How I do blog posts without titles

My friend Kevin asked me via email, “Is it difficult to get rid of titles on blog posts? I so envy what you’ve done…”

Well, part of the secret to that is found in my loose website building manifesto here:

I’m not building a custom theme or messing around with some premium framework. I build using one of the WordPress default themes and making customized modifications to that using a child theme (Additional CSS, FTW!!!)

The Theme I’m using on Rhoneisms is Twenty Sixteen. Another reason for using default themes is that, it supports all of the fancy features. The feature I’ll point out here is “post type”. because, it turns out, that one of the default WordPress post types is “Status”. Also, it turns out, that this post type does not display a title. So, I simply choose that as my post type

So, the way I put this into my “personal style guide” usage is that all of my “tweet style” posts are of the type “Status” and all of the regular essay style posts with titles are of the type “Standard”.

So, no special magic here. Just using the gifts Automattic has given me.

When You Tell Her She’s Beautiful

when you tell her she’s beautiful
let her know what the word
beautiful means to you
that she’s savvy and strong
that she’s considerate and kind
that she’s gracious and gritty
that she’s honest and wise
when you tell her she’s beautiful
let her know

when you tell her she’s beautiful
let her know what matters
that her heart is pure
that her soul is deep
that her mind is broad
that her words are heard
when you tell her she’s beautiful
let her know

when you tell her she’s beautiful
let her know that you mean more
than the shape of her face
than the toss of her hair
than the sparkle of her eyes
than the flash of her smile
when you tell her she’s beautiful
let her know

when you tell her she’s beautiful
let her know what you mean
that you accept her wholly
that you appreciate her fully
that you see her completely
that you love her absolutely
when you tell her she’s beautiful
let her know

On World Mental Health Day

It’s World Mental Health Day today. An issue very near and important to me.

I’ve written about this many times before. I am a mental illness survivor. I’ve lost some of my closest friends to suicide. My eldest child is currently institutionalized. I even serve on the board of a mental health and wellness organization.

So, as you can imagine, this is a day of many mixed emotions for me. That said, the one that I keep coming back to is hope. I am full of hope that those that are suffering can find healing. Those that have been lost can leave lessons for those considering leaving. Those who think there is no help will find that there has never been more. Finally, I have hope that days like today will spread a little more of this hope as we confront, discuss, and step out of the shadows of mental illness.

Be help. Be hope.

52 Things I Know At 52

  1. Your kid is probably a better photographer than you.
  2. Plan the work, then work the plan.
  3. Give a stranger a compliment and their smile will give you the world.
  4. Tell the world where you are but not when you will return.
  5. Most of my strengths are creatively embraced weaknesses.
  6. Example: How I build websites.
  7. If you approach everything with mindfulness, everything can be meditation.
  8. “Worry does not take away tomorrow’s troubles; it takes away today’s peace”.
  9. The wind is music.
  10. I choose my mentors.
  11. Life is not a straight line.
  12. Context can make all the difference.
  13. The world’s beauty is enough.
  14. If you find yourself stuck, try moving somewhere else. (Its how I’m getting this list done.)
  15. This is perhaps the most fulfilling purchase I’ve ever made.
  16. Journaling should happen in an an appropriately sized notebook.
  17. I still miss ambient intamacy.
  18. My writing process flies in the face of most writing advice I’ve read. But, it works for me and that’s all that matters.
  19. “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
  20. Putting together puzzles with my family is group meditation.
  21. Even doing the dishes can be meditation.
  22. [The easiest way to increase battery life your iPhone is to use it less.
  23. Mindfulness is for mere mortals.
  24. “We don’t need more teachers, we need more practitioners…”
  25. The greatest lessons we learn are rarely the lessons we seek.
  26. Robin Sloan’s newsletter is still my favorite thing I read most weeks.
  27. I still don’t understand what the kids are listening to these days.
  28. It’s OK to not have an opinion.
  29. In fact, it’s OK to not give a fuck about some things.
  30. Perhaps even consider the value of doing nothing.
  31. Even though I’ve pledged to buy no new books this year and read what I already own, I’ve barely made a dent in this pile.
  32. In Japan this is called Tsundoku.
  33. The best time is always now.
  34. This is when my heart awoke.
  35. Sometimes, broken is a feature.
  36. It’s not about the stuff, really. It’s about the stuff behind the stuff.
  37. Even the space between us, connects us.
  38. In an emergency, these are useful survival tools
  39. Searching my site for “Beatrix age *” yields wonderful life lessons and advice. She remains one of my most valuable teachers.
  40. When people ask me, “What do you do?”, this is my answer.
  41. What Now > What If.
  42. This is all I ever want for Christmas. Exactly according to plan.
  43. There are things a photograph can never capture.
  44. There are two essential questions that drive every human being.
  45. To lead, one must choose to go the new way.
  46. Play the long game and the market will almost always be bull.
  47. I still long for a return to where business casual was considered minimum proper attire for travel.
  48. I’m going to die. So are you. Let’s act like it.
  49. Not all journaling needs to be words.
  50. Explore deep gratitude for the mundane.
  51. 51 (and all ages past 21 that end in one) always seemed a strange thing to say when people asked me how old I was. I don’t know why. Just felt like a strange age. A not quite age. I sometimes would be tempted to reply, “I’m almost 52” or “I’m 50 and 17 months”. So, I’m looking forward to the year to come.
  52. I don’t feel like I’m getting older. I feel like I’m getting better.

