A Deeper Look at Coloring Books

I must confess that I have adult coloring books. And that really does feel like a confession to me. Isn’t coloring the stuff of children? I’m slightly embarrassed by this activity, but I find it very comforting at the same time.

In a world that feels increasingly out of control, coloring is wonderfully predictable. There are established boundaries. And while these boundaries do exist, I still get to choose how pretty to make the spaces within them. It’s my way of feeling creative without actually expending too much mental energy on it. I can get lost in the patterns and set my anxieties aside for a brief, colorful moment.

So when I came across an article entitled, “The Dark, Forgotten History of Coloring Books”, I didn’t want to read it. I didn’t want my multicolored bubble to be burst in any way. But, as is so often the case, curiosity got the better of me.

It seems that coloring books first came out as a way to induce submission in children. They were used to teach them how to behave. It’s part of the reason so many of us are loathe to color outside of the lines. Them’s the rules, after all.

The first coloring book was called The Little Folks Painting book. You can see it here. It includes lessons which are really warnings about not being disobedient. Don’t play tricks on people. Don’t be selfish. Don’t oversleep. According to the article, one of the lessons is,

“Never be discontented, never wish for anything you cannot have.”

Well, now, isn’t that creepy? By coloring, we’re being compliant. We’re being contained. We’re learning to accept the things we cannot control. By killing time in this way, we’re also not being trouble-makers. And John Lewis reminded us how important it is to make good trouble.

Even more chillingly, the article says,

“To color is to inhabit a world designed by others, to dwell in an environment where you are left with no options but to memorize what is already there… After days of coloring these diminutive dreams, I came to see the energy I spent on it as dimming my capacity to imagine how a future can be conceived and built.”

Shades of 1984.

So will I stop coloring? Probably not. Sometimes you just need to shut off your brain. But it’s crucial to remember to turn it back on.

Maybe I’ll have to come up with even more ways to make these designs my own, besides simply choosing which colors go where. Perhaps I’ll use the designs as wrapping paper for a gift. Or maybe I’ll fold them into Christmas ornaments. Maybe I’ll take the author’s suggestion and tear them up and make a collage. Or I’ll create a tattoo.

I’ve always been rather noncompliant. I don’t suspect that will change any time soon. I do believe in certain rules and regulations, simply in order to live without chaos. But I hate the idea of being manipulated in any way. So yeah, I’m apt to color outside the lines of life.

But every once in a while, it’s nice to let others make the choices for you, if only on the page of a coloring book. As with any habit, though, moderation is key. I don’t want to turn into a Stepford colorer. That would not be good.


Like the way my weird mind works? Then you’ll enjoy my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

N-N-1 October 31, 2017

This was a fun post to write, because it took a village. In an atmosphere of increasing divisiveness, people from all walks of life, from all over the world, got together to do one thing: Take a photograph at 6 pm (their time zone) on the 31st of October. If you’re mathematically inclined, in N-N-1 the first N stands for the number of participants, the second for the number of photos (because those numbers should be the same), and the 1 stands for one time. These photos were sent to me, along with 50-100 words about them, so that we could share them all with you.

What I love most about this project is that we are all seeing different things at the same point in time. The world is so varied and nuanced, as are our lives, and yet we are all part of the human race. Thirteen responses from four different continents and six different countries, all working together. I feel very proud of us right now.

So without further ado, here are the photos we came up with:


This first one comes from me, Barb Abelhauser. I took this on the Fremont Bridge in Seattle, Washington, USA. This was not the photograph I had expected to take. It was my day off, technically, so I should have been relaxing. But I got called in to work. This is the most hectic drawbridge in our system, but it makes for some interesting photos. In the foreground is the bell we used to use to signal the boats back when technology was slightly less technical. It almost looks like a space ship is descending. I think most Seattleites would agree that if a spaceship were to descend anywhere, it would be in the Fremont neighborhood.

I hope you’ll continue to visit my blog, www.theviewfromadrawbridge.wordpress.com.



This one was taken by Cris LeCompte, during his visit to Fargo, North Dakota, USA. He said it was taken “twelve minutes before sunset and 32° F. Located at the end of the street of 1950’s houses is the Congregational Church reflecting the designs from the 1970’s. The next hour found trick or treaters knocking on the doors.”

Cris is actually the realtor who helped me buy my house in the Seattle, Washington area. If you live around here and need a realtor, I highly recommend him! www.RealtorCris.com



This photo is by Elaine Lorefield who hails from Kentucky, USA. She writes, “This is an old window from my house. I did the beveled glass work about 30 or so years ago. I had all the windows replaced a few years ago and this one has been sitting outside my back door ever since, slowly deteriorating. Time passes. Nothing endures forever, but the process of deterioration can be unexpectedly beautiful. It still makes rainbows when the light is just right even as it disintegrates.”



My friend Martin Hunt sent this picture from Canada.

“This where I live. Cyberspace and my mind. The physical location is nice little apartment in Vancouver. The actual location is spread all over the planet. My love lives in Skype and Second Life. Second Life has been a place where I’ve learned a lot. I’m an old guy now and I’ve had a pretty active and adventurous life. I like where I am now as much as any place I have ever been. ”

To see more of his cool photos, along with his philosophical essays, visit his website at www.simulat.ca.


Halloween October 31 2017 Bangkok

This, from Anju Lavina, in Bangkok:

“Thailand loves Halloween. They don’t really need an excuse to dress up, but if you’re going to give them one, they’re going to take it to the next level. Unfortunately, Thailand has been on a year-long mourning period for the death of the late King Bhumibol who was loved beyond measure. For a whole year, we have had to wear black in memoriam. Halloween has been cancelled, but the spirit of trick or treat remained. This is a photo of mannequins showing off the latest in mourning fashion, while also managing to look somewhat spooky!”

Visit Anju’s blog here: https://thislabyrinthiroam.blog/


Mr Politician

Norm Houseman, the originator of the N-N-1 concept, had this to say:

Mr. Politician

Why Mr. Politician? Well, it began when our twenty-one-year-old granddaughter, Macey, was three or four years old. She was visiting us around Halloween one night. Our doorbell rang and I went to see who was calling on us on that dark night. It wasn’t the night for Trick or Treating, and we weren’t expecting anyone. I opened the door and found a local politician who was out soliciting our vote in the upcoming election. I assured her that we would cast our vote for her and she left.

Later, when Macey was leaving, I said to her, “Be careful, there are politicians out tonight.”

Macey looked up at the new Halloween windsock hanging on our front porch. She asked, “Is he a politician?”

I looked at it and said, “Yeah, he’s a politician.”

For the next year or so she equated politicians with things spooky. Cindy once found her looking under a bed with a flashlight. When Cindy asked her what she was looking for, Macey whispered, “Politicians.”

Ever since then, Mr. Politician has been an honored Halloween decoration at our home.

Norm is in Lafayette, Indiana, USA. Check out his blog here: https://classicalgasbag.wordpress.com/



This picture comes all the way from Australia. Karen writes:

My TIME wall in progress!!

Once completed it will represent countries I have lived in and countries that are special to me.

Writing this has made me think about TIME!!

All the cliches come to mind, here are a few:

The TIME of your life

TIME marches on

TIME will tell

TIME can be a great healer

TIME flies (when you are having fun)

The sands of TIME

TIME is money


Money cannot buy TIME!!

Karen Swanepoel

Gold Coast, Australia



This scary picture comes from FigBash Snook, who was attending the 10th Annual Bristol Zombie Walk, in the UK.

“Once a year, the undead converge in Bristol. Over 600 zombies shambled their way from College Green to Temple Meads. I had no idea there were that many of us; perhaps the apocalypse is closer than I thought!”



I have to say that this photo makes me very nostalgic. Taken by my friend Juan Carlos Garcia Romero, in Guanajuato, Mexico, it reminds me of the time when I lived there at age 19 and attended this amazing festival.

Here’s what he wrote, which I’ll humbly attempt to translate, below: “La parte representativa de la realidad virtual es a través de las imágenes mediante ellas mostramos una historia en base al contexto que existe detrás de una sola imagen como es está fotografía.  Muestra de ello, es la lechuguilla o gorguera  que formo parte de la moda de los usos y costumbres de la sociedad del siglo XV en Europa y fue el antecedente directo para la elaboración y  transformación del cuello de las camisas y blusas como prendas de vestir. Sin embargo, poetas, dramaturgos y novelistas hicieron uso de ello.  Hoy en día, la imagen de la lechuguilla se mostró solo como un adorno decorativo y cultural del XLV Festival Internacional Cervantino  (FIC) en diferentes plazas y edificios de la ciudad colgaron esa imagen. Mientras que alrededor se desarrollaron eventos de música, danza, teatro, poesía, ballet, cine, etcétera.  Un panorama difícil de analizar pero fácil de percibir es aquel que vivimos a diario las personas que vivimos en la ciudad, en donde solamente una pequeña parte de los turistas son los que en realidad asisten con una finalidad cultural.  La otra parte, solamente viene a tomar en las calles de la ciudad. Para ellos, el festival es venir a ensuciar la ciudad, o ponerse hasta atrás.”

My translation (apologies in advance): The representative part of virtual reality is through images. Through them we tell a story based on the context that exists behind a single image, such as this photograph. For example, the lechuguilla or gorguera (collar) that formed part of the fashion of 15th century society in Europe and was the direct antecedent for shirt collars of today. However, poets, dramatists and novelists made use of it. Today, the image of the lechuguilla was used as the logo for the XLV International Cervantino Festival. It appeared in different squares and buildings of the city. The festival included music, dance, theater, poetry, ballet, cinema, etc. Those of us who live in the city where only a small portion of the people who actually attend the cultural events. Each year the town swells with tourists, who only come to check out the city, leave it dirtier than it was, and then leave it behind.



This picture was submitted by Natalie Garvois, from West Lumbago, Nebraska. She included a poem.

Some houses need to be avoided.

Each year Samuel, Corrine’s father,

And yes, he is still alive,

Tries to lure young Trick-Or-Treaters

To his door.


There he does his best

To scare the puddin’

Out of sugar hungry youngsters

By dressing like a ghoul

And waving a butcher’s knife.


Many children leave his door

Crying and screaming.

Sometimes they leave

A trail of urine in their wake.

What a guy.

Check out Natalie’s blog here: https://wildriversrunsouth.wordpress.com/



The picture that gets the award for being taken at the highest altitude definitely comes from Ellis Johnson, who had this to say:

“This photo was taken on a flight from New Orleans into Dallas while we were making our approach at 6pm local time.  My trip to New Orleans was with my childhood best friends as a last hurrah and at this point all I wanted to do was be at home snuggling with my wife. When I took this, we weren’t sure if we were going to make our connection to the flight to Seattle so I was geared up and ready to make a run to the next gate but had to take a moment to appreciate this beautiful sunset and view.”


Amy Pic

Amy Sassenberg (who also did the photography for my first book) told the story behind this picture:

“I was supposed to be at a Harvest Festival with my family who were dressing up as the cast of Wizard of Oz, but the flying monkeys threw a wrench into the mix and I was left alone, putting the finishing touches on my makeup and costume as the good witch.”

She was in Huntington Beach, California at the time. Check out more of her writing and photography at Behindtheblues.com.



And finally, we have this delightful contribution from Princess Butter in California:

“I could have been a hero. I could have been soup, pie, or even a gluten-free spaghetti. But I am here. Being a villain. I am hanging here, bidding my time. I have been sitting out since four days, looking at these people walking by, and this odd girl clicking my pictures. You have subjected me to such gloat and abuse. I am just waiting. Tomorrow, when you pick me up, we will see who has the last laugh. Forget the orange flesh, say hello to the blue-green mossy ball of squish. Bwahahahahaha!”

Check out Princess Butter’s blog at www.asplashofmylife.wordpress.com.



I decided to add one last submission, from my friend Steve in Jacksonville, Florida, simply because this made me cry. He writes, “This is my 1800 picture. It’s Michaels car. I was wishing he was in it.”

He’s been going through a lot recently.


Many thanks to all who participated! And thank you for allowing me to be the host this time around. I’m looking forward to the next N-N-1!

One HONY of a Debate: My Thoughts on BDSM

If you do Facebook, you’ve probably come across at least one post from the “Humans of New York” page. The stories are always fascinating. Sometimes tragic, sometimes triumphant, they never cease to make you think.

But a recent post is causing quite an uproar. This one is about a 21 year old girl whose parents think she’s in New York with friends, when actually she came to see a 55 year old married man with two children to engage in a BDSM relationship with him. She’s a very troubled girl, and according to Humans of New York, she feels that she has absolutely no one to talk to because people judge her.


[Image credit: HONY]

I don’t judge her. I judge the 55 year old. He’s preying on someone with profound problems, and is being a sick role model for his two children while betraying his wife. He obviously has no one’s best interests at heart but his own.

Have I ever been into BDSM? No. But as a long-time resident in the virtual world of Second Life, I’ve seen a lot of people who are very much into it.

I’ve seen women with dog collars around their necks, being led around on leashes. I’ve seen people drop to their knees on command and grovel. If this turns you on, fine, but it breaks my heart.

I was having a hard time speaking my truth about the matter until a dear friend in Second Life helped me put my feelings into words better than I ever could have. So what follows is something I’ve had prominently displayed in my Second Life profile ever since.

Power and Unequal Vulnerability

I like to think I’m open minded, but I can’t agree with enthusiasts of “Gor” or bondage or sadism of any kind.

Wanting someone that you love, or even just enjoy, to be disempowered & vulnerable is an illness. Valorizing “ownership” of people, even as fantasy, is depraved. Slavery exists in the world. It’s not a game.

Unequal vulnerabilty does great harm in real life. Tyranny, coercion, war; despair, collusion, debasement. The world does not need more people practicing the mentality of either domination or submission, even as fantasy. When you embrace any role, you give it more power over your inner being and your world.

I find it painful to be around people who are doing this. Especially if I care for them. I respect people who challenge hierarchies & heal inequities. I want friends who treasure their own agency and that of others.

Thank you to my dear friend Bau for putting these thoughts so eloquently into words for me, with only a few modifications on my part.

More than anything, I hope that young lady finds the support and love that she needs and deserves in this life. I wish her well.

Intentional Helplessness

A friend once told me about his aunt, who, as a teenager, decided to sit down in a chair and not get up, to the point where months later, she couldn’t. She never walked again. Stuff like that pisses me off. It’s manipulative and counterproductive and, frankly, mentally ill. But she had to have had help in her stupidity, because she must have eaten and defecated during that time, and someone must have dealt with that.

This reminds me of the many adults I’ve encountered in my lifetime who refuse to learn how to drive a car. I have little respect for these people because invariably they expect family members to chauffer them around or run errands for them. By rendering themselves helpless, they actually are controlling others. I believe in dominance and submission circles this is referred to as “topping from the bottom”, and I find it infuriating.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m not attacking people with anxiety disorders or those who have mitigating circumstances for their behaviors. I’m only going after those passive aggressive manipulators and the people who enable them. There’s sometimes more to the story, and I realize that. But back to my rant.

I don’t know who annoys me more, the people who feel they have the right to place all that extra burden on those around them, or the people who enable them in their efforts. Stop doing grocery runs for mom and see how quickly she either grasps the concept of public transportation or learns how to freakin’ drive like the rest of the adult world.

I’ve also crossed paths with people who have grown their fingernails two to three inches long. I’m sorry, but I am not going to pick your nose for you. I refuse. Can’t pick up the credit card you dropped on the floor? What a pity. Here’s a nail clipper.

Back in the dark ages, before internet, when we shared one computer for the entire office and it had a black screen with green, ectoplasmic lettering, I had one coworker who absolutely would not learn the few simple key strokes required to retrieve the data that was essential to have at various times throughout the day. She’d wait until I was at the computer, and then she’d ask me to do it. I did it once or twice, but then I said, “Look, write these steps down, because next time you ask me to do it for you, I’m going to say no.” She didn’t write it down. Next time she asked me to do it, I said no. And she got angry. I’m sorry, are your fingers broken? No? Maybe it’s your brain, then.

I guess I just don’t make a very good enabler. It would be impossible for someone to live under my roof and grow to 600 pounds, to the point where first responders have to remove a bedroom wall in order to cart their butt to the hospital. No. To get to the point where you’re too fat to walk, someone has to be willing to shop, pay for, and hand you the twinkies, and I’m not your girl.

I even get irritated with women who wear 5 inch heels and then complain they can’t run. Yes you can. You just choose not to. There’s a difference.

Life is going to throw you plenty of curve balls. Why on earth would you want to place obstacles in your own path?


[Image credit: healthylifestylesliving.com]