Past the edge of the park and back

Edge of the Park

Edge of the Park

For the past three years, we would visit Centennial Park in Englewood, Ohio for our afternoon walk. If you look at the satellite map (posted below if you want a quick look) and follow the light green line, that is usually our walking path.

To the right are some corn fields and soybean fields; to the left baseball diamond where we have to check out the dugouts every day.

Until a few weeks ago, we had not ventured past the midway point of that first group of trees. Looking ahead, there was just more grass. Besides, the dogs had lots of room to wrestle each other, far away from the reach of anyone wandering by.

But then we ventured just a little bit further from the edge of our world — where the tree line broke — and saw the photo you see to your right.

Wow!

Blue sky, a babbling book, an oasis in the middle of farmland.

We should have ventured further sooner.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, the edge of your world. To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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Weeds

Dandelion

Dandelion

Take a good look at the photo to the right. What do you see?

Most of us see a dandelion, a vile weed that should be ripped up, poisoned and killed, stomped out and cursed at.

And I did too until just the other day when it occurred to me that I have been looking at dandelions all wrong for a very, very long time.

A dandelion is a fantastic example of nature that refuses to die gracefully, constantly adapting itself to insure its survival in spite of being poisoned with pesticides and maliciously hacked up. We pull the flower, we dig the root and still, year after year, dandelions find a way to reproduce and procreate quickly in abundance. When we dig, they burrow deeper; when we pluck, they seed discreetly. When we poison, they grow resistant.

And when they grow ripe for spreading, their yellow flowers form irresistible wispy orbs that entice children and adults alike to pluck the stem and blow the seeds back into the lawn where they take hold and produce more enduring plants. Before we realize what we have done, the seeds have scattered, destined to take root the next season without fail.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, Flowers. To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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A Carpenter ear worm

morning-star

This weekend’s ear worm is Karen Carpenter’s version of Rainbow Connection, specifically this verse:

Who said that wishes would be heard and answered when wished on the morning star?
Somebody thought of that and someone believed it, and look what it’s done so far.

Someone was first with the idea that if he wished on a star and believed, that his wish would come true. He created this idea from two disparate objects — a wish and a star — out of nothing other than his imagination. At some point, he shared his fragile idea with someone else. And that someone else had a choice to either embrace it as a fantastic idea and fan it… or belittle it, ridicule it and kill it.

In that ever brief moment, the spark of a creative idea took hold. It was fanned with nothing more than a human belief that could not be verified. No ROI was produced, no matrices were created to measure against; just a spark of human thought against the wonder of the world that surrounded the thinker.

While frantically running errands on Thursday afternoon before our industrialized world decided that it would shut down at 5:00pm, I caught the middle of a discussion on NPR where a guest was talking about how music and arts are being systematically removed from school curriculum in favor of more STEM classes to comply with No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. (I can’t find the program; npr.org stinks as a curation site.) What we are doing is creating generations of human beings who do not value art or music.

What we are losing is the ability to create, recognize and fan the spark of creativity.

I’m going out right now to wish really hard on a star. Join me.

Enjoy the video.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYuE2roIkH0

PS Just as he starts to play the piano, watch Richard smile slightly. I’ll bet someone said something like, “You can’t perform a hit song on a toy piano!” How many times have creative people heard something couldn’t (or shouldn’t) be done. How many times a day do you hear it?

* * *

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, That song stuck in your head To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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Je ne parle pas français

I’ve only met my maternal grandmother twice in my life. The second time was when we visited them in Maine for their fiftieth wedding anniversary. She died two days later. My grandfather died less than a year after that.

This is the story of the first time I met her. Her name was Leda Boutot Pelletier.

….

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Turning my back on time

Turn Back Time

Turn Back Time

If I could turn back time, I would turn it back before last Monday when I suggested to my editor that he float the theme “If you could turn back time” to the Lets BlogOff editorial staff.

