.
I had to form it into balls, which into rolls would grow.
I hate to sound like I’m being picky,
But that dough, let me tell you, was very sticky.

Then I tried to tame it with a little white flour.
I must have worked on it for at least an hour.
Finally, though I feared to wake Bill from his sleeping,
I had to rouse him, because my sanity was seeping.

I was covered in flour from my head to my toes,
With fingers stuck together and dough on my nose.
My husband thought I was trying to be funny.
He said, “Go away and leave me honey.”

That’s when the held back tears started to fall
And my emotional stability hit the bedroom wall.
It wasn’t a joke poor Bill quickly found out.
It was time to get up or he’d be a lout.

Now I must tell you Bill knew less than me
About making rolls, that was easy to see,
But he had to help me or a wife he’d lose.
Together we searched for sticky dough clues.

The pan of rolls certainly looked like a mess,
But now I was late and needed to dress.
I got other foods started and was filled with hope
That family members wouldn’t think me a dope.

The first to arrive was my beloved Aunt Edie.
I was running late and for her help was needy.
The catered food was not cooking with the promised ease.
She heard my despair and rolled up her sleeves.

Mom and Dad arrived with Susan and Larry,
But by then things in the kitchen were crazy and scary.
The decision was made to open presents first,
But my Dad was hungry and his attitude was the worst.

The delay seemed to fix everything but the turkey.
Aunt Edie decided my oven was quirky.
When it was finally time to eat the rest of food
My dad’s comments had become kind of rude.

The very last step was to bake Eddie Jo’s rolls of yeast,
So we started to cover the table with our feast.
I checked on the rolls every few minutes.
Once again my sanity was at its limits.

We said the prayers and each filled their plate,
As on those yeast rolls we continued to wait.
I went back to the oven and opened the door-
And then my chin fell on the floor.

The oven was cold inside, like it had never been heated!
I certainly felt as if my success had been cheated.
My voice rose with frustration, venom and anger.
Those hot rolls had been a big game changer.

My sweet Aunt Edie had been trying to help
When she turned off the oven, so I couldn’t yelp,
But my holiday dinner was turned upside down
And all of my hopes had become a sad frown.

Twas the day of Christmas and I had certainly failed.
This was not how the birth of Christ should be hailed.
It’s not about yeast rolls or turkey or dressing.
It’s God’s love that we should be confessing.

The problem hadn’t been Eddie Jo’s rolls at all.
It was my own attitude that caused me to fall.
Keep your eyes on the reason for the season this year.
His willing sacrifice gave us nothing to fear.

Gather your family and friends. Give to your favorite cause.
It’s even OK to invite Santa Claus,
But keep your heart tied to what matters most,
The Father , the Son and the Holy Ghost.

ART, DESTINATIONS, DFW Metroplex, Performing Arts, TRAVEL, WRITING

Sean Hannity Visits First Baptist Dallas

TRAVEL HERE: A PEP RALLY FOR PATRIOTS

Sorry!  I have to interrupt this little discussion about meal kit services to talk about a couple of things I like better than food – God and America.  My Liberal friends aren’t required to read this.  It’s meant to be a group hug for my Conservative friends.  Sean Hannity visited First Baptist Dallas yesterday.  I had waffled back and forth between going and not going.  I don’t listen to him often enough to be qualified as a fan, but I have been listening to him for several years now.  At the last minute I decided to take the trek downtown.

The Pre-Service Experience  

I usually spend my Sundays at Rockwall Bible Church.  We have about 35-40 families in our membership – a far cry from First Baptist Dallas.  For this adventure I found FBD’s guest parking garage on their website and let Google Local give me driving directions.  Once I exited off 75, the number of cars headed my way was huge, but everybody was polite.  Even though I ended up in the wrong lane a couple of times, I was always allowed back into the herd with relative ease.  I just didn’t know if this was the usual Sunday morning crowd or whether there were this many other folks who wanted to come see Hannity.

Google Local got me right to the parking garage and I was directed up to the 7th floor of the garage to park.  I decided not to wait on an elevator and hit the stairs.  Along with other invigorating things about this event, I managed to get in a lot of walking.  I found out the church takes up six city blocks!

Once inside FBD, I found out Hannity devotees had turned out in droves and later a parking attendant told me they’d arranged for parking in three extra garages.  This wasn’t Sunday as usual.  The nice greeter who walked me across the foyer and got me going in the right direction assured me this was a much larger crowd than a usual Sunday.  She told me greeters usually escorted guests all the way to the sanctuary, but they changed protocol for this special event.  She seemed disappointed she wasn’t going to have the opportunity to do that and maybe she was.  Imagine how impressed I was when she saw me on my way out and remembered my name!  I was blown away because remembering names is definitely not my spiritual gift 😉

The journey to my pew was something of it’s own adventure.  This place is HUGE and it was wall-to-wall people.  The main floor was packed to capacity, so I had to go to the balcony, which was also filled by the start of the service.  The later morning service was supposed to be even more packed, so I don’t know where they put everyone.

Let Us Sing!

While I don’t usually worship at a mega-church, I’ve been in several.  Let me tell you, there are mega-churches and then there is First Baptist Dallas.  It was so overwhelming I couldn’t even sing the first couple of verses during the opening of the service.  Tears kept filling my eyes and I had a frog in my throat.

