Making Pies. Making me cry.

I hate Alzheimer’s disease. But I love pie. And I love that someone is using the latter to fight the former. And someone else is shining a light on it.

Chris Joecken is someone I met when he was a student at Cincinnati State, and he was looking to break into the video/agency business. Great kid. Now he’s using his talents to tell powerful stories, and bring light and love into the world.

Here’s what he posted on LinkedIn yesterday:

Made with Love by Helen from Chris Joecken on Vimeo.

Beautiful. Simply beautiful. I know Helen makes fruit pies, but someone must be cutting onions in here. Those “ripples” are streaming down my cheeks right now.

Chris’ post is right on point. Thoreau said “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation” but I think most of us have it within us to be more like Helen, and channel our energies toward lives of humble service. A pebble in the ocean, maybe… but enough to make a ripple.

What can we do with our sorrow? How can we be stewards of what we already possess? How can we transform our pain into something beneficial for others? 

Chris Joecken

How are you making pies today?

I’m a Quitter

I set a goal to read 52 books this year – one a week. And I was crushing it. 18 weeks into the year, I’ve got 17 books under my belt.

But I’m bailing out on my books goal.

I’m taking a page from Kenny Roger’s book (ha!) and knowing when to fold ’em.

Why? Because it was an Arbitrary Stupid Goal (also the title of a great book by Tamara Shopsin).

But mainly because I’m a sprinter, not a marathoner. I’ve always preferred short stories (Ray Bradbury is my hero) and short, medium, and long articles.

I subscribe to The New Yorker, The Atlantic and Cincinnati Magazine. And those issues have been piling up in my “to read” stack. I also like reading the Sunday paper. I was basically trading reading timely content for reading timeless content. There’ll be time enough for the latter — to paraphrase Kenny Rogers — when the dealing’s done. And the guilt of not reading the magazines and papers was outweighing the joy I got from the books.

I’ll still read plenty this year – including more books. But reading should bring me joy, not baggage. And I’ve learned that it’s OK to walk away.

[This post is approved by the ghost of Kenny Rogers.]

Grateful for the Chance…

There are many times I question the “wisdom” of crafting blog posts for a blog that few* people read.

*4-6 folks, roughly, although that staggering number drops precipitously if you subtract relatives.

Any objective observer would consider it a waste of time and money. I should just buy a journal and write in that. Same readership, without the hassle and expense of maintaining a web presence. (Believe it or not, I actually have to PAY for the highly coveted, much-sought-after domain name of “”)

But then I get a note like this from my friend and co-worker:

Wow! So one of my trivial posts on my silly little blog actually played a very tiny role in helping kickstart something that will bring more gratefulness and joy into the world? I’m flabbergasted! (And flabby too… probably from too much time sitting on my butt blogging.)

Here’s more about the event:

Grateful Gatherings are monthly conversations with purpose, designed by Grateful Living and hosted by people like Harmony co-president Susan Jackson who have completed their training program. Each month we’ll be exploring the transformative practice of grateful living, using the resources provided by Grateful Living. Our monthly topics will include things like: Say Yes to JoyWelcome ImperfectionNavigate GriefReimagine RestAwaken to Awe, and Act with Courage.

Suddenly all those countless hours spent blogging seem worthwhile. Especially if we’re grading success on the Emerson scale:

Susan’s first Grateful Gathering will take place on Sunday, April 28, at 10 a.m. at Moonflower Coffee Collective in Sharonville. Damn right I’ll be there! Because I’m forever grateful that Susan read some silly little blog post in the first place.

This is just the incentive I needed to continue with my blog posts! It’s so much better than the usual feedback I receive, which falls into one of two categories:

Stay Creative Classy!

On Saturday evening, instead of watching March Madness, I met up with some old friends for a happy hour that stretched into the wee hours.

Yesterday afternoon, instead of watching March Madness, I provided a bit of constructive (I hope) criticism and writing tips to students who had entered their short films into a college film festival. Yes, me, the man who thinks this is the pinnacle of American cinema:

Last night, instead of watching March Madness, I went to a poetry reading. Yes, me, the guy who struggles to understand anything more complex than The Family Circus comic strip.

(The ghosts haunt me…)

My choices were based in part on the fact that Xavier didn’t make the Big Dance this year. But all three events were certainly more nourishing for the soul than watching a gazillion AT&T commercials. Oh, and let’s not forget the countless minutes of “official review” so the refs can add a tenth of a second to the game clock. Scintillating!

The Saturday happy hour was with some friends from my ad agency days. The traditional ad agency model is in a state of disarray. Too much consolidation, not enough creative freedom. But the folks I met and worked with during my agency days remain some of the most creative folks I’ve ever known. Writers, designers, artists, muralists, musicians. Big Idea generators, every one of them. They bring more beauty into the world. Yes, some of it is in service of commerce, but that doesn’t diminish the beauty… if anything, it makes it more admirable.

The student film festival gave me hope that the next generation of our “creative class” will be just as creative. The tools may change, but the ability to tell a compelling story will always matter.

The poets were folks who went to Xavier in the late 60s/early 70s and bonded over their love of the written word. To be able to portray beauty and convey emotions with an economy of words is a rare talent. And one well worth celebrating.

(excerpt above is from the book Also a Poet by Ada Calhoun)

The rise of technology — especially AI — has some folks thinking that our souls will be superseded by machines. But I know better. Flesh and blood, and human connection, are what will help us not just survive, but thrive.

Stay Classy, friends…. and stay creative!

District of Connection

A couple of weekends ago, I went to Washington, D.C. Ostensibly the trip was the see Xavier men’s b-ball take on Georgetown.

I could think of several reasons to NOT go:

  • Georgetown’s not a good team this year, and Xavier’s only marginally better.
  • Tickets to the game weren’t cheap
  • I was going to a concert in Cincy on Friday night, so my trip to D.C. would have to be super-short.

But these days, I’m trying to err on the side of “go” vs. “no.” And I could think of several reasons to go. Their names are Robin, Ronnie, Kevin, Tom, Sarah, John, Mike, Beth, Tim, George, Dan, another John, Kate, yet another John, Jason… the list goes on. Most are friends from my Xavier days (back in the Mesozoic Era), some are the spouses/significant others, one was a co-worker who is also a good friend. Many of them I hadn’t seen in years… decades even. And the most recent time I saw some of them was at the funeral for our friend Ned, one of my best buds from college. There’s nothing like losing a peer to remind you that life is short. Hence the “go” vs. “no” mentality.

I used SkyMiles for the plane ticket. The hotel room was relatively cheap by D.C. standards. The chance to reconnect with good friends was priceless. (Oh, and Xavier won the game on Saturday night… that certainly helped.)

Thoreau had it right:

It’s not about “stuff” it’s about enjoyment… and there’s nothing more enjoyable than spending a bit of time with good friends. Because friendships are precious. And so’s our time…

Anti-social Media

Here’s a suggestion for 2024: put down your phone, and pick up a book.

Yes, I know I’m the old man yelling at a cloud. You can’t fight the rising tide of the Facegram and the Tic-Tac (or whatever it is the kids are staring at for hours-long stretches these days).

But if it’s vicarious living that you’re looking for, drop your feed and feed your head a tome or three. In other words, trade the Kardashian sisters for The Brothers Karamazov.

“I consider reading the greatest bargain in the world. A shelf of books is a shelf of many lives and ideas and imaginations which the reader can enjoy whenever he wishes and as often as he wishes. Instead of experiencing just one life, the book-lover can experience hundreds or even thousands of lives. He can live any kind of adventure in the world. Books are his time machine into the past and also into the future. Books are his “transporter” by which he can beam instantly to any part of the universe and explore what he finds there. Books are an instrument by which he can become any person for a while—a man, a woman, a child, a general, a farmer, a detective, a king, a doctor, anyone.

Great books are especially valuable because a great book often contains within its covers the wisdom of a man or woman’s whole lifetime. But the true lover of books enjoys all kinds of books, even some nonsense now and then, because enjoying nonsense from others can teach us to also laugh at ourselves. A person who does not learn to laugh at his own problems and weaknesses and foolishness can never be a truly educated or a truly happy person. Also, probably the same thing could be said of a person who does not enjoy learning and growing all his life.”

Gene Roddenberry, in Letters to Star Trek

I plan to practice what I preach this year – unlike other years when my reading eyes were bigger than my book belly.

My goal is 52 books in 52 weeks. It’s gonna happen.

In summary: