Saturday, October 29, 2011

Bronson Alcott and Fatherhood

As a father of 2 girls, it strikes me that it is both the best of times and just the beginning for women in our world. I both revel in the opportunities they have that their ancestors did not while fearing for them at the same time. Since I don't have boys, I don't know if I'd feel differently with sons.

Last weekend, we spent last a few days in Concord, MA, mostly touring old battlefields, bridges and homes. What surprised me however, was learning more about the real story behind "Little Women" and Louisa May Alcott. Most interestingly for me was learning about her pops, Bronson Alcott. According to the stories, Bronson was quite a character. My favorite story was that he'd hang out near Orchard House (photos below) in the road with a bag of apples. As people would pass by, he's bend their ear to talk politics, education or whatever else was on his mind.

Bronson was a dreamer and a philosopher, and he clearly impacted his daughters in significant ways (learn more, as all dads do. On the various tours, we learned that the Alcott's were vegans (who knew - but I may be mis-remembering that), and even upgraded their houses with primitive versions of modern plumbing. When Bronson moved into Hillside, the dude literally cut the barn into 2 pieces and reattached them the main house. Bronson was buddies with Emerson and Hawthorne who all lived locally. When we visited Wayside/Hillside Inn (2nd photo below), we learned that Hawthorne (he lived there and actually changed the name of the house) would literally climb the hill behind his house to avoid getting stuck in a long conversation with Bronson. Too funny.

Meanwhile, Bronson's daughters most certainly must have seen him as quite a piece of work. From what I've read, he was not an easy guy to live with or deal with - his views on morality and truth were not typical for the time period. Nor were his views on education - all of which he clearly imparted on his daughters.

My own view of Bronson is much more idealistic... I felt a spiritual connection to the man while we toured his house and learned of his challenges, ideas and his family. For me, it was a reminder that the influence I have on my daughters cannot be simplified, dumbed-down or taken lightly. It was a good reminder of how the past influences the present and gives us opportunities to shape the future. 

Orchard House... yes... that's where Louisa May Alcott lived

Wayside/Hillside Inn. Features a terribly designed tower in the back of the house that Hawthorne hated

This dude was a trip... and a great tour guide. He is a Hawthorne geek... in a good way!

Not Google Plus

The quantity and quality of online video and video sites continues to skyrocket. This video is hysterical, and perhaps makes some good points to boot. Yes, of course I'm on Google+, you can find me here and chat me up, hangout with me or put me in various circles.

Beware, is extremely addicting - be sure to also check out the Photoshop Rap as well the amazing Game of Thrones videos. Enjoy.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

White Collar Doom

Met some GREAT people last week at a conference and found myself in a very funny, non-linear conversation over beers. Topics included social media, marketing, work, culture, getting mugged and perhaps most importantly, what would happen if the power went out, and stayed out. For good.

Here's where "white collar doom" comes from: we lost power for more than a few days after Hurricane Irene in late 2011. During that time it did occur to me on more than one occasion that if the power had not come back on - I'd be pretty well doomed. In fact, if you are reading this blog, it's quite possible that you are just like me... essentially incapable of survival without power, credit cards and the internets.

Here's how I think about it; I'm an information worker who spends his days in front of a computer, tapping little plastic buttons. I've not done physical labor of any sort since high school (worked in a variety of places including a furniture store). I've never done construction of any sort.

I'm not much of a camper. In fact, just today I set up a new fire pit and had very little luck in actually starting a real fire. I even resorted to using a fire starter log and even with that... not much to show for it.

I have never needed to kill my food in order to survive. In fact, never killed anything myself that I have eaten I don't think. Maybe 30 days on Survivor is in order.

That's why today, in the comfort of my backyard I dug up a broken drainage pipe, headed to the hardware store and purchase some "PVC" pipe and something the guy called a "coupler." When I got home, with my very own hands I fixed a pipe situation. Epic!

If I can ever figure out how to start a fire, maybe there will be hope.

Doubtful, but maybe.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Finding Your Voice

I work for an organization that in many ways, is all about helping those with autism find their voice both literally and figuratively. It is a subtle and huge task for all those with autism and is near impossible to quickly capture the essence of the challenge.

For those not on the spectrum, finding your voice is also a challenge and in some ways is why I have feel some connection to the autism world beyond my job. As a person, I am still looking and discovering my own voice. Understanding who I am, what I am capable of and searching for my own truth. The journey never ends.

Now, as a parent, I also need to let my kids find their voices as well. My wife told me that my daughter "needs to find her own voice" the other day and it stopped me cold. Each of us, even our kids are on our own journey to discover our voices, to find out who we are and to find some measure of satisfaction in this life.
Some, like those with disabilities and disorders have the deck stacked against them. Even so, they still must find their voice... whether that be literal or more like the rest of us, who must  become self-aware and honest enough to even begin the journey. They say the first step is the hardest but how about the million other steps and million more mis-steps?

As I drove to work today, NPR did a story on Shel Silverstein, who like many artists found his voice through his art. His poems, funny, sad and poignant all reflect his voice. I had been thinking about this blog post for a while, and hearing his family talk about the process of putting a new book "Every Thing On It" touched me. The last poem, called "When I Am Gone" has a few lines in it that really struck a chord with me:

When I am gone
What will you do
Who will write and who will draw for you
Someone smarter, someone new
Someone better, maybe you

There is a man who has a voice and used it. I wonder when I'll find mine; and I wonder how my children will fare in finding theirs.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Make Stuff

I wrote a blog piece for Autism Speaks today on Collaboration, technology and making things. Had an amazing time at Maker Faire to boot.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Index of Giving - Online Giving

Just got this from Blackbaud... looks like online giving is up again. We are hanging on through this economy...

Blackbaud Index of Online Giving

Friday, August 26, 2011

Great opportunity

Looking for a terrific opportunity in the non-profit social marketing arena? Check job out!

Friday, August 19, 2011

That Sounds Right

This sounds right. Hugh is on to something for sure. I used to blog a lot. Don't anymore. Should.

We'll see.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Turning Suppoters into Superstar Fundraisers

I gave a short talk last week at a Blackbaud conference. Here are the slides presented with very little context. Sorry!

Blackbaud Indexes of Giving

Good numbers to keep an eye on...

Blackbaud Index for Charitable Giving

Blackbaud Index of Online Giving

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Mottos, sayings and credos

I was lucky enough to be invited to attend a recent client event at Facebook HQ. Pretty cool. Facebook allowed several non-profits to be a part of a very special. "Hack" designed to come up with unique ways to accomplish our missions

This was my 2nd visit to "the book" and outside the awesome snacks and food, what I really loved were the various sayings posted on different walls.

I jotted a few down...

  • done is better than perfect 
  • proceed and be bold
  • fail harder
  • move fast and break things

Not sure which is my favorite. I think I want my own posters for the office, and for my kids rooms.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

20m/1t - Palatine Hill and How Time Flies

I promised myself I'd start blogging again in 20 minute chunks with a singular focus for each post... here goes!

I had the amazing opportunity to visit Rome with my family a few weeks ago, and while visiting was a dream come true, I had an odd experience while we were there. Amidst the ruins, columns and amazing statues I began to feel displaced somehow from myself. I first felt it when we were standing under the Arch of Titus, reading from a tour book about how Jewish slaves were forced to build structure after structure in constructing the city. Aside from learning just now while writing this post that Romans Jews refuse to walk under it (oops "When in Rome"), I had an oddly disconnected/connected feeling to Rome.

I started to think about time. Some 2,000 years ago, ancient Romans most certainly felt as we do today, that our society and civilization could not and would not crumble. Yet it happened to them, as it has happened with other societies and people across time. I asked my kids to think about what New York City might be like 2,000 years from now, in the year 4011. It's impossible to even hazard a guess - but if you forced me to, I might suggest that it will probably look a bit like ancient Rome - in some sort of ruins, with a future people wondering what the heck happened.

As we moved on to Palatine Hill the feeling got more powerful. We ended up sitting for a while under a tree to rest in the center of the palace and again, my brain started working on the notion of time. I wondered who may have sat in that same spot (or close enough to it) 2,000 years ago. I wondered what they thought out on a beautiful day as they pondered their own life. I presume that none of us think about ourselves as "ancient" people from a past society's glory days, but perhaps that is just what we are. It's a maddening, silly thought.

That's where Caesar was burned, buried or something else. I can't remember and only have 20 minutes to write this post!
We ended up taking goofy photos where the throne used to be - the throne of anicent Rome, now a very flat, smooth rock on which modern day idiots from CT can take goofy photos. Will one day people stand where the White House used to be, raise their hands in the air and proclaim "I am not a crook" or some other silly, salacious or funny imitation? If history has any say in things, the chances are pretty good, right? I'm no historian, but this thing about everlasting societies hasn't held up so well so far, eh?

I feel insignificant in the face of powerful forces like the clock and the calendar and wonder what it means I ought to be spending my life doing. One thing I know I'll do more of is spending time with my amazing family.

Used to be a throne room for the world's first superpower. Now it's a place to take goofy photos and pretend to be an Emperor. 

Friday, May 13, 2011


Dear Blog,

I miss you. I've neglected you, ignored you and worst of all, pretty much forgotten you.

We used to have such a good time, the two of us. I wrote stuff, and you acepted it. I used you to work stuff out, like a personal diary about different things that interested me, made me laugh, and made me think. I never cared if anyone actually read it, it was really just between you and me. And since you are a blog, it really was just for me.

Then that damn social media guy came 'round, and things changed. At first, it was OK, I still occasionally wrote here, but things heated up over on Facebook and the Twitter. I had to filter my thoughts more because over there, you write for others to react, not for yourself. It feels kinda opposite of what writing here used to be. Plus, its hard to wax poetic in 140 characters, eh?

So, I hope this means I am back. I have an idea of doing a series of blog posts called "20 minutes/1 thought" where I will give myself 20 timed minutes to talk about a single topic. Limiting the time makes this feel doable, sort of a blogging meditation. Slowing my life down to focus one a single topic is deliberate as well. Life with social media is fast, too fast. It doesn't leave time to dwell, reflect, or to think much.

I want that space in my head back, and I'm hoping you, dear blog will give me that opportunity.

Crap, it took me 23 minutes and counting to write this post... gotta go tweet some inanity now!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Finding Your Life Purpose

It's been a while since I posted here...

I found a link to this article about finding my life purpose the other day and set up a blank Google doc to answer the question "“What is my true purpose in life?"

It's not an easy exercise to say the least. I'm 30 minutes in and have 56 things written down that range from "breathe" to "learn to enjoy the journey" and have no idea what it all means.

I'm trying hard not to focus on career, job stuff but to get outside my own head space and let ideas come to me. I've tried this in the past and had some success, but clearly, my desire to dig back into this means it's not yet resolved.

Anyone else tried this sort of exercise and had any good results? I realize I over-think everything and this is probably more of that.. but it is what it is!

I'm going to keep going until something clicks. #1 on the list right now is... finding a way to be honest with myself and let the answers come.