reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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revolutionary kindness. [merely-a-thought monday]

i had a crush on glen campbell. 1970s. i was 11. i was 13. i was 16. i was eking into 20. he was the rhinestone cowboy, a clean-cut country singer with penetrating eyes, a guitar and a smooth voice.

the moment i saw this bumper sticker on an suv in a parking lot i could hear the song he rocketed into the charts “try a little kindness”

“you’ve got to try a little kindness
yes, show a little kindness
just shine your light for everyone to see
and if you try a little kindness
then you’ll overlook the blindness
of narrow-minded people on the narrow-minded streets

(Bobby Austin / Curt Sapaugh)

the lyrics seemed obvious, even back then. but now, more so.

we avoided four events of road aggression yesterday. and we barely were out and about. it’s disconcerting, particularly in this season of light. but these last years – in particular – have made aggression socially acceptable. they have made anger rise up and people pummel others with words and actions. pushing back – equally as aggressively – is dangerous…in any arena.

january 2, 2021 the sheridan press: “with all that happened in 2020, it’d be easy to kick off 2021 with a literal kick — a kick in the teeth, a kick in the rear or perhaps by kicking in the door. none of those kicks, though, would solve the woes of 2020, even if they made you feel better in the short term. so rather than start the new year with a kick, consider starting 2021 with a different act of defiance. start it off with grace, peace and civility.”

a different act of defiance. though strikingly resonant for us related to 2020 moving into that next new year, the words in the sheridan press in the beginning of 2021 are no less relevant now as we approach 2023. ever more important to try a little kindness.

i picked up two packs of tissue paper in target. neither brand was priced, but they were those packs of 100 pieces of tissue – perfect for the season of wrapping and perfect for david’s studio. we have found this is a good time to buy tissue paper. because the display shelf also had no price tag, i figured i would check out each and then choose the least expensive, asking the self-checkout-helper-person to delete the pack we didn’t want. so we did just that. and we thanked the nice helper-person who helped – the people who miraculously show up when you touch “need assistance” on the touch screen.

we passed her on the way out and stopped and thanked her again before we left, adding a wish for happy holidays.

she was astonished. she stood there – glowing – and wished us a lovely holiday. we all smiled and exchanged parting pleasantries.

we talked about it all the way home. it was not a reach to say “thank you”, to express gratitude to someone doing their job, to be kind. kindness begets kindness. it’s not complicated. at all.

“…a simple act of kindness can feel revolutionary.”

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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teeters and totters. [merely-a-thought monday]

there are days that i find it stunning – the number of wisdoms quoted on memes on social media. goodness-gurus like maya angelou, dalai lama, buddha, mr. rogers, gandhi…as facebook profile pictures, cover photos, posts, instas, sage snaps. so many of these are about kindness – basic, the foundation for living in and amongst others.

the center of gravity on a seesaw is in the center of mass. two people on a beam, fulcrum pivot point in the middle, there is a place negotiated where the seesaw will balance. maybe this is the secret of interactions with others.

in too many instances it would seem that our interactions with others are out-of-balance, that they are a study in power struggle, in a quest for control. the seesaw slams into the ground as the heavyweight force succeeds in out-maneuvering the lightweight with no attempt at level. you cannot hide the heavyweight forces and think they don’t exist. the choice to let someone’s else’s side of the seesaw slam into the ground or to let them fly off the high side is conscious and real. and the goodness-gurus frown.

yet the teeters totter on and quote and proclaim and tout and proselytize and do not choose to lead by guruwisdom, ever righteous. it’s astonishing hypocrisy.

sue aikens lives alone in the most northern regions of alaska. she spends most of the year in frigid darkness, with an airstrip and a camp for those willing to brave the remote arctic. her wisdom is seemingly honed by years of introspection and sorting. she has no seesaw at her camp, but she lives everyday on the slim board that is life in those parts, always balancing with nature, with wildlife, with her own abilities and limitations. i imagine there are days that she spends on the low side of the metaphoric seesaw, trying to control her surroundings, the rises and falls, as much as possible. but i would also imagine that most of her days are spent trying to find the pivot point, equilibrium – the place where she interacts with the good earth and its inhabitants with grace and generosity and keeps the seesaw in balance. she has teetertottered in kavik over twenty years. she is clearly doing something right.

as she says, “your interactions are always your choice.”

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY

BE KIND BUTTONS


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momma, poppo and dolly parton. [merely-a-thought monday]

i wish – every day – that my sweet momma and poppo were still here. that we could coffeesit with them, make them great soups for lunch, spoil them for dinner. that we could take them apple-picking and introduce my dad to a new scotch or two he hadn’t tried yet. that we could maybe adventure a little or just be quiet and listen to their old stories. i wish.

the thing i know, though, is that they would be beside themselves in this circus of a country we now have. it would make both of them irate to watch the vitriol being tossed about, the divisiveness that is being fed by rabid spewers, the lack of transparency, the lies. my daddy-o would have a few choice words to describe these folks and they wouldn’t be pretty.

and my mom? well, she would have no time for anyone who is less than kind to another. she would want nothing to do with any politician or religious leader or pundit who skips kindness in their approach to life, who excuses their own behavior, stance, agenda, platform, control tactic, extremism based on warped interpretation of law or scripture. she would point out the colossal hypocrisy. she might reiterate the story about when, in the dark night, they parked their little vw bug next to a small hill off the road. tired while traveling europe by car, they needed to rest and could find no guesthouse nearby. the little hill would serve them well, they thought. they woke up next to a gigantic dung pile, covered with black tarp held down by old tires. she would trust that we could connect the metaphoric dots. sometimes a hill is not a hill.

i think that both of them – were they here – would be ashamed of what it’s all become. my dad would wonder how his service – missing-in-action in world war II and then as a POW in a bulgarian camp – mattered now to these people who are making a mockery of democracy. my mom would be aghast at how people are being treated, marginalized, discriminated against, excluded. she, who worked hard to be kind to everyone, would worry about the popularity of this ugly trend. yes, they would both – were they here – be astonished at how, in so many arenas and in so many circumstances, people are just downright not good to each other.

i guess that – were they here – they would love a sit-down with dolly parton. they’d probably all talk at once, new yawk and a southern drawl all intermingling in conversation. and they’d all agree that they didn’t understand why anyone at all would “let religion and politics and things like that stand in the way of just being good human beings.”

and then – were they here, the three of them together – they would remind us all to stay away from dung piles posing as hills.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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goodness. [merely-a-thought monday]

i’m sure people in the target parking lot stared at me while i took a photograph of the side of the sara lee truck pulled up in front of the store. i’m always the one – lagging behind, trying to capture some image. so many photo ops, so little time…

but these words “how goodness should taste” caught my attention. sara lee, the company of classic pound cake, chocolate creme pie, new york style cheesecake, makes me think of my sweet momma, coffeetime, the round smoked-glass table, white plastic vinyl swivel chairs. my poppo, pouring the coffee out of a farberware percolator, whistling. goodness, indeed.

my growing-up wasn’t dressed up with ganache and crème brûlée or crepes and chocolate soufflé. i was the product of two great-depression parents and they were practical. entenmann’s crumbcake and my mom’s lemon pudding cake, homemade apple pie and chocolate chip cookies, box cupcakes and sara lee raised me, along with an occasional traditional-cheesecake splurge at the bakery.

goodness was simple. it wasn’t prissy nor did it require much money. it wasn’t fancy or haughty nor did it exclude anyone. it wasn’t loud and shiny nor did it bellow “look-at-me”. it wasn’t for show. it was just simply goodness.

when i saw the sara lee truck i called to david. he had stopped on the target sidewalk when he realized i hadn’t made it across the lane from lot to store.

i showed him the picture of the side of the truck “how goodness should taste” and said, “this is perfect for a blogpost.” i continued, “a great reminder!”

after all, maybe we should all think more about goodness.

not just how it should taste, but how it should feel inside, how it should sound, how it should be shown, what it should look like, how we can touch it, how we can share it.

wouldn’t it be cool if – maybe instead of [or, even, in addition to] “land of the free, home of the brave” – the united states of america was known as “how goodness should taste”?

