Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Forgive and Forget

Here's another essay I wrote while trying to make sense out of stuff that made no sense at the time. I am posting this particular topic because I have a dear friend who is struggling with some very serious hurt issues and while she may not be ready for forgiveness, maybe someone who reads this, needs to see it now and can benefit from it. I just feel the need to put it out there now.

When someone or something has hurt you or caused you embarrassment or financial loss many people say it is best forgive and forget. This is a very simple expression that deserves some looking into. So many questions come to mind while evaluating the course of action. One could ask, what about my loss or they have to pay for this or this is totally wrong and justice must be done. The process of forgiving is releasing claim to repayment and to resentment or vengeful feelings. When you have just experienced pain, forgive and forget is generally not the first response that comes to mind. Usually, it is something like…you’ll get yours!

Someone once remarked to me that they could forgive, but they couldn’t forget.
The hurt apparently went too deep.

They were really saying they were willing to let the person who caused the pain “go free”. No retribution was expected any longer. They are willing to free the “wrongdoer” who caused the pain, from the guilt and provide an opportunity for their progress. That was the forgive part. Then there was the forget part. They were also saying they wanted to hang on to that pain forever. They wanted to personalize it. They wanted to keep the loss alive by harboring resentment and ill feelings about the loss (not necessarily the person) and how painful it was to them. In the end, they were saying they wanted to suffer forever over this thing.

There is more than just forgiving in the thrust of the old adage. The idea of not harboring bad feelings toward our fellow man is good as far as it goes but there is much more to this simple statement. The forgetting part is probably more important than the forgiving part. If life truly is a microcosm of the feelings that we allow to surface, then our focus toward keeping those feelings as positive as possible is key for our emotional survival. Here is where the second half comes into play.

The quality of the life that we live is directly related to the feelings that we experience. Simply said: The more positive feelings we have, the better our quality of life. Our efforts can be focused in one of two areas to make this happen. The first is the elimination of negative feelings and the second is the creation of positive ones. My friend who could forgive but not forget had some serious work to do in the elimination of some very negative feelings. The forgetting part is even more difficult because many times we take possession of the thing. We make it our own. It becomes a part of us. If that has happened it is very difficult to “forget”. It is like “forgetting” that you have a left arm…not very likely.

The act of forgetting frees the wounded person to get on with life. The process of forgetting can take many turns. First, we must accept. One thing is certain, what is done is most certainly done. Look and see if there is some positive thing that can be associated with the incident. Find a way to grow as a result of it. When we become more as a result of life’s experiences, the mission is accomplished. We will be able to let go of the negative part of it. That is the forgetting part. The incident or event will never be forgotten but the negative impact that it has will be obliterated. The ability to go on and have a full life will be restored without the burden of negative feelings. After all, isn’t that what life is all about, feelings…positive feelings.

Wauconda Farmers Market

Today we got out early and biked for 13 miles on the trail behind the condo since the weather guys were threatening that it would be in the 90's and humid. Having finished the ride, I can say that I have completed over 400 miles for the month of July and only a few miles short of 1500 for the year so far.
I only started seriously biking last fall and at that time it was a real effort to get anywhere near 10 miles on any outing. Now I occasionally do 30 or more, quite an improvement. I find this is great exercise and something that I don't tire of, so it should be something that I take with me as I approach those so called golden years.

Then in the afternoon, we went to the Farmers market in town. They had some really nice stuff,

but what caught my eye was this bi-color corn that is claimed to be so good you can eat it raw. Well, indeed you can. It reminded me of some of the sweet white corn I used to get from the farms in New Jersey. That was picked just minutes before they sold it to you and was as sweet as candy. This was as good. See for yourself.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

What Goes Around...Comes Around

I have found that writing about incidents helps me accept things that life throws at me. The following is one of many I have written in the past. Hope you enjoy it.

When we first bought our house 23 years ago, we had no idea of the experiences we were about to have. True of all new homeowners, I suppose. The house was 80 years old at the time, so you can imagine how many interesting episodes we had in store for us. Sometime in the early weeks of blissful home-ownership, we were spending a nice quiet evening watching M.A.S.H. in the Florida room. It is located right off the living room and is connected to it by French-doors. I thought I saw something out of the corner of my eye in the living room, but wasn’t sure. I thought I was hearing things too, so got up and stood in the doorway and really looked. Oh, yeah...I heard things all right!

Bats...two of them, swooping down crisscross through the living room. I almost jumped out of my skin. My husband (born in Greece and never one to be accused of being a hand-i-man) saw my startled face and knew he had to do something (he had no clue either!) All I could say was...bats...and pointed. Bats, and pointing. He had no inkling what a bat was. So he was frozen there but ready to do what needed to be done…whatever that was. Then I did what any red-blooded American wife would do. I shoved him into the living room and I stayed in the Florida room (where I was safe from harm) and closed the doors.

Poor man!

He flailed around with his arms; then he swatted at them with his jacket. Of course, nothing happened. They just kept crisscrossing. I think one of them was laughing at us, but I can’t be sure. So realizing that this needed a united front, I grudgingly came out of the safety of my self-imposed prison and tried to help. It was clear we needed a plan, but what?

Let’s see if we can shoo them outside. With the door open, we both tried waving them towards the open air of freedom. No luck. It was getting late and I was getting scared. We managed to close one off in the vestibule area at the front door. It is a small section that is large enough for the door to open and can be closed off from the living room by a second door. Good. One down, one to go. He managed to throw his coat over the second one and it was on the landing of the stairway, safely covered with his jacket. The enemy was sequestered and we felt safe enough to go to bed. We stuffed towels around the opening under the bedroom door…just in case.

First thing in the morning, we called the city humane society and they came, much quicker than I expected. That aroused a new level of fear in me. The humane officer found one, (rooms away from where we left it) and disposed of it. The other was never found, he said it probably got out through the mail slot or chimney or some such thing. He did elaborate about not scaring them to the point of attack because they carry rabies and one should be very careful around them. We took his advice seriously and realizing that the danger was gone, life began to return to normal. After that, it only took three weeks or so to feel comfortable going to bed again. So another episode in home ownership came to a close.

Now, I am one. I still have home ownership events, but they take on new dimensions because I must face them alone.

Last night, my first Valentines Day as an “involuntarily widowed person” I was sitting in the same room (it is now my office) surfing the internet, and I heard something around the venetian blinds in the living room, right after the automatic timer clicked off.

Yup, you got it, bat. Except now, I am on my own.

I tried to shoo it out the front door, but it just circled and then landed behind the TV.
I secured my bird, (in the office) closed the doors so he was safe and then did the same for me when I went to bed.

When morning came, I knew the thing could be ANYWHERE, maybe even gone.
It was a three-day weekend and I figured the thing could die before I get the City to find it or do anything. I decided that I would have faith for a peaceful and humane solution to this problem. I remembered that the last one was killed to prevent the possibility of rabies. That saddened me a great deal; the poor thing was just doing what bats do, living. No need to kill it, just get it back to its own environment. That was my prayer and hope. I had no idea how that would happen.

The day was spent cooking with a friend. A few more guests came to share the dinner. This was indeed a great test of my hope to peacefully solve this problem. No sign of the bat. I knew it was here, I just didn’t know where. As the day wore on, and night came I feared it would fly out from some nook or cranny and scare us all half to death. It didn’t happen.

Instead we all decided to go to an Improv Show. This is a great way to empty the house and put one’s fears to rest for a while. I left all the lights on as a deterrent and left. When I got back at eleven I knew I would probably do battle again and entered very cautiously. I stood in the vestibule and looked cautiously into the living room to see if I could spot the little guy.

Yes. He was there, hanging on the window panel of the French door into my office. I am sure he saw me, but it had no effect on him. I could feel the blood pumping in my chest but knew I had to find a solution to this problem. I looked around and found a fluffy Polartec vest hanging on the coat rack nearby. After two folds and one deep breath I felt ready to try to grab the bat carefully but firmly so I could let it outside.

In one precise motion, kind of like grabbing an egg, I captured the bat and had it outside and flying to freedom. A feeling of great accomplishment swept over me and I was elated for about three seconds, before I started to shake in fear from what I had just done. I realized it could have gone very differently, but somehow I felt I too had experienced what my husband did when he was trying to understand what a bat was; then living with the fear of it for a day and this very happy ending. It was a kind of miracle ending, since the living room was fully lighted, I expected the bat to stay in the darker crannies where it would be safe, but it was right there in the open waiting for me.

It was as if all the living energies were in complete agreement for the solution and the spirit of my husband was there too, laughing and guiding at the same time. Fly baby, Happy Valentines Day.

Ellen Rossopoulos, February 14, 2003

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Different Kind of Love Story


I lie awake waiting for you. As I lie on my bed, thinking about you, I feel this strong urge to grab you and squeeze you, because I can't forget last night. You came to me unexpectedly during the balmy and calm night, and what happened in my bed still leaves a tingling sensation in me. You appeared from nowhere and shamelessly, without any reservations, you lay on my naked body. You sensed my indifference, so you applied your hungry mouth to me without any guilt or humiliation, and you nearly drove me crazy while you drained me. Finally I went to sleep.

Today when I woke up, you were gone. I searched for you but to no avail,
only the sheets bore witness to last night's events. My body still bears faint
marks of your enthusiastic ravishings, making it harder to forget you. Tonight
I will remain awake waiting for you...









.......................you damn mosquito!


Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Southern Leg of Des Plaines River Trail

Well, it didn't start out that way. It started out with...we need to get to REI for some stuff for our upcoming trip to the southwest. And as long as we're at it, and passing this really neat store Caputos (which has all kinds of great produce) we may as well get some vegetables for the grill.

Shopping for veggies done, we travelled on south toward the REI store. Before too long we found ourselves at the lower leg of this very long trail. We figured we'd bike a little and then hit the REI store. We also planned to go to the Lake County Fair again tonight . So we started at the Camp Ground Road Woods

and continued to North Avenue. We saw several deer, on the return leg of the trip, I stopped right next to one...less than 10 feet away and she just kept on munching on the plants and looking at me with those big brown eyes. So sweet and totally at ease. I hope Chuck got a picture and me and the deer...it was a special moment.

After awhile we found ourselves crossing the tri-state tollway (this takes you around Chicago and on to Indiana) Anyway we stopped on top of the bridge for a water break. got some shots of what was happening below us.

and around us

We rode all the way to North Avenue or the southern end of the trail today giving me a total of 27 miles...and I thought we would do 10 or so! Having completed this section I can now say that I have ridden from the Wisconsin border all the way to the outskirts of Chicago, no small task.

On the way back my wrists were giving me some discomfort so I decided to put on my biking gloves for some support and protection. When I looked up Chuck had taken off down the trail. So I pushed on north to return to the car and hardly moved more than 50 feet when I heard him calling me off on to a non-descript side trail. He had discovered an area where people had built up some bike dome-hills for mountain biking. So we proceeded to whoop it up and do some crazy riding. Whee! What fun, I was rejuvenated; good thing too we still had 10 miles to ride to get back to the car!

We finally did make it to REI and I (of course) tried my best to fill the shopping bag they have placed throughout the store to make it easy to carry several items. I almost succeeded in filling this time! got a bunch of stuff for the upcoming trip. NOW I honestly believe there is nothing else to buy in anticipation for this trip, other than shampoo.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Van Patten Woods and More

Chuck and I biked the Van Patten woods section of the Des Plaines River Trail today. We wanted to go a little easy since yesterday we did 26 miles AND the Lake County Fair. So we did 13 miles on the meandering trails around the lake and off into the horse trails. It was just enough to build a good appetite for some Red Lobster.

We have found that if you go to a restaurant just after the big lunch rush, say around 2 or so, you can get a great lunch (which is a smaller sized serving of the dinner menu) and some appetizers for significantly less than a full dinner and you miss the crowds. Maybe it just means we are getting old, but this approach sure works for me!

We got the New England appetizer of bacon wrapped scallops, fried clams and crab-stuffed mushrooms.

Chuck got the crab Alfredo linguine

and I got the Chef seafood (lobster, and shrimp) over pasta.

All three were excellent.

We both got the Caesar salad
We both played with our Iphones while waiting for the food...maybe soon I will learn how to get the pictures over here to my computer and onto my blog ;-).

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Pigs, Sheep and More at the Lake County Fair

After our 26 mile ride at the Des Plaines River Trail we went to the Lake County Fair. It was my first visit to a Fair and I was not disappointed. It had way more things than I expected and the food was great. They had a significant number of rides, I would venture to say even more than the local 6 Flags Park, but alas, no roller coaster. Lots and lots of games of chance for stuffed animals and the food stands went on for as far as the eye could see.
There was live music by talented people and the weather could not have been better. We grabbed a quick meal; I got a gyro since I have not had a good one since I left New Jersey
See how clean this place is? How could you go wrong?
The way to know you are getting a fresh gyro is to look at the meat on the rotisserie...if it is large, then it is new and fresh.

and Chuck had a foot long brat (what else?)

After that we went to look at the animals. That is key to a really good fair and there were plenty in each category.

Rabbits...I think these two had a 'thing' going on
and...pigs. Lots of pigs. Did you know they are very intelligent creatures? Well they are, and
that reminds me of one of my favorite jokes:

Farmer Jones got out of his car and while heading for his friend's door, noticed a pig with a wooden leg. His curiosity roused, he asked, "Fred, how'd that pig get him a wooden leg?"

"Well, Michael, that's a mighty special pig! A while back a wild boar attacked me while I was walking in the woods. That pig there came a runnin', went after that boar and chased him away. Saved my life!"

"And the boar tore up his leg?"

"No he was fine after that. But a bit later we had that fire. Started in the shed up against the barn. Well, that ole pig started squealin' like he was stuck, woke us up, and 'fore we got out here, the darn thing had herded the other animals out of the barn and saved 'em all!"

"So that's when he hurt his leg, huh, Fred?"

"No, Michael. He was a might winded, though. When my tractor hit a rock and rolled down the hill into the pond I was knocked clean out. When I came to, that pig had dove into the pond and dragged me out 'fore I drownded. Sure did save my life."

"And that was when he hurt his leg?"

"Oh no, he was fine. Cleaned him up, too."

