Tag Archive: linkedin


Happy holidays, y’all. I’ve been busy with family, new freelance work, and a new gig too. I’m firing on all cyclnders on all of them and enjoying life in general, challenges included.

The following is something I wrote for my new outfit’s blog. You can find it here and, well, here:

Another winning holiday sweater entitled "Dignity? What dignity?"

In an age of more, more, and more, a handmade gift becomes all the more meaningful. There’s something about the personalization – the care that goes into a handmade gift – that people grasp when they unwrap it. Look at their eyes. That’s where you can see them realize that the gift in their hands didn’t come with a receipt: It came from you.

And since it’s from you, it can be as original as you are. As a writer at heart, I like to write poems for people on special occasions. Here’s a poem I wrote for a coworker’s birthday:

Roses are red/
Violets are pretty/
We hope that your birthday/
Is not a bit … boring.

Cheesy? Yep. Sophomoric at best, moronic at worst. But, hey, it’s original. It gets a smile and hopefully a laugh. To me, that’s the whole point of gift giving.

Or take the “bookshelf” my son built for my wife. He used a couple 2’x4’s; some screws; and red, blue, and yellow paint. The finished product is basically a rectangle. If you lay the “bookshelf” flat and fill it with soil, it transforms into a tiny planter. The only way that books could fit in this thing is if it’s placed horizontally. Again, it’s the thought that counts. 

Practicality is important for some gifts, sure, but I think it plays third fiddle to giving something original.

We’re all creative, right? So go for it this year! Bake a batch of cookies, craft a one-of-a-kind T-shirt, or present a slideshow of your time together. Even a simple holiday card would take no time at all, yet it could bring someone cheer over and over again (and it could possibly be worth something when you’re famous someday.)

What’s the best handmade gift you’ve ever gave or received? Share your pictures or stories via this post and/or our Facebook page, and have a happy and original holiday.

For fellow scribbler, Rochelle, who gave me the number 27 and told me to write about something from that age. It’s a good thing she didn’t give me 25 or I would have relapsed. Here we go:

Not entirely indicative of our neighborhood, but the bullet holes smack of our little slice of heaven

It was May as I recall, at least that’s the month written on the installation ticket pasted to the side of our heat pump, which I had installed as part of the move-in renovations. I’d just bought the 2-bed, 1-bath starter in a neighborhood I was banking on seeing improve. It has, and it hasn’t, but I’m still there. And so is the rest of The Ham Fam, now featuring Carmen and Gabriel, two additions that joined me in Decatur some years later after buying the place at age 27.

What I recall about age 27 is fixing up and moving into that small house. So much potential – it still has a lot despite the major work I’ve had and have done to it. It’s a lesson in seeing what isn’t there. Not unlike writing on a blank page, eh? The cookie-cutter beige boxes on our street with the same picture window plus two standard windows in the living room – nothing special just by looking at it. I had to look beyond it though, to the home within the house.

The hushed size helped me see that the house would do well with rounded archways instead of right-angled doorways. Repairing a damaged living room ceiling, I saw the character that a modest vaulted ceiling and encasing the major support beams in raw cedar would bring the space. Discarded slate pieces became countertops in the bathroom and kitchen.

And I recall the thrill of thinking, “This place is mine.” Nowadays, people ask me if I own my home and I reply that HSBC Mortgage Corporation holds a majority stake, but I’m working toward ownership. Jaded a bit perhaps, but I still love my home. It’s small for us, for sure. And we’ve entertained moving. Still might do so. But there’s so much love in it, thanks to the love that’s gone into it. Frankly, it’d be hard to leave. But who knows – I might get giddy all over again.

 

The conversation this morning ran the gamut, but — as it’s wont to do — wove together nicely: history, writing, Japan, vacation, finding direction. It was all there.

I was talking with a friend about writing and how research plays into good writing. In that vein, she shared that she had earned her degree in history. She enjoys writing, too, and I remarked that her interest in history would inform her writing. I left out the fact that I had somehow gotten into an advanced placement American History class in high school and somehow managed to score a 1 on a scale of 5 on the final exam.

Why did they go left? Why did they go right? And most importantly, which fork leads to the cookies?

We talked further about history’s importance in why we do what we do — our traditions, our actions, our beliefs. From our mutual understanding of and experience in the Japanese culture, we recounted how their understanding the history behind tradition creates a connection to the past.

Further, and applicable to our own culture, knowing why we carry forward certain traditions makes the tradition richer. It teaches us why we do what we do. If we don’t know why, we might do things in form only. And that’s never good.

When we know the why behind something, it can inform our decisions today, help us choose one thing over another. So, despite what Sting might say, history can teach us something.

Quick post for today, on account of the spotty WiFi at Emory and the fact that I may have to scram at any given moment.

We’re back at Emory University Hospital for the installation of a PEG tube, a typical pre-chemo procedure. That translates into my working around campus, checking in on my friend, and trying to get some work done. None of which am I meeting with much success.

In short, I’m operating on a gumption deficit, and the two cups of Starbucks haven’t gone far in bootstrapping me up. Gotta get rocking somehow.

Inspiration is where you find it

Enter a used-book sale in the lobby of Emory University Hospital. Sweet. I like these things a bunch, and if time permits, I scour spines for the rare gem or interesting title. Among such page-turners as The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to NYC, I spot a dog-eared tome that fits the bill for today: Shelley’s Poetry and Prose. Can I get a hell yeah?

A coupla quarters later, the paperback is mine all mine. I took the book and myself outside for some sun, which we both desperately need, and opened it up to “The Mask of Anarchy” and found what I needed:

“Rise like lions after slumber
In unvanquishable number–
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you —
Ye are many–they are few.”

Boom. That’s what I needed. Great poetry, sure. But what speaks to me most is that fact that this speaks to me at all. I mean, Shelley wrote this on the occasion of the massacre at Manchester in September 1819. Yet, now, 191 years thereafter, I find resolve in his words when faced with a situation nothing akin to what spurred him to write those lines.

The answer to the question “Why?” is found via a penciled-in note on the inside cover: “Shelley on language, p. 513, para. 5.” I turn to it obediently and read “A Poet participates in the eternal, the infinite and the one; as far as relates to his conceptions, time and place and number are not.”

So I guess it was his intent to write so his poetry related to those of us beyond his age. And he’s done well along those lines. If his inclusion in many required-reading textbooks wasn’t enough, I’ll vouch for the guy based on today’s experience.

Thanks, Shelley. Rise like lions.

Never one to disappoint, Coffee Wednesday was chock full o’ nuts, mainly because both my wife and I were there. The gathering was full of conversation. And good ideas. And cellos. Did I mention cellos?

If cellos play in the forest at Coffee Wednesdays, does anyone hear them? You bet they do.

The fifth grade cello students delighted us with a few selections from their repertoire. It went nothing like this, but was at least as delightful, and begat at least as many smiles. The four or so songs included a piece entitled “Babylon” and some traditional music as well. It was such a treat. And it’s so refreshing to hear live music, especially when you’re not surrounded by thousands of screaming fans. I can’t wait for next week’s 4th grade cello performance.

While Carmen spoke with a new acquaintance, Ashley and I talked about writing for the school and otherwise. She brought up a fantastic point about writing: it’s an invitation to experience something. What a good way to put it! And so true; when you put words down on a page — paper or electronic — you’re conveying a thought, striving to impart something you’ve experienced to someone else who hasn’t.

That isn’t an easy task. Not with three words. Not with a thousand. No matter if you’re trying to convey a vacation or a vacuum cleaner. I guess that’s one reason that writing is such an important (if overlooked) art. As a friend pointed out this morning, editing is, too, but that’s another ball of yarn. (Thanks, Jen!)

As another pal pointed out a loooong time ago, “Good writing means never having to say, ‘Well, I guess you had to be there.'” (Thanks, Gary!) Writing — quality writing — is an invitation to an experience, but it’s also a conveyance, a vehicle that takes the reader there.

If you haven’t made it here, to Coffee Wednesdays, consider this an invitation. And if you can’t make it, I hope this Heavy Mental weekly feature gets you at least halfway.

It’s quarter of 12. I’ve had a long, full day that began at 0600. I’ve done a bunch. I just got back from a parent meeting at our son’s school. And I’m stoked, pumped, awake.

Why?

Because I’m thrilled that he’s enjoying school, being nurtured in the environment he’s in, surrounded by families who are as engaged in their children’s education and upbringing as we are.

It floats on a felted lake

Big G attends The Waldorf School of Atlanta — a granola-eatin’, tree-huggin’, nature-lovin’ kinda place. So that means a First Grade parent’s meeting involves not how the kids are performing on state proficiency tests nor how many sheets of simple addition they’ve done this week. It involves talk of … different things: the daily rhythms of the classroom (and the respect and peace it engenders), reducing/eliminating media at home (and how that improves concentration), and, of course, building beeswax boats (and how that develops motor skills).

It’s different, yeah. Perhaps “dumb” in some people’s books. And all this may be at best “interesting” on some intellectual level, perhaps for many of you, regardless of how you feel about it. But here’s the kicker, and perhaps what got me excited: I realized that some of the lessons our kids are learning now — now, at age 7 — are lessons it’s taken (it’s taking) me years to grasp.

"Too much is never enough." Really, Billy? Really?

Case in point: media. Many of us grew up with “I want my MTV!” in our heads. (And if you remember those commercials, maybe we should ask ourselves why they’re still in our heads 20-30 years later.) TV is normal, right? In Waldorf, we’re taught that it’s best for our kids to avoid “screen time” (TV, computers, etc.) for a number of reasons that I won’t go into here. Again, that can be considered dumb according to, well, most of the civilized world. (Do we see a trend?)

“How can you deprive your child like that?” is a compliant I’ve heard with some regularity. But what’s brilliant is this: our kids are faced with that reality and have to face it. “I’m raised one way, but my friends are raised another way. What do I do?”

What do they do?

Most of them learn — with the help of supportive parents, teachers, and the greater Waldorf community — to understand why we do things like we do, and then (and here’s where the magic happens) have faith even when the world doesn’t dig you or your Birkenstock-wearin’ parents.*

They learn some of those important lessons:

  • It’s OK to be different.
  • You don’t live for others’ approval.
  • It’s important to be accepting of others’ beliefs.

Wait a sec … a minute ago, we were talking about MTV. (And that’s “mmm” TV, not “em.”) How’d we end up on profound life lessons? Easy. Most lessons that we need the most can be learned at a very early age, by educating the whole child — through Head, Heart, and Hands — and respecting their natural development.

The Waldorf way of education is one of many such paths out there that see children as so much more than statistics on a government chart. I’m just amped that we’re a part of it.

*Disclaimer: I don’t own a pair of Birks, but my wife does.

The Path

For darn near a year now, I’ve carried around a poem by Antonio Machado. Scribbled by a dear friend who was inspired to share it for some reason or another, it goes like this:

Is this the high road? The low road? I dunno. All I know is I'm on it.

Caminante, no hay camino.
El camino se hace al andar.

Forgive the rough translation, but the English is “On the journey, there is no path. The path is made by going.”

Well, I’m going. And I’m making the path as I do. Having recently found a fork in the road, I took it. I’m freelancing once again as a writer and editor. It’s a path I walked once before, from 2007-09. I gained some fantastic experience and broadened my professional — and personal — acquaintances. But in the end, due to the economy and the offer of a steady gig, I came to the realization that freelancing wasn’t for me.

Or was it?

Now that I’m going along that path again, I’m recognizing that there are traces of this path that have run parallel to my trajectory for quite some time. The path is clearer, more sturdy, devoid of the many obstacles that littered the way years ago.

And that’s encouraging. It’s as if this self-directed course was meant for me to follow, even while I was making headway along another route. I know one thing: I love it.

I consider myself in the fortunate minority of people who can pursue their passion and earn a living at it. Having experienced the freelancing life before, I feel I’m better equipped to make things happen. And it looks like things are happening already. If I can continue to meet with success, sweet.

The poem’s now committed to memory. And I can’t help but think that it’ll stay with me as I seek to find my way.

El camino no es suave.

An uplifting diatribe

Heavy Mental started a few years ago to keep my writing fires bright.

Castle, my hero.

Me, less the bullet-proof vest, brown hair and cell phone. Well, maybe with the cell phone.

While I’ve had my share of dull, warm embers when non-writing work has kept me from fanning the flames, I’m happy to announce the following:

I’m a writer*, by profession and not just by inclination.

A long story short, a former client from my freewheeling, freelancing days offered me a senior writing position. So I said yes. Gratefully. It’s not often that one is happy as a clam in their job and another, seemingly more enjoyable (and rewarding) one comes calling. But it happened. And I’m thrilled.

Check out the Tribe at tribeinc.com, and picture a pic of me in Tree Pose, holding a pen and grinning like a jackass eatin’ briars.

Here’s the lesson as best I can discern it:

  • Work hard
  • Be nice
  • Keep in touch
  • Keep trying

I’ll post more once I’m actually on that side of the firewall. In the meantime, you (and I) can learn about mah new peeps here: http://www.insidetribe.com/.

* As of about mid-July

Long time no post. I’ll chalk that up to Busy Season at my 9 to 6 (at times quite longer), Mon-Fri (at times Sat and/or Sun).

Still in the throes of BS, I offer some writing I did in response to a running group questionnaire. Answers are truthful and in color.

Hey, Nit,

Thanks for spearheading this. See below, yo.

D

RUNNERS, please answer the following questions:

  1. Would you consider yourself a beginner, intermediate, or expert level? Beginner with the caveat that I played soccer for 15 years … 15 years ago. So some simple math would reduce me to zilch.
  2. How many times do your currently run per week? Including the weekends? Zero.
  3. What is your average per minute mile on your exercise runs? Pro’ly 10 at this point, inclusive of stopping for breath, donuts, etc.
  4. What are your goals for joining the run group? Cardio, tone legs, something fun and healthy to do with my wife, and make my running shoes stop whining about their “lack of fulfillment.”
  5. Are you training for any upcoming races? Not that I know of, but you never know when gas prices will force me to seek alternative transportation, or when  mugger will provide incentive.
  6. What is/are the best day(s) for you to run with EY Atlanta Run/Walk Group? Weekends, which coincidentally is the best time for Gramma to watch our son while we go running.
  7. Do you prefer to run AM or PM? Provide times (i.e. 6pm, 6:30pm, etc.) Mornings. Do it. Be done with it.

If anyone has any information about the Ogisho family, please contact me at derekhambrick@gmail.com or 847.912.6620. Please forward this to anyone you think may help.

Father: Shigeyuki
Mother: Mayumi
Older son: Tenma
Younger son: Akito

Whereabouts is unknown … most likely between/at: their home (below), children’s school (Sendai Montessori, I recall), or the Miyagi-ken Sukyo Mahikari dojo. Shige travels for business so perhaps the airport.

2-3-4-1 Abukuma
Iwanuma-shi, Miyagi-ken 989-2435
Japan

Kind regards and gratitude,
Derek