Rick Lakin

Rick Lakin is the Best-Selling Children’s Science Fiction Author of Brilliant, and the publisher at iCrewDigitalPublishing.com, Bringing New Authors to a Digital World. iCrew has published 35 books by 11 authors. Rick has been an Optimist for almost two years and is the district webmaster at calso41.us and was a Toastmaster. He is the founder of iCrew Digital Productions, A Community of Young Media Professionals and a member of the 1000 Club of the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers. Rick is an Advanced Communicator Silver in Toastmasters International and is a member of American Mensa. Rick works as a Sports Statistician for broadcast television and is a retired math teacher. He lives in Southern California but his roots are in Columbus, Ohio, home of The Ohio State University Buckeyes. Singularity, Book Two of StarCruiser Brilliant, is on sale at Amazon.

Bloom Where You Are Planted

Bloom where you are planted.

While doing some fall clean-up I discovered a single petunia growing from between the cracks of my deck. It was proudly waving in the breeze as if to say, “Here I am world. Nothing can keep me down.”

It had spent the summer separated from its main vine and growing in unbelievable conditions with no dirt or food to feed its roots. It had braved the scorching hot sun and violent summer thunder storms but yet it had continued to thrive. In fact, it survived and bloomed even when other vines from the same plant had died off in the pot. Vines that had every advantage of the proper amount of sun, shade, soil, and substance to bloom profusely but;  they withered and died.

This flower could stand as a metaphor for so many things. I couldn’t help but find comfort and strength in the fact that we can take a lesson from this flower and take what life gives us. Times are hard right now and being recent retirees in a difficult economy life is even a bit scary. However, when I begin to worry about the future I see this beautiful pink flower waving in the bright sunlight. Various Bible verses also come to mind and I always find strength and inspiration from nature. If God, the almighty creator, can equip it, a lowly flower, with the means to survive difficult conditions, then surely we are also equally equipped with the survival instinct.

I instantly thought of the words “bloom where you are planted” and did a quick internet search for the history of the phrase. Apparently no one knows for sure but I found several references attributing it to Mary Englebreit. I also found several references to various Bible verses and even an Afghan proverb. A quote from Gibran also popped up in which he said “be like a flower and turn your faces to the sun”.

No matter the odds, it is always within our nature to make the best of a difficult situation and continue to live our lives to the fullest. Whatever the origin, one thing is certain, it is a universal thought and the need to bloom where we are planted is instilled in us all. Somehow, the great creator will give us the tools to survive and thrive. My pink petunia told me so.

GO OUTSIDE AND PLAY

Even a short walk can clear the mind and improve the spirit.

I wrote an entry recently titled “Once A Teacher, Always A Teacher” and in it I also included some writing tips. At the end of each step I added the phrase, “go out and play”. I intended to write a follow up piece about the benefits of going outside and playing but it seems the Columbus Dispatch beat me to it. I opened the paper a few days after my blog entry to see this headline “Prescription for healthy kids: Go outside and play”.

It seems I am not the only one to recognize the benefits of being outside, in fact, there is a whole national movement to encourage kids to leave their computers, iPods, HDTVs, Xboxes, and other electronics and go outside for some fresh air and exercise. According to the Dispatch article and the Kaiser Family Foundation, today’s kids are spending an average of seven hours and 38 minutes a day, or more than 50 hours a week, watching TV, playing computer games, or on the computer. This is an astounding statistic. In response to this, a new national movement has begun called Leave No Child Inside.

In Ohio this movement is backed by Gov. Ted Strickland and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. The Leave No Child Inside coalition also held a rally in Columbus where they released a report showing how the change in lifestyle is creating more obesity, vitamin D deficiency, myopia and stress.

The national movement began in Cincinnati as a response to Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods which addresses the growing disconnect between children and nature and a phenomenon he calls nature deficit disorder. Locally, the movement recognized Dr. Wendy Anderson-Willis, a pediatrician at Nationwide Children’s Hospital who actually gives prescriptions to play outside for at least an hour each day.