"OK, Fred. So just tell me. How did he get the wooden leg?"

"Well", the farmer tells him, "A pig like that, you don't want to eat all at once!"

Des Plaines trail

We met with Patti and Dave at the Half Day road parking area of the Des Plaines River Trail
for another 26 mile ride in absolutely perfect weather. We had lunch at Independence Grove, the approximate half way point. This particular section is a reclaimed quarry and it is just so beautiful. It has a large lake with two levels of trails around it, a beach, boats for rent, catch and release fishing and lots and lots of wildflowers and trees. The County has taken an ugly thing and converted it into a wonderful place for fun, picnics and pretty much whatever outside thing you would like to do.
Here's lunch and some pictures of the immediate area around the cafe where we ate

After that we went to the Lake County Fair, but I will make another post or two about that.

National Cousins Day

Yep, you read it right...it is national cousins day.

So this entry is a dedication to my cousin. She never forgot about me, never let me down and finally...when we got back together had some really great times together.

Click on the link and see the show, follow the lyrics and have some fun from the past.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Three Stories - Steve Jobs

I was recently emailed a 'glurge' story. That is an emotional story that is usually untrue but pulls on your heartstrings nevertheless.
So I went through the rest of the items listed and found a true one. I think you'll like this one. It is the Commencement address by Steve Jobs June 12, 2005 at Stanford University.


I am honored to be with you today at your commencement from one of the finest universities in the world. I never graduated from college. Truth be told, this is the closest I've ever gotten to a college graduation. Today I want to tell you three stories from my life. That's it. No big deal. Just three stories.

The first story is about connecting the dots.

I dropped out of Reed College after the first 6 months, but then stayed around as a drop-in for another 18 months or so before I really quit. So why did I drop out?

It started before I was born. My biological mother was a young, unwed college graduate student, and she decided to put me up for adoption. She felt very strongly that I should be adopted by college graduates, so everything was all set for me to be adopted at birth by a lawyer and his wife. Except that when I popped out they decided at the last minute that they really wanted a girl. So my parents, who were on a waiting list, got a call in the middle of the night asking: "We have an unexpected baby boy; do you want him?" They said: "Of course." My biological mother later found out that my mother had never graduated from college and that my father had never graduated from high school. She refused to sign the final adoption papers. She only relented a few months later when my parents promised that I would someday go to college.

And 17 years later I did go to college. But I naively chose a college that was almost as expensive as Stanford, and all of my working-class parents' savings were being spent on my college tuition. After six months, I couldn't see the value in it. I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and no idea how college was going to help me figure it out. And here I was spending all of the money my parents had saved their entire life. So I decided to drop out and trust that it would all work out OK. It was pretty scary at the time, but looking back it was one of the best decisions I ever made. The minute I dropped out I could stop taking the required classes that didn't interest me, and begin dropping in on the ones that looked interesting.

It wasn't all romantic. I didn't have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends' rooms, I returned coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it. And much of what I stumbled into by following my curiosity and intuition turned out to be priceless later on. Let me give you one example:

Reed College at that time offered perhaps the best calligraphy instruction in the country. Throughout the campus every poster, every label on every drawer, was beautifully hand calligraphed. Because I had dropped out and didn't have to take the normal classes, I decided to take a calligraphy class to learn how to do this. I learned about serif and san serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great. It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can't capture, and I found it fascinating.

None of this had even a hope of any practical application in my life. But ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, its likely that no personal computer would have them. If I had never dropped out, I would have never dropped in on this calligraphy class, and personal computers might not have the wonderful typography that they do. Of course it was impossible to connect the dots looking forward when I was in college. But it was very, very clear looking backwards ten years later.

Again, you can't connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.

My second story is about love and loss.

I was lucky — I found what I loved to do early in life. Woz and I started Apple in my parents garage when I was 20. We worked hard, and in 10 years Apple had grown from just the two of us in a garage into a $2 billion company with over 4000 employees. We had just released our finest creation — the Macintosh — a year earlier, and I had just turned 30. And then I got fired. How can you get fired from a company you started? Well, as Apple grew we hired someone who I thought was very talented to run the company with me, and for the first year or so things went well. But then our visions of the future began to diverge and eventually we had a falling out. When we did, our Board of Directors sided with him. So at 30 I was out. And very publicly out. What had been the focus of my entire adult life was gone, and it was devastating.

I really didn't know what to do for a few months. I felt that I had let the previous generation of entrepreneurs down - that I had dropped the baton as it was being passed to me. I met with David Packard and Bob Noyce and tried to apologize for screwing up so badly. I was a very public failure, and I even thought about running away from the valley. But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.

I didn't see it then, but it turned out that getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me. The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.

