Dixie Darr

Archive for May, 2017|Monthly archive page

Why I love Facebook

In Auntie Flat on May 31, 2017 at 9:55 am









Two words: connection and information.

The very best thing about Facebook is seeing pictures of my great niece and nephew who live in Arizona (I don’t know why) and of which I don’t see nearly enough (pictures, that is), Keryn.

I check Facebook when I first get up and many times throughout the day, too. I even check it when I wake up in the middle of the night because the beauty of Facebook is that it’s always there, and you never know who else might be awake, too. At my age, a lot of us are up in the wee hours.

Here’s a sampling of what I saw there this morning.

A test about how to tell personality from hand size.

Several posts making fun of the person in the White House.

A cartoon about right wing Christians and their inexplicable and repulsive focus on same sex marriage.

An article about the Russians and the White House.

A list of 26 things under $10. I love these lists and always find something silly (a service that’ll send anyone in the world a potato with a message of your choice on it) and something I might actually buy (a magnifying glass with its own built-in stand).

An exchange before 6 a.m. with my pastor about a comment I made on FB yesterday.

A short article about parenting using the book Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls: 100 tales of extraordinary women. I’d heard of this before from a friend who got it for her almost-five-year old. I went immediately to Amazon and found that it’s now available in Kindle, but still expensive at $19.99. The hardcover is $35! I’m waiting for it to come to library. At Amazon, I also discovered several other books about strong/capable/smart/legendary women for girls.

An ad about converting $3571 Amish woodsheds complete with shutters and porches into tiny homes.

Post about the man in the White House being a national embarrassment. This came from a man I knew slightly in high school and have become friends with on FB because of our similar political views. See? It lets us connect with old friends as well as make new ones.

More about the Russian scandal from Rachel Maddow.

A photo of a new painting from a favorite artist.

An interview with a couple who just moved into a Tiny House On Wheels, which I saved to Evernote because it could have information useful for the book I am allegedly writing.

Several inspirational quotes.

Posts about what several friends are up to today or maybe last night as I’m an early to bed and early to rise kind of person.

I appreciate that Facebook brings me all this in the comfort of my own home and on my own schedule. I control (to some extent) what things appear on my page. For instance, I no longer see hate-filled conspiracy theories since I unfriended a few people or they unfriended me.

Best of all are the new friends it brings me, people I see briefly in real life and now know what we have in common. Instead of being “Facebook friends” we’ve become real friends.


21st Century Women

In spirituality on May 30, 2017 at 11:01 am

We spent a pleasant, rainy Saturday afternoon drinking green tea, eating coconut macaroons, and chatting.

The members of my church have been participating in journey groups to get to know church family better and to bond together in our beliefs and actions.

When I first joined fifteen years ago, the congregation only numbered about 60 people. In The Tipping Point, Malcolm Gladwell says having more than150 people in a group requires more restrictive rules and enforced norms. We want to avoid that.

Still, the common complaint voiced by even longtime members is that there are “so many people I don’t know.”

When the pastor invited us to sign up for the journey groups I wasn’t keen on it. As I keep telling you, I’m a loner by nature, and I already know probably more people than most because I arrive early and spend 10-15 minutes socializing before the service. Still, I’m a trustee and think I need to participate whenever I can even if I don’t really want to.

Only three people, all women, signed up for this group and I already knew the other two.

Our hostess, E, is a 90-year-old widow with failing eyesight and hearing although there is nothing wrong with her mind. She grew up in the neighborhood and started attending our church as a child.

At 31, A is bright, funny, and open. She does social work in health care, and seems surprised that after coming to our church as a one-time thing on Christmas Eve, she’s still coming and quite involved more than two years later.

I’m 69, and still trying to find my way in the post working world. I realized I was old enough not just to be A’s mother, but her grandmother.

We used a set of questions supplied by our pastor to stimulate our discussion starting with the one about having three people, living or dead, for dinner. E could only name her late husband. A named her grandfather, grandmother and aunt. I gave the answer I’ve written about (The Dinner Party)–two favorite authors and a good friend.

What would we like to learn? E would like to learn floral design, and she’d be good at it, but thinks it’s too late for her. A wishes she’d kept up her skills in French and Spanish. I want to learn piano and I have an (unused) electronic keyboard to prove it. Someday.

Mostly we talked about our church and what we like about it. Like A, I’m still surprised that I not only attend church regularly, but enjoy it. You’d think I’d be used to it after 15 years, and I am. Still, when I hear myself saying I did something or met someone “at church” as often as I do, I hear that little voice inside my head protesting, “I’m not even religious.”

Remember the verses in the Gospel of Mark,when Jesus asked “who are my mother and my brothers?” Looking at those seated in a circle around Him, He said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!”

Looking at these two women, I can say, “These are my sisters” and I’m proud to call them family.

Lasso of Truth

In Learning, work on May 29, 2017 at 3:29 am

It wasn’t a big deal. The Alamo Drafthouse in Austin announced a single showing of the new movie Wonder Woman for women only, and the trolls swarmed all over the internet, probably creeping out of their mothers’ basements. Oh, sorry, was that offensive?

“Have you ever hosted a men’s only showing of any film?” they asked, and “Imagine the sh–storm if there was any male only showing of anything…or a private showing for a specific race or sexual orientation.” Other people said they would pay for men to come and say they identify as women.

The theater responded with, “We’ve never done showings where you had to be a man to get in, but we *did* show the Entourage movie a few years ago.”

It takes me back to when I was the director of the Women’s Center at Front Range Community College. I couldn’t walk down the long main hallway without some man thinking he was terribly clever and original asking why there wasn’t a men’s center. “The world is a men’s center,” was my stock answer.

Straight, white men, I said, shaking my head, rolling my eyes, and sighing simultaneously. I swear. They just can’t handle not being the center of everything. If they’re not in charge, they think they’re being discriminated against.

Not all of them, of course. I know some perfectly lovable straight white men, but I’ve run across my share of stinkers, too. More than my fair share.

Back then, the college was a well-known boy’s club, with men heading every single department. Probably the best thing I did during my miserable tenure there was in 1984 when I asked a friend to make (pink) buttons proclaiming, “Big SISTER is watching you” for many of the female staffers to wear.

One straight white male colleague pulled me aside to whine that the buttons made him uncomfortable, even intimidated. I suppose he thought appealing to my feminine sympathies would make me back off.

He didn’t know me very well. I laughed in his face and said, “Good.” Mission accomplished.

Not nice? I was sick of being nice.

The Alamo Drafthouse isn’t playing “nice” either. Their swift and brilliant response was to open ladies only screenings in several other cities, with some donating proceeds to Planned Parenthood.

They also encouraged the bellyaching men to continue supporting gender equality by protesting the casting of movie leads (71% male) and higher pay for male actors.

Yeah, that’ll happen.

Must Love Dogs and Cats

In spirituality on May 26, 2017 at 5:40 am

I found this by Barbara Abercrombie on my Facebook page from four years ago:

Five Things to Learn from Dogs:
1. Be tenacious and curious about everything
2. Abandon yourself to joy on occasion
3. At all times, follow what you love
4. Have a steadfast and loyal heart
5. Work hard and sleep well

Isn’t that the sweetest tribute to dogs? I especially like #2 and will try to remember that advice.

But as you probably know, I’m a cat person, so I set out to find a similar list of things to learn from my beloved kitties. Of course, dogs aren’t the same as cats, which is why we have dog people and cat people in the first place. Cats are more aloof and mysterious and more self-reliant, all admirable qualities, right? Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the list of things to learn from cats is – different.

1. Love yourself first; make yourself a priority at all times.

2. Focus on what you really want and be relentless about getting it. “No” is not an option.

3. Teach people how to treat you.

4. Act like you are royalty. Be confident on the outside even if you’re not always there on the inside.

5. Aim high.

I warned you it would be different. Still good advice, if a bit less sentimental.

One of my favorite movie scenes is toward the end of Breakfast at Tiffany’s when Audrey Hepburn’s character tries to prove she doesn’t need anybody and abandons her cat, an orange tabby just like mine, in a rainstorm. Then she rushes back to rescue him from a life on the streets and cuddles him under her coat. Gets me every time.

That’s how I feel about Radley although I’m never sure if I rescued him or he rescued me. I do, however, know what he would say.

Every Day is a Holiday

In solitude, spirituality on May 25, 2017 at 9:36 am

I won’t be spending Memorial Day or any other holiday in the foreseeable future with family. My brother and sister-in-law are the only family I have left here in Colorado except for a few miscellaneous cousins on Facebook. The truth is that I don’t really celebrate holidays. Since I no longer work, a holiday is just like any other day, but the library is closed.

When we moved to Denver on my third birthday, my dad said it was to get away from family. He also said it was to escape all the drinking, although since relatives were doing the drinking, it amounts to the same thing. So I grew up without any extended family and believing that family was not necessarily a good thing. I have no memories, fond or otherwise, of family holidays. I suspect I spent them reading in my room.

In my thirties and forties, I spent holidays with friends. I remember those mostly as an excuse to get high, and I don’t do that anymore.

These days, I normally resist any well-meaning efforts to involve me in someone else’s family dramas. While I adore spending time with one or two friends, after a couple of hours, I get a little frantic to escape back to my hermitage, my cat, and my books. I can take people, even those I love, only in measured doses.

Monday I will probably take a walk, read, write, nap with Radley, and read some more. Please don’t begrudge me my solitude. You may be surprised to learn that many women (it’s always women) who hear I’m spending a holiday alone tell me, “that sounds heavenly.”


In Auntie Flat, Home, Learning Tools, writing on May 24, 2017 at 10:39 am

Some things are just so essential that you have to have them with you at all times. No, I don’t mean my phone.

Reading glasses are a necessity for me. I have them in every room of my house plus a pair in my car and in my purse. I keep three pairs in the common room – one at my computer, one at my work table and one where I read and use my iPad or Fire tablet. I need readers because I may break out a book at any time.

Of course books live everywhere, too. The Kindle containing 600 books goes in my purse when I leave the house so I never have to face the predicament of being somewhere without reading material. Every flat surface in the house and some not-so-flat places hold stacks of books. As that wag Cicero said, “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” My car is home to several audio books as well as library books on their way to or from the library, plus I have the Kindle in my purse.

Writing materials also proliferate. I never know when I’m going to have a brilliant thought that I have to record. I keep several journals in different places including a small notebook at my bedside for things that pop into my head as I drift off to sleep.

My phone (you thought I’d forgotten about the phone, didn’t you?) goes with me when I drive, walk, or go to the gym. I use it to listen to audio books from the library. I could also use it to take or record notes, but I don’t. Instead, I keep an index card and a pencil in the case. I’m not a Luddite; nor am I addicted to my phone. Typically, on the rare occasion that it rings, I can’t locate it before the ringing stops. Oh, well.

As far as food goes, on heavy snow days when everyone runs to the store for milk, bread, and eggs, I stock up on popcorn, butter, and diet Coke.

With these necessities, I can make it through just about anything.

A Good Listener

In Learning on May 23, 2017 at 10:23 am

I love listening to podcasts and audio books so much that I think I might be an auditory learner, someone who learns best by hearing and speaking. We all know I love to talk, to hear as it were, the sound of my own voice. Maya Angelou said “Listen to yourself and in that quietude you might hear the voice of God.” I’m pretty sure my chattiness wasn’t what she had in mind.

One of the things I like best about listening to podcasts and audio books is that I can do something else while I listen, especially mindless tasks like housework, walking, driving (Oops. How’d that get in here?) I can’t, however, read and listen to podcasts or books at the same time, and believe me I’ve tried. Because in reading I hear my voice saying the words inside my head, I think reading and listening to words are the same activity. I can and do read while listening to music or watching TV as background noise, the only thing TV is really good for these days.

Listening to people in real life is not one of my top talents, so it was with some trepidation that I attended a recent night of community discussion. We sat at tables of 6-7 people and answered questions one at a time without replying to one another. Our task was simply to listen.

It was wonderful and powerful hearing everybody’s story, but it was VERY hard not to respond – with empathy, information, advice. Whatever. Luckily we had a moderator to keep everyone on track.

Paul Tillich said, “The first duty of love is to listen.” I need to learn to listen better, to clear away distractions, focus on the speaker, listen generously. If you catch me being quiet sometime, I might be practicing. Talk to me.

The Dinner Party

In creativity, Finding Your Calling, spirituality on May 22, 2017 at 12:46 pm

Name three people, alive or dead, that you’d like to have dinner with and why. This classic ice breaker is as revealing as it is delicious to contemplate. Here are my selections.

Studs Terkel wrote my all-time favorite book, Working: People Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do. This book influenced me more than all the sociology of work classes I took in college. One quotation, Most of us are looking for a calling, not a job. Most of us have jobs that are too small for our spirit. Jobs are not big enough for people” set me on a lifelong quest to find my calling (still searching) and probably made me reject the idea of having only one job. Originally published in 1974, the bestselling book examined people from all walks of life who were, according to the author, working “for daily meaning as well as daily bread.”

A Chicago broadcaster, Terkel listened to America and allowed us to listen, too. Five decades of interviews with ordinary and remarkable people will soon be available here. Meanwhile, you can listen to a few hundred of them here. You might want to choose his interview with my next dinner companion, Maya Angelou.

That Voice and the intellect and compassion behind it would be plenty to include her in my fantasy dinner party, but there’s so much more.

Bill Gallo of Westword had this to say about her:

The talents of Maya Angelou – she is or has been a teacher, memoirist, prize-winning poet, actress, civil-rights activist, editor, playwright, composer, dancer, producer, theater and TV director, and advisor to three presidents – range so far and deep that no feat she accomplishes could come as a surprise.”

