Thursday, May 31, 2007

on the road again

the mouse is hitting the road! off to the land of noah webster, dr. seuss, and mother ann. back to the mousehole in a week. you be good, if you can't be good, don't hurt anybody, and by all means don't get caught!

picture: some rural road somewhere in texas, may 2005


Listen to the mustn'ts, child. Listen to the don'ts. Listen to the shouldn'ts, the impossibles, the won'ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me... Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.
-Shel Silverstein, American poet, cartoonist and composer (1930-1999)

picture: cleveland - may 2007

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

thank you cindy!

yesterday I learned that on monday cindy sheehan resigned as the "the so-called 'face' of the american anti-war movement." I am so sorry that she is leaving her work feeling so betrayed and so burned-out. but I completely understand. I would like to offer my thanks to cindy for all of her hard work and for all of the sacrifices she has made towards trying to bring peace. so many people and 'institutions' in america have treated cindy very, very poorly. as most strong, outspoken women experience in this wonderfully egalitarian land of ours*, cindy was demonized, ridiculed and misunderstood. but she carried on. cindy joined a peace movement that was struggling hard and long to bring attention to the situation in iraq. her mother's voice became a catalyst for growth and renewal (and according to some in the media she is credited with creating the current peace movement.*) cindy worked tirelessly and valiantly for peace and every single day she opened her own wounds of grief as she shared the story of her son casey's death.

this month will be the third anniversary of casey's death; as everyone who has lost a child or a much loved family member knows, the days leading up to an anniversary are very, very difficult. for most of us this 'anniversary pain' diminishes as the years pass. however, for the last three years cindy has bravely chosen to take a path where she has had to relive her much beloved son casey's death every single day. sadly, I expect this anniversary will be just as painful as that first anniversary for cindy. to add insult to injury the democrats (who one would think would be carrying out the people's mandate "to end the war") essentially just gave W another blank check! cindy, we you are not alone in your grief nor are you alone in feeling betrayed - in fact, we have all been betrayed.

I can only imagine what cindy has gone through these last few years. I admire cindy for her strength, outspokenness, and for carrying on so long. I hope cindy realizes that there are millions of people - all around the world - who admire what she has done, the sacrifices she has made, and for trying so long and so hard. we thank you.

cindy closes her 'resignation letter' with these words:
Good-bye are not the country that I love and I finally realized no matter how much I sacrifice, I can't make you be that country unless you want it. It's up to you now.

I can't help but weep.

*please feel free to resurrect and add wayne's world classic NOT!! at the point

picture: cindy being interviewed during the sept 2005 massive anti-war protest in washington, dc

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

up, up and away

"Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man."
this jesuit saying is the foundation for "7 Up" and its aptly* named successors. the 'up series' is an incredible documentary series that began in 1963. over the years I remember running across a few of the installments, either on public television or at a film festival; however, I never tuned in or attended one to see first hand what was up; in retrospect I realize choosing to skip the film was my loss. a few weeks ago the topic of these films came up when we were talking about favorite film experiences. mariel, one of my movie buds, and a passionate and long-time social observer and political activist, remarked that she first saw one of the films in the series years and years ago and was immediately hooked on filmmaker michael apted creative vision and mission. she was so delighted that now that she's signed up with netflix, she's been able to catch up on the years she missed. all it took was mariel's recommendation and I was on it - we aren't signed up with netflix but I thought if netflix carries the dvds then our wonderful library system might also carry it. after I returned home from my movie night outing, I checked out the cleveland public library webpage and found that of course they carried it! I placed a hold and last week a boxed set containing the first six installments came in.

at first I was a bit intimidated the box contained 5 dvds and advertised that the series ran over 500 minutes. geez, that's a lot of tube time; but the films were here and mariel did say they were great and the concept does seem right up my alley on so many levels! so I thought let's go for it, on wednesday night after dinner, I asked my husband if he was up for checking out the films. at first he was a little reluctant when I explained to him what the films were about, imagining a big yawn, I'm sure. but he's a good sport and said he'd give it a try, after all if he didn't like it he could pull out his book or go off to another part of the house. however, his hesitation melted away; in pretty quick order both of us were mesmerized by the life stories unfolding before us. for the next three nights we followed 14 british school children from when they were seven up through age 42. these kids are in the same generational cohort as both my husband and myself, so in addition to being captivated by their stories we could also identify with generation-specific 'issues' and fashions.

as I mentioned the project began in 1963. in '7 up' we meet twenty-two children from different educational, geographical and social class situations and are told that the filmmakers intend to talk to these children at age 7 so we can learn of the type of people they will be in 2000. the project initially was to be a one-time film, however, michael apted, one of the assistants from the first film, decided to follow these kids and actually test out that jesuit maxim about 'give me a child at seven.' twenty-two children are a lot of kids to follow and by the next film, we find that apted culled the group down to fourteen - ten boys and four girls, of this group, six kids could be considered as coming from the 'working class, four from the suburban middle-class, and four from the privileged upper-class. the sociological and cultural analysis and accomplishment of this bit of documentary film making is quite amazing. after watching the first six films, we were left wanting to know what's next - fortunately for us, there is still one more -- '49 Up' and the library carries it. sunday morning the hold went in and in a week or two we will be once more checking in and seeing what's up!

