Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience - November 30, 2011

Today is Mark Twain's 176th birthday (wow).   I am a huge fan, and in honor of his birthday, I'd like to share a couple of favorite quotes.

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.

Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.

Never put off till tomorrow what you can do the day after tomorrow.

It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.

Good friends, good books and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Gravy - Erma Bombeck, November 15, 2011

Erma Bombeck was the kind of person you wanted to invite to over for a big family dinner.  As we close in on Thanksgiving, with its excess of food, food, FOOD, here is her take on one of the staples of a Turkey Day dinner:

I come from a family where gravy is considered a beverage.

Amen, Erma, and pass the gravy.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Flander's Fields - November 10, 2011

In honor of Veteran's Day, here is one of my favorite poems, written on May 3, 1915, by Canadian physician Lt. Colonel James McCrae.

In Flander's Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row,
   That mark our place; and in the sky
   The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
   Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
         In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
   The torch; be yours to hold it high.
   If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
         In Flanders fields.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween and Homemade Popcorn Balls

Today was "trunk or treat" at Jack's pre-school. This is a relatively new phenomenon where churches or schools host trick or treating in their parking lots, with parents passing out candy from the trunk of their cars. Not sure how I feel about that, but I'm probably hung up on Halloweens past, where my brothers and I used to wander every neighborhood we could get to with our pillowcases.
Since I'm a grandmother now, I can appreciate a quote from Erma Bombeck on the topic of grandmothers and Halloween (a "two - fer" on this spooky holiday!):

A grandmother pretends she doesn't know who you are on Halloween.

I miss my grandmother's homemade popcorn balls. Can you imagine if she were still alive and handed them out to trick or treaters? They would be the first thing into the garbage during the "candy safety check." Sad that today's children live in fear of every stranger they meet, and can't enjoy a little old lady's homemade popcorn balls and a run through the neighborhood with pillowcase in hand. Happy Halloween, everyone!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Mark Twain - Part 1

Twain is one of my favorite writers and life observers. Get used to it, you'll be seeing a lot of his quotes on this blog. All time favorite, from "Following the Equator."

Be good and you will be lonesome.

Jimmy Buffett took this a step further:

Be good, and you'll be lonesome.
Be lonesome and you will be free.
Live a lie, and you will live to regret it.
That's what living is to me, that's what living is to me.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Chuck Lorre - Vanity Card #359

OK, I admit to a love of Chuck Lorre's vanity cards. This is one of the best:

Okay, I'm just gonna say it out loud. There are times when going crazy looks attractive. And I'm not talking about becoming charmingly eccentric. I've already got that covered nine ways to Sunday. No, I'm talking about purposely emigrating to the land of lunacy. That special psychological zip code where The Ancient Laws of Behave Yourself no longer apply. My "reasoning" is simple. It takes a great deal of effort to sustain a conservative, trustworthy persona. Surrendering that effort would involve, from a Freudian perspective, a conscious dismantling of the super ego - that part of the psyche entrusted with enforcing parental and socially approved actions. And therein lies the allure of going full frontal wack-a-doodle. The constant energy required to pass as normal would suddenly become available for doing and saying whatever pleases me in the moment. Imagine it. The id and libido completely unbound by any and all moral or cultural restrictions. Hmm... Probably won't need the shrink anymore... might need a lawyer.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Henry David Thoreau

What would a favorite quotes blog be without a nod to Henry David Thoreau.
From "Walden:"
Beware of all enterprises that require new clothes.
I know of no more encouraging fact that the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life by a conscience endeavor.
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
The universe is wider than our views of it.
I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that is one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Song Lyrics

Lots of great quotes come from song lyrics. A few of my favorites:
Jimmy Buffet: "If the phone doesn't ring, you'll know that it's me, I'll be out in the eye of the storm."
Johnny C: "Life is short, even in its longest day."
Jackson Brown: "You're the hidden cost, the thing that's lost, in everything I do, I'll never stop looking for you."
George Strait: "Easy come, easy go."
Elton John: "Who makes the call, and who gets to choose, who gets to win and who gets to loose."
I have been known to sing at high volume in my car and while cleaning house.

Friday, October 7, 2011


I should really call this a poetry blog instead of a favorite quote blog. Today's entry is from Lewis Carroll. I actually carry a little card around in my wallet with a snippet from this poem on it (along with my Grandpa Robertson's drivers license and a photo of my friend Gerianne Miller, who was killed in a plane crash in the early 1980's). Solitude was written in 1853 and is still a classic in my book.

I love the stillness of the wood:
I love the music of the rill:
I love to couch in pensive mood
Upon some silent hill.
5Scarce heard, beneath you arching trees,
The silver-crested ripples pass;
And, like a mimic brook, the breeze
Whispers among the grass.
Here from the world I win release,
10 Nor scorn of men, nor footstep rude,
Break in to mar the holy peace
Of this great solitude.
Here may the silent tears I weep
Lull the vexed spirit into rest,
15As infants sob themselves to sleep
Upon a mother's breast.
But when the bitter hour is gone,
And the keen throbbing pangs are still,
Oh, sweetest then to couch alone
20 Upon some silent hill!
To live in joys that once have been,
To put the cold world out of sight,
And deck life's drear and barren scene
With hues of rainbow-light.
25For what to man the gift of breath,
If sorrow be his lot below;
If all the day that ends in death
Be dark with clouds of woe?
Shall the poor transport of an hour
30 Repay long years of sore distress —
The fragrance of a lonely flower
Make glad the wilderness?
Ye golden hours of Life's young spring,
Of innocence, of love and truth!
35Bright, beyond all imagining,
Thou fairy-dream of youth!
I'd give all wealth that years have piled,
The slow result of Life's decay,
To be once more a little child
40 For one bright summer-day.
March 16, 1853.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Let Me Live In a House By the Side of the Road

My grandmother, Mildred Robertson, had an old metal heat trivet hanging on the wall of her kitchen that read: "Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man." Growing up, I never knew the line was part of a poem by Sam Walter Floss, a lesser know poet (at least in my 8th grade English world view of poetry). Here is the entire lovely poem, one of my favorites:

House by the Side of the Road

public domain

There are hermit souls that live withdrawn
In the place of their self-content;
There are souls like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze the paths
Where highways never ran-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Let me live in a house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner's seat
Nor hurl the cynic's ban-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I see from my house by the side of the road
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife,
But I turn not away from their smiles and tears,
Both parts of an infinite plan-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

I know there are brook-gladdened meadows ahead,
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
And still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.

Let me live in my house by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish - so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner's seat,
Or hurl the cynic's ban?
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Steve Jobs died today. Excerpt from commencement exercise speech, 2005:

When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

About a year ago I was diagnosed with cancer. I had a scan at 7:30 in the morning, and it clearly showed a tumor on my pancreas. I didn't even know what a pancreas was. The doctors told me this was almost certainly a type of cancer that is incurable, and that I should expect to live no longer than three to six months. My doctor advised me to go home and get my affairs in order, which is doctor's code for prepare to die. It means to try to tell your kids everything you thought you'd have the next 10 years to tell them in just a few months. It means to make sure everything is buttoned up so that it will be as easy as possible for your family. It means to say your goodbyes.

I lived with that diagnosis all day. Later that evening I had a biopsy, where they stuck an endoscope down my throat, through my stomach and into my intestines, put a needle into my pancreas and got a few cells from the tumor. I was sedated, but my wife, who was there, told me that when they viewed the cells under a microscope the doctors started crying because it turned out to be a very rare form of pancreatic cancer that is curable with surgery. I had the surgery and I'm fine now.

This was the closest I've been to facing death, and I hope it's the closest I get for a few more decades. Having lived through it, I can now say this to you with a bit more certainty than when death was a useful but purely intellectual concept:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don't want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life. It is Life's change agent. It clears out the old to make way for the new. Right now the new is you, but someday not too long from now, you will gradually become the old and be cleared away. Sorry to be so dramatic, but it is quite true.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.

When I was young, there was an amazing publication called The Whole Earth Catalog, which was one of the bibles of my generation. It was created by a fellow named Stewart Brand not far from here in Menlo Park, and he brought it to life with his poetic touch. This was in the late 1960's, before personal computers and desktop publishing, so it was all made with typewriters, scissors, and polaroid cameras. It was sort of like Google in paperback form, 35 years before Google came along: it was idealistic, and overflowing with neat tools and great notions.

Stewart and his team put out several issues of The Whole Earth Catalog, and then when it had run its course, they put out a final issue. It was the mid-1970s, and I was your age. On the back cover of their final issue was a photograph of an early morning country road, the kind you might find yourself hitchhiking on if you were so adventurous. Beneath it were the words: "Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish." It was their farewell message as they signed off. Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish. And I have always wished that for myself. And now, as you graduate to begin anew, I wish that for you.

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

Thank you all very much.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

George Eliot

It is never too late to be what you might have been.

James Lee Burke, "Jolie Blon's Bounce"

All you had to do was release yourself from the prison of restraint, just snip loose the stitches that sewed your skin to the hair shirt of normalcy.