Sunday, December 16, 2012

Vigil for Connecticut

I was asked to lead a candle light vigil , in response the CT tragedy,  last night in Swampscott MA.  Here are my notes.
Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.  ~William Shakespeare
It is a brisk early winter evening here in New England.
And we stand here united in sacred posture and in solidarity with our neighbors in Connecticut.
Some who are in this very moment enduring a sadness and grief so profound that their lives will be forever changed.
We gather as members of a community, a community not unlike Newtown CT.  Those things that often divide us matter not in moments like this.
Opinion after opinion that we hold tight to on a normal day we let go of on a day like this.
Sorrow makes us all children again - destroys all differences of intellect.  The wisest know nothing.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

As we gather with sad hearts, may we not miss the sweetness that exists simply in having each other.

Moments of silence can be hard because our minds are always going and its can be hard to slow down.
1. Silent prayers or simple compassionate contemplation for the families impacted by Friday’s tragic event.
2.  Silently list and think about the things in your life that you are thankful for

3.  A moment of silence as we consider ways in which can bring greater peace to specific situations in our own lives and relationships in the hope that we would live differently in tribute to those who have lost lives and loved ones.

I am standing on the sea shore,
A ship sails in the morning breeze and starts for the ocean.
She is an object of beauty and I stand watching her
Till at last she fades on the horizon and someone at my side says:
"She is gone."
 Gone! Where?
Gone from my sight - that is all.
She is just as large in the masts, hull and spars as she was when I saw her
And just as able to bear her load of living freight to its destination.
The diminished size and total loss of sight is in me,
not in her.
And just at the moment when someone at my side says,
"She is gone",
There are others who are watching her coming, and other voices take up a glad shout:
"There she comes"
- and that is dying.  An horizon and just the limit of our sight.
Lift us up, Oh Lord, that we may see further.
Bishop Brent
1862 - 1926
"All the world is full of suffering. It is also full of overcoming it."
- Helen Keller

God we call on you in this moment to bring Your promised strength and peace to our neighbors in Connecticut.
As we wrestle with questions and wide range of emotions we pray for clarity and for a deeper gratitude for the blessings in our lives that we often take for granted.   Amen

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

How are things?

How are things?

Lately when people ask me how I am or how things are going I reply by saying

“I don’t have any real problems…  I have things that I complain about but no actual problems”. 

It has been a good season and I think my blessings are magnified because I have a handful of people dear to me who are courageously wading through some very serious challenges.

Lets face it; none of us get out of this life without hardships and pain.  My dear friend and songwriting partner Rachel Taylor just released a song she wrote called Heartbreak Is For Everyone.   The title communicates my point.

The fact remains that some problems are not born of circumstance and tragedy but rather by the undeveloped parts of our character. 






These characteristics are the farmland of pseudo problems and are an actual problem in and of themselves. 

Anthony de Mello, in his final work entitled The Way To Love, invites his readers to contrast two feelings.

How does it feel when people say you are doing a good job? What’s it like when you are respected and receiving affirmation?

Contrasted with

How does it feel when you observe the wonder of creation? When you see a mountain range, a sunset, a newborn baby or the ocean? How does it impact you? 

The first feeling is nice but its temporary.  If you try to be grounded in that sphere you are likely to be let down.

The other visual is constant and reminds us of our place in the world.  It demonstrates a blessing beyond our circumstances and inspires gratitude and humility.

Humility is not the enemy of confidence.  

Gratitude crushes feelings of entitlement. 

Wonder fuels enthusiasm.

Compassion heals bitterness.

How are things?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

1/2 down 1/2 to go..... seriousy

"I have learned, that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours." Henry David Thoreau

Ok friends... Here we are at the half way point.  2012 is half over and I can't believe it either.  When I started this blog in January it was full of hope.  I write today with hope and a pinch of desperation. If at the mention of our halfway point you cringe, shudder and lament,then you know exactly what I mean. 

In January I published a long inspirational list. It contained all the things I was going to consume, how I was going to move and the attitude of my heart. (you can go back and read it if you want) as a blog entry it got great response and as for becoming reality it... Ummm.... Well... It's one heck of a list! My hard lesson is the list making does not equal life living and our days will not live themselves... They will go on, they will continue, they will pass us by if we are not careful, but they will not live.  In order for there to be life in our days we must put it there. 