*pun intended!!

Monday, May 28, 2007

maher moment

it's been a while since I had a chance to catch bill's show, finally had an opportunity this weekend to watch the may 25 show. good thing I learned the show is now on hiatus until august 24. no bother, during the summer who has time to watch tv!

in my 'maher moment' postings I have yet to highlight the 'visual interludes' bill does each week. I don't know what he calls these segments, but that's my name for them. every show bill and his team go off on something or someone with a bit of visual humor - most often they make fun of some political or cultural absurdity by creating hilarious book titles or headlines for magazines, tabloids or newspapers. this week inspired by john edwards recent witty and accurate comment where he stated that "The war on terror is a bumper-sticker not a plan," bill and his group created a set of bumper-stickers that president bush can put on his cars. unlike most of the visual interludes these do alright translating to the mouse:

Lose wars now
Ask me how

Ask me about my illegal wiretapping

If you can read this you are qualified to be attorney general

Practice random acts of violence

I'd rather be waterboarding

I may be the worst president ever,
but I'm in front of you

speaking of bush being the worst president ever, in bill's closing monologue he mentioned that jimmy carter actually remarked during an interview that he believed the bush administration was the worst in history. of course carter got into 'trouble' with calling it as it is, but this leads me to perhaps my favorite maher moment from the show. again my completely unofficial transcript:

....(Carter's) remark hurt George Bush's feelings and we know when you hurt George Bush's feelings, you hurt America's feelings. And when you hurt America's feelings you hurt the truth. And when that happens Tinkerbell's light goes out and she dies.

As for Carter's assertion I was up all night on wikipedia doing an exhaustive study on former presidents. While other presidents have sucked in their own individual ways, George Bush is like a smorgasbord of suck. He combines the corruption of Warren G. Harding, the warmongering of James Polk, and the abuse of power of Richard Nixon.

Nixon got in trouble for illegally wiretapping the Democratic National Headquarters, Bush is illegally wiretapping the entire country. Nixon opened up relations with the Chinese, Bush let them poison your dog.

Herbert Hoover who was literally named after a machine that sucked sat on his ass through four years of depression. But he was an actual engineer so if somebody told him about global warming he would have understood it before the penguins caught on fire.

Ulysses S. Grant let his cronies loot the republic, but he won his civil war.

Harding sucked, but he once said 'I'm not fit for this office and never should have been here.' So at least he knew he sucked. He never walked off stage like Bush does after one of his embarrassing language mangling press conferences with that smirk on his face (saying) 'like nailed it!' Or maybe that's the look you get when you have a showdown with the democrats and you win like he just did with Iraq. You don't become the worst president ever without a little help from the other side.....

Sunday, May 27, 2007

memorial day

I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity... Together we must learn how to compose difference, not with arms, but with intellect and decent purpose.

~Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of US

picture: soldiers' & sailors' monument draped with origami cranes a global symbol of peace, cleveland

Friday, May 25, 2007

happy birthday rachel!

It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.
- Rachel Carson (1907-1964)

this sunday, may 27th, marks the 100 anniversary of rachel carson's birth. last spring I had the pleasure of joining a group of interested folks from cleveland on a tour of rachel carson's homestead in springdale, a small town nestled along the allegheny river near pittsburgh. we got our celebration of rachel's centennial birthday in nice and early. the day we visited was a cool and misty spring day the drizzle and low clouds seemed to enhance our tour and helped transport us back to the time when rachel lived in the old farmhouse. I always enjoyed touring the houses or environments where people I admire spent time. carson has been a personal hero of mine since high school when I learned of her during the very first earth day. it was wonderful wandering about exploring the house where rachel was born and where she spent her formative years - the years in which her passion for the natural world was fueled. the organization which cares for the house has done a loving job recreating what the house must have been like when rachel and her family lived there. the house is set on a hill overlooking the river and and one time the house was surrounded by forests and meadows. it was easy to imagine a young rachel wandering that terrain for hours on end - an activity she did when young in the company of her mother and later with only her imagination and insatiable curiosity as her companions.

I just heard a clip on the radio announcing that this weekend on 'bob edwards weekend' bob will be honoring rachel. carson is recognized as the catalyst for the environmental movement with her groundbreaking book 'silent spring.' edwards program will focus on providing an overview of the state of the environment during the last 100 years. I love edwards program, the only downside is that it begins at 6:00 on sunday morning on my local public radio station - most sundays I'm up by 7, but this sunday I need to make sure I'm up earlier than usual so I don't miss anything! unfortunately it doesn't look like pri has an audio archive yet for edwards program. so I'll have to be there or be square!

in 1980 jimmy carter awarded rachel carson with the presidential medal of honor, the certificate hangs in the springdale house, on it is written:

"Never silent herself in the face of destructive trends, Rachel Carson fed a spring of awareness across America and beyond. A biologist with a gentle, clear voice, she welcomed audiences to her love of the sea and with an equally clear determined voice she warned Americans about the dangers human beings themselves pose for their own environment. Always concerns, always eloquent, she created a tide of environmental consciousness than has not ebbed."

pictures: top picture the homestead; insert rachel's bedroom with microscope. taken june 2, 2006 springdale, pennsylvania.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

ripples of grief or joy

what do hungary, canada, the united kingdom, greece, croatia, qatar, ireland, kuwait and at least twenty other countries have in common? answer: they all have maternal mortality rates that are better than the united states according to a 2005 UN report. I have read other research which states that the us ranks 31st in the world in terms of maternal death. in fact the situation for the united states in terms of maternal deaths has worsened since 1982. the situation might even be worse than we think, according to a CDC report the actual rate may be from 1.3 to 3 times higher because of a problem with underreporting. one completely tragic aspect about maternal mortality in the usa is that at least half of these deaths are completely preventable!

a couple days ago a friend of mine turned me on to a project that she is involved with to help raise public awareness about this tragic and unnecessary situation, the project is entitled the safe motherhood quilt project. when I saw susan the other day she brought along the block she is making to memorialize and honor a mother of who died in march. through the project susan was provided with the name, location and date of death for her mother, however, susan went on to research more details about this woman. what a heartbreaking story, susan discovered. her young woman died while giving birth to her seventh child; along with raising her children, she had been a vibrant and active member of her community in salt lake city. the ripples of her death went far in terms of all the lives this woman's life touched. what is known is that the woman died of an air embolism. this is an extremely rare event that can happen spontaneously but is more frequent with certain medical interventions. from what susan could glean, it is not clear whether this was a terribly unfortunate natural event or an iatrogenic event - in other words due to something that was done to her (physician treatment, a drug administered, or a surgery performed). for me even the possibiity of an iatrogenic event adds another layer of outrage to an already tragic death.

the safe motherhood quilt project was birthed by ina may gaskin a midwife who many consider the leading voice for safe and woman and child centered birth for over thirty-five years. I 'discovered' ina may in 1978 when I learned I was pregnant. as an incurable researcher I took to the literature to learn as much as I could about my 'birthing options.' in the course of my 'research' I discovered gaskin's wonderful book entitled spiritual midwifery (which by the way is now on it's fourth edition) between reading gaskin's book and suzanne arms equally powerful and ground-breaking book entitled immaculate deception: a new look at women and childbirth in america I decided that for me, a young, healthy, fit woman the safest and 'truest' option was to have a home-birth attended by a well-trained midwife. this decision while relatively easy for me and my partner to come to was, shall we say not well-received by some of our family and friends who could not understand why in this day and age of the 'marvels of medical science' we would opt for a home birth. one dear friend, who was attending medical school in another state, actually accused us of 'child abuse' - her arguments were not persuasive and if anything only strengthened my resolve. it might have been my friend who provided me with my first glimpse of the arrogance of doctors. (hey, don't get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for many doctors; in fact devoted many years to working with doctors and training doctors and can say completely without facetiousness many of my best friends are doctors.) this old college friend has gone on to have a very successful career in medicine as a gynecologist-obstetrician who specializes in gynecological surgeries; I am proud of her and admire all she does even if I'm disappointed that she has never come around to broadening her acceptance of birthing alternatives. among my family members perhaps my father's objections were the loudest, however, his protests were quickly quelled when I reminded him that he, his six siblings, my mother and her siblings were all born at home - safely and without incident!