Notes on mentors…

  • I choose my mentors.
  • Mentors don’t find you 1. You find them.
  • Mentors don’t have to know they are your mentors. You don’t have to let them know, either. Just let them mentor.
  • Sometimes, mentors come in the form of friends.
  • Many of my mentors likely didn’t/don’t know they we’re/are my mentors.
  • Some of those mentors looked to me as a mentor to them. They think it is only a one way thing.
  • Some of my mentors I’ve never met in person, only through written communications.
  • Some have been life long, others short term.
  • I have mentors for different activities: Spiritual mentors or writing mentors, for example.
  • You will not find mentors unless you are ready to do the work.

I may have more on this subject as thoughts arise.

  1. Note for White folks: Despite what Hollywood has made you believe, Morgan Freeman is not going to magically appear to show you the ways of the world or a better golf swing. This is fiction. A lie sold to you by your own screenwriters. This “Magic Black Man” does not exist. Even if he did, you’d still have to find him, not the other way around. 

Ireland — Belfast and Dublin

I had plans to continue to post about my continuing travels daily but, well, then we got to the city and our rhythm changed. No longer were we with friends in the sleepy countryside where I would draw up some thoughts before bed and complete them in the morning. Now, we were on “city time”. So, here’s some thoughts about these two cities separated by international border, history, culture, and sense of self. Yet, they both remain very much Irish.

Belfast is heavy. The weight of the city’s more recent history (recent in these terms means decades) permeates the nooks and crannies. One thing I failed to mention in previous posts was that in driving through the small towns in the North, one would frequently come across a town where every light and flag pole was draped in British and Council flags. Towns that were very clearly loyalist. Towns for whom The Troubles, as the decades long years of clashes between British/Loyalist forces and the IRA are called, have not passed. You could tell the Catholic towns. There were no flags. They were unassuming. As if trying to hide their true identity. Because they were. It was as if the fight were not largely settled. That’s because it never has been and no where was this more stark than in Belfast. To be in Belfast is to be in constant awareness that “peace” is a very shaky and delicate idea. That it is still an idea that in practice is only supported by walls and barriers between the sides that close at night. Where, if not for the walls the bricks and bombs would continue after the politicians turned off the lights. Where Banksy shows up and paints his million dollar graffiti next to your honored war dead to point out that such ideas exist only in a vacuum but has and will never truly belong to those who die to secure it. Especially those who fight to “win”. And these are two sides still fighting to win.

That said, Belfast is a vibrant city attempting a comeback despite this general air. It seems to be trying really hard to move towards a better future. We only had a day and took a hop on/off bus tour which is an excellent way to get a sense of the city when one has limited time. The guide we had before our first and only hop off was cheerful and peppy. Perfect for seeing the parliament building, museums, churches, and other light attractions. We got off to wonder around The MAC museum which is eclectic and slightly cheesy. When we got back on though, we had the perfect guide for the part of the trip that took us through the Catholic and Protestant sections of the city and the Peace Wall that still stands between them. He somberly and deftly explained the major points of the conflict both past and very much present and did his best not to let his loyalty to either side show (though my very smart wife could tell immediately and had to explain to me how she knew). I came away with a real sense of gravity and truly heartbroken for those still having to carry the weight of such generational divisions in their daily lives. I had not planned for it to affect me so deeply. Such is the nature of compassion.

Dublin on the other hand, is light. It is a bustling city full of love and Irish pride. They are very much a tourist city and embrace it with every pint poured and note of traditional music played out of every city center pub. We mainly stayed around this area of the city and played good tourists ourselves. Stopping into sweater shops and paying way too much for food. The one exception is when we got in the rental car and took a trip to L. Mulligan, Grocer; a fantastic meal (perhaps, best of the trip) , incredible service, best beer selection in Dublin, and very kid friendly. Afterwards, just a few blocks away, we found The Cornerstone, a very packed pub that had traditional music and allowed kids in until 10pm. They were even warm and friendly when it rounded time for Beatrix to leave. In fact, I could write a lot more about just this pub experience alone and may save it for a later post. So. Much. Fun.

