Monday, March 25, 2013

Back in the Saddle

OK, folks, after a hiatus, I'm back in the blog saddle.  I feel like slinging some words like a rootin'-tootin', fast-shootin' hired gun. 

Words charge me up.  They are the heart of my business.  I like to write them, to think them, to speak them, to discover them. 

I like the way words tumble out of some people like a wet snowball traveling down a mountain.  I like the way they slowly, lazily drip like honey from a Southerner's mouth and the way they march in a soldier formation, clipped and precise, out of a Northerner's.

I literally love alliteration.  Poetry mesmerizes me.  Haiku fascinates me.  Prose delights me.

Words carry meaning.  They can soothe the soul, charge the conscience, inflame the senses and tickle the funny bone. 

Words carry weight.  Nations are built on them.  Wars are fought over them.  Marriages are mended and destroyed with them.  Children are shaped and molded by them.  Lives are forever changed by single, individual words.

Some will serve you well.  Some will undo you.  But all will connect you.

What are some of your favorite words?  Leave them in the comments...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Walking to the moon and back

I wonder how many miles I’ve walked in my life?  I’ll bet I’ve walked to the moon and back.  My son gave me a pedometer once, but I never figured out how to program it.  I ought to.  That would be interesting.

The thing about walking I enjoy so much is the mindlessness.  It’s the only time of day that I truly let my thoughts wander.  I might start out thinking about something urgent or important, but by the time I’ve strolled past the first block, that’s enough of that.

My favorite walking route right now is a three or four mile route meandering through my neighborhood, where we all conscientiously clean up after our walking canine companions (well, not ALL of us; insert a mindful throat-clearing here).  Then I hit Broadway, walk past the beautiful, shaded Grace Episcople Church, cut over to the courthouse and walk around Dolly McNutt Plaza, where someone decided it was a good idea to infuse the fountain with an artificially bright aqua coloring.  (What’s up with that?) 

I stroll past the library, post office, former vegetable brokerage turned  antique mall turned deserted building, on to the Railroad Museum and make a loop around Carson Four Rivers Center.  Then I take in the old train, some Flood Wall Murals and cut into the river park. 
You never know what you’ll encounter in the river area.  Lots of elderly people sit on benches and gaze at the slow-moving river water and lazy barges.  Dogs chase the gentle waves that lap at the foot of Broadway.  Teenagers very much in love do what teenagers very much in love do (Get your mind out of the gutter!  This is a PG-rated column).  One day I even encountered a man playing the bagpipe as if in homage to the merging of the Ohio and Tennessee rivers.  The sound was so mournful and solemn I wanted to cry.

I’ve walked so many places – cities like New York, San Francisco, Boston, Vancouver, Philadelphia.  I’ve traipsed over mountain regions like in the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Smokies.  I’ve made my way through deserts, national parks, creek-side trails, rocky paths, river’s edges, backwoods trails, wildflower fields and small town sidewalks.

It’s been sweltering and freezing.  I walked during western Kentucky’s infamous ice storm.  That might not have been my most intelligent moment.  Branches weighted with inches of ice were falling like daggers and it sounded a bit like a war zone.  Still, it was dazzling.

I’ve walked under stunningly azure skies, skies filled with cumulus puffs of imagination, skies the color of skim milk, a black velvet sky sprinkled liberally with diamonds and skies leaking heaven’s tears.

I’ve seen squirrels, rabbits, moose, buffalo, fox, deer, wolves, snakes, mountain goats and so many birds I could have scored some major points on an aviary’s lifetime checklist.  I actually saw a white peacock roaming through the woods once.

I don’t usually take my phone when I walk.  I did the other day just because I was expecting to hear from someone, but it ended up falling out of my pocket.  A kind jogger passing by retraced my footsteps with me and kept calling it until we found it.  I’m going to leave it at home from now on.  It doesn’t belong on a walk.  It belongs in my car-driven, computer-checking, text-sending, instant-message life.

My walks belong to mindlessness.  My walks are a trip to the moon and back.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

My Paducah Life

When I graduated from Paducah Tilghman in 1978, I headed to Texas, where they grew ‘em tall (an important fact when you’re a girl and are 6 feet tall yourself). I waved goodbye to my parents, put the pedal to the metal and – after being stopped for speeding – carried all my worldly goods into a dormitory brimming with excited freshmen.