I have often said that I wish my experience with childbirth was the norm - the experience I had in terms of everything from prenatal care through postpartum care was a model that every woman should be able to have. I accept that most people can't fathom the concept of a home birth and probably should NOT opt for one, there should be other 'in between' alternatives that are ready and waiting - for instance, free standing birthing centers (an alternative that ironically is become more and more scarce). along with a home birth, my prenatal care was also home based, for the first seven months the midwife came to my home every two weeks to check my blood pressure, provide childbirth education, monitor my psychological and physical progress with the pregnancy, and conduct a physical exam if necessary. the last month the midwife's visits were weekly. the birth of my daughter was incredible, yes physically it was intense, but hey they don't call it labor for nothing. in terms of after the birth care or follow-up, the midwife came to the house several times in the days and weeks that followed to make sure everything was going well and to ascertain whether I had any questions regarding breastfeeding, sleep, or other new mother concerns. my experience with the birth of my daughter was ideal and I believe a model of mother and child centered care; unfortunately, in the united states my experience is almost completely obsolete, in many developed countries, my experience with care and follow-up is the norm. in the last twenty-five years childbirth has become increasingly medicalized, planned inductions are becoming normative, c-section rates in some communities are astronomical, and I have found an incredible sense of fear about childbirth among many of the women with whom I talk. there are many complex and complicated socio-politico factors at work in terms of health and the health care system in the united states. the experience of childbirth should be a joyous, positive, and life-affirming experience. while it might be impossible to avoid all infant and maternal deaths, it is possible to improve the situation significantly.

I often hear people proclaim that 'the united states has the best medical care in the world' unfortunately the data does not support this not by a loooooong shot. while our country does spend more per capita on health care than any other country we lag behind on many key health indicators - among the 191 countries on which the WHO collects and analyzes data, the us health care system ranks 37th, our infant mortality rate is ranked 26th, life expectancy at 24th, and so on and so forth. we have approximately 46 million people without health insurance in the united states. to some extent, the example of childbirth in the united states is perhaps a microcosm of the larger health care system. maternal mortality is by and large a preventable situation.

when there is birth we need to create a system in which the ripples associated with that event will be ones of joy and not of grief. I am very moved by the work of the safe motherhood quilt project and will be joining my friend susan in contributing towards the efforts to help spread awareness of the problem. during one of ina may gaskin's talks she stated that she felt compelled to become a voice for women who have died in childbirth for they can no longer speak for themselves. participating in the quilt project is one little thing to do to help raise stimulate action to eliminate the problem of maternal mortality - good mouse medicine...

if anyone is interested contact the project: safe motherhood quilt project
42 the farm
summertown, TN 38483
or email:

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

make way for ducklings

here's a little tale that makes this 'mama duck' very proud. my daughter works at a museum which has a beautiful inner courtyard. this spring a mother duck decided this courtyard would be an ideal location for her and her babies. so she proceeded to make a nest, lay her eggs and in no time ten little ducklings were running about. how cute! however, the problem was that albeit beautiful this courtyard was not a good location for baby ducks. it had no source of water - no wading pool, no fountain, no little water garden to provide shelter and food. in fact it was a downright foul place for fowl. on sunday which was the next time emma had a chance to check on the ducklings after they were hatched, she discovered that the initial brood (is this what you call a collection of ducklings?) dwindled from ten ducklings to four ducklings. well, compassionate human that my wonderful daughter is, emma decided that this could not continue! she would have to take action- she left work sunday night knowing that the next day she would have to stage a rescue mission.

on monday morning emma called. she had a plan and was needing to make some tools to help catch the ducklings, she was wondering if I had any dowels and a staple gun. I had a staple gun, but didn't have any dowels and suggested she stop at the little hardware store between her house and my house. I had just been in and knew they had dowels. when em came by to pick up the staple gun, I suggested that perhaps a butterfly net would work to catch the ducklings she said that she too had thought of a net. I told her I had recently seen butterfly nets at joann fabrics; we called and found that not only did they have a few left they were now 50% off. so off she goes - she was soon outfitted with all the supplies and tools needed: butterfly net, materials needed to improvise a chute for the mama duck, and a cat carrier in which to house the family for their journey to their new home. an hour or so later emma called to report that she successfully wrangled the ducks and was heading to the nature center. earlier she had called the nature center and confirmed that they would provide sanctuary, and if necessary care, for a mother duck and her babies. she also reported that between when she left work the previous evening and then there had been an additional loss - there were only three live ducklings and also in her haste she left her house without her camera!

it turned out the nature center was delighted to take in the mama duck and her babies. they told emma that they would be tagging the ducklings. emma will have to keep an eye on the courtyard, who knows maybe in a few months a migrating mallard with a tag will pop in to check out its birthplace and say 'quack, quack' to emma the duck wrangler!

pictures: above -mama duck and her babies, picture taken by emma when all the babies were alive and well. em stated it was quite difficult getting a picture 'ducks can move pretty quickly when they want to'; below - the duck wrangler's boots
addendum: this story has been updated reflecting the correct number of ducklings, only nine ducklings are visible in the picture above - one little guy was quite adventurous and was off on his own.

