Vote Yes on Orono School Bond

You may have heard that Orono is holding a vote on this coming Tuesday, June 11th to pass a bond in support of some long-overdue upgrades to our crumbling schools. As a proud Orono resident with two children in our schools, I was fortunate to have a role as one of the community representatives in the planning process leading up to the bond.

Now that we’re getting close to the vote, I’ve been having some great conversations with Orono folks about the vote, and I’ve heard from some people who are considering voting against these upgrades because of the tax impact.

While I think these upgrades to our schools are essential and the tax burden is more than reasonable, I do agree with some of my neighbors: Orono taxes are high. Not just politically: in a way that keeps more of the next generation of great citizens out of our town, makes it increasingly harder for people on fixed or lower incomes to remain here, and comes up enough from enough people that it is worth confronting.

Sadly, our taxes are so high that smart and caring people are considering voting against a detailed, comprehensive plan to fix our schools. A plan that was carefully assembled over many months, with multiple opportunities for public input, to be as focused and as economic as possible. A plan that set out from the start to be as economical as possible by only recommended half of the upgrades deemed most essential by construction experts and community members who attended forums and meetings.

So I say to you: if you’re upset with our tax burden, you won’t solve that by voting against fixes that we desperately need to keep our schools from becoming uninhabitable.

You won’t solve our tax burden by preventing us from fixing the broken ceiling tiles, exposed wiring, temporary classrooms, and unsafe / insecure entrances.

You won’t solve our tax burden by preventing our state championship winning track team and our legendary football team from being able to play their games at a home field.

You won’t solve our tax burden by preventing our five-straight state championship show choir teams from performing in a lunchroom for the next 20 years.

Sadly, if you vote against this plan, you solve nothing.

Our schools are only getting worse, and they’re getting worse quickly. Our kids will continue to suffer with substandard, embarrassing, and dangerous facilities.

The next time we need repairs and improvements, the same work will only cost more.

People who might move here will be turned away by the condition of our school facilities.

And our tax burden will still be unsustainable.

Orono neighbors: I urge you to vote in support of the bond on Tuesday, June 11. Let’s put out students and our town first, and make up for years of overdue upgrades right now.

When that is done, we can work together as a community to address our tax burden.

I’ll be right there with you.

Pitching in the Shirtsleeves


My Mother died a little over a year ago, so this will be my 41st Mother’s Day, and my first one without her.

We’ve all lost someone: a Mom, a brother, a friend; that’s the way of the world. So we all know the excruciating loneliness of the calls that aren’t coming, the happy memory that can fill you with effortless pride and bitter anger at the same time. The guilt at what we didn’t say, didn’t do, or the photos we didn’t take.

We usually meet these things from a distance when we’re too young to lose people ourselves, so we feel them in waves of loss around us. As we get older, there are fewer surprises in loss except when it happens to you, and what you find along the way that you never heard mentioned.  

The long road of loss becomes familiar as we get older, so I try to be open to the surprises, to let them happen, and not be afraid of them or avoid them. They’re a way to look backward and forward at the same time, they’re both learning about and remembering who you’ve lost. They’re a rest stop on the endless road.

Last week my wife Heidi and I were playing cribbage and listening to the Red Sox on a radio so old we had to turn it up to the highest volume just to hear it. Joe Castiglione started calling Sox games 36 years ago, when I was four. Before every game was televised, and even on the weekends when we could watch them on TV38, our house was a radio broadcast house. My mom, ironing and listening to Joe and Ken, falling asleep to the games, turning up the radio to hear it when she worked outside in the garden. I’ve heard his voice a thousand times, in the foreground and background, and my Mom is nearby for most of them. When we were reading her last wishes, it was right there in her handwriting. She left me her collection of baseball books, including the pride of her collection, one signed by Joe himself.

Then I paused as the game came back to the foreground, and I heard Joe make an errant comment, one of the millions he’s said over 5,000 games when you both need to fill the air and want to paint a picture of the action for your listeners, as they’re sitting playing cards or ironing.

Rodriguez, pitching in the shirtsleeves tonight.”

Here was one of those surprises, one that sent my surroundings backward into infinity, that cut across time and took me off the road and onto a rest stop. While that single random phrase is one I’ve heard many times across many games, enough for it to be familiar, it surprised me how quickly I was transported. I was inside a small house on a Friday night in spring with the windows open, sitting at a campground, riding in the backseat. Listening to an announcer paint the story of the game, with my Mom nearby, or far away but at least available for a call.