I wasn’t looking back.

Never did I dream that I would end up right back at “Go,” minus the $200 that I had been promised by the Game Fairy of Life. What a rip-off! I had gone 739 miles away to start my grand
adventure. How had this happened? How had I ended up right back here? I had had big plans that included writing for a national magazine, living in a city of diversity – heavy on the arts, having fabulous friends who were intelligent, funny, and interesting and I effortlessly remaining a size 4.

I sulked for a couple of years. I thought God had played an elaborate trick on me. I had actually prayed, “Anywhere but Paducah, God. I’ll go anywhere but Paducah.” (Now I’m experimenting with the prayer, “Anywhere but Hawaii, God.” But, reverse psychology doesn’t seem to be working on the Creator of the Universe.) Can’t tell you exactly why I was willing to go anywhere but Paducah.
And was I really serious about that? Was I willing to go to Kinshasa, the poorest city in the world where the Democratic Republic of the Congo has suffered though long-running internal wars, and is generally accepted as the poorest country in the world? Was I willing to go there over Paducah?

Eventually I grew tired of sulking. It takes a lot of energy to be mad at the universe. Slowly, I changed my attitude. Slowly, I realized I had not been ripped off at all. Yes, Rome was more romantic, but for my purposes, Paducah was stacking up quite nicely.

My criteria had been 1. Publishing my writing in a national magazine. Check. Not only have I been published nationally, I get to write regularly for two outstanding magazines 2. Living in a city of diversity – heavy on the arts. Check. I live in Lower Town, arguably the most diverse neighborhood in Paducah and full of artistic talent. 3. Fabulous friends. Check. Don’t get me going on the quality of my friendships. Somehow I have been able to find THE most wonderful people in the world right here. And, finally, 4. Effortlessly remaining a size 4. OK, truth is, I never was a size 4, at least not since I wore a 4T. Alas, I didn’t even remain a size…
Well, now, that's not really the point. Besides, how are you supposed to remain skinny when there are so many wonderful restaurants here? Flamingo Row alone is responsible for 10 pounds.

Still, poundage aside, Paducah Life is fantastic!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


My team and I (more about that later) recently returned from the National Stationery Show in New York and I am so excited! OK, I admit that I pretty much stay excited...kind of like Francie, our little canine bundle of "Corky" enthusiasm. Still, don't discount the creative high that I'm on.

The show is huge...thousands of artists, card and stationery companies, licensing groups and suppliers all come together in the Jacob Javits Convention Center in NYC and "set up shop" for the myriad of buyers who make their way up and down aisle after aisle.

While every artist probably attends with the hope of hitting it BIG, the reality of that happening is close to the likelihood of an actor being discovered in a soda shop in Hollywood. Slim, but not impossible.

I was surrounded by veterans of the show this year. Since this is only my second time to exhibit there, I'm still asking lots of questions. I gleaned valuable insights from these "neighbors" and made some very talented friends in the process. One observation: in whatever field you're in, don't be afraid to ask questions. The worst that can happen is someone saying, "I don't want to talk to you." This actual phrase has been said to me and I lived to tell about it.

While Tracey Buchanan Studio is just a little fish (a guppie, maybe) in a vast ocean of paper products, I am thrilled to be part of this industry that continues to grow despite cyberworld's dominating role in our methods of communication. I definitely email more than I write notes, which require a stamp to fly from my house to someone else's. But it doesn't take a psychologist (a shout-out to my mother, who practiced being a shrink for a couple decades and now assists me, her world-renown daughter, in the highly glamorous world of prints and cards. She is my "team" right now)...what was I saying? Oh, yes. It doesn't take a psychologist to grasp the fact that a physical piece of paper with actual handwriting on it is more dear to us than a hastily written, easily deleted item in our inbox.

The card industry is actually addressing (pardon the pun) the reality of social networking. My cards will be available on two different e-sites that are blending technology with a personal touch. One is Card Gnome and the other is EnGreet. When you go to one of these sites, you purchase a card online, write a personal note inside, which looks hand-written, and then the company prints it and mails it for you. It's a cool concept that's really taking off.

What a great field to be in. I love my work and, yes, it is still work even though I don't clock in and out of a 9-5 job. But getting back to this year's NSS -what's so wonderful about attending an artist-driven tradeshow is the opportunity to see and meet hundreds of extraordinarily talented people who are pursuing their dreams. Very few of us will become another Mary Englebreit, but why should we want to?

