Christine Eldin

If you’re human, someone’s death touches you differently when it’s someone who’s crossed your path. Chris Eldin and I were not friends, and if asked before her passing, she would probably not recognize my name. But for those of you who do know me, that shouldn’t be a big surprise – I tend to be more of a lurker than contributor. However, I did know of Chris and a friend’s message recalling her passing, received earlier this morning, hit me harder than I would have thought – though a fair bit of time has passed. (She passed away in 2012.)

Please consider visiting the site below, which pursues two worthy goals:

  1. Honor a person who will be missed by many.
  2. Provide recognition and financial assistance to an unpublished middle grade fiction writer whose work-in-progress reveals potential for a successful writing career.

Christine Eldin Memorial Fellowship

A lot us together doing little things, can do great things. Please consider doing this one small thing.


John moves on

An open letter to my coworkers at the Largo CSE office:

It’s Sunday morning, December 29th, and I’m sitting in my new home in Orlando. We’re mid-move and I’ll be driving back to Dunedin this afternoon for one more week of work in Largo, but I’m already feeling nostalgic.

I drove past a vacant building this morning. It used to house a non-profit job training program, and my first job out of college. It was my only job since college, besides the one I’ve done for CSE the last eighteen years. It fit my mood. Part of me feels vacant. Part of me has already moved on… imagining a life where I don’t live or work in Pinellas County, and it leaves a void – you.

While there are reasons to look forward to the move, I will miss you. I may move away from home and make new friends, but you are my CSE family. I came to you as a twenty-three year old kid. You celebrated with me when my wife and I bought our first house and had our first (and second) child. You counseled and supported me through injury and illness, hospitalizations and surgeries. You helped me believe in myself. You helped me reach every success or award. These things don’t merely make you important to me, they make you irreplaceable.

With some exceptions, I don’t think I’m known as a talker. (If only you knew ;-) Because of this, the timing of our move (during the holiday season), and my transfer going through much faster than I thought, I haven’t had the chance to speak to nearly enough of you in person. I’d much rather say these things to many of you face to face, and maybe we’ll get that chance in the next week. But if we don’t, please know this: despite fatigue and discomfort from illness and injury during recent years, which dampened my enthusiasm, the time I’ve spent with you and the things we’ve accomplished together are precious to me.

My only regret is I didn’t work with more of you – that I didn’t know some of you as more than another friendly face passing in the halls. But in either case, thank you all so much – with all my heart. You mean more to me than you may ever know. I hope I’ve given each of you a fraction in return for what you gave me.

I leave you all with these final thoughts. I wish all of you the best. May your endeavors bring you everywhere in life you choose to go, and may you have a good time getting there.



Help out a good guy

Facing the SunMy friend Richard is having surgery. A pituitary tumor (it’s all in his head), unending migraines, and a body that doesn’t play nice in general, does not pave the road to financial stability. A hospital stay isn’t going to help.

So do me a solid. Help my friend with a donation. You’ll get some good reading in return – a collection of short works donated by his friends for this cause. Many of the contributors have been published, so it’s not like you’re getting fluff written by some hack like me.

Why him? As some of you may know I was in the hospital myself in 2007, fighting off complications from chemotherapy to treat leukemia. At the time I only knew Richard from a handful of comments exchanged on a blog. Yet I traded as many encouraging words with him as anyone during those weeks in the hospital. Some of them are in the archives of this blog.

There are many others with similar stories. That’s the kind of guy he is.

Think about it for me, will you? No amount is too small, even for a guy with a heart so big. You know what they say… “it’s the thought that counts.” Just knowing you cared enough to give will probably mean more to him than the money he gets – no matter how much he may need it.

That’s the kind of guy he is.


I can’t imagine writing a book. I read authors’ blogs, both published and not. I see the frustrations and the rewards. I look at myself and I think, “Whoa, that is so not me.” There are days when I don’t have the patience to finish a single blog post. I’ve been tinkering with a post for a few weeks now and I’m not sure I’ll ever finish. It’s only a few scattered lines looking back at me from an unassuming text editor, but it fills me with dread. It wouldn’t bother me if I didn’t want to finish this one.

There’s more to it than patience. The topic inspired me and still does, but it feels stalled. No, it’s worse. It feels like it’s missing an essential element – perhaps a little soul, something to bring it to life. There’s something in my head, in my heart, waiting there to be expressed, but I’ll be damned if I can figure out how. It’s nothing new, having a post stall out on me, but I was sure this one had the necessary spark. There’s passion in me but it’s locked up tight. It’s fitting it’s a post about intellectual struggle, about choosing the right path.

Boiled down to its essence, it’s a post about Adam, his autistic friend, and a falling out. It’s about seeing a family and the neighborhood failing this child, the responsibility I feel to keep open a safe haven, and the sometimes conflicting need to act in my own child’s best interest.