During the next five years, I started a company named NeXT, another company named Pixar, and fell in love with an amazing woman who would become my wife. Pixar went on to create the worlds first computer animated feature film, Toy Story, and is now the most successful animation studio in the world. In a remarkable turn of events, Apple bought NeXT, I returned to Apple, and the technology we developed at NeXT is at the heart of Apple's current renaissance. And Laurene and I have a wonderful family together.

I'm pretty sure none of this would have happened if I hadn't been fired from Apple. It was awful tasting medicine, but I guess the patient needed it. Sometimes life hits you in the head with a brick. Don't lose faith. I'm convinced that the only thing that kept me going was that I loved what I did. You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don't settle.

My third story is about death.

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope its the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.


KC Bird

So Chuck has been fooling with his new Iphone and the gadgets that he can load on to it. Here is his first 'go 'round' with a photo of my bird.

He assures me he means it in the most loving way.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sloppy Ducks vs Hangover Hereos

It was the softball game today with Chuck's son Steve playing outfield for the Heroes. They lost 4 to 19, but EVERYONE had a good time...so really there were no losers.

We got a quick 15 miles on the local trail (spotted 2 sandhill cranes) before the game and later we will grill steaks for dinner.

All in all a great day.

Friday, July 18, 2008

OMG!! Chuck got Published!!!

It is true! His photograph is on the front cover of a Wilderness Adventures Press, Inc. map and adventure brochure! Take a look

Now that he is a celebrity, I guess I have to cook him breakfast!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Quotes on Creativity

I have been gradually putting together life stories - essays over the past five or so years; part as 'venting' part as committing to writing my own recollections of things that I think are worth saving. I've noticed lately that the successful ones require my own personal touch otherwise they come out dry and factual. So I got to thinking about creativity and stumbled on some favorite creativity quotes:

Publications International, Ltd., the Editors of. "17 Favorite Quotes on Creativity." 20 September 2007. HowStuffWorks.com. 17 July 2008.

Take a look at what some famous folks throughout history have said about creativity.

1. "The chief enemy of creativity is good taste."
-- Pablo Picasso, painter

Albert Einstein was one of the most creative minds in science.

2. "The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources."
-- Albert Einstein, physicist

3. "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."
-- Scott Adams, cartoonist

4. "Creativity is the sudden cessation of stupidity."
-- Edwin H. Land, scientist and inventor

5. "Necessity is the mother of invention, it is true, but its father is creativity, and knowledge is the midwife."
-- Jonathan Schattke, scientist

6. "The whole difference between construction and creation is this: that a thing constructed can only be loved after it is constructed; but a thing created is loved before it exists."
-- Charles Dickens, author

7. "Creativity is a drug I can't do without."
-- Cecil B. DeMille, film producer

8. "It is wise to learn; it is God-like to create."
-- John Saxe, poet

9. "Our current obsession with creativity is the result of our continued striving for immortality in an era when most people no longer believe in an afterlife."
-- Arianna Huffington, author and pundit

10. "True creativity often starts where language ends."
-- Arthur Koestler, novelist and essayist

11. "The art of creation is older than the art of killing."
-- Andrei Voznesensky, poet

12. "Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted."
-- Martin Luther King, Jr., civil rights activist

13. "The life of the creative man is led, directed and controlled by boredom. Avoiding boredom is one of our most important purposes."
-- Saul Steinberg, artist

14. "No matter how old you get, if you can keep the desire to be creative, you're keeping the man-child alive."
-- John Cassavetes, actor

15. "A hunch is creativity trying to tell you something."
-- Frank Capra, American film director

16. "There is a correlation between the creative and the screwball. So we must suffer the screwball gladly."
-- Kingman Brewster, American diplomat, former president of Yale University

17. "Creative minds always have been known to survive any kind of bad training."
-- Anna Freud, founder of child psychoanalysis

So with these ideas in my back pocket, stay tuned for an essay on rites of passage.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Really Good Cup of Coffee

Since I enjoy a good cup of coffee so much and I was forced to get a new coffee grinder, I thought I would share what I learned from the experience. I don’t consider myself a ‘coffee snob’ but I like a full bodied cup of freshly brewed coffee and it if comes from freshly ground beans then it is the best that it can be.

For quite a number of years I have used an oval burr Krups grinder and it met all my needs. It died when I least expected it to. I tried to fix it, but as you can see it was way beyond my ability!

What I was not crazy about is that no matter how I ran it, I always got ground coffee on the counter when grinding enough for a fresh pot of coffee. I detested the clean-up. So when the thing finally died, I did my research to find the perfect grinder that would not only give me a perfect cup of coffee but would do so without the daily dusting of coffee on the counter.

I almost went for the Cuisinart, since it seemed to have all the qualities that I was looking for, but fortunately two things happened. First, the store(s) seemed to be out of them and second, several reviews indicated that they were messy. Well that was enough for me.

I kept searching and found a new model of Krups and decided to take a chance. While some reviews have said this one is noisy; it is not nearly as loud as the old one that died.

