Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Defining Prosperity Down

As the second theme of my book, Talk UP^ Tucson... is an exploration of community prosperity, I am signed on to google alerts for everyday posts on both book themes: happiness and prosperity.  Almost every day, I post Facebook comments on articles related to happiness, but it's a rare article on prosperity that stirs my interest.  This article is such a rare find that I am posting it (also) on my blog.

The pop-up ads are annoying but the article is worth the distractions.  Here's a question for my readers: are you defining prosperity down in your life as the article suggests?  If so, how and what do you feel about this change?  I think I am doing that, out of necessity as well as adjusting the reality described in the article.  Mostly, I feel that it's leading me to live a simpler life, but sometimes I feel angry and depressed about what I can't "have" that I think I "want."  To be honest, I have what I need and practicing daily gratitude helps me stay focused on the cup more than half full.  What about you?

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

BrightSpot: Joel Valdez Library's Summer Reading Program

According to the staff in the Children's Library ("make sure you tell people we are really good with kids"), this Summer's Reading Program--which ended July 20--was 25% higher in registration compared with their similar program in 2011.  (In 2012, the format was considerably different so a comparison doesn't apply).  The librarians note that this year, as in 2011 and previous years, incentives were used and, particularly important, were the free pass incentives to Breakers WaterPark.  Another key to the higher registration was the emphasis on this year's program as a "family event".  For example, when a teen sibling brought in younger siblings, the librarians signed up the teen right on the spot for the teen reading program.

I cannot give a loud enough shout out to our public library (all branches) and the able staff.  I am a dedicated lover of books and reading but the knowledge each of the librarians I have worked with at the "downtown" (i.e. Joel Valdez Library) have more book titles in their brains than I could ever hope to download onto my computer!!  They are patient with all ages of children and willing to assist and encourage book reading from board books to tomes such as Harry Potter.  One librarian stressed to me that "we want kids to learn how to hold a book in their hands, turn the pages and take care of the book."  Another words (no pun intended), ebooks are fine but they do not replace the golden glow of a book.

So thank you Public Library for generating another summerful of new and continuing readers!

 (photo from

Another BrightSpot:

Here is a national magazine giving a "shout out" about Tucson's entrepreneurial culture. As a long time civic and now small publishing entrepreneur, Community Renaissance would add this caveat:  entrepreneurs in the Tucson Region often have to bypass traditional business pathways in order to get launched and, if your "business" involves civic entrepreneurship you have to endure being undervalued and underpaid for work that does not support the civic status quo.  Still, entrepreneurship is a "brightspot" in the region as I wrote about in earlier posts on Ignite Tucson, Tucson Food Truck Round-Ups, locally owned restaurants, entertainment venues such as local bookstores and Local First Arizona.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Another social media step

I decided to try to set up some of my (or Mark's) photos via Flickr.  Originally, I thought I would add Instagram, but, after reading about both, I decided Flickr was my next step.  I hope folks let me know about both social media tools--which you use, prefer and why.

Here's the link to my gallery:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Beyond Counting Clouds

prompt words:  name, number, look, hear, up, evening, welcome


It was turning out to be more significant evening than Alicia had expected.  Paolo had accepted her cake and berries with a welcome kiss on both cheeks, and his daughter, Sophia, had hugged her closely around the knees.  The look the child gave her at dinner, as Alicia shared stories about her Italian fountains expedition, was one of awe.  Sophia asked if she could accompany Alicia on the next day’s fountain journey and ran to her room to get a piece of paper so she could give Alicia her phone number.  This request was a surprise for Alicia to hear. While she was gone Paolo explained, with some temerity, that Sophia still missed her mother, gone now for two years, and, since Sophia was an only child, she sometimes clung closely to her Papa and worried about his own sense of loss.  


Alicia was cautious about making a commitment too soon to the child.  Looking for fountains in Italy had become her private pleasure and sharing the experience and the expectation might be too much, too soon. Giving up that privacy was giving up a part of herself. But, when Sophia returned with her piece of paper and called Alicia by name, the vowels spilling like water with the Italian emphasis on the final “cia”, she couldn’t help but smile and acquiesce to Sophia’s request.  They would meet outside the Museo Nazionale Romano, near the Termini station, and decide which direction in the city they would go, looking for another fountain of Rome. 

