Kickin’ It Day 24: Holiday Disasters

Today, Jamie and Shannon—their houses and neighborhoods hit by an ice storm, downing their electricity, heat, Internet, and phone service—ask us for our stories of holiday disaster.

I’m lucky that nothing like that has happened to my family at Christmas time! The closest is the snowstorm that impeded everyone’s flights home from Christmas at O’Hare airport in Chicago. We were all waiting for hours as they kept delaying flights before finally canceling them, and then there were long lines to rebook. People were absolutely livid and were on their cell phones complaining to their friends and their airlines, and the poor people at the rebooking desk were on the receiving end of everyone’s frustration.

I was lucky: I had the latest Harry Potter book (and this was late enough in the series that it was going to last me a good long while!) and my parents could come and get me, house me overnight, and bring me back the next day. Plus somehow, I had the sneaking suspicion that a debilitating snowstorm in late December in Chicago probably wasn’t the fault of either the airline or its employees.

So I was happy reading, and when my turn came at the rebooking counter, I was sending a very different energy to the airline employee.

My reward? Threefold: I spent my hours in the airport happy rather than irritable, I spread calm and goodwill rather than hostility and resentment, and I got rebooked for business class rather than coach!

Moral: J.K. Rowling saves the day yet again.

Other moral: a good book, a sense of the realistic possibilities, a sense of perspective, a contingency plan, nearby friends and family, and goodwill are a great tool kit to have. And they serve you warm cookies in business class.

Kickin’ It Day 23: Favorite Books

It’s Favorite Books Day at Kickin’ It Old Skool, and I’m visiting family for Christmas, so I’m experimenting with posting from my phone!

I thought of a few of my faves during my flight this afternoon:

Fiction (most of my favorite fiction is for kids)
Jane Austen
Harry Potter
The Chronicles of Prydain
A Wrinkle in Time
and that whole series by Madeleine L’Engle
Lots of Ursula K. LeGuin: The Earthsea Trilogy, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Dispossessed
Ellen Raskin: The Westing Game, The Tattooed Potato, and The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I Mean Noel)
David Foster Wallace

Tama Kieves, This Time I Dance!
Huston Smith, Why Religion Matters
Joseph Campbell and the Power of Myth with Bill Moyers
Eat, Pray, Love

Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write
Robert Bellah, Beyond Belief
Martha Beck, beginning with Finding Your Own North Star
Cheryl Richardson, Take Time for Your Life
David Sedaris
Housden, Sacred Journeys in the Modern World
Paul Ricoeur
Victor Turner

Kickin’ It Day 21: And I Quote…

Today on Kickin’ It, we’re sharing favorite quotes. I gave Jamie Ridler one of my favorites a few days ago in response to her post about who she loves. Here it is again—by William James:

“If you say that this is absurd, and that we cannot be in love with everyone at once, I merely point out to you that, as a matter of fact, certain persons do exist with an enormous capacity for friendship and for taking delight in other persons’ lives, and that such persons know more of truth than if their hearts were not so big.”

I thought I’d pick out another one of the quotes I’ve gathered, one that particularly speaks to me today. I thought it was going to be one by Johnny Depp, who has said some very pithy things about individual uniqueness and being true to yourself. But what jumped out at me today was this quote by my ex-boyfriend Brian:

“You can do whatever you want.”

He was saying this to me at a time in my life when I felt trapped on all sides, especially regarding my job. I was seriously ill and needed to take a leave of absence, but I kept thinking that I instead needed to meet my responsibilities to others—to my colleagues, to my employer—rather than my responsibilities to myself. Brian said, “You can do whatever you want,” not as encouragement to dream big or anything like that, but as a very concrete recognition of the moment-by-moment reality: in that moment, I could, in fact, do what I wanted to do rather than what I was expected to do or what I thought I had to do or what I believed would satisfy others. I could take the day off. I could take a leave of absence. I could not answer that e-mail message if I wasn’t up to it. I really could do whatever I wanted.

And then the message expanded: in every moment, I could, in fact, choose to do whatever I wanted. I could take that art class. I could move to another city. I could leave my career. I could sit and stare at the grass for hours. I could decide for myself, in each moment, out of the reality of my own heart and soul or even just my own random preferences.

It was a huge turnaround for me, part of a larger recognition that “responsibility” doesn’t just mean responsibility to others, but also responsibility to oneself, to one’s real truth. It was part of a larger commitment to a deeper truthfulness in all areas of my life, to radical honesty.

I’m still living that way.



