Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘writing’ Category

Open the Doors

In Church, writing on August 3, 2017 at 6:13 am

I’ve never been a student of history. I hear the quotation “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it” and I think, “yeah, yeah, yeah.” I tend to agree with Kurt Vonnegut that “we’re doomed to repeat the past no matter what.”
So maybe I wasn’t the best person to update our church’s history for our 125th anniversary later this year. On the other hand, I am the oldest member of the trustees, the one who’s been at Highlands the longest, and the only one who ever worked as a writer.
Lucky for me, the history of the first 100 years had already been written in 1992 by the late Ruth Wiberg, author of the still popular Rediscovering Northwest Denver and a lifelong member of our church.
It’s the only church I’ve attended as an adult, and I probably take it for granted because I have nothing to compare it with. Interviewing former pastors and longtime members is teaching me what a special place it is.
They speak fondly of their time here. They describe the congregation as “open,” “caring,” and “kind.” Members who move to another state tell us they hope to find another church just like ours.
My favorite Christian author, John Pavlovitz, once proposed starting the Church of Not Being Horrible, whose sacred calling is “to be decent, to be kind, to be compassionate, to be whatever it is that we believe the world is lacking.”
I think we are that church.
We trustees have charge over the building, making sure it lives on into the future. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the church isn’t the building, it’s the people. Nobody’s perfect here, but we’re all trying to do the best we can, be the best we can, and help one another as best we can.
It’s that kind of place.

Not Always Pretty

In creativity, writing on June 23, 2017 at 6:58 am

Something remarkable happened this morning. I looked in the mirror and liked what I saw. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I could say that. It didn’t last. The next time I glanced up, that person was gone. Mostly, I don’t know the woman in the mirror, and I don’t recognize myself in photographs, except old ones from a time when I did regularly look in the mirror.

I don’t give much thought to what I look like anymore, which should be obvious to anyone looking at me. (Stop that!) I haven’t worn makeup for twenty years. I forget to check and make sure that my hair isn’t sticking out at odd angles. When that inevitably happens, I hope you’ll think I’m being deliberately edgy and not just negligent.

Many years ago a colleague asked me what I thought was my best feature. I guess he wanted me to say something like my eyes or my smile because he seemed annoyed when I answered, “My mind.”

I was actually rephrasing an old song from Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention that hardly anybody would remember called What’s the Ugliest Part of Your Body – “I think it’s your mind.”

People tell me I think too much, and I definitely live inside my head. It’s different in here and kind of a mess. I don’t always know what I think about things until I work it out here on the page.

Think of these daily posts as a peek inside my mind, unquestionably my best feature.

It isn’t always pretty and it doesn’t show up in mirrors, but it did let me use that silly picture to give you a giggle on Friday morning.

What does LGBTQIA spell?

In Learning, spirituality, writing on June 14, 2017 at 6:12 am






Sunday, June 26, 1988, I was in San Francisco on business with the woman who owned the small consulting company I worked for. We went sightseeing with me driving the rental convertible. As we drove down Castro street, I focused on navigating through the unfamiliar city, and she suddenly started yelling obscene things at people on the sidewalk.
“What are you doing?” I asked, shocked and horrified, as I made our turn.
She told me, still laughing and shouting, that men in costumes wearing state banners as if from a beauty contest were walking down the street.
I hadn’t seen a thing. In my defense, I’m not a people watcher, and I was driving. I found out later that we had happened upon the Lesbian and Gay Pride parade, but at that moment on Castro Street, I learned that I worked for a bigot.
That was 29 years ago, 19 years after the Stonewall Rebellion that sparked the gay rights movement, almost ten years after the assassination of Harvey Milk, and at the height of the AIDS epidemic. I guess you could say we’ve come a long way, Baby, but we still have plenty of work to do. I’ve met more than my share of bigots in the past 30 years, and I bet you have, too.
As with many marginalized groups, the preferred term keeps changing. Someone once told me she’d grown up Mexican, become Chicana, then Hispanic, and was now Latina.
I’d just gotten used to LGBT (or GLBT) when someone added a Q. For the record, I’ve also seen it with up to three Ts (transsexual, transgender, and two-spirit), two Qs (questioning and queer), and two As (asexual and ally).
A friend heard that it’s now LGBTQIA and asked in exasperation what the IA stood for.
“The rest of us,” she was told.
I think maybe that’s the point.
“We all have a gender identity and a sexual orientation and these things all fall along a vast and complicated continuum,” according to progressive minister and blogger John Pavlovitz. (http://johnpavlovitz.com/) That works for me. We all fit somewhere along that continuum although probably not in the neat little boxes we recognize.
I detest that LGBTQ people continue to face derision and danger. It makes me want to weep and scream and throw things. Instead, I write, and I yearn for a time when that no longer happens.
Then we can label the continuum A-Z, and once we have the whole alphabet accounted for, we’ll discover that it spells unity, equality, and love.
It spells one.


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.

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.

Wash, Rinse, Repeat

In creativity, Lent - Season of Change, writing on March 20, 2017 at 10:04 am

Lent – Season of Change, Day 17

Doing the same thing over and over again every day may not seem like a recipe to change your life, but Srinivas Rao says it is. The host of a popular podcast on creative entrepreneurship, The Unmistakable Creative, and author of several books on similar topics, he believes the regular focus on developing his craft yielded some incredible outcomes. He began receiving speaking requests, produced a conference, published his first book and kept writing, much of it admittedly garbage.

It started, however, with his commitment to reaching his daily goal. He wrote when it wasn’t convenient and when he really didn’t want to. He wrote when he didn’t have anything to say.

This is, of course, how to get good at anything. Practice. The well-known if highly misunderstood 10,000 hour rule requires deliberate practice to progress in any skill, even for those with exceptional talent. The nice thing is, it works for everybody, talented or not.

Call me Garbo

In Books, Lent - Season of Change, work, writing on March 16, 2017 at 1:31 pm

Lent – Season of Change, Day 14

I am not a people person. That doesn’t mean I don’t like anybody or that I never want to spend time with other people. Most of the time, however, I crave solitude. I want to be alone.

I was a latchkey kid before we were known as latchkey kids. My mom always said I raised myself, which actually might explain a lot. Looking back on my life from my advanced years, I can see solitude as the organizing principle of my life. My favorite activities all my life have been reading and writing, both of which require enormous lengths of time spent alone.

Debbie Millman calls this your “non-negotiable.” One of the most influential designers working today, Debbie is also a writer, educator, artist, brand consultant and host of the popular podcast, Design Matters.

Her own non-negotiable was living in Manhattan. “I was very clear and very sure that I wanted to live in Manhattan. I wanted that more than anything. And I did whatever it took and made whatever sacrifices I had to.” When she teaches students how to create an artistic life, she asks them to identify what is the one thing they want more than anything? What is the first thing they need to do to make that happen? What are they willing to sacrifice?

I’m not sure I could have named my non-negotiable early in my life, but I can certainly see the value of knowing that – and accepting it — as soon as possible. It could have made some things so much easier.

Pride and Prejudice

In Books, Learning, writing on March 6, 2011 at 7:27 pm

It was the Academy Awards that got me started thinking about Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. Colin Firth won (as expected) for best actor in The King’s Speech, but I kept thinking about him as the definitive Mr. Darcy in the 5-hour BBC television mini-series of the book.

The newer, shorter Keira Knightley version is frequently on television, and I’ve seen it several times. I think Keira Knightley made a sparkling Elizabeth and I loved Donald Sutherland as her father and Dame Judi Desch as the imperious Lady Catherine de Bourg. But Matthew Macfadyen just didn’t cut it as Darcy. No smolder, no inner turmoil. And the movie moved too fast. The viewer doesn’t get the same feeling of suppressed desire and frustration, wondering when Lizzie and Darcy will finally get together.

In short, it doesn’t have Colin Firth.

I ordered the BBC series from the library and spent most of Saturday watching it. It didn’t disappoint. I fell in love with CF all over again. When the series was over, I wanted to watch it again. Instead, on Sunday, I watched Becoming Jane starring Anne Hathaway as the wildly popular author.

Soon, I will want to reread the original book, but until then, I’m filling in with Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife, an audio download from my library. This “sequel” to P&P tells of life at Pemberly after the wedding.

Next, I’m planning to dive into one of the Austen biographies. Obsessed? Not me. I could probably spend the rest of my life studying Austen, but there are too many other books I want to read, too. So many books, so little time.

Can You Say Thank You?

In Learning, writing on January 26, 2011 at 8:34 am

The assignment for my business communications students was to write a thank you note. One man turned in a standard rejection letter sent by his Human Resources department to unsuccessful job applicants. I gave it back to him with the explanation that it wasn’t a thank you note. He looked at me as if I were incredibly stupid and smugly pointed to the first line: “Thank you for applying . . . “

Lesson number one. Using the words, thank you, doesn’t make it a thank you note. The purpose of a thank you note is to show gratitude. The purpose of his letter was to tell people they didn’t get a job. See the difference?

Penmanship is no longer taught in school and according to a CBS Sunday Morning story, some people think schools should stop teaching students how to write by hand at all because the prevalence and ease of using keyboards render handwriting unnecessary. I hope they’re wrong. Even as I struggle sometimes to decipher the gorgeous but sometimes illegible writing of my one friend who still prefers letters to email, it means something that she made the effort to handwrite a letter. Finding one of her missives in my mailbox makes my day.

Make somebody else’s day today. Write a thank you note and add some positive energy in the universe. Whom would you like to thank? It could be:

Authors of books you enjoyed

Doctors or other medical personnel who treat you like a human being

Anyone who makes your day more pleasant

Gardener whose yard pleases you on your daily walk

Call center technician who actually helped you.

Anyone who gives you a gift

Write it by hand on a pretty card, handmade paper, or a picture postcard (remember those?) and send it through the mail! A thank you by email is better than no thank you at all, but part of the fun is imagining the nice surprise when your benefactor finds your note among the usual bills, catalogs, and credit card solicitations in the mail.

Computer + Wild West + library = a very good day

In Denver, work, writing on January 11, 2011 at 8:45 pm

I didn’t have much time to spare today. Thirty papers came through for me to review. This is my “day” job, although I can do the work day or night, whenever I feel like it. Anyway, it was a full load and I knew I didn’t have all day to do it.

That’s because today was the day for my birthday lunch with my brother and sister-in-law. We went to the Buckhorn Exchange, Denver’s oldest restaurant and bar featuring over 500 mounted animal heads plus historic artifacts of the wild west. It isn’t exactly politically correct. This time of year, when the National Western Stock Show is in town, the animals sport Santa hats, which strikes me as wildly funny. It’s the kind of place to take out of town visitors. My brother, who’s lived in Denver all his life, had never been there, so I thought it was time for him to go. I think he was pleasantly surprised because the food is quite good (you don’t have to eat Rocky Mountain oysters) and the ambience can’t be beat.

My old writing group met there every other Tuesday for a couple of years and I miss that–the people, the writing, the place. Since I learned that I have diabetes, there are many restaurants that just don’t serve food I can eat any more. Luckily, I can eat the food at the Buckhorn Exchange. I may have to become a regular there again.

After lunch, I had to get to the library to return some books that were due today. Amazingly, I still managed to get all my papers reviewed. It was a good day–the kind that makes me look forward to whatever tomorrow brings.