The good news is that the counter is spotless after running it through a grind process. Absolutely spotless. I was amazed and very pleased. Yes, this one is a good one, I don’t care what the reviewers say!

I ran a search for coffee grinders and found this one that rates the top 5 grinders

You would think that after going through the entire process of brewing a decent cup of coffee that the top five would at least include all burr grinders, since everything that I have read about brewing coffee insists that you start with a burr grinder. I guess I should not be too disappointed, my new grinder is 5 on the list that includes blade grinders.

According to www.ineedcoffee.com it cannot be emphasized more that grinding coffee immediately before brewing makes a huge different in the freshness of your coffee. The effective life of ground coffee is only a few days after grinding. Oxygen and moisture in the air quickly deteriorates ground coffee as it oxidizes and looses its flavor. After deterioration expect to taste stale coffee with a reduction of flavor.

Grinding beans at home is very easy to do. There are a larger variety of bean grinders available on the market that can either look as a nice appliance in your kitchen or can be quickly put away.

The oldest bean grinders are the mortar and pestle. This takes a while to use and the grind is not consistent. But since we are in living in the electronic age there are simpler and faster methods.

Electric motor grinders can either have blades or two crushing burr plates. The blade grinders are the least expensive and can be found at places such as Wal-Mart for under $15. The burr grinders are little more expensive. An attractive burr grinder can be found at finer food or kitchen appliance stores for $50 and above. Check out place such as Williams-Sonoma, Bed Bath and Beyond or Linens and Things.

Burr vs. Blades

The extra expense of a burr grinder will translate into a better grind. A blade does not really grind but slashes the beans into smaller and smaller particles. The blade particles are inconsistent; around the edges are fine powder and larger chunks in the center.

Blade Grinder

The blade grinder is the best option as someone's first grinder. It is the least expensive and can be quickly put away after use. The two major draw backs are that they are messy as the grounds spill from the container when you open it and the inconsistent grind mentioned above. Still, having a blade grinder will cause a major difference in the flavor your experience from your gourmet coffee beans if you are currently buying ground coffee.

How to Use a Blade Grinder

When you use a blade grinder do not hold your finger on the button the entire time but push it in intervals. Grind in quick bursts of 2-5 seconds so that it prevents the beans from heating up too much. Also hold it with two hands with one over the top container and shake it up and down as you grind to mix up the contents and to give it a better consistency.

For a course grind spin your blade grinder for 7-10 seconds, a medium grind will take 10-14 seconds and a finer grind will take 15-20 seconds. If you drink espresso you will need one of the more expensive burr grinders, a blade version will not produce the consistently fine grind that is required for espresso.

One of the latest developments is a drip coffee machine with a built-in blade grinder. It has a timer you can set so in the morning the beans are automatically ground then pushed into the coffee filter and the brewing will start automatically. All you have to do is add the beans and water in the morning. This is perfect for people on the go. One of the most popular models is the Cuisinart Stainless Steel Grind & Brew, which retails for around $120. The only drawback is that a burr grinder is not available but we have hope for the future.

Burr Grinders

If you are looking for the best method for grinding your gourmet coffee beans go straight for a Burr grinder. The grind is consistent and most of the machines have various grind settings. Many include a bean hopper on top where you can store your beans with an airtight lid. Some have a setting to set how many cups you want to grind and include a receptacle where your coffee grounds are deposited. After grinding you simply pour your coffee grounds from the receptacle into your coffee maker. This type of burr grinder not only produces a great and consistent grind, it also keeps your ground coffee well contained with little spillage.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Daily Routine

I know, I know…daily routines are pretty boring and frankly, should be kept to ourselves. But today I met with a few challenges that could truly disrupt the entire day. It is amazing how in a rut we get without even thinking about it; when things don’t go the way they always do, nerves get on edge and attitudes need to be readjusted.

It all probably started yesterday - I changed my little fold up cell phone for a first edition Iphone. I got the thing activated easy enough. (This should be read as I can no longer go back to the old one. That plan has expired) Now all I need to do is upload the contacts to the phone, do the voicemail thingy and the phone part will be ready to go. Actually it is ready to go right now, if you don’t mind dialing the number for who you are calling.
Did I just say that? Am I so far gone that I can’t dial the number? It has to be in memory so all I do is click, click call this person? Sadly, yes, I am that far gone.

I spent several hours yesterday trying to get my contacts from my Yahoo account into my cell phone. I needed this because my phone is more than just a phone. It is my mobile pocket sized connection to the internet. So I need email, website bookmarks and I may as well have photos and music for those times when I am stuck waiting. This is starting to become a mountain.

