I’ve been enjoying making a few whiteboard videos.
Here’s my 2014 video wrap-up.
And my introduction to TotallyHoCo.com.
As a wrap up to 2014, I decided to send out a “video card” of sorts in lieu of a holiday card, which I usually send out. To tell my year-end story, I decided to do what is called a whiteboard video.
After sending out the video, quite a few people asked me how I’d made it, so I thought, “Hmm, maybe I’ll do another whiteboard video to share how I did the first one.” The service I used, Fiverr, is one I recommend for an exploration of possibilities of what can be done in the world now for a mere $5. It’s worth a poke for the knowledge of what people will do for $5, and who knows, you might end up hiring someone for some gigs.
Here is my “How I created a whiteboard video on Fiverr” video; this one cost me $15.75 to produce.
And here is my 2014 wrap-up video. The cost of this was $45 (because it was longer).
And here’s what started my exploration into whiteboards, a one-minute video introduction to a new community calendar website I created: TotallyHoCo.com. The cost of this video was $15.75.
I have always considered myself someone who doesn’t like the cold. And so it was with trepidation, fear and excitement, that I decided to accompany a handful of friends to the mountains of West Virginia for an outdoor, cold-weather camping trip to a regional Burning Man event called Frostburn. My friends, all experienced burners, were all Frostburn virgins as well.
I’d been hoping for unseasonably warm weather for the weekend trip, but that quickly became a fantasy as the weather predictions called for increasingly cold (record-breaking from 1905 type of cold) weather and severe winds. Yet I continued to pack and prepare. I was even going in early to volunteer at the gate and greet people as they arrived. (This I did for four hours, outside, in the winds and cold … and I loved it.)
My experience at Frostburn was so unexepectedly satisfying, soulful, expansive, wonderful and fun … or just EPIC! as I’ve been saying to those who asked, but this post isn’t about my experience. It’s about my packing and prep, and my notes to myself (and others) for when I return again next year and beyond.
Listed below is what I *wore*! I had many extras of every category of clothing. And I’ve included some notes about other items I packed. I definitely lean toward overpacking, and I didn’t disappoint here, though I have to say, in terms of warmth and layers, it’s almost impossible to overpack. Once I put something on, though, it stayed on and I didn’t switch out my layers.
I did not win when it came to my hands, keeping them warm or being dexterous in the cold (and one does need to be dexterous quite often). Finding a miracle glove that provides a layer of some wind protection and warmth while being an underlayer for an even warmer pair of gloves or mittens over top would be fantastic!
I didn’t wash my face and my skin oils naturally protected my skin; the area where I could have used some TLC was my chin: the moisture from my breath and the gators/neck warmth rubbing against my chin caused some chafing. I used a disposable cup when brushing my teeth (anything to avoid dishes to wash). Should have trimmed my toenails — wearing four pairs of socks plus a thick padding inside my boots made for a tight fit and the ends of my toes were a bit sore by the final day. I pre-treated my whole body several times in the week prior to the burn with Nerium Night Treatment.
I ate very, very little, and I ate infrequently. I drank very little quantity of liquids, though I had some nice servings of warm bone broth. I had visions of always having hot tea in a thermos: totally didn’t happen. Definitely put the kitchen area inside a shelter/tent. Only bring teflon/nonstick pans for easy cleaning. Clean immediately after use with a paper towel. Tea (never made any … and I drink tea daily; the hassle of heating up water and exposing my fingers … not worth it) Bring nothing that requires prep or creates extra dishes. There is little not-frozen water and who wants to do dishes! (No one!) Paper plates, disposable insulated cups and silverware. Put everything you hope won’t freeze in a good-quality cooler. (It will probably still freeze … just not solidly.) Propane and fuel gets cold. Lighters (even high-powered propane lighters) won’t work well in the cold. Keep JetBoil inside yurt to keep fuel from freezing / getting too cold. Keep water inside yurt.
My campmates brought the structures, heat, lights, generator, fire pit and many, many other items I didn’t have. I brought my REI Kingdom 6 tent, which was used as the kitchen tent. I’ve been to the playa and Burning Man five times with this tent, but I don’t think it was ever buffeted around as much as it was at this event. I slept in all my clothes minus my coat, the overskirt and my boots. I added another layer of socks while sleeping and wore soft mittens, too … and always a hat.
They’re great when they work. They’re seemingly temperamental and certainly inconsistent. Definitely “season” your warmers ahead of time and use them prior to an event where you need them. Light/start them an hour or two before you think you’ll need them. Share them with friends, for a few moments. Keep them in your coat pocket and help dry out/keep warm wet mittens or gloves. Do not put them directly against your skin.
Get a small propane lighter I can wear around my neck and keep warm with my body heat. “Season” my Zippo hand warmers before going to the event. Get more fuel for the handwarmers; always keep them going, even while sleeping so that they are warm when I wake up. Definitely make more bone broth and stew. Figure something out with my fingers and keeping them warm. Bring plenty of windproof matches. Lots of ultra large safety pins are good for keeping on my clothing to use when needed, e.g. when going into a dance space and/or bar and wanting to take off some layers; it’s super helpful to be able to be able to clip my items together.
Many things happen in cycles of seven: human development and consciousness being the biggest one. There’s the seven-year itch and relationships going through cycles of seven. Hair growth supposedly changes in cycles of seven; and tastebuds change in cycles of seven. Ever notice how you can hate/loathe/not like at all some food in younger years (onions, garlic, brussel sprouts, organ meats, for example) and then all of sudden, one day you wake up realize that you not only no longer loathe said offensive food item but actually like it ?
Well, apparently, when I wasn’t paying attention, turnips crept up on me and went from the No, Thanks! to the Yes, Please! category in my book. Here’s my favorite way to make turnips, and I think I could convert a turnip-hater into a turnip fan with this recipe. My magical ingredients are marked by the asterisks.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Then get a nice oven-safe dish out — one where your volume of turnips won’t be more than about two inches high. Place the ingredients directly in this dish.
Peel and dice a couple/few fresh* turnips
Drizzle good quality* olive oil on them; enough to coat them
Liberally add fresh or dried thyme
Drizzle some White Balsamic Vinegar** from Secolari’s
Add some super-good quality salt** (Piran Sel Gris or Meadow Flake from The Meadow)
Toss the ingredients together, coating everything well; I use my hands. Bake/roast the turnips until they transform, change from a thick opaque flesh to a lighter, clearer color, and carmelize. Try not to eat them all before you serve them.
Image from Kalyn’s Kitchen.
I was encouraged a few years back to explore foraging … and I love it. Less interested in that which grows deep in forests and very interested in that which grows in meadows and suburban lawns and at the scrubby edge of well-manicured community paths, lawns and corporate office parks, I find myself thrilled with foraging. It’s the ultimate in sustainability (it requires no input or labor, except in the harvesting); it’s a no-brainer for locavore eating and, for certain, it makes eating (some food) seasonally quite easy.
A year of so back when Pinterest was all the rage (is it still?) I decided to learn about Pinterest and I chose to create a Howard County, Maryland – Wild Edibles board, at which time I discovered that this insanely invasive bush, the autumn olive, produced edible, tasty, nutritious berries.
Come “autumn” I decided to find and harvest some berries.
I read one post where a forager spoke of filling gallons of buckets in less than an hour by pulling on the branches and letting the berries drop into a bucket. I tried that. I certainly didn’t get gallons, though I got a lot of leaves, unripe fruit and organic bits that required a fair amount of cleaning. I also had a hard time balancing the bucket.
The next day I went out with a sling-style bag and picked each berry by hand, producing a yield of near-perfect berries with almost zero debris and, certainly creating a much happier experience for me. As the berries are in season now, I’ve been reading more about them and, Lordamercy, are these things ever invasive. They seed and spread so easily, they grow to be rather large bushes, they are super-prolific in their berry making and, resultingly, they are nudging out many other plants, thus decreasing the biodiversity and habitat for other creatures, blood-filled and otherwise.
Here is where I discovered a growing movement of invasivores, people dedicated to eating invasives. (One site includes an autumn olive and goat cheese dressing, interesting!) This “movement” motivated me to denude (to the level I can comfortably reach) one of the richest-in-berries bushes I’ve found to date. It’s quite a challenge and one that will take me several days and will yield many thousands of berries.
