Archive for July, 2013


Never read much about the grass in Oz, but I can’t imagine that in a place so green there weren’t wide open stretches of grass to be found. And since I like to look for analogies in everyday life, I found one when I was cutting my lawn this morning.

All spring and up to a week or so ago, my lawn was nice and green. After I cut it, it looked good. Maybe not golf-course good, but it was nice and green. With the heat wave we’ve had, however, I noticed my lawn went through a personality change.  The only real green in my lawn was the patches of crab grass spread out across the yard.

Had I not noticed the crab grass before? Or was I satisfied that as long as my lawn was green everything was okay? I think it’s a combination of both. And (here comes the analogy) isn’t that just how we sometimes view our lives.

As long as our lives are green to the naked eye, we don’t really care about the crab grass because in truth, we don’t want to see it, because if we see it, we really need to do something about it.

In the good times, we put up with the crab grass. In the bad times, when the good seeds in our lives are dying of thirst but the crab grass is thriving, we see how our lives really are.

What I really need to do is some weeding and applying a crab grass killer so that when the good times, ie, the rain comes and the grass starts to grow again, there won’t be as much crab grass on the lawn.

What I really need to do and what I actually do is the dilemma I am faced with.

We all need to take a look at our personal lawns during a drought because then, and only then, will we see our life as it really is…and do something about it.



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I don’t get out much, but this morning I went to a pre-matinee (10:10) showing of Monsters University with my son, Jeremy and his son, Andrew ( three) and two of my granddaughters, Jillian (seven) and Brielle (four). Aside from being a testament to the quality of modern computer animation, it gave me much pause for thought. (I was afraid to discuss the movie with my grandchildren for fear of them thinking me a bit peculiar.)

On the one hand I can reflect on some of the darker periods of my childhood when my bedtime was filled with monsters of the malevolent type. These monsters lived in my closet (one of the reasons why I failed to keep a clean closet), they lurked behind the curtains in my bedroom, and of course a number of them lived under my bed. (They were shrewd monsters under my bed. During the day they masqueraded as dust balls).

These monsters were real despite the malarkey I’d hear from adults who tried to tell me that monsters didn’t exist. And while I could never understand why these monsters wanted to scare the daylights out of me, there was something comforting about them. As much as they could get my heart racing and occasionally cause a wet bed, I found some comfort in their presence. They had a job to do, a job that gave them meaning and purpose.

It was the other kind of monsters that caused me to be terrified because they lived in the real world. Unlike the monsters who only came out at night, these monsters were far more nefarious because they were evil.

The Wicked Witch of the West might have been “monstrous,” but she was no monster. She was evil personified.

As I grew up, it appears the monsters left my bedroom because I stopped believing in them. And that was a sad day when not a single monster woke me with a start. Would that I could say the evil people who lurk in the “real” world had tired of harassing me. As I became an adult I realized that these “evil monsters” roamed the halls of Congress, presided over corporate boards, called themselves ‘boss,’ and sometimes even thought of themselves as teachers.

Watching Monsters University had me longing for days gone by when the monsters that made nightly appearances in my bedroom were the only kind of monsters in my life.

I think I should have been a monster.

Hmmm. I wonder if it’s too late to fill out an application for Monsters University.


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Wicked Witch Of The West

As I’m writing this post (Thursday, July 18, 2013), the lead-in promotion for ABC’s The View said “We’ll talk with the parents of Trayvon Martin and see how they are coping with George Zimmerman’s innocent verdict.”

Since the Zimmerman verdict is as hot as the week’s record-breaking temperatures, I thought it might be the right moment to raise some questions, not just about the incident and the trial, but also the public’s reaction.

On the YBR Dorothy was never charged with anything for killing the Wicked Witch of the East even though it looked like an open and shut case for manslaughter. When it comes to the Wicked Witch of the West, Dorothy should have been charged with first-degree murder because she fully intended to kill the WWW.

Had Dorothy been judged by a jury of her peers, there would be no way the defense could have mounted a successful case.

Back here on earth things are not as black and white…even though the issue of black and white was as much on trial as was George Zimmerman.

Since I hold no law degree and since I am not versed well enough into all the evidence and testimony, I cannot pass judgment. A young man died at the hands of another man. Was it murder, manslaughter, a case of racial profiling, an act of vengeance…or was it a case of self-defense?

That we still live in a country where racial tension still exists is a sad fact. However, we would only be exacerbating the issue if every time a case involves people of different races we rush to judgment and assume that race had to play a part in the “crime.’

Those who felt compelled to take to the streets to “protest” the verdict were exercising one of our cherished rights. That these people believed the verdict was a travesty of justice was an opinion, but it should not be taken as a fact that the process in arriving at the verdict was a travesty. This is especially true if any of those protesters took to the street because they believed that the verdict only supports the belief that a white man can get away with murdering a black man.

Back to the promotion for The View.  It was wrong, in my opinion, to say that the verdict in the case declared Zimmerman innocent.  I believe he was found “not guilty.”  Innocent and not guilty are not the same. Our legal system does not charge a jury with finding a person innocent. Rather, the burden of the prosecution is to prove, beyond a shadow of the doubt, that the defendant is guilty of the charges brought against him/her.

That doesn’t mean I don’t think our legal system is perfect. I only served on one trial and as a member of the jury I wish I could have asked some questions to the people on the stand. I didn’t like the idea that I had to depend on the attorneys to ask all the questions I had.  I also think the person charged should take the stand and be cross-examined.

Did we learn all we should have learned from the Zimmerman trial? Is it ever possible to learn all the facts?  No.

Just to illustrate how we only see things from our own perspective, take what Trayvon’s father said to Barbara Walter’s on The View. When asked about the incident, he said “there was no apparent reason” why Zimmerman did what he did. What happened to Zimmerman’s claim that he acted in self-defense? That was his reason, even though we’ll never know if that is what was running through Zimmerman’s mind at the time.

Would that are legal system was forced to continue a case until the truth and nothing but the truth was discovered. Would that a person was found innocent instead of the weaker not guilty.


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No matter what you consider “The Wizard of Oz” to be…a fable, a fairy tale, or just a simple children’s story, it is, in my opinion one of those wonderful tales that cuts across time and space, a story that fills a void made ever bigger by the emptiness of a world only focused on power, fame and money.

Recently I have been preparing for a talk I will be giving on fairy tales. And while I have read much on the topic…from the scholarly to the actual fairy tales themselves, I have come to the conclusion that fairy tales will only mean something for people who think with their heart, for people whose heads are too small for all the dreams they have inside, and for people who would rather say “ah, ha!” than “uh, oh.”

Today, while working on a children’s book I’m writing, I happened to have the 1999 movie “October Sky” on television. I’ve seen the movie a number of times, but I haven’t watched it in quite a while. Because I am in a fairy tale sort of mind, the movie took me by surprise and reminded me why I like movies where someone with a dream is like the indomitable Don Quixote who believed in dreaming the impossible dream and fighting the invisible foe.

When we talk about endangered species, why do we fail to include the dreamer? No matter where the dreamer comes from, all dreamers have one thing in common – they look beyond the stars.

I believe all people are born with stars in their eyes. Unfortunately, as we grow up we rub the stars out of our eyes and become blinded by the harsh reality of a dark world where we pay homage to people who have no souls.

My insatiable appetite for dreaming has been fed from a banquet table filled with great books, plays, movies, art, music and dance. As a kid I loved nothing more than escaping my black and white surroundings by losing myself in a book where each turn of the page brought me closer to the stars.

If you are a dreamer and your star tank is a little low, I recommend watching “October Sky” even though it is July.

Note: I put a number of stories for dreamers in a book I called “Lost in Space. Detached from Time: Stories for Children”

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65 sign

The Wizard said, “Okay old guy, what have you learned on your journey on the Yellow Brick Road?”

I told him I learned 65 things on the YBR:

1. Don’t eat yellow snow.

2. Step on a crack you’ll break your mother’s back.

3. Cookies always taste best when dunked.

4. A glass of milk can never be too cold.

5. Don’t pig out at a picnic if you plan on riding on the Tilt-a-World.

6. Your eyesight won’t be affected by sitting too close to the TV…as long as it’s off.

7. Beauty  might only be skin deep, but without skin we’d all be pretty ugly.

8. Kids with cool first names usually have more friends. Just ask Mortimer.

9. Don’t eat the peas in a TV dinner because they suck.

10. Libraries are too damned quiet.

11. If you fart (by accident) when you sit on Santa’s lap, don’t expect to find much under the Christmas tree.

12. The grades you got in elementary school are not as important as how much you liked elementary school.

13. Be nice even if you finish in last place.

14. Stand up for your beliefs…no matter what.

15. Never go to bed wearing your shoes.

16. Life is not fair. Realize that early in life and you’ll be a lot happier.

17. Good things don’t always come to those who wait. Just ask Mortimer who waited for the bus when the bus line was on strike.

18. If people make fun of you and laugh at you, just smile back and give them the finger.

19. If you get in trouble for giving someone the finger, say “you can just kiss my ass.”

20. Friendships might not last a lifetime, so don’t take friendship for granted.

21. My fifth grade teacher was a real asshole.

22. Father didn’t know best.

23. Expect the unexpected.

24. Savor the past, just don’t live in it.

25. Don’t worry about the future, just live your best in the moment.

26. A Roman collar around someone’s neck does not mean the person wearing it deserves your respect.

27. Respect has to be earned, not demanded.

28. When you’re a kid, wake up early but stay in bed awhile and enjoy being a kid.

29. Most books you have to read in high school won’t be enjoyed if you HAVE to read them.

30. Multiple choice, true and false and matching tests should be outlawed.

31. Remember your good teachers and have pity on the ones who made your life a living hell.

32. The average boss you’ll have over your lifetime will be stupid.

33. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

34 – 50. If you’re lucky enough to find your soul mate, count yourself VERY fortunate, and love her/him, lover her/him, lover her/him.

50 – 60. If you’re lucky enough to have children love them, love them, love them…

61 – 64. If you’re lucky enough to have grandchildren, love them, love them, love them.

65. Life is a gift, love it, love it, love it.

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