Instead of the cold, canned feeling I’ve gotten from visiting other mega-churches, FBD managed to transport me to another level.  I thought to myself, “This is a small picture of what it will be like to worship in heaven.  The choir will be in the millions instead of the hundreds, there won’t be walls and we won’t need the sound equipment, but it’s going to feel just the way this does.”

My imagination went down a rabbit trail thinking about heaven.  I imagined the angels in heaven singing a song I’d written the lyrics for.  With an eternity of worship to fill, they’ll have time for all of us to fulfill our hearts’ desires.  A change of songs brought me back to the present and soon Sean Hannity was on stage with Dr. Jeffers.  Hannity got two standing ovations before he ever said a word.  The audience was charged up.

A Simple Story of Faith and an Invitation.

The audience might have been charged up, but Hannity was just himself.  Dr. Jeffers asked him to share his personal testimony and Hannity told us his unremarkable story that made all the difference in his life.  I’m sure you can get a recording of it from FBD, but for such a celebrity to have such a humble vision of themselves was refreshing.

Dr. Jeffers’ follow-up question was about the movie Hannity had come to promote, Let There Be Light.  Again, humility.  There was a natural pride showing from being part of a good thing, but no superlatives.  He invited us to see it when it comes out on Friday and suggested bringing unbelievers to be a part of the experience.  I’m not sure what I expected, but it wasn’t that.  My admiration for him doubled and I will see the movie.

America at the Crossroads

Then Dr. Jeffers took over and presented a sermon on his new book America at the Crossroads.  The skeptics out there are thinking, “Aha, I bet they were selling copies in the lobby.”  You’d be wrong about that.  They were giving them away.

Many Liberals think Conservatives are against everything, but this was a celebration.  Dr. Jeffers is concerned about our nation, but his solutions are all about embracing life, family and faith.  The sanctuary was filled with hope and hope is one of my favorite things.  It was also about love.

Perhaps one of the most important things he said was that we don’t get to heaven in a groupThe only way to get there is one by one.  And we don’t win people to the Lord in crowds.  We reach them one at a time, one person to another.  That gave me hope.  I’m not a Sean Hannity.  I have an audience, but it is small – minuscule in the full scope of things.  I have fun sharing my travels and talking about food, but that’s not what I’m here for.  I’m here to share hope and if I do that from time to time, then I’m fulfilling my role in the big scheme of things.

On Wednesday we’ll be back in Egypt, doing a little belly dancing and Friday we’ll talk about staging for your home’s photo shoot.  So my visit to see Sean Hannity did not turn me into a flaming Conservative that can’t talk about anything but politics.  I’m still just me.

DFW Metroplex, Real Estate Photographry, Rockwall, TRAVEL, WRITING

Spot On Images Hits the Mark

Spot On Images, http://spotonimages.comTRAVEL HERE: DO WHAT YOU LOVE AND IT WON’T FEEL LIKE WORKING

I’ve been telling you about Bill’s gleeful return to the real estate industry and how he dragged me along with him.  To my own surprise,  it didn’t take much dragging.  I’ve discovered that it’s not that I don’t like real estate.  Come to find out, I just didn’t like being a real estate agent.  I’d rather write about a house than sell it, so once I got over my initial resistance to the idea, Spot On Images was born.

Text and Images: A Marriage Made in Heaven

One of the reasons our marriage works so well is that Bill and I have complimentary skill sets.  While neither one of us is particularly fond of cleaning toilets, we’ve parceled out the various duties of our joined lives in a way that suits both of us.  He does his stuff and I do mine.  Thankfully, each of us enjoys most of the items which are on our lists.

It just so happens that his passion for photography and my penchant for words are also a good match professionally.  Each of us has a specialty that works in unison to accomplish something very important in a person’s mind – especially a home-buyer’s mind.

While you can find all kinds of statistics to support the idea that our brains naturally seek images, but we don’t really need scientists to tell us this one, just visit your Facebook feed.  The cat video will get you every time.  As soon as gif’s became available for comments we all forgot how to talk.  People like pictures.

However, our brains also like words with our images, both spoken and written.  There’s a oft-quoted article by 3M that tells us our brains process pictures 60,000 times faster than text, but that article and many others will tell you our brains also like words.  While a picture can anchor a thought in our minds, if there’s no text, there’s no way to know what idea the image may anchor.  There’s also research to support that the processing of these words can help us to better remember the images, because the easier a font is to read the more quickly we forget what it said.

A picture may actually be worth a thousand words, but it’s important for advertisers, educators and many others to be sure their images convey the right message.  Without a little text, the same cat video may say two completely different things, depending on the audience.  While the video may charm one viewer into a trip to the local shelter to adopt another feline, it could convince another viewer to never add a cat to their household.  Without a little text, no viewer will ever figure out the video is actually promoting a new cat toy!  Nor will they know where to get one for their own cat.

The article by 3M discusses how important images and text are in presentations, while a post on Fast Company touts infographics.  The bottom line is that if you have a message to convey, the best way to do it is with both images and text.  That’s exactly what we’re offering to our real estate clients.

Spot On Images:  Images and Text

Bill takes amazing photos and videos, whether he’s using his tripod or his drone.  I’ve been in marketing all of my professional life.  I’m saavy in social media.  My degree is in Creative Writing.  I have the words to go along with his images.

Some real estate agents just need pictures for their listings.  Others just need web copy or the right words for a brochure.  We’re happy to provide either one or both, but when we combine our skills in a narrated video tour or a website – lookout!  The benefits of images with the right text can multiply in geometric proportions and I’m glad to be in the business of helping real estate agents market their lisitings.