Monday, May 21, 2007

eek a mouse!

the bavarian pastry shop around the corner from my house makes these cute little pretzel mice - friday when 'ms. t' and I were strolling by we popped in to get ourselves a little treat - you don't even have to be a cat to enjoy them!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

knock, knock

May you always walk in sunshine. May you never want for more. May angels rest their wings right beside your door.
-Irish blessing

picture: katie's cottage ~ adare, ireland

Saturday, May 19, 2007

a night out with art

last night I attended a 'performance' by art spiegelman and michael kimmelman at the cleveland public theater. at the start of the evening mr. spiegelman stated that we should consider the event as a 'performance" and he would be playing the part of the 'neurotic yet talented artist' - as such he could carry on his neurotic (and apparently unbreakable) habit and smoke cigarettes on stage. what a treat we were at a performance; golly, I just thought I was going to a lecture. okay, snide remarks aside about spiegelman's smoking problem it was a stimulating evening. the discussion between spiegelman and nytimes art critic kimmelman wove and wandered as they shared their views on art and where and how comics and cartoons fit in to this lofty world. during the q&a part of the evening spiegelman was asked about what the difference is between comics and 'graphic novels' - I loved his response, he said he considered the 'graphic novel' to be a marketing term with the intention to bring a certain upscale status to the comic. personally when considering the art form, he prefers the term/spelling 'comix' as it conveys that the comic is by definition the commingling of language and image - a co mix!

in 2003 my bookgroup selected spiegelman's maus books as one of the books for our year of reading. that year the us invasion of iraq dominated many of our thoughts and we selected war as the theme for the year. it was a difficult year of reading, without exception the women in my bookgroup can all be considered 'women of peace.' despite the depressing and discouraging nature of many of the books we delved into, the maus books were one of the highlights of the year. yes, the tale was depressing and despairing, but those emotions were balanced by the enormous power spiegelman displayed in telling his family's story during wwII as jews in poland trying desperately to evade the nazis. his family's tale was enhanced by his 'commingling' of image and text.

spiegelman continues to share his family's stories with the stories of our times. a few years ago he created In the Shadow of No Towers this time he directs his unique visual and storytelling gifts to explore the after effects of 9-11. the book considers both the impact on his family, who were living in the shadow of the towers before they fell, and the effect 9-11 has had on our nation. I look forward to his next book Breakdowns: The portrait of an artist as a young @#%! (or something like that). I agree with the the ny times magazine which stated that "Art Spiegelman... to the comics world is a Michelangelo and a Medici both, an influential artist who is also an impresario and an enabler of others."

if you haven't figured it out kimmelman is on the left, spiegelman on the right.

the spiegelman-kimmelman performance was just one of the wonderful events sponsored by cleveland public library - if you haven't figured it out yet, I am a huge booster of the cpl - to me it is one of the best things about living on the north coast! by far it is the best library system I have every experienced and I've been a library hound since childhood!

Friday, May 18, 2007

rolling over

the death of jerry falwell dominated the news this week. despite stating early in his career as a preacher that he abhorred the idea of mixing the affairs of religion and the affairs of state, falwell went on and created the moral majority, which became THE conservative political movement of the late 1970s and 1980s. this movement, which to many of us was NEITHER, helped catapult fundamentalist christian concerns into the heart of american politics. because of the likes of falwell, american politics has been one surreal orgy of religious and political bedfellows. I believe this past week of praising falwell is yet another example our country's unique gift of revisionist history-making. I don't deny the fact that falwell was a powerful force in american politics but the type of intolerance he spouted on some level permanently smudged the lofty and noble word/concept 'christian.' at the height of falwell's fame (infamy?) I used to remark that folks like falwell calling themselves christian and their views christian, would have jesus rolling in his grave, if he was in one!

alas along with revisionist history-making another wonderful trait of today's america seems to be cultural amnesia. hello, does anyone remember the type of things mr. falwell routinely said? here's a few if you your memory needs a jolt:

"If you're not a born-again Christian, you're a failure as a human being."

"AIDS is not just God's punishment for homosexuals; it is God's punishment for the society that tolerates homosexuals."

"The Jews are returning to their land of unbelief. They are spiritually blind and desperately in need of their Messiah and Savior."

"It appears that America's anti-Biblical feminist movement is at last dying, thank God, and is possibly being replaced by a Christ-centered men's movement which may become the foundation for a desperately needed national spiritual awakening"

"The whole global warming thing is created to destroy America's free enterprise system and our economic stability."

and least we forget his words following the 9-11 tragedy:

"God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve."

