Follow the Leader – or Be One

18 10 2017

My dad, who was born in 1918, was an eighth-grade dropout. He served in the Philippines in WWII and laughed until the day he died about being discharged still carrying the rank of private because he regularly and unequivocally refused promotions in the field . . .



The man I knew  was kind, smart, and funny, and determined to provide for my mom and my sister and brother and me.  When the eighth-grade dropout retired, he was the executive vice president for manufacturing for a major company – not bad for a guy the US Army told had no ambition or leadership qualities.

1960s. Second from left – the handsome one!

At Dad’s retirement party, some of the folks from his division who were on the farthest rung down the corporate ladder from Mr. Krauss, shared a story about how he’d saved their jobs – saved their lives, they said. 

Their plant was underperforming and corporate was keen to cut their losses and shutter it. For two weeks, Dad got up at 3 a.m. every day, drove70 miles to that underperforming factory, and worked on the production line to figure out why those people were in such trouble. He did not sit at his comfortable desk in his nice office and dictate a letter to the plant superintendent.  He did not allow the board to rely on down-trending statistics, unexamined. He went there, rolled up his sleeves, and worked right beside those folks to find and fix what was ailing them and their workplace. He listened. He coached. He turned them around.  He saved the day!

Years later, I wondered aloud to my own boss about a problem with a division in our company. I told him the story of my dad and the factory and asked, “Why doesn’t VP Nincompoop (not his real name, but an accurate one) help his understaffed department clear their backlog until the market levels?  Without hesitation, my boss summed it up perfectly:

What your father did was Leadership; Nimcompoop’s in Management.

These days, I’ve been feeling a little worn out. It finally dawned on me that it’s because there seems to be plenty of management in the world, but precious little real leadership.  What can I do to try to fix that?  I can follow my dad’s example. Identify a problem and actively help make it better – even if it is just a little thing – every day.

Lead by example  .  .  .   and the first person who needs that example is looking at me from the mirror.

Lace up those wingtips and be somebody – somebody generous. 


Here Comes the Judge!

11 10 2017

NOTE: I live in the greater Harrisburg PA area, where there is currently an unnatural orange disturbance in the atmosphere. In an effort to avoid expressing my (extremely unfavorable) judgment of said disturbance, I’ve chosen to offer you this positive discussion of judging.

In two days, I will lead a team of six jurors who will review the work of a hundred-forty-or-so juried exhibiting artisans at the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen’s Fall Fine Craft Fair.

Judging others is often thought of as a negative activity. I’d like to tell you why this is different.

As the standards vice president for the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen, it’s my responsibility to help our members grow in their craft, raise the level of appreciation for fine craft in our community, and reward excellence.  One way to accomplish those goals is to judge (review against established benchmarks) artisans’ works.

We all wonder about people who judge others; what makes them (think they’re) qualified to do such a thing? I don’t know the answer in other cases, but I can tell you about this one. The folks who have agreed to help me do this are all masters of their media, all believe in helping others, and all brave enough to be fair and honest in their appraisals. We take the job – but not ourselves – seriously.

After we have spent hours on Friday reviewing the beautiful exhibits that will fill Rittenhouse Square, the floor jury will discuss our observations and then, we’ll notify three exhibitors that they have won Benchmark Awards and present them with ribbons and checks – Floor Jury becomes Prize Patrol – as we did in July:  

Maureen Kamerick – Excellence in Craftsmanship at the Summer Fine Craft Fair 2017, with show manager Carol Heisler and Yours Truly.

Martin Moon – Unique Voice at Summer Fine Craft Fair 2017 with show manage Carol Heisler and that blog woman.

David Russell – Resolved Design, Summer Fine Craft Fair 2017 with show manager Carol Heisler and me.

Judging others can be a negative experience for both the one being judged and the one doing the judging, but it does not have to be.  It’s the goal that makes the difference. Our goal on Friday will be to recognize and celebrate the best of the best.  On other days, we’ll judge to achieve other good goals, including encouraging continued growth, helping course correct, and supporting new efforts.

Oyez!  Oyez! 

Oh, Yes!  Oh, Yes!


In a Different Light

4 10 2017

I used to think that the changing seasons meant different clothes to suit the different temperatures, different driving habits (snow tires, back in the rear-wheel-drive days), different sports on television and different foods at the grocery store.

But more than just the temperature changes with the seasons – like the light – I think the most  remarkable thing is the light.

Winter’s light is clear and piercing, showing us our world in black and white with little concern for nuance.

The light of spring is thin and pale, spindly like the legs of a newborn foal – hopeful, but tentative.