So now that I’ve picked — and have many more yet to pick — berries, what do I do with them? To date, I have —
For fruit leather (my first attempt) I found it a disaster. I got so many steps wrong. I made it in my dehydrator, but didn’t spray the fruit leather tray with Pam (or equivalent) and found the labor of trying to remove the thin layer of fruit leather a PITA. It was also messy as the autumn berry liquid (boiled in water, seeds and pulp removed via a mill) was super liquid-y and it didn’t sit or stay well, though it did a darn good job of rolling over. And I could list a half dozen other mistakes I made. What to do?
I had a load of berries and no interest in making autumn berry wine, jelly, jam or ketchup. And I liked the taste of the fruit leather. (Dehyrdrating always changes the flavor of a thing, and in the autumn berry case, it definitely does so for the better, imo.)
An inspiration! I found a dozen or so large yogurt container lids, put them in the dehydrator and filled them with the liquid. And while I ate some of the fruit leather the next day, I also wanted to make a more substantial snack, so I poured in a second layer of the liquid on day two and doubled up the thickness of the leather. Delish. Super easy to remove and quite awesome.
Fwiw, I added a small amount of sugar and a bit of citric acid. And now I’m experimenting with other flavors and a fruit leather of the seeds and pulp left over; I like the taste of the seeds, personally. Stay tuned.
Some friends asked me to comment on this article, Get ready for Generation Z. So I did.
I’m a Strauss and Howe purist. Generations are 20 years in length, plus or minus a couple/few years, there is no Gen Z (just as there is no Gen Y); the nomenclature is all wrong because it speaks to one generation coming after another in a sequence. Generations come after each other, of course, but cyclically, not sequentially.
Btw, the Homelanders (the generation born after Millennials) are only about 8-9-10 years old at the top end, not 16ish as stated in the article.. These pics and examples of kids in this article are mid- and late-wave Millennials, that’s all. You can call ’em what you want — call them GenZed if you want — but that doesn’t make them a new generation.
The Homelanders aren’t “smarter,” per se … of course not, but they will become “the credentialed experts” as they rise up the age ladder. Just as GenXers/nomads (the shadow gen to the Artists/Homelanders/Silent gen) rail against “the credentialed expert” — noticed the power of social media to create DIY experts and rock stars? yeah, that’s GenX energy to destroy the cultural hold of “credentialed experts” made powerful by the Silent Gen and to circumnavigate the power hold of Boomers (read: “I was here first, therefore, it’s mine”) — the next round of artists (the Homelanders) will bring back to front and center the importance and value of the credentialed expert. This will begin to rise gently in importance in their young adult years (starting around 2024) and will become solid and unshakable in the midlife years (starting around 2044).
Here is a Letter to the Editor I wrote which was printed in the April 24, 2014, issue of the Columbia Flier.
To those of you living in Harper’s Choice, if you’ve already decided for whom you’re voting in the village elections come Saturday, great; it’s good to have convictions. But my sense is that most people don’t have strong convictions about the CA board and can’t tell much of a difference between one candidate and the other. On paper, pretty much every candidate sounds good, wouldn’t you agree? But in person, how people act, function, collaborate and solve problems — well, that’s a very different story.
I have known CA board candidate Bob Fontaine for a number of years. He is, hands down, in my opinion, the best candidate for the position and will bring professionalism, experience and capacity that his opponent simply can’t match.
While I’ve been guilty myself, many times, for choosing not to vote because I really didn’t know which candidate was better or why, I urge any of you living in Harpers Choice to take the 30 minutes or so to get to the polls, to vote and to help CA become a more professionally managed organization.
Bob Fontaine is the type of leader the CA board needs, now more than ever.
PS – Ditto for Harry Schwarz in Hickory Ridge, and Suzanne Waller in Town Center.
Yes, it’s true. You can get the age-defying NeriumAD Day Cream for free for the rest of your life. Here’s the information, the how and the one small catch.
Nerium International offers all customers a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can return the product for any reason and get your product purchase price returned to you as long as the package is post-marked within 30 days of your purchase.
If you want to try Nerium and sign up for the free day cream for life, I will call you 25 days after you purchase the product to see if you’re happy with it. If for any reason you want to return it, either I will get your bottle from you and return it for you, or I will use one of my own used bottles and return it on your behalf for your refund.
This offer, open since October 2013, ends soon. You must act by March 31, 2014.
Pick the middle option ($12o + S&H and tax … about $137, all told).
I love this product and heartily recommend it! While there are many amazing before-and-after photos, in my own experience, I’ve had improvements with texture (in days) and tone (in a few weeks); and reduction with discoloration, fine lines and wrinkles (visible within a couple months).
I like bald-headed men. Then again, I’m of the generation where men have embraced baldness rather than fighting it. Here’s my take on how how men approach their hair, through the lens of generations.
Silent Gen, b 1925-1942. Born too young to be GI Heroes and too late to be peace-love-n-rock-n-roll Boomers, Silent Gen men hit midlife in an era of increasing desire for personal expression in what we now call the Consciousness Revolution. As a generation, they helped loosen the grips on responsibility and adulthood; they were the swingers of the ’70s. And they were the ones who embraced the comb-over and toupe. They’been known for their bad, DIY home hair-coloring job, trying to be a generation younger and not succeeding. No need to say any more about this. Close your eyes and try not to remember.
Boomers, b 1943-1960. One of the core experiences of the Prophet generation (today’s Boomers) is that they first fight a new phase of life and deny the personal implications, then they embrace it, call it Good. They perceive of themselves as forever young (no one else does) until they finally embrace elderhood and become what are historically and cyclically known as “Gray Champions.” But during their mid-life and early elderhood years, you can spot Boomer men by their facial hair (beards and moustaches that cover their faces). Often accompanied by glasses and a cheap haircut. The antithesis of style. It’s as though they picked a look that worked for them at 27 and haven’t updated their style since then. May they grow their beards longer, wear white robes, grab a cane and do as their generation does in elderhood: provide the moral compass for society in an era of Crises. (Note to Boomer men: You all look alike! Well, those of you with moustaches, beards and glasses do.)
GenXers, b 1961-1981. GenX men remember all too well those Rogaine and Hair Club for Men commercials. Come GenXers into midlife and look at the cultural shift toward baldness. Bald guys are hot. Even men in their early 30s often shave their heads. It’s a look. It’s a statement. Being bald — which for most men is really an act of embracing hair loss and “the inevitable” by shaving off their thinning hair — is taking a step forward, rather than fighting accumulated years. It’s an “I am what I am” thing. Embracing assets that are abundant — moustaches and beards — expresses a GenX value to work with existing resources.
Millennials, b 1982 – 2004. At the top end, they are 32 in 2014 and hair loss is not big on their radar; the youngest in their generational span are but ten years old. My prediction: hats. That’s how they will deal with their hair loss. Formal, informal, but definitely stylish, quality, hats harking back to the 1930s. (Just go back 80-ish years to see the trends; it’s all a cycle!) Hats and more focus on things that shape a man’s face with refinement (vs the GenXers’ embracing of the beards reminiscent of the ’70s and a nostalgia for their childhood years). You can already see the change in the flamboyant moustaches, that GenX and Millennial men are sporting. Millennial men in midlife, I’d think, will wear monocles, have well-slicked hair, groom for pencil moustaches and, in general, embrace anything that is anti-grunge, leaning instead toward a conservative, preppy and ready-for-success look, which they are already doing.
This is, of course, one woman’s opinion, unedited. Not proofread.
From the NY Times, “The Fat Drug.” “How humankind unwittingly joined an experiment on antibiotics and weight gain.” / and / “In the meantime, we are faced with the legacy of these drugs — the possibility that they have affected our size and shape, and made us different people.”
Dear #Millennials, please remember antiobiotics (these good-ideas-gone-horribly-wrong) when you’re in mid-life (42-62 years old). You probably don’t know this but it’s your generational archetype (Heroes) that ushered in Vaccines For All (wheee!!!) and promises of “antiobiotics are good” to the masses the last time your archetype was in midlife. That would be, for your reference, the GI generation, born 1901-1924. And in some ways, they weren’t wrong.
But see, the thing for your generation to understand about itself is your Achilles’ heel: your hubris. Your generation is upbeat, trusting of institutions, increasingly powerful as it ages, and focused on a few grand solutions rather than scattered countless gambles (that’s the GenX role) or moralistic, values-driven contemplation (Boomers’ role).
But, in your collaboration and agreement, in your assumption that because you all find X or Y or Z the Thing To Do, what you forget to do is assess, to look at repercussions, to look at the effect and the effect of the effect. That’s what your junior generation (the Homelanders) will do for you in their young adulthood to your mid-life years. Heed them. And more so, remember in your feelings of glory and power, that the things that seem so grand today will — like clockwork — become the profound problems that create the crisis situation for society and the next round of Millennial-like kids and young adults 80 years hence.
You’ll do great work; that is certain. Just remember to listen when your elder cautious GenXers and your younger sensitive Homelanders say, “um, maybe this could be tweaked just a bit.” And heed. For truly, your generation’s weak point is your hubris, a problem which becomes increasingly pronounced — not too surprisingly — the more older and powerful you become.
Some friends and I have decided to do a spring cleanse and detox. This is not my first rodeo, as They say, but it is theirs. I’ve done quite a few cleanses over the years, and that would perhaps seem normal, healthy and wise were I a European blogging to a mostly European audience. But I’m not European and my assumption is most of my readers will be /are American. I am not an SME, a certified whatever or a deep studier on the subject. I’m offering here my perspective and feelings.
So, first things first. There are many ways to cleanse and detox, many products, many approaches and many reasons. My friends and I going to do the Blessed Herbs product cleanse, with some of us doing the five-day fast, cleanse and detox (I’ve gone as long as 10 days with this sytem) and others choosing a lighter approach where they’ll be eating for five days and using the cleanse and detox products.
This post is aimed at the fast-and-cleanse group and I’m providing some tips that I can offer from my experience, namely:
You’ll need a bottle of the Digestive Stimulant (DS) and two 14-packet packs of the Toxin Absorber (TA). I prefer the ginger flavor as I feel it mixes better with other juices. Start taking the DS and TA, one per day, a couple-few days before you start your full cleanse. You can skip the kit, save yourself some money and just buy the two items. You’ll need a shaker jar to shake-shake-shake the TA. You’ll also need juice and other items, so check out my shopping list at the end of this post.
In a perfect world, you’ll buy organic fruits and produce, juice them in your world-class juicer (I have one, a Champion) and drink healthful, nutrient-rich juices. Right. Been there. Done that. You might as well take vacation days for all the time and effort it takes to prep, juice, clean-up and then repeat the process for a total of five times a day. You do need juice (imo) to mix with the TA; I prefer sweeter juice rather than vegetable-y juice as the TA gets thick quickly and it’s just easier to drink a sweeter drink quickly.
When mixing the TA, put half juice and half water in the jar, add the packet; shake; have your glass ready to pour it into; drink quickly; do not delay. Juice has loads of sugar in it, so going forward, I’ll be cutting down the amount of juice I consume when cleansing and detoxing. If you purchase juice (recommended, though I used to be a purist and made all my own juice) get healthier alternatives where you can and stretch your juice with flavored teas.
I find having something savory and tasty makes all the difference. I feel more satisfied and less denied when I have savory drinks. For me, this has included home-made beef broth, miso soup (a bit of a cheat as miso is a solid) and any sort of soup broth. I’ve recently purchased some Numi savory tea for my upcoming cleanse and feel this will be a big help to have something that feels/smells more substantial than “just” cold fruit or vegetable juice.
Regardless of how many experts say “drink lots of water,” I do not believe this nor do I find it sound advice as it does not, in my understanding, match pre-industrialized human history and behavior. I personally think the “drink more water” mantra promulgated is really an unconcious battle against the crazy amount of cheap, low-grade, poor-nutrient, industrialized salt added to tens of thousands of food products. And it is my opinion that rather than dealing with the issue of crappy food, crappy salt quality and poor eating choices, our Society has collectively decided to declare that drinking more water is good , unconsciously attempting to lower the salt quantity in our bodies (by adding more water and diluting it) rather than dealing with the true problem in food and salt quality. But I digresss…
Personally, I do not find drinking water satisfying except in small amounts at key times, and yet to cleanse and detox with the Toxin Absorber packets, you’ll need more liquid moving through you. I need satisfying alternatives to water. For me, this is mainly tea; thankfully, in the realm of tea, there are so many choices. I’ve been experimenting with various flavors, quality levels and types of tea. Explore. Also, drinks such as unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, honey and water are nice, or the Numi savory teas, or barley water can be good. I’ll be doubling up on my homebrew kombucha before my cleanse so that I have something tasty to drink. Ginger and/or tumeric rhizomes, chopped up and placed in really hot (not quite boiling) water with good quality honey can be a nice drink too. Options abound.
And while this may seem sacrilege to purists, alcohol is liquid. Have a good quality beer, a really nice glass of wine or cocktail made with top shelf liquor. In other words, enjoy your liquids. The fast, the pills, the TA packets are enough of a challenge; there’s no need to suffer.
There are times when you will be hungry. No doubt. The Blessed Herbs Toxin Absorber can provide a surprising sense of fullness. There may be times when you feel lethargic and spacey; other times when you have such a surprising amount of energy (because your body isn’t expending so much energy to digest food).
For this upcoming fast, I’m going to “cheat” with coconut oil. Most any other fast — even ones that allow eating during the fast and cleanse — will have admonitions about avoiding processed food, animal protein and fat. But we need fat for vitamin absorption, to feel satisfied and yada yada. I’m not a SME here. Google it. Coconut oil is king among fats. Or at least royalty. I’ve recently discovered that a teaspoon of coconut oil added to hot tea is quite enjoyable, especially a fruity-tasting tea. I steep the tea, then add the coconut oil; wait for the temp to drop just a bit and then drink it. I will definitely be having this drink a lot on my next cleanse and fast. Plus coconut oil helps with expelling parasites … which some people have. It happens.
With every cleanse I’ve done, something else has been going on. Sometimes I’ve gone through my wardrobe and reviewed what I wanted to keep or pass on to a thrift store; other times I’ve gone through years of old paper and/or computer files; one time I helped a friend thoroughly clean the scrub growth encroaching into her yard and we cleaned and prepped her yard for spring. It doesn’t matter what it is, but it does matter, imo, that you’re aware that the physical cleanse and detox is the anchor, but your whole life — or a part of it — may also need a cleanse and detox. Be open to it. And fear not the sudden wave of saddness or some deep emotion that appears “out of nowhere.”
There will come a time when you’re facing your fourth Toxin Absorber packet of the day is just not a pleasant thought. So make “a meal” of it. First, when possible, try to take your packets and pills with another person. Celebrate that you’re doing a cleanse. Acknowledge what you’re up to. When cleansing and detoxing, I often pull out of the back corners of cupboards any abandoned or forgotten bottles of tinctures, vitamins or supplements. I keep them on the kitchen counter and make a bit of ceremony and effect out of the process. If I’m already swallowing one pill (the Digestive Stimulant) why not also swallow a handful more of pills, use up the bottles around my house and get some more nutrients and curative elements in me?
The fast, cleanse and detox outlined by Blessed Herbs is an “optimal” plan. Do your best. Enjoy the ride. Have the experience. And enjoy the benefits.
There is an amazing liver-cleanse drink — garlic+olive oil+lemon/citrus+sweet juice drink+ginger liver-cleanse — that you may find is a tasty and satisfying (it helps with hunger, too). Each day the amount of garlic and olive oil increases one notch, starting with one clove of garlic and one tablespoon of olive oil; day two, same drink but two cloves of garlic and two tablespoons of olive oil. Here’s how I make it —
This whole text is yet to be proofread.
I wrote this post the day after Dennis Lane’s death. I didn’t publish it then, posting something shorter instead. His birthday is today, and his life is one I will always celebrate and cherish.
I first met Dennis in 1991. It was then that I’d started my first business, Do The Write Thing, and I had not a clue of how to get clients other than by advertising. But I’d heard of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce and someone suggested I attend some of their networking meetings, so I went. I was scared, intimidated, clueless how to show up for the events and — at the time — significantly younger than easily 90% of the Chamber event attendees.
But there I met Dennis, and there I met a jovial, welcoming, kind and warm gentleman who always made me feel welcome and included. And as it was, I went to many such events in those early years, saw Dennis once or twice a month and developed a friendship that included some more in-depth conversations over drinks at — yeah, you guessed it — Clyde’s.
Our lives continued to cross paths — at the Columbia Business Exchange, being involved in the then-called Columbia Business Monthly newspaper and running into each other at community event after community event. While I have my own version of bubbly-ness and extroversion, I often need to first get grounded to a place and event before I can connect with others. Dennis has for many years and many events been one of my grounding points, making me feel welcome and included.
Over the years, I’d see him at coffee shops with a frequency higher than “just random” and we’d often catch up for a few minutes while standing in line together. I’d see him when I was out and about running errands, and we’d stop and talk for a while. Sometimes we’d go out for an impromptu drink after finding each other at an event. Whatever the case and whatever the place, he always seemed to have time for a conversation.
When I came back to my hometown, Columbia, after being out of the country for a while, there was this relatively new thing called blogging. I was quietly experimenting on my own and I started to find some local bloggers. One day, I commented on a post by Wordbones (who at that time had not revealed his identity as a blogger, but I was 99% sure it was Dennis). My comment was a snarky one, and I posted anonymously.
I emailed him shortly after to say I was back in town and to see if we could get together for lunch. He asked me then, “Hey, did you comment on my blog about (xyz)?” “Yes,” I told him. To which he responded, “I thought that was you! It sounded like you.” And at that exact moment in time, I made a decision. A big one. I decided that I would never post anonymously and that I would take a stand for people owning their own perspectives online, in particular and with passion, when commenting on blogs in a local community.
When I decided to create HoCoBlogs.com with Robin Abello, back in 2007, Dennis’s blog, Tales of Two Cities, was one of the most regularly updated, locally focused blogs around. Ian Kennedy’s HayDuke was the other, and there were smatterings of other bloggers, though Dennis held then and continued to hold the spot as the most long-term, consistent local blogger. I couldn’t have — and wouldn’t have — started HoCoBlogs without Dennis as an anchor blogger. We started with about a dozen or so bloggers. Today HoCoBlogs has over 350 Howard County bloggers in its database. Not all active each day or even each month, but all local. And much of what has happened with HoCoBlogs is because Dennis was part of the DNA and seminal energy of our local blogging community forming. He provided, with his writing, his perspective and his personality, a center of gravity.
A short while later, the small posse of bloggers had gotten into a fight of sorts. A he-said, she-said fight where He and She were Democrats and Republicans. It got nasty. So nasty that the bloggers took their conversations off the public blogs’ and into private emails with the intent, I presume, that no one else would see the mud slinging that was going on. After a week or so of this, Dennis said in a stentorian voice, “Enough! We are a community. We’re neighbors. We know each other. It’s time we get together and have a drink together. I’m buying the first round!”
To which, I piped in and said, “And I’m happy to organize it,” and, thus, the HoCoBlogs parties wer born. (We called them blogtail parties at the time._ Nine of us came to the first such gathering and — yes, you guessed it — we met at Clyde’s. Nine became 12. Twelve became 15. Fifteen got stagnant for a while. And one day, after a dreadfully boring party where we all sort of stared at each other in too small of a space for way too long, the parties almost ended. But the blogging community was growing, with Dennis and Tales of Two Cities as a steady — the steadiest — voice in our community. And the parties found their groove and grew.
One of the more simple yet of-impact statements Dennis said to me a few years back was this: “I want to make sure that writers get paid.” I remember how deeply this sunk into me when he said it, and it motivated me. I think Dennis always dreamed of a life where he could write professionally, perhaps not full time, but enough so that he could earn a living and provide for his family. He had his profession, his connections, his career and his industry; but if I had to guess, I’d say he’d trade all that in a sec if he could have made his living writing.
We — individuals and the community — benefited from his dream because he did love to write, and he loved his community. As others have quoted in their memories of Dennis, his blog profile says, “I live here. I work here. I love this place.” In some ways, Dennis didn’t compromise. He didn’t give up his dream of writing because he couldn’t earn a living at it. He did it anyway. And he wrote a newspaper column. And he did a biweekly podcast. He found his way to be in the world as a business man, community member, board member, friend, advisor, colleague … and he found his voice and a way to express himself while being deeply integrated in the institutions and organizations of our community. He spoke his mind without being mean, and when he didn’t like someone, he was clear about it … and such people made me pause if they didn’t pass the Dennis-o-meter of Good People-ness.
When it was time to vote, I read his blog posts, his perspectives and his thoughts, trusting his voice more than I did the local newspaper recommendations. Day in and day out, I read his posts. I came to know him even more, in the way that many people who read his blog did… we followed the community through his eyes and felt the ups and downs of his own life.
And then, yesterday, Friday, May 10th, he died. That’s what I heard first, that Dennis was dead. (Sad!) Then in the tweets and Facebook updates and news updates, I heard he had been killed. (Shock!) Then I read a tweet that used the M word, “murder.” (Tragedy!) I’m not going to process my feelings here in this blog because I don’t even know what to say.
I can tell you my experience though. There was a gathering. A spontaneous gathering of others in shock. Yes — you guessed it — they went to Clyde’s. Out of town for the earlier part of the day, when I walked in, I was greeted by an open half circle of people facing the door. On each person’s face and in their hearts was the shock, the sadness, the grief. Usually at bars, groups of people face in to each other. They put their backs to the outside and form an enclosing. With this gathering, it was more like a basket, an opening, a welcoming into the circle of people united in their love of community and their love for one of our greatest citizens. In this group, I felt welcomed and included.
And time after time, story after story, I heard the same common denominator, the same thread. People who didn’t even know they registered on Dennis’s awareness beyond a hello were often surprised to discover that he knew of their dreams, read their blogs, knew if they had or hadn’t been blogging lately. They told tales of his encouragement and how he motivated them to start blogging, or to pick it up again. And in these stories there was a note that rang true: to a person, each of them felt from Dennis welcomed and included.
There’s a happy hour in celebration of Dennis’s life tonight. Clyde’s, 5 p.m. I’m sure that when you show up there, you’ll be both welcomed and included.
It’s been a long time coming: this purge of posts. I’ve cleaned, sorted, reorganized, tweaked and deleted posts before, but this purge was significant. I deleted over 200 posts. And I know I’ve deleted that many and more over the years. What was my filter for the mass purge? Just like going through one’s closet to see what clothes to keep, I had to ask myself what still “fit.” Did it still represent me? Had it been around too long?
One filter was de-localizing my blog. I started out as a local blogger in Howard County with many a post about this event, or that org; this community issue or that community-related observation. Most of those are gone. Many of them deleted years prior when I decided to be a personal blogger rather than a community blogger. Now, my local focus occurs mostly over on HoCoBlogs’ blog, and I have much more freedom to get hyper-local and specific there.
Then there is the once cutting-edge-now-almost-silly swath of posts on social tools. One of my posts was “Facebook is heating up” and it was written in mid-2007 with the intent of encouraging people of a certain age, businesses and local government to get involved in Facebook. In the post I made the claim that Facebook wasn’t just for kids and that was, instead, a powerful tool for community engagement for companies, organizations and governments. To which you may be saying, “Yeah, of course. Everyone saw that coming.” But not in 2007. And so, easily, a hundred or so posts in that category are gone. They weren’t wrong, but they seem rather antiquated now.
Then there are the rants. I left many of them in, these rants of mine, as blog posts, by nature, are often rants. I also deleted quite a few. I observed what I observed, felt what I felt, said what I said, and now it’s done.
I’ve appreciated blogging these many years, particularly as an unlike-any-other way to express my feelings, my thinking, my observations and my vision. And in this expression, to have it organized, collected, shared and available for others to see … and for me to review over time. It’s quite something that someone who doesn’t blog can’t quite grasp, I imagine.
I’m glad for the change, the cleanse, the purifying. It’s been a long time coming.