When I first starting writing this blog seven years or so ago, nobody cared what I had to say. As I kept writing, I picked up readers. Part of the problem with writing in an autobiographical style where I am the protagonist is some parts start straying a bit from the absolute truth to an amalgamation of the truth to something that starts becoming story. As Virginia Woolf said in A Room of One’s Own

Lies will flow from my lips, but there may perhaps be some truth mixed up with them; it is for you to seek out this truth and to decide whether any part of it is worth keeping.

If Virginia Woolf thought it ok to make stuff up for the sake of a story, who am I to argue? Nonetheless, I find I can’t really write to the theme as I would have to fly too close to the sun for the story to flow. It would only lead to an endless game of regret and what-if. My life moves in one direction — forward.

Hence, (yeah, I said hence) my post is this short: I wish I could turn back time to before last Monday.

For no particular reason, in no particular order, my two favorite turn back time-themed songs of my youth.

Tanya Tucker-What’s your mama’s name

George Jones and Tammy Wynette- Golden Ring (Embedding disabled, but worth the click.

* * *

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, If you could turn back time? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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Anxious or excited?

Charlie and Sallie at the vet

Yesterday, I took both Charlie and Sallie to the vet for some routine check up stuff, including getting their license, a shot each and heart worm testing. Charlie is the German Shepherd and Sallie is the lab mix. While they are two large dogs (75 and 110 pounds) they are generally easy to handle together — except when they go to the vet.

Sallie gets all excited about meeting new people and exploring new rooms she has never been in. She sees the visit to the vet as an opportunity to expand her world and maybe get a new treat, make a new friend, etc. Her ears dance and she quite literally smiles.

….

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I became an artist because I hate math

CMYK

During my stint at the Dayton Daily News, I used to do career day at local schools. I think everyone at the paper just wanted a day off from me which is why they always nominated me to go. That’s ok; give me an open mic and a stage and I’m all over it!

So I showed up at a Dayton elementary school to speak to a classroom full of fourth-graders. There was the usual collection of policemen with their uniforms and shiny badges and fireman in hats — with firetrucks parked out in front for the kids to climb on later — lined up ready to speak.

….

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Essential Thanksgiving food

Thanksgiving is an opportunity to make a meal from scratch. I do every year, with the exception of one item on the table.

Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce. From a can.

I know, I know. I’ve tried making every cranberry relish recipe you can dream or look up and it remains uneaten. Even the dogs wouldn’t eat it (not really. Never feed your dog dark fruit, seeds or dark turkey meat.)

So, every year, without fail, I buy two cans of Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce.

Here’s the recipe:

1) Buy two cans Ocean Spray jellied cranberry sauce
2) Punch a hole in the bottom end of the can.
3) Use a can opener to remove the lid.
4) Shake hard once over a serving plate. Listen for the slurp and plop noises.
5) Cut into slices.

Easy-peazy.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, It’s Thanksgiving, so let’s blog about food To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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I’m a joker, I’m a smoker, I’m a midnight toker… but mostly I’m a welder who writes haiku and works as a janitor on the weekends

264 tailor New York

When I was young, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with my life when I grew up; EVERYTHING.

I wanted to be on the receiving end of a firehose of experience that was exciting and revelrous and peaceful and satisfying all at once. Almost a lifetime (well, so far!) of living and I’m still looking for the perfect experience that stands still in time as well as moves the human race forward by a leap.

This morning, I wanted 5:00 am to last forever, with a hot cup of coffee, the New York Times and a large dog with his head in my lap. But I also wanted to write that perfect book chapter that was swirling in my head. 5:00 am turned into 6:39 am too soon and 6:39 am turned into 11:00 am and I had not stopped the clock nor had I moved humanity forward by a leap.

Maybe I’ll try again tomorrow.

….

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Water pressure

I spent a huge chunk of my 20s and 30s traveling around the country for my corporate employer who no longer graces the list of the Fortune 500. I have stayed in thousands of hotel rooms and all of them had one thing in common; terrible, miserable, horrible water pressure.

But that might be a tad unfair of me. Let me back up a bit.

