Monthly Archives: August 2015

A Poem for Today

Blue Sky and Ocean

         Coming to My Senses

Just a sense of balance
And one of self worth
A sense of awesome wonder
For the creatures of the earth.
A full sense of humor and
Of well-being, too, and
A sense of contentment
For doing what I do.
A good sense of smell
Of color and of light
A sense of well-being
To see me through the night.
At times a sense of sadness
Of loss and of dismay
Which we all go through
With others on the way.
A sense of proper balance
A sense of judgment, too,
And a sense of community
To see us all the way through.
A sense of redemption
And one of the Spirit and of trust
With us now and forever
In the whole wide universe.

Dan Verner
August 28, 2015


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Multitasking and TV Dinners

TV Dinner

Look good? I didn’t think so either…

Hold on to your Mickey Mouse Club ears, readers: I’m going to write about life back in the day. I can remember when we got our first television in 1953, a huge black-and-white Muntz that seemed to take forever to warm up and which threw off enough heat to warm our little Cape Cod by itself.

My parents insisted that we had to turn off the television when meal time came,  and eat the meal with only ourselves as entertainment. (And we were fairly entertaining. I’m sure you know about dinnertime antics, particularly when boys were involved.) Some of the kids I went to school with talked about eating dinner in front of the set while Dinah Shore was on, but most parents we knew wouldn’t countenance such depraved behavior.

Then TV dinners came along and my parents caved and we joined the rest of the world, eating in front of the ghostly gray glow of the cathode ray tube, but not too close so we wouldn’t ruin our vision. (There’s some dispute about the origin of the term “TV dinner.” Some historians think that it was so called because it was shaped like some early televisions with the screen to the left and controls to the right. Others hold, as I’ve always heard, that it was designed to be eaten in front of the set. Wherever the name came from, this packaged semi-food had a lot to do with the death of conversation at meals).
I was thinking about multitasking when I thought about a typical lunch at our house. We have something to eat, of course, but generally the television is on and I am likely to be reading something. We manage to talk in there somewhere, and that’s important, but it’s not an intense exchange. With the lives we lead, that’s all right, but if I think about it, I have four things going on more or less at the same time: eating, talking, reading and watching. I wonder if we are driving ourselves around the bend with these incessant demands on our time and attention, most of which are self-inflicted.
I’ve been trying lately to give tasks my full time and attention, or just sitting and ostensibly doing nothing. But I’ve found some of my best ideas come during these times, including the idea for this blog. I hope you consider doing one thing at a time, and see what that does for you.


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What I Don’t Know


I don’t know a lot, but I thought I’d mention a few things.

I do know this topic is controversial, so bear with me. I’ll respect your opinion regardless of whether you respect mine. Talking about our differences helps us resolve them. I do know that as well.Here goes:
• I don’t know why senseless killings with handguns keep happening. All kinds of people have all kinds of ideas about how to stop them, but nothing seems to be working.
• I don’t know why good people of all ages have to die in such a violent manner, but especially the young ones. None of them deserves it.
• I don’t know why the media makes such a circus out of these tragedies, perhaps encouraging others out there to imitate them.
• I don’t know why legislatures can’t do something to stop this.
• I don’t know why we don’t have better mental health care in this country.
• I don’t know why we have such an affinity for violence whether in films, books, sports or on television.
• I don’t know how many more times this will have to happen before we come to our senses and figure out how to stop it.
These are just a few things I don’t know. There are more, but I’m too heartsick to add to them just now. I hope I don’t have to write another of these, but I have a feeling I will.
Sorry, friends. Be well and take care of each other. Please.


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On Making Mistakes

Oops Post ItI must be the champion dilettante of the world. I know a little about a lot, and I’ve tried so many things I’ve lost count. Some might say I’m adventuresome, and that might be partially true. I think I’m not good at many things, but I keep trying for some reason. And because I’m not good at baseball, gardening, or woodworking (among many others), I make a lot of mistakes when I try. For example, I planted some tomatoes in a plot that receives almost no sunlight. My plants haven’t even bloomed while real gardeners are giving  tomatoes away as if they (the tomatoes) were radioactive. My “career” in baseball consisted of two years on a Little League farm team and then a year in minor league. I didn’t field well because I was afraid of the ball (it hurt when it hit me, after all) and I swung late and hit balls to right field as a right-handed hitter and not very hard because I weighed about 90 pounds. We won’t talk about my base-running except to say that I was thrown out a lot trying to steal second. But I kept trying.
Somewhere along the line I decided that if I were going to make mistakes I would look for the silver lining in the cloud of errors that followed me around like the dark cloud that hung over Joe Btfsplk in the Li’l Abner comic strip (yes, I know I am dating myself. Those comics were printed with—gasp—rotogravure, known if at all by the line in “Easter Parade,” “You’ll find that you’re in the rotogravure” That’s where I want to be). The silver lining is this: we learn from our mistakes, and nothing succeeds like failure. Examples are numerous and surprising. Steve Jobs was fired from his own company; Nelson Mandela spent 27 years in prison; and Abraham Lincoln failed in business, had a nervous breakdown, and was defeated in eight elections.

I think it instructive that Navajos deliberately introduce mistakes into their rugs to show the imperfection of anything made by humans. While the mistakes I make are not deliberate, they still show my humanity. In spades.

Sometimes mistakes can be charming. The school house I built for our local Little Library project was a typical woodworking fiasco for me: nothing was square, nails stuck out of the walls and glue was smeared all over the place. It looked like something an eight year old would build, but when the other people in the project saw it, they said it was perfectly suited to its purpose since we are trying to encourage children to read. Apparently they feel comfortable with something that looks like one of their friends could have built it.

So if you make mistakes, even if you don’t make as many as I do, rejoice! Think of all you’re learning and smile about how charming you are!


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Can We Ever Go Home Again?


This week I finished reading Harper Lee’s latest, an unpublished prequel that now stands as a sequel to her deservedly iconic To Kill a Mockingbird. Confused? So are a lot of people.

The first half offers a delightful portrayal of Macomb, Alabama, in the ‘fifties, complete with relatives (some of whom are “half a bubble out of plumb”), a Methodist congregation  upset when the organist changes the tune of the Doxology, and rituals of food, gossip and social expectation familiar to anyone from the South. Jean Louise (Scout to you and me), home for two weeks on vacation from New York, finds her kinfolk fear that the people and culture in the big bad city may have warped her sense of propriety and judgment with their strange meddling ways. She takes up where she left off, though, squabbling with her Aunt Margaret, going out with Henry Clinton, her lower class boyfriend, and enjoying the company of Atticus and her uncle Frank. Lee portrays an idyllic (for some) existence with accuracy, sympathy and a kind of acerbic wit that had me laughing out loud.

And then, as hundreds of articles and reviews have noted, it all goes south (no pun intended). She discovers that Atticus has a hateful racist pamphlet in his desk and that he and Henry have gone to a meeting of Macomb’s own “citizen’s council” where an overwrought speaker spews the worst kind of vitriol about blacks. Jean Louise is literally sick to her stomach and, in a series of confrontations, tries to make sense of the changes in the people she has known and loved for years. The degree of her success and the overall outcome I will leave to the reader to discover, but suffice it to say that while Atticus’ rationale is faulty at best, it still is true to what many whites in the South believed at the time.

I believe this important, well-crafted book addresses issues we still contend with today. The characters are lovable and familiar, and while Atticus is no longer the super hero of Mockingbird, his struggles and solutions make him a credible if not sympathetic character. For my money, Watchman is better than Mockingbird, but that’s up to you to decide. Let me know what you think.

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