Achievements Biography Editor's Note

Wherever I Wind Up

I loved this interview with Mets pitcher R.A. Dickey about his new memoir, Wherever I Wind Up. Dickey has survived an incredible life – a dismal family life, sexual abuse, and a depressing tour through the minor leagues – and he’s fascinating to listen to. His story about surviving a near death experience inspired me because it changed his entire outlook in life and propelled him to succeed professionally. He talks about the challenges of learning to throw a knuckleball, how it impacts his catchers and why umpires might give him the benefit of the doubt when calling strikes. Dickey is currently the only professional knuckleball pitcher in the major leagues, and he hopes that others will follow in his footsteps. That’s the great baseball nerd stuff… the life stuff is even more interesting.

Side view of a knuckleball grip.
Side view of a knuckleball grip. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For Dickey, learning to throw this tricky pitch was a survival choice, the difference between a baseball career and the end of his dreams. He’s had a lot of practice with survival, starting with a childhood that included abandonment by his father, neglect by his alcoholic mother, molestation from a female babysitter, and rape by a teenage male. In our tough guy culture, few men talk openly about their struggles and their experience seeking therapy but Dickey’s conversation with Dave Davies sounded engaging and honest.

Dickey credits therapy for making him a better human being and living more authentically, thus improving his professional performance as well.

I can’t wait to read this book.

Editor's Note

Same Blog, New Address

just moved here…

I’ve still got a few details to work out but I hope you’ll follow me at my new home. The reason for the move was merely to make my life easier; at one point I thought I’d curate several blogs with different themes but I’ve discovered I’d rather keep all my navel-gazing in one place.

Editor's Note

An Angeleno Irish Blessing

four leaf clover
Image by Phyzome via Wikipedia

May the roads always be clear,
the lights always bright,
and the storms always short.

May the beauty you see
in your mirror and God’s world
always give you joy,

And may fame and money,
or their absence,
never make you forget
that you are Loved.

I wrote this poem years ago for a friend and often return to it because it is so true. Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!

Editor's Note

Signage for Life

This morning on the way to work I took a bike path as a shortcut and saw this sign instructing us all on how to yield properly. I’m not sure how the horses are expected to read it but apparently they are not expected to yield so they will do the right thing naturally. Basically, the theme here seems to be don’t run each other down or block someone’s way.

And that’s not a far stretch from ‘do unto others as you would have done unto you.’ But as you can see, the sign is dirty and battered and resembles what’s happened to the Golden Rule in a lot of ways.

We’re usually pretty good at not running into each other, partly because it’s obvious and it hurts. Just be respectful, choose safety, and avoid bloodshed.

It’s blocking each other that gets us in trouble and leads to the need for signs. Blocking in football requires deliberate full body contact, but in daily life it is subtle and insidious. We don’t always notice how our choices impact others, how our hurries and worries cause us to get in the way of someone else. Rush hour intersections are a great example; they are filled with cars hoping to make the light and instead blocking the flow of traffic. It’s not that people are trying to get in the way, it’s that they’re not trying not to. Drivers try to beat the lights instead of yielding, submitting, surrendering to forces beyond their control.

We’ve all been there – thinking of everything on our to do list, the busy day we just had, thinking of everything except where we are and what we’re doing. We go through life automatically, without connecting with our world, somehow thinking that we’re in control simply because we haven’t had a collision. Meanwhile we’re surrounded by miles of blocked traffic that we ourselves have caused.

And so we have signs reminding us to yield to beautiful creatures, great and small, whenever they come upon us.

And look out for horse droppings…

Editor's Note

All White is Not All Good

or is it?

Space nuts and science nerds are abuzz with the news that the Milky Way is most likely white, and not just any white but the color of fresh spring snow in the early morning. That’s not at all the same as the snow outsideImage my door this morning. While much of the rest of the country is digging out, my area had a dusting followed by a freezeover. The result is a crusty, icy white slide zone. Surrounded by hills, ice is my enemy, even interspersed with flecks of grass and other reminders that it was 60 degrees out just days ago. I nearly slid down a hill on my walk home from church today.