Check out our website.  We’d love to help you out with your images and text.

Real Estate Photographry, Rockwall, TRAVEL, WRITING

We’re Back in Real Estate

Brochure from our days in real estate

TRAVEL HERE: HOW SPOT ON IMAGES CAME TO BE

So last week I told you about our days as residential real estate agents in California, but I still haven’t told you how that led to us start Spot On Images.  Here’s the rest of the story.

When the Bubble Burst

We enjoyed the good old days in real estate, but they ended when the bubble burst.  I’ll share a secret with you, I was sort of glad to be out of it.  We made a lot of money, but I really didn’t like most of the tasks that went along with selling homes – with one exception, I loved creating those brochures and writing the descriptions for the MLS.

Bill loved real estate and he never understood why I didn’t.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that he did most of his work behind the scenes and I was the one out there showing houses and writing contracts.  Bill loves it so much that even though our licences expired, he’s kept his fingers in it.  We have rent houses and we’ve sold our own homes.  While most folks can’t wait to hire an agent or they begrudgingly put the FSBO sign out in the yard, Bill is totally energized by the whole process.  He’s taking pictures, creating a website for the home and guiding me through every step of the process with alacrity.  OK, so I’ll go ahead and confess, I really do enjoy creating the brochures and writing the web content.

Real Estate is Back

So back to our real estate photographer friend who was leaving town.  He was entirely too nice to take our money, when we offered to buy his business.  Instead, he showed Bill the ropes and encouraged him to start his own business.  For almost all of our marriage, even when we were selling real estate, Bill’s primary occupation has been investing, so I assumed his interest in real estate photography was just a bit of nostalgia.  Boy, was I ever wrong!

While he’d never completely abandon his investing, he’s automated it to the point that he has time for his other passions.  When the real estate photography bug bit him, he started buying camera equipment of all sorts.  He spent his days getting a feel for his new toys and getting up to speed on all the latest technology.  There was no question of his expertise.  He’d started taking photography lessons in his twenties and it’s been one of his passions ever since.  Most of the great travel photography on this blog comes from him.  As far as his photographic abilities are concerned, he could have hung out his shingle the day he decided to do this, but that’s not how he does things.  He dots his i’s and crosses his t’s.

As he exercised his photography muscle he also started working on me.  He praised my marketing expertise and reminded me of all those people who said they bought my listings because of the words I had written.  In the guise of sharing with me what he’d been learning in his research for his new business, he pointed out how important the internet and social media were to the success of real estate agents.  He was being nice about it, but here’s the bottom line, I was about to be back in real estate, too.

So what did I think about getting back into a business I’d been happy to get out of.  Come back next week and find out!

 

DESTINATIONS, International, TRAVEL, WRITING

Back From the Brink

More Egypt Every Wednesday

TRAVEL HERE:  YOUR LOCAL TRAVELER RETURNS

Jane!  Where Have You Been?

I know!  You’ve been wondering what happened to me.  Well, as always, that’s a long story, but I’m digging out from under it.  By now you’ve probably figured out my recent trip to Egypt is filling up my Wednesday posts – and that’s going to continue for a while.  What a rich experience it was!  A third world country from the balcony of five star hotels!  I’m blogging as fast as I can, but I’m already writing posts for September and I’m only two days into the trip!

Back at home, Travel Here disappeared some time in August with only a few exceptions since.  I didn’t quit having Dallas adventures.  I just didn’t have time to tell you about them.  Travel Bug Tales?  October was the last time the younger me had a chance to share her travel tid-bits.  (Hangs head in shame.) I’m guessing it will be a week or two before I’m able to kickstart my Friday blogs, but they’ll be back.

Fun at GHM

Unintentionally Immersive Global Experience

The truth is it took me almost a year to figure out that I can’t do everything.  I took a part-time volunteer position at Global Heart Ministries.  I should have known better, because I don’t do NO well.  I thought I might be able to blog a little bit for them and maybe help out with their volunteers.

Well, I did that and their newsletter and e-news and video shoots and special events and brochures and database – get the picture?  Truth is I overdid for them.  It’s a wonderful ministry and they desperately need all the help they can get, but after approaching a serious case of almost insanity, I had to realize I couldn’t single-handedly meet all their needs.  I had to take a deep breath and just say…well, I didn’t exactly say no.

I couldn’t go cold turkey on Central Asians after I fell in love with them.  I’m still blogging for GHM.  A video shoot and an Azerbaijani concert are just weeks away.  I’m trying to wrap my mind around Apple technology to take over some social media tasks, but I had to hand them back the rest, so I could have a life.  Maybe someone out there is looking for a volunteer opportunity.  I’ve got just the thing and you can start immediately!

To help me take a giant step backwards, I’m only scheduled in the GHM office for staff meetings and very specific assignments.  That means I’m sitting here at my desk in Heath a whole lot more and that makes me a whole lot happier.

Memorial Day Thoughts

So today is Memorial Day, honoring those who were killed protecting our country.  I’ve noticed folks are very deliberate  this year, about pointing out the killed-in-the-line-of-duty thing.  I’m glad.  Things have gotten very imprecise with all this political correctness, inclusiveness and entitlement stuff.  We need to be reminded of the sacrifices which have been made for us, allowing us to become so persnickety.

I hope you have a very special day and that you do take a moment to remember how privileged we are here in America.  The world is having one tragedy after another – some initiated by man and others by nature.  We’re not being very nice to each other, either.  It’s a rare day when one of my “friends” on social media doesn’t insult or irritate me with their political breast-beating.  While it would be nice if America did become great again, I’d be satisfied if we were just a little more tactful and sensitive towards one another.

