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A look back…35 years ago today March 3, 2015

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photo of UD cardI’d often had to remember and write down this particular date—3/3/80. When I awoke this morning, I recognized that it was the 3rd of March, a day that has special meaning to me personally, because it was on this day 35 years ago that I first stepped into a new position at the University of Delaware.

There is but one clear similarity today—snow and ice cover much of the parking lots, just as they did in Newark then. Beyond that, that day 35 years ago seems eons removed from who and where I am today. And yet, without having passed that portal back then, I wouldn’t be who and where I am today.

I was green and clueless then, with only a desire to use the knowledge I had learned both in college and at my recent advertising agency job (which I had held for 20 months until my position was eliminated for financial reasons) and creative skills with which I’d been blessed.

Today I can look back on a rich career as a staff designer for two campus units over all but two years of the 35. I’m now two years into a different stage in my professional life, as someone trying to be solely responsible for a business—Deshon & Associates—as well as the design work that sustains it.

I learned a whole lot, through trial and error, through good times and hard times (though “hard” is simply a relative term—I probably wouldn’t have survived in the private sector), about my craft, certainly, but even more about myself—my place as a servant with special skills but also as someone who has to work in relationship with others who have differing viewpoints, angles, and sometimes political motivation.

The time at UD served me well and helped me mature, at least to a degree, as a professional and a man, though at times I can really identify with the wisdom in the Don Henley song The Heart of the Matter—“The more I know, the less I understand.”

Sometimes it seems I’ve simply come full circle. I’m now working at something new, trying to apply what I’ve learned and yet still “in training” in many respects—3/3/15.

A reflection of faith December 22, 2014

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The Way of life, now…
…is a Gift that our Creator has already delivered and is waiting only for acknowledgment of receipt.

image of lighthouse and reflection of faith - Jesus is The Way

Le Tour encore June 24, 2014

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A shout out for my good friends Ray Nichols and Jill Cypher at Lead Graffiti. The Newark letterpress business was featured last Friday on WHYY TV locally. It’s part of a half-hour segment, so skip directly to 23:45 on the video to see the piece. (See if you can spot my 2013 Tour de Lead Graffiti poster at the 25:52 mark.) Truly a wonderful advertisement for a unique design business (LeadGraffiti.com).

photo of Ray Nichols from WHYY TV “First” video

Related links:
> See original post—“Travail de Triomphe.”
Read my reflections on the day working at Lead Graffiti.
> See the story of how the poster was created.
> Read Lead Graffiti’s explanation of the Sports Illustrated story.
> See the page from the University of Delaware Messenger.

I used to like to draw June 23, 2014

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photo of Mark DeshonWhen I was growing up, I liked to draw. It didn’t matter whether it was just doodling or trying to create something recognizable, like souped-up fantasy cars or uniformed NHL “mannequins.” I was always trying to express myself through drawing.

Sadly, I haven’t drawn much in the past few decades, but I’ve come to experience drawing in a totally different sense.

I’ve always been pretty competitive, especially in sports. Winning and losing always seemed pretty black-and-white to me, results that bespeak who had performed better on a given day. Didn’t matter whether it was baseball, football, basketball, golf, or my favorite sporting pasttime—running and racing.

Then, in his youth, my son became enamored with football, football as the rest of the world knows it—what we Americans call “soccer.” There was a lot I had to learn while watching a sport that was at one time foreign to me. The more I began to understand the game and its great subtleties and supreme athleticism, I came to understand why they call it “the beautiful game.”

OK, I’ve become hooked.

But not everything about the game squares with my yearning for fairness in the cosmic realm. Whether it be a decision through the gut-wrenching practice of penalty kicks, a devastating loss, or a fortunate win, I’ve come to dislike the fact that in soccer the outcome does not necessarily reflect which team played better during the match.

Then there’s the tie, also known as the “draw.”

2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™ All in One Rhythym™ graphic

Strangely enough, like wins and losses in soccer, draws can also seem like victories or defeats. Last night’s contest between the USA and Portugal is a shining example of the one thing I can’t stand about o jogo bonito. USA’s Group G games so far have seemed somewhat mirror images of one another, with the fortunate exception that our country actually maintained its late-captured lead over Ghana.

One could easily propose that Ghana deserved to win, having outplayed the USA for all but about the first minute and the 88th minute. And then there was last night. Looking to rewrite the records for both teams (Portugal had been undefeated in World Cup play when scoring the initial goal, team USA had been winless when conceding first), USA dominated the match, only to give up the latest regulation-time goal in the history of the World Cup.

So the USA has to settle for a draw, when the whole country could have been celebrating together in a big way this morning. Is there just a little cosmic irony at play here?

And so I no longer like drawing. It can be a rather hollow feeling for both teams, but typically worse if it feels like a loss. Yes, the USA is still in decent position to advance, but the “group of death” is taking on new meaning for USA fans, as expectations (that would surely soften past failures’ wounds) climb.

Then again, I’d enjoy a draw with Germany in the next game. Go figure.


On Covenant Discipleship June 9, 2014

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Yesterday was Pentecost Sunday. I presented the following witness to our church family.

Related scriptures for the day:  I Corinthians 12:3b-13 and Acts 2:1-21

photo of Mark Deshon by Stacey AltemusGood morning.

I believe most of you know who I am, but for those whom I haven’t yet had the privilege of meeting, my name is Mark Deshon, and you are part of my community of faith. I feel that, more and more as time goes on, you are indeed part of my family—my brothers and sisters in Christ who, like me, are on a journey.

You’ve already heard from two of my three Covenant Discipleship partners, Diane and Stacey. I’d like to take a few brief minutes to share with you what it is we do together and why.

Not too long ago, four of us entered into this venture in discipleship growth, which involved cooperatively drafting a covenant of intention to weekly engage in acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We meet weekly to pray together, report to one another our successes and failures with respect to our covenant, and encourage one another in our individual journeys in discipleship. This is what Covenant Discipleship is all about, and it is very simple.

This practice is a modern adaptation of the class meetings upon which the Methodist movement was built by John and Charles Wesley in 18th century England and upon which early Methodist societies thrived.

The words “intention” and “practice” are very important, because most anything we endeavor to do well in life takes a lot of practice, and it takes being intentional about it.

About 15 years ago, it became clear to me that God was telling me to begin doing that which I had learned and believed in my heart that Jesus wants us to do, not just continue to study and talk about it, which I had seemed more content to do in my earlier years. And because advancing age has a funny way of shaping perspective, I was feeling like I’d better get busy.

For me, though I have been a part of an accountable small group of one form or another for more than 33 years, I know I haven’t arrived yet at what John Wesley refers to as holiness of heart and life, nor have I done nearly enough of the doing justice, loving kindness, and walking humbly with my God of which the prophet Micah said is what God really requires in response to his love for me.

I’ve found that Covenant Discipleship brings not only a weekly challenge but a very necessary balance of works of piety and mercy into my life as a follower of Jesus Christ. Moreover, I know that I need the support, the encouragement, and, yes, the loving reminders of my brothers and sisters in the faith in order to help shape me into the disciple that God wants me to be. And by the same token, they need me to do likewise for them.

I am not very good at daily prayer, which is one of our covenant’s acts of devotion. Some of my strengths tend to be in serving within our faith community, which is one of our acts of worship, and being a good steward of the earth’s resources, one of our acts of justice. Each of us seems to struggle with one or more of the acts in our covenant from week to week. I am reminded and encouraged each week to find ways to work at my weaker areas while not neglecting those things that tend to come more easily to me.

My current group members and I have differing gifts, and these qualities usually bubble to the surface during our respective reporting. It is within this framework of diversity that we help each other grow.

Indeed, it is this model that makes me believe that we, as a church family, would do well to move in the direction of reclaiming our Wesleyan heritage. Though not unique in this respect, Covenant Discipleship is a powerful tool for molding and shaping followers of Christ into faithful and mature disciples, and, in turn, leaders in discipleship themselves. And we do this together, not individually.

I pray that you will consider this method, not only for yourself but for building up the community of faith of which you are an important part. I’d like to end by quoting from a devotional reading [by Marilyn Chandler McEntyre from The Upper Room Disciplines] based on today’s retelling of the Pentecost story, which gets right to the point of today’s shared message.

In a consummate moment of community, Jesus’ followers are not only called but called together. The followers of Jesus still are called together. And life together requires more than private devotions, though they are as good and necessary as the food and rest we take. God calls us to engage in a shared life that binds us closer than brothers and sisters, whose common heritage is the breath of life and the bread of life and the spirit of life that is “poured out” in these latter days, more present and abundant than we can imagine. 


Travail de Triomphe – redux April 14, 2014

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In yet another aftershock, though not nearly as tumultuous or mind-bending as the initial one, my poster collaboration with Ray Nichols and Jill Cypher of Lead Graffiti was featured in the University of Delaware Messenger’s “On the Green” section, p. 26. The brief article touts the University of Delaware alumni involved with the 2013 Tour de Lead Graffiti project, along with Ray and Jill, both of whom spent many a year working at the University. The publication of the poster in Sports Illustrated had also been mentioned in UD’s For the Record, Dec. 20, 2013.

The article reads:

Tour de France:  23 days, 23 posters

poster from Stage 5 of 2013 Tour de Lead GraffitiThe 2013 year-in-review edition of Sports Illustrated included some surprise recognition for an accomplishment with UD connections—not on the playing field but in a design studio.

The magazine’s Dec. 16 edition featured a project by the Lead Graffiti printmaking collective as part of the “Year in Sports Media” section. Lead Graffiti, a Newark, Del., design studio, is operated by Ray Nichols, retired professor of art and former coordinator of the visual communications program at UD, and Jill Cypher, a former graphic designer for the University.

Sports Illustrated highlighted the studio’s annual “Tour de Lead Graffiti,” in which designers attend [the live broadcasts of] the 23-day Tour de France cycling race and create a poster at the end of each stage highlighting the day’s action. Designers for the 2013 endeavor included Mark Deshon, AS78; Jeannie Marcotte Wagner, AS88; Jessica Koman, AS88; Hendrik-Jan Francke, AS93; Ann Lemon, AS84; Lindsay Schmittle, AS13; Ben Gallegos, AS14; and Rebecca Johnson Melvin, of the UD Library.

The magazine illustrated the item with a poster [shown here] created by Nichols, Cypher and Deshon. For more about the project, and to see all 23 posters, visit leadgraffiti.com.

> See the page from the University of Delaware Messenger.
> See original post—“Travail de Triomphe.”
Read my reflections on the day working at Lead Graffiti.
> See the story of how the poster was created.
> Read Lead Graffiti’s explanation of the SI story.

“Litigiousness” February 25, 2014

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Sounds a bit like an invented word former President George W. Bush might have used. That’s the one term I might use to describe my experience of our society today as I sat, and sat, and sat at last night’s Newark City Council meeting.

NBC_bannerLast night I went to represent the Newark Bicycle Committee, the drafting body of the Newark Bike Plan, which was one of the agenda items up for review, comment, and adoption by the council. Having not attended a council meeting in a year or two for any reason, it soon became quite clear that times had changed. What I knew going in was that it was item 4 on the agenda and that I was prepared to speak in favor of its adoption if necessary. What I didn’t realize until a little into the meeting was that this would be a great exercise in patience, something of which Jo Anne (my wife) continually says I’m in short supply.

When I arrived, there were many citizens buzzing around in a hornet’s nest of anticipation. I surmised they might all be there to give public comment about what is a controversial plan to build a mega-large, megawatt power plant to power a proposed data center on the University of Delaware’s STAR campus. Indeed, some were there for that very purpose.

The meeting began innocently enough, with a photo op with the mayor and a retiring public servant, in recognition for his years on city staff. It quickly turned rather circus-like, kind of a “democracy on steroids,” in my humble opinion. (Thank God we still say the Pledge of Allegiance at City Council meetings and we’re still “one nation, under God, indivisible,” because it would be hard to tell, given the direction we’ve headed in our country’s public sphere in recent years.)

Having time for public comment at these meetings is great and a necessary component to open government. However, what I witnessed last night made me come up with another potential Bushian term to describe the local political scene lately—“watchdogism.” Though I really value the fact that there are caring citizens who are intent on holding our public officials accountable for their decisions, the overuse of everyone’s time to make one public comment after another, no matter what the subject, will likely make me reticent to attend a future council meeting.

Everything, from protecting one’s Second Amendment rights—in this case to be able to carry a firearm into chambers during a City Council meeting (obviously to protect an individual from the wackos in the room who think it might be safer for everyone otherwise)—to rehiring a lobbyist who has worked for the city for a number of years, to revisiting the very rules for decorum in City Council meetings, became fodder for public comment.

Several individuals came to the mic multiple times, each time, of course, having something of extremely important value to get off his/her chest within the three-minute time limit allotted them under current council procedure. Why, even the three-minute limit was commented on by a citizen who was in front of the mic for perhaps the sixth time during the meeting, asking if the time limit could be extended to five minutes, as it had been in years past. Really.

So, I continued to sit, and sit, and sit, waiting for item 4 on the agenda to be addressed. To make a long story short (well, actually, to try to wrap what may have become for you, the reader, an annoyingly long way to describe a tediously longer meeting), the council adopted the Newark Bike Plan at 11:13 p.m., without much more than a couple clarifying questions from a couple council members.

Yes, it was “past [my] bedtime,” as one of my bike committee colleagues, who was presenting the report, told the council, acknowledging me as chair of the Newark Bicycle Committee. And, lo and behold, no public comment. Nada. Not a single peep from the hearty few who had remained in the audience.

My remaining thoughts at that time were as follows:

1. I’m outta here! (Though I had come prepared to defend the plan, I confess I was way too tired at that point to have put together a coherent thought and eschewed wasting anyone else’s time.)

2. I wish I had guessed that this would have happened and shown up a couple, maybe even three, hours after the 7 p.m. start time.

and, most importantly,

3. I have such great respect for our current council members for bearing their responsibility to patiently and politely listen, absorbing a lot of generally directed criticism while forthrightly and sincerely dealing with minutiae that might make some lawyers cringe (and most others salivate). Though inside they may be seething, their decorum to a person was nothing short of commendable…even when forced to talk about what we should all expect as proper decorum from everyone involved in public meetings.

Oh, by the way, there were nine items on last night’s agenda, but I only stayed the four hours and 13 minutes it took to get through the first four. Lack of patience, I guess.

Travail de triomphe December 13, 2013

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poster from Stage 5 of 2013 Tour de Lead GraffitiThere it was. My poster. In a national magazine! How could this have happened?

Yesterday, I opened the mailbox, anticipating my weekly issue of Sports Illustrated. Sure enough, it was there, along with bills and the typical fodder that goes directly into the recycling bin. After sifting through the mail, categorizing as I normally do, I began looking through the latest issue of this national magazine.

The cover of the December 16th issue is interesting enough, with current Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles operating amid the hazy atmosphere of the surprise snowstorm that occurred in this area on Sunday, December 8th. As has become my normal procedure, I closely examined each page for things that I either wanted to read later or not read, as the case may be.

photo of Mark with finished Stage 5 posterWhen I got to page 25, the world around me stopped in its tracks, at least for an hour or so. There was a little paragraph story, written by Alexander Wolff, on “Tour de Lead Graffiti,” the project on which I had worked one day back in the summer. And to its left, there was the poster on which I had collaborated with Ray Nichols and Jill Cypher back on July 3rd.

The story behind how my poster was chosen by SI remains somewhat mysterious, but Ray tells me he submitted it along with seven others that were his “top eight” choices among the 23 posters created during the 21-stage 2013 Tour de France.

Read my reflections on the day working at Lead Graffiti.
> See the story of how the poster was created.
> Read Lead Graffiti’s explanation of the SI story.
> A mention was included in UD’s For the Record, Dec. 20,2013.

The time machine December 1, 2013

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photo of Mark Deshon finishing HealthyU 5KIt’s December 1, 2013, and tempus fugit.

I awoke in the middle of the night, realizing that I had just been dreaming the all-too-real sequel to similar recurrent dreams in my past—dreams that hadn’t surfaced recently.

Because our son is at that time in his semester at school, I suppose it makes sense to think that thoughts of final exams would enter into my subconscious. Anyway, I dreamed I was nearing the end of classes in a couple subjects, one of them some form of higher math, and was contemplating going in to discuss with the professor of the math class what I should do about the fact that I had not been to classes all semester. It seemed silly to think I should even waste my time taking the final exam(s), because I didn’t know the material.

This wasn’t a “waking up in a cold sweat” dream, but my heart was certainly racing when I awoke and realized that I had been dreaming about old dreams. But it made me wonder.

During my years working at the University of Delaware (UD), I had had recurring dreams in which the scene was more like mid-semester. They went like this:  I was working and trying to attend school and realized I had missed classes since the first couple weeks and was way behind, probably irreparably way behind. I would always wake up, thankful that I had only been dreaming, that I had not registered for any classes, and that I was happy just working for a living.

Since I retired from UD a little more than a year ago, I’ve made a concerted effort at trying to keep in shape physically. Tonight’s somnambular gymnastics made me think seriously about time going forward and whether I’m making enough of an effort to challenge myself mentally.

Related questions surfaced. What am I learning? How am I creatively challenging myself? Is busying myself masking as lack of discipline and routine? Am I watching entirely too much television at the expense of book-reading? (That last one is pretty easy to answer.)

I didn’t have enough “gas in the tank” to complete all of a cross-country 5K yesterday, and, whether or not this led to my sleeplessness and unease this evening, it made me realize I had not been physically ready for the rigor of that particular event. Now I’m giving thought to what I need to be doing to make sure I can compete mentally five, 10, or 20 years down the road.

So, naturally, thoughts surfaced about learning to play a musical instrument (something I’ve never done) or taking a class (oh, no, not a real class!) in a foreign language, both of which had been on my retirement wish list.

If nothing else, the exercise of putting my thoughts to words has quelled the pounding of my heart, at least for now. As usual, though, I most feared not getting out of bed and doing this for fear that later I would forget what I had been thinking.

Time flies at this age. Know what I mean?

What Jordan did on his summer vacation October 14, 2013

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Here’s a little sample video that explains what Jordan was up to during the summer between his sophomore and junior years at the University of Delaware.

View/download the poster summarizing his research (PDF).