Saturday, August 28, 2010

wise up

In ancient Greece, Athena was the goddess of wisdom and her symbol, an owl. There are 200 species of owls, ranging from one weighing just over an ounce, to the massive Eagle Owl with a wing span over six feet. While owls are solitary creatures, the collective name for them is a parliament. They have binocular-like eyes which are fixed in the sockets, but can swivel their heads an amazing amount in each direction. I didn't have to dig deep to find these owl facts, but I'll certainly recall them the next time I hear one rustling in the pine branches on a moonlit night.

Wisdom is different from mere information. It's the synthesis of it, the making sense of it, the ability to discern what is true or right, insight. My son in middle school has a wise new teacher who asked the students to bring in an amazing fact from any of the branches of science. Did you know that you can count the number of times a cricket chirps in 15 seconds, add 37 and get the temperature? Or that a bee travels 55,000 miles to make a pound of honey? Facts aside, the real lesson he's teaching is that science is amazing. Our natural world is amazing. Life is amazing. And the more you learn, the more you'll want to learn.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


Arkon and I got a call this summer about developing a new name and logo for a pre-school program in Charlotte. The merger between Seigle Avenue Preschool and Chapel of Christ the King Preschool happened earlier in the year, two revered early education programs uniting to best and most cost-effectively help young children overcome at-risk beginnings. The Learning Collaborative (TLC) is a loving, learning place where children and their families, teachers, staff and friends throughout the faith community work together toward this common goal.

As delighted as Arkon and I were to be involved, the project held special meaning for me that no one else could have known. When my Dad died in 1992, memorials were made in his honor to the Chapel of Christ the King, a tiny, sweet inner-city church where his dear friend was the vicar. Dad would be so happy to know the good work continues. Sometimes what goes around comes back around in very special ways.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

rhythm and blues

Always a tad nostalgic on the first day of school. The bus zooms off and there goes your sweetie. And your summer. No matter how many times you've done it before, there's that familiar mixture of wistfulness, worry, wonder. What will the new year hold? Today, it's all about possibility, for those on the bus as well as those waving from the curb. There's nothing like the gift of a fresh start, whatever our age or stage, and this is as good a day as any to declare one. Time to learn something new, set some great goals, get a better perspective on work, catch up with friends, find a rhythm in the routine. In school and home and life, it's reassuring how quickly things fall into place.

Monday, August 23, 2010

math lesson

Wouldn't the law of inverse proportions apply to the rate of back-to-school nostalgia versus how long a person's actually been out of a classroom? Sure seems so on this Monday a few days before the bell rings in a new school year. One of the best things about being a grown-up is that you can choose the subject matter you want to learn, whether it's to land a new degree or a new account, or to upholster the footstool in the family room. No mystery meat in a crowded cafeteria for you. Pack a healthy gourmet lunch and eat it with your best friend. Splurge on some new desk accessories, a cool bag, maybe even an iPad. Organize your schedule just the way you want it, get your brain in high gear and plan some fun extracurricular activities. It's going to be a great semester.

Friday, August 20, 2010

destination: Friday

You've arrived at that full-of-possibilities juncture called Friday. Set your compass to 'joy' and search out the people and things that embody it with the intrepidness of an explorer. Meriwether Lewis, for instance. Talk about going out on a limb and taking chances, have you read his story? Might be just the perfect book to have waiting at the end of today. Take the whole weekend at a snail's pace, keeping an eye out for butterflies and ladybugs. There's always the chance you'll get a good a letter in the mail or maybe you've been meaning to send one, even to yourself. It's an art form, so write in color and outside the lines. And add a touch of red, which stands for heart.
(click on image to enlarge)

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

brotherly love

Makes you feel like a gazillion dollars to have a brother like mine. A very brilliant and dashing brother who makes you feel hip, hop and happening by calling you Lady Juju. And thinks of you while visiting a museum and seeing Reading At A Table by Pablo Picasso. Then sends you the very same incredible painting on a card from the museum store for your birthday. Tucked inside, an extravagant gift card for purchasing books, your favorite treat in the world. Besides, of course, your brother.