WRITING

Words Do Matter!

TRAVEL HERE: TRUTH UNDER SIEGE

Today is not my usual day to blog and I’m actually supposed to be writing a newsletter for my favorite ministry, but I just had to say something.  I’m a writer, so words matter to me.  If you are an American, Liberty should matter to you.

The Outrageous Nature of Outrage

Steve Martin was recently smacked down in the Twitter world for a nostalgic tribute to Carrie Fisher.  Some troll came along and chose to be outraged at his perfectly lovely sentiment.  He wasn’t writing a biography, just sharing an impression.  I’m thinking Ms. Fisher would have been flattered to be remembered so fondly by such a giant in the industry.

Nothing Steve Martin said could in any way tarnish the memory of Carrie Fisher, but for the benefit of their own sense of outrage, someone has forever added an asterisk to Steve Martin’s thoughts about an actress he admired – and a bunch of other trolls piled on.  I doubt Mr. Martin has a lot of time to fret over it, as he moves gracefully from success to success; but he is human and for awhile, when anyone mentions Carrie Fisher, he’ll remember the spiteful words.  So will we.

The Facts Are Often Unrelated to the Truth

I giggled at much of the fact-checking during the most recent political process.  Whether something could be counted as fact depended solely on what flavor of spin you preferred.  My favorite sound bite from the whole campaign suggested we should take the President-Elect seriously rather than literally.  To build on that suggestion, I believe we should all work at considering the words of others with an ear to understand, rather than a heart to criticize.  Would it kill folks to give others the benefit of the doubt, instead of seizing upon every opportunity to be offended, outraged or otherwise negatively impacted?

I heard recently of a college professor who was fired, because of our growing predilection for being negatively impacted by the words of others.  In trying to illustrate a point, he used his own opinion about abortion as an example. He recognized it was lawful, but he was personally opposed to it.  A student immediately went to some college official and claimed the statement had caused her to “not feel safe” in the classroom.  I cannot express strongly enough my disdain for that student’s actions, but I am even more horrified at the institution for their response to her tattling.

The Ethereal Nature of Feelings 

Where is someone supposed to go this day and time, if they want to learn to think rationally and logically, if not a college classroom?  There’s no way to impart every morsel of information a person will ever  need into a four-year degree plan.  In the best of cases, a student can only be taught to research a subject and evaluate the information available.  This is, in and of itself, a valuable gift!  If instead, all students want is a piece of paper to list on their resume, without ever having to go through the discomfort of thinking, then why bother.  Let’s just have a store where mommy and daddy can go buy a diploma.  It appears that’s the direction our institutions of higher learning should head, if this is how they are going to operate.

Obviously this student has been taught to measure the words of others by her own feelings and the university is reinforcing that dangerous concept.  You can’t change the truth because it makes you uncomfortable.  The student might feel safer now, but she has cost an honest man his livelihood.  What’s more, feelings often change.  Who knows what will make her or someone else feel “not safe” tomorrow.

Thank You Dr. Kim 

During my first attempt at college I took a political science course under a professor named Dr. Kim.  On the first day  he informed us there was no God and if we were brave enough to discuss that fact, we would be allowed to continue and complete the course.  Half of the class dropped out.  I certainly didn’t agree with Dr. Kim, but I was curious to see how things would go.  BTW, I didn’t feel threatened or unsafe in any way.

The remaining students  fell into three categories:  those who enthusiastically supported Dr. Kim’s assertion, those who vocally opposed it and a smattering of folks like me, who were primarily curious.  Along the way, most of the remaining students who chose to vocally oppose Dr. Kim, eventually dropped of the class, joining those who had not made it to the second day.  The earnestness of an argument was not enough to overcome the brilliance of Dr. Kim’s logic.

I often found myself supporting the arguments of the opposition.  I didn’t agree with their opinion about the existence of  God, because I understood it was a matter of faith, but I could appreciate the logic of what they said.  I also got very good at picking out weaknesses in the arguments of my fellow Believers.   My faith grew, even as God’s very existence was being disproved.  Since a good portion of our grade was based on class participation, I wasn’t allowed to sit in silence.  I had to learn how and when to speak.  It was good training.

By the end of the class there were only a handful of us left.  Dr. Kim finally got around to pointing out what I had suspected all along.  His class was an exercise in learning how to think.  Dr. Kim admitted proving or disproving the existence of  God didn’t affect in any way whether God actually existed or not.  The students clamored to know whether or not Dr. Kim actually believed in God.  His eyes twinkled as he refused to admit his opinion.  I chose to believe he believed in God – maybe more than those of us who admitted we did.

The Erosion of Truth

While I was brave enough to finish Dr. Kim’s class, wise enough to make a good grade and devout enough to leave the class with my faith intact, I was not mature enough to finish my degree plan at that time.  However, I returned to school when I was much older and much wiser.  I was sad to discover many of my new professors had abandoned the practice of teaching us how to think and were more interested in teaching us what to think.  This was not universally so, but there were many who adopted that lesson plan.

The saddest example was a poetry professor.  On the first day of class the professor warned a student they should probably drop the class, if they were taking it to learn to write worship and praise poems.  I was embarrassed for the student, who turned twenty shades of red, but I wanted my piece of paper and I’d already realized if it was going to be the flavor of degree I wanted, then I needed to overlook a few things from my liberal professors.  