We each have our own voice, our own style, our own absolutely, totally unique gift that we can contribute. We can copy another artist or author, but we'll never be truly successful until we make peace with our own talents, until we say what only we can say.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Amoeba Life

Discipline. It's a tough word for me to implement in my life. I'm having a heck of a time with it in all those areas that show.

I need the discipline to clean my house. The cobwebs are a clue.
I need discipline to pull weeds. Our front bed is green, but it's not because the vinca's taken off.
I need discipline to eat healthy. I've eaten popcorn, a bowl of Raisin Bran, some cheese and crackers, frozen grapes and a handful of chocolate chips today.
I need discipline to exercise. I did go to yoga, but I didn't even try to do the "Growing Tree" pose.
I need discipline to write this blog. My last entry was back in July.

I need somebody to come over here and give me a paycheck. Maybe that would encourage me. I don't get an evaluation from anyone. Maybe that would put me on notice.

Kent is way too easy on me. He tells me I'm pretty, have a great figure, and shouldn't pull weeds because it might hurt my back. He tells me to go ahead and eat another cookie, that I can exercise tomorrow and that nobody reads this blog anyway.

He never complains about any money I spend. He thanks me for making dinner when I put (almost) anything in front of him. I can't remember him ever pointing out that I needed to clean - even when Francie has torn up a tissue out of the trash into five hundred twenty-eight million tiny shreds. I don't think he notices the cobwebs, either. He's pret' near close to perfect. I won't mention the two things he does that I don't like. I think I would sound petty.

It's good and bad being married to someone so wonderful. It's good because I am probably the least stressed wife on the planet. It's bad because I am probably the least stressed wife on the planet.

I'm convinced that stress is the great motivator that I'm lacking. When I worked, I got much more done than I do now that I'm a freelancer. Shoot, I remember putting in a full day at the newspaper, then coming home and painting our living room pink (it was supposed to be salmon) while Billy Joel sang about his Uptown Girl.

I think I even got more done when I had kids at home. That's arguable, but possible.

Now my days are my own. Time is as shapeless as an amoeba. No supporting structures. On any given day I have way too many options. I can write. I can paint. I can read. I can make phone calls. I can write notes. I can clean. I can weed. I can exercise. I can eat. Whenever I want to.

The choices are paralyzing. I'm a girl who can't even decide whether to get a chicken taco or a Mexican sandwich when
we go to Tribeca. How am I supposed to decide what to do with my LIFE every day?

I think I need to start making more lists. I used to make lists. I'd go through and check things off at the end of the day. Sometimes I'd add something to the list after I'd done it, just so I'd have more to check off. It was a great feeling of accomplishment.

Yep, tomorrow I'm making out a list. In the meantime, anybody want to go get a cup of coffee?

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Diversions from Pain

I'm always looking for ways to distract myself from thinking about my chronic pain. The pain's a fact of my life, but I refuse to be defined by it.

It's true that some days don't give me much of a choice. I have to give in and rest. On those days, you won't hear from me. I cloister myself in a dark, quiet room, remain as still as possible and wait.

But today! Today I won! I beat it back and triumphed! Take that, pain! Ha!

How? I threw caution to the wind - literally.

At Green Turtle Bay Marina, the summery souls who love to sunfish sail are giving free lessons on Saturdays and Sundays until September. What's that? Did you say free? Free! Now, there's never been anything free that I didn't look at twice. I've bought more Clinique and Estee Lauder products that I didn't need just to get the free "bonus" than I care to admit. I'm a sucker for a deal.

And today's deal was just too good to pass up. The sun was shining while the wind gusted gently. A cute kid was out in the cove, briskly tacking and heeling and clipping along across the diamond-kissed water. He made it look like it was the most fun a human could have. He made it look easy. He made it look painless.

Evidently, this kid - Zach - was hired to fake me out, to lure me in, to mess with my mind. Doug, the instructor, smiled at me and assured me that sunfish sailing was going to be a breeze. Obviously he was part of the conspiracy as well.

I strapped on my life jacket and climbed in. I might mention that right now I'm trying to get accustomed to some new medication. It makes me a tad dizzy. In fact, it makes me feel like I'm trying to walk across a wave-tossed dock with 25-pound weights strapped to my ankles.