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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this day and age. [merely-a-thought monday]

“will you get to watch any fireworks?” she texted.

our city has spectacular fireworks. for over three decades i have marveled at the extent of the fourth-of-july display over lake michigan, sitting on the rocks along the shore, in the parks along the lakefront, down by where they set them off by the harbor. the fantastic light show goes on for about a half hour, culminating with a finale that bursts open the sky with color.

this city has a festival down by the lake, a carnival in the downtown, food vendors and dock-jumping-dogs and lots of music. there are children with ice cream cones melting on tiny fingers, bubble machines making iridescent bubbles float all around passersby, red, white and blue tchotchkes/chotchkes/chachkis on carts and people, bike parades with flags and streamers. there are hot dogs and brats sizzling, cheese curds and funnel cakes, lemonade and icees and dippin’ dots. there is no shortage of fun celebration and it’s all right there, within walking distance.

but in this day and age…

we won’t be going to watch the fireworks. this will be the fourth year now.

in 2019 we had just moved on island and didn’t leave dogdog and babycat during the display; they were adjusting to a new house as it was and we had no idea how loud the fireworks would be.

the city cancelled the fireworks in 2020; the global pandemic was early-on and there was a healthier respect for distancing.

last year, following the insurrection at the nation’s capitol, along with little to no leadership-held-responsible-for-all-of-that or any accountability, we stayed home.

and in this day and age…

we will stay home again. for the farcical supreme court has begun absolutely dismantling the freedoms that we are supposed to be celebrating. extremism and religious right are suffocating citizens of this country, thwarting the ability to live freely and make one’s own decisions. equality is going the way of centuries ago. discrimination is rising up, like fog on a wind-shifting hot summer’s day over the great lake. gun violence is dramatically increasing and, yet, guns are not limited. the extreme climate crisis is heaved off to the side in favor of big business; the epa is undermined and our children’s futures will feature many more “air quality alerts” than we could ever imagine, not to mention the global warming fallout from fossil fuel emissions. we watch lake mead drop and drop. we read of the po river in italy receding, lives substantially and critically affected. we see that australia is under water and that there are red flag warnings across the southwest – fires will be prevalent as the heat is heating up. the relationships between countries are strained. politics are warped. politicians play on stages of self-agendized blather. there is a lack of responsibility. there is a bigger lack of looking out for the big picture, the long haul, the world that will be inhabited by the children of our children’s children. kindness, consideration, compassion are looked at as weakness. we are flabbergasted at the stupidity. more, we are incredulous at the lack of people to see the stupidity. it seems the more clownish, the more vile, the more popular. it seems that evil lurks. and i wonder about the hypocrisy of watching fireworks while there are people quietly – and not so quietly – undermining democracy. we could ignore it all and go cheer – as loud as my sweet momma used to cheer – at the fireworks. or we could take a pause.

our old backyard neighbor played two things in their backyard. one was the soundtrack for “mamma mia” and the other was an album of john philip sousa marches. never insanely loud back then, both made us smile. a relationship three decades long.