The professor’s warning demonstrated her own shortcomings more than she realized.  Besides, as the oldest person in the room, I felt I needed to set a good example of tolerance.  I also thought I might be able to do more good for God in the classroom, than I would by demonstrating my outrage with a drop slip.

I’m happy to admit I learned a lot in the class and it wasn’t the last I took from the professor.  In fact, we sort of became friends. Not lifelong buddies, but more than acquaintances.  She spent a lot of time trying to get me to see myself from her Liberal viewpoint and in turn, I gave her the benefit of my actual life experiences.  There’s a lot of things she didn’t know about religion (the difference in the terms “Jew” and “Hebrew”), the history of the American language (that Afro-American was once a politically-correct term) and that to use racially-coded language, one would first have to be aware of the code (which is apparently a closely held secret of the Left).  Thanks to Dr. Kim’s training, I was able to adequately express my appreciation of her opinions, without offending her with my opinions – as long as I didn’t dare voice them in the classroom.

Long Live Liberty – and May Real Tolerance Win Out

Were I to base what I believed on the popularity of my opinions, I’d be a very different person.  I seem to hold a lot of opinions which differ with popular culture – kind of like Galileo.  In time I may be proven wrong, but so far, no one has proven me wrong enough to change me.  I know, even if they don’t, that my opinion and theirs together are unable to change the truth – no matter what that may be – so I’ll keep looking for Truth.  This wouldn’t seem so risky if political correctness were more of a two-way street, but I seem to be on the wrong side of that particular avenue.

The world has gotten pretty scary.  We seem to have regressed to the days before the legendary King Arthur, where Might proved Right.  If someone disagrees with you, then bomb them, run them over with a truck, shoot them, knife them, stage a protest against them, boycott them…or berate them on social media.  These all seem of the same cloth to me.

A student should feel safe in the classroom, but that assurance should arise from the strength of their own convictions, not because the classroom has been swept clean of any opinion differing with their own.  And Steve Martin should be able to say lovely things about Carrie Fisher without ridicule and abuse. At least, that’s my opinion. 

ART, Attractions, Museums, TRAVEL, WRITING

What in the World are Public Interactives?

Picture from http://travel.usnews.com/Chicago_IL/
Picture from http://travel.usnews.com/Chicago_IL/

TRAVEL HERE: UTD LECTURE FOCUSES ON GETTING YOUR ATTENTION

See that big silver coffee bean in the middle of the picture of Chicago?  That’s a public interactive.  It’s in public and it’s purpose is to engage the public.  Some might just classify it as art, but there’s more to it than a painting on a wall.  It was designed specifically for a public space and you’re supposed to do more than look at it.  You’re supposed to walk under it, look at yourself in it, observe how your reflection changes depending on where you stand and then post a picture of yourself on social media.  Well, I added that last part, because social media wasn’t really a factor when the piece was installed, but now that selfie is as much a part of the experience as the Chicago skyline.

“Designing Culture: Reading Walls, World Expos, and Digital Memorials”

Communication is my thing, so when my alma mater, University of Texas at Dallas, invited me to a free lecture with Dr. Anne Balsamo an “emerging media expert,” why would I stay home?  I wasn’t sure what public interactives were, but I figured I needed to know.

Dr. Balsamo, is one of those academic types who get paid by large think tanks to do really cool stuff the rest of us would love to do, except we have real jobs.  What kinds of stuff?  Well, she got to make a bigger than life computer dog, for instance – as a part of an exhibit which was built to explore how the public interacted with various types of media.  The result of that study can be found at your local museum.  Which museums you might ask?  Well, there’s several interactive reading walls I can think of off the top of my head:  the musical exhibit the DMA has in conjunction with the Vermeer exhibit, the entry section over at the George W. Bush Presidential Center at SMU and the Expanding Universe Exhibit at the Perot.  Not that Dr. Balsamo was directly involved in any of those museums or exhibits, but she’s part of the buzz in that world.

A Slow Start to a Fascinating World

By the end of Dr. Balsamo’s discussion I was on the edge of my seat taking copious notes on my phone, but when things began, I thought I might have made a mistake.  My husband cut his trading day short to join me at the lecture.  At first, some professorial sort got up to introduce the speaker and the mono-tonal recital of alphabet soup almost put us both to sleep.  Dr. Balsamo didn’t do much better as she laid the foundation for her presentation.  I was actually wondering how awful it would be to sneak out when she started talking about the exhibit with the giant robot dog.

Bill gave me a look that pleaded for an exit, but I waved him off.  I knew this wasn’t his cup of tea, but I began to realize it was mine.  I should have felt guilty, but I’ve sat through innumerable lectures about investing and trading, which caused my eyes to glaze over quicker than you can quote the Nikkei average.  It was his turn to be a little lost.

The Question of Sponsorship, The Aid’s Quilt and Pages

If you’re at all interested in the subject of “public interactives,” you’ll be glad to know that if you google it there will be 604,000 results, so you can really dig into it.  It’s certainly a fascinating subject and I’ve been interested in it since that day in the Charles de Gaulle  airport when I saw ads flickering on a sign above the escalator instead of helpful directions.  That was back in the seventies and it was the beginning of something new in advertising, but like the advertisers on the airport’s innovative sign, the subject of sponsorship is at the bottom of the whole question of public interactives.  Dr. Balsamo raised the question in conjunction with a world fair presentation, but it’s an old question.