….

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Looking for that crack nobody else saw

I have a love/hate relationship with literature.

I graduated (or more correctly, was stamped and processed out) with a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Minnesota. In short, that meant — in America — I was unemployable and bound to be a pain in the butt for anyone whose grammar was not up to snuff. Having an English degree is like being a priest in bar except people don’t watch what they say, but how they say it. This usually ends up in an embarrassing exchange resulting in the misuse of the word “whom.”*

….

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Privacy and autonomy

Betty and Don Draper sitting in a car
Before I delve into my post, I need to share the series of events that lead me to my thinking about privacy and its relationship to autonomy. Bear with me; it is a badly-paved and less travelled road*.

Watch that pothole….

A couple weeks ago, I read an article that appeared in the New York Times that said “privacy and autonomy… are central to male gender identity.” Later that evening as I was watching an episode of Mad Men (Season two, episode three, The Benefactor,) with the article still bouncing around inside my head, I saw this one itty-bitty little look in Don Draper’s face that I had missed the first time around. This one little scene gave me all the clarity I needed about the real issue of privacy. (You’ll have to watch episodes much later for the plot line. The look was also foreshadow.)

Betty and Don had just finished dinner with Bobby and Jimmy Barrett where Jimmy had to apologize to the Schillings for some bad behavior earlier. During the ride home, Betty gets all teary-eyed at the thought of her and Don “working” together as part of a team.

In the Betty and Don Draper relationship, this is when things started falling apart. When Betty decided that she was part of his team, she threatened his autonomy. She threatened a carefully-crafted and guarded identity that he alone owned and controlled. Don lived by the Hobo Code. The first rule of the code is to “decide your own life…” Betty being a part of the “Ad-Man Don Draper” meant he could no longer manage that life — that identity — with autonomy.

I’m a big fan of Mad Men, not so much the story but the cultural layers the series examines, uncovers and winks back at the viewer with that “I know you saw that, but it never happened” look. Privacy is a huge theme woven throughout the story.

When we talk abut privacy, I think we are really talking about autonomy. Ultimately it does not matter a whole lot what others know about us but it would be naïve to believe that what others know about us would not be used against us. We see this popping up with abandon all over in socially acceptable behavior.

It’s now ok to take embarrassing photos of your friends sleeping in an airport and share with everyone on Facebook.

It’s now ok to blab to the media about intimate details of a celebrity relationship gone bad.

It’s now ok for a publisher to offer a talented writer less than her work is worth because she writes on her blog about being impoverished.

It’s now ok to rescind a job offer because a candidate’s online friends are not conformists.

Privacy is not the thing we should be guarding; autonomy is. Privacy is the hard shell that guards the real plumb center of autonomy. Marketers and those who seek power at all levels know it. To get people to willingly share the details of their lives and how these details interconnect with those around them was pure genius. Evil, but still genius.

A loss of privacy ultimately leads to a loss of autonomy. The consequences of the loss of autonomy is what the Mark Zuckerbergs and his generation do not understand. While our leaders wring their hands over issues of privacy, marketers and power-seekers are already deftly filleting our autonomy.

Privacy is dead. It was necessary to kill it off so we could get at your autonomy.

How will you guard your autonomy now that the Sentry Privacy has been knocked off his post?

Maybe there’s a God above
But all I’ve ever learned from love
Was how to shoot at someone who outdrew you

— Leonard Cohen, Hallelujah

*I wonder if my blog would qualify for a road and bridge repair grant from the US Government under the Jobs Act. Hmmmmm…

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, Privacy To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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From my point of view or yours?

Church Steeple

I saw this church across the parking lot of a Morris furniture store in Dayton. I was being dragged to go shopping for a new sofa that I didn’t want and I don’t really need, so I was in a somewhat goofy frame of mind. It’s how I handle my reality when I’m in a situation I don’t want to be. Everything gets funny.

As I looked up at this really sharp, point steeple and mused, “From God’s point of view, that is a thumbtack on a chair.”