One side won out for a while and I felt terribly selfish. I felt like I’d become part of the problem for this boy who faces what I believe are terrible odds.

As a parent of a child with special needs myself, I felt double the guilt. He was back over today though and they picked up right where they left off. Kids can be resilient that way. Friendship makes it that much easier.

The episode and the weeks that followed still have me tweaked, and not in a good way. We pat ourselves on the back when we respond with charity and grace to regional and national crises. “The American spirit is alive and well,” we delude ourselves. But the myriad of small crises happening every day go ignored, or worse. We blame the victim, our minds desperately trying to shift any and all responsibility from ourselves.

Maybe that’s what I was trying to say all along. Maybe I just needed to blow up the old post and start over.


Just in case

ConnerHouseSmall.jpgA few years ago Cheryl and I talked about moving to Vermont. It wasn’t serious talk, just two people inspired by pictures of my mother’s family home in a small town just south of the Canadian border. (Actually, my mother was born in Massachusetts, but both of her parents were from Vermont.) I’ve only been there once, when my grandmother died, but the place has a hold on me… like a good mystery novel. It was home to half of my family (at one point in time), but I know almost nothing about them – the place or the people.

A few other things were on our minds when we looked at those pictures. We were wondering if it was the right time to get out of Florida, while the getting was good. Specifically, we wondered when the effects of global warming would start influencing property values – and more importantly – our safety. In 2004 we had one of the busiest hurricane seasons on record. Four storms passed through our area – a stripe of land across Florida known as “The I-4 Corridor.” A year later my sister and brother-in-law were rudely evicted from their home in New Orleans by Katrina. Climate scientists were saying this was just the beginning, and we didn’t think enough of you had the desire to do anything about it.

Part of the case for staying is we live on a high point in the county (on the leeward side of a higher point). Plus, all of our immediate family is here. The bad news is it’s only 11 meters above sea level, and it would make an awfully small island. Although, if you threw in a little sand around the edges we’d be beach front baby!

Well, we didn’t move. But we haven’t stopped worrying. We’re encouraged by our governor and our president, who seem to get our concerns. We do some of the little things all of us can do at home, trying to do our part. But we’re still concerned by a few stories in the news, and the short-sighted nature of too many people.

A couple of weeks ago I read a story about the west Antarctic ice sheet (WAIS). Here’s a quick summary: if it breaks up it may cause even more flooding than we thought. Now add that to reports about the Pine Island Glacier last year (on the West Antarctic Peninsula), suggesting it’s more unstable and closer to breaking up than we thought. NASA’s Robert Bindschadler:

Some say that we won’t see these ice shelves disappear in our lifetime — I’m not so sure. I think we might well.

Some see this as a problem for future generations, which is bad enough. Scientists see the environment changing faster than the worst case scenarios of previous climate models, and they’re alarmed. Look at the image (below). It might alarm you too. It shows the areas that would be flooded if the WAIS broke up. (Click the image to zoom in on Florida)


Ripped from the pages of Climate Progress

Some of you may think it’s too expensive to act now, with the economy where it is. The problem with this argument is there are an awful lot of climate scientists and economists who think the price of acting now is cheap compared to later. Damn cheap. It’s worth noting their idea of “later” is probably sooner than yours. Some folks are ahead of the curve on this one… in the private sector, of all places. Try getting a private insurer to write a new property insurance policy in Florida.

Think about building a dike/levee system for the gulf coast and eastern seaboard… or abandoning all of south Florida (including Miami), Naples, Ft Myers, and Tampa; as well as places like Washington and New York. They’d be under water. Then there’s the kicker: the image above doesn’t include the effects of Greenland melting (which I think may be a much slower slower process, but still a real risk if we don’t shape up).

Does that get your attention? Because it’s just the tip of the iceburg (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

If it’s hard for you to appreciate the rest of the world’s problems, think about what would happen if we turned everything west and south of Colorado into a desert. Maybe you think this is just doomsday speak from the wacko-eco-fringe? There’s some evidence it’s already starting. Ask someone from Colorado, Nevada, or California how their water supply is doing. I read this article a year or so ago, but if I recall, it was pretty sobering.

I look at that image above and I wonder why every Floridian isn’t an amateur environmentalist. One way or another, we all might be bailing.

Prove me wrong. Think about all of this when congress considers environmental legislation later this year. Tell your representatives what you think about it. Tell them you want them to do something about it.

I may not have convinced you, but after reading a draft of this post Cheryl asked me what the job market was like in Vermont.

Forecast: It’s going to be hot

I want to point you to a couple of links you should check out. They’re both on the same topic, but they’re both worth your time. Here, and here.

I know what you’re thinking:
He’s tried this trick before. There’s no way in hell he knows what I’m thinking.

Fair enough.

If I were you, I might be thinking:
I don’t do links. You’ve got a sentence or two before I lose interest, so give it to me now before you lose me to Yahoo.

Both links take you to a discussion about a recent climate study. It apparently makes the following finding (if you’re inclined to take my word for it): once we put greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere we’re stuck with what we’ve got – whatever it brings. Well, unless you plan on being around for a thousand years. The concentrations will stick around for a long time.

Things are warming up enough now to melt the ice at the north pole. Does this mean we could stop emitting everything – NOW – still end up with an ice free north pole? (In addition to some other things that’ll seem a lot less abstract.) I’m no expert, but it sounds like scary stuff.

It’s no reason to give up though. Things could always be worse.

Go on now. Time to get clicking. There’s nothing more to see here.


Not afraid

image1096184013.jpgBeth’s stubborn streak can drive me crazy sometimes, but I wouldn’t have her any other way. Her almost complete lack of fear to speak her convictions can push my patience to it’s absolute limit. At the same time, it’s a big part of why I’m so proud of her. (Probably at least in part because I had none of her inner strength when I was her age – which she finds hard to believe now.)

I thought about this the last time we went to church. It was hard not to. We had an errand to run afterwards, she had a suggestion to make, and spoke right up.

“Dad, Publix (a grocery chain in FL) isn’t that far away. Why couldn’t we just walk?”

As you may know, I’m compelled to admit my faults at every turn. My knee was itching to jerk – telling her that was silly. Walk to the store?

But you know what? It wasn’t silly at all, and I should have known better. Publix was a third of a mile up the street (at the very most). It was an incredible Sunday morning, the kind of day that cries out for attention. A little walk was the least we could do for it. So I quickly bit my tongue and we did just that.

It’s crazy how lazy we can be – jumping in our cars for the shortest trips. I’ll admit I’ve been as bad as many, in part because of where my house is, and the distance we travel for basic stuff – often with little kids in tow. But that’s no excuse for how we use our cars once we get there. How many of us make a shopping trip, then move our cars in quarter mile increments as we check items off our to-do lists?

Look at me. I’ve been making an effort to consolidate trips to cut down on the gas we use. I’ve been recycling everything I can think of – dropping it off when it’s on my way elsewhere. And we’re eating better (your diet has more impact on climate change than you think). But even I’m still a bit brainwashed by our car driven society. I was going to get in my car and drive less than a mile up the street for a few non-perishibles. Strictly speaking, It wasn’t even on the way home.

Think about it the next time you’re shopping and you go out to essentially just move your car. Why not just move yourself and leave the car out of it?

Think of this as fair warning. Even if you don’t have kids to answer to, mine’s more than willing to take up the slack.

Listen to me?

At least the kids are listening.

I’d swear I covered this a long time ago, but judging from Beth’s reaction to this telling, I’m guessing I didn’t. A couple months ago Beth asked me why we recycle. I told her.

Now Beth wants to recycle everything she can. When she can’t, she wants a detailed explanation why not (which usually isn’t sufficient). She figured the next part out on her own: it’s better not to use stuff wastefully in the first place. Now she’s telling me when I’m using more than I need. “Dad, don’t get out that spoon, I can make due with this fork. We shouldn’t wash more than we have to.” (Beth doesn’t even do the dishes, though it brings up an interesting idea….)

I’ve heard this before, and you might have too, but it bears repeating: “we don’t inherit the planet from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.” No matter what you think about the environment… no matter what you think about climate change, resource depletion, pollution, or over-population… think about your kids. Think about what happens to them if you think the status quo is just fine, you do nothing to change it, and you’re wrong.

There are many reasons why I’m proud of Beth, but I’m especially proud she understands this. I’m happy to let her hold me to my responsibility… to her and her generation.


A blogging friend of mine started a new web site devoted to taking action on climate issues. There’s a focus on Canadian politics, but the issues are universal and there’s some good advise for everyone. Beth and I invite you to take a look (click the image to the right). You’d do well to take her advise. If there’s anyone who embodies stubborn and determined, then that someone lives in my house.

Don’t make her check my server logs.

Controlling the message

I received an email alert from, the site/campaign started by Al Gore to create the political will to tackle the climate crisis.

We Can Solve It:

ABC recently refused to run our Repower America ad, even though they run ads from oil companies that mislead the American people about the role fossil fuels play in the climate crisis.

Ask ABC to reconsider their decision and air our Repower America ad this Friday.

When you complete the form below, we’ll send your message to ABC, and let them know how you feel.

If you feel as I do about the environment, consider following the link above and send a message to ABC. Let them know you’re not happy.