Think back to the Renaissance.  Where would we be today if Leonardo di Vinci hadn’t caught the attention of the Medicis or the Pope hadn’t tapped into the genius of Michelangelo?  I’m sure there were all kinds of brilliant guys back then who never made it out of their home village.  There were only a handful of people back in those days with the means to support the arts in a big way.  What about today?  Different millennium, same problem.

When something is for public consumption (or interaction) who’s supposed to pay for it?  If you want the public to pay, you have to put up a ticket booth and charge admission, which sort of defeats the purpose of public interactives.  The whole idea is to catch people unaware for casual collective collaboration.  The government could pay for it, but then we’d get into a whole different discussion about mind control and undue coercion.  That leaves patronage and sponsorship.  In a day when every major venue is named after its sponsor and even the chairs of museums and universities have a sponsor’s name tagged onto their title, sponsorship gets tricky and leads down the road to over-commercialization and even censorship.

I don’t have answers to the questions raised by Dr. Anne Balsamo, but a quick read of the Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 should get you to asking questions, also.

Sponsorship aside, Dr. Balsamo offered the Aid’s Quilt as an example of various forms of public interaction.  In 1987, the first time the Aid’s Quilt was exhibited to the public, there were 1920 panels.  It was displayed on the Washington D.C. Mall near Washington Monument By 1996 there were 40,000 panels and the number continues to increase geometrically, even though the disease itself is losing its ability to kill so effectively.  The quilt is so large now that the only way to exhibit it in it’s entirety, in a way that allows for public interaction, is to reproduce it digitally – a virtual quilt.  While you can still have the quilt displayed in your community, all you’ll get is a 12 foot section.

Since the project was first announced, it was designed for interactivity.  The panels were produced by members of the public.  It was viewed and reacted to by members of the public.  Due to public interaction, the quilt continues to grow.  Due to demands for access it was digitized and is still shown publicly, albeit in part, never the whole.  And people are still interacting – even digitally.  You can get an app.  You can follow it on Twitter.  You can leave your comments online.

Dr. Balsamo ended with the wistful recognition of the fact that in spite of all this hoopla about public interaction, there is one very old form of public interaction that is still the most enduring and reliable: the printed word.  In other words a book, as in hard copy.

When that exhibit with the giant computerized dog was made it had a big footprint.  Along with the exhibit itself, there was a blog, a video, maps, walls and a DVD.  The exhibit itself was scrapped.  Technology has moved on, so the video and DVD are no longer operable in today’s equipment. The digital footprint disappeared.  You’ll need a book to experience it.  That makes me very proud to be a writer.

ART, Attractions, DFW Metroplex, Performing Arts, TRAVEL, WRITING

Speech Tournament Delivers Hope and Memories

Capture speech tournamentAT HOME IN HEATH: COMMUNITY JUDGING FOR NCFCA TOURNAMENTS

So, if a couple of hours could make a difference in a kid’s life, would you make time for it?  Hypothetically we’d all say yes, but I’ve discovered a way to do just that.  I’d love for you to have the opportunity to join me and all it will cost you is a little time and a little gas.  Let me tell you about my day of judging and then you will probably want to contact kristikirch@hotmail.com and volunteer for the speech tournament in March.

The Ask

A friend of mine knew I lived somewhere over here on the east side of the Metroplex, so she told me about a speech tournament in Wylie.  She home-schools her kids and they would be participating.  She asked if I would be a judge.  Before you start trying to disqualify yourself for one reason or another, let me assure you that if you can read, write and hear, you’re qualified to be a community judge.

My friend didn’t know I had participated in speech tournaments during my high school career.  She just knew they needed judges.  However, as soon as I read her email, I remembered my first speech tournament.  I was lucky enough to catch a ride to Houston in Jimmy Jordon’s red convertible.  To this day, just a few notes of Marvin Gaye singing “What’s Going On” will transport me back to that beautiful October day.

On the strength of that memory, I agreed to sign up for the Wylie tournament.  I didn’t know NCFCA from MSNBC, but I remembered the excitement of dressing up in my very best clothes and giving a humorous speech-to-entertain titled, “My Life as a Compulsive Big Mouth.”  It was not (as I had hoped) the beginning of my career as a stand-up comedian, but since a good portion of my professional career was spent speaking in public, in a wide variety of situations, I do believe the opportunity to participate in speech tournaments contributed to my life’s journey.

Since so much in our world has changed since that exhilarating ride to Houston, I couldn’t help but wonder what had changed in high school speech tournaments, but I knew there was little reason to speculate, because the tournament was only a week away.  I’d find out soon enough.  I carved out enough space to judge three events and went on with my business.

The Day

On the day of the tournament I stood in my closet wondering what to wear.  Would there be young men in suits or a kaleidoscope of blue denim?  I hedged my bets and wore trousers and a blazer.  That way I’d fit in either way.  As I drove to the tournament I noticed the weather on that February day was much as it had been on that October day of the red convertible.

The first thing I noticed were young men in suits looking very serious as they scurried between buildings.  The breeze snatched at their ties and played havoc with the dresses and tresses of their female companions.  I grinned widely.  Some things do stay the same.  Kids still wore their best clothes to the tournaments and they were nervous as they trekked between events.

I found a parking space and made my way into the building.  I can’t explain to you how warm my welcome was.  The lady sitting at the Judge Registration Table made me feel as if I were some sort of hero.  Feeling even better about my decision to judge, I took my badge and headed towards the judges lounge, passing the judge’s snack table along the way.  I was delighted to be a part of the mild chaos going on around me.