But when the funny wore off, I started to think a bit deeply about why people build steeples on churches. It occurs to me that the best church would be built around this really cool-looking garden sanctuary so that when God looked down, he would see a place that invited him in instead of poking him in the eye… or the nether regions, depending on which direction he was facing at the time.

People build churches in God’s name, but everything about them satisfies their needs, not His. They reach toward the sky with steeples in hopes of being closer to God; they put the tower bells up high so that God’s voice can call to them. They line the inside with statues and gold candelabrae. (Lutherans also make sure there is a kitchen for coffee and donuts after the service. But they also put roosters on top of the steeple, so I don’t know what that means.)

I wonder if God looks down at us and thinks, “these people sure are a selfish bunch.”

This post isn’t really about God or religion or any of that. (If you comment about religion below, you are warned that I am a cantankerous Recovering Catholic and you should be prepared to suffer the slings and arrows of an unfiltered opinion.) It is, rather, a introspection on the relationship we have with one another. When we extend out an invitation, do you point the thumbtack pointy end out or in? Do we see ourselves from the other person’s point of view? Should we?

I don’t have the answers, but I now have the questions. I suspect that is a lot more than most people get looking up at steeples.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about exploring the theme, Thumbtacks To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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Look ma, my books report are done #letsblogoff

big pile of books

There is no one best book, so I’m not even going to try. In fact, the best books aren’t even the best books, but only contain best parts of books. But I’m sure if you put all the best parts together, it would make one really crappy book.

So, at the risk of writing one really crappy blog post, I am going to put some of the best parts of my favorite books together below and tell you why. However, I warn you that for you to understand why all these parts matter, you will have to read the books in their entirety.

You have the rest of the summer. Labor Day is this coming Monday.

I’d get crackin’

Grapes of Wrath, Chapter 3 — John Steinbeck
For illustrating the greatest human attribute is tenacity and by writing a skillfully metaphoric narrative about the indomitability of the human spirit.

The Awakening, Chapter 28 — Kate Chopin
The medium is the message. Chopin’s chapter illustrates how the desire once attained is almost always anti-climactic to the anticipation and thrill of the chase. Stay thirsty, my friends.*

The Secret Sharer, Chapter 1 — Joseph Conrad
For teaching me the importance of dotting the i and crossing the t. Because small details like typos can sink a ship, they matter immensely.

The Scarlet Letter, all of it — Nathaniel Hawthorne
For showing me that even in the most austere conditions, the human spirit seeks out the aesthetic. Read the book again (because you haven’t since high school) and pay attention to Hawthorne’s use of color. Genius.

Life on the Mississippi, Chapter 8 — Mark Twain
Steer the boat that is your life with what you know in your heart, not what you see with your eyes. Most things seen in the present are merely illusions or the product of wishful thinking.

I was going to dig into some contemporary books I read recently, but maybe those will be more complete book reports. The classics above is enough reading material for you get through before Labor Day.

*I borrowed that from Dox Equis beer commercials and the most interesting man in the world. Seemed appropriate.

This blog post is part of a blog-off series with a group of bloggers from different professions and world views, each exploring a theme from his/her world view. This was about answering the question, What’s the best book you’ve ever read? To explore how others handled the theme, check them out below. I will add links as they publish.

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Letsblogoff with Paul Anater

Twice a week, all the #letsblogoff characters get together and share their viewpoint on a particular theme selected by the super-secret committee at the LetsBlogOff compound, apparently offshore in a secure location.

We were lucky enough to get in touch with one of those members, Mr. Paul Anater, editor of the insanely popular blog, Kitchen and Residential Design. He also acts as the editor-in-chief and LetsBlogOff pilot every other Tuesday when he is not jet-setting around the world for his day job as a Super Agent of Design.

Here is a short conversation with Paul. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did walkin’ and talkin’ with him.

MP3 File

The next #letsblogoff is this coming Tuesday where the gang will explore the theme: What is the best book you ever read?

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