21 April 2018 : Digitizing Old Photos

As part of my personal downsizing project, a major undertaking I’ve started in preparation for selling the house, I’ve been digitizing old photos. Some of the best have come from a photo album Chloe started when she was 5 years-old or so. She had this simple little kid camera that looked like plastic binoculars, allowing the child photographer to hold the camera up to their eyes like wearing a mask. I think the camera took 110 film. Anyway, most of the photos in this book were taken by Chloe with this camera. The photo above of Ella sitting on her changing table in 1998 may be my favorite. Her expression, the cockeyed light above, and Melinda standing there with a hair dryer (which was used to dry the body before putting a diaper back on). It’s a classic.

Then there’s the photo below of Chloe herself. I have a recollection of her hurting herself somehow and me trying to cheer her up by using her camera to take her picture. I’m not sure it worked…

25 March 2018 : Our Third 27

27 years ago…

Having both been born in 1963 (in May, no less), Melinda and I were 27 years-old when we got married in 1990. That makes 1963-1990 our first 27, which we basically did not spend together.

Last year, 2017, Melinda and I both turned 54 (in May, no less), making 1990-2017 our second 27, during which we pretty much spent every day together. We also raised two children to adulthood and created a school, among a couple of other things.

So here we are, Melinda and I, having entered our third 27, 2017-2044. And as was true for the previous two 27’s, we expect this one to be remarkable for its uniqueness. It began last June when Melinda stepped down from PSCS, an action that is being replicated by me at the end of June this year.

So what’s next?

Melinda said something to me recently that really resonated. She said, “We followed a dream of yours for 24 years (PSCS). Now it’s time to follow one of mine.” What she wants to do is sell our Seattle house and buy a fixer-upper, probably in California. She says she has at least one more remodel in her. Sounds reasonable to me.

What will I do? Help Melinda remodel, do some writing, promote kindness… We aren’t financially set to not have an income so we’ll need to figure that out. I’m of a mind to do what we did when we started PSCS. We had a new mortgage, a baby, student loans, and no savings. We quit our jobs and threw our weight into starting PSCS. The universe responded and PSCS succeeded, helping us grow as adults while raising our kids.

In other words, I’m pretty sure we’ll have a good story or two to tell in 2044.

29 January 2018: Words, Handshakes & Saying Goodbye to My Father-in-Law

I’ve received many things over the years from my father-in-law, his kindness, sense of humor, respect, love, charm, and joy in his granddaughters among them. I have seen these in his eyes and I swear the depth grew deeper as the years passed.

My favorite sweater first belonged to Dwight, my father-in-law.

Writing today, I’m finding that these things are hard to represent in a blog post intended to honor my relationship with him and the depth of his loss in my life. Besides, I’m pretty sure words don’t exist that would put the feelings in print. Maybe it’s more a man thing, and maybe the best poets have figured it out. I’m not much of a poet and hiding behind the “man shield” has never been my thing. Still, for me at least, some things I best experience wordlessly, not necessarily silently but meditatively. As connected and dependent as we all are, these things simply belong to me alone. Such has been my relationship with Dwight, my father-in-law, who peacefully passed from his body early Saturday morning.

I’ve been thinking about this since saying goodbye to him on Friday night. He was unconscious in what became his deathbed. I had a strong desire to shake his hand before leaving, what had been our tradition while the many women and girls around us shared a bisous (kisses on each cheek). Michele, Melinda and Brenda were getting ready to go, and the feeling in the room was this very well could be the last time any of us would see him alive (it was). But Dwight’s hands were under the covers and I didn’t want to disturb him. Besides, I had shaken his hand on Thursday and he had recognized me in that moment. Did I need to do it again? Was I taking time away from his wife and daughters? I leaned in and said the two words that had been resonating in my mind for days, “Thank you.”

Our “Heart and Soul” duet is more poignant.

Words are a fascinating thing to experience at times like these. I suppose we all struggle to express ourselves – to the one dying, to ourselves, to the grieving family. What do we have but words to say? As you’d expect, Michele and the rest of us are receiving an outpouring of support and warmth from extended family and friends. It is supremely thoughtful and meaningful, and much of it comes in the form of words.

Of the words I’ve had the privilege of reading, the most touching to me have been coming in French from our friends in France, people we call our French family. To best understand them, I’ve put them in Google’s language translator. I’m not entirely sure what makes them so touching, if it’s the somewhat awkward nature of the translations, or if it has to do with how messages of condolence are shared in France. Maybe I’m accustomed to how condolence sounds in native English and these translations give a fresh spin. Maybe it has to do with how much my connection to France and our French family means to me. Maybe it doesn’t really matter.

The first French message came from Joël Barron, father to Frédérique and Annabelle, Dwight’s French daughters and his best French friend. Here is how Google translated it:

It is with emotion and sadness to see a friend like Dwight disappear. Annabelle, Frédérique, and I associate ourselves with your pain and this passage to beyond. I ask you to convey to Michele all my support in this event. Dwight and Michele and my wife Monique (in heaven) were great friends of heart … Parents with great values, who have passed on many things to my family whether in the joys and sorrows of life. Life goes on supporting each other, Dwight does not suffer anymore, we will not forget it … I renew all my friendship to Michele and all your family. My sincere condolences.

Dwight’s 83rd birthday, September 25th, 2017.

The second came from Isabelle Boudeau and was signed by her father Michel and her sister Brigitte. These are the sisters and father of my good friend, Laurent, who happens to be Frédérique’s husband and who also spent significant time with Dwight over the years:

It was with great sadness that we learned of Dwight’s death. We keep an excellent memory of him and we think very strongly of you and Michèle and all your family. The disappearance, the separation from a loved one, is difficult to accept, to live. You must keep in mind all that he has transmitted to you, his joy of life, his good mood, his sense of relationships …. and learn to communicate differently with him. We offer you our most sincere and heartfelt condolences. We kiss you, all 3.

Indeed, it is my task now to learn to communicate differently with Dwight. I won’t have his actual hand to shake anymore. And while this makes me profoundly sad, doing so successfully is what will keep Dwight present in my life.

27 December 2017 : Songwriting

Years ago, in my early 20’s, I took out an ad in a long-gone Seattle area music magazine called The Rocket to find a songwriting partner. It was a fertile time in my life in that I had an easy-going job and little responsibility. A girlfriend had recently broken up with me, something that can generate a lot of angsty, post-adolescent song lyrics. I got a couple of replies, including one that yielded several meetings with a young singer about my age. We wrote several songs together, including one that he told me some relative of his started playing in a band in Europe. I never really knew where that went…

Anyway, our partnership ended when my job was lost to technology and I moved from Seattle to start college. I kept writing song lyrics on and off for years, though. And a couple of years ago I reached out via an online site to Seattle-area musicians looking for a lyricist. Again, I got a couple of replies. And again, one yielded a couple of rough demos of some song lyrics I wrote while in college.

Like before, other things took precedence and the potential songwriting partnership drifted away before it could solidify. Then today, while cleaning up some email, I found one of the demos. I listened to it for the first time in two years and found it kind of engaging, reminding me that this itch for my creativity still wants to be scratched.

The song is called “Not to Prepared to Lose.” I wrote the original lyric in 1985 and it’s been sitting in a notebook with dozens of other songs, some pretty horrible and others with some potential merit, since. My co-writer is Bob Kopatich. He wrote the music and is doing the singing and guitar playing. He changed a couple of lines to suit his phrasing and his understanding of the song.

Take a listen:

The image I’ve used here is a “Wordle,” or word cloud, created of the song lyrics.

2 December 2017 : Compassion Curriculum

As part of my professional life as a state-certified educator, I’m required to participate in ongoing professional development. For as long as I’ve been an educator, the requirement has been for me to earn 150 clock hours every five years. To earn clock hours, I have to pay to take classes that are qualified to grant me the hours. Interestingly, in the last month the requirement was reduced to 100 clock hours earned every five years.

It used to be that to earn clock hours I had to be in classes. So back in the early days of PSCS, I spent part of my summers sitting in classes at places like the University of Washington. Over the last 10-15 years, with the growth of the Internet, I’ve been able to take classes online. Some of these allow me to adapt the class to my purposes, which ends up being so much more convenient.

For instance, I just completed an online class on the importance of bringing compassion to the classroom. Obviously, that’s a subject near and dear to me, one of which I have a fair amount of experience. I chatted with the teacher of the class about my experience in the subject and he agreed to let me adapt some of the work I’ve done for the Compassion Games into a curriculum designed for elementary school students.

If you are interested, you can find my final project here.

26 August 2017 : Poems From Page 143

So if you’ve been paying any attention at all, you know I’ve got this thing for the number 143. Two years ago, I had this idea that I still think is super cool, which is to combine my attraction to the number 143, my interest in poetry, and the idea that many of us read books. I started promoting people submitting me to me poems they create by blacking out words on page 143 of books they loved or were reading. The end result is a poem.

Learn more here.

Just before leaving on vacation this summer, someone who has become an important friend, Mina Vafaeezadeh, who happens to be the roommate of Stephanie, Melinda’s and my niece, sent me what I call a “Page 143 Poem.” I’ve just now posted it to the blog I keep for that purpose, the first such submission in over two years. Maybe you will find inspiration in Mina finding inspiration in this concept. If you want to submit, all I ask is you send me three things:
– Your finished poem
– A picture of page 143 of your book with your poem highlighted and the other words blackened out.
– A short description that could include who you are, the importance of the book, what your poem means to you, what’s happening in the book at that time, or really anything that appeals to you.

For you folks in France who follow this blog, feel free to send my Page 143 Poems in French, too!

16 August 2017 : Hear Me Online This Saturday

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ve been been selected to be the featured guest this Saturday in an online global conference call hosted by a wonderful organization called ServiceSpace. As described on their website, “ServiceSpace leverages technology to encourage everyday people around the world to do small acts of service. Our aim is to ignite the fundamental generosity in ourselves and others, creating both inner and outer transformation.”

Perhaps you can see why I’m excited to be chosen!

ServiceSpace has a number of initiatives, the one with me, Awakin.org, designed to help people grow in self-awareness. As they say, “By changing ourselves, we change the world.” Awakin.org holds a weekly online conference call with an inspiring guest each Saturday at 9am PST (that’s 6pm for those of you in France).

Learn more about my topic here. You can RSVP to participate there, too.