There is a part of your heart so familiar and yet so neglected that in the depths of your most intimate thoughts you scratch your head in despair wondering how you have not gotten further in that one area.  You have plotted and secretly planned.  You have wondered and researched. You have even made lists. The one thing you have not been able to do is act. That one spark of definable, measurable forward motion has not happened... At least not in a while. 

I don't write today with answers, explanations or a five point plan. I do write to remind you that you are not alone and the one step you are waiting to take can happen anytime. Like right now for example. Make the call, pick up the pen, apply for it...yes you can.. Yes you can... Yes I can.

Today I recommit to the hope of January but with the fire of June. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Uncle Dick Trick

My father’s side of our family is from upstate New York.  Tupper lake, Herkimer county, VanHornesville and other towns named for the native tribes that made up the Adirondack region that i cant pronounce let alone spell.

Every summer we would spend a week or two with my grandmother as well as aunts, uncles and cousins.  While our home life here in Massachusetts was conservative and tame our New York tribe was anything but.  I was old enough to know what a cocktail party was and just socially literate enough to be able to accurately interpret conversations the adults would have the morning after.  I loved those visits.  Hitting the throughway heading east was always sad for me.  
Missing my family really meant missing my uncle Dick.  He took me fishing and his wife at the time would take me on walks beside the rocky creek that ran along my grandmother’s yard.  It was from this creek that i first got a taste of fly-fishing.  I carried the wicker creel, uncle Dick caught and cleaned the trout and together we cooked ate our catch for breakfast.  As strange as it may sound, there is nothing like a native, brook trout for breakfast. 

Some years later my father had become very ill and my mother and I decided an upstate trip would put a little wind in our sails.  A day or two after our arrival uncle Dick decided we should visit his hunting camp.  Aunt Caroline , my cousins Richard, Adam and my mother were traveling to camp in the Jeep Wagoneer, while uncle Dick and I were in his beat up, ol powder blue ford pick up.  I was delighted to have time with him and I think he knew I needed it.

Uncle Dick is a world-class watercolor artist.  Painting and teaching art is all he has ever done professionally.  Add to a celebrated career as an artist the fact that a few years ago he was inducted into the Ohio Northern University’s football hall of fame, you begin to get a picture of the kind of man he is.  He works with wood, journals, paints, cooks, dreams, lectures, listens, watches, hunts, fishes with a fly rod, loves, ties trout flies,  raises, repairs, addresses, constructs, defends,  and corrects,. 

We made our way through the tree-lined road and as he drove he instructed.  Occasionally he would slow down and point to a particular stretch of road and explain why a particular scene would make a good painting.  You or I may have not noticed a difference but after he explained about color, composition and light it all made sense.  Time with my uncle enabled me to see the landscape differently.  The following lesson has enabled me to view differently the landscape of my heart.

“God and family first” Uncle Dick said. He then repeated it, making sure that I was paying attention.  I was.  I always listened when he talked.  “God and family first and then this is the order, art, fly fishing and hunting.  Those are my passions and those are my pursuits.  I have unapologetically built my life around these things and it is with these activities that I fill my days”. 

He would carry on talking about the virtue of finding one’s true passion and the importance of filling our lives with those things.  I was a teenager and I have never forgotten this lesson.  It has shaped a great deal of how I think and helped to form my world view.

For me its God, family and friends first, then music, fly fishing and cooking. These items are the deep call and longing of my heart.  They enable me to say no to things that do not fit and they are the ever-growing sunrise on the horizon of my years. 

What are your days made of? What are your passions?  Are you pursuing them?  What’s the chore, responsibility or “day job” holding you back?  Just curious…  In exchange for your thoughts I offer uncle Dick’s Stroganoff recipe.  Here it is in his own words.  Enjoy.

