Author Archive for

02
Jan
15

Scam Alert

2014 has been another roller coaster for us. I’m beginning to think this might be the new normal for western culture…perhaps for most of the world! Time seems to have tripled…hours can seem like days. What once was the standard for fast communication has been replaced by instantaneous messaging. Never mind the dry, witless, impersonal nature of it; this new world has no time for politeness, graciousness or tact. Too bad if you are suffering with a cold, flu or broken leg and can barely think straight. Reply, Reply, Reply. The show must go on!

Question: What’s an aging brain to do?

Answer: The best it can under the circumstances.

My aging brain has been keen on recognizing and avoiding scam emails—particularly the viral ones that want to foul one’s hard drive. Of course, having a Mac computer affords me an edge on this wave of sophomoric pranksterism, but I went a bit farther and thought myself pretty savvy…until last Tuesday.

I was expecting delivery of a USB SuperDrive from a trusted New York supplier…one that often requires signature upon receipt of electronics.

Apple SuperDrive

Feeling unwell and slightly foggy, I would be gone for a few hours in the afternoon. I don’t have neighbors who can take in a package, so, when I received this email, instead of thinking clearly, I clicked on Get Shipment Label.

SmartPost 1

Clicking on Get Shipment Label brought me to a site clearly stating: Not compatible with your operating system, followed by a list of Microsoft PC programs and systems. That should have been sufficient to bring me back to sensibility, but no, I clicked again with the same result!

Googling FedEX SmartPost and seeing that this was a less than successful coordination with USPS my annoyance increased, since mail delivery on my street is erratic at best. In a stupor, I hit Reply and typed out my request for additional information. I wanted that SuperDrive and I didn’t want to jump through hoops to get it delivered.

Slowly, my brain began to make connections. Check the Reply address, it said. Did I immediately understand the hoax? Took a few minutes, checking back to my original paperwork with the seller, to understand that no brand of FedEx, Smart or otherwise was delivering my order.

Many of you already know what happened next: Yes, my email was returned and there it was: the pirated email address used to scam me. Oy vey!

SmartPost 3

Next step was to look up the seller’s paperwork for delivery date and carrier. UPS was clearly stated, as was the history of transport, the tracking number and promise of delivery that very day. The big green arrow said: On Vehicle for Delivery Today, but for some reason that escapes me now that I am no longer feverish and ill, I still harbored doubt that this equipment would arrive and that I would be at home to sign for it. I was doing a version of Woe is Me from the Life Sucks chorale.

UPS Tracking

I returned home from my afternoon appointment: Nothing on the porch, no notice from the UPS driver. I quickly removed my note and nervously waited, checking the front porch numerous times. Finally, about 7:00 p.m., the UPS driver brought the package and rang the doorbell. Just as I got to the door the driver was scrambling into the truck. No signature required, obviously. I should have realized this since the paperwork did not contain that stipulation. OY vey again! No matter. I had my SuperDrive and I was happy. Apple does everything beautifully—even the delivery packaging is a perfect delight to the senses. Can’t bring myself to discard it. Maybe it can be re-purposed?

02
Apr
14

sharing & caring, a cat story for all ages

This is a story of feline sharing and caring from my yet to be written, therefore unpublished, AdvoCat Studio anthology: My Life With Cats.

Type Embellishments_H 36pt_white.

Frankie, the polydactyl, tabby cat, began his life with us under the care and tutelage of Nicky, our big, luxuriously furred, Himalayan-Birman mix. With patience and forbearance, Uncle Nick taught Frankie the ABCs of cat behavior and etiquette, a sometimes daunting task.

Frank & Nick 150

Frank was already a grown up with a long track record of caring and tutoring each kitten that came to live with us just as he’d been taught, but like any cat, he needed his rest and had his favorite spots.

Frank on radiator_5T-24_cropped

One fine winter’s day, when Frankie was asleep on his favorite morning spot atop the radiator in my studio, dreaming dreams only cats really understand… in walked Beau, the sleekly, beautiful, young prince of the household.

Image 1a_Neg JI-14A_cropped

“Ah, there’s Frank… must be a great spot for a nap,” he said to his cat self as he gracefully leaped up to join his friend.

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“Oh bother’ muttered Frankie through his sleepy cat lips. ‘Patience, forbearance… that’s the key…”

Image 3_Neg JI-19A_cropped

“Okay, you’re cute, I love you: lay down now.” In truth, Frank was just a tiny bit annoyed, because he’d been dreaming the most wonderful dreams that morning and wanted to get back to them as quickly as he could.