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Flash Fiction: Counting Clouds

Counting Clouds

In Rome, it seems to Alicia that every corner has a fountain.  Whether she is walking near the Tiber River, or going to one of the bus ticket and book stands to buy a British newspaper, the sound of water slowly cascading over the necks of horses, pineapples, turtles or mermaids beckons her to pause for a coffee and count the clouds in the sky.  She came to Italy with the purpose of finishing her book of poetry, but that goal is now gone for the near future.  Instead, she has made it her purpose to try to visit, photograph and write a phrase or two about every Roman fountain.   

Yesterday, she stopped on a path along the shore of the river to watch three boats glide beneath the bridge of Castel Sant’Angelo.  While there, a familiar man with his daughter passed her by and they chatted.  He invited her to dinner tonight and she is wondering what she should bring to the meal.  She knows he is a widower and that he likes fruit, which she often saw him carrying in his market basket and every Italian likes sweets.  So, she will buy a cake and bring berries along with some of photographs of the fountains. They will get to know each other a little better and she will be open to possibilities.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Talk UP^ Tucson... event: Quotes Worth Sharing

I admit it.  One of the aftereffects of my PhD (circa University of Arizona, 1996) was my affinity for data collecting, particularly through informal qualitative/ethographic observations, group interactions and interviews.  Even when I don't know if the information will "go anywhere", I can't make myself throw away notes.  So, from yesterday's Talk UP^ Tucson... book houseparty here are quotes from some of the participants, only attributed by a first name initial.  Thanks to all for sharing and opening your hearts and minds.

I:  Good talk about the pluses and minuses of Tucson.....Can progress be done?

K:  I am frustrated with groups, drawing away from the Tucson community...[but] while I am here, I want to be happy....

M:  I love the town but I have my moments....

R1:  ...neighborhoods are key components to authentic empowerment....  A neighborhood is defined by boundaries...a community is made up of people we have an emotional connection with....

N:  ...I am interested in how we can build resilience....

J:  I am curious about the intersection of community and happiness....  I know there is a lot of burn out in community work....  If it's not fun, why do it?...

R2:  ...Tucson could be a really great city...but we go down the wrong path....

B1:  I am burnt out.  I am happy with my life but unhappy in my neighborhood....  I am here to learn something....

B2:  I've gotten a bit disgruntled living in this neighborhood...[there is] a chipping away.  I came to see what's happening outside of neighborhood association meetings....

C:  ...I love my house but I don't love what's happened around me...infill...crime....  I am always looking for something positive.

D:  ...I live in a neighborhood 80% and I am a renter...I want to make a little corner [of it] better.

Snap Surveys: an activity of Talk UP^ Tucson presentation/houseparty/salon gathering etc.

As a "next step" for my 2013 book Talk UP^ Tucson..., when a person or organization buys two books (or more), I will come and do a presenations, reading, sharing, etc. based on the book.  I have done three events so far, meeting my minimum goal of one event per month.  At Kellond School's 3rd grad class where I volunteer during the year, we brainstormed responses to "what do you like about the Tucson region?" and I wrote down their responses with the cup (half full, or, in this case, brimming).

At Centra Realty in June, I did that activity and added a "snap survey" activity.  I asked the group to rate the Tucson region on a 1 to 5 scale (one=low, five=high) on the "Four Pillars of Gross National Happiness."

1. Promotion of equitable and sustainable socio-economic development
2. Preservation and promotion of cultural values
3. Conservations of the natural environment
4. Establishment of good governance

I did the same activity yesterday at a friend's book-house party.

I am looking for locations/invitations to do more events like this and gather enough informal data to share in a fall newsletter. So let me know if you would like to participate.  Books are available at Mostly Books and Antigone Books

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Tucson Neighborhood Leaders Meet and Do the Hard Work: BrightSpot Surprise

"This is really hard work," one of the participants mused at yesterday's meeting of neighborhood leaders who gathered for a 2nd of 3 scheduled meetings this summer convened by the Tucson Neighborhood Infill Coaltion.

"It sure is hard work,"  Ruth Beeker, facilitator for the meeting agreed.  "Moving ourselves from complaining (actually, Ruth used the "bit....." word, but I am cleaning it up a bit for my post) to finding solutions is hard work."  And, silently, I also agreed, saying to myself, "And this is why I am here: to find solutions."