But, most of our time was actually spent walking. Dublin is a very walkable city and we only used the car for a few hours that one night. We otherwise just left it in the lot near our hotel. One could spend a whole day just ambling and taking it all in and be perfectly happy doing so as we were every time we did.

I think it is common to feel like one never gets enough time in a place when on vacation and that is certainly true of my time in Ireland. I’d say even more so. I felt very at home there. Like the part of me that is Irish (DNA wise I’m about 17%) had finally reached home. As if a longing had been sated. And now, on the plane home as I write this, I feel that part may have stayed behind,in a pub or in the glens, refusing to leave, and hoping I’ll return to find it again one day.

I will, mate. I will.

Ireland — Day Three Thoughts

The thoughts arising during my vacation in Ireland continue…

  • When conversing with, or listening in on a conversation in Ireland, you will find that it eventually turns to friendship and family. Now, perhaps that is due to the small town I’m visiting for now, and the fact that everyone in the town is either one or the other. But, I would like to think that, ultimately, friends and family are what Ireland is ultimately made of. Hence, even the humble visitor like myself becomes, by default, one or the other.

  • “Aye” is my new favorite all-purpose punctuation mark.

  • I learned there is an underground society that conspires to fill their diesel car engines that should be filled with “black” (fuel that is meant for cars) with “red” (fuel that is meant for tractors) because they believe it is virtually the same but red is significantly cheaper.

  • There’s some good hiking trails to be found in Glenariff Forest Park. Beautiful waterfalls and nature’s splendor all around. A trek up the nicely maintained paths will reward you with a lovely cafe at the top where you can enjoy simple traditional Irish fare while gazing at a gorgeous view.

  • The Guinness really is better here.

Next up: Belfast.

Ireland — Day Two Thoughts

Continuing thoughts from my trip to the Emerald Isle..

  • My wife and I have never watched Game of Thrones. Yet, many of the sights we’ve seen and places we are going have been filmed or otherwise served as inspiration for the show. Many of these once relatively unheard of and serene places have become overrun by the Foreign Selfie Brigade. They are easy to spot pouring off of the large tourist busses in their “Winter is Coming” t-shirts. Therefore, instead of snorting and mumbling disparagements under our breaths at them, my wife and I have set a goal of joining in the fun by taking our selfie at as many of these places as we can. We thought it would be funny to do a blog post of Game of Thrones selfies having never seen the show with witty captions like “we have no idea what scene or season this is but we asked some random American and they told us something about a shadow lord and some chick’s dragons so here we are in front of these caves”.

  • I was able to see Scotland only 12 miles across the sea from where I stood today (it is in the background of the picture of Beatrix at the tip of the post). It then becomes obvious how the two places are so connected by culture and language and family and song. They might as well be neighbors.

  • The Irish believe in meat. Not with the zeal and fervor that Spanish believe in it. More like the Methodist believe in God, with a quiet steadfastness of purpose towards what’s right. Meat, to the Irish, is what’s right. It makes breads more right. It makes the humble potato more proper. It adds glory to the plate it rests on. Just as one can find God in everything, so it is with meat in Ireland. Vegetarians here might well be considered atheists. The Irish know they must exist but they are unsure how one could be so lost. They may throw an option for them on the menu in case one might darken their doorway. A curry, perhaps, they’ll think. Perhaps they may offer them some chips and a salad. But, that’s all they have to do to consider themselves in godly treatment of even the lowest sinner. Bacon, if snuck into said salad, might one day finally convert them after all.

  • If you are not of these lands, and love music, find a cafe to sit in, remain quiet, and just listen to the conversations around you. The Irish accent is the most musical of sounds. It’s like the chattering of angels.

  • Even the rain here, thus far, has been gentle and sweet. Never harsh. Like a soft wet kiss from mother nature.

Now to the pub for a nice dinner and some whiskey.

Ireland — Day One Thoughts

Here are some thoughts from my first first full day in Ireland.

  • The photo above is the view from the kitchen window at our friend’s place where we are staying. Heaven.
  • Major sights seen today were; Dunluce Castle (stunning), Bushmills Distillery (so much fun), Giant’s Causeway (a whole new respect for the power of natures beauty), White Park Bay (breathtaking), and The Dark Hedges (mysterious and amazing).