Image 4_Neg JI-24A_cropped

Beau sighed, deeply content with such loving acceptance, but he just couldn’t get comfortable.

 

Image 5_Neg JI-15A_cropped

“I’ll give him another minute to find his groove,” Frank thought… ‘he’s just a kid.”

Image 6_Neg JI-18A_cropped

“You okay, there buddy?” Frank asked in his best uncle voice.

Image 7a_Neg JI-22A_cropped

“I think my feet are too long,” whined Beau as he twisted about, certain that with perseverance, he’d find his perfect spot right next, and as close as possible, to his friend.

“Feet? Something like that,’ Frank whispered to his own self… ‘something like that!”

Image 8a_Neg JI-25A_cropped

“Got it, Uncle Frank! Thanks”

Image 9a-Neg JI-16A_cropped

“This spot feels great; I’ll just do a quick wash, be done in a jiffy. You don’t mind do you Uncle?”

 

Image 10_Neg JI-20A_cropped

“Musn’t forget the hips ‘n haunches… so important to a cat’s graceful beauty. Appearances are important.”

Image 11_Neg JI-23A

“Okay, all done, I’m back now. Thanks for waiting Frankie.”

Frank, running a bit low on patience said ever so quietly, “I’m sleeping now, gorgeous. Try it, you’ll like it… we’ll both like it.”Image 12a_Neg JI-26A_cropped

But Beau wasn’t ready to sleep yet. Settled near enough to hear his friend’s heartbeat, he said coquettishly, “Tell me a story and then I’ll go to sleep.”

Frank, reaching the end of patience as well as forbearance, thought: “I really don’t have time for this.”

” See you later…bonne nuit,  Beau, sleep well.” He said warmly, and slipped away to where grown-up cats go when they really, really need their rest.

Image 13_Neg JI-11A_cropped

Beau was bewildered; he couldn’t understand why Frankie would just up and leave like that.  “Where’s he going,’ he mused, ‘I’m kind of lonely here all by myself… but I do look good, don’t you think?”

 

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18
Dec
13

A Most Magical Christmas

A Most Magical Christmas is an adaptation of the original story written for me long ago by Korin Heinz. As with all Armenian stories, this one was…
and was not…

karenswhimsy.comOnce upon a time, there was a little girl named Melineh, who lived with her parents, her sister and her brother in a big house. Melineh liked to pretend and play imaginary, magical games, especially at Christmastime. Starting the day after Thanksgiving, and right up to Christmas, she listened to The Cinnamon Bear on the radio and imagined herself right inside the story.

She was happy except for one thing: she dearly wanted a pet—not just any pet—a warm, furry kitten all her own to love and hug. She asked her mom and dad for a kitten many times, but the answer was always no, because they thought animals should always be outside—not inside the house. Then one day, after thinking it over carefully, Melineh’s father came home with a small, tabby kitten that he found near where he worked.

“Look what I found, Melineh,’ he said, ‘He begged me to bring him home, so I did.”

Melineh, filled with joy, held out her arms and begged her mom,  “Can I keep him… please?”

“Well… if you will promise to take care of him and not let him scratch the furniture, then we will try it for a little while,” Mom said, rather reluctantly.

Melineh named her new kitty, Buttons. She fed him every morning before school and in the afternoons when she came home. She brushed and played with Buttons and sometimes even put doll clothes on him. At night, Buttons slept on her bed in a tight curl of fur. Melineh was happier than she’d ever been in her whole life!

A few weeks later, just before Christmas, Melineh came home from school to play with Buttons, but couldn’t find him. She called and called and looked in every nook and cranny, but could not find him. “Mom,” she asked plaintively, “Where’s Buttons? Have you seen him?”

Mom looked away and said quickly, “Oh, he must have run away.”

Melineh wailed helplessly, “No, that’s not possible! You know where he is!” Inconsolable, she cried for days. There was nothing she could do but wait, hope and dream.

Then, on Christmas Eve, while Melineh was making make paper chain garlands for the tree with her sister, she heard a faint scratching noise at the back door: scritch, scratch. “I wonder what that is,” she thought, and got up to look outside in the fading afternoon light. At first she saw nothing and was about to close the door when she heard a tiny mew from under the porch. Melineh bent down and saw something dark and furry; “No, it couldn’t be,” she thought, but there, rubbing against her hand was Buttons, back from wherever he had been!kitten_in_holly 2

Melineh brought her precious tabby kitty inside and gave him some food. Buttons, once again in Melineh’s loving arms, purred happily. This was the very best gift ever—for sure!

