Texas Watchdog Group Has Sharp Teeth 40
Texans for Public Justice follows the money to
expose undue influence and corruption
by Kathy Mitchell
The Godfather of Tejano Music 46
The long musical journey of Manuel ‘Cowboy’ Donley
by Sarah Wimer
City Ink 6
New year brings new zip to goodlifemag.com
by Ken Martin
We’re expanding in cyberspace to give you more
by Rebecca Melançon
Arts Feature 8
The talent of youth Zach Scott’s educational efforts take young performers to the next level
by Bonnie Neel
Arts Buzz 9
A season of new beginnings
by Bonnie Neel
Arts & Entertainment 10
Art, music, theatre, books and more
Compiled by Laura Blewitt
Out & About 17
The lowdown on what’s going on
Compiled by Laura Blewitt
The mysteries of age meet the mysteries of sexuality
by Karen Kreps
Seeking Spirit 21
Channel some inner peace at the Nobel Peace Center
by Becca Hensley
Free Thought 22
‘Happy New Year’
by Tom Palaima
Green builder and architect
partner on modern home in
by Amy E. Lemen
Austin Original 52
Movin’ Easy Dancewear
by Shelley Seale
Making Life Better 53
Some ideas for personal
renovation for the New Year
by Karen Branz Leach
We’re on a mission...
and this time it’s personal
by Carla Birnberg
Hand washing is the best
protection against flu and colds
by Karen Branz Leach
The Buzz 61
Health, wellness & fitness
Compiled by Laura Blewitt
Texas Watchdog Group Has Sharp Teeth 40
Texans for Public Justice follows the money to
expose undue influence and corruption
by Kathy Mitchell
The Godfather of Tejano Music 46
The long musical journey of Manuel ‘Cowboy’ Donley
by Sarah Wimer
City Ink 6
New year brings new zip to goodlifemag.com
by Ken Martin
We’re expanding in cyberspace to give you more
by Rebecca Melançon
Arts Feature 8
The talent of youth Zach Scott’s educational efforts take young performers to the next level
by Bonnie Neel
Arts Buzz 9
A season of new beginnings
by Bonnie Neel
Arts & Entertainment 10
Art, music, theatre, books and more
Compiled by Laura Blewitt
Out & About 17
The lowdown on what’s going on
Compiled by Laura Blewitt
The mysteries of age meet the mysteries of sexuality
by Karen Kreps
Seeking Spirit 21
Channel some inner peace at the Nobel Peace Center
by Becca Hensley
Free Thought 22
‘Happy New Year’
by Tom Palaima
Green builder and architect
partner on modern home in
by Amy E. Lemen
Austin Original 52
Movin’ Easy Dancewear
by Shelley Seale
Making Life Better 53
Some ideas for personal
renovation for the New Year
by Karen Branz Leach
We’re on a mission...
and this time it’s personal
by Carla Birnberg
Hand washing is the best
protection against flu and colds
by Karen Branz Leach
The Buzz 61
Health, wellness & fitness
Compiled by Laura Blewitt
New year brings new zip to goodlifemag.com
by Ken Martin
For months we've been working to design a new web site for the benefit of our readers and advertisers. We quietly launched it a few weeks ago without fanfare, so that we could work out the inevitable bugs inherent in new technology. Now we're rolling out the red carpet and inviting you to visit, linger and enjoy the marvelous new form and functionality of the site.
Caveat: like all web sites, functionality to some extent depends on your operating system and browser. If things don't work as described below, please let us know.
Here's quick rundown on the new features.
The home page
Welcome to a dynamic new way to read the magazine on-line.
Click the > button to start a slide show that flips pages in the magazine, pausing three seconds for you to scan the two opposing pages. See something you want to read? Click on a page and it instantly expands. Read that, or scroll down to read or search the article in plain text.
Click the >> button to take a more leisurely stroll through the pages. Click on any page that captures your interest. Or flip the pages at your own pace by clicking on the lower outside corner. Even more fun (for me, anyway) is to click and hold the lower outside corner and turn the page by dragging.
Or read the table of contents, located beneath the flip-book, and click on the links to jump to articles you want to read.
I'm jazzed about the new system for publishing calendar listings on-line. As of this writing there are more than five hundred events published. Even in a haystack that big you can easily find what you want.
Use the calendar image to find out what's going on by rolling your cursor over a date to see a pop-up window listing the day's events. Click on a date for a list that includes the event title, venue, city, and calendar category (e.g. art, food, theatre). Click on an event to get details, including links to the venue, the event web site, and a Google map pinpointing the location. (Depending on your browser, you should be able to zoom in, zoom out, and see a map, satellite view or hybrid.)
View Today's Events, View Tomorrow's Events-Click these links to see what's going on.
View Category List-Scroll through the fifty different categories to find your area of interest. Then click on "Show Events" to see all events listed for that category, in chronological sequence.
View Events by Category-Scroll through a category to see all events listed, complete with the date, time, synopsis, venue, city and cost. (Tip: You'll find scores of free things to see and do.)
How to Submit an Event
This is a key feature that we'd like everyone to use to get events published. Click this link, then click the "Create New Account" link.
Register on the site-Provide the information requested and you'll quickly get an e-mail with a link that you must click to complete registration. (This prevents spam on our site.)
Submit a new event-Once registered you can log in with your user name and password and start listing your own events. You can choose to link your event to a specific venue (there are already two hundred in the database) or, if the venue for your event is not in the database, you can submit a new venue-and should do so before filling out the event form. (Complete instructions on how to proceed are at the top of the page for submitting new events.) By selecting or adding a venue to indicate where your event will be held, you are creating links to a Google map that will be available to anyone interested in your event. After you submit an event, it will be reviewed by the editor before it is published in our on-line calendar of events, typically within twenty-four hours.
The bottom line-By submitting your events on-line, your events will get published on the web site and immediately start drawing attention. When we're about to go to press with the print edition, we will download the calendars from our on-line listings and publish events for which we have space. We never have enough space in the magazine to publish every event but, cyberspace being unlimited, we guarantee that every event submitted will be published on-line so long as it fits our parameters. (We don't publish events that are strictly commercial, such as store sales and the like.)
Good Life Blog
Now, instead of hogging the blog for my personal use, we have opened it up to all of our regular contributors. This means you'll see more frequent posts and get a richer variety of voices.
The calendars in the magazine have always been a hybrid of sorts, containing listings for events on specific dates, recurring events, and community resources. We will no longer publish community resources in the magazine. Instead, we can devote unlimited space on the web site for nonprofit and shoestring organizations that are not hosting a particular event but have need of promoting their good works.
The Community Resources page lists forty-three different categories. Whether its cycling, environment, family or any other category, click on the appropriate link to read about the various organizations.
The archives contain every article published since January 2006; one feature article per issue from January 2002 through December 2005; and selected articles as far back as 2000. You can search past issues or use the search engine on the archives page to find articles of interest.
Use the site, spread the word
We hope you'll take advantage of the new site and we look forward to hearing from you about it.
Ken Martin sometimes feels lost in cyberspace. You may e-mail Ken at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We're expanding in cyberspace to give you more
by Rebecca Melançon
This is the beginning of a new era. The magazine you hold in your hands is our first of a new kind of partnership between media.
Since its inception in 1997, The Good Life has been focused on our community, who we are and what it means to be a part of this place we call Austin. We've covered every aspect of our culture and our lives from the practical to the philosophical and we hope you've enjoyed exploring Austin with us.
We've done all this and delivered it to you on, essentially, dead trees. You've faithfully picked up your copy of The Good Life every month, year after year. It's the best endorsement we could have-the knowledge that we provide meaningful prose and insight to your life.
Lately many of you have been choosing a different path to The Good Life. More and more you've been reading us on-line and we're paying attention to you.
It's no surprise. We're all using the web in ways we wouldn't have imagined a few short years ago. When was the last time you pulled out your Yellow Pages to look up a number? How many of your Christmas purchases were made on-line? Even if you are committed to shopping locally, you probably did much of your research on-line. From checking out the menu at a new restaurant to comparing prices and features, the web is unparalleled in its ability to deliver information to your cozy home or roving laptop or phone. It's a media we've not only become comfortable with, we've embraced it with a ravishing appetite.
Our web site began as a simple electronic billboard for the magazine. It was designed to motivate you to go out and pick up a copy of the magazine. It has evolved over the past two years to be so much more than a static billboard. Now we're taking another leap forward-a true partnership between the web and print.
We've looked at what the web does best: data, and converted some of our data to on-line databases. Calendars of Events, Health and Wellness Guides, Locations, Community Resources and more are now available in easy-to-navigate, on-line databases. You can search to find exactly what you're looking for or cruise the listings just to see what you find. All of these things are better suited to the web than to print so we've scaled them back in the magazine. The bonus for you is since we're not limited by pages on the web, we can offer you so much more information, resources and fun events than we ever could in print.
We've also looked at what The Good Life does best-it tells our stories. Quite apart from the data of life, stories are the threads that weave together our lives. Our stories reflect the heart of our community. Inspiring, moving, rewarding, warming, sometimes alarming, touching and more, our stories define what it is to be human.
But you don't just get stories from paper. Our culture began with a tradition of oral story telling because no other medium was readily available. As print became more widespread, our stories were shared with greater numbers. It's taken hundreds of years since the invention of the printing press around 1439 to perfect the process. In recognition of today's limited resources, the cost and environmental consequences of paper have curtailed the press.
Just as the printing press exploded the availability of information and knowledge for nearly six centuries, the web has exponentially expanded our reach. In keeping with modern speed, this has occurred in a matter of a few years, not a few hundred years. It's an exciting time to be on the planet.
Now we're taking our stories on-line in a reader-friendly fashion so The Good Life will be available to you anywhere you (and your inseparable electronic devices) are. We'll continue to occupy the pulp of dead trees for a while. It's still nice to curl up with a magazine and escape the data-ridden world. But we now have almost as many readers on-line as we do in print and it's time to deliver our community to you where we all live (at least part-time): in cyberspace.
It's fitting that we should embrace our web site for The Good Life. Editor Ken Martin and I produced the first Austin on-line publication, In Fact, a newsletter on Austin government and politics. Begun as a weekly print newsletter in July 1995, we took it to an on-line daily in the ancient web-time of July 1999. We didn't see ourselves as cutting edge so much as trying to find an efficient, fast way to deliver information to those who wanted it quickly.
Let's go shopping too! We've created a Shopping District on goodlifemag.com for you to make contact with local merchants. They have specific items to offer as well as advice and information about their products and services-all in one convenient place. We hope you will respond to the advertisers who are waiting to greet you at goodlifemag.com.
We provide all this to you for free. But The Good Life, on the web or in print, isn't really free. It costs a small fortune to produce the kind of stories we deliver and dead trees are getting more expensive every day. These advertisers support what we're doing. They are footing the bill so you can enjoy the community that The Good Life covers. They simply ask that in return, you give them your business. We're asking too. You have a choice every time you spend a dollar and we hope you'll choose the merchants found in our pages and on our web site. Let them know they did the right thing too-tell them you saw them in The Good Life.
What you'll see at goodlifemag.com is only the beginning of our new approach. We will continue to enhance and expand your experience on-line and in our community.
Rebecca Melançon is busy building her new playscape in cyberspace. You may e-mail Rebecca at email@example.com.
The Talent of Youth
Zach Scott's Educational Efforts Take Young Performers to the Next Level
by Bonnie Neel
I remember watching my first show at the Zachary Scott Theatre three years ago. I had just moved to town and a friend bought me a ticket to Rockin' Christmas Party. It was excellent Austin fun but I was struck by the young performers-all teenagers according to the program, but they danced, sang and acted with a professional poise and an undeniable talent.
I learned later that these exceptional kids were homegrown veterans of Zach's Performing Arts School (PAS). "We have spring and fall classes, as well as holiday camps, spring break camps and summer camps," says education director Tina Gramann. "Starting at age five and all the way through the teens, we have classes for all levels. There are some for kids who want to try it out for the first time and then we have kids who have been taking classes for a long time and are looking for a pre-professional experience."
Since beginning in the seventies, Zach's PAS has been dedicated to providing excellent and diverse theater-arts education. A glimpse at the classes available for this spring semester makes me want to be thirteen again. My favorite is the Saturday class where kids can create their own characters and plays from C.S. Lewis' novel The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia).
More than two thousand children attend classes at Zach's PAS, including home-schooled kids who participate in specially designed courses. "They will do their curriculum at home and then they will come over here to study theatre," says Gramann. "We have about a hundred home-schoolers of all ages every semester that come and participate in plays. They are just a terrific group."
In addition to the classes at the PAS, the education department stages family-friendly performances to bring quality theatre to the community.
Project Playspace stages interactive plays for children ages three through seven in Zach Scott's main theater weekday mornings.
Project Interact takes plays on the road to schools across Central Texas. "Interact is the traveling troupe of adult professional actors that go out into the schools and perform in the gymnasiums and cafeterias," says Gramann, who directs all Project Interact shows. "We reach almost fifty thousand students a year." With the generous help of corporate sponsors like Dell, H.E.B. and Applied Materials, two shows tour each fall and spring, one for elementary kids and one for middle school and high school students.
That's not the end of the Zach education department's outreach. Project Discovery is a program to provide subsidized tickets to Zach's main stage productions to kids within the community who might not have the opportunity to see professional theater. "The tickets and outreach for this year will be the production of the Grapes of Wrath in March," says Gramann.
The off-Broadway hit Wanda's World will be the annual youth musical, and marks the debut production of the PAS's newest pre-professional troupe, the Zach Showstoppers. When director Jaclyn Loewenstein began staging the annual musical theatre shows four years ago, she noticed an abundance of talent in the "tween" or preteen age range. Last year's musical, Golly Gee Whiz, starred thirteen-year-old David Bologna, who went on to be cast in the new Broadway musical Billy Elliot, which opened last fall. "We have so many talented kids in middle school age range (at the PAS)," says Loewenstein. "So we formed the Zach Showstoppers and invited kids to be in it who have been studying with us and have participated in our summer advance workshops."
With a troupe of twenty-seven talented eleven to fourteen year olds behind her, Loewenstein went after the "tween musical" sensation, Wanda's World, which had just closed its Off-Broadway run last February. "I went to New York in March and met the authors. Beth Falcone was the writer of the music and lyrics and we really hit it off," says Loewenstein. Falcone was invited to teach some students (and later troupe members of Showstoppers) in a June summer camp and she became excited about the idea of allowing the Showstoppers to stage a junior version of her show.
"Famous musicals-Guys and Dolls, Fiddler on the Roof-all have a junior version now that are done at middle schools all over the place," says Loewenstein. "We got the permission to be the pilot production." Wanda's World is a wonderful story about an eighth-grade girl with a large port-wine birthmark on her cheek, who must face the trials of starting at a new school. She fantasizes her anxieties into a dream television call-in show where she helps kids with their problems and her own as well.
Opening January 31, Wanda's World plays Saturdays and Sundays through February. Come see the best and brightest of Zach Scott's students and be blown away again by the talent and poise of Austin's youngest performers.
Spring classes begin January 26 and Wanda's World runs on the Kleberg Stage at Zach Scott January 31-February 22. For more information contact Zach Scott Education Department and Performing Arts School at 512-476-0594 or visit www.zachtheatre.org.
Bonnie would have been the star of the stage if she could only sing and dance or act. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A season of new beginnings
by Bonnie Neel
I love a new year. It's a nice blank canvas upon which to paint our dreams of a better tomorrow. Better habits (quit smoking, lose weight), better politics (a new man installed in the Oval Office), and better things to come are my wishes for a happy new year. What better way to kick off the new year than by diving into the wonderful delights of the Austin arts scene?
The new Penfold Theatre Company is teaming up with the Austin Playhouse to produce The Last Five Years, an off-Broadway hit in which a man and a woman explore the vagaries of their last five years together (through January 18). Directed by the stunning Michael McKelvey, this play marks the second production of Penfold, whose mission is to bring more quality professional theater to Austin.
Speaking of quality theater, FronteraFest begins this month as well. For four glorious weeks, you can watch fresh new voices and see some veterans perform cutting-edge theater. The Short Fringe (four to five plays a night, each less than twenty-five minutes long) runs January 13-February 14 at the Hyde Park Theater. The Long Fringe features full-length productions performed at both Salvage Vanguard Theater and the Blue Theater (January 20-February 1). For the long fringe, I'm reserving a seat for Gemma Wilcox's triumphant return to FF in the two-person show The 52 Pickup (January 28-February 1 at Salvage Vanguard) as well as her one-woman show, Leela's Wheel, a multi-award-winning comedy-drama where Wilcox plays twenty different characters (January 27-February 1 at Salvage Vanguard). As for the long fringe offerings at the Blue Theater, I'm intrigued by Kill Will: The Lost Diary of Shakespeare (January 20-February 1).
A new beginning doesn't mean we forget our old friends. That's why I urge you to catch Jerry Jeff Walker singing at One World Theatre on January 9. That old cowboy can make every classic sound new. Another classic, West Side Story, is being screened at the gorgeous Paramount Theater (January 21 and 23-24).
And an old friend is made new again with the official reopening of The University of Texas at Austin's Bass Concert Hall. After eighteen months and fourteen million dollar's worth of renovations, on January 23 Bass Hall welcomes the silk-voiced singer-songwriter and hip-hop superstar John Legend with special guest emerging singer, rapper and songwriter Estelle. Following up this star-studded event is World of Sound (January 30), a combined performance of the UT Symphony Orchestra, UT Wind Ensemble, UT Choral Ensemble, and a UT Jazz Ensemble that will welcome some special guests of its own, including electro-funk-rock duo Ghostland Observatory. Come join the musical Longhorns celebrate Bass Concert Hall's return as a premiere Austin performance space.
Begin the year with some beautiful (and affordable) art as The Wally Workman Gallery hosts its annual A Grand Affair (January 10-31). I always look forward to this event as the excellent artists of WWG offer their works for a thousand dollars or less. In addition, the always excellent Women and Their Work gallery is branching out into new territories when it presents a world premiere performance at the Long Center's Rollins Theater (January 9-10). delta dandi is written and conducted by Austin author and playwright Sharon Bridgforth and the show is described as "a living cacophony of monologues, chants, choral tellings, songs and dance." WATW is renowned for its commitment to excellent and daring art by women and I can hardly wait to see this performance in the fabulous facilities of the Rollins Theater.
We should explore this new year by seizing the opportunities for change and stretching our boundaries to become better artists and better people. Happy New Year, Austin. Here's to a spectacular 2009.
Bonnie got quite a few kisses at midnight this New Year's Eve, certainly an auspicious sign of good year to come. Contact her at email@example.com.
Arts & Entertainment
Jan. 1-4 Th-Su Ben Woitena: A look back at 45 years of work by noted Houston sculptor Ben Woitena, ranging from the figurative to the abstract, from hydrastone to steel. In Austin, Woitena is best known for replicating the Goddess of Liberty that's on the top of the Texas State Capitol. Details: 445-5582 www.umlaufsculpture.org 605 Robert E. Lee Rd.
Jan. 1-4 Th-Su Don Snell's Artwork: Snell, a longtime resident of Georgetown, is a prolific artist who sculpts as well as paints. His art will be displayed in the 2nd floor galleries. One of his large paintings, "Reading Love Poems," previously donated to the library, hangs on the west side of the main lobby. Details: 512-863-7635 www.donsnell.com 402 W. 8th St., Georgetown firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Jan. 1-5 Th-M 2009 People's Gallery Artwork Applications Accepted: Austin-area artists, galleries, museums & arts organizations are encouraged to apply. Applications are being accepted for 2- and 3-dimensional artworks in any medium thru Jan. 5. Application procedures & complete call for artworks are available on the Art in Public Places web site. All applications must be submitted on-line with up to 5 digital images of the artists' available artwork. Jan. 5 M Deadline to Apply. Feb. 20 F Exhibit Opening Reception Details: Jean Graham 974-9313 www.cityofaustin.org/aipp 301 W. 2nd St. email@example.com free
Jan. 1-11 Rapture in Rupture: Lauren Kelley, Shiri Mordechay, Mindy Shapero & Nicolau Vergueiro: Rapture in Rupture reveals aspects of our conflicted culture thru the lens of four young artists. The "ruptures" in their respective works express (sometimes gleefully) chaos, irresolution & discomfort, perhaps alluding to the imploding rapture that has come to define our specific time & place in the world. Details: 453-5312 http://www.arthousetexas.org 700 N. Congress Ave. Free
Jan. 1-18 Sun The New York Graphic Workshop: Showcasing over 100 prints, drawings & mixed media works, the exhibition will explore contributions made to the Conceptualist movement of the '60s & '70s thru the printmaking of The New York Graphic Workshop. Details: 471-7324 www.blantonmuseum.org 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Jan. 1-18 Reimagining Space: The Park Place Gallery Group in 1960s New York: An exhibition that opens a new window on the 1960s art world. In doing so, it reveals the decade to have been a period of much richer artistic possibility & complexity than standard art historical narratives suggest. Details: 471-7324 www.blantonmuseum.org 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Jan. 1-24 11am-6pm Journeys/Remains: d berman gallery presents new work by two Texas women artists responding through their artwork to different aspects of their environment of the last few years. Ann Matlock is one of the state's most accomplished weavers. Her lush and richly colorful new works are based on watercolors she produced during her recent travels in Europe & Morocco. Marjorie Moore's emotional, sculptural work expresses her frustration with living a comfortable existence in Austin while military action in the Middle East disrupts life for residents of Iraq.
Jan. 10 S 1pm Gallery Talk Details: 477-8877 www.dbermangallery.com 1701 Guadalupe St.
Jan. 1-31 8am-6pm Fourth Annual People's Gallery Exhibition: You can vote to choose a new piece of art to be added to the City Hall permanent collection. Stop by City Hall during weekdays to browse this year's exhibit of local Austin artists. A free booklet is available at the information desk with all the artists' names, titles of their artwork & maps showing where each piece is located. Details: 974-9314 www.ci.aust.tx.us/cityhall/gallery.htm 301 W. 2nd St. Free
Jan. 1-31 Sculpture by Barry George: Birds & other creatures welded out of garden tools, bicycle forks & other found objects. There are 11 of these fun & fanciful kinetic sculptures on the grounds & you can hear the artist on our cell phone audio tour. Details: 232-0100 www.wildflower.org 4801 La Crosse Ave.
Jan. 1- Feb. 8 Damian Priour's Texas Chair Project: Priour created 100 miniature chairs made of glass & fossil-imbedded limestone. He then mailed the chairs to 100 Texas artists, asking for them to send him back one chair of their own making in return. Both celebrating the artistic impulse & investigating the chair as a rich & open-ended opportunity for exploration, the project hopes to push creative boundaries. Details: 495-9224 www.amoa.org 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Jan. 1-Feb. 8 Workers: Photographs by Sebastião Salgado:
More than those of any other living photographer, Salgado's images of the world's poor stand in tribute to the human condition. The winner of numerous international photography awards, Salgado has renewed the "concerned photographer" genre. Details: 495-9224 www.amoa.org 823 N. Congress Ave.
Jan. 1-Feb. 8 The Serie Project: Quinceañera: This exhibition features the 15th annual series of prints, including Coming of Age, a mixed-media installation dress created by Austin artist Sandra Fernández. Details: 480-9373 http//www.mexic-artemuseum.org 419 Congress Ave firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan. 1-Feb. 14 National Arts Program Exhibit: 120 City of Austin employees, retired employees & family members of employees have entered 240 works of art into the 6th annual National Arts Program in Austin. Jan. 15 Th 6-8pm Opening Reception Details: 454-9912 www.vsatx.org 600 River Street Free
Jan. 1- Feb. 22 WorkSpace 10: Marcelo Pombo: 3 new large-scale paintings together construct a single narrative while maintaining a distinct autonomy. Details: 471-7324 www.blantonmuseum.org 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Jan. 1-Mar. 1 Creando Fuerza: Cambio y Permanencia (Creating Strength: Change & Permanence): An exhibition of artwork & a collective portfolio of members of Consejo Gráfico, an independent network of Latino printmaking centers. The exhibiiton explores the centers' diverse origins & dimensions, as well as their cultural resonance within the context of a broader national community of printmaking. Details: 480-9373 www.mexic-artemuseum.org 419 N. Congress Ave email@example.com
Jan. 1-Mar. 8 Alternate Worlds: The Visionary Artist in Texas: A small but stirring exhibition celebrating the work of regional visionary artists. Drawn from the Blanton's holdings, the exhibit highlights paintings & works on paper by Reverend Johnny Swearingen, one of Texas' most inspired outsider artists & fellow Texas artists. Folk, or "visionary" art, has often been perceived as an inferior or secondary art form, but in recent years it has been recognized as both an important & equal artistic tradition. Details: 475-6784 www.blantonmuseum.org 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.
Jan. 2 Fri 6-11pm B scene: The Blanton Museum of Art rocks on the 1st Friday of each month. Featuring live music, gallery tours, art-making activities, light snacks & cash bar (with Blantinis of course). MLK at N. Congress Ave. Tickets at texasboxoffice.com. Details: 471-7324 www.blantonmuseum.org 200 E. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. $5-$10
Jan. 7-Feb. 1 9am-5pm Our World In A Flash: Photography show by members of the Creative Arts Society. A reception will be held Sunday, January 11 from 12:30pm to 1:30pm. Details: www.creativeartssociety.org 7050 Village Center Drive
Jan. 10-31 10am-5pm A Grand Affair: The Wally Workman Gallery presents new works from its 50 represented artists. Each piece is priced under $1,000. Come start your collection or easily add to it with affordable works by nationally recognized artists. Details: 472-7428 www.wallyworkman.com 1202 W. 6th St. Free
Jan. 16-Feb. 5 9am-5pm Annual Faculty Art Exhibit: Gallery talk and opening reception will be held Friday, Jan. 15 at 6 p.m. at the St. Edward's University Art Gallery. The exhibit is open M-F. Details: 3001 S. Congress Ave. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan. 17-24 10am-6pm Best of the Best Art Trunk Show: ART on 5th brings you the best artists from dealers around the country. More than 500 unframed paintings on canvas & paper from over 50 artists. This huge selection has never been seen before at one time & will be on display for one week only. Represented artists are from all over the U.S., Canada, Europe, Asia & South America. Special Sunday hours: noon to 5pm. Details: 481-1111 www.arton5th.com 1501 W. 5th St. Free
Jan. 17-Mar. 15 Keith Steber & Barbara Irwin Exhibits: Mixed media and oil paintings by Steber and found object flower art by Irwin will be displayed in the McDermott Learning Center. Details: 232-0104 www.wildflower.org 4801 La Crosse Ave email@example.com
Jan. 5 Mon - Jan. 31 Sat BookPeople Author Signings, Events:
Events start at 7pm unless otherwise indicated.
Jan. 6 Tu The Utter Reading Series
Jan. 7 W Rewritten History Book Club discussing Crippen by John Boyne
Jan. 9 F The Kick Ass Awards! hosted by Spike Gillespie
Jan. 11 Su 3pm Marcella Woolf Grenga Willow Run Farm
Jan. 12 M AAIM Book Club discussing The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen
Jan. 13 Tu Nami Mun Miles from Nowhere
Jan. 14 W Nastaran Kherad In the House of my Bibi
Jan. 16 F 7:30pm John Everson Covenant
Jan. 17 Sa 3pm Billy Taylor Based on the Movie
Jan. 18 Su 3pm Robb Walsh Sex, Death & Oysters
Jan. 19 M Ludicrous Speed Book Club discussing Red Mars by Kim Stanley Robinson
Jan. 20 Tu Jake Silverstein Submersion Journalism
Jan. 21 W The Intimacies Group
Jan. 22 Th Rachel Resnick Love Junkie
Jan. 23 F Elle Newmark The Book of Unholy Mischief
Jan. 25 Su 3pm Jami Attenberg The Kept Man
Jan. 26 M New & Noteworthy Book Club discussing A Fraction of the Whole by Steve Toltz
Jan. 27 Tu David and Nic Sheff A Beautiful Boy and Tweak
Jan. 29 Th Adam Shepard Scratch Beginnings
Jan. 31 Sa 3pm Paul Damien Help!
Jan. 31 Sa Carl Hiaasen Scat
Details: 472-5050 www.bookpeople.com 603 N. Lamar Free
Jan. 1-31 Sat IMAX Theatre:
• Grand Canyon Adventure 3-D: River at Risk: Set against the immense backdrop of a natural treasure, the film takes audiences on an exhilarating adventure down the Colorado River in the company of a team of explorers who are committed to bringing awareness to global water issues.
• Sea Monsters 3D: A Prehistoric Adventure: Thru stunning photo-realistic computer-generated 3-D animation, National Geographic transports audiences back to the Late Cretaceous period more than 65 million years ago, when a great inland sea divided North America in two & covered most of Texas. Follow a family of Dolichorhynchops as they traverse ancient waters populated with saber-toothed fish, prehistoric sharks & giant squid.
• Texas: The Big Picture: This film brings the myth, majesty & magnitude of the Lone Star State to the screen.
• U2 3D: The first ever live-action 3D concert film, it immerses the audience in an all-enveloping & thrilling cinematic experience.
• Wild Ocean 3D: Filmed off the Wild Coast of South Africa & set to the rhythm of the local people, this film reveals the economic & cultural impact of the ocean while celebrating the communal efforts to protect our invaluable marine resources. Details: 936-4629 www.thestoryoftexas.com/showtimes/im 1800 N. Congress Ave. $5-$12
Monday thru Friday: Dance Across Austin: You can put on your dancing shoes & enjoy dancing every week night in Austin. Although most of the dances are held at senior centers, all ages are welcome. Attire is casual, but no shorts, please. All venues are nonsmoking & no alcohol is permitted. Details: Donna Baldwin 836-5099.
M & Th $4 Senior Activity Center, 2874 Shoal Crest Ave. (29th & Lamar).
Tu $4 Hancock Center, 811 E. 41st St. Bring a snack to share.
W & F, $3.50 W, $4 F South Austin Senior Activity Center, 3911 Manchaca Rd. Bring a snack to share. Details: Donna Baldwin 836-5099
Mondays & Wednesdays: Authentic Bellydance Classes: Zein Al-Jundi, native of Damascus, Syria & director-choreographer for Bint El Balad Bellydance Ensemble, teaches bellydance as it is danced & taught in the Arab World. For women only. All classes are ongoing.
M & W 7:45-8:45pm; F noon-1pm; Sa 11am-6pm
M 6:30-7:30pm Beginner Intermediate Bellydance
W 6:30-7:30pm Intermediate Bellydance
M & W 6:30-6:45pm; Sa 10:45-11am free Conditioning Classes
Details: 533-9227 www.wmdproductions.com 5013-B Duval St.
Mondays, Wednesdays & Saturdays: Belly Dance Classes:
Texas Traditional & Classical Egyptian techniques & choreographies taught in a fast-paced fun format.
M 7-8:30pm Platinum Gymnastics Academy, 1410 Royston Ln. Round Rock.
W 6:30-7:30pm Kidsport Gymnastic & Dance Studio, 2522-C Shell Rd. Georgetown.
Sa 10-11:30am Dance Unlimited Studio, Main St., Buda.
Details: 750-7037 www.desertpassion.com firstname.lastname@example.org $13
Wednesdays: Belly Dance Classes:
Learn the basics of belly dance technique from 1 of Austin's best teachers & performers. Classes focus on the foundation moves, muscle isolation & footwork that can be taken into any style.
Details: 443-3013 www.niaspace.com 3212 S. Congress Ave. $15
Thursdays 6:30-7:30pm Thursdays: Austin Clickety Cloggers:
Beginning lessons. The Appalachian-style dancing requires no partner. Details: www.clicketycloggers.com 1807 Slaughter Lane $60
Jan. 3 Sat 8pm La Follia Concert: Concertos by Bach, Vivaldi & Telmann, including "Winter" from The Four Seasons & the Fifth Brandenburg Concerto. The concert features members of the La Follia core ensemble as soloists, along with an expanded string ensemble. Only one Austin performance! Details: 879-6404 www.lafollia.org 8001 Mesa Dr. $5-$18
Jan. 9 Fri Jerry Jeff Walker: Jerry Jeff Walker is a legendary singer-songwriter who sees the world through a troubadour's eyes. As a champion of outlaw-progressive music, Walker served as a fountainhead & inspiration to younger musicians such as Robert Earl Keen, Pat Green & Garth Brooks, helping put Austin on the map as a musical hotbed. Walker will perform at 7pm &9:30pm. Details: 329-6753 www.jerryjeff.com 7701 Bee Caves Rd. $30-$70
Jan. 16 Fri Richie Havens: Richie Havens is gifted with one of the most recognizable voices in popular music. His fiery, poignant, soulful singing style has remained unique & ageless since emerging from the Greenwich Village folk scene in the ‘60s. He uses his music to convey messages of brotherhood & personal freedom, and feels that making music is a continuous journey, one that advances a step further with each album. Havens performs at 7:30pm & 9pm. Details: 329-6753 www.richiehavens.com 7701 Bee Caves Rd. $20-$60
Jan. 18 Sun Christopher Cross: San Antonio born Christopher Cross rocketed to fame with his self-titled debut album that earned him all of the "Big Four" Grammy Awards in one year-a feat yet to be equaled-as well as an Oscar. Don't miss his debut performances at One World Theatre. Cross will hit the stage at 6:30pm and 8pm. Details: 329-6753 www.christophercross.com 7701 Bee Caves Rd. $20-$60
Jan. 22 Thu Al Di Meola: Jazz fusion & Latin jazz virtuoso Di Meola's highly celebrated career includes 21 recordings, countless awards & distinctions, 3 gold albums & a Grammy Award. Guitar Player Magazine says, "In the history of the electric guitar, no one figure has done more to advance the instrument in a purely technical manner than Mr. Di Meola. His total command of the various styles and scales is simply mind-boggling." Di Meola will perform at 7pm and 9:30pm. Details: 329-6753 www.aldimeola.com 7701 Bee Caves Rd. $20-$60
Jan. 22 Thu 6:30-9:30pm Patty Griffin at the Grounded in Music VIP Fund-raiser: Musical legend Patty Griffin will headline the 2nd annual VIP fund-raiser for Grounded in Music this year. The event will kick off with a performance by students participating in the local program. Proceeds from this event will be used to purchase musical instruments for underprivileged youth, provide education in musicianship, teach music theory, and offer music-related opportunities outside of performance. Details: 389-0315 www.www.frontgatetickets.com 3601 S. Congress Ave. Ste. G 400 $100
Jan. 23 Fri Diane Schuur: Regarded as "The New First Lady of Jazz," blind vocalist & pianist Schuur has built a stellar career by embracing the jazz of her parents' generation & the pop music of her own youth. Her career spans nearly three decades, includes two Grammy Awards & explores nearly every inch of the 20th century American musical landscape. Her live performances are fueled with humor, passion & power. Schuur will perform at 7pm and 9:30pm. Details: 329-6753 www.dianeschuur.com 7701 Bee Caves Rd. $20-$60
Jan. 25 Sun 5-9:30pm An Intimate Evening with Michael McDonald: One magical evening of music, fine food & entertainment as McDonald returns to lend his extraordinary talents in this benefit for One World Theatre. Details: 330-9500 www.oneworldtheatre.org 7701 Bee Caves Rd. $500
Jan. 30 Fri Spyro Gyra: American jazz fusion band Spyro Gyra has been influential in the development of smooth jazz, combining elements of jazz, R&B, funk & pop. Praised for its ensemble of skilled instrumentalists & live performances, the Grammy Award-winning band has released more than 25 albums & sold nearly 10 million copies. The group will perform at 7pm and 9:30pm. Details: 329-6753 www.spyrogyra.com 7701 Bee Caves Rd. $25-$65
Jan. 31 Sat 8pm Duo Erato: Get ready for a beautiful evening of virtuosity, taste & perfection. Guitar Foundation of America International Competition winner Martha Masters teams up with Risa Carlson in Duo Erato for what promises to be a memorable evening of music. Details: 300-2247 www.AustinClassicalGuitar.org 7050 Village Center Drive $25-$50
Saturdays thru Feb. 21 8pm After School Improv: Whether Jimmy's on "the pot" or Suzy's hanging out with predatory mortgage brokers, the Hideout's improvisers turn a single audience suggestion into a priceless cautionary tale for teens of all ages. Come on, Austin... everybody's doing it. Details: 443-3688 www.hideouttheatre.com 617 N. Congress Ave. $10
Jan. 1-18 Th-Su 8pm The Last Five Years: The Austin Playhouse & Penfold Theatre Company are teaming up to produce The Last Five Years, a musical by Jason Robert Brown. The show explores a five-year relationship between characters Jamie & Cathy. Jamie tells his version of the story from beginning to end while Cathy tells her version from end to beginning. They alternate on stage in a series of songs that are sometimes funny, sometimes sweet & sometimes heart-breaking. Sunday showtime is 5pm. Details: 296-3494 www.austinplayhouse.com 3601 S. Congress Ave. Bldg. C $10-$20
Jan. 17 Sat 8pm The Israeli-Palestinian Comedy Tour:
Laughter is typically not the first thing that one envisions when Israelis & Palestinians come together, but a standup comedy troupe that is heading to Austin provides a new perspective to the Middle East conflict. The group was founded by Charley Warady, an Israeli, & Ray Hanania, a Palestinian. The troupe also includes veteran standup comedians Aaron Freeman & Yisrael Campbell. They spin jokes from both sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict & in America, are working to dispel prevailing stereotypes of both Israelis & Palestinians. Details: 735-8034 www.austinjewishacademy.org 7300 Hart Lane $12-$18
Jan. 31, Feb. 4 & 6 7:30pm Austin Lyric Opera's Rigoletto:
Giuseppe Verdi's Rigoletto is a gripping tale of passion & revenge. "Rigoletto is one of the best-known operas in history, filled with opera's most popular melodies," said ALO's General Director, Kevin Patterson. Richard Buckley, ALO's principal conductor, will bring color & balance to the ALO Orchestra and an exceptional cast of singers. Details: 472-5992 www.austinlyricopera.org 701 W. Riverside Drive $20-$126
Feb. 3-8 Tu-Su 8pm Legally Blonde the Musical: Austin goes blonde when Legally Blond the Musical kicks off the highly anticipated return of the Broadway Across America-Austin 2008-2009 Season at the University of Texas at Austin Performing Arts Center. Sorority star Elle Woods doesn't take "no" for an answer. So when her boyfriend dumps her for someone more "serious," Elle puts down the credit card, hits the books & sets out to go where no Delta Nu has gone before: Harvard Law. Details: 477-6060 www.broadwayacrossamerica.com 2350 Robert Dedman Dr. $19.50-$63
Feb. 19 Thu 8pm Robin Williams: Weapons of Self Destruction: Come to The Theatre at the Frank Erwin Center for what is sure to be a laugh-out-loud experience with the award winning actor & comedian, Robin Williams. Williams has done a number of stand-up comedy tours & after a 6-year hiatus from his record-breaking tour, Robin Williams Live on Broadway, he is at it again. So don't miss the hysterical antics of this comic genius when he makes an Austin stop on his new tour. Details: www.texasboxoffice.com 1701 Red River St. $55-$90
Mar. 5-8 Th-Su 8pm Best of River City Pops: 25th Anniversary & Reunion Show: The show includes upbeat rock 'n' roll music, beautiful ballads, familiar Broadway hits & movement-inspiring Latin numbers, interspersed with comedy & special numbers by alumni who will be fondly recognized by patrons that have attended previous shows. Performances, complete with colorful costumes & historical highlights, are sure to delight audiences of all ages. There will be 2 showtimes on Sa March 7th: 4pm & 8pm. March 8 Su matinee 2pm. Details: 350-7677 7104 Berkman Drive email@example.com $7-$15
Out & About-Day Trips
May. 1-3 Fri-Sun Hill Country Run Motorcycle Rally:
It's 3 days of hearty food, live music, new friends & miles of riding thru towns & vistas of the scenic Hill Country. Weekend entertainment includes live music played afternoons & evenings by Classie Ballou, Koncrete Kings, The Fabs, Kevin Deal & more. Check in starts 9am on F & Sa. Arrive early & stay late to enjoy the hospitality that Luckenbach & Fredericksburg offers, including antique shopping, fine dining, Texas history & lots of sightseeing. Sa & Su start with a Cowboy Breakfast, included in the registration fee, with ingredients provided for do-it-yourself cooking. Also included in the fee are a road trip, bike show & bike games. Proceeds from this all-volunteer event fund Fredericksburg Optimist Club projects. Details: 1-866-839-3378 hillcountryrun.com 412 Luckenbach Town Loop $45
Out & About-Exhibitions
Jan. 1-4 Th-Su Cowboys & Presidents: From Theodore Roosevelt to George W. Bush, U.S. presidents have used the powerful iconographic symbol of the heroic American cowboy to define themselves & their administrations to the nation & the world. The special exhibition created by Autry National Center explores the fascinating & ongoing intersection of cowboy culture & presidential politics. Motion pictures, TV, radio & music enhance the exhibition & visitors are invited to cast their votes on thought-provoking issues in interactive voting booths. M-Sa 9am-6pm Su noon-6pm
Details: 936-8746 www.thestoryoftexas.com 1800 N. Congress Ave. $0-$7
Jan. 1-Jul. 20 9am-5pm To the Moon: The American Space Program in the 1960s: Highlights include a Russian Vostok capsule that flew in space, rare artifacts, simulators & a multimedia laser show. In addition, the LBJ Library hosts an art show of an Apollo 12 astronaut's paintings, Alan Bean: First Artist to Visit Another World. Details: 721-0216 www.lbjlib.utexas.edu 2313 Red River St. firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Out & About-Government
Jan. 23 Fri 10:30am-noon Travis County Underage Drinking Prevention Task Force: Guest speaker is Rochelle Sides, who will discuss bullying & its tragic consequences. Underage drinking can exacerbate bullying & other forms of negative peer interactions. Details: 854-4229 www.co.travis.tx.us/county_attorney/Underage_Drinking_Pgm/default.asp 2500 Exposition Blvd. Free
Out & About-Nature
Saturdays thru Feb. 28 10am-noon Walk on the Wild Side: Enjoy an interpretive hike as a park naturalist brings together a unique blend of human & natural history to tell the story of the Colorado River & how it influences animal, plant & human life along its banks. Each walk will focus on a different aspect of the river's story. Geology, botany, native & early people, wildlife & river history are just some examples. Preregistration is required. Hike limited to 1st 20 people. Details: 303-5073 www.lcra.org 1884 SH 71 West. email@example.com Free
Jan. 15 Thu 6:30pm Travis Audubon General Membership Meeting: Guest Speaker Ted Eubanks will discuss Faces of Flight: Birds of the Upper Texas Coast. Details: 300-2473 www.travisaudubon.org 3601 Lake Austin Blvd. Free
Out & About-Seniors
Tuesdays Jan. 27-March 3 1:30-4pm The Retirement Years: Increasing the Joy & Overcoming the Challenges: Dealing with change, goal setting, stress management, creating a more meaningful life & more. Discover the latest resources on positive aging in a small group setting. To enroll, call the Senior Activity Center. Details: 2874 Shoal Crest Ave. firstname.lastname@example.org $35
Out & About-Shopping
Jan. 31 Sat Winter Clearance at Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Gift Shop: Final reductions on seasonal goods. Details: 232-0104 www.wildflower.org 4801 La Crosse Ave. email@example.com
Out & About-Social
Thursdays thru Feb. 12 5:30-7:30pm Thursdays: Learn Chinese: This is a basic Chinese language class especially for our students attending the 2009 China Study Tour, but also open to the public. Students will learn useful daily conversations & commonly used terms for better comprehension. Details: 492-3034 www.aoma.edu 2700 W. Anderson Ln., Suite 204 firstname.lastname@example.org $160
Sundays 11:00am Riverbend Singles Class: Call to find out what topic will be presented each Sunday. The program is normally followed by an optional off-campus lunch for members & guests. Also, during the week, the Riverbend Singles Class sponsors many social activities in Austin & Central Texas for mature unmarried adults. Call or visit the web site for more specific information. Meets in Room 4-A of the Quadrangle, on the southwest corner of the Riverbend campus. Details: 289-3712, 826-2010 riverbendsingles.com 4214 N. Capital of Texas Highway Free
Jan. 17 Sat Bush Retirement Party: Live bands, entertainment & a huge feeling of relief will be the theme of this party organized by Obama Worldwide, 1,000,000 Americans for Obama, Austin For Obama, Students for Barack Obama, Texas for Obama. This is a fund-raiser for the Travis County Democratic Party. Organizers are working to develop the specifics, but the party will be based around music, comedy, and guest speakers. Details: www.bushretires.com 208 Nueces St.
Jan. 20 Tue 7pm Introduction to Nudism & Naturism:
This information meeting held by the Hill Country Nudists on the 3rd Tu each month. Come find out about Naturism & get your questions answered. Details: www.hillcountrynudists.com 2414-A S. Lamar Blvd. email@example.com
Feb. 11 Wed 10:30am-1pm Mosaic Luncheon featuring Suzi Weiss-Fischmann: The Women's Division of the Jewish Community Association of Austin (JCAA) will host its 10th Annual Mosaic Luncheon featuring Weiss-Fischmann, executive vice president and artistic director of OPI Products, Inc., as the keynote speaker. The event will also honor Lecia Sud, a local volunteer and leader in the community as the 2009 Woman of Valor. All proceeds will benefit the 2009 Austin United Jewish Community Campaign. Details: 795-9937x13 www.shalomaustin.org/mosaic 500 E. 4th St.
Out & About-Speakers
Jan. 14 Wed 6:30-8:30pm Home Buying Seminar & Wine Tasting: First-time homebuyers & retirees alike will benefit from the topics to be discussed at this educational event. Money saving tips, mistakes to avoid, types of loans, the benefits of using a buyer's agent & much more will be covered as you sip an array of wines. Free parking. Details: 371-7311, 653-1966 www.Marathon-RE.com 504 E. 5th St. Tausha@TaushaCarlson.com Free
Jan. 20 Tue noon SBA Loan Briefing: In this briefing, small businesses will learn how to access needed capital. The instructor will define the importance of credit, planning & preparation, 3 key elements in securing a small business loan. Hear about SBA's guaranty loan program & how it can be an option for you. SBA assists eligible startups & existing businesses. All are welcome. Lunch will be provided. Details: 421-2819 Ligia Trevino https://aplusfcu.org/education/teachers-lounge/mem 6420 US Hwy 290 East firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Jan. 22 Thu 6-8:30pm Finding Your Career Mojo: The workshop is ideal for anyone looking at a career change, preparing to launch a job search, wanting to explore new opportunities, wondering how to find work that is in alignment with their values or trying to decide if they want to start their own business. The workshop will be facilitated by a nationally-recognized career coach, author & presenter, Renée Peterson Trudeau. Details: www.CareerStrategists.net 3001 S. Congress Ave. Renee@CareerStrategists.net $175
Jan. 29 Thu noon A Taxing Task Simplified: Lisa Bargsley, an experienced certified public accountant, will explain basic tax documents for individuals & sole proprietorships, including how to fill them out, what forms fit different situations best, filing jointly vs. filing individually vs. filing for a small business. She will answer your tax-time questions. Details: 421-2818 Dawn Ambuehl-Sadek https://aplusfcu.org/education/teachers-lounge/mem 10710 Research Blvd. email@example.com Free
Out & About-Spectator Sports
Jan. 2 Fri 8pm Texas Longhorns Men's Basketball Games: The Longhorn men take on Appalachian State. Details: www.texassports.com 1701 Red River St.
Jan. 3 Sat 2pm Texas Longhorns Women's Basketball Games: The Lady Longhorns play Lamar. Details: www.texassports.com 1701 Red River St.
Jan. 4 Sun 6pm TXRD Lonestar Rollergirls: The All-Scar Army takes on the Holy Rollers. Details: www.txrd.com 500 E. Cesar Chavez St. firstname.lastname@example.org $15
Jan. 10-23 Austin Toros: Austin's NBA development league team is kicking off its new season.
Jan. 10 Sa Colorado
Jan. 11 Su Colorado
Jan. 21 W Anaheim
Jan. 23 F Rio Grande Valley
Details: 236-8333 www.austintoros.com 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Jan. 10 Sat 3pm Texas Longhorns Men's Basketball Games: The Longhorn men face Iowa State. Details: www.texassports.com 1701 Red River St.
Jan. 14 Wed 7pm Texas Longhorns Women's Basketball Games: The Lady Longhorns play Nebraska. Details: www.texassports.com 1701 Red River St.
Jan. 17 Sat 7pm Texas Longhorns Women's Basketball Games: The Lady Longhorns play Colorado. Details: www.texassports.com 1701 Red River St.
Jan. 28 Wed 7pm Texas Longhorns Women's Basketball Games: The Lady Longhorns play the Texas A&M Aggies. Details: www.texassports.com 1701 Red River St.
Jan. 31 Sat 3pm Texas Longhorns Men's Basketball Games: The Longhorn men take on Kansas State. Details: www.texassports.com 1701 Red River St.
Feb. 7-8 Sat & Sun Austin Aztex USL-First Division Tryouts:
The Austin tryout will allow Central Texas soccer players the first-ever opportunity to try to play professionally for the hometown team. All players who make the squad will receive national exposure during games broadcast on Fox Soccer Channel, & will have the opportunity to develop & potentially pursue a career in Europe with the affiliations of Aztex team owner Phil Rawlins, who is part owner of Stoke City in the English Premier League, & head coach Adrian Heath, who played 18 years professionally in Europe. Details: 335-8881 www.austinaztex.com/tryouts/index_E.html 3001 S. Congress Ave.
Out & About-Spirit & Soul
Mondays in January 7pm Toltec Wisdom: Spiritual Integrity Class: An ongoing, dynamic series rooted in Toltec wisdom & the most powerful teachings from a variety of traditions. A place to transform & be supported unconditionally. Details: 512-233-8480 Arielle Webb www.tolteccenter.org 203 Stillwater, Suite 2, Wimberley email@example.com $15
Tuesdays in January 7pm Basic Energy & Shamanic Practice Session: Each week we will practice a different tool to bring more energy & awareness as well as focusing energy toward intent. Classes may include but are not limited to: recapitulation, cord cutting, clearing, emotional release, & awareness practices. For beginners, a 30-minute class will be offered at 7pm before practice begins. Details: 512-233-8480 Arielle Webb www.tolteccenter.org 203 Stillwater, Suite 2, Wimberley firstname.lastname@example.org $15
Jan. 7 Wed 6:30pm Spiritual Classes with Different Masters/Angels: Topic: Stargate by Metatron. Details: 278-0559 www.sashawhite.com 7018 William Wallace Way Donations
Jan. 10 Sat 10am-noon Finding Your Spiritual Path:
Many religious traditions tell the story of creation followed by a fall. Somehow we all manage to get ourselves kicked out of the Garden of Eden. In each myth, the Garden represents the "true self," the place where we were once at home and at peace with all that is within and around us. This workshop will help you find where you left your own inner-garden & help you find the path that leads to your return. Details: 697-8528 8402 Cross Park Dr. Free
Jan. 17 Sat 10:30am-2pm Energy Intuitive Healing: Energetic healing & chakra clearing can assist in releasing unwanted, stagnant energies by unblocking them & increasing the natural flow of healthy energy through your body, mind & spirit. Details: 458-3987 4200 Ave. D email@example.com Donations
Jan. 17 Sat 1-2pm Energy Healing for Domestic Animals: Energetic healing can unblock your pet's stagnant energies & increasing the natural flow of healthy energy throughout the pet's body. Pets must be on leash or in kennel. Details: 458-3987 4200 Ave. D firstname.lastname@example.org Donations
Jan. 20 Tue 7pm Global Evolution Series: Come join us for a set of 36 different workshops designed by Global Relationship Centers Inc. Meets 3rd Tu each month. These workshops will help you acquire a fresh outlook on life using proven effective tools to create a more balanced & harmonious existence. Details: 694-3850 www.grc333.com email@example.com
Jan. 22 Thu 7pm Toltec Church: This spiritual night will invigorate your soul & renew your faith. A beautiful blend of sacred chanting, inspirational talk & music, followed by a community potluck. This month's topic: Celebrate Your Mistakes. All are invited, donations welcome. Details: 512-233-8480 Arielle Webb www.tolteccenter.org 203 Stillwater, Suite 2, Wimberley firstname.lastname@example.org Donations
Jan. 25 Sun 7-9pm Sufi Dancing: Dances of Universal Peace: Usually meets 4th Su each month. Every now & then a day is skipped, so please contact us to confirm. Details: 280-0584 www.sufidance.org 3315 El Salido Pkwy email@example.com Free
Jan. 29 Thu 7pm Healing Circle: Join us for a gathering of open hearts & healing hands. Bring drums, rattles & your willingness to play. Come explore energy, sound, movement & the power of healing without boundaries. Each healing circle will be preceded by a short introductory talk & meditation. Details: 512-233-8480 Arielle Webb www.tolteccenter.org 203 Stillwater, Suite 2, Wimberley firstname.lastname@example.org Donations
Out & About-Women
Jan. 10 Sat 8am What Women Need to Know About Divorce: Details: 732-1244 www.austindivorceworkshop.com 11044 Research Blvd. Bldg. B Rm. 102 $45
Jan. 13 & 27 Tue 6:30-9:30pm Anam Cara Women's Group: Looking for a way to connect with other women? Looking to find support as you envision changes in your life? Women are invited to the first meeting of the 2009 group to sample the experience. Through experiential & informative activities, womyn learn new skills & patterns to develop self-confidence, trust & creativity. The group continues thru September on the 2nd & 4th Tu of each month. Details: 448-2266 www.holistichealingarts.net 321 W. Ben White Blvd., Suite 203 email@example.com $5
The mysteries of age meet the mysteries of sexuality
by Karen Kreps
Despite the aging of the population, not much is known about the sexual behaviors and sexual function of older folks, according to a report in the New England Journal of Medicine. Aging sexual behavior is not much reflected in the media, except as the butt of comedy.
We see sexual expression mostly in young to middle-aged adults. Senior sexuality is rarely discussed, giving the false idea that perhaps it might be nonexistent. Yet in one study, thirty-eight percent of men and twenty-two percent of women reported having talked about sex with a doctor since the age of fifty.
We're living longer. What's to become of us? Are we all just going to lose our sex drive and complete our lives as celibates?
Not necessarily. Several recent reports indicate that age typically doesn't significantly diminish the need and desire for sex. Male and female orgasm can continue almost indefinitely. Although orgasm is desired, it is not always achieved. Regular sexual activity, including oral sex and masturbation, is standard when a partner is available, masturbation alone when one isn't. And most elderly credit sex for physical and psychological health.
Sure, as we get older, our senses become less keen; we don't have as much stamina for strenuous activity and exertion. Naturally, our sexual sensations and the ability to perform sexually will modestly decline, but barring serious medical problems they don't go away.
"Sexual activity may be enjoyed for as long as you live," says my father, Sidney Kreps, MD, who practiced internal medicine for more than half his ninety-five years. "There's nothing inherent in aging that causes a lack of desire or ability to perform sexually," he says. "Some people will use age as an excuse if they have personal reasons to get out of having sex. When people are discouraged by their relationships, they may lose their libidos.
"Exercise can help one maintain good physical condition and it has a corresponding psychological effect." He speaks of exercise in general; I think of how the lifelong practice of Kegel exercises can keep the muscles surrounding our sexual equipment strong.
One recent national sampling of thousands of fifty-seven to eighty-five year olds charted the prevalent decline of sexual activity with age. Women were significantly less likely than men at all ages to report sexual activity. The lack of available partners is a big issue, especially for women, who outlive men on average by eight years.
Among respondents who were sexually active, about half reported at least one bothersome sexual problem. Women reported low desire, difficulty with vaginal lubrication and inability to climax. Among men, the most prevalent sexual problems were erectile difficulties. Fourteen percent of men reported using medication or supplements to improve sexual function. Men and women who rated their health as being poor were less likely to be sexually active and, among respondents who were sexually active, were more likely to report sexual problems.
Even for healthy men, a drop in testosterone levels may contribute to slower arousal time, softer erections and longer recovery periods. This is a normal facet of aging and not impotence. Some older men won't have an orgasm or ejaculate, or they'll take longer to do so, yet they can achieve a great deal of pleasure from sexual intimacy.
For women, lower levels of estrogen may lead to loss of elasticity and a thinning of the vaginal tissue, less lubrication and a shrinking in size of the clitoral, vulva and labial tissues. Luckily, the sensitivity of the clitoris remains the same. A water-based lubricant or estrogen crème may become an integral part of foreplay.
I personally know not one, but two women who experienced strong sexual awakenings post menopause. Perhaps these are exceptions, but they are inspiring. Both had been bored by marital sex and thought their sexual appetites would not be renewed. One, in her fifties, flirted with an affair that didn't work out, but it taught her that she is just as responsive as when she was twenty. The other, now, after a dozen years living alone, is a widowed septuagenarian with eleven grandchildren, and she is having a fine romance with an old beaux. She says she never was multi-orgasmic during her marriage, but she is now. Stories abound in assisted living and nursing home facilities of elderly widows and widowers whose long-dormant sexuality is reawakened by attraction to a new, equally old, partner.
Hugging, kissing and touching and other expressions of intimate, adult affection are essential parts of an elder's sex life.
Many of today's elderly have trouble speaking openly about their intimate needs and desires. They were raised to think it taboo. Future generations of elderly are likely to forge new solutions to the sexual and social problems of later years because of their more open attitudes.
Karen Kreps is looking forward to a ripe old age. You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org and learn about her book, a collection of these columns titled Intimacies: Secrets of Love, Sex & Romance, at www.TrueIntimacies.com.
Channel some inner peace at the Nobel Peace Center
by Becca Hensley
When I visit Oslo in mid December, I don't realize I'm on a pilgrimage as sacred as a visit to Lourdes. Icy winds whip off the fjord, snow clutters the air, and I stumble over slippery streets with frozen toes. Riveted and amused by the holiday glee, I pass my days as any tourist should: peeking at the costumed guards at the Royal Palace, gazing at thousand year old vessels in the Viking Ship Museum, wandering the myriad stalls of so many Christmas markets and contemplating the disturbing message of Edvard Munch's The Scream.
But the day I slip casually into the Nobel Peace Center, awe and wonder overcome me. An anchoring sense of gravitas and an effusion of positive energy fuels and inspires my being. I have a physical reaction so acute, tears flow and all my cynicism and hopelessness drain away. When I walk back into the cold streets, I want to dance in the snow. I feel transformed, rejuvenated, miraculously uplifted by the kindness and goodness of other human beings. If these people can make a difference and live their lives for the right reasons, so, I enthuse, can I.
Ensconced in an unassuming, restored historic train station, this tribute to Alfred Nobel and the recipients of the Peace Prize he founded is no ordinary museum. Far from dry, stultified and straightforward, it's interactive. It doesn't tell you what you should know, it allows you to discover what you need or want to comprehend. Each visitor can personalize the adventure. It's a magic box with myriad contents that flow out in limitless, manifold combinations. To say it's the most high-tech learning center I have ever seen would be true, yet that statement misrepresents the center's essence. This is a place not about ostentatious display; rather it's a house of depth and complexity. Loaded with electronic tricks and accessible, hands-on ways to retrieve information, the center's goal is to elicit a reaction. "You should have an experience here that transforms you, that makes a difference. We can't all be Nobel Peace Prize winners, but we can change the world in little ways," says the curator as she walks me through the center. "Perhaps when you leave here, you control your temper, smile at a stranger or hug your mother. Every little step counts. Here, we provoke the reaction, but what you do with it is up to you."
I'm here for the week of the Nobel Peace Prize ceremonies. In fact, I have literally bumped into a Peace Prize laureate, former Finnish President Martti Ahtisaari, in the lobby of the Grand Hotel before visiting the center. The exhibit honoring him and his efforts at brokering peaceful resolutions to conflicts around the world (especially Namibia and Kosovo) will open shortly and I've been treated to a sneak preview. It's not what I expect. Like the rest of the center, intelligent whimsy fuses with passion and profundity to draw the visitor in, to remove distance and formality, to decode what might seem obtuse and incoherent. In the case of the Ahtisaari exhibit, little troll-sized dolls in his image, left like a trail of breadcrumbs, lead visitors to the room that celebrates his contributions. People are still painting and hammering away at the installation the day I visit. They've been working doggedly for two months since the laureate was announced. Snippets from an interview by a BBC journalist dot the walls; photographs of the laureate in various activities humanize the man. In a single walk around the room, adorned with lovable dolls in his likeness, we understand the selflessness and vision of the laureate. He has done great works, and yet, the lesson is that he's just like us. Perhaps, the point is, we can do great works, too.
As I move to the next room I find an astonishing spectacle. The darkened space is like a moonlit garden of electronic flowers. Individual screens, arranged in a seemingly random design, flicker with light. As I move up close, they formulate an image, then words, then fade back into dusky illumination. Each monitor represents a peace laureate, showing an image of the person, then words that describe their contribution and the reasons for their prize. It astounds me. Sited in no apparent order, they offer the element of surprise and joyful discovery. Here is Al Gore, there Jimmy Carter, and over here Mikhail Gorbachev, Nelson Mandela, and Bertha Von Suttner, the first woman to win the prize. This room moves me beyond belief. Veritably healing, it is as if the energy of every peace laureate can be channeled here.
Another section offers a large, blank book sitting on a lonely table. As you turn the pages, enchanting things happen: images appear on the wall, text moves like rustling leaves across the pages, sound effects fill the air. This Harry Potter-esque tome tells the story of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite, the Swedish man who saw himself as a world citizen even before globalization was a part of the world's vocabulary. To linger here is to pay tribute to a man with vision.
Other rooms have walls filled with video clips, text and animation. A children's area continues the adventure, ensuring that people of all ages can enter into the concept of peace and work to sustain it. In an era where we seek personal transformation, the meaning of life and human connection, a visit to the Nobel Peace Center may change your life.
Becca Hensley suggests you visit nobelpeacecenter.org and visitoslo.com for more information. You may e-mail Becca at email@example.com.
‘Happy New Year!'
by Tom Palaima
Dickens' Scrooge and Dr. Seuss's Grinch had issues with the spirit of Christmas, but I'll bet some people out there reading The Good Life would be happy never again to hear the words "Happy New Year!"
If you have lived long enough, you know that one year will be pretty much like the next in the good and bad it brings. If you're like me, you usually hope that the year ahead will not be like past years that brought hardship and sadness you thought would never end, and perhaps never has.
Still, at the end of each year, we wish people we meet, and they wish for us, that the new year be happy. Other languages, cultures and ethnic groups do not share this wish. In French, it is normal to souhaiter la bonne année, "wish a good year," which is the same thing modern Greeks do when they wish kalo to neon etos. Spanish speakers, however, may wish us a "Próspero Año Nuevo," a "prosperous new year." German-speakers can extend fröhliche Wünsche zum Jahreswechsel "cheerful wishes at the year change," but they wish, like the Spanish-speakers, "Prosit Neujahr," "may the new year prosper," and also "einen guten Rutsch," "a good beginning."
The last German greeting shares with the French and the Greek the idea that it is enough to hope that a year be good. The word rutsch makes it more pragmatic still. Rutsch probably comes from the Yiddish rosch, meaning "head" or "beginning." The phrase then captures the sentiments of the Hebrew greeting "Rosh Hashanah tova," "a good beginning of the year."
To me this is consistent with the cultural tradition that has given us the work that defines what it means to be human, the Book of Job. As one critic has remarked, the Book of Job is "about the total of human pain and woe." It teaches that God or, if we prefer, the universe in which we live, does not always reward us for good faith and good works or punish us for wickedness and bad acts. The Hebrew, Yiddish and German greeting is commonsensical. It gives those who speak it and those who receive it better odds. It conveys hope that the beginning of a year will be good, nothing more, nothing less.
So why do English speakers wish people Happy New Year? Only if we don't think of the history of the English language, might we assume that English-speakers have always been more naively optimistic than the other culture groups we have sampled. The hap of ‘happy' turns up in our words happen and haphazard. The verb form with its meaning of "take place" or "come about by chance" captures the sense of the root.
The word happiness is a star-spangled word. Via the phrase "pursuit of happiness" in our Declaration of Independence, as Carol V. Hamilton, PhD, has discussed in a finely reasoned essay (http://hnn.us/articles/46460.html) "happiness" has a distinguished philosophical pedigree going back through Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Johnson, John Locke, ancient Epicureans, Skeptics and Stoics, Aristotle, Plato and Socrates. The Greek notion to which it is linked, eudaimoneia, means something like "having a good spiritual force influencing your life." But, as Hamilton argues, happiness never meant the pursuit of wealth and status as embodied in a McMansion, a Lexus, and membership in a country club. Instead it meant something well beyond the pursuit of individual wealth, honor or pleasure, and was bound up with the civic virtues of courage, moderation and justice.
I doubt anyone wishing us a "Happy New Year" is thinking in Jeffersonian or Platonic terms, but I also doubt that they are hoping our stock portfolios rebound. Most people probably have in mind what we mean when we say that "we just want our kids to be happy."
Yet even this parental wish has been criticized recently because of what is implied by the word happy. In earlier, harder times, according to child psychologist Aaron Cooper, PhD, parents wanted their children to get good educations and good jobs; but nowadays they have shifted to "something less practical and less tangible," "a quality-of-life dimension that they wish for their child." He thinks that parents have been seduced by consumerism to believe they can buy things that will make their children happy.
Cooper is my age, fifty-seven. He claims, "I know that my grandparents would never have said that happiness was the most important thing. My parents, I don't think, would have said it either."
If this is true, I feel sorry for him. One of the best gifts my parents, who knew suffering firsthand, gave me was their wish that I "just be happy." And I think that most of those modern parents Cooper criticizes are giving their children the same gift. My parents were not wishing me a fancy car or house. They were wishing me some things they had, with family, friends, church and community, and some things they sensed they had missed. They knew that happiness was not simple to get and even harder to keep.
It is no bad thing to wish for this indefinable virtue whether in the New Year or for one's children. We all know it is out there. If we are lucky, we get some part of it, even in those years when the new year's wishes we have received don't quite come true.
Tom Palaima encourages free thought about the good life. You may e-mail Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A Mother With A Deep Commitment to Self-Renewal
by Lindsey Lane
When Renée Peterson Trudeau became a mother in 2002, she went to a bookstore and asked them to find books that addressed personal growth, spirituality and motherhood under one cover. She was thirty-seven and she was looking for resources to support her in her transition to motherhood. “I wanted to find something that would validate the change in my life and the need to nurture myself,” says Trudeau. But there weren’t any books that answered her quest. Nor were there any groups.
Many mothers might give up and think, “No books, no groups. I’ll just muddle along.” Not Trudeau.
Though she describes herself as Type A personality, she is not someone who storms a topic and then crosses it off her to-do list. Not at all. When Trudeau needed to understand why the landscape of her life changed so utterly when she became a mother and how to support that change, she became deeply intentional.
Trudeau has her parents to thank for the depth that she brings to her voracious appetite for learning and knowledge and action. “They were truth seekers,” says Trudeau. “And they allowed me to seek and to find my own truth.” Seeking knowledge and truth became a talent of Trudeau’s. Not just for herself.
Many years before Trudeau became a mother, she was the communication director at a large company. She was good at her job and was receiving offers for vice president of marketing positions at several companies. One could say she had a strong career path. But it wasn’t so strong that it fulfilled her. In fact, what was fulfilling her was something she was doing on the side. For free. She loved helping friends and friends of friends strategize their careers. “I was good at it,” says Trudeau. “I can think big picture and I can hear what they really want.”
That talent led her to quit her rise through the corporate ranks and start Career Strategists in 1999. She wanted to help people find and do the most exciting and fulfilling work, best suited to their talents. She threw herself into her new business eager to meet each new challenge with a Type A ferocity combined with a strong desire to do it well.
Because her life was undergoing a complete makeover, Trudeau decided to organize a life makeover course based on Cheryl Richardson’s book Life Makeovers: 52 Practical and Inspiring Ways to Improve Your Life One Week at a Time. She had heard about it for years and felt like it was time. So she gathered eight close women friends and made a commitment to meet once a week for an entire year. Trudeau admits it was challenging. But gradually, she began to see that one of the most important ideas in the course was self-renewal. “In order for your life to work well,” says Trudeau, “you have to put on your own oxygen mask before you can help others or succeed in the world.”
Fast forward two years. Trudeau becomes a mother and suddenly, self-care goes to the bottom of the list. That’s when Trudeau went to the bookstore and found nothing on the selves that satisfied her quest for personal growth, motherhood and spirituality.
Says Trudeau, “I kept trying to have these deeper conversations with other mothers at playgroups but there’s only so deep you can go with babies and toddlers interrupting every conversation. So I put together a flier saying that I was starting a Personal Renewal Group.” Trudeau stuck a nerve. Twenty women agreed to meet with her once a month for a year to support one other in their personal growth and renewal as mothers and women.
Even now, Trudeau admits that starting a group when she was a new mother was a crazy idea. “But I had this feeling that a Personal Renewal Group would support me as a mother and as a woman.” So she went with it.
As facilitator, she designed the group’s structure largely around self-care. “I wanted the group to focus on how we as mothers wanted to be in our lives. Life is more than a to-do list. I know the lives of our families would be better if we learned how to fill our own cups first.”
Trudeau created monthly topics like: Reconnecting with Who I Am; Good is Good Enough: Releasing Perfection and Control; Building a Support Network; Saying No.
About six months into the group, says Trudeau, “I began to hear from the participants that their sisters and mothers and girl friends were doing the exercises and their lives were changing too.” Trudeau was impressed. She knew that the group and its purpose supported her, and she was amazed to find that it was reaching and helping an extended family of women.
It wasn’t too long after the conclusion of that first group and the start of another that Trudeau began to hear requests for a workbook of the exercises. “I had no time to write a book,” says Trudeau. “I loved spending time with my family. Career Strategists was very fulfilling. I couldn’t imagine adding writing a book into my life.”
To be certain, she closed her eyes and asked herself: “If I were to write a book, what would the titles of the twelve monthly chapters be?” Five minutes later, says Trudeau, “I had typed all twelve into my laptop and they were on the screen in front of me. I didn’t even have to think as I typed them, they were just there. That’s when I knew that this work and the book—The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal: How to Reclaim, Rejuvenate and Re-Balance Your Life!—was part of something much bigger than me.”
Trudeau led Personal Renewal Groups while she wrote the book, which was published by Balanced Living Press in 2007. She had thought that Personal Renewal Groups would form organically around the book much the way groups formed around Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. Very quickly, though, Trudeau saw that the leaders of the group needed support and resources as well as formal training. “There is an art and science to leading groups,” says Trudeau. “I wanted to make sure that the leaders had that knowledge.”
So in addition to having a family, a booming business and a book to promote, Trudeau leads self-renewal retreats for women around the United States and offers an on-line training program for women to become Personal Renewal Group facilitators. She also created a web site to support the facilitators on-line as they start their own groups around the world. Actually groups only exist in the United States and Canada, so far. But give Trudeau time, it will go around the world.
Right now there are ten trained PRG facilitators in Austin with many groups starting at various locations around town in January. You can find the groups and two complimentary chapters from The Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal at www.reneetrudeau.com.
With all the projects Trudeau manages, does she, in fact, still practice self-care and take time for herself? “Yes, absolutely. I always schedule time for myself. And you can’t reach me when I am spending time with my family.”
When I asked her if she had any thoughts for people trying to retool their lives for the coming year, Trudeau said:
“Slow down. We’re trying to do too much. Our quality of life is enhanced, not by what we add, but by what we remove.”
As this New Year begins, I would like to focus the 2009 family life columns on people and resources in our community who support families and children. If you know of a person or organization that support families and children in unique, interesting or extraordinary ways and would be a good subject for a column, please contact me at email@example.com.
Monday-Friday: Tot Signs: Classes incorporating sign language to help toddlers communicate more effectively. Free trial class. Locations around Austin. Details: www.totsigns.com firstname.lastname@example.org $6/class
Mondays: 9am-noon Baby Bloomers: Weekly program for children ages 3 & younger & their caregivers. Discover the exhibits & play in a relaxed atmosphere with other families with small children when the museum is open exclusively for this age group. Stroller parking included. Storytimes 9:30am; sing-along 10:30am; The Little Explorers Lab 11am. Details: 472-2499 www.austinkids.org 201 Colorado St. $4-$8
Wednesdays 5-8pm Community Nights: Come out & play & enjoy the exhibit galleries, storytime & a variety of hands-on activities. Details: 472-2499 www.austinkids.org 201 Colorado St. $1
Wednesdays & Thursdays 5:30-7pm Austin Derby Brats: Wednesdays & Thursdays Program for girls ages 5-17 with the primary focus to develop character, confidence, leadership & social interaction thru sports. Austin Derby Brats believe performance is secondary to these ideals & intends to nurture & develop both skilled athletes & those who have not yet realized the champion inside of them. Details: 472-6932 www.txrd.com 1156 Hargrave St. email@example.com
Thursdays 12:30pm Garden Yoga: Mia Pem takes children ages 3-5 on a spiritual journey thru yoga in the organic garden at Ronda's Montessori Garden. Details: 707-8635 www.rondasgarden.net 4300 Mt Vernon Dr. firstname.lastname@example.org $3
Saturdays 10-11am Kids Yoga: With Cindy. Bring a mat; some provided. Free with purchase in the cafe. Details: 707-9637 www.rutamaya.net 3601-D S. Congress Ave.
Sunday Morning Kids Shows: Ruta Maya showcases Austin's community of great children's performers & entertainment. Tips for performers appreciated. Check web site for the schedule of performances. Details: 707-9637 www.rutamaya.net 3601-D S. Congress Ave. free
Jan. 8 Thu 7-8pm Parents of Dyslexic Children Support Group:
Structuring a supportive home life, presented by Sarah Schnoebelen, PhD. Details: 471-1231 12871 N. US Hwy 183 Room 203 Free
Jan. 10 Sat 10am-noon Acorn Eaters Nature Club: 2nd Sa each month thru Feb. 14. Ages 3 & 4. Budding nature lovers will delve into the outdoors using all 5 senses. Share nature with your child while learning about the animals & habitats of McKinney Roughs thru outdoor art activities, nature hunts & games. Children need an adult partner present to participate. Preregistration required. Details: 303-5073 www.lcra.org/parks/developed_parks/mckinney 1884 SH 71 West. email@example.com $10
Jan. 10 Sat noon-4pm Second Saturdays are for Families: Magnificent Movement Modified: Yoga & photography for families. Explore movement inspired by Sebastião Salgado: Workers in a family-friendly yoga class led by Brandy Arena of Bea Love Yoga. Then photograph your favorite body part in movement, experiment with materials that move, and take home your own photographic work of art. Details: 495-9224 www.amoa.org 823 N. Congress Ave.
Jan. 11 Sun 3-5pm Admissions Information Session: Morgen Academy for grades 3-8 has an internationally focused curriculum, Singapore math & robotics instruction to prepare global thinkers & problem solvers. Teacher presentations start promptly at 3pm. Details: 940-4644 Morgan Patterson morgenacademy.com 7815 W. U.S. Highway 290 firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan. 11 & 31 Single Parent Resource Network; Unique support & resources for single & unattached parents, including baby-sitting cooperatives. You can also tune in 1:30-2pm each Wednesday for the Radical Mother's Voice radio program on KOOP-FM 91.7. Details: 694-5272 www.sprn.org. Jan. 11 11:30am 2nd Sunday each month, Ruta Maya International Headquarters, 3601 S. Congress Ave. at Alpine for discussion & planning. Jan. 31 3pm last Saturday each month, Central Market, 4001 N. Lamar Blvd., for potluck, playgroup & clothing swap.
Jan. 13 Tue 6:30-8:30pm Dealing with Dysgraphia: Presented by Dilip Karnik, MD. Details: 471-1231 12871 N. US Hwy 183 Room 203 $30
Jan. 27 Tue 7-9pm Handwriting: Presented by Alice Marsel, MA, CALT, QI. Details: 471-1231 12871 N. US Hwy 183 Room 203 $35
Jan. 28 Wed 6pm Khabele School Open House: The Khabele School is a progressive college prep community that focuses on leadership & character development. Please join us for our annual open house. This event is a great opportunity to find out more about the Khabele School's mission, philosophy, program, staff & facility.
Details: 480-8142 www.thekhabeleschool.org 801 Rio Grande St. Free
Jan. 31 Sat noon The Love of China: Celebration of Chinese New Year: Begin the Chinese New Year with good karma & experience a different cultural heritage with dancers from the Love of China School of Chinese Dance. These talented youth demonstrate traditional dance & costumes as seemingly weightless silk ribbons weave through the air around them. Delight in their poise & confidence as you welcome the Year of the Cow. Moo! Details: 329-6753 oneworldtheare.org 7701 Bee Caves Rd. $9 kids
Feb. 7 Sat 1:30-3pm Sculptor to Be: Abstract Paper Sculpture: Come learn to curl, pleat & score, tear, crumple & cut. Local art instructor Adria McCuaig will guide kids in exploring these techniques & more, so that they use them in creating a wonderful work of abstract paper sculpture. Ages 6-12. Details: 445-5582x101 www.umlaufsculpture.org 605 Robert E. Lee Rd. $12
Feb. 14 Sat 10am-noon Acorn Eaters Nature Club: For ages 3 & 4. Budding nature lovers will delve into the outdoors using all 5 senses. Share nature with your child while learning about the animals & habitats of McKinney Roughs thru outdoor art activities, nature hunts & games. Children need an adult partner present to participate. Preregistration required. Details: 303-5073 www.lcra.org/parks/developed_parks/mckinney 1884 SH 71 West. email@example.com $10
Last Thoughts from the Last Non-Cyber Cook
Honey Poached Pears and Braised Winter Greens
by Clane Hayward
Oh, this is so unfortunate. My food world has been teetering on the brink for some time now, as I juggle a day job and second writing job as the world's most undiscovered memoirist (maybe you've never heard of my memoir, The Hypocrisy of Disco, or maybe you received it last year as a gift from your crazy hippie auntie, and threw it in the back of the closet to regift this year? Well, hang on to it for another year until it's out of print, and then you can sell it on eBay as a first edition for a whole six dollars). Further, Dear Darling and I have sold our posh crib and have moved to leaner, less landscaped digs where we will, hopefully, raise chickens and grow a garden. I've been pestering Dear to move for sometime, as my apocalyptic imagination had been leading me to the firm belief that something drastic was coming our way economically, and I wanted to be prepared for it.
What's so unfortunate about this? There hasn't been time to eat lately, much less cook. I've almost given it up entirely. As a result I've been kind of mean and nervous and pale and wan and haunted-looking, which is what life without food for food's sake will do to you. If there's no gratitude, no joyous bounty, no loving process, no relaxed sipping of a fat red wine while poking one's nose in the oven, there's just no joy in eating. It's purely functional.
So there's my food world, rushed and loveless and purely functional, suspended, while I pack and hump boxes and soothe frantic pets and try to find all those missing socks that end up lost in that alternate universe where unmatched socks go, because who wants to bring a bunch of socks missing their mates to their new house? There's me, guiltily hiding the crumpled Popeyes chicken bags and wondering what to bring to Dear Darling's mom's party, where all thirty-seven of his relatives will be anxiously waiting to see me and my gourmet whateveritis go down in flames because they're sick of my foodie attitude. And then, with one final event in this tragic chain, my food world topples over the precipice and thunders down the slope, leaving a trail of wreckage and broken hearts: I regretfully told my (and your) favorite editor that after two and a half years I must pass the sacred spoon to the next food columnist. So this will be my last column for The Good Life.
As a last hurrah for my last column I went searching for a last great thing I wanted to say about food for a while. I planned to review what appears to be an amazing breakthrough in food and lifestyle marketing, which is to say, an interactive online cookbook available through the Austin-based Wine and Food Foundation of Texas (512-327-7555). The Plate and Vine Interactive Cookbook (www.winefoodfoundation.org) is a collection of gourmet recipes submitted by celebrity chefs such as Jeff Blank and Robert Rhoades from Hudson's on the Bend, Alma Alcocer-Thomas of Jeffrey's, and Mark Paul of Wink. An annual subscription to Plate and Vine Interactive Cookbook, which is available for twenty dollars for members, thirty for nonmembers, allows one an amazing variety of options that will make gourmet cooking and entertaining effortless and foolproof: the interactive service allows one to modify serving sizes and choose various plating options; one may assemble menus from various lifestyle choice options, such as vegetarian dishes; and one may choose wine or beverage pairings to suit one's taste and meal. A glossary of terms, step-by-step instructions, photos, and a library of cooking techniques is part of the package. It's "everything you need to have fun and create mouthwatering meals," creator Diane Dixon says. It will reduce kitchen clutter and even send a shopping list to your mobile device. You know what's the best part? You can select and customize menus, place cards, and personal e-mail invitations for your guests. Wow. My head is reeling. Maybe this is what I need to get back on track.
But with no trial subscription, I wasn't ready to plunk down the fee without really knowing what I would be getting. And effortless and high-tech are two things I haven't been able to associate with good food. Too functional. Too perfect. But that's just me. Just another reason my food life has gone crashing down a slope. Maybe it's better this way. I'm going to raise some lovely carrots for a while. Would someone please let me know how the Plate and Vine recipe for Cranberry Poached Pears with Greens Cherry Vinaigrette turns out? In the meantime here's my own low-tech version.
Core and gently peel your pears, and put them rump side down in a shallow baking dish. Bake them in a broth of brandy and juice and just a pinch of salt. Pierce a "test pear" with a knife; before the pears are tender, spoon melted honey and nutmeg over them as they continue to bake.