I was with my Mom, and not just with her habit of listening to the radio. I was with her innocence, her natural and unaffected embrace of habits and small joys. The attitude that she used to make the most of her time here. What we do in the long light of summers when we don’t think we’re doing anything.

I don’t know if she would ever have sat me down to tell me this. It just became true over time, enough to come back through a single sentence, one of a million, from between the crackling of an old radio on a clear night.

I wouldn’t have come across it if I wasn’t open to the surprises.


Many of the things we think we learn from observing loss end up being at least little bit wrong, and the deals we make we can’t always follow through on. After we lose a loved one, no matter how much we regret, we’re not always going to appreciate every moment. We still forget to take more photos, we still say something we don’t mean, and we still miss a chance to give a hug.

One thing we can do is to be there for the surprises, let them happen, and allow them to show us things. It might come through some color commentary about a pitcher in his groove on a warm night, and it might be to remind us of something that hurts. It might be to show us a memory we’ve relived a million times, while it leaves something behind as it fades away.

Whatever that surprise is, it will be a rest stop on the long drive. And this might be the time it makes us a little wiser, and brings us a little closer to someone, even from impossibly far away.

 

 

Movies 2018

In 2018, I watched 49 movies, two more than in 2017, and slightly less than the average of 51 movies per year that I’ve averaged over the past 10 years. Yes, I track my movie-watching (and my book-reading, calories, sleep, travel, and other things), I enjoy doing it, and I refer back to it often.

Here are some stats from my year in movie watching (view previous years’ here)

2018’s New Movies

Of the 49 movies I watched in 2018, 14 of them — or 29% — were released in 2018, which is the lowest “new movie” total I’ve seen in a year since all the way back in 2012.

That means my 2018 top 10 list isn’t as confident as previous’ years when I had more movies to pick from- that said, I’m happy with this list overall:

  1. A Star Is Born
  2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse
  3. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
  4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
  5. Avengers: Infinity War
  6. Game Night
  7. Blockers
  8. A Quiet Place
  9. Ant-Man and The Wasp
  10. Tomb Raider (2018 version)

How and What I Watched

Formats

I watched most (nearly 60%) of movies on a digital format such as Amazon Prime, Plex (my personal media library), Netflix, HBO Now, and iTunes. 30% of my viewing came from theaters, and the rest (just 4 movies) on DVD.

This is a big drop from just 5 years ago, when nearly 25% of my viewing was on DVD/Blu-ray, and only 30% on digital platforms.

Genres

This year, I spent most of my time — roughly 52 hours, or an hour a week — watching action movies, my top genre, beating out comedy without much of a battle. Next was drama, documentary, and thriller with two entries (Get Out and A Quiet Place).

The action genre was boosted not only by my regular November – December rewatches of several Bond movies; it was also enhanced by my watch of the entire five-movie Dirty Harry series, plus 6 of the 14 movies I saw in theaters this year.

Takeaways

  • Clearly, I need to get back into the new movie scene in 2019. I saw 30% fewer new movies in 2018 than my recent yearly average, due in part to a number of personal and professional happenings, and to a lesser extent, decreased interest in what was out there in terms of movies.
  • My Watchlist – (obviously) a running tally of the movies I want to watch – is at an all-time high, and I should either purge that list, or watch some movies from it, or both.
  • I should probably branch out beyond cheesy action movies and catch a few more dramas.
  • On a related note, I feel like the classic romantic comedy needs to come back around in a big way.

Catherine Campbell, 1957-2018

My mother, Cathi Campbell, passed away Monday June 11th 2018. Her obituary will appear in the Bangor Daily News (Maine) and Hartford Courant (Connecticut) on June 13th and 14th 2018, and is also reprinted below.

Catherine Marie Dowd Campbell went to be with the Lord on Monday June 11, 2018, held by her son Jason Clarke and with her beloved husband Peter Campbell by her side. While she struggled with cancer, she did not lose the battle, persevering with her endless strength and willingness to spend every minute happily sharing life with family. She is survived by her son Jason Clarke and wife Heidi, her husband Peter Campbell and his sons Joshua Campbell and wife Michelle and Jared Campbell and wife Tanya, her mother Pauline Dowd, her siblings Dennis Dowd and wife Cheryl, MariAnne Lalama and husband John, David Dowd and wife Paula, and Patricia Dowd. She is also survived by her grandchildren Henry and Annie Clarke, Connor and Mckayla Campbell, and Whitney, Eva, Chase, and Maverick Campbell. Cathi also leaves behind many nieces, nephews, cousins, and members of the extended Dowd and Campbell families, as well as a world of friends.

She is predeceased by her father Gerald Dowd, her parents-in-law, Lorraine and Douglas Campbell, and a special nephew, Paul Lalama.

Cathi was born in Hartford Connecticut in 1957, and spent a happy childhood playing between trees and around the city. She moved to Maine in 1979, where she loved gardening, cross country skiing, making homemade halloween costumes for her son Jason, listening to the Red Sox while ironing, her time as a Cub Scout pack leader, and her life as an aunt, sister-in-law, Mom and wife, as well as a neighbor and friend to so many. Cathi also reached her lifelong goal of graduating college during this time and began her career as a social worker, a true calling where she shared her overflowing support and guidance to many hundreds of people in need of a guardian and champion.

Later in life, she made many new friends living in southern Maine, Florida, and then again Connecticut, where she was closer to her parents and siblings. During this time, her love of travel and exploration flourished, as she and Peter visited nearly every state in the country and traveled abroad as avid campers, hikers, cruise-goers, and occasional theme park visitors. Their three-month-long epic cross-country RV trip in 2014 was a truly special experience that enriched their appreciation for the vast range of people and places that only travel can provide.

Through more than 20 years of constant companionship, Cathi and Peter also enjoyed watching the Red Sox and Celtics, baking (with many people receiving their favorite treats at each visit), being members of the East Windsor Rotary, and tending to their RV and garden. They rescued a dog, Libby, who loves to travel with them and was spoiled in the way only they could, and who is heartbroken at the loss of “her Memere”.

While she made the most of life with work, friends, and family, Cathi treasured her life first as Mother and later as a Grandmother more than anything else, known as Memere after her own maternal grandmother. Through countless visits and vacations with all of them, and through thousands of text messages with her first born grandson Henry, she showered all her grandchildren with the brightest light of her soul, telling the world about their every accomplishment, and taking every opportunity to share in their lives. Cathi was a constant fan and supporter of her grandchildren’s many sports, music, and arts activities, attending every performance as photographer, first (and loudest clapper), and watching recordings of their performances until she knew every word, as she did for her own son Jason.

She leaves her grandchildren with her many signature sayings, a genuine love for travel and adventure, and a lifetime of memories to share with their own children and grandchildren.

Services will be Monday June 18th at 11am at the Carmon Funeral Home on Poquonock Avenue in Windsor, Connecticut and later this summer in Anson, Maine, her final resting place, where she will be committed to a burial among fields and trees, a spot fitting for her beauty and love of the outdoors. Those wishing to make a donation may do so to the American Cancer Society online at cancer.org.

Befriending Time

I stood up from my seat in the pew, ready to carry a heavy weight. Could I take a punch? I guess this was as good a time as any to find out. Only it would have to be a wet one, like a kiss, because it was starting to rain.

***

When someone dies, you still need to do the normal things. Like shave, make sure your shirt is wrinkle-free, help your kids get ready for the events of the day. There’s fixing up the daughter’s hair, helping the son with his tie, and you eat a little bit if you’re hungry or you know you’ve been forgetting. Then there are the abnormal things, the new things. Trying to find a way to comfort your mother, who’s just lost her Father. Remembering the last time you saw someone, how they looked. How they looked compared to what you remember them as.

The first time we found out my Grandfather had cancer, we quickly gathered plans to race down and see him. It always amazes me how our small family can create chaos out of quiet, when given the sliver of a chance. This was more than a sliver. It was just after Easter, the time of year that Connecticut is in the full bloom of spring while northern New England is still going rounds with winter, hoping at best for a draw. We escaped the dirty snow banks to flowers on the trees and something like blue in the skies. We were told, rightly or wrongly, that we needed to visit Grandpa because things did not look good. The kids ran around the back yard, we setup lawn chairs, the aunts and uncles gathered. You talk about work when you don’t want to talk about the future.

Four years later, he died. Four years of ups and downs, long nights we could only imagine with all the distance of 300 miles and a half a climate between us and my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and neighbors. What did my mother go through in those four years that I could learn from? Not just the fear of driving to the hospital, but the loneliness of driving home, to go to bed, to wake up and go on with their lives the next day, waiting for news.

What about my Grandfather, at the center of it? You’ll need to change your eating habits, try to like new things, have patience forced on you like an icy sidewalk when you fall. The patience of waiting rooms, test results, the patience of waiting to see if a new treatment works or what else it will do to you while you’re trying to battle the larger of two evils.

When I think about those four years, I imagine the patience is tempered by the vast uncertainty of length, like how driving somewhere the first time always seems so long. Do you lose sense of time wondering if today will be a good day, or if this month will bring setbacks, or this season will be filled with promise as the enemy retreats? And come to think of it, did the enemy retreat, or are they regrouping? When you’re a child, time alternates between enemy and friend at different times. Growing up means understanding time, befriending it, ultimately controlling it. The cancer takes that, returns days to weeks, hours to months, removes your ability to predict and balance your present with your future.

Secretly, I didn’t think he’d get well, only manage, with bouts of triumph and resolve, while a steady decline walked on, ignoring his will.

***

He died in February, yet another time of year when Maine is consumed by the darkness and the whiteness of winter, while Connecticut turns the corner. There weren’t quite flowering trees, but the snow had given way to rain and the immeasurable dark skies were now just gray, with a hint of blue.

Me with my Grandfather Gerald Dowd, Christmas 1984.

We were ready. I had a haircut and bought a larger wedding band to fit over my broken finger. My family would immediately notice if I wasn’t wearing a ring, and even a swollen and purple knuckle would not excuse the adoscelent arrogance of not wearing it to such an occasion. Death is one of the reasons we maintain traditions in the first place.

Saturday morning, we were groups of dark suits and dresses, piling into dark cars under deep gray skies. They weren’t showing clear signs of lightening; that took the promise out of our small talk about the weather. Some of those gathered  were handed umbrellas by the funeral attendants, until the umbrellas ran out. My own children had never been to a funeral; never seen my wife and I at our most vulnerable. We would need to expose them to the power of grief and still hold them close enough to not feel alone.

A traditional Catholic mass anchored the solemnity. Even for those people who grew up outside of the church, it provided meaning to our dress and united our quiet solitude. The sermon reminded us that my Grandfather received comfort as dramatically and as surely in the other world as he had been plagued by pain and decline in ours. This peace was possible in his new place because, the priest assured us, “Only the father knows the son,” and “only the son knows the father.” This was religious in intent. Then my uncle got up to deliver the eulogy for his father, gone after a lifetime, and those words meant something even more to me.

***

After a short drive from the church, we gathered at the gravesite. The rain clacked on umbrellas above us, and below the somber quiet followed us from the church. They’d erected a canopy over the grave for the service. My grandmother and aunts and uncles and friends gathered in seats for the military ceremony, honoring my Grandfather’s service in Korea. I stood outside the canopy, listening.

Approaching middle age, I realized I had been wondering, for nearly 30 years, how my Grandfather felt on the long boat ride from Korea back to the United States. I know from stories that he and his friends played cards to relax and pass the time, but what else? What mix of confidence and relief showed itself on the faces and in the words of him and the men next to him? Did he dwell much on the choices that lay before him, as impossibly wide as the ocean? Did he plan out the universe he would co-create, that now stood gathered around him in the cold and wet world he left? You rarely think of something when you’re in the middle of it, even as long as a life.

My wife pulled my daughter closer under her umbrella. Men in uniform moved through traditions. My Grandfather had never been as far away from that boat and its possibilities. No harm could come to him anymore as he stood with the Father, in rest following a lifetime of choices and sentences, lucky and smart, fair and cruel.

My son looked up at me, and I looked back at him. I don’t think you learn how to act at funerals, any more than you learn how to control life. You befriend time, and you carry an umbrella, and when you escape one battlefield, you take a moment to laugh and play cards and maybe you catch a glimpse of the next adventure you’ll have a hand in creating. Then you go towards it, with fear and confidence, invincibility and fragility. Peace and loss.

As my son stared at me standing in the rain, his face moved for a second. I think it was recognition. Then he lifted up his umbrella, stretching to the limits of his reach to place it over my head. I took it from him and held it over both of us. We were out of the rain for the time being, but it was still loud as hell and inches above our heads. He stood close to me to keep out of the cold.

Only the father knows the son, and only the son knows the father.

My Top 20 Favorite Tweets of 2014

20. As a habitual, obsessive tabs closer, and a big Glengarry Glen Ross fan, this speaks to me.

19. Web agencies *need* to shift to adopt this perspective in order to survive and thrive.

18. It’s often lost on me. I’m grateful for thoughts like this to remind me.

17. I’ve been using FTP for 12 years and this still rings 10000% true.

https://twitter.com/danielimmke/status/527582499929464832

16. I often wonder if the flatbed tow truck actually made it back to the garage without breaking down.

16. Twitter Best Of List Recursion.

15. If you’re not familiar, check out Comedy Bang! Bang! and of course Paul F. Tompkins.

14. I do the same.

13. Still want to make this actually come true in real life.

12. When my son meant to text me on his mom’s phone and Tweeted by accident:

11.

https://twitter.com/tiamhdha/status/499318795195133952

10. Sorry, but this is true.

9. Yes. Yes there is.

8. Really sad. Really true.

7. That’s my daughter!

6. I want to be in this kid’s crew.

https://twitter.com/DancesWithTamis/status/539529085832019968

5. Yep.

4. Still makes me LOL for real.

https://twitter.com/mattonomics/status/535975208210157568

3. Anyone who’s ever set foot in a clothing store at any point in human history knows this to be insanely true.

2. That’s a book’s worth of awesome in one tweet.

1. This is easily one of my all-time favorite tweets. Other people seem to agree: it has over 10,000 RTs as of today.

Top 5 Cooks

If you haven’t seen Too Many Cooks, the recent NSFW “Informercial” on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, find 10 minutes and watch. Yes, it’s long, but it’s the rare video that’s definitely worth it.

Then, come back here for the definitive list of the Top 5 cooks:

5. Will Dove

Will Dove

4. Ali Froid

Ali Froid

3. Ken DeLozier

Ken DeLozier

2. Katie Adkins

Katie Adkins

1. Smarf

Smarf

 

Don’t just create memories — look back on them, together

Scrolling through Instagram the other day, I noticed a friend’s photo of a photo of a jar filled with slips of paper. She and her family had spent the month of November writing down things to be thankful for, and then took turns pulling out slips of paper and talking about them together on Thanksgiving.

Since I was already feeling like Thanksgiving went by too quickly for our family, without much of a chance to reflect, and inspired by my friend’s simple idea to add some meaning to the typically busy holiday season, I decided to grab the kids and do something similar. The result is our first ever Memory Jar (beta version, of course).

The idea is that every Wednesday for the next couple of weeks — and in between, if the inspiration strikes — we’ll jot down a memory from the past 11 months (happy or sad, both are important) on a slip of paper and drop it in a glass jar. Some afternoon or evening between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we’ll sit down and take turns pulling slip of paper out of the jar and talking over what we’ve done over the past year.

The resulting “memory jar” craft project is described below. Since this an off-the-cuff project we whipped up last night, I’m not sure how it will turn out, though I’m hoping it helps us take just a few hours to get together and think back on the ups and downs of 2014.

Here’s how we made our memory jar:

  • Some wrapping paper (holiday themed, if you’re into that)
  • Some ribbon (again, holiday themed is possible though not required)
  • A basket (or similar container)
  • Scissors
  • A jar
  • Something to write with (pen or marker recommended)
  • Friends and/or family to contribute
Step1

Step 1

Grab some different rolls of holiday wrapping paper and cut off 1’x1′ square pieces. Then, fold the pieces in half 3-4 times until it’s folded into a 3″ square.

Then, unfold the piece back again, and you’ll have some nice creases to cut on.

Step2

Step 2

Using the creases as guides, cut the larger squares of paper into smaller squares. Then, fold the smaller squares in half (with the paper design on the outside) and crease them to make sure they lay flat.

As you finish them, put them in a circle in the bottom of your basket. Leave room in the middle of the basket for the jar.

Step3

Step 3

Grab some ribbon (green and red, if available) and tie them to the top of a clear jar. Place the jar into the middle of the basket.

Step4

Step 4

Set a particular day of the week (“Every Wednesday”) or just invite friends/family members to jot down memories any time.

When you’ve written a memory, fold it back up so it’s hidden and place it into the jar.

Step5

Step 5

When the slips of paper are gone, or on a set date (we’re going with New Year’s Eve), take turns removing a slip of paper and reading it. Then spend a few minutes talking over the memory before passing the jar along to the next person to take the next slip of paper.

Bonus points for having a phone or laptop on hand — when a slip of paper is pulled from the memory jar, find photos or videos of the event to add to the conversation.