The Events

After a brief training session on judging, my first event to judge was a round of interpretive speeches classified as Biblical Presentation.  I wasn’t sure what that meant, but it sounded interesting.  Was it ever!  Biblical Presentation is a dramatic interpretation of portions of Scripture.  The students presented lengthy passages from the Bible with intros, comments and summaries they had written.  All the passages included dialog and the students would portray each of the characters with only a small piece of cloth as a prop.

Each student memorized about eight minutes of dialog and accompanying gestures.  We had Queen Esther; the Prophet Balaam and his donkey; Mary and Martha; and a few others.  While Esther, Mary and Martha were to be expected, I was surprised when more than one contestant selected the talking donkey and pleased the focus of their interpretations varied greatly.  By the end of the round I had developed a new appreciation for the youth of America!

My next event was debate.  This was a more challenging event for the judges.  We had to keep a flow sheet of the arguments, judge who won the debate and judge the performance of the individual debaters outside the outcome.  In my debate, one of the debaters was by far the best speaker and I actually agreed with his point of view, but the other young man blew him away when it came to formulating his position and defending it, in spite of the weakness of one of his defenses.  I gave the debate to the guy I disagreed with, but gave the other speaker higher points.

I thought my final round to judge would never begin.  This time I had chosen Impromptu Speaking.  I was exhausted from the technicalities of the debate and Impromptu Speaking seemed as if it would be easier to judge than Extemporaneous Speaking or Apologetics.  The round was supposed to start around six, but through no fault of the contestants we didn’t begin until almost seven.  We were short on judges (hint, hint, hint).

In extemporaneous speech, a contestant is given 30 minutes to prepare a 7 minute speech.  From my memory, those speeches had some pretty heavy subject matter.  Impromptu topics ranged from Make Believe to Bad Habits and only last about five minutes after two minutes of preparation.  That seemed more my speed.

My brain was worn out, so I can only imagine how exhausted the kids were.  They’d been performing all day, compared to my half-day of judging.  Many had an event in each round and some multiple events within a round.  It seemed almost cruel to have extemporaneous and impromptu speeches at such a late hour.  As much as I wanted to cash it in and call it a day, if these teen-aged troopers were going to speak, I was going to judge.

While the Biblical Presentation scoring depended to a certain extent on how well the kids were able to memorize a lengthy passage, Improptu Speaking was all about thinking on your feet.  The kids had up to five minutes to speak, but most barely made it past the two minute mark.  One spoke for about six minutes, but that didn’t help their score.  The point was to use up the time without going over.

The last contestant in the round was the most heart-breaking for me.  From some conversations I had overheard, I learned this particular young man had not only performed multiple times that day, he’d also had a big hand in running the tournament.  Someone had to go find him and bring him to the room.

One of the most heartwarming things about the day had been the courtesies the students extended to the judges.  As they entered they would shake our hands and then move into position to speak.  They’d wait quietly until we’d finished shuffling our papers and whispering among ourselves.  Then they’d ask us if we were ready and politely ask for the timekeeper to start the clock.  After they had performed, they would shake hands with each of us and thank us for judging.  Sure it was rehearsed and formulaic, but it was invaluable skill-building and quite touching.

When the final contestant came in, he was visibly spent.  He went through the handshaking routine and retreated to a corner to prepare his speech on the subject he had drawn.  It was apparent that he was an accomplished, well-spoken orator, but it was also apparent he was done for the day, long before he entered the room.  The merciful part of me wanted to give the round to him out of compassion, but I remembered this wasn’t just about who won or lost the round.

I put him among the top contestants, because he did do a better job than some of the others, but I didn’t give him the round.  In my comments I told him I regretted not being able to proclaim him the winner, but I hoped he’d take my advice to heart – learning your limits and managing your assets is more important than winning a round in a speech tournament.  This fine young man will probably manage a major corporation or run for high office someday.  At least I think he will, if he doesn’t run out of steam somewhere in his twenties.  I will probably not see him or hear of him again and if I do I won’t recognize him, but I have the satisfaction of knowing I shared some of my hard-won wisdom with him at a time when it might do some good.

Now It’s Your Turn 

The next NCFCA speech tournament is March 9th-12th at Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church in Allen.   Go to www.ncfcajudges.com to sign up.  Click Texas on the map and select “Allen Qualifier.”  I hope I’ll be seeing you there.

 

International, Road Trips, TRAVEL, WRITING

Blame It on the White Puerto Rican Rum

The Ad Campaign That Captured My Imagination

TRAVEL BUG TALES: HOW RUM INFLUENCED MY TRAVEL EXPECTATIONS

Advertising used to be a lot more fun.  Camels could smoke and you could watch an entire episode of the evening news without having to consider the perils of a four-hour erection.  In those more innocent days, my favorite print ads promoted the sale of white Puerto Rican Rum, but alcohol was not the attraction.

coffee table 001
The Cave Family Coffee Table. Note the Frankoma Ware.

Tabletop Reading

What magazines covered the coffee table when you were a kid?  Family legend says there were no magazines on ours during my toddler days, because I thought it was playground equipment.  As soon as I was able, I would crawl through the bottom and once I could pull myself up?  Forget about it!

Though she wasn’t always able to store them on the coffee table, Mom took Better Homes & Gardens and McCall’s for as long as I can remember.  Reader’s Digest and Guideposts were more Dad’s style.  In 1966 when Southern Living started, it was added to the mix, as was Texas Highways, since we were finally back home in Texas.  The yellow borders of National Geographic were also a family standard.