While your pears bake thoroughly, pick over and wash a mix of braising greens. In a cup of water and white wine and several tablespoons of butter, simmer the greens until they are tender, turning occasionally with tongs. Drain them and season them with coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Just before plating and serving, squeeze a dash of lemon juice into your greens. To nicely plate them, make a stable little bed in the center of a plate or a shallow bowl and gently place a pear, rump side down again, in the bed of greens. For splash and dash, curl the tiniest curl of lemon zest around the top of the pear, or lay a few chive batons across the top. Scatter some pecan you've toasted in the oven across the pear and around the rim of the plate. You and I know you will be getting your best recipes from The Good Life, for now and for years to come.
Clane Hayward may be begging for this job back within a month. You may e-mail Clane at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesdays & Saturdays 9am-2pm Market at Boggy Creek Farm: TDS certified organic produce in East Austin. Carol Ann Sayle & Larry Butler, farm owners (map on web site). Details: 926-4650www.boggycreekfarm.com 3414 Lyons Rd. email@example.com
Wednesdays 3-7pm Austin Farmers' Market at The Triangle: This weekly year-round market is part of the Sustainable Food Center's system of markets. Fresh produce from the farm, cheeses, eggs & more are available each week to eat or to take home. Suzanne Santos, Sustainable Food Center. Details: 236-0074 www.AustinFarmersMarket.org 46th St. between Lamar & Guadalupe
Fridays 4-7pm Fridays: Citywide In-Store Wine Tastings at Twin Liquors: Twin Liquors presents wine samples at 13 area locations. Shop & visit with the wine experts to locate a particular bottle of wine, get wine-food pairing suggestions & answers to any & all wine-related questions. Details: 328-3935 www.twinliquors.com
Fridays & Saturdays 2-7pm Farmstand at Green Gate Farm: Kid-friendly venue hosts spontaneous events like the Red Potato Pull & Rattlesnake Bean Run. Certified naturally grown produce. WIC vouchers accepted. Farm owners Erin Flynn & Skip Connett. Details: 926-2436 www.greengatefarms.net 8604 FM 969 (East MLK at Decker Ln) firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturdays 8am-1pm South Austin Farmers' Market on Congress: Year round. El Gallo Restaurant parking lot. Tony Piccola & Suzanne Bartoo market managers. Details: 83... www.AustinFarm.org/safm El Gallo Restaurant parking lot, 2910 S. Congress
Saturdays 9am-1pm Austin Farmers' Market: Year-round farmers' market now with an ATM available on-site, bike valets & a booth for Yellow Bike Project to help folks with bike racks, homemade panniers & basket options. The market features fresh & local vegetables, herbs, cheeses, eggs, meats, breads, honey, flowers, prepared foods, drinks & artisan crafts. Free admission & free parking on the street & in the state garage at 3rd & San Antonio. Kids Patch activities, garden info, live music & chefs' demos. Music 10-11:30am. Out of the Blue: featuring tastes of swing, country, folk, rock, Celtic, and even classical music, with a balance of vocal and instrumental tunes.
• Austin Farmers' Market Accepts Food Stamps: In keeping with its mission to improve access to fresh & healthy local foods for all people, Sustainable Food Center operates the Farmers' Market Food Stamp Initiative at the Austin Farmers' Market downtown. Thru this initiative, recipients of food stamp benefits can use their Lone Star cards to purchase locally grown fruits & vegetables directly from the farmers who grow them & buy other fresh, healthy, locally produced food Details: 236-0074 www.AustinFarmersMarket.org 4th & Guadalupe
Saturdays 9am-1pm Sunset Valley Farmers Market: Year-round farmers market at Toney Burger Activity Center parking lot, US Hwy 290 West in Sunset Valley, between Brodie Lane & Westgate Blvd exits. Details: www.sunsetvalleyfarmersmarket.org Toney Burger Activity Center parking lot, US Hwy 290 West in Sunset Valley, between Brodie Ln & Westgate Blvd. email@example.com sunsetvalleyfarmersmarket.org
Saturdays 9am-5pm Market at Arnosky Family Farms: Come to the Big Blue Barn where you'll find vegetables, fresh-cut flowers, cheeses made of goat & cow's milk, eggs & plants for your garden. The farm is open all other days for self-service. Come spend as much time as you'd like & walk the fields. This is a real working family farm, so be careful & enjoy yourself. Details: 830-833-5428www.texascolor.com 12550 RR 2325 at the junction of RR 165, between Blanco & Wimberley
Saturdays 12-6pm Open Tasting: Sample a variety of wines & spirits. Details: 323-5900 www.grapevinemarket.com 7938 Great Northern Blvd. Free
Saturdays & Sundays 11am-4pm World Flavors on the Grill: Look for exciting seasonal selections on the grill in Market Hall. Taste them & then walk away with an easy recipe you can try at home. Prices vary depending on selections. Details: 476-1206 www.wholefoodsmarket.com 525 N. Lamar
Jan. 1-31 Sat Central Market Cooking School: Call the school for up-to-date schedules & class availability. Details: 458-3068 www.centralmarket.com/cm/cmClasses.jsp 4001 N Lamar Blvd.
Jan. 1-31 Sat Whole Foods Market Culinary Center Cooking School: Call the school for up-to-date schedules & class availability. Details: 476-1206 www.wholefoodsmarket.com/stores/calendars/L 525 N. Lamar
Jan. 7 Wed 6:30-8:30pm Healthy Tasting: You are invited to our complementary January Tasting. Come sample some delicious recipes that you'll want to add to your personal collection and learn how a registered dietitian at Personal Nutrition Inc. can help you start the New Year right. Details: 512-745-0868 www.PersonalNutritionInc.com 11673 Jollyville Road, Suite 202 stacyRD@gmail.com Free
by Laura Koffler
"Children and dogs are as necessary to the welfare of the country as Wall Street and the railroads."
-Harry S. Truman
After all those layoffs and bailouts it's hard not to be horrified about our collective future; and by collective I mean everybody and their dog. But this New Year arrives with hope that all of that will soon change and we will be in better financial shape and perhaps go back to our old-spending selves. In the meantime we should be wiser and do our best to save a few pennies here and there.
A girl cannot help but worry about the economic situation and over these past weeks I have been busy developing a little system that I like to call Petconomics. Like the economy overall, in the Petconomy spending is dictated by common sense (yeah, right), and I define it as the realized social system of production, exchange, distribution and consumption of goods and services offered to domestic animals and their guardians in a country or other area.
Sadly, the Petconomy is not going through a good phase. The human economy domino effect has disturbed it, and since desperate times call for desperate measures, and cutting back on expenses never really hurt anyone, I have composed a list of things we can all do to make this period a little less hard on our pocketbooks.
My first monetary advice would be forgetting about doggie day care. With prices ranging from fifteen to thirty-five dollars per day costs can add up quickly. If you feel up to the challenge I recommend leaving your pet at home. Cats are easy and they always find things to do and can look outside the window all day long. Dogs are another story, so to ease the separation anxiety you should offer a few toys, and it's always a good idea to leave the radio on. I would recommend talk radio at the volume of normal human voice. NPR is an excellent choice. That way, your dog will be very well informed and, by the time you come back home for dinner, you guys can have interesting conversations about current events.
Petconomy also allows for the exchange of services for services. You surely have an animal lover friend that would not really mind taking care of your cats while you are out and later return the favor by helping her clean, doing her laundry or finding her a new, better boyfriend. Plus, you are already giving her the gift of spending an afternoon with the best kitty in the world. What else could she ask for?
Dog walkers are awesome and the local petconomy would be fortified by supporting one in your area. If you know someone who charges decent prices and your dog is comfortable with, keep him. But if it's a big sacrifice to pay for his services, perhaps it's time you take your baby out yourself. Anyway, it is January and we can all use a bit of exercise, at least for the first two weeks of the new year. And besides, you can use this time to socialize and make a date with other dog owners and go to the park together.
There is a Mexican saying that goes "lo barato sale caro," which means that cheap could end up being really expensive. This, in my book, does not apply to a lot of things (i.e., alcohol) but it makes perfect sense when dealing with nutrition. This by no means signifies that you have to spend a fortune on cat or dog food. Wheatsville Co-op (www.wheatsville.coop) for example, has great quality bulk cat food (a dollar thirty-nine per pound) and dry dog food (ninety-nine cents per pound). And this, as well as being good for your pocketbook, is fantastic for the planet, as you can reuse your old container over and over and not contribute to the massive rubbish mountains that can be seen from outer space-those we lovingly refer to as landfills.
Or, to show off your chef skills, get a few good quality ingredients and prepare nutritious recipes for your cat or dog. Richard Pitcairn and Susan Hubble Pitcairn, offer some amazing ideas in Dr. Pitcairn's Complete Guide To Natural Health For Dogs And Cats (www.drpitcairn.com). This choice might not always be the cheapest, but it could always be the safest: making your pets' dinner ensures you know exactly what goes into it and how it was made. You can even make big batches and freeze them. The dishes you make for your pets will surely be yummy. But please never overfeed; obese animals are prone to diabetes and other complications.
Which brings us to my next point: prevention is key. Here I am applying the competition, supply-and-demand rule, and if you go to the Pet Insurance Review web site (www.petinsurancereview.com) you will be able to compare prices between pet insurances and see which one best suits your needs. Insurance for pets is a good idea, especially for older animals or breeds that are known for having health issues.
Another considerable issue in Petconomy concerns overpopulation. Family planning ranks high on the list of rules to overcome a crisis. Animal Trustees of Austin (www.animaltrustees.org) does its part by providing affordable spays and neuters for cats and dogs at less than fifty dollars, while Emancipet (www.emancipet.org) does the same for sixty dollars or less. Both of them also give tests and vaccinations at a small fraction of the price of a regular vet's office.
Money is one thing and class is another, so even during tough times, our pets should remain polite and well mannered. There are a million on-line tutorials on how to train your dog yourself instead of paying an expensive trainer. Petco (www.petco.com) also offers free training seminars every once in a while.
Winter is here and fashion is important, so this might be the perfect time to channel your inner designer and create a DIY sweater or two. Your furry friend will love its unique clothing piece and you will feel very proud about your cheap self.
We all want to look good, and good hygiene is paramount for good health. That said you can completely pass on the groomer and give your dog (or, if you are a daredevil, your cat) a bath at home. This serves two purposes: you can save money and you can take humiliating pictures of your pooch or kitty with a foamy Mohawk.
These ideas should help bolster your confidence and steer you to a place of financial survival. And here's one final thought: Petconomy is a little cornier than its human counterpart and love and attention are always free, so please always be very generous on these two.
Laura Koffler is a card-carrying member of Petconomists Local Seventy-Seven. You may e-mail Laura at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Saturdays Jan. 3, 10 & 17 Greyhound Meet & Greet: Greyhound Pets of America-Central Texas seeks responsible loving homes for adoptable greyhounds that failed to qualify for the race track or no longer race. $195 adoption fee with approved application.
• Jan. 3 9am 1st Sa Town Lake Stroll, meet on the north side of Zachary Scott Theatre, 1510 Toomey Rd.
• Jan. 10 noon-3pm 2nd Sa Tomlinson’s West Lake Hills, 3300 Bee Caves Rd.
• Jan. 17 11am-3pm 3rd Sa Petco, 9828 Great Hills Trail, Austin.
Details: 267-7603 www.gpacentraltexas.org email@example.com
Jan. 1-3 Th-Sa 11:30am Home 4 the Holidays: Holiday Animal Adoptions: Austin residents are encouraged to experience the joy of adoption by participating in this campaign led by the Town Lake Animal Center, Austin Humane Society & more than 2,500 other shelters & rescue organizations around the world. The goal is to place 1 million homeless pets among loving adoptive families during the holiday season. For specific information on how to adopt an animal from the Town Lake Animal Center, visit http://www.ci.austin.tx.us/health/animal_services_adoption.htm. The center is open M-F 11:30am to 7pm, Sa & Su 11:30am to 5pm. Details: 972-4738 www.ci.austin.tx.us/health/animal_services. 1156 W. Cesar Chavez St. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan. 3 & 17 Sat 11am-2pm Austin Boxer Rescue Adoption Days: These dogs have been rescued from bad situations & are rehabilitated medically, socialized & taught basic manners before being offered for adoption. Adoption fee $75-$300 with approved application. Brown Elementary School, 505 W. Anderson Ln. Details: 968-1343 www.austinboxerrescue.com
Jan. 3-17 Meet the Cockers!: Cocker Spaniel Rescue of Austin-San Antonio Meet & Greet: $150 adoption fee with approved application.
• Jan. 3 1st Sa each month 11am-2pm Petco, 5601 Brodie Ln., Austin
• Jan. 10 2nd Sa each month noon-3pm PetSmart, 2601 S. I-35, Round Rock.
• Jan. 11 2nd Su noon-3pm PetSmart, 12812 Shops Pkwy, Bee Cave
• Jan. 17 3rd Sa noon-3pm PetSmart, 11150 Research Blvd., Austin.
Details: Noira Boilin 52 www.austincockerrescue.org email@example.com
Jan. 3 & 31 noon-4pm Meet & Greet Shadow Cats Adoption Days: Adoptable cats & kittens. $100-$125 adoption fee. 1st & 4th Sa each month. PetSmart, 2601 S. I-35, Round Rock. Details: 512-38... www.shadowcats.net firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan. 10 Sa 11am free Austin Chihuahua Meetup Group: A great place to socialize your Chihuahua & meet other owners. We love Chi’s & realize the importance of socializing with other small dogs. We also promote adoptions & eliminating unnecessary breeding. Meets 2nd Sa every month. Private home, 2 Kern Ramble St., Austin. Details: 779-4023 <email@example.com> www.chihuahua.meetup.com/29.
Jan. 10-11 Sa-Su Central Texas SPCA Adoption Days: Come meet adoptable shelter dogs & cats. $95 adoption fee. Details: 260-7722 <firstname.lastname@example.org> www.centraltexasspca.com.
• Jan. 10 1-4pm 2nd Sa each month, PetSmart, Hwy 29 @I-35, Georgetown
• Jan. 11 1-4pm 2nd Su each moth, PetSmart, 1890 Ranch, Cedar Park.
Jan. 11 & 18 Su 1-4pm Thundering Paws Adoption Days: This nonprofit program of the no-kill central Texas animal sanctuary, located in Dripping Springs, has pets for adoption on the 2nd & 3rd Su each month. Adoption fee $100 with approved application. PetSmart, 5207 Brodie Ln. Details: Anne Zabolio 402-9725 <email@example.com> www.thunderingpaws.org.
Jan. 17 Sat Low Cost Pet Vaccination Program: Pet Medical Services provides low-cost mobile vaccination clinics to the Austin area 3rd Sa each month, as follows:
• 9-10:30am Tomlinson’s Ben White, Lakehills Shopping Center at S. Lamar & Ben White, Austin.
• 11am-12:30pm Tomlinson’s West Lake Hills, 3300 Bee Caves Rd.
• 1:30-3pm Tomlinson’s Airport, 908 E. 49-1/2 St. Austin.
Details: 413-0989 www.austinpetms.com
Jan. 26 Mon 8:30pm Pet Loss Support Group: Meets last M each month to offer care, compassion & understanding to those who have lost or anticipate the loss of a pet. Facilitated by dedicated staff & volunteers. Details: Lisa Starr 646- www.austinhumanesociety.org 124 W. Anderson Ln Free
The First Rule of Gardening is to
Remember What You're Doing
by Cecilia Nasti
"A retentive memory may be a good thing, but the ability to forget is the true token of greatness."
I don't know about you, but I have the feeling that I am closing in on a special time of life when everything is fresh again. You know what I'm talking about. The world takes on a new light; everything you do is like the first time; every day is a treasure hunt for your keys, or glasses or checkbook. Some might call that being forgetful.
This forgetfulness that I may or may not be experiencing is not so much a function of my gray matter losing its elasticity, or drying up, as much as it's a function of trying to cram too much into the folds of my busy brain-more than I could ever hope to use in my lifetime. I'm an information packrat. Do I need it now? No, but I might one day, but where did I put it?
Although we're said to have unlimited storage capacity inside the memory carryall we call a brain, if we're not using it, we're losing it, and eventually something's gotta give-and it does. Some days memories are like the elastic in your favorite pair of old, ratty sweat pants-you know it's there, but there is definitely some slippage.
To keep memories from slipping from my grasp and falling around my ankles, I am attempting to pay closer attention to where each new nugget lands and-this is important-how each is associated with the one next to it. Because if I cannot recall what I need right away, I can always follow a memory-crumb-through-association-trail to its hiding place and find it that way-eventually. And while I've been digging around up there, I've also been dusting off other information that I definitely want to keep. That's where you come in.
I have been surfing over the gyri (bumps) and dipping into those slippery sulci (grooves) of my cortical lobes to pull out a couple of pieces of garden learning. And to ensure I don't lose either, I am enlisting your help as a co-caretaker. I know you didn't sign up for this, but too late. And, uh, thanks. Bwah ha ha ha.
Soil is alive and dirt is dead-I've talked about this before-or at least I think I have-and it bears repeating or saying for the first time. Soil feeds the plants and, therefore, it is necessary for you and me to feed the soil that's in our care.
Although dirt looks a lot like soil, don't be fooled. It is incapable of sustaining vigorous plant growth over the long haul. It lacks the earthy goodness of living soil, namely a full complement of nutrients, organic matter, earthworms, microbes and residual moisture.
Soil often degrades into dirt because its caretaker has been taking but not caring; well-meaning, but uninformed gardeners plant and over plant, while neglecting to replenish the soil with what it really needs. Dirt even appears listless.
When plants trying to survive in dirt begin to fail, those gardeners start to feed them with readily available and relatively inexpensive petroleum based fertilizers thinking that will perk 'em up. And they do-the same way a candy bar perks up a grade-schooler. It's a short-term fix that, in the end, can do more harm than good.
Healthy, living soil, meantime, is this gorgeous mélange of everything that came before it: plants, animals, insects, and microbes blended with an array of tasty macro and micro nutrients and a little H2O trapped in the mix for good measure. We all yearn to have this soft, rich loam in our own backyards.
One way to know that you are in the presence of soil is to take a handful of the stuff and give it a little squeeze. If it holds a shape, yet easily breaks apart with just a little prodding, you're off to a good start. But don't stop there. As in life atop terra firma, just because the object of your desire looks pretty and is fun to hold and poke, that doesn't necessarily mean that what's inside is capable of giving you everything you need from it.
Whether you're dealing with soil, and especially if you are dealing with dirt, you can always send off a sample for testing. The Texas Plant and Soil Lab in Edinburg (www.txplant-soillab.com) is very thorough, and in addition to sending a report indicating in which nutrients your soil is deficient,
Moreover, the Texas Plant and Soil Lab offers organic recommendations to solve your soil woes. Contact the lab (956-383-0739) to find out how to send a sample for testing. Spring will be here before you know it, and the best time to begin improving your soil is before you have it planted.
Seeds: viable or vacant?-For those who prefer to grow ornamental and vegetable plants from seed, the spring gardening season is already here. And if I know anything about gardeners, I know that every single one of you has at least one, and usually more than one, partially used seed pack from seasons gone by tucked away somewhere in the house. I know how it is; you just could not bear to throw them out back then. You may wish you had once you plant them with joy and hope only to have your dreams dashed to bits when nothing grows. Oh, yeah, there's drama in gardening.
Even when stored under optimal conditions, the germination rate of seeds is seldom, if ever, one hundred percent. And when you have seeds stored willy-nilly in, say, a drawer next to the twist ties, pot holders, saved corks and errant bottle caps, the success rate goes down significantly. Don't mourn the loss just yet. Some of the seeds in those packets may be ready, willing and able to spring to life under the right circumstances, and there are a couple of simple tests you can do to determine their viability. So cheer up.
The first test is the simplest, but not necessarily the most accurate. Many gardeners swear by the dunk test, claiming it never fails them, others, however, not so much. The dunk test is where you fill a see-through container with tap water and then dump in the seeds you want to test. Seeds that sink are viable and seeds that float are not. The reasoning is that the viable seeds are denser, and therefore sink to the bottom of the container. But, before flushing the floaters, I would give them another chance, because if their seed coat is a little fuzzy or fluffy they're not going down.
The better and more accurate assessment is the paper towel test. You'll need some paper towels, quart-size self-sealing plastic bags, an indelible marker, water and your seeds. Use a couple of sheets of paper toweling, wet thoroughly, and then wring out until they are just damp, no water drips from them. Open them flat and place ten seeds of one variety on one side of the towel, and then fold the other side over these. On the self-sealing bag, write what kind of seeds you placed in the towel, the date and time. Then, place the seed-filled damp towels in the plastic bag and put it someplace dark and warm, like the top of the refrigerator, and wait. Check in three days to make sure the towel is still damp; if not, mist it a bit, but don't overdo.
The seeds will absorb the water and within about seven to ten days most viable seed will have sprouted. Each of the ten seeds on the towel represents ten percent. So if one seed sprouts, you have a ten percent viability rate, and so on. Personally, unless I got a minimum fifty percent germination rate, I would not bother with the seeds. Who needs that kind of heartbreak?
Oh, and you can plant any of the seeds that sprouted. Just place them in a container with a sterile soilless mix and go from there. When the weather improves, those babies will be sturdy enough to make their way in the larger world.
So, before you enter that special time of life when everything old is new again, take a moment to smell the flowers-provided you remembered to plant them.
Want more of Cecilia Nasti's gardening know-how, wit and wisdom? Tune-in at 11:55am every Saturday during "Folkways" for her "Growing Concerns" segments aired exclusively on KUT-FM 90.5, public radio for Austin. Or log onto www.kut.org. You may e-mail Cecilia at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Things to plant in January Flower seeds-Ageratum, Alyssum, Balsam, Basil, Bluebell, Calendula, Candytuft, Cleome, Coreopsis, Cornflower, Delphinium, Echinacea, Feverfew, Gaillardia, Gayfeather, Gerbera, Hollyhock, Hyacinth, Larkspur, Lobelia, Lupine, Nasturtium, Phlox (Drummond), Poppy, Queen's Anne's Lace, Petunia, Snapdragon, Sweet Pea, Sweet William. Bulbs-Allium, Alstroemeria, Amarcrinum, Canna, Crinum, Dahlia, Daylily, Gladiolus, Hosta, Hyacinth, Hymerocallis (Spider Lily), Liriope, Monkey Grass, Rainlily, Society Garlic, Tigridia, Tulip. Vegetables-Early to mid month: Asparagus crowns. Herbs-Garlic chives, Horseradish, Parsley, Chervil. Things to do in January Water-Everything well before a freeze, but avoid overwatering. Transplant-Bare root and container grown roses, shrubs, trees, groundcovers and vines. Move hardy seedlings outdoors. Divide and transplant perennial herbs and summer and fall blooming perennial flowers. Donate extras to a plant sale. Prepare soil-Add compost and/or fertilizer. Till deeply. Check winter mulch and replenish if needed. Stockpile leaves for mulch and composting throughout spring and summer. Lawn care-Treat for brown patch if it's a problem with Terraclor or Daconil late in the month. Repeat treatment in three to four weeks. Diseases and pests-Check for mealy bugs and scale on houseplants. Need a plant problem identified? Bring a sample in a zip lock bag to the Extension Office. Other things to do in January -Travis County Master
Flower plants-Alyssum, Butterfly Weed, Calendula, Candytuft, Cornflower, Dianthus, Daisy (African, Michaelmas and Painted), Gallardia, Liatris, Edging Lobelia, Nasturtium, Ornamental Cabbage and Kale, Pansy, Phlox paniculata, Snapdragon, Stock.
Mid to late month: Broccoli, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Kohlrabi, Lettuce, Onion sets, Peas (English & edible pod), Spinach.
Fruit-Bare root or container grown Pecans, Fruit trees, Grapes and Berry bushes.
Fertilize-Asparagus, Strawberries, Daylilies, Iris, Pansies and Roses. Use compost, manure or a complete fertilizer.
Call- Send in soil samples. Get forms are at the Extension Office ( 51... ) and call for a spray schedule for fruit and nut trees.
It's time to get the garden ready for the new growing season. Clean, repair and replace garden tools. Create a garden plan to help organize your chores and planting schedules.
Flower seeds-Ageratum, Alyssum, Balsam, Basil, Bluebell, Calendula, Candytuft, Cleome, Coreopsis, Cornflower, Delphinium, Echinacea, Feverfew, Gaillardia, Gayfeather, Gerbera, Hollyhock, Hyacinth, Larkspur, Lobelia, Lupine, Nasturtium, Phlox (Drummond), Poppy, Queen's Anne's Lace, Petunia, Snapdragon, Sweet Pea, Sweet William.
Bulbs-Allium, Alstroemeria, Amarcrinum, Canna, Crinum, Dahlia, Daylily, Gladiolus, Hosta, Hyacinth, Hymerocallis (Spider Lily), Liriope, Monkey Grass, Rainlily, Society Garlic, Tigridia, Tulip.
Vegetables-Early to mid month: Asparagus crowns.
Herbs-Garlic chives, Horseradish, Parsley, Chervil.
Things to do in January
Water-Everything well before a freeze, but avoid overwatering.
Transplant-Bare root and container grown roses, shrubs, trees, groundcovers and vines. Move hardy seedlings outdoors. Divide and transplant perennial herbs and summer and fall blooming perennial flowers. Donate extras to a plant sale.
Prepare soil-Add compost and/or fertilizer. Till deeply. Check winter mulch and replenish if needed. Stockpile leaves for mulch and composting throughout spring and summer.
Lawn care-Treat for brown patch if it's a problem with Terraclor or Daconil late in the month. Repeat treatment in three to four weeks.
Diseases and pests-Check for mealy bugs and scale on houseplants. Need a plant problem identified? Bring a sample in a zip lock bag to the Extension Office.