Buttons lived with Melineh and her family for many years, bringing warmth and fun into the big old house in the city. When Melineh grew up she had lots more cats, but she never forgot that wonderful Christmas when Buttons found his way back home.

And, of course…they lived happily ever after…

Visual images in public domain from:
karenswhimey.com and clipartpal.com

24
Sep
13

Dancer Down: an unexpected seclusion

The morning of August 7 was unusually bright and sunny. A series of personally difficult life challenges had come to resolution and I was filled with immeasurable joy. Driving to my dance session that morning, I felt glad to be alive. Normally an experience like this would have made me eager to dance, but I had a vacation coming up in two days and things to do in preparation. I didn’t really want to go, but the body can get rather lazy. Like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz, it can come to a rusty impasse. I didn’t want that, so I drove on and arrived—all smiles—without a hint of the disinclination I really felt.

Jane, my teacher/partner, was not her customary, cheerful, and optimistic self. Something was off. Normally we will match each other in body-spirit whether we start out that way or not, so I didn’t think to question, nor did I state the truth of my disinclination. Undaunted by the disparity, I was confident we would find each other eventually, and so we began as we often do, moving in our separate spheres, performing for each other. Midway through the hour Jane put on the album I’d brought with me: Picture, by Night Ark (a quartet of musicians known for their fusion of instrumental jazz with tradition Armenian tonalities). Little did I know: I was about to meet my Waterloo.

I felt this hypnotic, seductive rhythm as a call of connection to the culture of my ancestors, hidden deep within my DNA, and my joy quickly increased to excitement. Although far beyond my improvisational abilities, I threw myself into moving interpretively to this hauntingly beautiful music, without the willing consent of my aging hips, and in a manner I think may have looked something like my little diagram drawing.

Within minutes, there was an audible a POP sound, followed by white-hot, searing pain! I knew something had torn inside. Groaning, IThe fatal twist 2 crumpled to the floor, where I stayed motionless and incoherent for several minutes, as the shock of the experience overtook reason. Time lost dimension and I was swimming in painful slow motion—a curious 4th dimension of my customary reality.

Having spent much of her life as a professional dancer with a collection of her own dancer’s injuries, Jane sprang into action, as I laid there in stunned disbelief. Prone to responsible problem solving and somewhat stunned herself, she tried her hardest to get me to consent to an ambulance ride to the nearest hospital emergency room. There was no way I was going to see the inside of one of those buses, before my time was up! Absolutely not! I took ibuprofen and arnica and continued to try… unsuccessfully… to reach my partner, Judy, by phone as well as text message.

As an InterPlay leader of 20+ years, with a talent for cleverly overcoming roadblocks, she reassessed the situation and applied InterPlay’s signature principal of incrementality to moving things along. She would suggest a move and I would try it. Little by little, I was miraculously on my side, then sitting up, then standing on one leg, and then leaning on the back of a chair. Using the chair as a walker, with Jane cheerleading, I hobbled to the elevator, out the door and into the car. Within 10 minutes, Judy arrived on the scene and drove me to an immediate care facility, where we learned that no bones had broken, but the pop had indeed been a tear, requiring weeks of rest, ice, pain medication, and a walker, along with patient acceptance of the situation (a challenge for me).

A stunned state of shock persisted for the first week, deepening as Judy and I felt our way around and through the daily realities of a crippling injury—a disability of unknown durWalker after immediate careation—to a person of a certain age. This was something I couldn’t accommodate without anticipating a measure of public chastisement. Had I been a bit too pleased with myself for having a fairly agile, old body? Perhaps I’d pushed it beyond reason…colored too far outside the box? Won’t people think I fell and broke my hip, like many older persons before me? But I knew I hadn’t crash-fallen; Jane taught me a dancer’s fall and that’s the way I went down.  Still, the idea haunted me and I didn’t want the humiliation of being thought of as a silly old lady playing at dance in her old age. The truth is: if I could have been anything in my life beside a visual artist, it would have been a dancer. To dance now, even past reasonable age, has been life affirming. All things considered I was even pretty good at it…for an old lady. 🙂

It wasn’t until a follow-up orthopedic appointment 10 days later that I learned my pop had been an avulsion, i.e., a tearing of the Sartorius tendon where it attaches to the iliac spine area of the pelvis. (The Sartorius is the longest muscle in the body, resolving in a tendon attaching to the pelvis.) This accounted for both the bone and tendon pain I was experiencing. No bone chips, no fractures—just a painful separation between the tendon and its point of insertion. I was assured that it was a common athletic injury—particularly in football—one that occurs when the muscle is stretched beyond its capacity. Well, I clearly did that, without doubt…but football? That was worthy of a laugh out loud!