1 onion, diced or sliced thin
1 lb. lean hamburger (venison or beef)
1 lb. good smoked bacon
1 can condensed mushroom soup
1 pint of sour cream

Optional: canned or fresh sliced mushrooms

Brown onion in a pan.  Add more if you like it, less if you don’t.  Remove the onions from the pan.  Sometimes I add small cooked mushrooms, or fresh sliced mushrooms or any other kind as long as they are well cooked.
Brown the hamburger.  I always use venison, but it’s easier and less costly to buy beef hamburger at a store, rather than harvest a deer.  More fun with the hunting.
Drain the meat and remove it from the pan.
Cook the bacon.  I like bacon, but like the deer, much less costly to just buy a pound of bacon.  I like the $6 kind, and apple smoked or at least smoked.  Pan fry, microwave or otherwise cook very crisp, so it crumbles in your hand.  Drain, pat dry, and throw out all the bacon grease.  Crumble the bacon into ½ inch pieces.
Mix the bacon, onion, and hamburger in a pan and add a can of condensed mushroom soup. 
Stir in at least a pint of sour cream.
Serve hot over anything.  I like flat egg noodles, but rice, toast, spaghetti noodles or almost anything works because the taste is so great you’ll be eating it out of the pan. 
I never make a small batch because it freezes really well and you can add greater or lesser amounts of ingredients as you like.  I learned this from a friend in college and have never had it fail.  We also like it with canned venison, but you do have that deer problem.  You could try beef, steak or almost any beef, which I have tried.  I like lots of sour cream, not the low fat or anything like that.  The bacon is the key, I think.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Love and Guns

Can you remember the first time you felt love?  Not the butterflies associated with your first crush or the day you laid eyes on the one you just knew you would marry.  Can you remember the first time the concept of love as a feeling and an experience entered your world?  I can.

Long before the strangle hold of political correctness and cultural emasculation, little boys played with toy guns. Cops and robbers, good guys and bad guys, war games, and yes even the now taboo cowboys and Indians.  We built and defended back yard forts, ducked and rolled, hid in trees and threw caps, pellets and self made sound effects that would make the hottest beat boxer in the world say “dang”. We “played guns”. 
They looked real.  The classic, silver, simulated six shooter that smelled perpetually of sulfur, the rat tat tat of toy machine guns and everything in between.  There was no red tip on the barrel and the cylinder on my toy revolver worked just like my Dad’s real one. My arsenal was full and my time was my own.

My neighborhood friends and I would do battle non-stop, day in, and day out. Never did we hear anything about it not being “nice” or anyone worrying that we would one day fall into a life of crime.  We were boys. It’s what we did.   Proof of my parent’s support of my firearm obsession was a summer stop at New Hampshire’s Six Gun City.  Here in New England we have some pretty incredible tourist attractions.  Clarks bears, Santa’s Village, Lost river, Story Land and more obscure places like Laconia’s (now defunct) Chief Red Dawn’s Indian Village to name a few. 

My favorite however was always Six Gun City.  In the 70’s it looked like a western ghost town.  There were a few rides and every day they had stuntmen dressed as cowboys putting on shows.  Today there is a waterslide and it has become an ultra modern, old time ghost town.  I don’t know if they host old time gunfights anymore.   But this is not a story about gunfights.  This is a story about love.

We spent the night at a motel, which was also a first and my excitement made it nearly impossible to sleep.  It also made it utterly impossible for me to let my parents sleep in.  They didn’t seem to mind and that is where the love story begins.  I was dressed and ready to go.  On this day being “dressed and ready to go” included a cowboy hat, bandana, gun belt and that shiny silver cap gun that I waxed about earlier. 
Standing in the motel room, a chubby little over excited cowboy I squealed to my mom the questions “are you happy?”  And “are you having fun?”.  “I am happy when I know you’re happy” she replied.

I am happy when I know you’re happy…  I was six or seven at the time and I have never forgotten that moment.   Love is a lot of things to a lot of people.  We understand it in different ways and we see it clearly in some moments more than others.  In all the ways we attempt to show love to others in our lives I am convinced that love is beautifully displayed when we are joyful in the joy of others and when we learn to love what our loved ones love.

Who do you love?  What do they love?  How do you show them love?

Is your love for them tailored to them or to you?

Friday, February 3, 2012


Unless your town is my town, then your town doesn’t have this.  Have you ever eaten food?  I have a pretty good sense that you have (what with you being alive and all). We have this much in common. We all eat food.  Alrighty then, do you enjoy really delicious food?  How about kindness?  Do you appreciate community and creativity?  How about one stop shopping?  I hope you do.  (If you don’t let’s talk off line and I will try to help you out). So we have all these things in common and yet as I said in my opening line, unless your town is my town, then it doesn’t have this.  The “this” in question is a place called Shubies.  

Some of you just sighed and thought “ahhh yes”.  You either live here or have been here and if you have, then I don’t even have to tell you where “here” is.  Others of you are thinking that I am talking about a restaurant.  Nope.  To call Shubies a restaurant would be like calling the Beatles a band or Ginger Rogers a dancer.  For those of us who live in Marblehead Massachusetts, Shubies is an institution.

Started in 1948, family owned and operated Shubies has taken over sixty years to develop it’s own brand of culinary prowess blended with community spirit.  The Shube family has also developed a family within a family.  You will always find an authentic Shube family member ready to offer a suggestion or a bit of direction, but the family within the family are the non-Shubes who serve as though it was their own name on the awning. 
What exactly is Shubies??? They do indeed sell delicious food that is prepared fresh and ordered from a menu.  It is therefore, in one sense, a restaurant.  It sells beautiful groceries as well though.  Not the kind of stuff you’ll find at Market Basket or Stop and Shop, mind you.  Shubies has the best versions of familiar staples mixed in with the kind of things you see on the Food Network and wonder about. (I once ate ham that was made from special pigs who roamed the countryside and lived off of acorns… seriously). So Shubies is also a market.  Markets generally don’t sell Le Creuset pots, Wusthof knives or hand-made Vietri Italian pottery, but Shubies does.  I suppose that makes it a kitchen shop as well!  But kitchen shops rarely employ a pastry chef, a sommelier (wine expert) or an executive Chef classified by Esquire magazine, as one of Americas top chefs (Shubies executive chef, Lynne Aronson holds that distinction though she blushes a little when I bring it up to her.)  So do you get where I am going?  

Shubies, simply put- is an award winning, community minded, restaurant, market, bakery, cooking school, wine and cheese shop, Asian noodle bar, liquor store, prepared food seller, salad bar, kitchen store with a cigar humidor, world-class staff and is run by a family that genuinely cares about their staff, customers, neighbors and each other.  

I am fortunate to be a five-minute walk to my dear Shubies. George & Carol, their great kids (Douggie, pictured above, is the man!) as well as the staff that make up their family within the Shube family, are an important part of why I love this little town.  

Shubies 16 Atlantic Avenue  Marblehead   MA    (781) 631-0149

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Right and Wrong - new song

Last year my friend Shyla made me aware of this Rumi quote:

“Out beyond the ideas 
of wrong doing and right doing, 
there is a field. 
I'll meet you there.”

She brought it to me during a season where I was attempting to write a complete song every single day.  As you might imagine a lot of those tunes were total dogs (some even had fleas) but as I look over that batch of songs there are a couple that I am actually proud of.  These are the words to a song I wrote based on this quote.  I think it may even make it’s way onto the new album.  (Spring 2012 hopefully)

Someone once said that we are all trying to be advertisements of better versions of the real us.  I can totally relate.  There is this space between wanting the real Jim to be the best he can be and at the same time extending myself grace to receive grace in the areas where I need it.

“extending myself grace to receive grace”

Man… there is freedom in allowing ourselves to be wrong from time to time.  To admit being wrong and confessing it to whoever is affected by it is such a freeing proposition. 

Anyone you need to call? Go ahead then.... This can wait.

Ok… welcome back.  Hope that went well.  Here is the song.  Working title is I Will Meet You (in between).  Consider it a poem for now.

I will meet you in between

The things you love and the things you’ve seen.

Where condemnation takes a rest

and mercy does what it does best.

And the way we were won’t matter

and we will fail to see

 the counterfeits we really were

instead of who we were to be. 

I will meet you in a far off land

where struggle struggles to even stand

You’ll take my heart

I’ll hold your hand

I’ll meet you in a far off land.

And the way we were won’t matter

and we will fail to see

the counterfeits we really were

instead of who we were to be. 

I’ll meet you at the end of the road

For the part of the story that remains untold

where angels sing and love unfolds

I’ll meet you at the end of the road.

And the way we were won’t matter

and we will fail to see

the counterfeits we really were

instead of who we were to be. 

You’ll be you and I’ll be me.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Cider Glazed Salmon

Fish… not fishing this time.  Just fish…  Not just any fish mind you.  No my friend I am not talking about haddock.  I will not work to entice you with cod or flounder or scrod. (What exactly is scrod???  I digress) I came here to talk to you about the one, the only… beautiful, beautiful salmon.  If you are one of the poor souls that pronounces the “L” in the word salmon, please don’t.  Thank you.  Anyhow, you may think you know how to cook salmon.  You do not.  Sorry.  All the soy sauce, ginger and honey mustard you can muster will not help you.  This salmon dish is both tantalizing and comforting at the same time.  Like an autumn hug from your fat mamma is this salmon recipe.

My friend Christina passed this on to me a couple of years ago and people LOVE it. I love it!  YOU will love it.  My in-laws say it is the best salmon they have ever tasted.  (Keep in mind they are British and that my mother in law does her salmon in a zip loc bag, in the microwave.  No joke)   Seriously, this dish is ridiculously delicious.  I make extra sauce and I serve this fish with basmati rice and grilled asparagus.  Oh man is it good.  Let’s get one thing clear, if you are not going to use the heavy cream stay home.  Fat free half and half???  2%?????  Who are you people anyhow???? It’s a little tiny bit of heavy cream.  You will be fine. (maybe)  You will however NOT be fine using farm raised salmon.  You want that salmon to be as wild as this blogger.  
So here it is, Molly Wizenberg's Cider-Glazed Salmon and I believe it was first published in her book A Homemade Life.  For once in my life I have actually always made it exactly as the recipe says to.  I don’t see or taste any room for improvement.  Go nuts!

Cider-Glazed Salmon

For this recipe, you'll need a large 12-inch skillet with a lid. The pan should be large enough to hold the salmon without crowding and to provide plenty of surface area for boiling down and thickening the sauce.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 medium shallot, peeled and halved lengthwise

2 cups fresh unfiltered apple cider

4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets


1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large, heavy skillet, combine the butter, shallot, and cider. Place over medium-high heat, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove and discard the shallot.

Place the fillets gently in the pan, adjusting the heat so that the liquid just trembles. Spoon a bit of the liquid over them, so that their tops begin to cook. Cover and simmer very gently. The fillets will cook for 8 to 10 minutes per inch of thickness. To test for doneness, make a small slit with a paring knife in the thickest part of the fillet: all but the very center of each piece should be opaque. (It will keep cooking after you pull it from the heat). Transfer the cooked salmon to a platter, and cover loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm.

To prepare the glaze, raise the heat under the pan to medium-high, add a pinch of salt, and simmer, stirring frequently, until the liquid is reduced by about two-thirds. It should be slightly thickened and should just cover the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium, and add the cream. Stir well to combine. Return the heat to medium-high and boil, stirring frequently, for a few minutes, until the mixture darkens to a pale golden caramel--like those Brach's Milk Maid caramel candies, if that helps--and is reduced by one-third to one-half.
Place the salmon fillets on 4 plates and top each with a spoonful of sauce. It should coat them like a thin, loose glaze. Serve immediately.

Note: If you'd like to make this for only 2 people, halve the amount of salmon, but not the sauce quantities.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Les Miserables and Jesus

The thing about modern Christianity is that so many people will only ever get to see the bad examples.  This may be true for historical Christianity as well. The nut jobs, the pushy, the obnoxious, the judgmental, you don’t have to look too far for them.  They are however not even a caricature of what Jesus intended his followers to be like.   Many of my readers are right wing evangelical, born again Christians.  Some are ardent atheists. For those two camps and everyone in between I offer this video clip from Les Miserables.   

For those who love Jesus I hope it will inspire us to be more accepting, compassionate and sacrificially generous.  For the other extreme my hope is that you will know that there are so many who believe the story of Jesus who do in fact want to avoid hypocrisy and spread love in a way that is meaningful.  Believers, let's long to be more like the one we claim to believe in.  Critics balance your criticism with the knowledge that all Christians are not sign carrying, megaphone screaming freaks. 

Out of curiosity which character in this video do you relate most to? 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

New Glasses!

This is what I am rocking as of three days ago.  Indeed I needed another set of black eyeglasses about as much as I need another chin.  That aside, this frame is made by Persol.  They have been around since 1917 and are still hand made in Italy.  Persol started out making glasses for pilots and racecar drivers.  I am neither of those things but they have also been worn by James Bond and if I had to choose between being a racecar driver, a pilot, or James Bond I would choose James Bond every time.  You?