Monday, August 16, 2010

definition of success

This being a Monday, chances are you're back at work after the weekend, whether work is in a corner office or a corner of the living room. And, chances are, you're thinking Monday thoughts about goals and success and whether or not you're living up to your true potential. Well, I'm here to share some wisdom from the gifted actor Ralph Fiennes that may cause you to refine your definition of success and realize that, in fact, you're already succeeding quite splendidly:
". . . The people I consider successful are so because of how they handle their responsibilities to other people, how they approach the future, people who have a full sense of the value of their life and what they want to do with it. I call people successful not because they have money or their business is doing well but because, as human beings, they have a fully developed sense of being alive and engaged in a lifetime task of collaboration with other human beings - their mothers and fathers, their family, their friends, their loved ones, the friends who are dying, the friends who are being born. Success? . . . Don't you know it is all about being able to extend love to people? Really. Not in a big, capital-letter sense but in the everyday. Little by little, task by task, gesture by gesture, word by word." - Ralph Fiennes

Sunday, August 15, 2010

the one thing worth everything

It is love alone that gives worth to
all things. - Saint Teresa of Avila

Friday, August 13, 2010

of toast and simplicity

Life is complicated. Toast is not. When it pops out of the slot, spread a little butter or apricot jam on it - or nothing at all - and there you have it: breakfast. Goes well with a cuppa' joe and the comics. Sets the tone for a simply perfect day and acute appreciation for other things perfect in their simplicity:
1. stripes
2. sneakers
3. straw hats
4. pistachio nuts
6. a porch swing
7. white plates
8. wooden bowls
9. mason jars
10. a sky full of stars

Monday, August 9, 2010

invoking the muse

It has taken more than half a day to come up with the right headline for a brochure. That's how words are at times. They can be elusive, hiding out in the bathtub or garden, waiting until you are immersed in something else before popping into your mind with perfect clarity. Thanks to Katie and these exquisite notecards she gave me for my birthday, I now have a muse to invoke. She's hovering above my computer right this very minute, a beautiful brunette who loves butterflies and writing and human emotions. Come to think of it, that describes Katie, too.
(art by Laini Taylor, distributed by Bottman Design)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

times that refresh

When is the last time you hit the refresh button? Mine was a couple weeks ago when we visited my sister and her family in Columbia, SC. When you arrive at Blossom Street, you just know that something special will be waiting: a gorgeous new painting underway in her studio, pumpkins stacked liked topiaries in autumn with an old chandelier hanging from a tree, a sprawling gingerbread house at the holidays, the shiny red espresso maker on the kitchen counter with its stack of tiny white cups, piles and piles of good books, dogs running in and out. On this particular summer day, though, with temperatures in the upper 90's, it was all about the limeade.

Michele had bought a cup the day before from two little girls selling it at the Columbia Farmer's Market. Inspired, she stocked up on limes, fished out an old juicer and made a simple sugar syrup consisting of 2 cups sugar per gallon of water. Then she squeezed the juice of one lime into a cup, filled the cup with the sugar water and ice, poured it into a cocktail shaker and shook. Then back into the cup with one half of the squeezed lime for garnish. I am telling you, it was some kind of good! Could she have bought a gallon of limeade at the grocery store a few blocks away? Yes, but that's not her style. And we would have all missed out on the tactile pleasure of the real deal. The pretty basket heaping with limes, the tang of the zest, the clack of cocktail shaker, the deliciousness of a new memory being made.

Friday, August 6, 2010

the beloved daily grind

Upon returning from a few weeks very happily spent in another part of the world, Kathleen said it was so nice to return to 'the beloved daily grind.' What a wonderful, Zen-like way to phrase it and I could just picture my precious friend at home, making coffee, paying bills, putting up the groceries. It's not always easy to be happy at home, where your deepest relationships reside, along with the dust bunnies and the dishes in the sink. But if you can pull it off, you've accomplished one of the rarest and most important feats in life. When things feel a little dull and jaded in your corner of the world, that's a good time to take a look around with a tourist's fresh eye. At the good man throwing a ball to the kids, the wise old oak trees in the yard, the table set for dinner. This is a place to cherish forever.