Laughing or crying, in 3 weeks I would begin a course of physical therapy that would help me regain 95% of my former function. My inquiring and restless mind finally had an understanding of what had happened and a course of action. Between the relief I felt with the diagnosis and prognosis—along with the homeopathic care I knew would hasten healing—I returned home ready to welcome this secluded time out as an unexpected gift.

The story continues…

24
Jun
13

Speaking of rolling stones…

“How does it feel… how does it feel… to be without a home… like a complete unknown… like a rolling stone?” This signature Dylan song has been in my head for weeks…home can mean many things. A year ago I began my June 13th entry, art then art now:

I need to reorganize the house I’ve been living in for the past four years! In 2008, we moved from a beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright house to a small, unassuming, 1960s tri-level with joyous expectations of becoming part of a particular church community in the neighborhood. Shortly after moving the housing market fell, leaving our FLW house without a great many qualified buyers.

Rolling on: Membership in the neighborhood church community did not come to pass and that tri-level never got organized. Shortly after writing the entry, we received an Sophia front facadeoffer on our beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright house that took us down the real estate garden path by the throat! Weary of tumbling along over the cobblestoned highways and byways of the past several years, we did an about-face—put the  tri-level on the market and moved back to the FLW house. We were glad to be home at last!

This spring, we invited people from all walks of our life  to celebrate our home coming in a music fest. In addition to old friends, the guest list included people who had made music or art with us, people who had helped us in various ways through the past several years, and people who had helped us in the actual moving process. Everyone brought something to share…food was abundant and the music flowed from gospel to rock ‘n roll. We had a great time and hope this will be the first of many music fests to come.

Jim Croegaert on keyboard, Mark Vanderhoff and Callie Surber on guitar belting out Bob Dylan’s classic, 1965 tune, Like a Rolling Stone.  Go ahead and sing along, shake it all out…you won’t be able to help yourself!

After that We Went Down to the River to Pray. The movie, Oh Brother, Where Art Thou has nothing on us! We were rockin’!

Nancy Miner Guenther and Judy Studenski leading out with Joni Mitchell’s 1970 hit, Big Yellow Taxi.

Nancy & Judy singing

Mark Vanderhoff playing Neil Young’s Heart of Gold from the album Harvest; applause by Ardean Goertzen

We think Mark was playing Heart of Gold by Neil Young

Jaime Cortez’ Rain Down, with rolling arpeggios—catching them single-handedly.

Rain Down_Karena_Dance

Even after everyone had left, there was still more music…

after the party

Links in text:
Jim Croegaert, Singer-Songwriter • Rough Stones Music
Nancy Miner Guenther • Roses and Teacups

25
May
13

doodling like a rolling stone

Bob Dylan, the poet-singer-songwriter of the Baby Boom generation, in his 1965 hit, Like a Rolling Stone, asks plaintively:

How does it feel how does it feelto be without a home… like a complete unknown… like a rolling stone?

Between each of the song’s four verses, comes this haunting refrain—pointed, probing and challenging. The song references societal expectations of the 1950s and 60s, which may no longer carry quite the sting it did then; nonetheless, the refrain lives on timelessly in the Boomer Generation—invincible in 1960—not so much in 2013.

We are aging…sometimes gracefully, sometimes awkwardly. How does it feel and what does it all mean as we roll along toward the once, unthinkable senior citizen horizon? I am not a true Boomer, just an honorary one due to some life events that put me back a few years, but I have a good Boomer friend who wrote an essay for this blog about her experience of aging and transitioning. It comes complete with a graphic she calls a doodle.

April 15, 2013 • How it feels and what it means…

There’s a little ditty we used to sing as kids: Head and shoulder, knees and toes, knees and toes (repeat) while touching each of these body parts as a form of exercise. Now, in my senior years, it seems that there is a problem with each of these (maybe not my toes, but my feet). Memory is fading, can’t hook my bra in back due to bursitis and tendonitis in my shoulder, old knee injuries have been flaring up, and plantar fasciitis causes pain when I walk.  I was feeling old. As a former dancer, these physical losses take on a lot of significance.