  • This particular part of Ireland where I currently am (a small seaside town in the North) is perhaps the only place I’ve ever visited where every sight, every town, every view, in any direction, could be on a postcard. It’s almost unbelievable. Dream like.

  • You may remember my bit of nervousness about having to drive here. We got “upgraded” at the car rental place from a compact to a small SUV. Now, under other circumstances, this would be fine. But, I was already wary of having to drive a manual (for the first time in years) on the “wrong” side (and, thus, shifting with my left hand in reverse direction) on very narrow roads because we were driving from Dublin to our small seaside hamlet to stay with friends, so… Let’s just say it was a less exciting upgrade and it took every bit of white knuckle concentration and my wife screaming “TOO FAR LEFT!” at me from the passenger seat for us to make it to our final destination in one piece. That said, since now having driven all day following a “native” in her SUV with ours from sight to sight, down these narrow roads, I’ve become scarily comfortable with it. I’ve gotten so used to it so fast that I’m now a bit worried that I won’t remember how to drive “normally” when I return to the states.

  • You will hear this from anyone who visits the Emerald Isle but you won’t believe it until you are here: The people of Ireland are the friendliest people on the planet.

  • Everything they say about the weather is also true. Cool (except when it gets suddenly warm), Rainy (except when the sun comes out of nowhere) and Windy (except when it’s suddenly calm). That said, if you are properly prepared (bring a good rain jacket and leave the umbrella at home, lest you wish to lose it in the wind), you won’t care a bit because you are in one of the most beautiful places on the planet with the friendliest people.

  • This is one of the best days we’ve had in a long time.

Ireland — My Pre-Trip Preparations

My wife, daughter, and I are about to embark on an eight day trip to Northern Ireland. My daughter and I have never been. My wife has visited many years ago but stayed mainly in the south of the country. Therefore, this will largely be new to all of us. We’re very excited.

We will be spending the bulk of the time (five days) staying with friends in the seaside village of Cushendun. It is about an hour north of Belfast and near many other interesting sights so I imagine we will be doing a lot of sightseeing while there. Then, we will spend the final three days in Dublin before the return flight home. We’ll be renting (hiring) a car at the airport to drive to our final destination. Yes, that means a manual transmission, as automatic ones for hire are more rare and more expensive. Yes, that means I’ll be driving and shifting on the “wrong” side. No, I’ve never had to do so before. Yes, I’m a little nervous about that (but those that have done so tell me you catch on quickly).

There were a few preparations I’ve needed to make before leaving on the trip…

Normally, when traveling overseas, my wife and I take the opportunity to be semi-disconnected. We generally don’t buy SIM cards for our phones and simply rely on wi-fi where we can get it to check email, download maps, etc. For many reasons (not the least of which is the driving we’ll be doing) on this trip we’ve decided to get SIM cards that will work in Ireland ahead of the trip so that we can stay connected. I found this guide on TidBITS to be most helpful in doing so. I pretty much have done exactly what that article explained.

I’ll be trying out a new travel bag on this trip as well — a Pakt One. I took it along on a three day trip to our family cabin earlier this week and really liked it. I’m looking forward to see how it does for a longer trip.

Some of you may remember I did a video of my light packing methodology about ten years ago (seems like yesterday) and maybe I’ll take the time to throw together a video of what I’m packing these days soon. The basic ideas have not changed and, because we are staying at a friend’s house, we’ll have access to a washing machine for the bulk of the trip so that will be nice.

That said, the broad strokes of what I cover in the video remain the same; I can pack a lot less because much of what I’m bringing is designed to wash easily and dry quickly. My socks and t-shirts are all merino wool so that means I can get at least a couple of days wear without needing a wash at all. All of my undies are from Uniqlo’s Airism line so super light weight, comfortable, and pack down to next to nothing (five pairs of the mesh version balled up together are not much larger than a softball. With a pair of jeans, a couple of pairs of Proof Nomad travel pants (the best I’ve ever tried and I’ve tried a few), three long sleeve button-ups I can rotate around, a sweater, and a hoodie I basically have a capsule wardrobe that fits nicely into this bag. I even still have room for my rain jacket, a hat, my minimalist toiletry bag, etc. I can even fit in my laptop, a small notebook, some pens, and other items. The Pakt One is perfect and purpose designed for one bag travel.

Other pre-trip preparations have included…

In all, I’m very excited for this trip and think it will be an ideal way to close out the summer as a family and return refreshed and prepared for the beginning of the school year (which for us starts as soon as we come back). I’m sure you’ll be seeing me post more than a bit more about our travels along the way.