Thursday, August 30, 2012

Crazymakers in the Community

Look out, Howard County! There are Crazymakers on the loose in your community!

Do I have your attention?

You may not have heard the term Crazymaker before, but you probably know one.  In her book, The Artist's Way, Julia Cameron describes a Crazymaker like this:

"If they can swing it, they are the star. Everyone around them functions as supporting cast, picking up their cues, their entrances and exits, from the Crazymaker’s whims."

Does this ring a bell? Have you served on a committee with this person?  Attended a public meeting that featured the antics of one? Perhaps you have read about the consequences of  a Crazymaker's actions in the local news?

Take a look at this post from Escaping Mediocrity. Blogger Sarah Robinson lays it out clearly:

Crazymakers cannot abide or respect a schedule – least of all yours. 
Crazymakers expect special treatment.  
Crazymakers discount your reality.
Crazymakers make others feel small. 
Crazymakers are expert saboteurs.

There has been a bit of a stir this week about online bullying as it pertains to adults: possibly even bloggers and the commentators who participate in the blogging realm. This started me wondering about Crazymaking and its effects on our community, because Crazymaking takes bullying to a whole new level.

You see, Crazymakers "are also VERY charismatic, often charming and incredibly interesting. Which is how we get sucked in."

Some years ago I served on the HOA Board for my community.  Directly before the spring CA elections, a guest speaker came to talk to us about the issues in the upcoming election.  The predictions were dire. Our visitor believed in the true vision of Columbia, but at the same time, heartless developers were going around, handpicking candidates who would do their bidding to run against the true Columbians.  It was pretty convincing. This person was, by all appearances, calm, rational, and pleasant.

 I found out later that what was said was completely untrue.

Guess what?  I'm not going to name names.  I want you to do that for yourself.  Where do you see manipulation, grandstanding, temper tantrums?  Where do you see charm that serves as a precursor to poison?

When we have Crazymakers in our personal lives, we have to make hard choices about what to do.  Do we set clearer boundaries? Stand up for ourselves more assertively?  Or must we separate ourselves completely from the toxic behavior which is harming us, and possibly, our families, co-workers, or friends?

But what do we do with Crazymakers that want to dominate the public arena?  And, how do we respond to Crazymaking behavior adopted by groups in order to forward their agendas?

I realize that I am running a risk by presuming that none of us are Crazymakers.  A little self-examination at this juncture wouldn't hurt, I guess.

Bullying in any form is serious and needs to be faced.  Bullying that comes dressed with a charming face is insidious and just as harmful.  If you see something--say something.




Monday, August 27, 2012

Is No News "Good"?

Once upon a time, there were places that everybody knew and loved.  You know what I mean, right? Places like The Last Chance Saloon, Michael's, Rocky Run, Produce Galore, Bun Penny.  Everybody went there. At least, that's what I've heard. You can probably name some others, equally treasured.

But times changed. People changed. The economy changed. And then, one day, they weren't there.  Not all at once of course--little by little. Well-known pieces of the community broke away and crumbled.  Some people were angry, some were grieving.  Some asked, "why?"

"Why didn't we know?" 
"If we had known they were in trouble, we would have made a point of supporting them."
 "It's not our fault this happened."
 If someone had just told us, we would never have let this happen."

I don't know the origin of the adage, "No news is good news."  It seems an awful lot like, "If you don't hear anything, it must be okay."  Hindsight tell us the falsity in that. No news? What if we just weren't listening?

Last week, HocoBloggers Tom Coale and HowChow took a look at a tragic news story in Ellicott City, but they heard something more than the headlines.  Underlying all the basic pieces of the story was another story: of a community of merchants who are our neighbors. Hit by one crisis after another in recent years, they were facing an extended closure of Main Street while clean-up from the train accident took place.

Something really marvelous happened because they were listening. And they asked a different question, "What if?"

"What if we can do something to help?"
"What if we can use social media to make it a 'happening'?"
"What if our small, individual acts can create a bigger wave of support?"

Among the long list of things that I am not is: an economist. However, I do know that businesses struggle and fail for a variety of reasons, and that it isn't as simple as well-meaning folks charging in on white steeds to save the day. And under no circumstances am I saying that any of these businesses are in danger of failing. I don't have any knowledge of that, and it is not the point of this post.

The point is about friendship. Do you know who makes the best friends?  People who listen.  Really listen, and pay attention.  If they haven't heard from you, they don't assume that "No News Is Good News". Perhaps you are depressed, or swamped at work.  Maybe you have fallen and you can't get up.

Good friends make good community members. And good community members make, well--they make  a bustling Main Street on a weekend in August, for one thing.

What else could they--we--do?



Tuesday, August 21, 2012

To Have and to Hold

I love books.  I have loved books all my life.  I remember the Little Golden Books of my childhood--Mister Dog, Hansel and Gretel, The Poky Little Puppy.  I remember my mother reading to me at bedtime from a book of children's poems. Oh, how I wished that I had seen the battle between the Gingham Dog and the Calico Cat, or that there really was a Sugarplum Tree in the Garden of Shuteye Town!

When I was quite young, my grandfather gave me a book that changed my life. It was The Bennett Cerf Book of Pop Up Riddles. It was one of the first books that was ever given to me, to have for my very own.  I was the youngest of three and had plenty of books in the hand-me-down sort of way.  But this was a book that had been meant for me to have from the very start.

It was some book, alright.  The pages were shiny cardboard, with brightly-colored illustrations that could open up, pop up, slide over and spring out.  No one in my family had ever seen anything like it. My mother warned me to be quite careful with it.  I had terrible fine motor skills as a child and I'm sure she thought I would destroy it through frustration or lack of finesse.

Not this book.  I won't tell you how many years have passed, but this book has made it through me and my two daughters, and it is still completely functional. (Not perfect. A little "loved.") My daughters knew that they had to ask special permission to read it, and have heard me repeat Mother's admonishment to me countless times, "You have to be careful with it.  Books are our friends."

Books are our friends. Scientific studies and anecdotal observations show that poor children have very little exposure to books in the home, if at all.  It is one of the significant strikes against them when they begin school.  The seeds of school success, fostered through many a bedtime read-aloud, are unknown to them.

Our schools have media centers, and our county has wonderful libraries. But I can tell you from personal experience that nothing can replace the feeling of having a beautiful book of your very own: your book, to read, and read again; to bring for Show and Tell; to sleep with, to dream about, and wake up with. To have and to hold.

The Community of Monarch Mills is holding a Book Drive to benefit the children of their neighboring school, Guilford Elementary.  This is a great cause, and a fabulous way for the Monarch Mills folks to make friends in our area.  Please click this link to find out how you can help.  They ask for gently used books, and many of us have a few we can share.  But I'm probably going to go over to Daedalus, too,where my limited funds will go a long way.

 Well, I'm a sucker for new books.  And I want to spread the love around. 


Friday, August 17, 2012

Sometimes A Bunny Is Just A Bunny

     It began, quite innocently, on Facebook:

I am so glad that we finally got the front bed weeded, cleared and mulched, so that  Mama Bunny could dig a nice little hole and have her kits there-- three, born today, I think.

We put out some carrots and grapes for Mama-- looks like she tried a carrot.

         Pictures??? We saw baby bunnies at the fair yesterday. SO cute!
When the mama saw us she ran away, and babies disappeared into a deeper part of the nest. So, no pics yet. When we came back the nest was beautifully covered up and one of the baby carrots was in small pieces.

         Awwwwww. Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cottontail.

         Maybe Peter will be more daring...

Blackberries! That's what I need!

So it's raining out. Just positioned an open umbrella over nest site. Sheesh! Could the babies drown in there? #bunnymom

             Does the name "Darwin" come to mind?

 For a baby bunny? Are you saying it's the survival of the fittest? Am I interfering with The Prime Directive?

                 I'm just saying, the mommy bunny who builds her nest where the rain can fill the nest might not become a grandma bunny.


Then I began to wonder.  Am I looking at a collision of world views here?  Is my impulse, to help the mama and baby bunnies living in my front flower bed, a typical "liberal" intervention?  Does my friend's reference to Darwin show a Libertarian or Conservative frame of reference?  At this point I was mentally flapping my arms in panic trying to figure out if the desire to help the helpless meant a long term destruction of what I hoped to support, or whether the opposing point of view was...

                I once put a beach umbrella over a bunny nest that was out in the open sun - their little lives are already so precarious!


Another friend had chimed in. Her response broke my overactive mental machinations, and I smiled. Sometimes a bunny in your front flower bed is just a bunny.It doesn't require you to be perfect, or solve the problems of the world.

I've done a lot of reading on rabbits since then. I've learned quite a bit about how mothers care for their newborns.  But I haven't seen the babies again.  We've seen the mother, (at least I think so) nibbling on grass as darkness falls.  So she may be nursing them when we're asleep. She may have moved them once we discovered the nest. Or they may not have survived.

As the campaign season heats up the news and social media this Fall, I am going to try to remember that not everything you see and hear is a springboard to politics.

In other words, sometimes a bunny is just a bunny.



Friday, August 10, 2012

Summer Camp Reflections

Murray Burns: [shouting at rows of houses] Campers! The entertainment committee was quite disappointed in the really poor turnout at this morning's community sing. I mean, where's all that old Camp Chickawattamee spirit? I'm sure I speak for all of us here when I say that I...
Murray Burns: Now, I'd like to say right now that... that...
Murray Burns: Campers, I can't think of anything to say.

(from the conclusion of "A Thousand Clowns".)

I had the opportunity to take the summer off from gainful employment, which has given me my own kind of Summer Camp experience.  More like Camp Mom than Camp Julia, though. In addition to family activities, wedding preparations, ferrying mac to all of her activities, pool dates, crafting, house cleaning, and guest preparation, I have had a lot more time to think about my blog.

Maybe I've had too much time to think about my blog.  I have come to realize that I care too much for what other people think and whether they will like what I write.  So I put pressure on myself to make each post perfect. And if each post doesn't produce a significant response, I go into a slump.  It makes the time that passes between posts longer and longer, as I struggle to get out of my own way enough to be able to write.

Perfectionism is no way to live.  It doesn't do much for your self-esteem as you contract and contort your creative self to become "acceptable." A pursuit of excellence in a true sense means reaching outward and upward. Perfectionism makes you smaller. It distorts your view of yourself, and twists your expectations of others.

So what did I learn at Summer Camp?  I need to get a clearer view of what I want this blog to address, and a saner way to assess how I am doing in meeting my own goals. I shouldn't measure myself by comparison to others. I'm not a watchdog, I don't relay the news, I don't have inside business or political connections, I desire neither to smack folks down or stir up controversy. I'm not selling anything, and I don't have an eye to 'monetize' my writing.

In truth, I'm a miniaturist. I focus on something small and make a connection to something I want to shed some light on. Like this:                                                                                                                        

These are grains of sand, highly magnified.  It's amazing the beauty and diversity that can be discovered here.
Without a closer look, we'd see this:

But I look at that magnified world and see all the zany, weird, wonderful, cranky, stubborn, independent, and caring people in Columbia and Howard County. It's Us. It's our "class picture." How on earth are we ever going to get along? Take another look at the picture--which one is you?

It is the view and the connections that are important to me.  The beauty of who we are, and the interactions we have with one another. And that's what makes a Village Green or a Town Square so important.

I offer special thanks to all of you who, by lending your presence, make this spot on the web an interactive endeavor.