Dixie Darr

Archive for December, 2006|Monthly archive page

In Uncategorized on December 25, 2006 at 8:41 pm

Holiday Diary

Sunday, December 24, 2006. Because of our storm, many malls and stores are opening for extended hours today so people can make up the shopping they missed while stuck at home. The stores pose this as a benefit to the shoppers, which it is, but it is also beneficial to the shopkeeper. I guess this is an example of a win-win situation.

Last week, before the storm, I was at Safeway stocking up on a few essentials (caffeine free diet coke and light popcorn) and the clerk told me that they would be open on Christmas Day. My reaction was not positive. Can’t we have one day a year without shopping?

I made it out on Friday thanks to my wonderful friend, Sheila, who drove her SUV all the way from Highlands Ranch to pick me up for lunch. We made our way downtown to the Buckhorn Exchange.

Unfortunately, the picture doesn’t show the festive Santa hats on all the animal heads for Christmas. We exchanged gifts (mine was the huge Beatles Anthology book) and enjoyed our sandwiches and chocolate cake.

By Saturday, I was heartily sick of my own company. I managed to get out for a walk, but people who hadn’t bothered to shovel their walks made things difficult. Lunch with another friend, Barb, was cancelled. I spent most of the day watching the 2-DVD set of Pride and Prejudice—the original A&E production starring Colin Furth as the quintessential Mr. Darcy. Oh, my.

Sunday morning. Our worship service was cancelled as was our late candlelight communion service. Instead we will have the kid’s pageant combined with candlelight and communion at 6 o’clock. My brother has to drive in from Westminster to pick me up because my car is still stuck in the garage behind several feet of snow in the alley. He will take me and my folks to his house for an early Christmas Eve dinner, and then drop me off at church. I’m counting on someone from my church family to drive me the one mile home from there.

This morning, I need to finish my cranberry-marshmallow-walnut salad, bake focaccia bread and make a batch of microwave peanut brittle.

The ham and scalloped potatoes at my folk’s house will have to wait until Mother Nature clears out my alley and frees me from the house.

Christmas Day. I didn’t make it to church last night after all. It started snowing again and we all panicked. My brother took my folks home. There are SCARY amounts of snow in their mobile home park. The park management plowed one pass down the center of each street and Dad and Fern paid $60 to have their driveway shoveled out, but 5-6 foot banks of snow makes maneuvering very tricky.

Luckily, the snow stopped after an hour and didn’t amount to much. I watched a Christmas Eve service on TV, but it wasn’t the same as taking communion, praying, lighting the candles and singing Silent Night with my church family. I tried not to pout and went to bed early.

They’re predicting slightly warmer temperatures tomorrow, so I am hoping and praying that it will melt enough snow to allow me to finally get out of my garage. My parents and I will have to delay our Christmas dinner of ham and scalloped potatoes until later this week.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on December 22, 2006 at 10:19 am

Blessings

“You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.”

Bob Dylan

The sun is finally out and we have two feet of snow on the ground. The city worked all night to plow out the side streets. My problem is that my garage opens onto an unplowed alley, so I have no idea when I will be able to get my car out to the street.

Today, I plan to walk to the local business district two blocks away and try to find an ATM machine. Cash is the only thing I didn’t think to stock up on before the storm. Once I find a machine, I have to hope that the store is open and that it has money in it because the people who stock ATMs haven’t been able to get out, either.

Being snowbound lets you know quickly how much you like your own company. I’ve been fine for two days, but the thought of a few more days of solitude with my cats doesn’t exactly thrill me.

Normally on Friday mornings, I walk down to the Tattered Cover bookstore in LoDo (about a mile away) for banana bread from their coffee shop. I can’t get there today with all the snow. I’m reasonably sure they will be open today, but the bakery truck may not have been able to get there, even if the workers were able to get to the bakery to make the bread and other goodies.

This kind of storm affects all businesses, large and small. The malls are reopening today and will try to make up the two days of lost sales. In a week or so the snow will all be gone and forgotten. Meanwhile, I keep reminding myself that I’m much better off than those 4,700 people who were stranded at the airport overnight Wednesday. I’m safe, warm, and well-fed. I have power for my television, DVD, computer, telephone and stereo. Millions of people in the world would die for that.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2006 at 9:40 am

Winter Wonderland

In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer. Albert Camus

The weather forecasters have been warning us for a week that a potentially BIG snowstorm was headed our way. Now it’s here. It started just after I woke up this morning and will continue until noon tomorrow, bringing us as much as two feet of snow. Not my idea of a good time.

I ran all my errands yesterday in anticipation of having to stay home today. I filled my car with gas, stocked up on caffeine-free diet coke and bought walnuts so I could make some Christmas goodies during the blizzard. I also stopped at the library to pick up the DaVinci Code movie, which will come in handy while the networks show an endless succession of reruns. There’s a stack of firewood in the garage in case my power goes off and my cell phone and laptop are charged. My breakfast with Kathy and Jane will have to wait until another day. Today might be a good day to reread Laura Ingalls Wilder’s stories of winters on the plains during the pioneer days when they had to tie a rope around themselves tethered to the house to avoid getting lost on the way to the barn. That should make me count my blessings.