As part of my tentative re-emergence in community work focused on "my cup is half full" philosophy and practice, I wasn't sure I had a place in this group.  But I decided to give it a try and administer a kind of self-test about how deep my exploration of community happiness and prosperity had really gone into my psyche.  So far I would say, it's made a definite positive difference in my attitude and behavior of public particpation.  I listen more closely and think a bit longer before I say something.  I judge less and appreciate different perspectives a bit more--not a 180 degree shift, but, still a change.

It's too soon to tell if this gathering of 22 neighborhood associations and 44 civic organizations can lean forward toward a more positive direction between neighborhoods, businesses and local government, but, as of today, I am hopeful.  One example emerged from my small group where a representative from the Garden District NA talked about how they have formed a public-private partnership with two neighborhood stores.  The businesses now fund a neighborhood newsletter and have altered their business hours to accomodate neighborhood concerns.  If this kind of progress can be duplicated in other neighborhoods (and expanded), Tucson can offer a brighter neighborhood-business community future. 

My neighborhood of Crest Ranch (located in Campus Farms NA) is just east of what I refer to as an example of "funky Tucson."  Walking west along the rurban roads along Vine and King, I enjoy rabbits and quails, lizards and diverse birdlife and the holiday decorations provided by one of the residents.  If I go east, I quickly can shop at Safeway and eat at Ghini's and buy French pastries at La Baquette Bakery.  On cooler days, I can ride my bike to UA Farms and enjoy the animal life and green fields that remind me of my farming roots.  All this, and more, contribute to the good life in my neighborhood. While establishing a "little free library" remains a challenge to my HOA (we have expanded my front yard "book basket" practice to something bigger...), a dedicated group of my neighbors and I are working with our HOA board to find common ground on this small community-building project.

What creates the good life in your neighborhood and how are you contributing to it on a regular basis?


Thursday, July 11, 2013

Turn Around: Flash Fiction

The alabaster abbey glowed like a white diamond in the Caribbean skies.  Father Thomas welcomed his guest with a glass of wine and freshly baked bread.  The man in green shorts and yellow shirt moved uncomfortably in his chair as the bulge of his revolver pressured his bruised hip.  He was a man accustomed to deluxe surroundings and hearty five course meals, not this simple fare.  However, under these conditions he had little choice at this moment but to accept the monk’s hospitality.  As the monk prepared to administer grace, his guest heard a sound that jarred his tattered soul and stirred his mind.  “There is a child somewhere who sings with a soprano voice like my sister.  She died seven years ago but a voice such as this can bring back memories I thought I buried along with her body.”  He bent his head as the “Our Father…” began and wondered if, this time, he could find a way to turn his life around—again.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Remembering the 19 Yarnell Firefighters

On the Fourth of July I baked blueberry-pecan bread and we took it to Tucson Fire Station #3 (our neighborhood station) near Campbell and Broadway.  The firefighters said policy wouldn't allow them to be in a photo without prior permission, so Mark took this shot outside the station.  The flag is half-mast for the 19 Yarnell Firefighters who lost their lives and were memoralizaed today in Prescott, Arizona.

I am grateful for these valiant men and women who are willing to take risks to fight fires, pull victims out of burning cars, rescue a child from a pool, tenderly lift a kitten out of a tree.  In another capacity as EMTs, they respond to 911 calls and serve as medical first-responders.

So thanks Firefighters and EMTs and forever thankfulness to the Yarnell 19 for their ultimate sacrifice. You all are heroes.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Rebecca's Knots: flash fiction for you

I submitted this for a July Flash Fiction contest, responding to its 7/9 prompt:  angels, light, new, mother, trees, art, second, affectionate.

Rebecca’s Knots


The July mid-day light glared on the silky waterfall in front of the Phoenix Art Museum.  Rebecca was taking advantage of the new “children’s corner” event at the museum with the hope that playing with other children would offer Samantha some calming moments..  Usually an affectionate child, lately her two year old was becoming something of diva. Rebecca imagined that Samantha sensed something odd was happening as Mommy’s belly bump continued its daily balloon-sized expansion.  A second child was on the way, and although Rebecca considered herself an affectionate mother with Samantha, she wasn’t gleeful about number two coming along so quickly after number one.  It was that damn trip to the White Mountains that did it: sitting under the golden aspen trees last fall rippling through the canyons.  Mike had coaxed her into a spontaneous moment and, since she was breast feeding, she thought that would give her the coital cover she needed.  It hadn’t.  So when she learned she was pregnant, she consulted the three glass angels on her bookshelf for guidance:  should she make an appointment for a pre-natal check-up with her GYN or go to Planned Parenthood to terminate this mistake?  The angels had nodded and danced in the midnight moon glow and Rebecca wasn’t sure how to interpret their responses.  She waited a few days and then the realization came to her that a mistake or not, she could do nothing more or less than go with this baby.  But she told her doctor “once you deliver, I want you to tie up those tubes into the tightest knots your tools can twist.”  He had laughed and they made the pact he would keep.  As for Mike, aspen trees were off-limits until both children were out of diapers and she had re-started her degree in art history.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Arizona Daily Star Review by J.C. Martin for Talk UP^ Tucson...

I am learning so much about the less fun stages of marketing an independently published book.  Fortunately, we have a book reviewer at the Arizona Daily Star who shines light on local authors and I am especially glad she gave my husband, the photographer, a byline.  Here is her review of the Talk UP^ Tucson... book in the Star, 7/7/13: 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Summer Food Fun at Jax Kitchen

In the local newspaper's food section last week, I had read about the chef's fried chicken and thought we would try it at one of her restaurants, Jax Kitchen .  It is located in the same strip mall as the Alphagraphics office on North Oracle where we had just picked up the new book, Writing at the Paradise Cafe.  When we got the menu, we discovered that the fried chicken is only served at The Abbey on the eastside of town, so we had to adjust our expectations.  We did and still glad we took a chance on a new-to-us, but really five year old locally owned fun food place.  I say "fun" because they use that tag on their business card and, although it took me a few minutes to connect the "jax" with the vintage "jacks" ala childhood sporting game I used to play with my cousins, the ambiance was relaxed (flip-flops accepted), casual and the orange/black decor (with light green touches) made me smile. Another smile came as I walked to the restroom and scanned the black and white and color "snapshots" hanging on a clothesline-type wire and "clipped" on with office clips. The bar is open and connected to the seated tables but the noise wasn't unacceptable for early eaters such as are.  We also were able to  enjoy a 1/2 price appetizer.

The bar: 

Here are the photos and descriptions of our items.

Homemade chips from russet potatoes and seasoned with garlic and celery salt.  A yummy, crunchy surprise:

Bread, from a California bakery (wish they would "buy local"--we have great bakeries in Tucson), served with garlic infused olive oil andsea salt, seasoned with chives and parsley:
An appetizer we loved: baby artichokes flash-fried in buttermilk batter (the same batter as the fried chicken), seasoned with parmesan and chives and served with lemon aoili (note: another "fun" detail--the artichokes served in small mason jars and wrapped in crinkle paper):
Mark enjoys soups and so tried the chicken and green chili with cilantro and goat cheese bits.  The broth was seasoned with garlic, shallots, celery and bay leaves.  He loved it.
We split the entree--pan-sheared rainbow trout with orzo pasta and bacon, served with hericots verts, a sauce of blackberry gastric, fennel fronds, julienne-cut Fuji apples, blackberries and truffle oil.  Absolutely divine--and, as you look at this picture, it's a half portion!
Bon Appetit at Jax Kitchen!

Mt. Lemmon Summer "BrightSpot"

I have shared "BrightSpots" photos of Mt. Lemmon before, but this is summer and it surely is a gem of place for desert dwellers in the summer to head to the moutain and experience 30 degrees cooler temps.  Yesterday, Mark and I drove up about noon, went to the very top where the largest aspen grove still stands and walked for about an hour.  Later, we went to the Sawmill Inn in Summerhaven and celebrated Mark's 61st birthday with our son and his girlfriend.  Coming down (after buying the obligatory Mt. Lemmon fudge), we stopped at Windy Point and witnessed the storms in the valley below.  Enjoy these photos by Mark--flowers, ferns and forests.

The pathway with flowers by the side:

Grasses, ferns and forest
An old growth tree
Indian Paint Brush and fallen tree trunk with skeletons from the fire, 10 years ago
Happy Daisies
Majestic Aspens, rustling in the winds
"There's a storm across the desert..."--John Denver
Which photo is your favorite and why?