I remember, while I was working these ideas out those years ago, sharing them with someone I didn’t know very well. She was horrified and saw me as at risk of becoming hedonistic and careless and irresponsible and a burden to others. It turned out that she had grown up in a family where she was the only “responsible” one. She was forever rescuing others in her family from the choices they had made without consulting their own real needs and without considering how their choices would affect others. She couldn’t imagine where I was coming from.

To me, this is one of many examples of how people need to hear and learn different things because we’re all coming from different places. Some people do need to hear “Consider others.” Some people need to hear “Be kind to others” and “Be selfless rather than selfish.” That’s the message we hear most often from religious leaders, and it’s one we as a society need to keep hearing. But for some people, those messages fall flat—they just reinforce lifelong training in not honoring one’s own truth or attending to one’s own wants and needs. To be “self-centered” in the sense of being centered in the higher self—I remember Joseph Campbell quoting someone, a German philosopher I think, about being “a wheel spinning out of its own center.” It doesn’t make one egotistical and callous and insensitive to the needs of others—it just honors the deeper truth within all of us, including the self.

The Dalai Lama once had to have the concept of self-loathing explained to him. He was mystified. He said, “But all beings have Buddha nature!” You, too.

Kickin’ It Day 20: My First… (the Meme Edition)

Today on Kickin’ It: Seven Four First Things.

The first thing to your left: Pen and this week’s to-do list, 70% crossed off.

First books: I remember Chicken Soup with Rice, Curious George, a few Dr. Seuss—One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, The Cat in the Hat,  and Hop on Pop, and then one about a dog whose spots kept changing colors—that must have been Put Me in the Zoo. And I remember Are You My Mother? and The Maggie B and Corduroy and, of course, Ickle Bickle Robin. 

The first thing you do in the morning: Bathroom! Then back in bed to zone out and more fully wake up. Check e-mail and Facebook. Take care of some e-mails. Then meditate. Then the day really begins.

The first food you knew you didn’t like: As a kid, I kind of thought I didn’t like vegetables, because back then, they were canned. These days, most of my diet is fresh veggies.




Kickin’ It Day 19: Things in my Bag

Today, Jamie and Shannon ask us “What are ten things currently in your bag?” I love this prompt! I’m finding that I’m a voyeur and love getting a peek into other people’s work spaces, houses, bookshelves, bags…

My purse is boring, so I’m sharing what’s currently in this bag that I take with me when I think I might have extra time somewhere, or when I’m purposely going out to a coffee shop for play time. I guess in the back of my mind, I call it my Creativity Bag.


The bag in its place by the door.

Here’s what’s in it at the mo’:


1. My book, protected by a plastic bag, in case it needs to be sold or have its picture taken.
2. Mehndi Designs, a coloring book for grown-ups.
3. 96 crayons, baby! Loosely organized by color.
4. Cold Turkey at Nine, a memoir I’m currently reading.
5. Scribble It! A book of color-them-in-yourself postcards that my brother-in-law’s cousin Jonathan gave me.

Hm, that’s only five things. I’ll see if there’s anything interesting in my purse.

Contents of my purse.

Contents of my purse.

6. The most interesting thing here is actually the piece of paper, which is the ticket for a show I went to last week, courtesy of my friend Jeanel, at Austin’s beautiful Paramount Theater. It was The Moth, and it was excellent. Five great true stories, five great real-life storytellers.

7. Cool hardbound little notebook I got as a gift, great because ordinary softcover little notepads get all messed up in my purse.

8. Pretty red little wallet, also a gift, that I use to hold my thousand and one discount cards, gift cards, membership cards, etc.

9. The purse itself was a gift from my parents last Christmas.

10. So was the GPS, which lives in my purse because my last one went wonky after too many days in the heat of a closed car during Austin summers.

11. And while I’m at it, the wallet was a gift from my sister’s family!

Neat! I didn’t realize my purse was full of so many gifts! Perfect for Christmas time. 🙂

Relatedly and belatedly, I wish for all your wishes to come true!

Kickin’ It Day 17: Free Association

Today, Jamie and Shannon have given us five words to free associate with:

1. River. I remember sitting and looking at the Cannon River in Northfield, Minnesota with my friends Kim and Juan. I asked them what they thought of as they looked at the river. Juan, a physicist, said “wave motion.” Kim, a German major who had been to Austria, told us about an Austrian short story in which the main characters took a river to a fairy land—or maybe it was a story about river fairies… I said travel.