And that made me think about all the cliches around the word and color white. Does it symbolize the fullness of true purity or complete spectral emptiness? Are we aware of the many variations and shades and values of white, or do our brains just register the color and move on? Does white help us see better, or blind us to other shades and values?

Famed architect Richard Meier loves white so much he uses a trademark brilliant ‘Meier’ white in many of his buildings, often to great success and acclaim. “There is plenty of color, and the white allows us to appreciate that color. It intensifies our perception of color, and the way that color changes throughout the day the way nature changes,” he told writer Mark Sommer.

Yet the homeowners of Brentwood, California felt strongly that his design of the Getty Center should not include that blinding shade and got a conditional use permit to prevent it. Ultimately, Meier used travertine and an off-white aluminum for most of the project, though a tour guide showed me where he slipped in his favorite bright white on a small pergola hidden from the sight of neighbors.

Apparently Meier is stubborn, and so are various perceptions about the color white. It is not all one sameness. Just look at this picture of what used to be my lawn…

As beautiful as a winter wonderland can be, it turns to slush soon enough. Stark white walls get scraped, clothing gets stained, napkins get blotted. It seems impossible to remain all white, pure and empty indefinitely. Yet perhaps white reflects back to us what we most want to see.

Editor's Note

We are ALL Mandated Reporters

…and being Sanduskied is NOT a joke, even though it does sound funny. The Sandusky sex abuse scandal at Penn State has scarred all of Happy Valley and a great deal of the country. Yet many of us are arguing about whether the university handled the firing of its beloved football coach ‘correctly’ and who deserves to be on the sidelines this weekend. Wow! We have really dropped the ball.

Perhaps the focus on football and attempts at humor are a symptom of our discomfort. Though we are horrified by predators, it’s hard to think about the children. It’s much easier to talk about Jerry Sandusky and ‘Jo Pa’ Paterno, a well-known figure whose storied career provides lots of great video and pictures. We imagine ourselves experts as we critique Penn State’s communications strategy or its football-centered culture. Rioters get a lot of attention, but those speaking up for the victims don’t provide the same exciting visuals. This group of protesters got remarkably little national attention for demanding accountability and systemic change despite incredible social pressure to protect the institution and its icon.

It’s great to hold a candlelight vigil, raise money for victims and wear a light blue ribbon, but we can do more. Children rely on us to provide a safe environment, and that means we have to face some tough facts. What’s so enraging about this crime is that we feel the child’s pain, we can’t fathom how anyone would violate a child’s trust and their body so horribly, we think we are helpless to prevent such an insidious thing from happening.

That helplessness is a mirage that gives predators opportunity. We can stop them.  Everyone, especially parents, can educate themselves to protect children from predators and seek the reasons behind a child’s change in behavior. Everyone can learn about every type of child abuse that causes vulnerable children suffer and how predators deceive everyone close to them. Everyone can know how to reach the proper authorities  when they witness  abuse. Everyone can be aware of organizations like ChildHelp so they have resources when something makes them suspicious. Everyone can be understanding and compassionate when a victim of sexual abuse overcomes the horror and trusts us enough to share their story. Everyone can take a personal vow to protect children, no matter what.

If each of us did just one of these things, we would make our neighborhoods, youth sports programs, schools and churches  harder places for predators to succeed. We’ll never know how many children we save, but a lot more predators would wind up in jail. Some may even seek therapy instead of victims. Fewer administrators and trusted leaders would be indicted because they could count on community support. And all of us will sleep better at night, especially our children. Because the truth is that it doesn’t take a village, a system, or a procedure manual to protect a child. It takes you.

Editor's Note

Yes, I know…

…I’ve been missing in action here on the blog, partly due to other writing projects and partly just from adjusting to my new life here in Virginia. I love it here, but would like to suggest ‘Wild Virginia’ as state motto. There’ve been camel crickets, stinkfingers and thunderstorms to deal with even before the earthquake and hurricane season started. Not to mention the birds and squirrels that feast on the lawn outside my apartment – today I had a cardinal visit!