I don't think this had anything to do with what happened next, though. No, I don't think I can blame medication, Doug, Zach or anybody or anything else. I'm inclined to think that maybe it was simply my own inability to coordinate a tiller, a boom and my bottom.

One minute we were sailing merrily along. The next, I was sliding slowly (yet gracefully, I was told by onlookers) into the very water that had called me away.

Yes, I had fallen off the boat. And now I faced a tough decision. Swim to shore or try to get back into the boat? Doug was quite confident that he could haul me back into the boat. I like a guy with healthy self-esteem, but I feared he was overly-optimistic. I probably out-weighed him by 40 pounds.

I suggested that I try by myself. I gripped the edge and flung my leg up and over. Half of me was on the sunfish. Half of me was still in the lake. Realizing that I couldn't do this without resembling a drunk walrus - or maybe I used the words "beached whale" when conversing with Doug - I surrendered my pride. I rolled over to my stomach and thrashed until the other leg joined my torso on the little vessel. Now I was laying flat on my belly, but at least I was on the boat. All I had to do was gently roll over and resume my dignified position as sailing student.

Doug was stunned into silence.

The second time I fell in, we both knew the drill. After I was safely back aboard, he said, "Oh, you got back in much faster this time." But, of course. I may not be slick, but I do learn. And, I might mention, I had fallen in twice now, but had managed to keep my sunglasses and visor...a fairly impressive accomplishment, I thought.

With Doug's praise ringing in my ears and my shade accessories still in tact, I determined to get out while I had a shred of dignity left. At least, I had deluded myself into thinking that I still had a shred. A girl's gotta believe what a girl's gotta believe.

Doug turned the sunfish completely over to me and, after I repeatedly assured him that I didn't think I should try sailing without him in the boat with me, we made our way back to the sandy shore.

I felt victorious. I was alive. Doug was alive. Zach, the kid out on the water with us, was still alive. I had not harmed anyone seriously, not even fish or turtles. My bruises and tender ego would heal. They always had before.

And the best part? I was distracted from pain for a whole 43 minutes.

Thursday, June 25, 2009


We've taken some days away. Some days to be still and quiet.

Right now I'm looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows of this beautiful house that overlooks Barkley Lake.

The lake, still and glassy, holds onto a fathomless, deep olive green while it manages to reflect the soft, blurry blue of the sky. A thousand tiny shards of mirrors shimmer when a breeze skits across its surface.

A fat, furry groundhog scuttles across unfamiliar terrain, clearly uncomfortable. He's comical in his bunching, awkward travels. He's surprised himself by being where he is, it seems, and he's nervous and tense, unhappy to be exposed. Unhappy to be away from his home.

A flock of geese try to take over the yard. They strut territorially, obnoxiously announcing their arrival with throaty honks, daring a homeowner who doesn't want to deal with their droppings to confront them.

A majestic bald eagle, not fully grown, swoops through the humid air, cutting and dipping, finally landing in the tall trees. He holds himself still and silent, as if expecting the reverence and honor due him as king.

Turtles strain their necks to pop their heads above the surface of the green water. Though they seem to be bobbing along on a course, they're actually paddling frantically underneath with prehistoric, webbed feet, moldy green, both tough and tender.

A whole host of hidden birds call out to each other, communicating with trills and cries, a Morse code of warbles and hymns. Gray squirrels chase each other from limb to limb, weaving through branches that were abbreviated in the ice storm.

The trees stand with a new vulnerability, bearing the scars of the winter's icy grip. It looks as if dinosaurs have roamed through, chewing hunks out of the tops and sides of ancient oaks, hickories, dogwoods. Some are totem poles now, bleak and bare, pointing upward, unwilling to give up.

White cumulus clouds thicken the sky. The air hangs heavily, weighted with humidity and heat. But, once in a while a breath tickles through, blowing a hint of comfort, altering the clouds' piled formations.

Now and again a boat courses across the water, reminding me there are other people out there. But on the whole, I'm a solitary observer, seeing through my eyes, my self hidden away, safe from any judgments or claims.

My soul feels comforted by the sweet song of nature. Its spell conjures a healing balm for my spirits. It's a quiet, restoring symphony of discoveries.

Bless the Creator for such a gift.