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Monday, August 31, 2009


I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one:
'O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.' And God granted it.

~ Voltaire


Neko is not praying here. She is trying to grasp, with her very sharp claws, something that she wants. Or maybe that is what prayer is to her.

She doesn't have those sharp claws any more. I think that was the answer to one of Ripley's prayers.

Sunday, August 30, 2009


First one must change. I first watch myself, check myself, then expect changes from others.
~ HH the 14th Dalai Lama
I love autumn. Today was the first day it was really cool out. It was actually cold when I woke up this morning. I always sleep better when it's cool out.
I think I like autumn because it is the beginning of the end. It is when I like to reflect and consider what I have accomplished and what things I have left undone in my personal life.
I also like the end of the academic year in the spring/summer. That is when I think about what I have accomplished in my work since it is the end of another year of school.
I like endings. Endings get you excited for the next beginnings -- the end of a good book in a series (if there is another book to come), the end of a vacation (so long as there is a next vacation ready to be taken), the end of the day.
I don't understand people who like beginnings. All the work is still to be done and none of the lessons have been learned. I like to work with people who like beginnings, though. I can usually give them a lot of stuff to do.


Dog is God spelled backwards. That means something, I’m just not sure what exactly. But human is namuh spelled backwards.
~ Marc- Christophe
I often tell Ripley that he is the greatest dog in the history of dogs. I have also been known to sing to him the song I wrote for him (which I do not sing in front of anyone besides him and my immediate family -- who have also learned the lyrics):
Ripley, the Ripley-dog
His name is Ripley and he's a dog.
Ripley, the Ripley-dog
Ripley, Ripley, Rip-ley dog.
I suppose it could work with any dog name. Not that anyone would particularly care to steal this song.

Friday, August 28, 2009


Go back to reform school, you little nose picker. ~ W.C. Fields


Learning from mistakes is an important part of growing up. It is the basis for my work every day. People think that mine is a tough job because no one looks forward to meeting with me. That is true. But it's kind of like the dentist. No one really wants to go there, either (except the character from Little Shop of Horrors), but people know that they should.

And I am better than the dentist, too, because I don't drill into your teeth. Just into your conscience and your soul.

Making Fun

The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.
~ Plato

When we lived in the residence halls, the girls had to get very creative with their play. While they had resources that other kids might not have (ex: people to buy billions of girl scout cookies), they also had limitations -- no yard, small apartment with a small shared bedroom.

All that said, they did come up with some pretty fun ways to pass the time. Here you can see Elizabeth in their water park. Yes, it is a garbage can. Yes, it was clean. Yes, that is a water bomb in Maddie's hand.

If a couple of kids can play for 2-3 hours with a wastebasket full of water, I don't think there's much room for the rest of us to complain about being bored. Ever.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


He who angers you conquers you. ~ Elizabeth Kenny
OH! I hate that quote so much!! It makes me FURIOUS!!!

Dorothea Lange

One should really use the camera as though tomorrow
you’d be stricken blind. ~ Dorothea Lange
So, Elizabeth is reading a book about the dustbowl and the great depression (one of those "little girl in America who experiences history and shares her tale with young readers" books. I don't mean to mock too much, I think they're really good at connecting kids with history).
Anyway, I got excited and started talking to her about The Grapes of Wrath and a few minutes into it I thought, "What am I doing? She's 10 years old. She's not going to put down Fannie Goes West or whatever it was called to read The Grapes of Wrath." So then I just talked to her about Dorothea Lange's photography and how she would probably recognize the image "Migrant Mother" if she saw it.
Elizabeth seemed pretty bored and a little annoyed that I had interrupted her reading, so I told her to enjoy her book and I left her alone.


A man could not be in two places at the same time
unless he were a bird.
~ Sir Boyle Roche
If I could be any animal in the world, I would be a baby duck. Not a brand new-born baby duck, but one a little older than that. Then you could walk around, swim, or fly and hunters wouldn't try to shoot you.


If you look up "annoyed teen" in the dictionary, this is the picture you'll see.


This is Elizabeth wearing the bottom of a leg from a pair of jeans as a hat. This picture is a couple of years old and the fad hasn't caught on here, yet, but the style she started is a really big deal in parts of Nova Scotia and Rapa Nui.


A true story.
Once upon a time we were at home and Maddie threw an ice cube or opened the freezer door and a piece of ice fell or something along those lines. Anyway, in the process, a smaller piece from the original cube flew off and hit Elizabeth in the eye.
"GREAT! Now I'm gonna need a patch!!" Elizabeth barked, covering her eye.
A short while later, we went out to Sally's house. When we told Sally the story, she told us to wait just a minute. She left the room and we heard a humming sound for a bit (less than 3 minutes). Sally returned with an eyepatch she had made. This was one of the most amazing things I have ever seen.