but in this day and age, there are multitudes – truly multitudes – of children in that yard out back, a yard equipped with every single thing any generous public playground might have: full-size batting cage, full-size trampoline, three soccer nets, a basketball court, zipline, fort, swingset, sandbox, large plastic toys, atvs to ride, bikes, balls, bats, rat-a-tatting big toy guns and a new mysterious large wooden structure being built back along our lot line, where they can’t hear it or see it from their house, like most of the other entertainment devices in the large yard. apparently not at all conscious of the it’s-a-neighborhood-you-live-in-a-community philosophy, surrounded by people who have actually resided right here for decades, they play loud music through outdoor speakers so the whole neighborhood can hear – though no one gets a vote on what’s played – and the children have a spicy – and foul – vocabulary and bloodcurdling screams they don’t hesitate to use. demonstrating antagonism seems the way in this land beyond the dead arbor vitae. goodness! when did the rules of neighborhood – the rules of neighboring – change? did they not watch mr. rogers? parents need remember children are always watching their lead. likewise, leaders need remember citizens are always watching their lead. and how precisely did we get here?

this day and age.

we could make a big pitcher of iced water with slices of orange and lemon and grill some (plant-based) burgers, play a little music – at an appropriate volume – and watch our new pampas grass grow. we could admire our newly-cleaned garage or the new green blades growing in the haynet out front. we could paint rocks to hide on our trail or plant a few flowers. we could speed-dial fred rogers. all are quite likely. well, except for fred.

and we could go see the fireworks.

but we won’t.

not in this day and age.

though it will be a statement we make only to ourselves, it will be comforting to dogga for us to stay home.

besides, some things are just too much. in this day and age.

*****

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good seed. [d.r. thursday]

poised and ready. tiny seedpods waiting. their release will come with the wind and the rain and, surely, this spring is bringing that. and they will float and fall to the ground and be sent swirling and land in the meadow and the pond, on the river and on decaying nurselogs nearby in the forest. some will take root and others will not, for their form has changed too much in the rain and wind for their function to remain the same. but there are many, so the tree’s explosion of blossoms have guaranteed its legacy.

in every moment of communicating with others we are tiny seedpods. poised and ready to release with the wind. what will we scatter?

our words are not without volition; we have the choice of what to say, the choice of how to say it. the moments of measuring a response, of pondering a question…these are moments of great import.

“all summations have a beginning, all effect has a story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.” (mary oliver- what i have learned so far)

how many times we wish we could take back a comment, retract a judgement, shrink back from a story told. how many times we wish an other would-not-have-said-that, would apologize, would consider all the implications of something said in spew, or even in -what they feel is- jest. we know a tiny slowing-down, a quick brain-heart-lips check-in, a fact-check, a compassionate re-wording, would all change the minute our words – or theirs – hit the air, with the wind ready to sail them on and on.

tiny seeds sown on the breezes of everyday life. seeds that take root and grow.

“we plow the fields and scatter the good seed on the land…”(stephen schwartz/john michael tebelak – all good gifts)

good seed.

“i’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” (maya angelou)

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY

prayer of opposites, acrylic 48″x48″

PRAYER OF OPPOSITES ©️ david robinson



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blather. [merely-a-thought monday]

though the alpaca is considered to be a docile creature, it can get spitting mad. i suspect that if one were to flip “look, i get it” over to an alpaca, it could get a rise out of the lanky, fuzzy one. intelligent and observant, alpacas are known for their quiet. their nonverbal behaviors and the sounds they make belie what could be thought of as non-emotive. on the contrary, they communicate their concern and stress, affection and indignation. linda’s alpaca are a tiny herd among themselves and are magical to watch. i did not toss “look, i get it” over to any of them, knowing it would insult their intelligence and likely make them a bit snarly, as really anyone to whom that is tossed – in any way other than joshing around – should likely feel.

“look, i get it” is just like the expression “i’m sorry you feel that way”. neither is true empathy. both are dismissive. the quickest way to damage a relationship is to wing “look, i get it” over just as someone is telling you something deeply important. or, in a leadership position – let’s just saaaaaay – to flippantly respond “i’m sorry you feel that way” to an employee who has clearly been wronged by some circumstance(s) or policy-thwart. in their succinctly powerful way, inc. magazine has come through again in an article written by jason aten. he states when you say “i’m sorry you feel that way” (or “we apologize for any insensitivity” or any other variation on the theme) you are “trying to absolve yourself of any kind of responsibility or fault for whatever went wrong.” he adds that the (respectful, compassionate, mission-driven) company instead say, “i am really sorry that we didn’t live up to our promise. i know that is so frustrating. here’s what i’m going to do to try and make it right.” mmhmm. my personal experience would suggest that doesn’t always happen.

and “look, i get it”??? bill murphy, jr. in another inc. magazine column calls it a sign of “low emotional intelligence”. i would have to concur. just because they are words – individually and as a sentence: look, i, get and it – doesn’t mean they should come out of one’s mouth at a moment of import. there are a hundred ways to say everything we are trying to say. and sometimes – and we are all guilty of this, including me – we need to take a moment or two before the sentence hits the talk bubble outside our lips.

perhaps this is why alpaca are considered so intelligent. they are quiet, discerning critters who are affectionate and gentle but don’t spew emotionally-disconnected blather.

*****

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be a duck. [merely-a-thought monday]

“mama said there’ll be days like this; there’ll be days like this mama said.” (“mama said”, the shirelles, written by luther dixon and willie denson, 1961)

there are days in which i remind myself, time and again, over and over and over, blah-de-blah-de-blah, as i learned years ago from a cheery 95 year-old woman on an interview, to not take anything personally. this requires evolving. big evolving.

it does not come naturally to me to not take things personally. it is waaaay over on the other side of the taking-things spectrum from where i am. but, i am inching my way, crawling, scraping, babystepping my way in that general direction. ever-evolving, i intend to get there. some.day.

i suspect that, on the day that i arrive, i will find a light heart, laughter always at the ready, dancing feet, unconditional forgiveness of self and others, grace for mistakes or choices made, full nights’ sleeps, anticipation of continued bliss in the land of not-taking-it-personally. umbrage will fall like rain on duck’s feathers and the seesaw will stay level, a fulcrum of balance.

for, as any perusal through social media will remind us, we are not walking in shoes other than our own. memes as prodding cover photos or profile pictures or insta’d wisdombits or tweeted tweets, we are reminded “you never know what someone is going through. be kind. always.” yup.yup.

we each have access to the wisdom of the greatest wise ones. and we each forget. every. single. day. we don’t always think about how our words or actions will arrive on the heart of others, particularly in the moments of delivery, particularly the things that are … heartless. conversely, it, then, is likely that others, in the moments of delivery, were not thinking about how their words or actions would arrive on our hearts. we also know that it is not likely that someone else is laying awake in the middle of the dark night thinking about what they said or did, their words or lack of words. some people are better at letting things sliiiide off. me? i’m still evolving.

in a slew of bitterly cold temperatures, we passed a frozen pond the other day. there were many ducks on it and i wondered aloud if their tiny butts were frozen to the lake. in my best duck voice i implored passersby to “help us, help us. our tiny butts are frozen and we can’t get up!”. but, in my moment of intended comedy, i did not know some important things about ducks: “waterfowl possess remarkable adaptations to survive in cold weather, including dense layers of insulating feathers, counter-current blood flow to reduce heat loss through their feet and legs, behavioral modifications to reduce exposure to the elements, the ability to carry large fat reserves, and perhaps the greatest adaptation of all- migration.” (ducks.org)

“be a duck,” i said to him the other day. sometimes it is necessary. let it all roll off your feathers.

a little research had given me a tiny bit more knowledge: wear more layers. don better boots. reduce exposure to potential yucky stuff. eat and drink merrily without minding the mirror too much. and, if all else fails, move on. be a duck.

mama was right. there are days. ouch.

love oneself enough to be ever-evolving. ever and ever and ever.

ducks know this stuff.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY



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a run on “be kind” buttons. [merely-a-thought monday]

inc. magazine has surprised me time and again. in this period of marveling over the inclination of people in leadership positions around me making what-would-seem really questionable decisions, i have found inc. to be wise and thought-provoking and practical.