Her dizzying list of achievements guarantees that she would be a fascinating conversationalist. I’d be happy just to sit back and let that voice wash over me. She’s all over the internet, but I recommend that you watch her read her poem, “Still I Rise.” 

My final companion would be my dear friend Reverend Sheila Johnson. Some people you just resonate with. You know the moment you meet that you’re going to be friends. It was that way with Sheila when we briefly worked together for a training company more than twenty years ago. Like the other two, she is versatile, gregarious, and real. In addition to her work as a hospital chaplain, she writes, paints, teaches and sews.

She makes me feel grounded and would keep me from going all fan girl with the other two, either babbling or struck dumb.

Plus, if I had dinner with Maya Angelou and didn’t invite her, Sheila would kill me.

At Leisure

In Books, Learning, work on May 19, 2017 at 1:42 pm

I didn’t want to retire. I even wrote a book about it, although it never got published – Don’t Die Wondering: A Guide to a Non-retiring Life. I suppose I could publish it now on Kindle, but I’d have to update it first, and I’m not interested in doing that, especially since I’m no longer working myself.

When I lost my last job, it wasn’t a surprise, but it wasn’t my choice either. I worked at home on my own schedule editing student papers and doing as much or as little as I wanted. Editing let me be hypercritical (a superpower of mine) without ever having to deal with actual people. I’m not what you’d call a people person.

The university decided that editors had to teach as well, and I was through with teaching. So that was that.

I was retired.

I don’t like the word because it makes me feel useless and irrelevant. Apparently plenty of other people my age agree. AARP uses only initials now to avoid calling its members “retired people.” Dozens of books have been written (and published!) to redefine our so-called Golden Years. They use words such as rewired, retread (there’s a lovely image) refired, reinvented, renewed, recycled, second act, and second wind.

It’s just a word, people tell me, but words matter. I just tell people to say I’m no longer working or better, I’m “at leisure.”

At first I was mostly bored. I went to museums, concerts, and plays, but at best, I was just filling time. At worst, I was killing time. I’m reminded of the saying, “I wasted time and now time is wasting me.”

It took four years for me to start feeling comfortable not working. I’ve found that Parkinson’s Law works just as well now as when I had a job. Leisure expands to fit the time available.

I suppose I could find a part-time job or volunteer, but all I really want to do is read and write and see my friends at church or the gym or for occasional lunches. This isn’t what I envisioned as a non-retiring life, but it suits me fine. For now.

One Thing Leads to Another

In Books, creativity, Learning, Learning Tools, writing on May 18, 2017 at 11:59 am








I’ve taken a circuitous route through life, with eccentric interests, oddball jobs, and curious relationships. The organizing principle is lifelong learning, so I suppose it wasn’t surprising that I chose to earn a master’s degree in Adult Education.

Two books by Ron Gross, The Lifelong Learner and The Independent Scholar’s Handbook, had captivated my imagination because I wanted to learn everything, and I preferred to do it on my own. While working on my thesis, I found another book that encapsulated everything I wanted in life. The Adult’s Learning Projects by Allen Tough describes the deliberate efforts to learn undertaken by adults of all ages.

He found that an astounding 98% of adults participate in an average of eight learning projects per year. Those he called High Learners spent 2,000 hours per year in 15-20 learning projects.

I have found that one interest inevitably leads me to a number of related mini projects. In fact, the independent scholars’ motto is “One thing leads to another.”

Here’s a personal example.

A couple of years ago, I decided to write a cozy mystery. Although I had never before been interested in writing fiction, I certainly read enough of it.

I started making notes and decided I needed to learn about writing fiction, which led to reading dozens of books (my preferred learning method) on the topic.

I learned to use Scrivener software for writers.

My story was set in the imaginary town of Mayhem Gulch, located in Clear Creek County, near Empire and Idaho Springs. Yes, I know Mayhem Gulch is a trail head in Jefferson County. Work with me, people; this is fiction. Anyway, that meant I had to learn about that part of the world. More books and a few trips to the mountains. Now I have a Facebook friend who lives there and has agreed to answer some of my questions.

My plan is for a series of Tiny House Mysteries leading to an online study of tiny houses and the people who live in them.

Since I want to draw the book cover, I need to learn how to draw and how to design book covers. I also want to draw a map of my fictional town.

Finally, I will have to acquire knowledge of indie publishing.

Unfortunately, all these side paths have distracted me from the original goal of writing the book. And I haven’t even mentioned the things I want to learn that don’t have anything to do with the book. You probably won’t be surprised that I’m now reading about how to juggle many projects.

It’s always something.