Back to the contacts problem. I discovered that the mail I have from Yahoo is not transferable to the Iphone. Ok, I was really not surprised. I ran into this similar problem some years ago and decided that since I only have 20 or so contacts, I can type them in myself and just get on with it. Yes it is a lot of work, but it is easier than really frustrating yourself for days. I mean people could die if I let it go too far! So, I spent another hour figuring out how to enter new contacts to a blank file in Iphone, entered one and am happy enough with it that I can now get a good nights sleep. I printed out the Yahoo email list, looked up the phone numbers for those I want to enter, got the snail mail addresses and am ready to start fresh, first thing in the morning.

First thing in the morning I decided to make some coffee, using my brand new coffee grinder. I used it for the first time yesterday and it was great. I was almost glad that the old one died and I was forced to get this new one because the coffee seems better using this one. I measured the beans dumped them in and hit the button. Nothing. Hit the button again…nothing. Now here is where the frustration from yesterday seems to have raised its ugly head and I am feeling that my fuse is incredibly short this morning. A little voice inside my head is saying: breathe, breathe…it will work. Ok, I unplug the grinder, dump the beans back in the bag, wiggle the do-flickey, turn the grind button back and forth and start over. Ah, it works! The coffee is delicious and my nerves are getting back to normal. I think I will go take my shower.

My routine is to get my pet cockatiel bird and bring the cage through the bedroom and into the master bathroom, remove him from the cage and let him sit on top of the open bathroom door while I shower. Of course, I close the bedroom door to keep him safe from the cat who just loves birds! He really likes the freedom and he sings to me the whole time I am in the shower. Lord knows I could use a little levity after the trials I have been through the last 10 hours. I put the cage on the closed seat of the toilet as always, opened the door let him step onto my finger and turned and put him up on the door. I got the shower going and started to get ready to step in and that’s when I saw the cat sitting on the picture window ledge looking out the window by the tub. So there I was almost naked, a free bird sitting on top of the door and a cat facing me looking like she owns the world. I was the only one who realized that there could be a dead bird in about 3 seconds. What to do? I was going to chase the cat, but then realized the bird would start flying if I made too much commotion. If I try to get the bird too quickly, then he will take off and the cat will surely get him. Now I am really getting nervous; the little voice is back: breathe, breathe. Yes, breathe, just calmly reach up with both hands, gently. Very gently and have him step up and calmly put him in the cage. Just pretend it is only you and birdie. It worked.

Then I tried to chase the cat out and she absolutely refused to go. I put the bird in the back bedroom and closed the door. The cat remained on the window for the entire shower (this is a first because she hates the noise the shower makes) when I finished and got ready to blow dry my hair she left. When I was done, she was just outside the bedroom door waiting for me. She had that look in her eye that said it all: I know you are frustrated what with the Iphone and the coffee grinder...I just wanted you to know that I’m here to support you. Here I thought she was after the bird…silly me.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Wauconda Wild West Rodeo

Tonight Chuck and I attended the annual Wauconda Rodeo sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce.

It was my first rodeo ever despite my having lived in Arkansas for over two years now. It was quite amazing to see how the men and women could handle horses in the barrel races and demonstration rides.

There was bronco riding and baby bull roping. It surprised me to see that often-times the bulls won; escaping the lasso and avoiding the tackle.

It would have been nice to be able to show the pictures from the activity but photos were absolutely prohibited. That was almost enough to make us turn around at the entrance and forget the whole thing, but since it was a first for both of us, we went anyway. Even without the photos.

Friday, July 11, 2008

New Apple Product - TODAY!!!

Apple Computer announced today that it has developed a computer chip
that can store and play high fidelity music in women's breast implants.
The iTit will cost between $499.00 and $699.00 depending on speaker

This is considered to be a major breakthrough because women have always
complained about men staring at their breasts and not listening to them.


A man and a woman were sitting beside each other in the first class section of an airplane. The woman sneezed, took out a tissue, gently wiped her nose, then visibly shuddered for ten to fifteen seconds. The man went back to his reading. A few minutes later, the woman sneezed again, took a tissue, wiped her nose, then shuddered violently once more...Assuming that the woman might have a cold, the man was still curious about the shuddering. A few more minutes passed then the woman sneezed yet again. As before she took a tissue, wiped her nose, her body shaking even morethan before. Unable to retain his curiosity, the man turned to the woman and said, 'I couldn't help but notice that you've sneezed three times, wiped your nose, and then shuddered violently. Are you OK?'...'I'm sorry if I have disturbed you; I have a very rare medical condition. Whenever I sneeze, I have an orgasm.' The man, more than a bit embarrassed, was still curious. 'I have never heard of that condition before.' he said. 'Are you taking anything for it?'....The woman nodded. 'Pepper.'

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Des Plaines River Trail

We biked almost 20 miles on the Des Plaines River trail starting from Wheeling and heading south. So for those of you who have been following this blog, it was about halfway through the course that we canoed in May. It is much easier to bike it than to canoe it, because the river has little if any current; meaning you have to paddle all the time to make any distance.

So we stopped at one of the dam sites and got a couple of shots

Then we went on and I thought I would get one 'in the woods' since this particular section of the trail is almost like single track mountain biking (without the mountains--it is Illinois after all!)

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Thoughts for Today

1) Birds of a feather flock together, then crap on your car.

2) A penny saved is a government oversight.

3) The real art of conversation is not only to say the right thing at the
right time, but also to leave unsaid the wrong thing at the tempting

4) The older you get, the tougher it is to lose weight, because by then
your body and your fat have gotten to be really good friends.

5) The easiest way to find something lost around the house is to buy a

6) He who hesitates is probably right.

7) Did you ever notice: The Roman Numerals for forty (40) are ' XL.'

8) If you think there is good in everybody, you haven't met everybody.

9) If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.

10) The sole purpose of a child's middle name is so he can tell when he's
really in trouble.

11) There's always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for
it. For example I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles
don't hurt.

12) Did you ever notice: When you put the 2 words 'The' and 'IRS'
together it spells Theirs?

13) The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.

14) Some people try to turn back their odometers. Not me, I want people
to know 'why' I look this way. I've traveled a long way and some of the
roads weren't paved.

15) When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to youth, think
of Algebra.

16) You know you are getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.

17) One of the many things no one tells you about aging is that it is
such a nice change from being young. Ah, being young is beautiful, but
being old is comfortable.

18) First you forget names, and then you forget faces. Then you forget to
pull up your zipper. It's worse when you forget to pull it down.

19) Long ago when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was
called witchcraft. Today, it's called golf...

20) Lord, keep your arm around my shoulder and your hand over my mouth

Sunday, July 6, 2008

The Best Yet Meat Loaf

1.5 – 2.0 lbs of Ground beef and pork

1 – 2 diced small slices of wheat bread (I use the ends since no one wants to eat them)

1 – 2 eggs

1.5 tblsp grey poupon mustard

3 squirts of Lea and Perrins Worstershire sauce

.75 – 1.25 cup of tomato sauce/ marinara/ or bar-b-que (whichever works for you)

2 tblsp diced fresh parsley

3 tblsp diced onions

Salt, pepper and garlic powder to taste

Put all the ingredients, except the meat, in a large bowl and stir until you have consistency of a very thick pancake mix. (Add some liquid in the form of sauce or eggs to get there.

Once all is blended, add the meat and incorporate the mixture into the meat until well blended and loose. Put mixture into an oiled loaf pan and bake for 1 to 1.5 hours in a 375 degree oven.

It is unbelievable how easy and yet very tasty this dish is.

Oh, one more thing.

I have given up trying to make a good gravy from what is in the loaf pan.

Here is a great gravy that is really easy.

3 thick slices of Vidalia onions coarse chopped

.25 - .5 red pepper coarse chopped

A good handful of baby Bella mushrooms (about 8 -10) chunked.

In a frying pan add some butter or smart balance, and some olive oil and heat through, add all the veggies and sauté over high heat until browned and slightly softened, when semi cooked add a jar of Heinz Home Style rich gravy (or beef or pork gravy) when heated through this can be spooned over the meat loaf and be wonderful.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Des Plaines River Trail - Independence Grove to Wright Woods

Another glorious day for biking so we went to Independence Grove Forest Preserve and headed south to Wright Woods and then returned, for a total 24 miles. The weather could not have been better and even though this is a holiday weekend the trails were surprisingly not overly busy.

I got to see some interesting things along the way. To start there was this gorgeous horse named Ruby. She was a little skittish on the bridge and was eating up the compliments once she got her hooves back on solid ground.
Then further along we came upon a Great Blue Heron....fishing. Statue still and picturesque (he was still there but in a slightly different position when we returned 2 hours later)
Here is a volley ball game going on at Independence Grove next to the lake. It looks like the side are a little uneven...adults on the left kiddies on the right. They were having fun though.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Chicago River Trail and Botanic Gardens

Wow...to celebrate freedom and independence we biked the North Branch of the Chicago River Trail; a full 35 miles. That is 9 miles more than my best prior biking day. As if that was not enough, we rode to the Chicago Botanic Gardens (which is just off the trail) parked our bikes and walked another 4 or so miles through the gorgeous gardens.

There were lots of folks out and about but not enough to make you feel as though the place was crowded; we did have to pay more attention than usual on the bike trail (since there were all levels of bikers there today) and adjust our speed and position accordingly.

The park along the trail was filled with groups of people having cook-outs and picnics, some fishing some just sunning. Clearly, it is a great day to be alive to take advantage of the absolutely perfect weather.

I did not take any pictures while biking but more than made up for it at the Botanic Gardens. I have no idea the names of these flowers so I will simply say, scroll down and enjoy. I don't know how I managed to take better than usual pictures but I did...so enjoy.

Hey, we weren't the only ones who decided to bike here!