There’s a backlog of ideas and drafts to be posted, so stay tuned.

Editor's Note

Alzheimer’s Disease is No Dance in the Park

Times and treatments have changed greatly since my grandmother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease twenty years ago. It’s inspiring to know that early diagnosis gives people much more opportunity to decide how to deal with the consequences of this devastating disease, and that many choose to keep living life to its fullest.

Today I came across two stories that illustrate the power of that choice. Both Pat Summitt and Glen Campbell have provided our country with inspiration and leadership in the very different venues of women’s college basketball and popular music. Both have made strategic decisions about how to keep doing the work they love. In Summitt’s case, that will mean relying more on the coaching staff she’s developed over the past twenty years. Campbell plans to keep performing to support his new album. His wife explicitly told People that they were sharing the news about his diagnosis so that fans would be understanding if he flubs a lyric.

Families of Alzheimer’s patients have much more support and care options today, and it helps to have a roadmap about what to do once a diagnosis is obtained. Yet these tools only go so far when loved ones face the emotional reality that Alzheimer’s means  saying goodbye twice and still being forgotten. A person with Alzheimer’s may look like themselves, but their behavior often changes drastically over time, their memories regress, and their sense of reality changes. They start looking for people who have been dead a long time and thinking that they are living in a different decade. For my family, this was the first farewell, the realization that Grandma was no longer aware of us as her children and grandchildren.We had funny moments with her too, and there can be a sweetness in being around someone who is reliving their childhood. She remained charming and conversational, if confused, for quite some time before her dementia and frustration level escalated. Then she needed full time professional care and we were fortunate to find a nursing home with a new wing built especially for patients like her. The second farewell was when she died and we actually buried her. Of course we were relieved that her suffering was over but there was also great sadness about all the years the disease stole her from us.

There are drugs that delay the onset of symptoms, improvements in palliative care and better caregiver support networks now but one fact remains the same:

There is no cure
for Alzheimer’s disease.

Consider joining a Walk to End Alzheimer’s in your area to change that and support families coping with this disease. Let’s make Alzheimer’s a forgotten condition of the past.

Editor's Note

No, I Didn’t Go to the Space Center…

crowd at final launch of Atlantis
NASA/Jim Grossmann July 8, 2011

…but technology lets us partake in experiences through others. Here’s a great story by Mike Blackerby about a woman in Knoxvillle who won a contest to attend the launch and tweet about it. Read her blog at or follow her tweets @RennaW –she’s a chemical engineer with a great heart and sense of humor.

Now what about a contest for the final landing of Atlantis?

Editor's Note

She Named Names… Let’s Not Forget Them When We Dance

Goddard BroadsideThere was not a single female signer of the Declaration of Independence, but a woman printed the names of the signers for the first time in January, 1777. Emboldened by the progress of the war for independence, Congress ordered ‘an authenticated copy complete with the names of the signers‘ distributed to the states. Thus Baltimore printer Mary Kate Goddard produced a beautiful broadside using the more familiar engrossed copy we’ve all seen. Before that, the public was not aware of exactly who had signed the document.

There was good reason for secrecy. Though today we call the 56 signers ‘heroes’ and founding fathers, at the time they were known as revolutionaries and traitors who would have been hanged if caught by the British. They staked all they possessed on this radical idea:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Today, most of us only remember the most famous of the signers – John Adams, his second cousin Samuel Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and of course the bold John Hancock. The Society of the Descendents of the Signers of the Declaration of Independence is trying to change that by placing bronze plaques at the gravesites or homes of these founding fathers.  Their efforts might be paying off – it was impossible to log on to’s Index of Signers today.

Many of us will be celebrating today with fireworks, barbecues and parties. Maybe that’s why when I was a kid, I thought the end of the word independence was spelled ‘dance.’ It is a great thing to be so free. Let us not forget the price.