2. Fresh. Air. And the bright colors of fruits and vegetables.

3. Escape. “There is no…”?  Also the escape key on my keyboard.

4. Moment. This one. No, this one. No, this one. Wait, this one. 😉

5. Night. The glories of the night sky. Being a moon baby. The stars and the music of the spheres and swinging on the stars like a monkey and The Little Prince and waving to other people on other planets also gazing at the stars. And the Fourth of July. And lying on a road in Devil’s Lake State Park in Wisconsin before heading back to our campsite, gazing up at the Milky Way, happy, happy, happy… And perspective. And truth. And an event I went to once called “Stardust, Telescopes, and God”: an astronomer and a professor of religious studies there to talk about the night sky before we all went out and looked through telescopes.


Kickin’ It Day 16: Favourite Songs

I’ve gone over to the dark—I mean Canadian—side with you and your u’s. 😀 After all, we wouldn’t even have a Kickin’ It Old Skool Blogathon if it weren’t for our lovable Canadian friends, Jamie and Shannon!

I glanced at everyone else’s posts so far today, and I noticed that the vibe is non-OCD, which is a relief, so here’s my haphazard, unsystematic, noncomprehensive list of “favourite” music-type thingies:

1. Almost anything by Storyhill, including a lot of Chris and Johnny’s separate work. Fave off their last CD: Well of Sorrow.

2. Carrie Elkin’s Jesse Likes Birds

3. Dan Wilson’s Against History

4. Peter Mayer’s “The Birthday Party”

5. The Gear Daddies’ Cut Me Off

6. Lyle Lovett’s Long Tall Texan

7. The Monkees’ Sometime in the Morning

8. The Monkees’ Daily Nightly

9. Cat Stevens’s Can’t Keep It In

10. The Beatles’ All You Need Is Love (Oh my gosh, how did I forget to put Yellow Submarine, and let’s face it, The Beatles Anthology, on my favourite movies list?)

11. Andrew Bird’s Two Way Action

12. Stuart Davis’s Universe Communion

13. Nirvana’s All Apologies

14. REM’s Radio Free Europe

15. Train’s Drops of Jupiter

16. The Byrds’ Eight Miles High

17. Pearl Jam’s Alive

18. Fun.’s Some Nights

19. Fun’s Carry On

I like melody, harmony, passion, and great lyrics. Though for the poverty of its lyrics, I hold a special place in my heart for The Turtles’ “Elenore.”

Kickin’ It Day 15: Who Do You Love?

Today on Kickin’ It Old Skool, we’re posting photos of our loved ones. Really, everyone? Impossible. But here are a few of my partners in crime…

Mom and Dad:


Mom and Dad at their 50th wedding anniversary party this past April.

And these goobers:


My nieces Alyson and Julia, my nephew Evan, and my brother-in-law Anish.

My sister goofing off with my nephew:


My dog-niece and dog-nephew, in synchronized napping position:


Jodie and Troy, the golden doodles.

My lady friends in Austin (not the best ever picture of any of us—we’re all extremely cute):

Me, Eileen, Colleen M, and Jeanel.

Me, Eileen, Colleen M, and Jeanel.

Colleen F with her niece Arden.

Colleen F with her niece Arden.

My college buddies:


Kathy and Dan and their kids.

Kim and Scot.

Kim and Scot.


Harmony, emerging from a rock.

And I so love my other friends and family—I’ll represent them all by this little snippet of some of them on Facebook:

And all my other wonderful friends and family!

And all my other wonderful friends and family!



Kickin’ It Day 14: One-Sentence Saturday – From a Book

Today, our instructions are to grab the third book in on our top shelf of books and share the first sentence.

I cheated. I admit it. But seriously, look at this bookshelf:


And that’s just one of the five bookshelves I have going on. Which book is the third one in on the top shelf? I didn’t know, so I approximated and chose this:

In our day the autonomy of individual existence appears to have become problematic.

That’s from Thomas Luckmann’s The Invisible Religion, a classic about how religion isn’t just what happens in churches—it’s also about what happens “invisibly,” in and among individuals as they work out questions of spiritual meaning.



Kickin’ It Day 13: My first…

Today, Jamie and Shannon have asked us to write about our first time at . . . something. (Am I the only one who thinks this is a bit of a dangerous prompt?)

I’ve been trying to not always post about my book, because after all, I’ve talked about very little else lately, and I do sometimes do other things. But today, it would be artificial to try to talk about some other first, because this is the first first that I thought of as a first that was really great.

So here it is again, my very first book:


And if you’d like to hear me talk about this first, here’s a link to my interview on Creative Living with Jamie:

Creative Living with Jamie: Kelly Besecke

(I’m coming back to edit this because I realized I could also have written about my oldest niece! First baby. I took care of her as her nanny for a lot of her first year of life, but those photos are packed away. Here’s her gorgeous, amazing, athletic, vibrant self now:)


Alyson and her dog Jodie


Alyson at the Bulls game