The Leave No Child Inside movement encourages outdoor activities such as bike riding, walking and going to a neighborhood playground or park. They say these activities benefit children physically, intellectually, emotionally, and socially. My personal research suggests outdoor play and activities also benefits children with attention deficit.

I am of the generation that remembers what the world was like before computers and, unlike many my age, I have fully embraced the modern age. Computers have improved our lives in so many ways I can’t imagine going back to “the good ole days”. But at what costs are we making these advances? I remember coming home from school and racing outside to play before dinner and homework. That time outside always seemed to clear my mind and refresh me before hitting the books again. For some reason I was always able to think clearer after time outside.

I worked part time while going to college and walked from my classes to my job. That walk always cleared my mind, gave me time to think about what I learned that day, and digest the material before entering a different world of working with customers. Even today a brisk walk is part of my routine, especially when faced with a problem or as a break to sort out my writings. I own two dogs and one of the reasons I chose to be a dog owner, besides my passion for rescuing dogs, is that it forces me to go for a walk twice a day. No matter the weather, we are there—the dogs briskly walking in front, tails proudly waving and noses sniffing the breezes. Even through last year’s horrendous winter of snow and ice, we continued our daily walks. A neighbor complimented me on my dedication but my reply was, “I have no choice. The dogs don’t understand if I say we aren’t going out today because the weather is too bad.” Hot sun, snow, sleet, these are all nature’s way of reminding us we are alive. When dressed appropriately, the elements should not be a deterrent to enjoying the out of doors.

As a kid we rode our bikes, played badminton and football or cowboys and Indians, had pogo stick contests, took hikes, explored nature in our own yard, went sledding, climbed trees, played on swing sets, or just sat under a tree and talked. We never thought of spending much time in the house, besides our mothers always shooed us out because we were under foot.

I have always thought the Native Americans had it right. They lived close to nature but also worshiped it. What they took from nature, they replaced. Land ownership was not a part of their world because no one could own Mother Nature. It was only when the white man came to this land and began establishing cities and factories that the balance of nature was upset. It took modern mankind only a couple hundred years to upset the harmony the Indians had established with the earth over many centuries. Today we are paying for this disconnect with obesity, high blood pressure, and diseases.

So, the next time you begin to stress out, leave the cell phones, computers, TVs, and all other forms of electronic entertainment behind and go outside and play. Feel the sun on your face and the wind at your back. See the brilliant array of colors in the various greens of the trees and grasses; or the reds, pinks, oranges, purples in the flowers that adorn porches and walks. Hear nature’s symphony as the birds and insects sing their melodies with the wind blowing through the trees providing the rhythm section. Take a deep breath and smell the perfume of abundant flowers or the musty fragrance of the forest floor. Taste the snowflakes on your tongue.

God, the greatest artist of all, has provided all this to restore our souls. So, go outside and play and feel really alive once again.

COMPUTER AGE KID Vs THE OLD WAYS

Aidan learning horses have runny noses.

Note the sign posted in the buggy.

Eye to eye with a big concrete frog.

                A Day in Amish Country with a Three Year Old

My niece, Tami, and I took our annual fall pilgrimage to Amish country yesterday along with her three year old son, Aidan. We usually plan this for one of the first crisp fall days but it turned out to be a record setting day with temps in the 90+ range. However, a steady wind made the day comfortable if not fall-like.

 Aidan greeted me in the morning with a big hug around the knees and an excited, “We’re going to Amish country!” He then continued to remind us several times through the day that we were in Amish country.

Our first stop was at a cheese factory where we could sample various cheeses as we made our way through the dairy cases. This was a heavenly smorgasbord for Aidan since he loves cheese. At the end of our cheese factory tour his mother bought him an all-day sucker. When I asked him what flavor it was he proudly proclaimed, “red!”

We had lunch at Der Dutchman, a popular Amish restaurant that always serves ample portions of hearty food. We enjoyed our lunch complete with homemade breads and buns while Aidan played with his food but downed a double serving of chocolate milk.

 After lunch we took a buggy ride which was the highlight of Aidan’s day. He was able to pet the horse, whose name was Duke, and get acquainted with him before we began our short journey. We had a chatty Amish tour guide named Lester and since he was so friendly Aidan decided to inform him that his horse had a runny nose. Tami then noticed a fuel gauge on the dashboard of the buggy. Lester explained that told him how much charge was left on his battery that ran the lights on the buggy. He then laughed and said in his unusual dialect that no, that doesn’t run to the horse’s stomach to tell him when he needs to be fed. Obviously, he had heard that joke before. Unlike my Mustang that needs high octane to fuel its power of over 200 horses, Lester’s one horse power buggy is pretty much self-sufficient.

We commented on how beautiful and strong Duke was and Lester told us that Duke had to work really hard one day. He said that he had a full buggy of six good-sized adults including one “big fella” in the front seat next to him. When he stopped before crossing a busy intersection Duke knew he had to start with a big tug before crossing the traffic and heading up an incline. Lester continued with almost a childish giggle that Duke started with such force that the “buggy popped a wheelie!”

Although the Amish are a very devout religious sect, they also like money. They work hard for it but they don’t shy away from taking it from the many travelers who come through their universe daily. I’m sure that in the beginning they resented the nosey tourist who invaded their community but they soon learned all these tourists came with lots of green to spend and they became enterprising entrepreneurs in devising many ways of participating in the game of capitalism. Lester had a small sign inside the buggy where the riding guests could see saying, “gratuities are accepted and greatly appreciated.” Hint taken!

We continued our shopping and although young Aidan was good he began to wear out. We were in a store specializing in art and decorative objects and as I stood next to a display table talking to my husband on my cell phone the table began to move and everyone began running in my direction. The display table was actually a flat hay wagon and what the adults saw as a beautiful display, Aidan suddenly recognized as a giant wagon and decided to give it a big push. In his world that is what wagons are for. Something else caught his attention in that store which we thought very peculiar. He suddenly became very agitated and repeatedly told us someone had turned off the TV. Since this wasn’t earth shaking to us we continued our shopping and conversing but he wouldn’t give up. He finally dragged us to a display of various art objects including several framed paintings. I guess, to a child of the computer age these paintings resembled a frozen computer or TV screen.

The day continued with more shopping, driving, and eating. We planned our last stop for our favorite winery where we usually unwind with a glass of wine on a beautiful outdoor patio overlooking farm lands. Unfortunately, by 5:30 the only thing Aidan wanted was to unwind with a glass of chocolate milk so we bought our bottles of wine and headed for home with a day full of Kodak memories and Aidan sitting in his car seat sucking on his sippy cup full of chocolate milk. Guess we’ll have to go back soon for that glass of wine in Amish country.

What a strange world Amish country must have seemed to a kid accustomed to high def TVs, computers, cell phones, and microwaves. Who else but a kid from the computer age would see a framed picture and think the TV was turned off or broken. Along the way Aidan discovered horses have runny noses, art work is everything from framed pictures to giant frogs, pumpkins are all sizes and orange, red suckers are cherry, giant wagons aren’t for play, wind chimes sound like church bells, and Amish country is a whole different world. We can learn a lot from him—we all need to slow down, eat a red sucker, and add more chocolate milk to our diets. We will sleep like babies, I guarantee it.

Hello world!

NOTES FROM THE POND

This is my version of Walden Pond where I discuss life in and around the pond where I live. The observations include everything from the animals with fins, fur, and feathers around our pond to society and the world as I see it. Like Henry David Thoreau, I march to a different drummer and sometimes feel the need to express myself on life in general. In addition, like Thoreau, my pond is not in the middle of the wilderness but at the edge of suburbia. However, we have some interesting animals that call our pond home and we have some interesting two-legged animals who also make their homes here.

My pond and its inhabitants will remain unnamed to maintain our anonymity. If you happen to know where we are and who I’m talking about, please keep it to yourself.