I care not much for a man’s religion whose dog and cat are not the better for it.
~ Abraham Lincoln
So, do you even know what the story Puss in Boots is about? It's about a sneaking, conniving cat who deceives a king into giving up wealth, power, and a princess to the cat's poor master. This is not a good story. A better story would be about a cat who learns to put away boots and shoes and dishes and to vacuum. That would be a really good story.


"I guess the atmosphere that I've tried to create here is that I'm a friend first and a boss second, and probably an entertainer third."
- Michael Scott, The Office
I thought about taking my singing bowl into our office to clear out all of the bad energy one time, but then I was afraid someone would come in and see me with a singing bowl. My thought was that an interaction of that sort would create more bad energy and I have no idea how to get rid of singing bowl bad energy.


One day Chao-chou fell down in the snow, and called out, “Help! Help me up!” A monk came and lay down beside him. Chao-chou got up and walked away. ~ Zen Mondo
The word help comes from a combination of the words "hell" and "pee." If you are in hell OR if you need a place to pee, in either case you need some help. That is how I remember what the word help means.

Dinosaurs and Lightbulbs

Dinosaur & Lightbulb Haikus
(Haiku? Not sure what the plural is)

Dinosaur -- look there!

A giant lightbulb by you!

Do not be afraid.


A dinosaur would

never encounter lightbulbs

except by magic


A dinosaur with

a bright idea would not

have lightbulbs above.


A dinosaur named

Thomas Edison would be

a strange thing, indeed.

What happens after you die

He looks as if his idea of fun would be to find a cold damp grave and sit on it. ~ Richard Winnington
I once wrote a short play about how before getting into heaven everyone was in a waiting room. I forget how it ended.
What I REALLY think happens, is that when you die, you have to sit with everyone you've ever known (at least -- maybe you sit with everyone who has ever lived) and you have to watch a movie of your life. The whole thing. Watching a movie about someone's life would take a long time, but since it is eternity, you've got the time...
Anyway, I think about that sometimes when I'm doing something stupid or embarrassing or illegal. And how I don't want everyone seeing this in my life movie.
NOTE: This should NOT be confused with a Lifetime movie. Those are generally are not about my life experiences.


Peace begins with a smile. ~Mother Teresa
I believe that the word "kumbaya" actually means,
"Tell them to shut up!"
~ Michelle Boettcher

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bird Footprints

… life… is like the shadow of a bird in flight
~ Talmud
But the bird's footprints are evidence of moments in that life. The shadow may be fleeting, the prints might be erased, so then did the bird ever exist? Can any life ever be fully forgotten, or do we all remain after we're gone in some way? Maybe that's the whole philosophy for having markers and cemeteries. And blogs.
And are bird prints called footprints? They wouldn't be pawprints. Talonprints?

Steer Clear

She is a water bug on the surface of life.
~ Gloria Steinem re: Sally Quinn
In the scheme of things, the small people and the small challenges exhaust moments, not lives. It is important to stay focused on that concept when navigating difficult times. Our reactions in those moments can determine our options for the future.

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
~ Mark Twain


Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work; you don’t give up.
~ Anne Lamott.

I have some things I need to do. I am glad I did not do them when they first presented themselves. That would not have been the most productive approach. Instead, waiting is what was appropriate.

I once heard from someone that ultimately we all either decide to help others succeed or wait for them to fail. I think I have been called to help someone succeed in the weeks to come.

A mentor recently told me it is crucial to identify the gifts in others and help them to use those gifts. That is what I need to do now. It may not be comfortable because sometimes that means identifying things that are NOT gifts in the process.

I could just sit back and grow bitter(er?) and watch things either explode or implode. I do not think I'll choose to do that. At least not yet.


Tonight I asked the girls if they would rather have a child that was beautiful but stupid or a child that was brilliant but ugly. Maddie struggled with the question, "I would want them to look nice, but if they were stupid and didn't listen to me, I couldn't handle that."

At first Elizabeth said, "Smart." After a short pause, though, she changed her response, "One of each!"

I really wanted Chris to say, "That's what I ended up with, too!" But she didn't.


Someone asked master Un-men: “What is the eye of genuine teaching?”
The master said: “Fu! [Everywhere!]” ~ One word Zen

When I spend the day with the girls, I see things that I would otherwise miss and hear things that I could not conjur up on my own.

Today, going out with them to do photos was a real pleasure. They were patient (with each other AND with me), they laughed and seemed to enjoy one another, and they seemed very caught up in the nature around them.

I am amazed by how their brains work, but am glad I don't fully understand them -- otherwise, where would the fun be?

Full Tank

Like this gas tank, you are overflowing with preconceptions, full of useless knowledge. You hold many facts and opinions, yet know little of yourself. Before you can learn, you’ll have to first empty your tank.
~ Dan Millman
A full tank can keep us going, but what are we missing by not stopping? Some of the best parts of my trips have been as a result of a rest area, truck stop, gas station, or off-the-beaten-path stop.

Friday, August 21, 2009


Scientists tell us that the fastest animal on earth, with a top speed of 120 feet per second, is a cow that has been dropped out of a helicopter.
~ Dave Barry

My favorite animal is steak.
~ Fran Leibowitz
I have been studying the traits and dispositions of the "lower animals" (so called) and contrasting them with the traits and dispositions of man. I find the result humiliating to me.
~ Mark Twain


There is popcorn that I never imagined.

~ Chris Bryant.


Buy the ticket, take the ride.

~ Hunter S. Thompson

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit.

~ Henry David Thoreau

The Travelers

A good traveler has no fixed plans, and is not intent on arriving.
~ Lao Tzu


Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird
That cannot fly. ~ Langston Hughes
I think kids know how to hold on better than grown ups. Maybe it's because something better always comes along more quickly when you're a kid. Maybe it's because all the grown-ups just keep telling you to get over it. So they do.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Just Look

People see God every day, they just don’t recognize him.

~ Pearl Bailey
Godness. Goodness. Call it what you will.
The truth is, it is much easier to be negative. Being positive is very hard work. Not everyone is up to the task. And no one is up to it every day. Just try.


I pack my trunk, embrace my friends, embark on the sea, and at last wake up in Naples, and there beside me is the Stern Fact, the Sad Self, unrelenting, identical, that I fled from.
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Going to? Going from?


We spend most of our time and energy in a kind of horizontal thinking. W e move along the surface of things.. [but] there are times when we stop. We sit still. We lose ourselves in a pile of leaves or its memory. We listen and breezes from a whole other world begin to whisper.
~ James Carroll
This is where I try to take time to stop. I am not be a perfect listener, but I try to hear the pieces falling into place. I will keep trying.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


"The day, water, sun, moon, night - I do not have to purchase these things with money."
~ Titus Maccius Plautus
If someone offered to sell you either of these items for $2, would you agree to buy them?


Are you green and growing or ripe and rotting?

~ Ray Kroc


Sit just to sit. And why not sit? You have to sit sometime, and so you may as well really sit, and be altogether here. Otherwise the mind wanders away from the matter at hand, and away from the present. Even to think thorugh the implicatons of the present is to avoid the present moment completely.
~ Alan Watts

Sex Education

"Before the child ever gets to school it will have received crucial, almost irrevocable sex eduation and this will have been taught by the parents, who are not aware of what they are doing."

~ Dr. Mary S. Calderone

Maddie: Why is she [Neko, the cat] doing that [making odd noises and raising her hind end in the air]?

Michelle: Because she's in heat and that is how she tells the male cats she wants to have sex with them.

Chris: And it says here [in the cat book] that the male cat's penis has hooks on it, so it stays in the female and it hurts her.

Maddie: Well, why would she want that, then?!

Chris: I don't know. Oh, and Maddie, just so you know human penises are like that, too.

Food Preparation

Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes. ~ Alan Watts

Or the onions.


Stoop and you’ll be stepped on. Stand tall and you’ll be shot at.
~ Carlos A. Urbizo

But run in a quick zig-zaggety pattern with a couple of jumps and somersaults every now and then, and the world is yours.
~ Michelle L. Boettcher


All work has the capacity to be both science and art.
~ Dick Richards
Elizabeth has an ability to go about most every task with a sense of enthusiasm, wonder, and joy. There is so much I could learn from her. Not only how to go about things with a sense of joy, but also how to make play dough.


Life is a succession of moments. To live each one is to succeed.
~ Corita Kent
Are life's moments random or not? It really shouldn't matter if we try to live each moment putting our best selves forward and doing good in the world.


Ninety percent accuracy is not as good as silence. ~ Yueh-Lin

There is not enough silence around me. I do not seek it as much as I should. Instead, I go to people for conversation, for answers, for noise.

I am so stupid.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Student

A teacher influences eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops. ~ Henry Adams

I have had great teachers and I continue to seek out great teachers. The generous who share their ideas without imposing them and who stimulate my thinking with a motivating rather than demeaning pressure. I learn and learn and learn - even when the "teachable moments" have passed.
The challenge is that everyone I know is a great teacher of some lesson. I am disappointed in myself that I do not have the patience to see the lesson everyone has to teach me. I see people around me who refuse to embrace humility. Being humble, being vulnerable to others knowing more, not being the best at things... To me these are not weaknesses, but strengths. The person who thinks he is the best and brightest is neither.