One of the great things about working at home is that you never have to fight rush hour traffic; the flip side of that is never getting a snow day. I have papers to grade, classes to prepare, and a workbook to write. I am also working on a short story about, ironically, being snowbound at Christmas.

None of this may get done, of course, because like Anne Morrow Lindbergh, I may be part bear. As she said, “the instinct to be half asleep all winter is so strong in me.”

Things will clear up by Friday, although the snow is likely to stick around long enough to bring us an unusual white Christmas. Meanwhile, I’ll settle in with my cats, light a candle and pray that everybody makes it home safe tonight.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Home on December 18, 2006 at 6:36 am

Overstuffed

“Out of clutter, find simplicity.” Albert Einstein

I’m a packrat. I admit it. I save everything and have a hard time getting rid of anything. I still have close to 400 record albums that I haven’t played for many years and I don’t even want to talk about my book collection.

My clutter comes to light when I decorate for Christmas. I have about five times as many ornaments as I can actually use on my little five-foot tree. When I bring out the other decorations – the Santa collection, the teddy bears and the rocking horses, I have to put away vases and toys and knickknacks to make room for them.

This year, I SWEAR, I’m going to use this switching out activity to get organized. I’m tired of living in Dogpatch. I have this vision, if I don’t clean up my act, of people dreading my death not because they’ll miss me, but because they’re afraid they’ll be responsible for disposing of all my STUFF.

People tell me that getting rid of things is a soul-cleansing experience. I’m holding onto that thought. While I don’t think I will ever adopt a minimalist approach to life, I’m remembering these words from Immanuel Kant: “Science is organized knowledge. Wisdom is organized life.” I’m looking for wisdom.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In work on December 15, 2006 at 9:46 pm

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It

The goal is to have your work be the principal expression for your mind and creative talent. Ernie Zelinski

We were put on earth for a reason. Some lucky people seem to be born knowing why they are here. Others spend their lives seeking their mission. You’re never too old to continue the search. As Richard Bach, the author of Illusions said, “Here is a test to find whether your mission on earth is finished: If you’re alive, it isn’t.”

On the theory that you teach what you need to learn, I recently taught a class in Finding Your Mission in Life. Here’s what I learned. It’s a popular topic. A Google search resulted in 4,710,000 hits. Amazon shows 67,097 related books. Remember, the Blues Brothers were “on a mission from God.”

Even those who recognize and follow their calling early in life may find that it changes shape at different stages in their lives. One of my students, Diane, spent the first several years of her adult life as a stay-at-home mom, devoting her time and energy to raising her children. As they grew older and more independent, Diane searched for another way to use her care giving talent. Transforming her family home into a group home for developmentally disabled young men allowed her to continue parenting on a different level.

Now in her mid-forties, she is returning to college to earn a nursing degree, learning new skills and credentials, but continuing on her path of providing care to those in need. She and her husband have already started laying the foundation for their non-retirement. They have started a non-profit corporation, Assisted Adventures. “This company integrates my love of travel with my desire to continue to help those less fortunate than me, by providing direct care and assistance to developmentally disabled adults that have the ability to travel with supervision.”

This will use all of her previous experiences and allow the couple to continue earning a living while doing the traveling they look forward to.

As is evident in Diane’s story, your mission combines your values and talents with the issues that are important to you. Author Frederick Buechner explains that your calling “is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” So begin your search for mission by defining what you really love to do. If you don’t know, ask a friend or family member what subject makes you light up when you talk about it. Then think about how you can use that talent or interest to make the world a better place.

Some people seem to think they’re here to accumulate as much money or material goods as possible, and that doing what they love means living in poverty. One friend told me, “people who make a lot of money are miserable.” I disagree. I don’t think Bill Gates is miserable, and he certainly seems to be doing what makes him happy. Most movie stars, rock stars, and best-selling writers are doing work they love and making a whole lot of money doing it. We need to remember that it isn’t money, but the LOVE of money that is the root of all evil. Stephen King didn’t get into writing because he heard he could make a lot of money. He started writing because he loved it, couldn’t not do it.

Here’s a test to see if you’ve found your mission. If you won the lottery, would you you’re your job? Answer yes and you’re in the wrong line of work.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on December 14, 2006 at 8:24 pm

Stop, Breathe, Listen

“It is better to have loafed and lost than never to have loafed at all.” James Thurber

My teaching marathon is almost over until after the holidays, which means I can settle into the Christmas frenzy. Work never seems to let up this time of year to give me a chance to sit back and enjoy the season.

I managed to fit an advent study class at church into my over-stuffed schedule. We talk about the need to rest, meditate, and wait. The whole time we’re there, my mind is racing through my mental to-do list. I’m pretty sure that isn’t the appropriate attitude.

Once I do get some time off, I have several writing, cleaning, organizing and reading projects to keep me busy. First, though I have to finish decorating the house and buying and wrapping gifts. I’m also scheduling several lunches with friends to catch up with each others’ lives and celebrate the birth of Christ. Sometimes it is hard to remember that He is the reason for the season.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on December 13, 2006 at 7:41 am

Winter Surprise

“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” Walt Disney

I like that quotation because I’m a big fan of curiosity. It’s one of the characteristics of creative people, and Dr. Richard M. Restak calls it “the mental trait most linked with superior brain functioning over the life span.”