Our church made plans to offer a grief recovery workshop starting late March by a specialist in that field and I was considering if I should participate to process my grief around aging. However, it was a ten-week commitment with homework assignments and I questioned whether I had the where-with-all to do the work.

I learned of Sybil MacBeth’s book, Praying in Color, from a friend and presented a short segment on February 23 during a weekend Lenten retreat at my church, where we all tried our hand at this form of prayer. I decided to use this method of spontaneous doodling with words and color as a process of discernment, but it became clear that I wouldn’t get my answer in 20 minutes.

Basically it sat there in my journal until a women’s retreat I attended in Santa Fe the following month. During a movement ritual I needed to sit down because my knee was complaining and I began feeling sorry for myself again because I could no longer move as freely as I once did. As we went around the circle sharing why we were there, a huge realization dawned on me. Seven years ago on March 1, 2006 I had a hysterectomy because various tests and scans pointed to probable ovarian cancer. As it turned out I did not have cancer, but if I had, I would not even be at this retreat because I would no longer be alive, as life expectancy with ovarian cancer usually does not exceed five years.

The next two nights I continued with the doodle, noting that I could be dead, but I wasn’t and asking why. The second night brought it to a near completion, but only after participating in a craft project with the group. In the afternoon we had walked out on the high-desert land to each collect sticks or a piece of weathered wood to create a “Spirit Doll.” There was an array of beads, feathers, ribbon, fabric, glue, wire…you name it…available to dress our wood into something that resembled…well, some sort of doll, I guess. I immediately went into a familiar insecurity, comparing myself to everyone else who would create something profound, more meaningful, and just plain better than anything I could do. So, with a slightly rebellious attitude, I decided I would create an alter ego. Using part of a pink boa around her torso, pink feathers in her hair, which was actually sagebrush, and sparkly netting for a skirt I called her “my lady of the night” who stayed awake nights for reasons different than my insomnia-ridden ones. With a few added doo-dads she was sufficiently garish and I felt satisfied.

Anne's Doodle Design

Back in my room the doodle grew. Of course there was much more happening in my thoughts and emotions than appear on the page but it is a good summary. And what I also realized was that I had created something meaningful in the doll; that in her flamboyant attire she represented not what I had set out to create but rather a celebration of life! I finally had a clear answer to the question I had posed several weeks earlier. My conclusion: Rather than grieve my losses, I need to celebrate the life that is still before me.

15
May
13

re-drawing sacred circles

Drawing Sacred Circles transformed: the story in three parts:

Part I • The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century rejected religious imagery as being idolatrous—the baby was thrown out with the bath water. Five hundred years later, the baby struggles to make a come back, crawling inch by inch over ideologically traditional terrain looking for water in which to bathe away years of neglect.

Part II • Despite attractive altar flowers and holy season decor, much of what greeted me when I returned to the church after being gone nearly 30 years, seemed trite, contrived and lacking in a sense of spiritual mystery. I was unmoved and wanted to see visual art taking its place as a significant element of worship equal to music. Although there was some movement afoot in this area, centuries of visual deprivation seems to have left a gap in terms of spiritual nurturance.

Part III • I began introducing liturgically oriented art forms into the church I was attending. My efforts were not an immediate home run. Sadly, thanks to the esoteric quality of modern and contemporary art, many people distrust their own visual sensitivity. (The world is turning so fast…we see without knowing and know without seeing.)

In 2010, I started Drawing Sacred Circles, a blog where I could present visual art as a creative process inherent in human beings—circular and sacred—whether designed for church/synagogue/mosque worship, gallery viewing or personal enjoyment. I sought to give form to this view by keeping two separate, yet parallel archives—liturgical art under the heading, Worship Circles and personal art under the heading, Meditation Circles.

Having spent considerable time presenting art in this manner, it’s time for these categories to meld into an inclusive celebration of life expressed through any and every art form, at any and all levels of accomplishment, whether professional or amateur.

“The practice of art isn’t to make a living. It’s to make your soul grow.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Man Without a Country

I like the sound of that…it’s all about soul and spirit. We engage in the arts because something within wants to reach higher and go deeper  all the days of our lives. This kind of growing is at the spiritual core of doctrine, creed and liturgy. When the creative thing we do reaches another soul, a connective circle is made. Connective circles complete and make sacred, the artful process. How and why we do this soul-growing thing through the arts is the nexus and raison d’etre of Drawing Sacred Circles...take a look…subscribe.

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