But even in these people there are lessons beyond the obvious ones about ego and arrogance. I just struggle so much to let go of my resentments in order to learn the larger lessons. I refuse to be humble myself in order to allow myself to learn from these different teachers.
English Proverb:
Do not be in a hurry to tie what you cannot untie.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Simply Look

The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity. ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein


When you choose your friends, don’t be short-changed by choosing personality over character.
~ W. Somerset Maugham

How does the brain work?

MLB: Maddie, how would you feel if your job was hairdresser and your sister was an astronaut?
Maddie: Well... that my job would be a lot safer.


MLB: I like names that can be for girls or boys – Like Chris and Pat
Elizabeth: Or Sam
MLB: Or Max or Alex
E: Or Audra
MLB: What?
E: Or Chlorissa
MLB: What are you talking about?!
E: Or Bodecia

The following is from Elizabeth's display about the pyramids. She and her friend did some hypothesizing about their topic.

Conversation at my House

I do not understand a lot of the things that are said in my house. An example from this evening is Elizabeth telling a story about an incident that happened when she and Maddie were playing this afternoon.

"I go running after Maddie to get the Abraham Lincoln card so I can pick my colors of play dough and Madie goes flying over the red chair and hit her head on the lamp and falls on the floor."

Nothing in that sentence makes sense to me. But I kind of like it that way.

It was followed up by this bit of wisdom and sisterly concern:

Elizabeth: Play dough hurts when it hits you hard in the eye. I convinced Maddie it hit my eye in when she threw it at me.

Maddie: No, I was just going along with it 'cause you were crying.


The one absolutely unselfish friend that man can have in this selfish world, the one that never deserts him, the one that never proves ungrateful or treacherous, is his dog.
~ George Graham Vest

Monday, August 10, 2009


Labor omnia vincit (work overcomes all things) ~ Virgil
I recently have been engaging with a few friends of mine about work and life and worklife and lifework. Every year at about this time, I think about whether or not I am in the right area and doing the right kind of work. Every year at about this time, I can't decide for sure. And every year at just about this time, I decide to keep doing what I have been doing - helping.
It is difficult to be a helper when you are not a particularly caring person, but sometimes maybe the best help is free from care. The most honest help. Maybe.
I am reminded of the fable of the grasshopper and the ant. The grasshopper played and then I guess died and the ant worked and lived. As the quote says, "Work overcomes all things." But what kind of work? Might it not also be true that play overcomes all things? And what if your work becomes play? Isn't that the ideal?
All I know is I wouldn't want to be a grasshopper or an ant.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Journey

August 9, 2009

It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
~ Ursula K. Le Guin

"Vacation with Friends" to Kansas City
Maddie brought her friend Marissa.
Elizabeth brought her friend Madeline.
I brought my friend Chris Fowler.

About a half hour south of DSM, Chris started to fall asleep, so I offered (BEGGED) to drive. I thought it might ruin the trip if we died.

Goal 1: Do something with the borrowed children that we were pretty sure their parents would not approve of. We signed Marissa (and Maddie) up for the Ripcord thing - giant bungee flying ride.

Unanticipated Outcome: Every other ride was a bit of a letdown for Maddie after that.

Goal 2: Test everyone's stamina. I think (and this is not an exaggeration) that Chris said the heat index was 110 degrees the day we were there. It was very, very hot.

Goal 3: Feed the children. Madeline wouldn't eat anything at the park. She had a frozen lemonade and for lunch a roll and some chips. Fortunately, that night she ate pizza. The second day, at Ocean's of Fun, we had the worst food ever. Chicken nuggets that were virtually chickenless, burned fries, and yucky hotdogs. Amazingly, no one complained. Not even a little.

Goal 4: Get home safely. We managed this, even with crankpot Maddie in the car. I'm not sure that ending the trip with true life scary stories was a good idea, but it helped to pass the time.

We spent the rest of the week doing chores around the house. Accomplishments:
* Cleaned Office / Organized Files
Side Note: So, I just turned around to talk with Chris - who is cleaning out the last of her boxes in the office - and she's wearing a headlight. Headlamp? light on a strap that goes around your head. Her response when I shook my head? "Oh, c'mon! Don't tell me you don't like wearing these!"

* Got windshield on the van replaced. Yes, it cracked the day before we left on our trip. We took it anyway.

* Cleaned storage room in the basement.

* Changed the filter on the furnace.

* Got a leaky pipe fixed.

* Cleared dead vines and plants and put in new flowers on the south side of our lot. In the process we also met our neighbors across the street on that side. Chris told them that we knew when we saw their Hillary sign that this would be a good neighborhood for us.

Today we're finishing up a few tasks - office, flowers, cleaning bedrooms. But in our world, it's never that simple. There is always another storyline going on somewhere. For example, currently Elizabeth is charging Maddie for a massage ($7.50 for 20 minutes). She just walked past the door carrying a rock with a set of kitchen tongs. Apparently, she's giving Maddie a hot rock massage. I do not know if that costs extra or not.