Each day brings new things to wonder about. On my walk yesterday morning, I rounded the corner by Our Lady of Guadalupe Church to find the streets barricaded and a festival in full swing. Mexican dancers filled the street, music blasted from loud speakers and food booths prepared for lunch. At 10 a.m. on a Tuesday morning. I don’t know what the occasion was, but don’t these things usually happen on the weekend? And, think about it: December is not a great time to hold an outdoor festival in Denver.

I enjoyed the dancers and their brightly colored costumes and walked on. I was on a tight schedule and had places to go, people to see and things to do. Eventually I will learn what the celebration was all about, but meanwhile, I will just appreciate the fact that it appeared on a day when I needed a little boost.

Now, I’m wondering what astonishing things will happen today. To quote Roseanne Rosannadanna, “It’s always something.”

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity on December 12, 2006 at 6:48 am

Get Crafty

“(T)he only way ever to have an intelligent understanding of anything, and a true interest in it, whether it is writing or art or aviation, is to do it yourself.” Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write

If you like crafts, you’ll love the Craftivity website. Their motto: “We celebrate ingenuity, creativity and the handmade. Make your life better by simply making your life.”

Organized into categories including frugality & living, fibre and fabric, tech and machanics, home & hearth, theory & practice, lost & found and wearable The site also offers short tutorials called alt guides and a section on things you really shouldn’t do yourself. My favorite project in that section is the Hello Kitty Bong. The commentary asks the question, “How can something so cute be so wrong?”

Sponsored by New York design firm, Flat, the site also features a group blog, a message board and a newsletter.

I could spend several happy hours just exploring this site.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on December 11, 2006 at 6:47 am

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept it

By Dixie Darr

It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.”
— Professor Dumbledore (J. K. Rowling)

I recently agreed to teach a class in Finding Your Mission in Life. It’s a subject I’ve been exploring off and on for twenty years or more, because, as the Blues Brothers said, “We’re on a mission from God.” Here’s what I believe and a little of what I’ve learned about the topic.

We were put on earth for a reason and, in some way, that reason involves making the world a better place for our having been here. We seek, acknowledge and accept our missions along a continuum ranging from “never give it a thought” to “wholeheartedly.”

Some lucky people seem to be born knowing why they are here. Others spend their lives searching for their mission in life. Even those who recognize and follow their calling early in life may find that it changes shape at different stages in their lives.

Certain professions, such as ministry, healthcare and teaching, are typically associated with being a calling or vocation, but your mission can be anything you feel you were born to do. Laurie Beth Jones, author of The Path: Creating Your Mission Statement for Work and for Life, is careful to point out that your mission is not your job. “Your job may be and ideally should be part of your mission, but a mission is always larger than a job.” It encompasses your whole life.

There’s a famous story about a man passing by a construction site. He stopped and asked one of the tradesmen what he was doing. The worker replied gruffly, “I’m laying bricks, can’t you see that?” The man watched a while longer and then asked another worker what he was doing. “I’m just earning a living,” he replied. A third time the man asked a worker and the response was much different, “I’m building a cathedral.”

What are you doing today? Are you just laying bricks or are you building a cathedral?

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In Uncategorized on December 8, 2006 at 9:23 pm

A Journey of a Thousand Miles

“Create a definite plan for carrying out your desire and begin at once, whether you ready or not, to put this plan into action.” Napolean Hill

I watch and read movie reviews, but never go to the movies and rarely rent one to watch at home. This seemingly paradoxical behavior results from two conflicting desires. The first is a desire to keep up with popular culture and the second is to protect my time for more productive pursuits. The reviews give me the scoop on movies without my having to spend two or three hours in a theater. I prefer to stay home and read (or write) a book.

We all have these little inconsistencies and idiosyncracies and most of them are harmless. My friend Kathy collects cookbooks, but she doesn’t cook. Many people subscribe to publications that they never get around to reading. And thousands of us plan to pay off all our bills, buy a new car and start a charitable foundation as soon as we hit the lottery, but we never buy a lottery ticket. Humorist and curmudgeon, Fran Lebowitz, insists that “I’ve done the calculation and your chances of winning the lottery are identical whether you play or not.” It’s true that you are extraordinarily unlikely to win millions of dollars, but you definitely will not win if you don’t buy a ticket. You have to get in the game.

Sometimes, though, our contradictory behavior can get us in trouble. I once had a friend who said she longed to have her own business and frequently asked how she could get started. I gave her books to read, exercises to do and tests to take that would get her started on the road to entrepreneurship. I told her about classes she could take and people to talk to in her field and she never followed up on a single thing. Maybe she just liked to hear herself whine, or maybe she was so paralyzed by fear that she just couldn’t take a step toward her dream. Yet, like the lottery, you can’t possibly win if you don’t join the game.

If you have a dream, think of one baby step you can take TODAY—make a phone call, read an article, check a website. Then do it.

©2006 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved