Wednesday, July 18, 2007

We do not inherit the world from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.

--Native American saying

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Gratuitous Cuteness II

It was a warm autumn day and we were chatting in the back yard when Patty remembered it was almost time for Carolyn to get up from her nap. Only problem was she'd woken up early and no one heard her calling. I think she was feeling like maybe we had forgotten her. Her mom's embrace soon cured that.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Good Man

This gentleman was a top executive with the Continental Casualty Insurance Company in Chicago in the early years of the 20th century. He had done a lot to protect workers, including the introduction of shields for machinery belts in factories. He also insisted that Frank Lloyd Wright prove that his design for the Johnson's Wax Building was structurally sound before he would underwrite the construction insurance. [It was and still is.]

He had a loving family of four children and his beloved wife. When the Great Depression struck he paid CCI employees out of his own pocket for several months because he knew that they, too had families to support. His financial wealth was never the same, but his wealth in friends and goodwill grew exponentially.

Medical science fascinated him and he studied it quite a bit. He was also knowledgeable about nature, mechanics and just about everything else inquisitive grandchildren wanted to know. His fun-loving, gentle ways made him utterly approachable. In his later years, he grew a nice, round tummy where cranky babies found comfort and a resting place.

Every summer during my youth, my family would pile into our car and drive the 600 miles from home to visit him and my grandmother in Pennsylvania. I think I can speak for all 16 of his grandchildren when I say Poppy managed to make each one of us feel special. Our special thing was strolling hand-in-hand to the corner drugstore for frosted mugs of root beer and one-on-one time.

Sometimes my longing for him is unbearable, but recalling so many happy memories helps me get through it.

One Way to Stop a Robbery. . .

. . . .offer the guy a glass of fine, French wine! Talk about quick thinking -- a group of friends had just finished a feast of grilled steak and shrimp on a back patio in Capitol Hill and were chatting and sipping wine. Through an unlocked gate, a hooded man suddenly appeared, pistol drawn. He grabbed the 14-year old daughter of one of the guests and demanded every one's money. In a stroke of genius or utter foolhardiness, one of the guests told the guy they'd just finished dinner and were enjoying a delightful wine, and would he like a glass. Letting go of the girl and tucking the pistol back into his belt, the guy put his hood down and cheerfully accepted. He then took a piece of cheese from the buffet and declared it delicious. Still sipping on his wine, he asked if he could "get a hug." Everyone took turns hugging him and when he asked for a "group hug" they again obliged. Then the happy interloper left through the gate, carefully placing his now empty crystal wine glass on the ground. At that point, the "other guests" silently scrambled into the house and called 911.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Simplicity

Back in the day, we didn't need fancy, inground pools with water falls and slides. A hose and a wading pool worked quite well, thank you, especially if you had a tall kid to hold the hose.

Can you tell. . .

. . . that I'm passionate about where I live? There are more than half a million people who call the District of Columbia home. I'm not talking about suburbanites who say they live here because it's easier and more recognizable. We residents are the ones who tolerate the daily V.I.P. police escorts, protesters, and special events. They're part of the price we willingly pay to live in the nation's capital. D.C. is divided into quadrants as well as diverse neighborhoods. Tourists seldom visit them unless, maybe, they're lost. Brookland, Friendship Heights, Glover Park, Anacostia, West End, and Marshall Heights, to name a few, are not as recognizable as Capitol Hill, Georgetown or Foggy Bottom, but each has it's own character and history. The U Street corridor, for example, was once THE PLACE to see and hear the likes of D.C.'s own Duke Ellington and Billie Eckstein as well as other great African-American musicians, writers and philosophers. Frederick Douglass built a gracious house he called Cedar Hill in Anacostia. Marjorie Merriweather Post built her house on the edge of Rock Creek Park and filled it with treasures from Imperial Russia. Her extravagant, tasteful gardens blend in on the edge of the park, another treasure in itself. Both are open to the public. No, I don't work for the city or any tourism company. I just love D.C. and wish more visitors could enjoy it as we residents do. It's SO much more than its museums and memorials and I've just scratched the surface of my town's cultural riches.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Ye Olde Post Office Pavillion

Washington, D.C. is filled with somewhat hidden treasures. Everyone visits the monuments, museums and memorials, but this gorgeously restored and updated building at the corner of 12th Street and Pennsylvania Ave. NW is a must-see. It's also a great place to people-watch, shop and eat. The clock tower, visible through the glass roof, provides marvelous views.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

GO CUBS!!


This adorable little guy got it right when he was a toddler.

Somehow, somewhere during his first quarter century on this Earth he was tragically corrupted and now supports the (shudder!) White Sox.

How could he have gone so wrong?!. He was such a good boy . . .. *sigh*
Go Cubs and, there's always next year. . . .

Leave it to the French. . . !

Western civilization, in its best sense, was born with the promenade. Walking is a sensitive, spiritual act. Jogging is management of the body. The jogger says I am in control. It has nothing to do with meditation. -- Alain Finkielkraut.
Liberal Frenchmen are chastising their new President, Nicolas Sarkozy for jogging, of all things. Apparently French intellectuals never have approved of sports or physical fitness, saying anything beyond strolling is undignified. Say what?! Granted, not everyone has attractive knees, but criticizing Mr. Sarkozy's choice of exercise as imitating American presidents, is just goofy. He's been jogging for years.

As for jogging's benefits, my husband is a prime example. He may never look his age and his health is nearly perfect because he jogs. This pic was taken at the end of one of the seven Marine Corps Marathons he's finished. His best time was 3:25!

Saturday, July 7, 2007

I'm impressed. . .

People who learn to read, write and speak another language impress me. Oh, yeah, most of us took one of the romance languages like Spanish or French in high school, not too hard because of similarities with English words. German is another language with familiar sounds. I'm talking about people who grew up reading from right to left, or top to bottom in an entirely unrecognizable alphabet to the English-speaking world. Most of the Asian and Middle Eastern languages have absolutely no relation to English, yet people from those parts of the world have mastered our language! My husband grew up reading, writing and speaking in Farsi, also known as Persian. It's a beautiful looking language, but bares no resemblance whatsoever to English. And -- it's written and read from right to left! I still marvel at his ability to understand and use American English. Idioms and colloquialisms on the other hand, are hard for me to explain and we Americans use plenty of them. He frequently consults his Farsi/English and English/Farsi dictionaries. A charming side-effect of his bilingual-ness is that common words or phrases come out front to back or inside out. We both love brout sproussels (Brussels sprouts) and think Clark Bagle was a great actor. His latest was the name of a flower shop -- Nosy Guy Florists. Nose Gay just didn't compute! ; }

Thursday, July 5, 2007

About Last Night

Despite tornadoes not far from us and severe thunder storms that necessitated evacuating thousands from the National Mall, the annual Independence Day concert and fireworks went off as scheduled. Museums and office buildings along the Mall provided shelter until the storms ended shortly before the concert started. These represent my first attempts to capture my beloved fireworks on film. Now I know why people use special camera settings and tripods. These I took sitting on our balcony. The jiggling gave then an artistic quality, don't you think? LOL!

Monday, July 2, 2007

My two-bits worth for Monday

As my husband and I watched TV last night, a young survivor of the genocide in Rwanda more than a dozen years ago was featured in a story about rare cases of Tutsis surviving with the help of Hutus. She and several Tutsi women holed-up in a tiny, unused bathroom of a Hutu pastor's house for several months. From one day to another their chances of surviving became slimmer, but, miraculously, they lived to tell the tale. Their story triggered painful memories. Working for the local Red Cross chapter, I helping refugees find and communicate with dislocated family members. Among many memorable clients, I can't forget a well-dressed young man who came to see me. He'd been in the Rwandan capital city of Kigali the day the killing began. He had recently married and left his pregnant wife with his parents in the countryside while he went looking for work in the city. He was Hutu and his wife was Tutsi, not at all an uncommon match at the time. Somehow, he managed to get on a plane out of Rwanda and ended up sitting across from me, holding back tears, hoping the Red Cross could help him locate his wife and family. There were no phones in his village, but even if there had been, the country was in chaos and phone service was sketchy at best. His only option was to submit a Red Cross Message (RCM). He thought carefully before he wrote on the small, flimsy form in his own language and entrusted it to me. As with hundreds of thousands of other RCMs sent to and from displaced family members in every corner of the Earth, his would go through channels established long ago by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. Because of the organization's neutrality, Messages could contain only inquiries about health and well-being and personal information. I dutifully completed required paperwork and sent his RCM on its way. I never found out if his wife and family survived and I never saw the young man again. Not all Red Cross Messages were so unsettling. I had the pleasure of handing many RCMs to refugees from Bosnia, Serbia, Afghanistan and other conflict-riddled countries. Often a child would trace around his or her hand and an adult would write the message. The joy of finding a loved one alive was electrifying for everyone involved. It's almost unbearable to watch news of Afghanistan, Iraq, Darfur and Burma. Being so involved with the civilian victims of armed conflicts, I can't help thinking about the dreadful suffering they must endure every day and for so many years. It will take several generations before civilians will be able to view these conflicts in historical terms rather than daily personal ordeals. Wars foment huge wastes of human life and intellect, natural resources, historic treasures, and so much more. A badly waged war multiplies the damage and results in continued despair or an uneasy stand-off that never ends. At what point will people say "enough is enough!" and learn to live with and maybe even appreciate cultural differences. There is also a desperate need to accept that one size does not fit all when it comes to governance. One nation has absolutely no right to inflict its notions of good government on another. Knowledge of our own revolution against colonialism should guide any further meddling in other nation's affairs. Simple observation proves that it doesn't work. I don't claim to have all the answers but, as a woman and a human, it pains me to see so much suffering and loss. Tolerance of differences, at the very least, needs to be practiced by all sides.