i have read articles about management, about good leaders, about equipping employees with confidence, about building people up and not tearing people down. i have read about innovation and support and equality. i have read about not taking things personally, about not ruling your workforce with fear as your greatest tool, about not undermining or being deprecating toward your workers. i have read about organizations working in collaboration, with communication, with transparency. i have read about creating places of compassion and constructive feedback and shared vision. i have read stellar writings about limiting leadership-driven agenda, about truth, about acknowledging discriminatory practices and addressing them. i have read about conflict in the workplace, about identifying it, qualifying it, mitigating it. i have read articles asking challenging questions, sparking maturation of companies and businesses and organizations.

inc. magazine has rocked in its simple approach. it makes me wonder why more manager and leader-types clearly don’t subscribe – in either print, digital or philosophical ways. it’s too bad. any measure of brutally mean dominion over employees does not seem to be a mission of goodness or of growth. organizations that participate in the mission of goodness do not fall into chaos or an abyss of hypocrisy. instead, they grow and change and fluidly adapt. they share ownership with the community they serve and they gratefully appreciate each spoke in the wheel, knowing they didn’t get there without each other.

so when inc. magazine had an article about thanksgiving, we clicked on it. again, a simple approach. instead of going around the table with the question “what are you thankful for?”, the writer suggested you ask the question “what will you do to make others thankful?”. an active verb. what WILL you do?

there’s been a bit of a run on our “be kind” buttons. maybe others are gifting them for the holidays. maybe they are challenging students or service groups to disperse them. maybe they are standing on corners and just giving them out. or, i hope, maybe them are giving them to managers who need be reminded. i don’t know. i do know, however, that we will likely be at the public market or ogilvie handing them out one of these days. or maybe we’ll leave wrapped bundles on the trail or at the check-out line or in the public restroom. free buttons. who can resist? it’s my hope it will make others smile, to concentric those circles out, to generously spread gratitude and kindness.

because inc.’s question is a good one. just like so many of their others. bravo, inc.

*****

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way, way past time. [d.r. thursday]

“whenever you see a successful woman, look out for three men who are going out of their way to try to block her.” (yulia tymoshenko)

i read this quote on instagram. i hesitated to use it and then wondered why. it stated truth. it is a fact of life. i have lived it – exactly it – just as many other women have. so why hesitate?

the answer seems obvious. because that kind of blocking still exists, that kind of dominance is still valued, that kind of discrimination still squelches lives and careers, that kind of smothering effort – particularly with leading roles by older white men – is still not – really – questioned, nonetheless challenged in a big, broad way. it’s asphyxiating and it’s way past its time. way, way past time.

“it’s 2021 and we are talking about THIS!” they rolled their eyes and so did i. it is beyond the scope of reasonableness that we are – still – dealing with the devastating blows that those who lean into … or out-and-out embrace … the prejudice of white supremacy, suffocating gender bias, ruinous economic inequity, insufficient healthcare, deficient educational options, the loss of multitudes of innocent lives at the barrel of unnecessary weapons, exclusive immigration…

but here we are. 2021.

we came upon the hot-pink lighted ball of yarn in the garden and laughed. then we followed the string, the yarn that was unrolled over the tree branches, under the bushes, along the sidewalk edge, up the fence, down off the fence, and ultimately, to the end of it, the frayed edges.

it occurs to me we can trace the strings back and back. we can see the frayed edges of injustices, the repeating pattern of silencing, of stifling, of deliberate lack, of unacceptable levels of violence, of obstructive intention.

what now?

we need be stewards of worth, of mending, of healing, of forward-movement, of equal opportunity. we need to find ways – now – to weave an inclusive, equitable, generous, safe, egalitarian story for all. ungrudgingly and with abundant kindness and good will. it is indeed way, way past time.

2021. what are we doing?

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY