Apr 1 2013

Baltimore Ignite #12: 17 unique speakers = thoughtful happiness


Last night, Roger and I watched Happy, the documentary by Roko Belic (a name with two four-letter potential crossword clues, for certain).  It inspired reflection about what makes me happy and how I want to move forward, with intention, through the remaining third to half  of my life. (It’s no surprise that these milestone birthdays get us in the thoughtful mood.)

The director analyzes happiness and identifies the component parts, one of which is the importance of gratitude, the attitude of being thankful for each day’s blessings, large and small.  The conscientious practice of gratitude can lead to more feelings of well-being and happiness.  Also, another important element of a joyful life is work and play that inspires “flow” (being fully involved in an activity).  I can’t describe happiness here as it is expressed in the movie–suffice it to say that you can see it on Netflix right now!

Ignite Baltimore, which held its 12th event last Thursday, is for me, the confluence of several ingredients of happiness.  Seventeen speakers, each armed with an idea, 20 timed Powerpoint slides and five minutes, speak about their own hopes, desires, discoveries, and ideas.  The only problem with being in the audience is that it’s like being at a tapas restaurant, a taste of many small dishes but a full meal of none.  It leaves me every time wanting to find these people and make them talk to me about their passions.

Held at MICA’s Brown Center, the tickets are an affordable $5 each, and the event has been a sell-out the last few times I attended.  In this session, we were excited to hear Roger’s colleague, Betty Walke, speak about her life-long interest in butterflies.  She described her childhood fascination with Lepidoptera and her recent journey to Mexico with her sweetheart and husband, Dan, to see the Monarch butterfly migration.  Walke, a master gardener, raced through a list of plants that will bring these creatures into our own yards and gardens.  I couldn’t write them down fast enough.

In addition, we heard Jason Briody, a digital forensic examiner, who spoke about how we do not realize the power of our phones, small computers that track our every word and move.  Unnerving?  Yes.  But Briody’s interest in his subject is as passionate as Walke’s is for butterflies.  Bobbi Macdonald, executive director of the City Neighbors Foundation, wrapped up the evening, speaking about teachers as change agents, a subject that hits very close to home for me.

How could I skip Garrett Bladow, a North Dakota native and cowboy, who, with humor and matter-of-fact facts enlightened us about the science of breeding cattle? Or Adam Ravestein, who envisions turning Baltimore blight into green space?

I urge you to visit the Ignite website and put yourself on the email list for notifications.  See you next fall.  I guarantee that when you hear these inspired speakers, you will be motivated to become an agent of change, too.  Did I mention that involvement in community and the world also leads to feelings of happiness?  Ignite Baltimore makes me crazy happy!



Nov 7 2010

Channeling Martha Stewart


A copy of Martha Stewart Living fell into my hands, and I saw that Martha publishes a calendar of her monthly activities.  For example, today she is changing the batteries in her smoke detectors.  The calendar informs us about her planned trips, Thanksgiving activities, and daily exercise routine.

Here are my Natalie Rebetsky channeling Martha entries for November 4 – 7.    November 4:  Purchase tulip bulbs for fall planting.  November 5:  Early morning hunting in Pennsylvania.  November 6: Walking with high school friends through town of Somerset and visit to Falling Water, the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home.    November 7:  Clocks turned back, marigold seeds harvested for next year.

OK.  I admit–I didn’t go hunting–I stayed in a warm house, but I did help Roger put up a new tree stand later!

Ahh!  Even the fairly poor and obscure people of the world can be calendar-worthy.

Dec 6 2009

Happy St. Nicholas Day!


Just returned from the annual family trek to see the lights at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland.  It’s $20 a car load this year but very much worth the expense.  The train garden, a miniature replica of familiar sights in Montgomery County, is worth the price alone.  We didn’t have time for the train scavenger hunt, but Nicole did find a live snail.

Oct 1 2009

Finally, Texting While Driving Is Illegal In Maryland. Yay!


Kudos to our Maryland lawmakers who got this one right.  As of today, it is illegal to text behind the wheel.  Now, if they would just outlaw ALL cell phone use while driving.

As an added bonus, teenagers now have to be 18 before they can get their full license.  Still too young IMHO, but a step in the right direction.

If you’re wondering just how dangerous distracted driving is, here’s an excellent, if long, article from the New York Times:

Driven to Distraction, from the New York Times

And if you really want to get serious about the safety of your loved ones, have them make this pledge and sign it.  Everyone in our household has.

Safe Driving Pledge

Oct 1 2009

The Trouble With Obama


Yes, we’re disappointed.  Instead of true and significant change, we are getting cold and compromising pragmatism.  But we (I) can be patient with that.  We have, after all, been pulled back from the brink of economic annihilation.  And we’re struggling to recover from eight years of disastrous foreign policy premised on lies and arrogance.

But real health care reform should be achievable.  We should be able to stand up to the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies, and the GOP.  We should be able to have a public option (though it is a poor substitute for single-payer universal care, the best option).  We should be able to decouple insurance from employment — what sense is it to have an individual mandate with workplace-delivered coverage?  Health insurance is too important to be dependent on something as tenuous as employment.  We need real caps on premiums, which is scarcely mentioned, other than ridiculous proposals (13%?) that don’t even constitute cost control.

But I digress.  That’s not the reason I’m writing.  I’m writing about the trouble with Obama.

I think I’ve finally put my finger on it.  He hasn’t asked us to do anything.  Us, the citizens.  We, who elected him.  No exhortations to shoulder our burden, no calls to selfless action or sacrifice, no asking what we can do for our country.  We’re relegated to spectator roles.  Sure, we can be self-starters and do things on our own.  But that’s just individual action.  Isn’t a leader supposed to lead?  Isn’t a leader supposed to unite our efforts so we can achieve great things?  How else can we do them?

Please.  Lead, Mr. President.  Ask us to do something, damn it!  Something real.  Not phone calls and coffee clutches.  Tell us what it is we need to do, what you would have us do, to turn this country around.  Please, before it is way too late.

Sep 27 2009

Ken Burns’ National Park Series


Since Noah and Emily have gone home, Roger and I are trying to get back to the normal routine of our household. It’s suddenly quiet, and we are missing our grandson and his mother.   This week’s “routine,” though, will be watching the National Parks series filmed by Ken Burns.  If you missed the first two hours, detailing the beginning of our national park history, you can watch it online at this link: 


We’re looking forward to the next installment tomorrow night on WETA at 8:00 p.m. 


Here is an excerpt from John Muir’s essay, “The American Forests.”  Tonight, we learned a great deal about John Muir and his love of the wilderness.  Like many people, I’m sure, we’ll be headed to the library to read more.

“THE forests of America, however slighted by man, must have been a great delight to God; for they were the best he ever planted. The whole continent was a garden, and from the beginning it seemed to be favored above all the other wild parks and gardens of the globe. To prepare the ground, it was rolled and sifted in seas with infinite loving deliberation and forethought, lifted into the light, submerged and warmed over and over again, pressed and crumpled into folds and ridges, mountains and hills, subsoiled with heaving volcanic fires, ploughed and ground and sculptured into scenery and soil with glaciers and rivers, — every feature growing and changing from beauty to beauty, higher and higher. And in the fullness of time it was planted in groves, and belts, and broad, exuberant, mantling forests, with the largest, most varied, most fruitful, and most beautiful trees in the world. Bright seas made its border with wave embroidery and icebergs; gray deserts were outspread in the middle of it, mossy tundras on the north, savannas on the south, and blooming prairies and plains; while lakes and rivers shone through all the vast forests and openings, and happy birds and beasts gave delightful animation. Everywhere, everywhere over all the blessed continent, there were beauty, and melody, and kindly, wholesome, foodful abundance.”

Aug 9 2009

Prize Winners At The Fair!


Live blogging from the Howard County Fair. Great showing. Firsts for Italian sweet peppers and yellow bells; second for green bells; third for green beans. The squash ducks photo won second in the adult still life/flowers and vegs category. Yeah! BTW, first time posting using WP iPhone app. Fingers crossed.

Jul 21 2009

Hang Up And Drive, Dammit! And Slow Down While You’re At It.


I’ve changed my mobile talk habits dramatically, since the data seems to have reached a critical mass.  It’s just stupid to talk on the phone and drive, even with a hands-free device.   Read here some of what the government has suppressed about the dangers:

Driven to Distraction – In 2003, U.S. Withheld Data Showing Cellphone Driving Risks – Series – NYTimes.com.

Oh, and speaking of needless highway deaths and countless injuries, not to mention a catastrophic energy and climate crisis, what ever happened to that 55 mph speed limit?  Details:

55 mph stats

Guess we’re all just too damned important and in too much of a hurry.  I suggest:  slow down, shut up, or stay home.

Jul 20 2009

Tomato Alert: Late Blight Fungus


Bad news for tomato growers and gardeners throughout the East. Late blight fungus is spreading wide — “explosively” according to the USDA — and destroying whole crops. Link to an article below. A reminder that tomatoes in the garden require good hygiene. If there’s any doubt at all, do NOT compost your tomato vines. These things are nasty and highly contagious, even season to season.

New York Times article on late blight fungus

Jun 13 2009

One Millionth Word


CNN reported that the English Language added its one millionth word on Wednesday.  I missed it, but I’m sure that the cosmic exhileration I was feeling on June 10 had a source.  Note that “Obamamania” and “wardrobe malfunction” are recent contributions.