Forget Recipes, Where’s the Rum?

1976 Discover your own pleasure. Mix your club soda with white rum from Puerto RicoI devoured National Geographic and Texas Highways page-by-page.  Reader’s Digest, which was usually stored in the bathroom, had great humor pages and I read some of the other articles, but I was most fond of the Condensed Books volumes, of which we had many.  Guidepost articles seemed a little melodramatic to my childhood tastes and I had no interest at all in homemaking, cooking or crafts.

Still, I was a kid who would read the back of a cereal box if nothing else was available.  So if the newspaper had already been thrown out and I didn’t have any library books, I’d thumb through whatever I could get my hands on.  (FYI, I usually read through my schoolbooks during the first week of school.)

Somewhere along the way, I got hooked on Puerto Rican  Rum – not the beverage, the ads.  I don’t even remember which magazines carried the ads, but I remember lingering lovingly on the pages of the rum ads, dreaming of doing exactly what the people in the magazine were doing.  My daydreams had nothing to do with the beverages in their hands, but everything thing to do with the photo-shoots.

Farewell to the Age of Print…or not

My current stash of travel brochures.
My current stash of travel brochures.

Though I still subscribe to Texas Highways, most of my travel dreams reach me via a screen.  The Travel Channel, Discovery, AWE, The Smithsonian Channel and National Geographic all get lots of airtime on my TV.  When I’m researching a trip I do it on my PC.  I make my reservations online and apps follow me around on my travels.

When I get home I write this blog for my personal audience and reviews for Trip Advisor, where they tell me hundreds of thousands of people read what I say.

However, those travel companies are pretty clever.  They’ve by-passed the magazines and deliver their gorgeous travel brochures directly to my mailbox.  When I go to travel shows they fill tote bags full of sumptuously printed media.  I still dream in hard copy.

Lucky Me

I am fortunate.  I’ve had the opportunity to chase my White Puerto Rican Rum fantasies.   I’ve walked hand-in-hand on white sand beaches, sailed into the sunset on gorgeous cruise boats and drank umbrella-decorated rum drinks from the hull of a coconut, but travel has been more difficult than the ads led me to believe it would be.  The Puerto Rico I saw had nothing in common with the ads I’d lingered over as a child and tween-ager.

I’ve run out of travel time today, but come back next week and we’ll follow the ad campaign into reality and see where it leads us.

Accommodations, DESTINATIONS, Road Trips, TRAVEL, United States, WRITING

Country Inn & Suites in Oklahoma City

No prickly problems at the Carlson, then on to the botanical garden
No prickly problems at the Carlson, then on to the botanical garden

TRAVEL THERE: CARLSON’S COUNTRY INN & SUITES IN OKLAHOMA CITY,OK

The primary reason we stopped in Oklahoma City was their art museum.  We also wanted to visit Bricktown and the botanical gardens.  All of these sites were downtown, but for a quick overnight stay I thought the downtown hotels were a little pricey.  So we opted for the Country Inn & Suites on NW Expressway.  Downtown was mere minutes away and the reviews sounded pretty good.

Can You Say Mustard?

Nancy the Navigator told us the Country Inn was nearby, so we started scanning the area for a sign of our hotel.  There are several in the general area.  To help Deb locate it I said, “It looked yellow in the picture.”  Suddenly a mustard yellow tower with brown mustard trim came into sight.  We’d found our accommodations.  If you have an aversion to shades of mustard, stay away at all costs.  You will see more variations of mustard yellow at this hotel than you ever imagined were possible.

However, if you just need a place to spend the night in OKC, then this is a great place to stay.  We got the room with two queen beds for under $100 on Expedia.  With the exception of the pervasive mustard yellow and some renovations, everything about the stay was fine.

Compact But Adequate 

When we first arrived all we did was throw our luggage into the room and head back out to Bricktown.  Registration had taken only seconds and they had plenty of luggage carts.  Our room was right across from the elevator.  We noticed the bathroom had been specially equipped for handicap access, which meant a roll-in shower with no bathtub.  I can’t tell you whether it’s that way in all rooms or just the bargain room we got, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.  It meant I wouldn’t be having my usual bubble bath, but I’m a big girl, so I could live without it.

The other thing we noticed was that the room was tight.  The sitting area is completely separate from the sleeping area, which was nice, but there’s not much space.  Not a problem for overnight, but I’d want more space if I were going to be there for several days with a companion.

When we got back from Bricktown we were exhausted and hit the sack pretty quickly.  I woke up about five and decided to go ahead and write the article that had given me such a fit before we left.  I dreaded fighting the log-in on the hotel’s wi-fi, which is usually a hassle, but I wanted to unburden myself from my perceived obligation.  If you want to read about the exhibition I previewed, you can do that here. Being able to close the door and leave Deb sleeping peacefully while I puttered around made things easier and that wi-fi log-in? Piece of cake.

About the time I finished my article, Deb was up and about.  We got ready and headed down for breakfast.  Breakfast was great.  The area set aside for the breakfast bar was actually quite nice.  The buffet offered everything from make-it-yourself waffles to bacon and eggs to fruit and yogurt.  I confess, I had the waffles.  Deb opted for the protein.  There was a baby who was making a lot of noise, but he was absolutely darling and it was happy noises, so we actually enjoyed him.

By nine we’d loaded up the car and headed downtown.  Let the fun begin.