Summer’s light is so ferocious that we must squint some of it from our eyes to prevent it hurting, so, even though it is bright, we cannot really see clearly.

Then, there’s autumn. Autumn’s light is the most special, the most fleeting, and the most beautiful. It has an almost mystical golden quality that is hard to describe, but, once you’ve seen it,  impossible to forget.

Too soon, it will be winter, but not just yet, so I hope you’ll join me in appreciating the breathtaking beauty of the autumn landscape, thanks to its magnificent, unequalled, too-brief amazing light.

Even inside my dirty kitchen window, autumn light called.

Anemone ‘Honorine Joubert’ in mid-afternoon glow.

Nothing like backlit backs of perennial begonias – glowing.

Fade to Black

27 09 2017

Some days are so beautiful that they hurt our eyes. Today is one of those. The sunshine, while mid-summer warm, still has taken on the special golden quality of autumn light.

So beautiful it hurts my eyes because it is so magnificent and so fleeting.

When I sat down to write today, this was all I could think about, soI harvested a petite bouquet and Rebel and I contemplated our good fortune to be able to enjoy all of this beauty, brief as it may be.




Not on My Watch

20 09 2017

On Saturday, I was headed to the grocery store, six reusable bags in one hand, list and purse in the other, when, just  as I was about to open my car door, I saw, from the very edge of my peripheral vision, an enormous silhouette gliding over my shoulder. I dropped everything, ran into the house, grabbed my  camera . . .

just in time to see a great blue heron reverse and retreat from what would surely have been a feast of my pond fish. I didn’t get time to even get the viewfinder to my eye.

I took a look around, hoping  (photographer in me) and hoping not (fish pond owner) to see the enormous bird, but by the time I got to the back yard, there was not a feather in sight. What I did see was one very determined, very proud, and very territorial house cat. Captain Morgan, the neighbor’s orange and white king of the neighborhood, was standing, one paw raised in a leonine power pose, apparently certain he weighed, not eight, but eight hundred pounds. No bird, no matter how big, was going to come fishing in his territory!

So, I did not get the chance to snap a photo of the wading wonder, but my fish, who do not interest Captain, are still swimming happily. It’s the better outcome.

Sometimes, we are tempted by something new, maybe even a little bit exotic, and we can’t or won’t see the danger. It is the bravest of friends who will step into the breach and roar a warning to us and at whatever threatens us.  It might take us a little time to understand that the danger was even there. We even may be frustrated by the interruption, but we must never forget is that those who interfere in our lives, who butt into situations, who holler, “Stop!” when we are heading for an unseen cliff are the ones to whom we matter.

So thank you to the dear friends and family who risk their safety by stepping between us and the shiny objects that would lure us into traps. We’ll be mad at you for a moment, but we love you.

On Pause

13 09 2017

Of all the technological advances that fill our house, one of my favorites is the DVR.  I love being able to zip through commercials, replay home runs in slow motion, and I especially love the pause button.  I can get a drink, answer the phone, the door, or the call of nature without missing a single Jeopardy clue! 

There are times when stuff is going so fast in life that I wish for an actual pause button. 

It’s fine to temporarily stop the action while we get our bearings, catch our breath, find our courage; it is not, however, fine to hold that button until our screens freeze.  It is reasonable and necessary to take a break from whatever it is that feels overwhelming, as long as we don’t go from taking a break to feeling broken.

Seems like we go through phases – little or large challenges to our ideas about our lives – where we feel like quitting. Sometimes, quitting is the right thing, but giving up is not. I have felt that challenge for the last few weeks, but I know the answer is not simply quitting something. The answer is changing something. It’s okay to pause for a moment to figure out what to change, but the key is not the pause, it’s the change.

Yes, I love that DVR and Comcast is a god in my life – and as good as that pause button is, the channel selector is even better!  If we don’t like the show, we can change the channel.

I’ll be flipping through the options for a little longer, but I know I’ll find something interesting soon.

With a Grain of Salt (and a Cup of Butter)

6 09 2017

When the world seems especially out of control – like when the news is all about two major hurricanes, raging wildfires, and potential nuclear war – some folks drink, some folks pray, some folks cry:

I cook.


Whenever I feel helpless to make things better on a grand scale, I fall back to just making things . . . homey, comforting, fattening things.  That’s just what I did today. I fed my mother and my husband Sunday supper on a Wednesday evening. It did not move Hurricane Irma’s course, but it made us feel better for a while. 

I wish us all

The comfort of the aroma of simmering pot roast, 

The warmth of straight-from-the-stove mashed potatoes,

The tender sweetness of home-made pie,

And the most delicious gift of sharing it with people we love.