Other things to do in January
-Travis County Master
Saturdays & Sundays: Gardening Naturally: This program airs on KLBJ-AM 590, Sa 9-11am & Su 8-10am. John Dromgoole of The Natural Gardener has been waiting for your call for 26 years. This is your chance to ask him your gardening questions on the air. Details: 836-0590 Free
Jan. 3-4 Sat & Sun KLRU-TV's Central Texas Gardener: Get organic tips for planting and cultivating homegrown berries and fruit trees. On tour, meet a Fredericksburg couple that tends native, exotic and culinary plants in two soil conditions. Sa noon & 4pm Su 8am Details: www.klru.org/ctg Free
Jan. 10-11 Sat & Sun KLRU-TV's Central Texas Gardener: Learn the secret behind permaculture and why it works for vegetable and ornamental beds. On tour, see how This Old House turned an old yard into a green garden. Sa noon & 4pm Su 8am Details: www.klru.org/ctg Free
Jan. 10 Sat 10am-noon Growing Fruits, Nuts & Berries in Central Texas: Jim Camas, assistant professor at Texas A&M & an extension fruit specialist, will teach all aspects of home orchard production, from variety selection to pruning & harvesting. Details: 288-6113 Rosina Newton www.naturalgardeneraustin.com 8648 Old Bee Caves Rd. email@example.com Free
Jan. 10 Sat 10am-noon Rainwater Harvesting & Waterwise Gardening: Come enjoy a free seminar on capturing rainwater & lowering water usage in your landscape. This session will cover all the basics of building a non-potable rainwater harvesting system. In addition, learn how to design beautiful gardens designed for lower water usage. Don't be misinformed: xeriscaping is not "zero-scaping." Vendors representing tank & gutter companies will be available to answer questions. City of Austin representatives will answer questions about rain barrels, permits & rebates. The seminar is presented by the Travis County Master Gardeners Assn., a volunteer arm of the Texas A&M & Travis County AgriLife Extension Service. Details: www.tcmastergardeners.org 2220 Barton springs Rd. Free
Jan. 15 Thu 7:30pm Austin Cactus & Succulent Society Monthly Meeting: Meets 3rd Th each month. Details: 347-8615 www.austincss.com 2220 Barton springs Rd. Free
Jan. 17-2 Sat & Sun KLRU-TV's Central Texas Gardener: Find out what's going on with your trees, from drought stress to disease, and how to keep them healthy. On tour, visit the Austin American-Statesman's Renee Studebaker in her home garden. Sa noon & 4pm Su 8am Details: www.klru.org/ctg Free
Jan. 17 Sat 10am Pruning Grape Vines: Roger Igo & Pamela "Sweetpea" Hoover, groundsmaster & assistant groundsmaster of The Natural Gardener, respectively, will teach the intricate pruning & training program required for the best health & productivity of grapes. Come learn the proper timing & techniques for pruning these luscious food-bearing plants, & shop for the proper grape varieties for our area. Details: 288-6113 Rosina Newton www.naturalgardeneraustin.com 8648 Old Bee Caves Rd. firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Jan. 20 Tue 9:30am Heart of the Hills Garden Club: Meets 3rd Tu each month September thru May. Details: 266-7439 www.zilkergarden.org/aagc/clubs.html 2220 Barton springs Rd.
Jan. 20 Tue 7-9pm Native Plant Society of Texas, Austin Chapter: Meets 3rd Tu each month. Members conduct plant surveys, rescue plants from development areas, collect & exchange seeds, maintain demonstration gardens, sell native plants & propagate hard to find species. Visitors welcome. Details: www.npsot.org/austin 805 N. Capital of Texas Hwy. email@example.com
Jan. 22 Thu 9:30am-noon Violet Crown Garden Club Meeting: "Pot-et-Fleur" A Collection of Plants Planted in One Pot. Design study: A study in transparency: demonstrated by Linda Sedden. Horticulture report by Alys Honey. Plants and treasures will be for sale. Details: 345-3164 2220 Barton springs Rd. Free
Jan. 23-25 Fri-Sun 10th Annual Texas Home & Garden Show: The ultimate shopping destination for homeowners seeking products, ideas, and how-to information to enhance & improve their homes & gardens. The show offers homeowners one location where they can meet personally with & compare local purveyors of home improvement, remodeling, outdoor living & landscaping products & services. Many vendors offer money-saving "show specials." Details: 800... www.texashomeandgarden.com 500 E. Cesar Chavez St.
Jan. 24-25 Sat & Sun KLRU-TV's Central Texas Gardener: Pick up design ideas for this spring's additions with innovative landscape architect Robert Leeper. On tour, visit a couple that started from scratch when oak wilt rearranged their plans. Sa noon & 4pm Su 8am Details: www.klru.org/ctg Free
Jan. 24 Sat 9am-5:30pm Tree Talk Winter Walk: Find the trees & shrubs you need at the sale & learn all about Texas tree species with walks & talks led by Wildflower Center staff & local tree experts. Book signing at the store includes 20% off on books about trees. Details: 232-0104 www.wildflower.org 4801 La Crosse Ave. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jan. 25 Sun 2pm Austin Area Begonia Society: Meets 4th Su each month. Details: 477-8672 www.zilkergarden.org/aagc/clubs.html 2220 Barton springs Rd.
Jan. 31-Feb. 1 Sat & Sun KLRU-TV's Central Texas Gardener: Meet Zac Zamora, craftsman of garden sculpture and vessels, and a biologist recognized for his natural habitat design at the Smithsonian. On tour, visit a tropical garden in the shade and its orchid greenhouse over the garage. Sa noon & 4pm Su 8am Details: www.klru.org/ctg Free
Feb. 7-8 Sat & Sun 10am-5pm Gallery of Orchids: It's the 38th Annual Orchid Show. Orchids are Mother Nature at her best, so come check out all the beautiful orchids that will be on display. There will also be hundreds of blooming orchids for sale, as well as helpful information for growing these beautiful plants from the 9 vendors & society members. Details: 413-3199 www.hotos.org 2220 Barton springs Rd. email@example.com Free
Feb. 22 Sun noon-4pm Green Garden Festival: There will be talks on trees and tree care, a Kids Korner & gardening experts to help you create & maintain a yard that is attractive, cost-saving & earth-friendly. City of Austin environmental program representatives & area nonprofit organizations will be there to answer questions. Plan to come to a fun, informative day in the park & learn how you can help protect Austin's environment-one yard at a time. Details: 974-2000 www.ci.austin.tx.us/greengarden/community.h 2220 Barton springs Rd. Free
Green Builder and Architect Partner on Modern Home in Traditional Neighborhood
by Amy E. Lemen
Photography by Coles Hairston
Sometimes it takes a keen eye to see the possibilities of a structure. And if that vision belongs to a green builder from Seattle and a green architect from Austin, the home becomes something special.
That's what happened when the homebuilder, and recent Austin transplant, discovered a big house on two lots in Central Austin, just off Thirty-fifth Street. Realizing that there was enough room to build not one, but two homes, he decided to tear down the original house, an old ranch-style one-story, and divide the lot to build two speculative homes.
The first is a home that has a decidedly modern look to it, yet uses traditional materials such as one-inch thick siding that's reminiscent of a clapboard house.
"We wanted to do something more contemporary that worked with the neighborhood, since the house is in a historical district," says James LaRue of James D. LaRue Architecture Design, the Austin firm that designed the home.
The home's builder and owner also had very specific requirements about green building, including materials and site plan. In fact, it was his and the architect's attention to energy-efficient details that garnered the home a five-star rating from Austin Energy's Green Building Program.
Those details included working with Habitat for Humanity to meticulously dismantle the original house so that materials could be reused or recycled through the Habitat ReStore. In the end, the only things thrown away were roofing, siding and plaster.
"Energy efficiency and building as green as possible were very important to the builder," says Randall Ware, project manager for LaRue. "It was one of the top priorities for the house. Anything he built was going to be a green house."
That dedication to environmentally friendly attributes also dictated the design of the house.
"He really wanted to save the large trees on the lot, so we ended up designing a skinny house," says Ware. "We also decided to do a larger side yard with a courtyard to accommodate the big tree in the back. It really opened up the space, and you get more yard than if you had a front and back yard."
And, while it might look like a traditional garage from the street, the open-air carport is much more than that-and the way the home sits on the lot is one of architect LaRue's favorite features.
"Without the cars, it's a great entertaining space or a place where kids can play," he says. "It's like having two patios, while also keeping fumes out of the house. The site has a lot of flexibility."
The three-bedroom, three-bath house covers twenty-eight hundred square feet, with the master bedroom, study-guestroom, bath, kitchen, living and dining rooms downstairs, and two bedrooms and two baths upstairs. It's a simple layout that eliminates often-unused areas like a sitting room or formal dining room, which works well with the fluid indoor-outdoor feel of the house.
"We wanted to do something more modern, but not so stark that you couldn't live in it," says Ware. "Nearly every room on the first floor opens up to the courtyard because there are all glass doors and windows. It's a very open design."
And the view from the house to the courtyard is all trees, giving the home a more intimate feel. For example, there's a huge window in the master bedroom that takes up almost an entire wall, and most of the back of the house is all windows.
It's a not-so-subtle nod to the hallmarks of mid-century modern architecture, such as "bringing the outside in" via windows and using natural materials like wood, stone and brick.
Of course, in this house, it's done with a twist. For example, instead of plain concrete blocks, LaRue and the builder went with polished concrete blocks, where the outer layer of concrete is polished, so all that's visible is the shiny aggregate underneath.
"It gives the concrete a different, smoother and less industrial look,"
Energy-efficient features include window and roof overhangs that help prevent solar heat gain, while the Galvalume metal roof is not only longer-lasting than conventional asphalt-shingled roofs, but also serves as a radiant heat barrier.
All ductwork is inside the home's "thermal envelope," an architectural design that's sometimes called a "house within a house." There is a continuous airspace of at least six to twelve inches on the north wall, south wall, roof, and floor that helps to insulate the inner envelope of the house.
As a result, any air leakage ends up in the conditioned space of the house-and doesn't escape through cracks and waste energy.
The home also has compact fluorescent aluminum fixtures with timers for all outdoor lighting, compact fluorescent recessed lighting and screw-in bulbs inside, plus LED canned and rope lights in the master bedroom for maximum energy efficiency. All finishes are water-based and very low in volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
All the floors downstairs are natural maple to reduce allergens; upstairs, natural wool carpet covers the floor in the bedrooms.
Beyond environmental dedication, LaRue says they also designed the house knowing that they would soon be building another house next door. So, the architects placed all of the windows on the first floor of the side that will face the second house, up high to preserve privacy for both owners. The second house is in the planning stages, but it'll be similar in style to the first one.
"The idea is to get the two houses to work together, both from a siting and architectural standpoint," says LaRue.
Amy Lemen writes about shelter for local and national publications. Got a cool house? Know of a cool house? You may e-mail Amy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
‘We Want Something Else!'
Bad Choices for Mayor Start Now
by Robert Singleton
"One of these days, we're all going to have to take the brewing Austin mayoral race seriously, but there's enough time for that between now and May 9, 2009."
-Austin American-Statesman editorial
December 8, 2008
A slight grammar digression before I start: I hate the word proactive. It's the kind of idiotic neologism that usually starts in the business community and soon infects the entire language. The opposite of reacting is not proacting, it's acting. And it's time to act, in preparation for the May 9 Austin mayoral election.
If you don't want to be faced with a choice of the lesser of five or six evils, it is your civic duty to make some phone calls, attend some public meetings or plead with potential candidates.
The box scores as of 10am, Thursday, December 11:
Mayor Pro Tem Brewster McCracken formally announced his candidacy on December 8. He made the announcement at HelioVolt, an Austin solar energy manufacturing company. McCracken is a supporter of the Pecan Street Project, an ambitious plan to bring clean energy jobs to Austin, and HelioVolt is a part of that project.
Council Member Lee Leffingwell is apparently poised to run for mayor, but can't officially do so until January (some contend the date is later). If he announces too early, it will be necessary to him to resign his council seat, and a costly special election would have to be held for that position. In the meantime, former Parks Board member Ted Siff announced on December 8 the formation of a political action committee called Draft Lee Leffingwell for Mayor. There is also a Facebook site for the draft movement.
Former Mayor Carole Keeton Strayhorn is apparently still stuck at the exploratory stage in her run. She's appointed a campaign treasurer, Louise Epstein, who most of his still haven't forgiven for delaying the 1992 Save Our Springs Ordinance election. We probably won't know how the fund-raising is going until January 15, when the first round of campaign finance reports is due.
Mike Levy, retired publisher of Texas Monthly, also has a campaign treasurer, and will have to file a report January 15. It is possible that either Strayhorn or Levy could pull out of the race after the first campaign finance report if there is insufficient interest in giving them large sums of money. Of course they could decide to put their own money into the campaign. Neither seems irrevocably committed at this point.
The Movie Star, and the rest-Then there are Jennifer Gale, who the Burnt Orange Report recently called one of its favorites, and Josiah Ingalls, who has filed paperwork with the city, naming himself as campaign treasurer. At press time, we received word that Jennifer Gale was found dead outside the First English Lutheran Church near the University of Texas on December 17. Though sometimes lacking in social skills, Gale will be remembered for focus, determination and commitment to Austin politics. Austin will be a little less weird for Gale's absence.
To be blunt, these choices suck. If you're a progressive, or even fairly liberal, there's just not enough difference between any of these candidates to even give you a reason to get out of bed on Election Day.
I'm not alone in my disappointment. I've been watching the comments on a couple of lists. The mood of progressives was summarized well by Scott Henson on Burnt Orange Report:
"I wish I knew what's supposedly so progressive about Leffingwell and McCracken," Henson wrote. "Being a Democrat doesn't make you a progressive, and neither does subsidizing corporate interests with tax dollars, authorizing unconstitutionally totalitarian tactics against the homeless, or pandering to police and fire unions with lavish pay hikes that paralyze the budget. Also...both have been flat out terrible and hypocritical on open government."
Both Leffingwell and McCracken opposed the Clean Water and Open Government charter amendments a couple of years ago. Leffingwell claimed to agree in principle with both, but said that they should be defeated, and then rewritten by city council.
Following defeat of the measures, Leffingwell went through the motions of holding hearings on new water quality measures. Nothing came of them, and he did even less with open government.
In fact, assuming you have a head injury and consider both McCracken and Leffingwell some species of liberal, I don't know how either is going to come up with a meaningful issue on
which they take significantly different positions.
The Statesman editorial I started this column with had one more statement that was breathtaking in its inanity:
"For the moment, it's just too delicious to ponder the human dynamics of a race involving Carole Keeton Strayhorn, Lee Leffingwell, Brewster McCracken, Mike Levy," the Statesman shivered.
Delicious isn't the word I would have used. Thank God for Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. His greed and arrogance caused a lot of us to dust off the word appalling.
The first half of the headline on this column is cribbed from an old M*A*S*H episode. "Hawkeye" Pierce sparks a rebellion in the mess hall, leading a chant of "We want something else! We want something else."
Bad choices don't begin on Election Day. They begin months earlier, when the ballot is set. For us, Zero Hour is 5pm, Monday, March 9, when the deadline for filing for the mayor's race occurs.
Updates on matters arising (a phrase borrowed from Roger Baker):
Exelon's attempt to acquire NRG Energy, operator of the South Texas Nuclear Project, has turned hostile with the rejection of their purchase offer. One small detail that has kind of slipped through the cracks is that Exelon has changed its proposed plan to build two new reactors at Victoria.
Exelon had planned to build two Economic Simplified Boiling Water Reactors (ESBWR), a design that has not been certified by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. That would have complicated the approval process, as the NRC would have to not only review the Combined Operating License but also simultaneously conduct the design certification for the ESBWR.
Now Exelon plans to build two Advanced Boiling Water Reactors (ABWR) at Victoria. This is the same design that NRG plans on using at Bay City. There are some problems with ABWRs, however. There are only four of them in the world, and two of those are down, and another is operating at permanent reduced power and suing the manufacturer over defective fan blades.
The outgoing Bush administration (I once knew a pit-bull owner who described his dog as outgoing) used the cover of the media attention on Rod Blagojevich to slip through some changes to the Endangered Species Act that will make it easier to ignore threatened species in federal projects. Bush's cronies are like renters crapping in the corners of a house they're about to be evicted from.
Robert Singleton is now taking part in a clinical trial to test a new drug for apoplexy-induced Tourette syndrome. Get Well wishes can be sent to him at email@example.com.
Mondays 7-9pm Save Barton Creek Assn. Meeting: Save Barton Creek Assn. meets weekly to discuss important environmental issues of the day. The public is invited. Vinny's Café, 1003 Barton Springs Rd. Or e-mail to learn how to get involved. Details: 480-0055 www.savebartoncreek.org 1003 Barton Springs Rd. firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Jan. 10 Sa Central Texas Trail Tamers Needs Volunteers: CTTT will be working on a special water conservation project at the Bamberger Ranch Preserve and needs help. CTTT will also be trailbuilding in the Davy Crockett National Forest in East Texas on the weekend of Feb. 14-16, and taking its first trip east of the Mississippi to build trails at Prince William Forest National Park in Virginia March 2-7. There is limited space for these trips. For more information, please attend our General Meeting Jan. 21. Details: 394-9998 www.trailtamers.org.
Jan. 10-11 Sa-Su Rainwater Collection Weekend: Make the most of winter rain with the book and DVD, "Rainwater Collection for the Mechanically Challenged." Receive a free bottle of fresh-from-the-clouds drinking water with each purchase of a rainwater collection product. Details: 232-0104 www.wildflower.org 4801 La Crosse Ave. email@example.com Free
Texas Watchdog Group Has Sharp Teeth
Texans for Public Justice Follows the Money to Expose Undue Influence and Corruption
by Kathy Mitchell
Photography by Barton Wilder Custom Images
Texans for Public Justice (TPJ) jumped into Texas politics in 1997, identifying state lawmakers that were in the pocket of big tobacco, with the votes to show for it. Most recently, they slammed the Texas Supreme Court for taking money from litigants in forty percent of its cases. But after more than a decade of aggressive reporting and campaigning, corporate money still rules in Texas politics.
"Texas hasn't come close to grasping the problem of money in politics," says Craig McDonald, executive director and longtime community activist. "In the last election cycle, a hundred forty-four people gave a hundred thousand dollars or more each, starting with Bob Perry who gave seven and a half million dollars just to Texas campaigns. That's a small, small sliver of the Texas population that wields enormous clout. We haven't done anything yet to really chip away at that disparity in power."
Such enormous sums virtually ensure the election and reelection of politicians who will act favorably toward moneyed interests.
How are McDonald and the rest of the TPJ crew not the most frustrated people alive?
"You gotta take the long view," says Research Director Andrew Wheat. "That's the only way there's sanity in the approach. Occasionally you take out a little garbage, you make people pay a price for doing the wrong thing, but the overwhelming trend is the same. Big business still calls the shots."
Now you can see them do it
Since his arrival in Texas, working for Public Citizen and then starting TPJ, McDonald has seen a few big changes. Politics is a good deal more transparent and special interests have to wield their clout on a public stage.
With an annual budget of less than three hundred thousand dollars and a small staff, TPJ maintains a database with millions of contribution records and more than eighty thousand lobby contracts. In 2007 alone, TPJ added one-point-two million campaign-contribution records to its databases, identified and assigned unique contributor identification numbers and economic-interest codes to more than three hundred forty thousand previously unidentified major donors, and added eighty-six hundred lobbying contracts. TPJ recently added Watch Your Assets, a web site devoted to taxpayer subsidies to big business.
"One way to expose the corporate grip on Texas power was to quantify the money, but it was very difficult to do back then," says McDonald of TPJ's start in 1997. "When we started, all the records were in file cabinets in the Reagan Building. We were pulling out boxes of paper, paying ten cents a page. If we've made a difference in the last eleven years, we haven't changed the relationships of power, but we've helped make the system more transparent."
Fred Lewis is president of Texans Together, a group advocating for universal early education, children's health insurance and first-class schools and teachers. Also a longtime campaign finance activist, Lewis thinks TPJ has had more influence than boosting transparency. It has helped build a model for holding politicians accountable that other groups now use for their own agendas.
"TPJ is first and foremost a repository for the best data and the best analysis there is in Texas on the funding of campaigns. People who like TPJ, like me, think of them as a watchdog. The people that don't like them, think they are a liberal front group. But it's very interesting that a number of conservative groups now do their own report of liberal funders in Texas." TPJ reports cover all officeholders and members of both parties. "People don't realize how much work that is-database and investigative reporting work. None of the reporting (forms filed by candidates, officeholders or lobbyists) puts the pieces together for you. You have to put it together. It's a monumental undertaking."
More information is now available, electronically and faster. Reporters, especially the political press, now jump on some kinds of reports as they are filed. "You can go on-line today and see campaign contributions. Harvey (Kronberg), at Quorum Report, follows campaign money in tight races in real time."
But analysis of the influence of corporations, donors and lobbyists across the state takes a lot longer. "We are more analytical, we don't release a study until all the reporting is in," says McDonald. "At the end of an election cycle we do the big, money-in-politics analysis of sources and the destination of every dollar that went for every legislative and statewide race in Texas. That report slices and dices money in ways that were impossible just four or five years ago. We also do a biennial lobby report; (we are) the only group that systemically tracks the lobbyists, and who's paying them."
Systematic improvements in transparency-better campaign finance reporting, more electronic information, better information about lobbyists and their corporate clients-can sometimes lead to real change for individual lawmakers who cross the line.
"We cost Gabi Canales her office over the misuse of legislative continuances," McDonald says of then State Representative Canales (D-Alice), who served one session in 2003. Lawyers who are also legislators are allowed to postpone cases during the legislative session by filing a continuance, a process that has been used as a legal tactic. "She was using her powers as a legislator to stop civil litigation during the session. We sued Canales to get her continuances disclosed. And now the legislature requires disclosure by any attorney who files for a continuance under that legislative privilege."
Sometimes the reports are just fun, get publicity, and put politicians on notice that the public knows exactly what they are doing. When Governor Rick Perry belatedly announced that the federal government shouldn't be using taxpayer dollars to bail out corporate America, TPJ jumped on the chance to highlight Perry's Texas Enterprise Fund and Texas Emerging Technology Fund. The funds have collectively given out almost five hundred million dollars in taxpayer dollars to big corporations-including big bucks to banks that subsequently floundered. In 2007, TPJ had already reported two-thirds of companies getting those business bucks had announced layoffs or not met their job-creation promises. With the bailout of Countrywide Financial (which got grants totaling twenty million dollars from the Texas Enterprise Fund and subsequently
Once researchers at TPJ uncover an interesting connection or set of facts, the organization will frequently take those facts directly to court or to the nearest prosecutor. Most recently, TPJ got under the skin of Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst by filing a complaint with Travis County Attorney David Escamilla over allegedly incomplete ethics filings about his investments. While this case is still under investigation, other cases show how fruitful the tactic can be.
"Special interests used to be able to hire legislators as lobbyists to represent them before Texas agencies," says McDonald. "(State Representative) Rick Green got defeated (in 2002) largely because of negative publicity generated by a complaint we filed with prosecutors. He was misusing his office by lobbying on behalf of the supplement industry, when the government was about to put out some new regulations affecting ephedra products. Next session, the Texas Legislature passed a strict prohibition against legislators acting as lobbyists before state agencies."
TPJ has even taken the courts to court-unsuccessfully, as it turns out. "We helped sue the Texas Supreme Court twice over the way they fund-raise and rule on people from the bench. If you don't pay, you are disadvantaged. We did the research and served as counsel in that case, and we sued as a plaintiff in a second case. While justices take a lot of money from people with cases before them, the public never sees how these judges vote on whether or not to (hear) a case, a basic piece of information. If our judges are going to act like politicians, we should treat them like politicians. We lost both of those cases in federal court."
Lewis believes that regular and aggressive disclosure of campaign money and lobby ties, especially by TPJ, has made politicians more accountable and changed their behavior. "There is no question, because of Texans for Public Justice, people have a much better idea of how money influences policy in Texas. They have taken anecdotes
The information is often used most effectively at campaign time, when a vigorous opponent can help explain what it all means to voters. "When Craddick Ds (Democrats who had allied themselves with Republican Speaker Tom Craddick) got contributions from Bob Perry, the biggest Republican donor, some sent them back, a lot were very defensive," says Lewis. "It was part of a picture that these people were beholden to Craddick and Republican special interests and, in a Democratic primary, that's a problem for voters."
The biggest recent victory for disclosure came in 2003 with the passage of State Senator Steve Wolens' (D-Dallas) campaign finance omnibus bill in the final days of the legislative session. In a surprise move at a late night hearing to which the press was invited, State Representative Ron Wilson (D-Houston), a Craddick lieutenant, announced that the bill wasn't strong enough and there wasn't enough time left to make it stronger. "There was clearly a deal and it was clearly blown up. Smitty (Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of Public Citizen's Texas office) stood up and said ‘That's bullshit, Ron. You can suspend the rules with a two-thirds vote and bring the bill up tomorrow.' It became very clear to the political people in the room that the reporters were not going to write the "not enough time left" story; they were going to write that the Republicans tanked it.
"Smitty called me up on Saturday," Lewis recalls. "They said the bill wasn't good enough, so now they're going to have to add good things to the bill. Suddenly a pretty good bill turned into a very good disclosure bill and it passed."
That bill expanded what we know about lawmakers and their money in some key ways: it requires incumbents to report the money they have in the bank (their so called "war chest") and requires donors to report their occupation or employer.
"Incumbents build a war chest to scare off others," says McDonald. "Only in recent years did we get disclosure of cash on hand and employer or occupation. We take credit for pushing that."
If you've ever donated to a candidate and had to report your occupation, you may wonder why anyone wants to know that information. "People who are trying to buy influence are going to find ways to buy the influence," says former State Representative Glen Maxey. "Instead of a check from the Realtor's association, now there are a hundred checks of two hundred fifty dollars from individual Realtors."
Since we all work, but our work may or may not have anything to do with our choices among political candidates, politicians occasionally feel stung by the reports that follow them after each election cycle.
"I remember getting popped for donations from people who worked for the insurance industry," says Maxey, whose district encompassed southeast Travis County. "They didn't give money because of who they worked for, but who they were. Gay folks gave me money because they expected me to be pro-gay in my votes. Had I not been, I might have been beaten by a Hispanic in my district because they would have pulled their money. It's a circular thing."
Disclosure and public reporting don't actually take the special interest money out of politics-even if reports occasionally create embarrassment for politicians. For that, something more must be done.
Campaign finance reform-contribution limits, public financing, free TV
Politicians struggle to self-regulate. If politics is an industry, then the regulators shouldn't be the same people who have to run campaigns and ask for money. Instead, many of the campaign finance reforms passed in recent years were passed by the voters through popular ballot initiatives.
"Lawmakers won't pass real campaign finance reform," says McDonald. "If the Democrats were in charge, it would be the same thing. It wouldn't be Craddick, but it would be someone else. We still won't get campaign finance reform because it's not in their interest. They are all experts, they all know how they campaigned, and they don't want to change anything."
So, where they can, voters express their wishes at the ballot box, and in Austin, that meant hundred-dollar limits on campaign contributions. Brought to Texas first to stop the Bell phone companies from winning their campaign to charge by the minute for local calls, Craig McDonald brought with him the experience of running statewide ballot initiatives, and particularly hundred-dollar limit initiatives in other states. Texas law does not permit citizen initiatives to create laws, but Austin's City Charter does, and McDonald got behind a fledgling effort that was underway to limit campaign contributions. That campaign, waged by Austinites for a Little Less Corruption, resulted in a landslide voter approval in November 1997 to limit contributions to mayoral and city council candidates to one hundred dollars.
"I spent two or three years of my life at the Center for New Democracy
The hundred-dollar-limit ballot initiatives were the result of a political calculus-if the public isn't ready for public financing of campaigns, what can we do that helps?
"It was tactical," says McDonald. "Public finance was going nowhere and the reform community was looking for tactical ways to keep campaign finance alive (as an issue). After the collapse of campaign financing under Bill Clinton, we turned to the public. To win a public financing battle, first you have to bypass the legislature. Then we looked at states, did focus groups, did our own polling. When you looked at it, you saw that public financing was untenable to bring to people on a ballot. All the work you did, one good TV ad could defeat you. But everyone agreed with hundred-dollar limits. Most people had never thought about giving a hundred dollars to a politician, so a hundred dollars seems like enough."
In the early nineties, McDonald and the Center for New Democracy passed hundred-dollar limits in Washington, DC, Colorado, Arkansas, Oregon, Missouri, and Montana. Shortly thereafter, federal courts started throwing them out as unconstitutionally too low, until the Missouri law went to the Supreme Court. By 1997, McDonald was here in Austin, helping to craft the city's hundred-dollar-limit ballot initiative. Like the state initiatives, it passed overwhelmingly.
"The Missouri case was taken to the Supreme Court, and they bailed us out," says McDonald. "The Supreme Court upheld limits and we got a strongly worded opinion that (limiting) the amount of the contribution is not limiting to free speech."
Marc Katz, owner of Katz's Delicatessen, challenged Austin's hundred-dollar limits in 2003, filing suit at the start of his bid for mayor. "Austin's limits were upheld but a hundred dollars, it's a little too low. It's a danger when only the rich can run for office," says McDonald.
Representative Glen Maxey has plenty of experience managing campaigns under these limits. "If limits are an answer, then they have to be rational. If you go through campaign finance reports, it really is an outlier to ever get a check for two hundred fifty dollars," says Maxey. "As a representative, I got lots of checks from lots of interest groups. Do the optometrists ‘buy you' (in the minds of critics) with a thousand-dollar check or a three hundred dollar check? I don't know where that line is."
Campaign contribution limits and more detailed disclosures might just move the money around, but not take it out of politics altogether.
"Does any of that money that's in campaigns actually go away?" Maxey wonders aloud. "Obama's campaign said no PACs, no 527s (tax-exempt groups created to influence elections), no lobby stuff. When this is through, and somebody combs through millions of records, do we find the same people funding this stuff through other ways. Is all that money still there? The people in Austin who write ten thousand dollar checks, do they still have ten thousand dollars invested in Obama? They did their twenty-three hundred dollar check in the primary and twenty-three hundred dollars in the general, and wife and husband each gave. Did they end up funding someone else (to donate to Obama)? You can give as much as you want to MoveOn. They are doing phone banks, moving people around. Did MoveOn (a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that works to elect candidates) coordinate with Obama? Absolutely not. But every move they made was public. Did Obama know what MoveOn was doing? Sure."
While lawmakers may not be willing to make significant changes to their own campaign finance system, they might be willing to change the way Texas elects judges. "There are no ideal ways to get money out of politics. Every time you do a little fix another problem emerges," says Wheat. "We're sympathetic to public financing but it has zero chance of going anywhere-except that you can begin to talk about it without being laughed at in the context of judicial elections."
Lewis thinks the public's confidence in the court system is now so low, that judicial campaign financing must change. "There's no question that there's a crisis of confidence in our court system. You can't have judges taking money from litigants before them and expect people to have respect for the judiciary. Try to explain to someone that a five thousand dollar contribution from the attorney on the other side didn't influence the judge. Even if it didn't."
Texans for Public Justice conducted exit poll interviews with voters about the Texas Supreme Court judges they had just selected. "We did a post election survey once, and people leaving the voting booth couldn't name the Supreme Court justices they just voted for," says McDonald. "The judiciary just falls through the cracks. I'm for giving the governor some more power here, because then he can be held responsible"
"Craig is absolutely right," says Lewis. "People don't know what they are voting for. Craig realized long before I did that it cannot and does not work. I don't think people will have faith in the integrity of our court system until we get the partisanship out and the money out. You have a divorce or a car crash or a contract dispute, and you are not sure if the judge is influenced by party concerns or money concerns."
Whether or not we see major reform to our elected court system any time soon, TPJ continues to provide a public service to Texas that most other states don't enjoy. "There ought to be something like TPJ in every state," says Wheat. "There's a good deal at the federal level, but there's not anything like TPJ in most states. Craig and I have been working together since he started this in 1997. Now we're just old white male clones that get along and can finish each other's sentences. He's been a pal and a mentor and given me a long leash. I guess that's why we've done so well. Corruption is a growth industry and we've got our hands full."
Kathy Mitchell awaits the next session of the Texas Legislature, with its big money, crowds of lobbyists and handful of watchdogs, with trepidation. No telling what they might do this time-but thanks to TPJ we'll all know more about it when it happens. You may e-mail Kathy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public Citizen Texas-Advocates for a safer environment, use of renewable energy, more consumer protection and safer consumer products. For more information call 51... or visit www.citizen.org/texas.
Texans for Public Justice-Tracks campaign finance, lobby expenditures, and taxpayer giveaways to big corporate interests. For more information call 51... or visit www.tpj.org.
Texans Together-Advocates for better public education and access to health care for Texas families. For more information e-mail email@example.com or visit www.texanstogether.org.
The Godfather of Tejano Music
The Long Musical Journey of Manuel ‘Cowboy’ Donley
by Sarah Wimer
Photography by Barton Wilder Custom Images
During their glory days from the mid-fifties to the mid-seventies, Manuel “Cowboy” Donley y Las Estrellas typically played five shows a week, including afternoon parties on the weekends. “We were hotter than a firecracker…hotter than hell,” says Estrellas leader Donley, who played electric guitar, sang rock ’n’ roll hits in English or Spanish, as well as Spanish classics, and created the sophisticated arrangements for a band of up to a dozen, with a horn section of four saxes and four trumpets. The orquesta style they played drew inspiration and its name from the jazz orchestras of Glenn Miller and Jimmy Dorsey, but added country, rock ’n’ roll, romantic boleros and passionate rancheras from Mexico, and Cuban mambo. Las Estrellas toured regionally, entertaining at halls large enough to accommodate hundreds of dancing couples.
“In one year, I played more than others in all their lives,” Donley claims. His career was not limited to Las Estrellas. In his youth, he often played seven nights a week, at various times in the Dueto Juárez, jamming with conjuntos, as a classical guitar soloist, and playing requinto (higher register guitar) with his Trío Romántico, which has entertained Hillary Clinton and Presidente Vicente Fox of Mexico. Donley’s fingers remain fleet and nimble, exhibiting a level of virtuosity that would be remarkable in an instrumentalist far his junior.
Now eighty-one and with impaired vision, Donley’s accomplishments include composing hits, having his songs covered by others, induction into the Tejano Music Hall of Fame, performing at the Smithsonian Institute for the national bicentennial celebration, and teaching guitar at Huston-Tillotson University. Certificates and proclamations cover most of a wall in his music room. His life defined by a passion for music, Donley has stories galore and fond recollections of the compadres who helped bring his musical creations to life. He last performed with Las Estrellas for the first event at the new Mexican American Cultural Center in July 2007. That performance doubled as his surprise eightieth birthday party. His voice still strong, Donley craves more orquesta gigs, but “Nobody wants to hire a big band,” he says.
‘La voz maravillosa’ (The marvelous voice)
Although he’s been immersed in music for more than six decades, art was Manuel Donley’s first creative outlet. He earned lunch money selling cartoon sketches for a nickel. His seventh grade teacher, Miss Lala Lay, hired him to paint knickknacks, driving him from East Austin to her Tarrytown home, where he toiled until late. One day, captivated by guitar he heard on her radio, he realized that he “didn’t want to see another brush,” quit school, and got a dishwashing job to put his first guitar on layaway. He learned from watching other musicians. “Playing until daybreak in alleys with old guys was my school,” he says. “Just the sound of guitar would put me in another world. Music takes you totally into heaven. It gives you a high like nothing else mattered.”
Young Donley began exploring Austin’s nightlife, preferring to play with various groups for tips rather than committing to one. He recalls that you had to be twenty-one to enter La Perla, a still-open cantina at East Sixth and Comal, but “when they would see me with a guitar, I guess I looked old enough. When I walked in, they pulled the plug from the jukebox.”
Although he only performs occasionally with his trio now, Donley is still often recognized around town. Despite his accolades, he says, “I consider myself a very beginner. It’s a lifelong learning.” He ignored invitations to move to bigger cities, preferring to remain in Austin, saying he was “just a barrio boy.” Musing that he “probably could have gotten rich” on some opportunities that he passed on, he says, “I did everything my way, my way only—I think it’s all right.
Manuel Donley’s surname comes from his great-grandfather, an Irish immigrant to Texas. His father, Ramón Donley, walked from the family land at Slaughter Lane and South Congress to the entertainment district around Second and Colorado, earning tips playing the only song he knew on guitar—the famous corrido (ballad) of Gregorio Cortez, based on a true story. Later, Ramón mastered the violin and formed a string group with two guitars and banjos. His orquesta performed at diverse gigs ranging from a 1929 Mexican independence day celebration in Pflugerville to New Year’s Eve at Scholz Garten to bullfight fanfares in Mexico.
Manuel Donley remembers his mother, Dolores Quiñones, loved opera, and her sister sang it. Her elite political family from Durango, Mexico, came to Texas in 1915 to escape Pancho Villa’s armies during the Mexican Revolution. That’s when she met Donley’s father. Later the Quiñones family returned to Mexico but when Dolores turned twenty-one, she insisted her father bring her back to Texas to marry Ramón Donley. The couple traveled back and forth across the border, and three of their nine children (including Manuel) were born in Mexico. The Donleys settled permanently in Austin after Ramón purchased a barbershop on East Sixth Street, which doubled as the site of afternoon and evening jam sessions. (Still standing, it is the first building west of I-35 on the north side of Sixth Street.)
Los Heartbreakers and a new musical vision
Manuel Donley started his first group, Los Heartbreakers, in 1949. The group featured Donley on requinto, an Austin Symphony musician on standup bass, “the best drummer in Austin,” a maraca player, and two saxes. At the Varsity Grill on the Drag, the horn players stood on the bar, and the crowd went “very wild.” That they were Chicanos playing for Anglo audiences was “something very rare,” Donley says. Initially Los Heartbreakers played mostly instrumentals, but responding to a request for a new hit, Donley sang “La Múcura.” He hadn’t rehearsed the song, but says he could ad-lib anything he had heard before. “People started discovering my voice. I didn’t want to sing. My bag was guitar. When I started (singing), they wouldn’t leave me alone. It was the first time I pleased the people.” Los Heartbreakers also covered songs by George Gershwin, Xavier Cugat, and Carmen Miranda.
In 1954, Donley’s brother Raymond (Ramón Jr.), owner of two South Congress country music clubs, rented the bowling alley that later became the Armadillo World Headquarters to present Elvis Presley. Donley says Elvis
Donley imagined converting the trio music he loved into orquesta, getting “the idea because I was the only one who knew both styles.” He thought the chestnut “Sabor a Mí” “would sound mean” with an electric bass and taught a buddy to play that instrument. His friends would “congregate at daddy’s barbershop,” developing an electrified version of orquesta.
When the new group started out, they “played any dump where they would pay four or five dollars per musician.” Donley recalls performing in small houses, with the band crowded into a bedroom and people dancing in another room. A prominent local promoter nicknamed him “Cowboy,” because he stood while playing guitar, rather than sitting behind a bandstand, as was then customary, and called the group Las Estrellas (the stars), in recognition of Donley’s ability to attract stellar sidemen.
A 1957 “battle dance” at the Skyline Club stands out in Donley’s memory. The fabled country venue on North Lamar at Braker Lane hosted Mexican dances on Sunday nights. On stage, sitting behind bandstands, was the popular orchestra of Isidro López, twelve men strong. Alternating songs with them, the six members of Manuel “Cowboy” Donley y Las Estrellas stood in front of the stage. López only sang in Spanish.
The Austin Latino Music Association-ALMA, meaning "soul," was founded "to raise awareness about the importance of Latino music, past, present, and future." ALMA hosts periodic events and promotes May as Latino Music Month. Sign up for its newsletter at www.austinlatinomusic.com.
Fiesta Musical Radio Show-Host Isidoro López plays many styles of Latin music, including a lot of orquesta music on KOOP 91.7 FM from 11am to 1pm on Fridays. KOOP streams on the web at www.koop.org. Call the listener line at 512-47....
Manual "Cowboy" Donley-He's a musical legend who still wants to teach and perform. Contact him and his wife Minnie at 51... or Mdonley2@austin.rr.com.
Nash Hernandez Orchestra-Drummer Ruben Hernandez leads the orquesta founded in 1949 by his dad, Nash, who also worked as a sideman with Manuel "Cowboy" Donley y Las Estellas. In addition to private events, the group plays monthly at Donn's Depot at 1600 W. Fifth St. For more information visit www.nashhernandezorchestra.com.
Ruben Ramos and the Mexican Revolution-This Austin-based orquesta Tejana tours nationally. Vocalist Ramos descends from a large, musically gifted, multigenerational clan of performers. For more information visit www.rubenramos.com.
Texas Music Museum-An all volunteer effort, the museum gathers oral histories and memorabilia from lesser known artists to mount exhibits .The Museum will be twenty-five years old in March 2009. On January 12, an exhibit on Texas-German music will open. Open weekdays from 9am to 4:30pm for self-guided tours at 1009 E. Eleventh St. For more information call 51... or visit www.texasmusicmuseum.org.
With enthusiasm and continual innovation, Donley kept Las Estrellas current for decades. In the sixties, he added slow songs to the repertoire, contrasting with the exclusively fast music of traditional orquestas. In the late seventies, he took up trumpet for several years, when he couldn’t find a lead trumpeter up to his standards. He says that his attitude “had to be the secret of it all spiritually. I couldn’t wait to start playing and always had a new arrangement or song every weekend. I was always after new sounds.”
‘A bunch of grapes’
Describing his arrangements, Donley says, “If you could see the music, (the complex chords) would look like a bunch of grapes,” because there were so many notes.” Until the early sixties, big band orchestrations were commercially available, with each song published as a book containing all the instrumental parts. Later, songs were published with only the melodies, lyrics, and chord changes. Having taught himself to write and arrange, Donley chose to create his own versions of songs, even when arrangements could still be purchased. He disdains simple music with ordinary chord changes, which allowed people to “become a musician overnight,” in contrast to his own path of success through “practicing day and night.” He reveled in dense harmonies, tantalizing dissonance, and modulation between keys. Playing his music required skilled musicians who could read music and, over the years, he employed many musicians, including blacks and Anglos.
Trumpeter Robert Ortiz has played occasionally with Las Estrellas for the last twenty years. He says that playing Donley’s music is a “real challenge,” because, “every instrument has a different note,” manifesting the complex chords that only Donley could imagine. A professional musician since graduating from Crockett High School in 1972, Ortiz has played with other groups where the leader could not write music and struggled to convey musical concepts to their bands, necessitating long rehearsals, in marked contrast with Las Estrellas rehearsals, where the musicians would quickly run through the arrangements.
Donley’s musical stylings did not develop in a vacuum, but rather reflected cultural currents of the time. Writing in the liner notes to a compact disc called Orquesta Tejana: The Formative Years, ethnomusicologist Manuel Peña said that musicians in the early years of orquesta “wanted to be known as Americans, even if hyphenated…They began to aspire toward American cultural forms while loosening their ties with more traditional Mexican culture. However, due to the unyielding prejudice of the Anglos, the new Mexican-Americans ultimately settled for partial assimilation and the adoption of an ideology of biculturalism,” maintaining connections with their roots while also emulating elite Anglo culture. According to Ortiz, Tejano music incorporates blues and jazz, cumbias and rancheras, pop and soul, even mixing multiple genres within songs. He believes “that Tejano bands can do a country song as good as any country band, funk as good as a funk band.”
A disappearing heritage
Donley dates the decline of orquesta music to the gas crisis of 1974. Before that, fans often traveled long distances to see Las Estrellas play, but then, “Overnight, the big crowds were gone, and it changed.” It became harder for large groups to remain economically viable. Bands were forced to downsize by reducing the complete horn sections he loved to just two or three players. Additionally, Ortiz blames Moog synthesizers for displacing horns, and cheaper deejays for cutting into the party circuit on which the big bands depended. He notes that there wasn’t a “new generation to come up and dance,” with audiences more into “listening instead of dancing.” To
Beginning with his first single in 1957, Donley travelled to record in other cities before Austin had any studios, working with multiple labels over the years, and later created his own Las Estrellas label to release his music and that of other groups. “I don’t even know how many recordings I made,” he says. Jukebox play helped promote bands, while selling recordings from the stage earned extra income. Sadly, Donley does not know if the original masters of any of his old recordings still exist, or who owns them if they do exist.
While still in office, former City Council Member Raul Álvarez helped found the Austin Latino Music Association (ALMA), with the goal of preserving and promoting the rich local heritage of Latin music. He discovered that information about that heritage “wasn’t really well known or catalogued anywhere.” With respect to Donley, Álvarez wants “to preserve those arrangements, not just catalog them, but package and share them with schools to provide music education to young people.”
At ALMA’s initiative, a small piece of land near Fiesta Gardens has been named after Donley and his late brother, community activist Robert, as part of the Trail of Tejano Legends. Álvarez hopes to organize a tribute concert for next year’s sixtieth anniversary of Los Heartbreakers. Assessing Donley’s creation of that group, he says, “There was no rock ’n’ roll yet. That’s where I think, because he was listening to jazz and R&B, all that experience led him to create this new style. It’s important to tell his story, because he goes back so far in the history of Tejano music.”
“I personally feel that he is one of the unsung heroes in the history of Tejano music” who “served as a bridge between early and later eras. He’s the one who brought the electric sound into Tejano, with the electric bass, and using the drums more prominently. That’s an innovation that I think could be traced back to him, but it’s not in any history books.”
An enduring legacy
Clay Shorkey, PhD, a University of Texas sociology professor who helped found the Texas Music Museum in Austin, has become friends with Manuel Donley and his family. Like seemingly everyone who knows Donley, Shorkey is an unabashed fan, saying: “He makes you feel just like family. The more I’ve gotten to know Manuel and seen his compositions and arrangements, I continue to be more and more amazed. He’s such a good, nice, humble guy, but such a talent.”
Shorkey says, “Many people consider (Donley) the godfather of Tejano music.” Shorkey believes that Donley may have even coined the expression “Tejano music,” adding, “No one in Austin played the breadth of styles.”
With Donley’s encouragement, several of his sidemen moved on to form their own groups. Leonard Dávila joined Las Estrellas as a junior at Johnston High School, where the band program produced many students who played professionally.
Dávila sang harmony and lead on several English songs, including “I Feel Good,” “Time Won’t Let Me,” and “Gloria.” After returning from Vietnam, Dávila went on to found the disco-funk group Street People, which toured extensively and even opened for James Brown in Atlanta.
Art Martínez, a twenty-seven-year-old saxophonist, is another musician mentored by Donley over the last few years. He recalls playing a fiftieth wedding anniversary, where Donley told him to bring along his clarinet to solo on “String of Pearls” and “I Ain’t Got Nobody.” Martinez says, “Almost everyone danced every song.” He’s proud of his role as “unofficial assistant” to Donley, helping to organize the sheet music and even create set lists for the sporadic recent Las Estrellas performances. He appreciates that Donley “treated us all with respect.”
Martínez met Donley through his cousin, Mary Ballín, who studies guitar with him. She enthuses about what a supportive teacher Donley is, coaxing her to sing with him—even though she is too shy to sing in front of her husband. She even credits Donley with her newfound interest in watching telenovelas (Spanish soap operas). “What can I say?” she asks, declaring that studying with Donley “has broadened my interests overall. It has taken me back to who I am. Everybody who knows me knows of him. What I respect the most of all is his humbleness, simplicity, statesmanship. He wants to pass it on. He wants to teach. He just opened up a whole world of music; I’ve never listened to music the way I do now.” Ballín calls her teacher “a walking musical encyclopedia,” adding, “Mr. Donley still has a lot to offer.”
Looking back at his long career, Donley is proud that he never worked a day job or even had to seek out gigs. He says, “All those years went by. It seems like they went so fast…Playing was my passion. It was therapeutic and made my life very full, complete.”
For Sarah Wimer —already a fan—spending many hours interviewing Manuel “Cowboy” Donley for this article was an incredible privilege. You may e-mail Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Movin' Easy Dancewear
by Shelley Seale
Photography by Barton Wilder Custom Images
It wasn't easy being a young boy who wanted to dance in a small West Texas town in the nineteen-forties. In spite of having a father who loved to foxtrot and took his son to every Hollywood musical featuring Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire, Tim Hurst suppressed his desire to be a dancer himself. "I just couldn't bring myself to be in a dance class with all girls in that cowboy town," Hurst says. He recalls the occasions when he was exposed to the foxtrot or square dancing and realized he could learn to dance. "I just froze up."
Hurst's love of dance lay dormant for forty years, only awakening when he began learning karate and its graceful dance-like moves. Once he moved to Austin in 1972, Hurst began by attending performances of every troupe or company he could, from ballet to modern, and started taking tap-dancing lessons.
The opportunity to make a career out of his passion came in 1981, when a woman who was starting a new dance studio told Hurst that Austin needed a dancewear store, and asked him to open one. His previous South American import business had given him buying and selling experience, and Hurst jumped at the chance to provide quality dancewear and support local dance companies and schools.
"I came up with the name Movin' Easy because our line was half street clothes and half dancewear. We were the first store in Austin to carry one-hundred-percent cotton clothing. It was easy and breathable, not restrictive." Hurst partly credits the store's early start with its success, becoming established ahead of the curve of Jane Fonda's fitness, jazzercise and the yoga and pilates craze. The store's clientele is partly professional dancers and dance students, but also fitness customers who buy clothing for their preferred workout method; a growing client base is ballroom and salsa dancers. The customer age ranges from toddlers to seniors.
Movin' Easy set out to make sure that Austin had a quality store that carried the latest styles and offered expertise in fitting and ordering. Equally important was the desire to build Austin as a premier center for all kinds of dancing, through supporting dance companies and advertising their shows. When Ballet Austin began its professional company, Movin' Easy established a streamlined and economical ordering system for all the company shoes and dancewear, and donated shoes to help build the apprentice program.
From the beginning, training of dancewear specialists and fitting specialists became a top priority. Movin' Easy trains all employees in sophisticated fitting techniques to guarantee that clients will walk away with the right fit, and have developed a reputation as experts on ballet pointe shoes.
Hurst is big on the subject of fit, coming back to it several times to point out how critical it is in dance footwear, especially with children. "I hate seeing parents taking their kids somewhere like Wal-Mart and sitting them on the floor to try on dance shoes. Then the kids outgrow them and they have to buy more a few months later. They could come here and spend two or three dollars more and get a quality dance shoe with a proper fit from a qualified professional. In fact, they would save money because the right fit allows the child to grow into it, and the shoes would last the whole season."
Even more important to Hurst is the introduction the child receives to dance. "These kids in a dance class are moving as much as a professional does. They need comfort and dancewear that encourages, not discourages. At a dedicated dancewear store with expertise and customer attention, the child is allowed to experience the magic of the world of dance. It makes it special."
In fact, Hurst would like to bring that magic of dance to everyone. He writes a blog for the company web site, on which he posts not only practical tidbits such as the many benefits of dance and getting started, but also poetry and his own personal musings on his favorite topic. "When I see dance performed, I want to capture it right in the moment," he says. "When I write about it, it's not so much descriptive of the dance itself, but of my experience of it. Dance requires the whole body and mind. I love supporting people who are making that commitment to what they love to do. It takes courage to go for that much joy."
Hurst's blog shares the magic of dance: "The Dance Secret is the tradition of healing, happiness, and communication that has been passed down to us since the first humans began to sing and dance. Dance activates and integrates areas of the brain in ways that no other activity does. Dance is a direct way to create positive movement patterns and discard old patterns that damage our bodies. Dance is a direct link to learning how to explore and master the relationship between how we move, how we think, and how we communicate with ourselves and other people."
Though he readily admits that a retail business is a lot of hard work and difficult at times, Hurst is motivated to keep going by one simple thing: "I can't imagine living in Austin without a store like Movin' Easy."
Movin' Easy Dancewear is located at 404 W. Thirtieth St. and can be reached by phone at 512-474-0980 or at www.movineasy.com. Resources on the web site include a complete listing of every dance company, school and specialty group in Austin. Hurst also sends out a monthly e-mail of everything happening in the local world of dance. Store hours are Monday through Thursday 10am-8pm, Friday and Saturday 10am-6pm, and Sunday 1pm-5pm.
Listening to Tim Hurst took freelance writer Shelley Seale back to the days when she wanted to be Ginger Rogers. You may e-mail Shelley at email@example.com.
Making Life Better
Some Ideas for Personal Renovation for the New Year
by Karen Branz Leach
Photography by Barton Wilder Custom Images
Welcome to 2009. I think I speak for a lot of folks when I say I'm relieved that it has finally arrived, that the presidential race is over, and that it looks like our president-elect is up to the task of fixing the country's many ills.
Now it's time to take a look at how we can improve our personal lives in the coming year. I've gathered information from local experts, from web sites and from scientific researchers to identify ways to make life better. The ideas cover seven major facts of life: money, diet, spirituality, relationships, exercise, sleep and work, and I offer a couple of ideas for improvement in each area.
Before we get to the tips on a better life, however, I wanted to share with you some research about lucky people, from an article by Richard Wiseman in 2003. He describes an experiment he performed in which test subjects, some of whom saw themselves as lucky and some as unlucky, were given a newspaper and told to count the number of photographs in it. This is what happened, according to Wiseman:
"On average, the unlucky people took about two minutes to count the photographs whereas the lucky people took just seconds. Why? Because the second page of the newspaper contained the message "Stop counting-There are forty-three photographs in this newspaper." This message took up half of the page and was written in type that was over two inches high. It was staring everyone straight in the face, but the unlucky people tended to miss it and the lucky people tended to spot it. Just for fun, I placed a second large message half way through the newspaper. This one announced: ‘Stop counting, tell the experimenter you have seen this and win $250.' Again, the unlucky people missed the opportunity because they were still too busy looking for photographs."
It seems that one important personality trait of lucky people is that they notice and take advantage of opportunities. Disaster survivors also tend to share this trait; those who do not give into their fate, but instead look for a way to escape, are more likely to survive than those who don't. Luck is not about superstition, but about looking with a wider view and taking advantage of the opportunities that life presents.
Happiness, too, is not just about being fortunate, it's about attitude. As Abraham Lincoln once said, "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." People who describe themselves as happy tend to look for the good in each situation, and focus on positive memories rather than on negative memories, or as Albert Schweitzer said, "Happiness is nothing more than good health and a bad memory." Like lucky people, happy people tend to notice opportunities, particularly opportunities for enjoyment.
So if luck and happiness are all about attitude, can you change your attitude? In researching this piece, I read a number of articles on the theory of attitude change and persuasion, but I won't share much of that with you here lest our collective heads explode. Instead, I'll share with you a research finding that sums up much of what I read: having fat friends predisposes one to being fat. That is because most people tend to go with the flow of social norms. If the people around you are eating high calorie foods, you'll tend to adopt a positive attitude toward these foods. Watching television can also have the same effect, due to the ads that sing the praises of double cheeseburgers. Hanging around with thin people, it seems, has the opposite effect.
Since birds of a feather tend to flock together, if you want to change your feathers you may have to change your flock. Want to be happy and lucky? Seek out and hang with people who are, while avoiding the people who wallow in their misfortunes. Want to eat healthy and exercise more? Bond with someone who shares that ambition and spend less time with junk-food-eating couch potatoes. Want to deepen your spiritual awareness? Join a church or group that shares your journey. It may take time to adjust to the new flock, but spend that time watching how the eagles soar and learning how they do it.
Now, on to the advice. None of the suggestions given here are comprehensive prescriptions for making major change. Instead, the suggestions focus on one or two simple things in each area that almost anyone can do. If you use any of these ideas, I'd appreciate it if you'd drop me an e-mail note at The Good Life, to let me know how you are doing.
Money: Seeing opportunity in the meltdown
The economic collapse last fall left a lot of people anxious and nervous about their retirement prospects. A better response, says Warren Buffet, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and arguably the smartest investor in America, is patience. The stock market will rebound, house values will rise again in most parts of the country, and the economy will recover. Don't read those brokerage statements, just file them unopened and go about your daily business. If you sell your stocks while the market is low, you guarantee your losses; if you hold on to your stocks, chances are that they will regain all the value that they lost. You might consider buying more stock, as there are some terrific bargains out there right now, says Buffet, who is busily buying up the good stuff. You may have to delay retirement until the economy rebounds, but your savings haven't really vanished, they've just gone into hiding.
If your job was a casualty of the meltdown, you are allowed to freak out a little, but only for a day or two. After that, you need to get cracking on finding another one, with eyes wide-open because a layoff can also be an opportunity.
A good friend of mine, we'll call her J.J. as she wishes to remain anonymous, lost her job in June, and received severance pay equal to two months' salary. Her husband was laid off in November and was also given two months' pay as severance. Bummer city, for sure. But J.J. got busy drumming up some freelance work to keep the bills paid, and her husband found another job in San Antonio
"My mom will love having the company," says J.J. The couple, whose kids are grown, are even considering leasing out their house and moving in with J.J.'s mom for a year, which would let them pay off all their debt and put a substantial amount into their retirement funds. Plus give mom the company and attention she misses.
Despite the rough economy, J.J. is finding enough freelance work to keep up her end of the family budget and is loving the flexibility of freelancing. And using the severance pay to get out from under some debt has been a great load off her mind.
Diet: Learn to love your veggies
The World Health Organization ranks the U.S. population as one of the least healthy in the industrialized world. A big contributor to this status is our diet, which contains way too many calories and junk food and far too few vegetables. We are undernourished, not because of some mythical depletion of our soils, but because we don't eat enough of the vegetables grown in those soils.
While I am not a nutritionist, I have read a huge portion of the current research on healthy eating. And I've lost forty pounds in the last five years, mostly by changing my eating habits. So, while I can't claim to be an expert, I do have some common-sense advice to share, based on the latest research: Eat your vegetables and count your calories.
Non-starchy vegetables are the best food on earth for people who want to be healthier and to lose weight. They have lots of water, fiber and nutrition, with very low calories. If you are not a natural veggie-eater, train yourself to enjoy as wide a selection as you can manage. If you like vegetables, eat them in place of most of the starches in your diet. Instead of bread and a baked potato with dinner, have broccoli and squash. Or green beans and a salad.
Those forty pounds I lost were mostly the result of eating non-starchy vegetables and lean protein as my regular meals. I have seldom gone hungry, because I fill myself with healthy, low-calorie foods.
Cabbage is my secret weapon. Shredded into coleslaw with light Italian dressing on top, it tastes good, is nicely crunchy in the mouth and fills me up on less than a hundred calories. I go through a couple of bags of shredded cabbage a week. If I'm craving bad stuff in the morning, I'll even eat a bowl of it for breakfast. Raw okra is a surprisingly good substitute for potato chips, but I realize that this is an unusual taste that not many other people are likely to acquire. Sugar snap peas and carrots are good snackers, too, if raw okra is too weird for you. Tote a baggy full of veggies with you every day, and eat every bite in the bag to keep your hands off the junk food. If you aren't into vegetables, eat apples. They are low in calories, high in fiber and nutrition, and taste great. Plus they provide that satisfying crunch most people want in a snack.
Since it is physically impossible to get too many calories when the bulk of your diet is non-starchy vegetables, the more vegetables displace other foods in your diet, the healthier you will be.
And calories do count. Since it takes about thirty-five hundred excess calories to create a pound of fat, you can take the number of pounds you gained in the last year and multiply that number by thirty-five hundred to see how many extra (unnecessary) calories you ate in the last year. If you gained ten pounds in the past year, you ate thirty-five thousand calories more than you needed just to stay even. Divide that by three hundred and sixty-five days to see how many extra calories per day you ate. The answer is about ninety-six. If you want to lose those ten pounds in the next year, you have to cut out about twice as many calories as you over-ate this year, or about one hundred and ninety-two calories per day, every day.
That's not really so much. If you drink two regular sodas a day, simply switching to diet sodas or water will do the trick. If you eat a small bag of fries a day, cut those out and you'll drop ten pounds in a year. If you switch from a Big Mac to a turkey sandwich with mustard, lettuce and tomatoes on whole wheat, you'll drop two hundred calories from your lunch (just leave off the mayonnaise, which has about ninety calories per tablespoon).
The key is to do these things for life, not just for a short time. When you make the change, stick to it. Eventually, it will become second nature to you, and you won't even consider that burger. I know, because I did it. Thinking about mad-cow disease helped, particularly when I first gave up burgers. Negative reinforcement can be useful.
Changing my flock helped, too. After my divorce five years ago, I made a conscious choice to seek out a new partner with better health habits. My companion for the past five years has been a wonderful man who exercises regularly, pays attention to what he eats and never brings junk food in the house. That makes it easy for me to stick to my regular diet.
Spirituality: Love, love, love
When I asked Riverbend Pastor Dave Haney to talk to me in a nondenominational context about moral and ethical growth that could make one's life better, his reply cut right to the chase.
"It's not that complicated. It's basically one concept: love. Of course, that in and of itself is complex," said Haney. "To live your life without that, to live in a strictly tangible world, is really cheating yourself. To love more is a deeply spiritual notion."
Haney says that to love is a personal choice. "It is a place that you have to be willing to go. No one can force you to. The beauty and elegance of it is that you choose to love."
Loving the unlovable, he says, is the centerpiece of Jesus' paradigm of love. "Anyone can love those who love you back. To love someone who has no potential to love you back, to love your enemies, that is the kind of love that transforms you. To give forgiveness to those who have wronged you is heavy lifting; it's going into the gymnasium of spiritual development and doing an aerobic workout," he says. "That intentionality cultivates the spiritual dimension of who we are."
Haney says that for those who are most wounded by life, whose sense of self is most damaged and who feel themselves to be unlovable, the natural behavior is often aggression, anger and antagonism. The pathway to recovery, he says, involves a sense of being loved and able to love.
"When you go and love someone less easy to love, you come away with a better sense of self-worth," he says.
Much of the life of Riverbend Church revolves around community work and serving others, he says, because this is the tangible form of loving others. For Haney, nurturing his congregation means giving them opportunities to serve.
For Theo Smith, who first came to the church in 2000, that experience of being offered love when he felt unlovable, and then offering it to others in turn, was life-changing.
Smith had been a financial prodigy, president of a bank by the time he was twenty-six. But, he says, he let his life go off course, focusing too much on financial success and not enough on his family. When he came to Texas from California, he had just gone through a bitter divorce, he had lost his stake in a company that he helped found, and the losing custody battle for his two daughters had wiped out his savings. In Austin he found a new job at a small firm, but that job ended abruptly.
"I was out of strength, out of hope, ready to give up," he says.
Watching television early one Sunday morning, feeling unloved and unlovable, he saw former Riverbend Pastor Gerald Mann on television, and wanted to hear him speak in person. He got dressed and went to the church, only to find that Mann was not preaching that morning. The sermon, by a visiting minister, left him uninspired and even more dejected. As he was leaving, a church member came up to him and asked if he could help.
"He was a ‘Stephen Minister,' a kind of lay minister. He was able to meet me where I was and he pretty much saved my life," says Smith. Stephen Ministry began in St. Louis in 1975 when a minister who was also a psychologist trained his congregation members to care for others in the community who were hurting. Since then, about fifty-five thousand people from more than a hundred different Christian denominations have been trained through the program.
Smith and the Stephen Minister talked, and the relief of having someone to listen, to care, was immense, Smith says. He became a church member and also went through training to become a Stephen Minister himself. Caring for others in this way, he says, "brings a joy into my life, a fulfillment that wasn't there in business life. It's an indescribable feeling for me."
Smith has taken the service approach to his life ever since, and now works with a new Riverbend program to create community development centers in underserved communities.
Relationships: Giving up on renovation and magical thinking
One day, in a counseling session, psychologist Cari Kahn, Psy.D., told me that it sounded as if I was mad at my then-husband for being who he was. To say that I was taken aback would be an understatement. Her point was that my husband had the right to be whoever he wanted to be, and it wasn't my job to change him. My job, it seems, was to decide whether I would accept him as he was, or leave. My changing him was not an option. I was stunned; I had spent the better part of twenty years trying to civilize him, with mixed results at best (at least from my point of view).
This idea of seeing one's partner as a renovation project is one that women are particularly prone to, says Kahn. "Instead of asking, ‘How can I improve this relationship?' women tend to ask, ‘How can I improve this person?' It's not up to you. Asking a person to change behaviors is okay, but trying to change who they are is not.
"If you have a partner who corrects you all the time in front of other people, you can ask that person not to do that, to wait until you are alone. But to say, ‘You have a real mean streak and if you don't change that we're not going to be together' is inappropriate.
A year after my divorce (my decision had been that I couldn't accept my ex as he was), when I had begun dating a man who was wonderful in every way except for being completely non-verbal about his feelings, I ran smack into this problem again. I wanted him to change, to learn to say, "I love you" out loud, with words. But Kahn's words came back to me, and instead of trying to change him, I began to pay attention to who he was, to figure out if I really wanted a relationship with him. What I learned was that he expressed his feelings in actions, and that all the little caretaking actions of the day-and there were many of them-were his way of saying, "I love you, I'm glad you're here." He has said the words out loud on an occasion or two, but he will never do it easily. That's just who he is, not something I can change.
I changed the relationship by learning to hear his language of love, instead of trying to renovate him with a color scheme that suited me better. It was nice to take off the tool belt.
The other big mistake people make, and both genders do this equally, says Kahn, is to make decisions based on how we want the world to be, not how it really is.
She relates the story of a client who lost his job and his marriage at the same time. He was fortunate in that he was given a year's severance pay, and he owned a second, small house on the acreage where his family house was, so he had a place to go to and money to support himself. But he refused to buy for the house any furniture other than a bed, and refused to think about his future. He wanted his past back, and wouldn't take any action that acknowledged the current reality.
Finally, though, his daughter pointed out a good deal on a big-screen television in a pawn shop they were perusing together. On the spur of the moment, he bought it. Their next stop was a furniture consignment store, where he bought an entire living room set for one hundred dollars. With the television and the furniture in the back of his truck, he set out for his house, and set about making it into his home.
"He finally faced reality, and he decided to look at his losses as opportunities," says Kahn. He went back to college and got his teaching certificate so that he could realize a long-held dream of being a teacher, and contacted an old sweetheart who was now single again, too.
"He told me, ‘I decided life was too short, I need to live. It was time to quit bitching about life, about my wife divorcing me, time to quit waiting for death to hand me my notice and get on with life,'" says Kahn.
Facing reality, no matter how much you dislike it, is a better strategy for success, says Kahn. Once you accept reality, you can start working on useful actions.
Exercise: Climb the small mountains first
Exercise won't make you live years longer, but it will shorten your dying significantly. Studies of sedentary people and active people show that the inactive people are far more likely to spend the last years of their lives suffering from a wide range of chronic ailments: obesity, diabetes, heart disease, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis made worse by inactivity and excess weight, breathing difficulties, digestive problems and depression. On average, couch potatoes spend the last ten years of life dying. Active people, however, tend to be healthy until their final few months, when they succumb to whatever ailment kills them.
So being active does not make life longer, just more fun. What does "being active" mean? That depends on the individual. Rather than prescribe an exercise regimen here, I thought I'd share a psychological strategy that helped me get back into a regular routine of exercise after several years of being sedentary.
I made a deal with myself that, five days a week, I would suit up for exercise and get started with whatever activity I had planned for that day. In return, if I didn't really feel like working out, I could quit after ten minutes of exercise. So on days that I was grumpy or tired, I got into my shorts or sweats or whatever, and started out for my walk or bike ride or whatever, knowing I had an out. After ten minutes, if I still felt yucky, I would go home.
But a funny thing happened. Most of those days when I was tired or grumpy, ten minutes of exercise changed my perspective. I'd decide to go on a few minutes more, that I really didn't feel that bad. So by allowing myself to quit, I conned myself into showing up and getting started, and most times I ended up doing the whole workout. But it was important to me to know that I had my own permission to quit after those first ten minutes.
I also set reachable goals for myself. The first day, it was just a mile-long walk. (For some people, a walk around the block might be a good first goal.) As I got stronger, I set new goals, but never ones I couldn't master easily. My workouts became a series of successes that made me feel better about myself, and I found myself looking forward to them. As I noted above, I've lost forty pounds in the past five years, and getting the exercise routine in gear was a big part of that weight loss.
Sleep: ‘The golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.' (Thomas Dekker, 1572-1632)
A recent study from the National Institutes of Health found that even one night of insufficient sleep can cause memory and thinking problems, and that the effects are cumulative. So getting just four hours of sleep a night can create serious impairment in just a few days. Caffeine and other counter-measures can help, but after a couple of days the impairments still mount up.
Virginia Tech's Transportation Institute did a year-long study on the causes of automobile accidents, using five cameras each in the cars of two-hundred and forty-one volunteers. Driving drowsy was the riskiest behavior recorded.
Though scientists are not sure why sleep is so important, they are sure that it is necessary to life. And not getting enough can hurt your school and work performance, interfere with personal relationships and
degrade your immune system. Or cause you to fall asleep at the wheel. Sleep deprivation can even mimic psychiatric disorders, causing people to have vast mood swings and to overreact to minor dangers.
So if you want to live a better life, get enough sleep. The question is, how?
In Ecclesiastes, in the Bible, it says, "The sleep of a laboring man is sweet." It's no mystery that people who are physically active during the day tend to sleep better at night. Also, exposure to daylight improves the quality of sleep, while spending day after day in a windowless office can impair sleep. Taking a lunch break outside, in the daylight, can help.
Alcohol can interfere with the quality of your sleep, even though it makes you drowsy. Breathing problems can result in sleep apnea, where a person briefly stops breathing dozens or even hundreds of times during the night, and wakes up enough to restart the breathing. Sleep apnea sufferers often are unaware that they wake so often, and wonder why they are so tired during the day. Snoring is a common symptom, and should be checked out with a doctor, because sleep apnea can lead to heart disease.
A wide range of medical and psychiatric problems can interfere with sleep, and it is impossible to cover them all here. If you have chronic sleep problems, and no success using the good-sleep-hygiene advice available at web sites such as The Mayo Clinic's (see accompanying Resources article), see your doctor to rule out possible medical conditions that are interfering with your sleep.
Sleep medications are only a short-term fix, and chronic use of them may make sleep problems worse. Also, reports of "sleep driving" or performing other activities during sleep have been reported in those using newer drugs such as Ambien, Lunesta and Sonata. According to the Mayo Clinic, in the last few years, cognitive behavior therapy, which helps reshape your thinking and behaviors, has been used successfully to treat sleep disorders, often giving better results than medications, without the side effects. (See the Resources article for a list of sleep clinics in the Austin area that offer this type of therapy.)
One of my favorite tips for sleeping well (offered on a wide variety of sleep web sites) is to turn down the thermostat and sleep in socks. While socks may not be terribly romantic, warm feet do wonders to promote sound sleep. Ditto for a lower room temperature. I've tried both and find that I sleep best at sixty degrees in soft, thick fleece socks. And here are two of my favorite quotes about sleep.
"If you can't sleep, then get up and do something instead of lying there and worrying. It's the worry that gets you, not the loss of sleep," said Dale Carnegie. "A conscience is like a baby. It has to go to sleep before you can." The author is unknown, but the advice is good.
Work: Time to like what you do
Sales guru and author Augustine "Og" Mandino put it this way: "To be always intending to make a new and better life but never to find time to set about it is as to put off eating and drinking and sleeping from one day to the next until you're dead."
If you dread every Monday because you hate your job, it's time to look at what is making you so miserable.
Psychologist and career counselor David Litton, Ph.D., says that job satisfaction is closely related to enjoying what you do day-to-day. "More than money, more than recognition, job satisfaction is about liking what you do," he says.
If you are unhappy at work, but aren't sure if it is the company or the type of work that is the problem, Litton suggests you ask yourself how much you like the daily work. If you like eighty percent of what you do during the day, you are probably in the right line of work. Finding a new job that lets you do that work under different circumstances might be the answer to your distress.
"The culture of the workplace is very important," says Litton. If you aren't a good fit, you won't be happy, and you are likely to get fired.
"It is not uncommon for people to be fired on trumped up performance issues when the real problem is cultural issues. Teams react to newcomers the way antibodies react to viruses," he says. If you are recognized as someone like the other team members, you'll do fine. But if you are identified as an invader, the other team members will rally around you like white blood cells to get you out. So take the time to assess the culture of a workplace before you take a job.
If the culture is fine but you still don't like the work, it's time to seek some career counseling help, says Litton, particularly if you are daydreaming about a new career but not taking action.
"I'm the product of career counseling," he says. At the age of thirty-eight, burned out on his career in the hotel and restaurant business, Litton sought a career counselor to help him figure out what to do next. A series of aptitude tests indicated that Litton would be a good fit with a career in psychology.
"It was something I had thought about, but not pursued. I had a great time in graduate school," he says. During a career assessment, a good counselor can help you figure out whether you are roughly in the right line of work, but need to change your environment, whether you might be suited for something that you'd considered in the past, or whether you are right for something you had never thought about.
"Staying in a job that doesn't fit is like staying in a bad marriage for twenty years. When you get out you ask yourself, ‘Why did I do that?'" says Litton.
Karen Branz Leach has been writing about life and health for more than twenty-five years, and every day seeks to find ways to make life better. You may e-mail Karen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
HealthierUS-A national initiative to improve people's lives, prevent and reduce the costs of disease, and promote community health and wellness. Includes physical activity and nutrition guidelines, information on disease prevention and health screenings. For information, visit www.healthierus.gov, e-mail email@example.com or call 1-... .
Cari Kahn, Psy.D.-Psychotherapist, 605-A Baylor St. For information call 51... or visit www.getmarriagehelp.com/counselors/cari-kahn.
The Clark Howard Show-Broadcast every weekday evening on KLBJ AM 590, this syndicated show and web site are loaded with useful financial information. Visit www.clarkhoward.com or call his Consumer Action Center at 40... .
David Litton, Ph.D.-Psychologist and career counselor, 4131 Spicewood Springs Road, Bldg. K, Suite 6. For information call 51... extension 2 or visit www.davidlitton.com.
Mayo Clinic-Offers health and medical information on a wide variety of topics, including diet, exercise, sleep disorders and more. Visit www.mayoclinic.com.
Riverbend Church-Nondenominational church led by pastor David Haney, 4214 N. Capital Of Texas Highway. For information call 512-32... or visit www.riverbend.com.
National Sleep Centers Inc.-Sleep center and lab, 3500 Oakmont, Suite 200, Austin. For more information call 51... or visit www.nationalsleepcenters.com.
Sleep Disorders Center of Central Texas-Sleep center and lab operated by David Duhon, J.D., M.D., 102 Westlake Drive, Suite 102. For more information call 512-329-YAWN (329-9296) or visit www.sleepdoctor.com.
Sleep Medicine Consultants-Sleep center and lab managed by J. Douglas Hudson, M.D., 4200 Marathon Blvd., Suite 310. Also has locations in Horseshoe Bay and San Marcos. For information call 51... or visit www.sleepdoc.net.
-Karen Branz Leach
We're on a mission...and this time it's personal
by Carla Birnberg
It's that time of year. The month where all disciplined Austinites hunker down and focus upon New Year's resolutions painstakingly created on December 31. Sadly, if the prevailing statistic is correct, ninety-seven percent of us will have broken our resolutions before January is over. This writer would shake her head and sigh at the depressing nature of the number if she weren't painfully aware she's part of the bleak statistic. Or, more optimistically put, she used to be part of the ninety-seven percent. This year a fit of creativity mixed with a dollop of desperation prompted me to address my New Year New Me goals via a different method. I composed a fitness mission statement.
By means of full disclosure, I've possessed a broad mission statement for over a decade. It consists of a few sentences that encompass all I wish to achieve in my personal, professional and familial life. And, if I'm truly disclosing, the formation of said statement didn't happen as the result of an aha! moment or life-altering experience, but after seeing the movie Jerry McGuire. While the film was entertaining, the concept of a mission statement was what stayed with me after the closing credits rolled. I was fascinated by the notion that the creation of a work mission statement triggered a ripple of change in all facets of the main character's life. Years later I can barely recall the film, save for the overused phrase show me the money, yet my personal mission statement has shifted how I lead my life.
The idea of narrowing my broad statement into a fitness specific one intrigued me. I'd defined the word mission as an internal urge to pursue an activity. With this definition in mind, there seemed to be a perfect fit between my fitness aspirations and the creation of an additional statement for these endeavors. It also dawned on me that formulating a fitness statement might, at long last, solve my struggle with goal achievement. If I mapped out precisely what I strived for in the realm of fitness then I could plan my routine accordingly for success.
There are a few ideas to bear in mind as one creates a fitness mission statement. These guidelines will not only increase your likelihood of success, but help you enjoy the process of composing the statement. As with all things fitness, it's important to enjoy the journey and not just concentrate on the destination. Keep your statement brief, be focused, stay positive, and remember your relationships.
Brevity is key with regards to any mission statement. You can do it, we can help is an example of a company mission statement that conveys much information in a short, concise thought. One's fitness mission statement should function in the same manner. My statement began as a rambling paragraph that listed all my goals and the steps necessary to achieve them. I edited and revised until I was left with three succinct sentences. Three lines that are less a literary masterpiece than they are clear and terse.
Be specific-It's also important to maintain focus. Decide specifically what you will address over the next three hundred and sixty-five days. Do you have any aesthetic goals? Are there target numbers you wish to reach with regards to cholesterol? Blood pressure? Days worked out per week? Now is the time to be explicit and define, for the realm of fitness, precisely whom you desire to be. It took me weeks to compose this part of my statement, but I'm confident that the time invested will spare me floundering a few months down the road.
Stay positive-My statement is something I plan to revisit frequently. Consequently, it's not surprising what writing Spinning three times per week will give me the long sleek muscles I desire versus I hate my flabby thighs. I need to do Spinning three times a week will do with regards to motivation. As you revise and shorten your statement shift any negative thoughts to positive.
Be realistic-It's also essential that a mission statement is realistic and sets one up to succeed. Create goals that are attainable and ones you desire to achieve. A fitness statement should require hard work and focus yet not drive one to unhealthy extremes.
Consider others-The final step in my statement creation was to step back and ponder how it would impact my relationships. I'm a firm believer in the notion that no woman is an island. In that vein, I chose to address how my new habits and behaviors would positively impact my relationships. For example: By doing Spinning frequently my stress level will decrease. I'll be more productive at work and a happier wife and mother. This sentence, while it felt a tad hokey to write, is one I've already returned to when tempted to skip a workout.
Obviously the creation of a fitness mission statement takes far longer than it did to read this column. I recommend you write the statement, put it away for a few days, and revisit and revise at least one more time. The ultimate goal of my statement is to provide the backdrop to which I lead the fitness portion of my life. I created a statement that is passionate, motivating and unique to me. It's something I shall return to frequently during the course of the year and use to help me remain focused on what I've identified as the goals I desire to achieve.
Carla Birnberg will reveal her fitness mission statement in January 2010 after she sees whether this newfound plan succeeds or not. You may beg her to reveal early at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hand washing is the best protection against flu and colds
by Karen Branz Leach
Flu season is in full swing, and the best way to protect yourself is to wash your hands. Even more than a flu shot, regular hand washing can help you ward off flu and a host of other viruses making the rounds.
Flu shots are useful, but they aren't one hundred percent effective. Because it takes several months to manufacture flu vaccines, the makers have to guess in early spring which particular strain will be circulating in the fall. Sometimes they nail it, some times they get nailed. Or rather, the public gets nailed when the circulating strain turns out to be different than the strain in the vaccine.
Since I'm writing this in November, I don't know what January will bring in the way of viral illnesses, but I can tell you that hand washing is the best defense whether it's a good year for flu or not.
In China, during a SARS outbreak, a public campaign to get people to wash their hands was effective. Not only was the SARS virus contained, but viral diseases of all kinds were dramatically reduced.
Most people think to wash their hands after they use the toilet or before they eat, but preventing the spread of virus requires more. Any time you touch surfaces in public places, you pick up viruses. If you touch your face, especially your mouth, nose or eyes, before you wash your hands, chances are that you will transmit the virus to your mucous membranes and thus to the rest of your body. If the virus is disease-causing, unless your immune system is on full alert, you stand a good chance of coming down with a cold, the flu or one of dozens of other viral illnesses.
So unless you live in a bubble, your best defense is to keep your hands clean.
If you work in an office, keep a bottle of alcohol-based hand cleaner at your desk. Whenever you sit down at your desk, squirt a shot onto your hands and rub thoroughly. The alcohol will kill most viruses. Also use it regularly to clean items such as the phone (handset and dial buttons), your keyboard. Obviously you don't want to squirt it on electronics, but you can put some on a tissue or paper towel and clean the surfaces.
At the grocery store, make use of those hand wipes next to the carts, because you have no idea who touched the handle before you got there.
In hotel rooms, be wary of the remote control-studies have shown it to be one of the dirtiest items in the room. Wipe it down with cleaner, or put it in a plastic bag to use. (Use a tissue to pick it up to place in the bag.)
If you shake hands with people during the day, wash your hands or use your hand cleaner before you touch your face or eat any food that you touch with your hands. And when you arrive home at night, head straight for the sink and wash your hands well before you do anything else, to prevent spreading viruses to the rest of the house.
While this advice may seem like I've gone a little germ-phobic, I also haven't had the flu in the last ten years. And my house partner, who is even more rigorous than I am about hand washing, has never had a bout of the flu and very seldom catches colds.
Since some viruses are spread through the air, hand washing won't protect you against all illnesses, but it will reduce your chances of spending a miserable week in bed this winter.
Carbon monoxide monitor can save lives
A few years ago three friends of mine nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning. They were staying at an upscale condo on the shores of Lake Tahoe when they became ill with headaches and nausea. Fortunately one of the three recognized what was happening and staggered to the door and got it open, then called 911. The gas heater in the condo was in need of repair, and was sending out carbon monoxide along with the heat. They spent a night in the hospital and seem to have no permanent ill effects, but a few minutes more exposure and all three would have died.
Being loving friends, they not only bought a portable carbon monoxide monitor for themselves, for Christmas that year they gave one to everyone on their list, including me. It is about twice the size of a deck of cards and plugs into the wall outlet. They take theirs when they travel and plug it in each night in their hotel room. I use mine at home during the winter, plugging it in the same day that we light the pilot on the gas heater.
Portable monitors like these are relatively cheap-running around twenty dollars for a mid-range model. They produce a loud, insistent beeping when carbon monoxide is present-loud enough to rouse you before you breathe in too much of the stuff.
Another highly effective monitor detects not only carbon monoxide but smoke from a fire. These are battery powered, can be mounted on a ceiling in your home and can be had for about forty to sixty dollars.
You can also get passive carbon monoxide monitors for as little as three dollars apiece. These are adhesive-backed paper with a circle of sensitive chemicals on the surface. If carbon monoxide is present, the circle darkens. These are appropriate for places where you can't plug in a monitor, such as a car or boat.
Most hardware stores and discount stores carry the monitors, and you can purchase them on-line. Google up carbon monoxide monitors to see a list of web sites where you can find both active and passive monitors.
If you have a gas heater (or any kind of heater other than an electric heater) it behooves you to keep yourself and your family safe with one of these monitors.
Karen Branz Leach has been writing about healthcare for more than twenty-five years and has grown more cautious the more she learns. You may e-mail Karen at email@example.com.
Wednesdays 7am Meet South Austin (Westgate area): Routes vary, often at Veloway, South MoPac. Structured training ride. Details: Gerry King 462-9484, 443-2728 firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Wednesdays 6:30pm Dripping Springs Ride: Meet at intersection of RR 12 & Fitzhugh Rd. (CR 101) for out & back ride to Pedernales State Park along Fitzhugh Rd. Fast pace (18-20 mph). Call to make sure ride is on. Details: Michael 476-535 MichaelS@tsta.org Free
Saturdays: Ride the Veloway & South MoPac Loops: Most Saturdays except on monthly organized biking events, groups including HillCountryOutdoors.com meet at the Veloway parking lot. Look for Jim Fahrnkopf in his orange Honda Element. Details: 921-9882 4800 La Crosse Ave. email@example.com Free
Saturdays 8:15am Intermediate Road Ride: The Austin Flyers sponsor this friendly ride averaging around 17 mph with some hills & regrouping points. Roll out 8:30am. Cue sheets are available from ride leaders at start of ride or on our web site. Details: www.austinflyers.com 10947 Research Blvd. firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Sundays 7:45am Intermediate Road Ride: The Austin Flyers sponsor this 17 mph average, 30+ mile drop ride. Roll out 8am. Cue sheets are available from ride leaders at start of ride or on our web site. Ride route may vary slightly from week to week. Details: www.austinflyers.com 517 S. Lamar Blvd email@example.com Free
Sundays 8am Rides from the Veloway: Rides of 30-40 miles start from Veloway on La Crosse Avenue off South MoPac. No charge. No registration. Just show up to ride. Details: 338-0505 4800 La Crosse Ave. Free
Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays 7pm Rides from Nelos Pro Cycles: No charge, no registration, just show up for rides of 20-25 miles. Details: 338-0505 www.nelosprocycles.com 3010-H W. Anderson Ln. firstname.lastname@example.org Free
January 3 Sa 1pm Sprinkle Sprint New start location: Meet near the intersection of Centre Park and Centre Creek in NE Austin. Take Cameron Rd. north off Hwy 183, and turn right on Rutherford Ln. The second left is Centre Park. Park on Centre Park. Riders meeting near the intersection of Centre Park and Centre Creek. The 29- and 43-mile routes cover rolling farmland. These rides leave from very close in and put you and your bike in rural countryside before you know it. Details: Kevin 989-9457
January 4 Su 9am Creedmoor Cruise: Rides of about 24, 46 and 69 miles in rolling to flat countryside southeast of Austin. The longest ride goes all the way to Lockhart. Check out the African animals at the TDC landfill on the way back. Meet at Williams Elementary School at Mairo and Blue Valley Dr. (1 block east of South First Street and 6 blocks south of William Cannon). Details: Monte 350-6613
Jan. 4 & 18 Sun 9am Mozart's to Creedmore Slower: Out and back training ride across south Austin & out to Creedmore. Some hills (Robert E Lee!). In-town part uses Austin bike routes; rural segment uses part of the Creedmore Cruise route. Store stop in Creedmore; coffee & snacks at Mozart's afterwards. C ride to permit newer riders to join us. Hammerheads should chill! Details: 478-5221 3826 Lake Austin Blvd email@example.com
January 4 Su 1pm Lone Granger: New start location: Rides of 12, 26, and 52 miles begin in San Gabriel Park in Georgetown and go as far east as Granger. From I-35 take exit 261-A (Williams Dr./RR 2338), turn right on Williams Dr., turn left onto Austin Ave. and then right onto Stadium Dr. Cross Morrow St. and park in the parking lot near the restrooms. Details: Rick 423-3562
January 10 Sa 9am Joppa Jaunt: ?Meet at Liberty Hill Elementary School on Loop 332, just west of downtown Liberty Hill. These 25- and 47-mile intermediate level rides follow quiet back roads over the picturesque Jollyville Plateau with a few moderate hills. Pedal through places like Joppa, Shady Grove, and Bertram. Details: Mark 260-9989
January 10 Sa 1pm Barely Hare: ?Very possibly ACA's flattest ride. Four distances, from 24 to 77 miles. The longest route circles Granger Lake with some excellent views from the top of the dam. Meet in Taylor at the bank parking lot at Third & Porter (1 block NE of the light at Hwy 79 and Main). Plenty of BBQ in Taylor after the ride. Details: Frank 246-7482
January 11 Su 9am Devil's Backbone: Join us for the classic Devil's Backbone ride. Distances of 27, 43, 52 miles. Ride River Road, then take a jaunt up the stunningly beautiful Devil's Backbone. Meet in the rear of the public parking lot near Gruene Hall in Gruene. Take I-35 to exit number 191, turn west on FM 306. After 1.5 miles, turn left on Hunter Road which takes you to Gruene (note: do not turn left on FM 1102, East Common Street, which is before Hunter Road). The parking lot is on the left, just before Gruene Hall. Stay for lunch afterwards. Details: Frank 246-7482
January 11 Sun 1pm Cotton Capers: New start location: Meet near the intersection of Centre Park and Centre Creek in NE Austin. Take Cameron Rd. north off Hwy 183, and turn right on Rutherford Ln. The second left is Centre Park. Park on Centre Park. Riders meeting near the intersection of Centre Park and Centre Creek. The 29-, 38- and 52-mile routes cover rolling farmland. These rides leave from very close in and put you and your bike in rural countryside before you know it. Sometimes we even see cotton. Details: Tom 459-5137
January 17 Sa 9am Andice Adventure: New start location. Meet at CC Mason Elementary on the north side of the school in Cedar Park. From Hwy 183 north, turn left on FM 1431. Take FM 1431 to the third light (Lakeline Blvd) and turn right. The school is 0.5 a mile north of the FM 1431/Lakeline intersection, on the left. Ride will head North on Lakeline Blvd, turn right onto Crystal Falls Pkwy and out to Andice via Ronald Reagan Boulevard. Enjoy traversing rolling hills and valleys as you appreciate the absolute allure of the Hill Country. The rides will be 24, 35 and 65 miles. Details: Frank 246-7482
January 17 Sa 1pm Red Rock and Roll: ?Loops of 29 and 53 miles in the post oak covered rolling hills northeast of Lockhart. The start location is Plum Creek elementary school in Lockhart. Take US 183 south to Lockhart and turn left at the traffic signal onto Flores St. (FR 672). Proceed east and turn right onto Carver St. Take the first left into the parking lot. Details: Mick 512/418-9825
January 18 Su 9am Old San Antonio Road: Meet at Williams Elementary School at Mairo and Blue Valley Dr. (1 block east of South First Street and 6 blocks south of William Cannon) for a select-your-own-distance ride of up to 55 miles. The relatively flat out-and-back route goes through Buda, Kyle, and the thickly wooded Blanco River Valley to northern San Marcos. Details: Frank 246-7482
January 18 Su 9am Hutto-Coupland : ?Meet at the new elementary school (the one with the red roof) on the NE side of Hutto. From Hwy 79 in Hutto go north 0.6 miles on FM 1660 and turn right on Mager Lane/CR 136. These intermediate level rides of 25 and 50 miles are through mostly flat, but always windy, terrain. Details: Patti 799-4833
January 24 Sa 9am Sun City Saunter: ?Hook up for a joint ride with the Sun City TX Cyclists. North on I-35, take exit 261A. Follow access road to traffic signal at Williams Drive. Turn left (west) onto Williams Drive and go about 5 miles to Sun City entrance (right turn in at traffic signal). Follow Del Webb Blvd, cross bridge, then after passing entrance sign to Legacy Hills Grill and Clubhouse, take next right at a sign listing Community Center onto Texas Drive for about 2 blocks, then left into large parking lot in front of Community Center which is the second large building. Do not park in the vicinity of the first building. That is the Fitness Center. The 7 and 14-mile options inside of Sun City are perfect for the beginner or family. The longer options are 25, 38, 52, and 61 miles. Details: Vern 990-1394
January 24 Sa 1pm Krause Kruze: ?Kruze along the quite country roads of Burnet, Blanco and Travis counties and finish with a dip in the famous (or soon to be so) Krause Springs. Rides include an out and back 12 mile family ride that turns around before the first big hill. Other rides of 23, 43 and 60 miles include plenty of hills and fantastic vistas of the Colorado and Pedernales River valleys. Bring plenty of water, especially on longer rides where water stops are limited to the first 23 miles of the ride. Rides start at the Spicewood Elementary School in Spicewood. From the "Y" (US 290 and SH 71 intersection) in southwest Austin, follow SH 71 25 miles to the flashing light in Spicewood. Turn right on Spur 191 and follow 0.7 miles to the driveway for the elementary school on the right. Sue & Details: Joe 996-9031
January 25 Su 9am Pfinally Pflugerville: Exit on Hwy 1825 from I-35 and curve east on 1825 through old downtown Pflugerville to FM 685. Turn left on 685, proceed north 2.6 miles and cross over SH130. Hendrickson High School is straight ahead. Go left then take the first right into the school parking lot. The rides are 12, 18, 24, 47 and 67 miles through flat to slightly rolling farmland. Details: Kevin 989-9457
January 25 Su 1pm To Hill and Back: ?Meet at the Blanco High School for rides with fantastic views of the Guadalupe and Blanco River valleys and a few hills thrown in. Ride lengths of 11, 32, 48 and 65. Take US Hwy. 290 west to US 281; go south (left) on 281 to Blanco. Turn right in the center of town on FM 1623 and park in the high school lot, a short distance on the left side. Details: Frank 246-7482
January 31 Sa 9a, Dripping Springs to Johnson City: Meet at Dripping Springs ISD Administration building, on the north side of Hwy 290, about 3/10 of a mile west of the traffic light at RR 12. (The admin building is on Loop 64). The intermediate level rides of 24 and 52 miles follow back roads through the undulating Hill Country landscape to Johnson City. Details: Jerrel 636-4803
January 31 SA 1pm Weir Lost: ?Official loops of 30 and 53 miles that pass through the big cities of Jonah, Walburg and, if you don't get lost, Weir. Plenty of options for shorter rides. Meet at the parking lot at the girl's softball field in Old Settlers Park in Round Rock. From I-35 take Exit 254 east; follow Route 3406 3.4 mi., cross CR 1460 (3406 becomes 113/Kyphen Rd.) go another 2.3 miles, turn right onto Aten Loop. Take the first right into the parking lot. Details: Rick 423-3562
February 1 Su 9am Creedmoor Cruise: Rides of about 24, 46 and 69 miles in rolling to flat countryside southeast of Austin. The longest ride goes all the way to Lockhart. Check out the African animals at the TDC landfill on the way back. Meet at Williams Elementary School at Mairo and Blue Valley Dr. (1 block east of South First Street and 6 blocks south of William Cannon). Details: Monte 350-6613
February 1 Su 1pm Lake Victor Vectorz: ?Meet in Bertram at Bertram Elementary School on FM 1174/243 0.5 mile north of SH 29 on the right (parking lot is behind the school) for rides of 26 to 55 miles. Ride the gentle hills of the Edwards Plateau all the way to Lake Victor (where's the lake?). Plenty of cattle guards, hills and very little traffic, combined with lots of wow scenery make this a memorable ride. Details: Sue & Joe 996-9031
Tuesdays 6:30-8:30pm Austin Floorball Club: Floorball is a fast-paced team sport that is described as a safe version of floor hockey. It's played indoors, on foot, using lightweight plastic sticks & a whiffle ball. Rules are easy to learn & there is no physical contact. Great coed game. Basic floorball stick is provided. Bring sneakers. First time free. Virginia L. Brown Recreation Center, 7500 Blessing Dr. Details: Jeff Morris 542-0316 www.austinfloorball.com 7500 Blessing Ave. $5
Saturdays 10:30-11:30am Women's Salsa Aerobics: Move to the fun beat of Salsa Aerobics. Learn sexy footwork & flirty hips while you sweat. Available to all ages & all levels. $40/month. Details: 524-2772 www.esquinatangoaustin.com 209 Pedernales St. firstname.lastname@example.org $12
Jan. 10 Sat 1-5pm Pilates: Free afternoon of pilates: classes & private instruction. Details: 467-8009 www.pilatescenterofaustin.com 8229 Shoal Creek Blvd Ste 104 Free
Mondays Jan. 26-March 2 7-8:15pm The Dragon's Way Weight Loss & Wellness Program: Based on the principles of traditional Chinese medicine, The Dragon's Way takes a holistic approach to resolving weight gain. You will learn 10 simple Qigong "energy" movements designed to awaken your body's natural healing ability. You will gain insights into the interconnection of the body, mind, spirit & emotions & how they affect your health & weight. Classes go thru March 2. Details: 492-3034 www.aoma.edu 2700 W. Anderson Ln., Suite 204 email@example.com $108
Tuesdays Jan. 13-March 24 6:20-7:20pm Spine Qigong: Open to beginners. It includes Swimming Dragon qigong & chan mi gong. Focus on the movement of the spine which is good for the energy circulation of the whole body. This form may be especially good for pain management, weight control, body building, etc. No class Feb. 17. Details: 492-3034 www.whitecranehealth.com/xcart/product.php? 2700 W. Anderson Ln., Suite 204 firstname.lastname@example.org 10 classes
Wednesdays 2-5pm Walk-in Acupuncture & Stress Management Service: Drop by for affordable stress management help including acupuncture, stress assessment, relaxation-meditation instruction & stress and de-stress education. Details: 250-9355 www.nwwellnesscenter.com 12335 Hymeadow Dr., Suite 400 email@example.com Sliding Scale
Wednesdays Jan. 7-March 18 7-8:30pm Sheng Zhen Qigong with Master Li: These classes will incorporate many Sheng Zhen qigong forms as well as hands on energy healing. Sheng Zhen qigong is good for the physical body & may also help to alleviate sadness, nervousness & anxiety. Open to beginning & advanced students. No class Feb. 25. Details: 492-3034 www.whitecranehealth.com/xcart/product.php? 2700 W. Anderson Ln., Suite 204 firstname.lastname@example.org 10 classes
Thursdays Jan. 8-March 19 7-8:30pm Thursdays: Sheng Zhen Qigong with Master Li: These classes will incorporate many Sheng Zhen qigong forms as well as hands on energy healing. Sheng Zhen qigong is good for the physical body & may also help to alleviate sadness, nervousness & anxiety. Open to beginning & advanced students. No class Feb. 26. Details: 492-3034 www.whitecranehealth.com/xcart/product.php? 2700 W. Anderson Ln., Suite 204 email@example.com 10 classes
Jan. 3 Sat 2:30-3:30pm Approaching Arthritic Pain and Pain in the Body Naturally: Free seminar on natural solutions to acute and chronic pain. Participants will learn why pain occurs in some people and not others, and in some areas of our bodies and not other areas. We will cover information on over-the-counter and prescription medications as well as natural alternatives. People will come away from the workshop knowing how to give and receive trigger point therapy for pain. Details: 892-3366 www.naturalhealthaustin.com 4327 S. 1st St., Suite 104-D firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Jan. 5 Mon 6:30-7:30pm Natural Solutions to Allergy Problems: Nicole Lentfer, L.Ac., will give a seminar on natural solutions to allergies and allergy-related problems. Participants will learn how allergies develop, and what options they have to control them - including medications, herbal remedies, detoxification, diet modification, and more. The purpose of the workshop is to educate the public on the underlying causes of allergies and the available options for taking care of one's health. Details: 512-892-3366 www.naturalhealthaustin.com 3601 South Congress email@example.com Free
Jan. 7 Wed 7-8pm Understanding Fibromyalgia: Participants will learn why this type of pain occurs in some people and not others, and what options are currently available to help. We will cover information on over-the-counter and prescription medications as well as natural alternatives such as diet, exercise, herbal medicines, and acupuncture. The seminar will take place in Classroom 1 of St. David's Hospital South. Details: 512-892-3366 www.naturalhealthaustin.com 901 W. Ben White Blvd. firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Jan. 10 Sat 2-4pm Spa Party: You are invited to this month's Spa Therapy Experience hosted by Tranquility Chiropractic Studio. Women of all ages will enjoy learning to have beautiful hands during the winter season. You can expect to learn how to make a simple scrub to rejuvenate your skin and experience a hot paraffin hand treatment. Come enjoy a drink and pamper yourself in a light-hearted, fun environment. All participants will receive a coupon for a complimentary massage. Details: 788-3366 www.tranquilitycs.com 11673 Jollyville Road, Suite 202 email@example.com Free
Jan. 12 Mon 6:30-7:30pm Balancing Hormones Naturally: A workshop on common hormone-imbalance symptoms such spasms and menopausal syndrome. Participants will learn how nutrition, diet, and lifestyle affect the hormones, and what natural remedies really do work. The seminar will take place at Ruta Maya Coffee House to educate members of our community on various non-drug solutions to these common health problems. Call to register. Details: 892-3366 www.naturalhealthaustin.com 3601 South Congress firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Jan. 19 Mon 6:30-7:30pm Carpal Tunnel Workshop: Presenting a multi-faceted approach for Repetitive Strain injuries like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Call to register. Details: 892-3366 www.naturalhealthaustin.com 3601 South Congress email@example.com Free
Jan. 21 Wed 6:30-8:30pm Evening of Tranquility: You are invited to join Tranquility Chiropractic Studio for our monthly Evening of Tranquility. This is will be a relaxed social event where you will meet new friends and sip mimosas. You will also learn how massage-like techniques (myofascial release, trigger point therapy, deep tissue massage) and manipulation can reduce stress, muscle tension, and pain. All participants will receive a coupon for a complementary massage. Details: 788-3366 www.tranquilitycs.com 11673 Jollyville Road, Suite 202 firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Jan. 26 Mon 6:30-7:30pm Natural Solutions to Sleep Problems: Sleep problems effect most Americans. If you have sleep problems you might have sleep apnea, dream-disturbed sleep, waking throughout the night and trouble falling asleep. Our sleep effects our daily lives. If we can't rejuvenate we can't function properly. If you or anyone you know can benefit from this workshop call us to register. Details: 512-892-3366 www.naturalhealthaustin.com 3601 South Congress email@example.com Free
Sundays Jan. 11-April 5 6:20-7:20pm Chen Tai Chi (13 forms): Pre-req: Silk reeling tai chi or other tai chi experience. Chen Tai Chi 13 forms is a short form including 13 movements from the old frame first routine (lao jia yi lu). The whole set contains the typical movements of the traditional form & can be done in a shorter time. No class Feb. 15. Details: 492-3034 www.whitecranehealth.com/xcart/product.php? 2700 W. Anderson Ln., Suite 204 firstname.lastname@example.org 12 classes
Sundays Jan. 11-April 5 7:30-8:30pm Chen Tai Chi (83 forms -part 2): Pre-req: Chen style 83 forms part 1. Chen style tai chi is the ancestor of all other styles of tai chi. This set of yi lu (first routine) contains 83 movements. The second part of the form will be covered in this class. No class February 15. Details: 492-3034 www.whitecranehealth.com/xcart/product.php? 2700 W. Anderson Ln., Suite 204 email@example.com 12 classes
Tuesdays Jan. 13-March 24 7:30-8:30pm Silk Reeling Tai Chi: Open to beginners. This is the foundation of Chen style tai chi. It is a set of spiral movements with the arms & hands, rooted in the feet & controlled by dantian & waist rotation. It will develop your coordination, provide a sense of calmness & vitality & improve overall health. No class Feb. 17. Details: 492-3034 www.whitecranehealth.com/xcart/product.php? 2700 W. Anderson Ln., Suite 204 firstname.lastname@example.org 10 classes
Jan. 23-25 Fri-Sun Systema Russian Martial Arts Seminar:
Systema Russian Martial Arts Seminar with world renowned master Vladimir Vasiliev. Unique martial art that enhances your physical, psychological & spiritual abilities. Friday 6-8pm, Saturday 10am-4pm, Sunday 9am-3pm. Details: 215-0064 www.lifekido.com 5901 N. 1-35 $325
Tuesdays 1-3pm Tai Chi Class with Guy Forsyth: Donations appreciated. Details: 707-9637 www.rutamaya.net 3601-D S. Congress Ave. Free with purchase in the cafe.
Tuesdays & Thursdays 12:30-1:30pm Taiji Qigong: A moving meditation for health & well-being. Relax & renew during your lunch break. Details: 420-9310 www.taohealthcenter.com 5515 Balcones Dr.
Wednesdays & Thursdays: Zen Meditation Group:
Seton Cove, an interfaith center for spiritual formation & renewal, invites silent meditation for 30 minutes & then discussion of Zen writings. Beginners encouraged to attend. W 7:30-8:30am. Th 5-6:30pm Details: 451-0272 www.setoncove.net 3708 Crawford St. email@example.com Free. Donations accepted
Sundays 5pm Zhongtian Yiqi Meditation: A nonmoving qigong practice that trains the mind. As this practice quiets the mind, one is able to return to the beginning, to connect with heaven, earth & all of humanity. No experience necessary. Details: 492-3034 www.aoma.edu 2700 W. Anderson Ln., Suite 204 firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Sundays 5-6pm Zhikr-Sufi Chanting: Sufi Order of Austin welcomes beginners for chanting together, with readings & Sufi stories. Call before coming. Details: Jan Stoddard-Smith 206-0227, Xvarnah D'Obrenovic 892-0584 www.towardtheone.com 8400 Flagstone Dr. email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Jan. 27 Tue 6:30pm Texas Outdoor Woman Network Meeting: The Austin Chapter of TOWN is open to women of all ages interested in outdoor activities such as fishing, kayaking, camping, hiking & more. Join us in Conference Room 225 as Ashley Matthews discusses coming Becoming an Outdoor Woman activities. Details: www.townaustin.org 3601 Lake Austin Blvd.
Mondays 6:30pm Austin Runners Club Monday Night Run:
Meet for weekly group run with various paces. Distance is 4-5 miles & hilly. Carry your own water. Murchison Middle School parking lot, 3700 North Hills. Group leader Matt Swinney. Details: www.austinrunners.org 3700 N. Hills Dr. email@example.com Free
Tuesdays 6pm Austin Duathletes Run: The Austin Duathletes usually run across the Lamar pedestrian bridge over to the track at Austin High School, but, occasionally, we'll run hills in the nearby neighborhoods. This run has a variety of routes and track workouts, made up by Phil "Panther" Carmical, a running, duathlon, and triathlon coach. Depending on the time of year and what races are coming up, there will be a recommended workout, but all athletes are free to do their own workouts, if they prefer. There will be occasional happy hours after the runs, and, if you're interested in getting in a brick, contact Panther (firstname.lastname@example.org) and show up an hour early with your trainer! Details: www.austinrunners.org/ARCruns.html 1210 Barton Springs Rd. email@example.com Free
Thursdays 5:30pm Austin Runners Club Run: Group run with various paces and distances up to 6 miles, led by Angelica Kelley. Meets at Brushy Creek Trail near the kids' water feature. Details: www.austinrunners.org/ARCruns.html 3300 Brushy Creek Rd. firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Saturdays 7am Al's Ship of Fools Morning Run: This Austin Runners Club group meets at the zero-mile marker on Town Lake Trail, south shore by gazebo at Auditorium Shores, just west of the 1st Street Bridge, for a run of various paces & distances, some on Town Lake Trail, some in hilly residential areas. The group leaders are Al & Sandy Cumming. Details: www.austinrunners.org/ARCruns.html 950 W. Riverside Dr. email@example.com Free
Sundays 8am Beginner Friendly Run: Locations will vary each week as different members of this Austin Runners Club group take turns leading the run. Email ahead of time for this week's location. Looking to get back into running or looking for an easier run after a long, hard run on Saturday? This group is ideal for you. The group is led by Matthew McBrearty. Details: www.austinrunners.org/ARCruns.html firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Jan. 1 Thu 11am Resolution Run 2009: This certified 5K winds thru the Brushy Creek neighborhood, with chip timing. Doughnuts & coffee before the race & black-eyed peas, bananas, oranges, bottled water, coffee & hot chocolate after the race. Awards to winners in all age groups & correct-size T-shirts to all early registrants. Details: 694-1446 www.resolutionrun2009.com 16321 S. Great Oaks Dr.
Wednesdays 6:30pm Back to Basics Skate: The nonprofit Hill Country Inline Club for recreational fitness encourages all levels, promotes skating & provides a safe, fun environment for skaters.
Details: 292-9942 www.hillcountryinlineclub.com 4800 La Crosse Ave. email@example.com
Thursdays Jan. 1-29 5-7pm Austin Skiers January Happy Hour: Come mingle, socialize & have fun with old & new friends at the Austin Skiers Happy Hours. Enjoy appetizer & drink specials. Free parking. Visitors welcomed. Details: 451-6555 www.austinskiers.org 6007 N. I35
Tuesdays & Thursday 8-9am Women's Walking:
Women's walking is part of the Las Mujeres program. We will warmup at the studio, go for a little walk & then stretch. Low-impact, slow workout. This class is geared toward ladies of all ages. If you feel out of shape or haven't worked out in some time, this is the class for you. Details: 524-2772 www.esquinatangoaustin.com 209 Pedernales St. firstname.lastname@example.org Free
Mondays, Wednesdays & Thursdays 6pm Integral Yoga Hatha Classes: Classes consist of asanas (yoga poses), deep relaxation, pranayama (breathing practices), chanting & meditation. integral Yoga is suitable for complete beginners & is taught in an easeful, highly meditative manner. Students are guided to a deep level of physical & mental well-being, vitality & relaxation, promoting flexibility, strength & health. Instruction by Karly Branch, Karuna Kreps & Vimala Devi. Details: 797-0018 Vimala Devi www.netingenuity.com/yoga 1700 Ashby Ave. email@example.com $10-$15
Tuesdays-Saturdays: Hatha Flow & Vinyasa Yoga: With Pamela Brewer. Free with a purchase at the café. All levels. Bring a mat, some provided. Tu & Th 9am. W & F 8am. Sa noon Details: 707-9637 www.rutamaya.net 3601-D S. Congress Ave. Free
Wednesdays 7-8:30pm Yoga for a Healthy Back: Yoga exercises to strengthen & stretch the low back. Details: 452-6623 www.remedyhealing.com 4910 Burnet Rd. firstname.lastname@example.org $15 or pay what you can
Wednesdays & Saturdays: Yoga Classes: With Nina Perales: Stretch, bend, breathe, sweat & smile. Nina will open your body & open your soul as she shares epiphanies of her day & challenges you to some strengthening yoga. Classes accessible to any level of experience & tends to be more movement & flow. Drop-ins welcome.
Thursdays 11am-12:15pm Yoga For Strong Bones: Gentle weight-bearing yoga exercises to increase strength, flexibility & balance. Details: 452-6623 www.austinyogahealth.com 4910 Burnet Rd. email@example.com $15
Sundays 6-7:15pm All Levels Yoga & Meditation: Beginners welcome. Details: 452-6623 http//www.austinyogaforhealth.com 4910 Burnet Rd. firstname.lastname@example.org $15 or pay what you can