"I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way, all of them who have tried to secularize America. I point the finger in their face and say 'you helped this happen.'"

when I was a child I attended catholic school and my early years of religious instruction was 100% pure baltimore catechism (which emphasized memorizing 'key beliefs and principles'). many years and much personal searching, growth and transformation have passed between my days as a schoolgirl at st. ann's in memphis and today. however, many of the lessons from st. ann's about christianity and christian principles have been enduring touchstones. however, oddly the christian lessons and values I learned, hold dear and revere seem to be missing when I look at the concerns of american fundamentalists christians. when I consider what it means to be christian, I think of jesus' sermon on the mount (you know the where he proclaimed: 'blessed are the meek...blessed are the peacemakers...blessed are those that hunger and thirst for justice and so on and so forth); the golden rule 'thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,' and the 'works of mercy' (give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick, shelter the homeless, etc.). there's a wonderful bumper-sticker I saw a couple years ago it said: "When Jesus said love thy neighbor, he didn't mean to kill them"

okay I guess that's it for my 'rant' of the day. I don't want to come across as being unkind to rev. falwell (however I do have unkind thoughts about what he nurtured & left behind. I never wished the man ill; if he had ever visited me I'd be warm, gracious and give him something to eat and drink). it's sad when people die and at only 73 his death seems premature, I'm very sorry for all the grief his death sparked. my only hope is that the legacy of intolerance, self-righteousness, and the orgy of mixing 'religion' & politics' his movement and take on 'christianity' helped create in america would also rest in peace.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

truth, comfort and soap

If you look for truth, you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.
-C.S. Lewis, British scholar and novelist. 1898-1963

picture: sunday market l'isle sur la sorgue, france 2005

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

plain & simple

Perhaps each of us has a starved place, and each of us knows deep down what we need to fill that place. To find the courage to trust and honor the search, to follow the voice that tells us what we need to do, even when it doesn't seem to make sense, is a worthy pursuit.
-Sue Bender, 'Plain and Simple: A woman's journey to the Amish'
picture: amish farm, ohio

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

from ground level

yesterday was a night out with my movie buds which means making the trek from my home on the west side of cleveland over to the east side (where the monday night cheapie theaters are located). generally, the trip to the other side of town via public transport takes about forty minutes, but I give myself a good hour, as I seem to have a propensity to get to the bus stop a minute too late. by giving myself lots of extra time I don't get stressed or worry about being late - always nice to have a little buffer. some might think this is a hassle - how much easier it would be to just jump in a car and go. jumping in a car may be easy and if I wanted to I could get a car to replace the car that died last year (unlike many of my fellow bus and train riders who are riding not out of choice but necessity).

but over this last year of being voluntarily car free, I've grown to love my choice and I don't want to take the easier 'route.' being car-free has made me feel so much more connected to my community. using public transportation instead of private transportation increases my chances of having a conversation with some interesting person, of stumbling on some 'everyday' miracle, or it just gives me some extra time to read a book or to gaze out the bus or train window taking in the sights while moving about the city. I have found that choosing public transportation can be, well - if you let it, be very centering and has helped me act on my beliefs about community.

when we first moved to cleveland I got a job working in medical education in the city's big public hospital. although I loved my job, I only stayed for seven years, it took that amount of time before the 'politics' of the hospital and my department got to me. during the last year I worked there, the atmosphere of the place became increasingly difficult and it seemed as though the mission to service, education and health was becoming secondary for so many of the 'higher ups' - what mattered more and more was 'the bottom line.' I was instructed that I needed to concentrate less on education and community-building and instead pursue activities that would contribute monies toward the 'bottom line.' let's say that did not sit well. around me my fellow workers were getting increasing frustrated, disenchanted, and morale was low. for myself, I thought 'time to make a change!' which I did - I have always taken the view that change is good especially when we are able to initiate the change ourselves and work on creating a better situation. okay, I digress, there is a point, while I was in that job, one of my titles included the word "community" - which of course did sit well very well with me. I felt that since I worked in a 'public hospital' and was an appointed 'community guru' (self or other appointed who is to know) I would work and try to enhance the sense of community in any way I could. it might seem silly, but one of the first things I did was order a few 'how to build community' posters for the clinic from the syracuse cultural workers catalog. these posters, by the way, were wonderful catalysts for initiating conversation among the clients in the waiting rooms. nurses, doctors and other clinic staff were often asked where the poster came from. over the years this poster has become a kind of 'talisman' for me, while I'm sitting in a bus or on a train or walking about my neighborhood or city, I often think about the 'laundry list' of community building advice offered on this poster -- powerful 'mouse medicine' for a building a healthy community.

anyhow, back to yesterday's journey (my tangents and digressions connect, I promise, I promise), instead of giving myself one hour to travel to meet my buds, since it was such a beautiful day and I had spent most of the day inside stitching, I gave myself two hours to head to the east side. I figured I would spend the extra hour wandering around lee road (the cedar lee theater is located on lee which is one of cleveland heights art and retail districts). the movie started at 7:15 and I left my house at 5:15. and yes, my propensities toward arriving a minute too late were in order - as I was walking out of the convenience store on the corner where I popped in to get change for my pass (a great deal, by the way, only 3.50 to ride the city's buses and trains all day! right now this is just a bit more than the cost of a gallon of gas - which would take me 25-35 miles depending on the car but not cover other hidden costs!), I saw a bus drive by - but no worries, I had no more than 15 and possibly only 5 or 10 minutes before another bus would come by. when I got to the rapid station surprisingly my timing was perfect, I was on the platform just a minute before a train came. when I got to the university circle rapid station I found I had a lot more than an hour before I had to be at the theater, I decided instead of jumping on a bus to lee road, I would walk. I'm not sure, but I expect it's only 2 1/5 or 3 miles from the rapid to the theater and on such a beautiful evening, it would be a lovely.

as I walked up the hill the first thing I encountered was a rabbit, sitting peacefully just five feet or so from the sidewalk. me being me, the first thing I thought of was drat, no camera! but then I realized I did have my cell phone which has a camera in it. so I stepped off the sidewalk bent down and snapped a picture of the rabbit. I felt terrible, the sound startled the rabbit and she jumped up and hopped a little way off. but when she did there was one of those little everyday miracles I'm so fond of - the rabbit was a mama rabbit and she was sitting on a litter of baby rabbits! I didn't want to 'contaminate' the area and make the mother rabbit abandon her babies, so after a quick glimpse of the sweet little fur balls, I turned back to the sidewalk. I proceeded to walk up the hill wondering why in the world a mother rabbit would choose that spot right along a noisy road just a few feet from a busy intersection. most curious. after meeting the rabbit, I soon found myself walking by a house under construction. I've driven by this house dozens of times, in a bus or in a car, but it was only yesterday while I was on foot that I noticed that this house being built is a straw-bale house.

I thought can my walk get any better - first baby bunnies and next a straw-bale house? no sooner than this thought entered my mind, I looked to my right at this wonderful old house with a great wide porch - two elderly black guys were sitting on the porch enjoying the fine evening. I saw them and smiled, they waved and shouted a friendly hello. I replied that it was a beautiful day. they nodded, said a few words and waved again and I proceed with my walk. how nice to be on ground level - it's at this level where one really feels part of the community - where one can see rabbits and baby bunnies, people helping the planet by building straw-bale houses, and where I delight in the fact that I live in a city of established neighborhoods with old houses with front porches where people like to sit and wave and say hi to passers-by.

today there's a campaign going on to not buy gas for the entire day of may 15th. somehow this act is supposed to send a message to the oil companies? while the intentions are noble, my basic reaction to this idea of not buying gas for a day is: geez, how bogus. if people really want to send a message to the oil companies we don't need to not buy gas for a day -- we need to change our habits - we need to not drive our cars for a day, a week, a month. we need to be part of our communities. we need to embrace sustainable practices and habits. we need to not always take the easy route and join the action at ground level - we need to walk, ride a bike, take a bus, take the train! let me tell you when you do, it's a gas!

Monday, May 14, 2007

a rosy hue

Looking at the world through rose colored glasses,
Everything is rosy now.
Looking at the world and everything that passes,
Seems of rosy hue somehow.
- song by steiger & malie, recorded by frank sinatra 1962

Sunday, May 13, 2007

happy mother's day

The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance; to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.
-Francis Maitland Balfour, Scottish zoologist, 1851-1882

picture: my mother, brother, raggedy ann, and I, mexico, 1956 or 1957

the picture was taken by my father who gave me my first camera, a brownie bullet when I was 8 in 1963. geez, I wish I still had that camera! my dad shared his love of photography with me and I'm afraid put me on the path of documenting just about everything. thanks dad for the brownie (and for all the others you gave me over the years) and for your eye. mom thank you for giving all your kids and grandkids your unconditional love, an endless supply of hugs and kisses, and sharing your love of stories, your understanding of the importance of family and friendship, and your fondness for fabric, food and flowers ~ most of all thank you for making me be a person who wants to make you proud! my hope is that I am able to pass some of these 'family traits' on to my daughter. happy mother's day!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

a good listen

It is a modern tragedy that despair has so many spokesmen and hope so few.
-Oscar Hammerstein II, writer & musical producer 1895-1960

I love car trips. this is a difficult thing to proclaim, because I try to not only 'talk the talk' but 'walk the walk' when it comes to environmental issues. however, loving car trips and reducing personal car use aren't mutually exclusive and I can admit to both. in fact, I recently celebrated my one year anniversary of being personally car-free. when my much loved volkswagon jetta died last year (just shy of turning over 200,000 miles on the odometer!) I faced a decision. instead of replacing it with another car, I decided that the best thing I could do for the environment was to see if I could get by without one. not having a car doesn't mean I don't have access to cars - my husband has one and my daughter who lives very close by also has a car. so I haven't given up driving and if I really, really need to use a car I have easy access to one. I probably average driving two or three days a month. but I love not having a car, and this is said by me, a person who actually is quite fond of driving and has fantasized about cars since before I actually learned how to drive (after all, I am a product of america and detroit!). riding public transport and walking sometimes takes longer to get from point 'a' to point 'b' - but the benefits, intended and unintended, are numerous (that's another story and maybe one day I will discuss them). all this verbiage about being car-free is actually a tangent - I obviously triggered some personal cognitive dissonance by proclaiming that "I love car trips!"

the whole point of today's post was to say I love car trips because when my husband and I take one it gives us an opportunity to listen and discuss audiobooks together. during our recent car trip to dc, one of the books we listened to was This I Believe. in february I mentioned the npr segments in a post, my friend cindy added a comment where she stated that she was currently listening to the audiobook. after reading cindy's comment I immediately went to the cleveland public library website and placed a hold on the book. finally a couple days before our trip to DC , the book came in (yes, there was quite a wait! but when it did come in the timing was perfect!) the essays in this book include contributions from the original series in the 1950s, when edward r. murrow was the host, and contributions from the current npr broadcasts. there is something incredible and almost transcendent listening to the voices of so many people - and know many of these folks are no longer alive but their words and thoughts live on and we can still hear them share thoughts about 'the meaning of life' in their own voices. the collection is an eclectic mix of both the famous and the unknown - but regardless of the person's station in life all of the essays are stimulating - at times provocative and at times inspiring. by the way, as you might have guessed, the quote which started this post is from the wonderful essay by oscar hammerstein II. if you ever wondered what jackie robinson, helen keller, isabel allende, joy harjo, bill gates, or martha graham believe in or sound like check this audiobook out! best put it on hold today - it might take a while to come in!

Friday, May 11, 2007

mental math

Our achievements of today are but the sum total of our thoughts of yesterday. You are today where the thoughts of yesterday have brought you and you will be tomorrow where the thoughts of today take you.
-Blaise Pascal, French mathematician & philosopher, 1623-1662

picture: Thinker on a Rock, 1997 (barry flanagan, wales) national sculpture garden, washington, dc

after seeing jenclair's sweet pictures of the rabbit in her back yard, I guess I have bunnies on the brain! well, maybe not rabbits, but gardening is on my mind this morning! peter rabbit and mr. mcgregor aside, the association of rabbits with gardening is a culturally widespread phenomena. this tidbit was brought home again after our recent trip to the national museum of the american indian which showcased several examples of the importance of the rabbit in native cultures. throughout the americas the rabbit symbolizes fertility, crop cultivation, and the moon.

the picture to the right is of a rabbit mask. this mask was worn during the rabbit dance preformed in native communities in what is now mexico. according to the accompanying plaque, the people no longer perform the rabbit dance in this region, but rabbit masks are still popular and continue to be made for commercial purposes.

Thursday, May 10, 2007


one more museum and set of pictures to share from our recent trip to d.c. although the national building museum opened its doors in 1985 it was only a few years ago that I 'discovered' its existence. now that I know it exists and how convenient it is to get to, it has become a favored spot to check out if I have some free time. on monday, however, our trip to the nbm was planned as we were most interested in the current exhibit: 'the green house: new directions in sustainable architecture and design.' the exhibit is fantastic and if you are interested you best plan a visit to d.c. quickly as the exhibit will be pulling up stakes in late june. if you can't make it to d.c. just click the link above and you can experience the exhibition on-line.

for me this museum is a treat as it brings together interesting exhibits on design, engineering, architecture, and urban planning. however, even if that kind of thing isn't one's cuppa tea, the building which houses the museum is an experience in an of itself. the museum is housed in spectacular structure. originally built to house the pension bureau, over the years the building has been the headquarters for many different government agencies before its current purpose as a museum. inside and out the building is a marvel of design and engineering. an exterior frieze (measuring 1200 feet long and 3 feet tall) surrounds the entire building. inside the first thing that strikes the visitor are the eight colossal corinthian columns, at 75 feet in height, these columns are among the tallest interior columns in the world!

a couple tidbits from the current exhibit which reinforces the belief that we need to think "GREEN" and embrace sustainable practices: 1) an individual in the US consumes 6 times the amount of energy than the world average and the US with less than 5% of the world's population comprises 23% of the world's total energy use. 2) the world's oil reserves are expected to last about 40 more years; natural gas reserves may last 67 years. 3) every year sprawling development engulfs 1 million acres of open space and less than 20% of the world's old growth forests remain today.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007


the newest jewel in the smithsonian museum complex is the national museum of the american indian. not only does the museum's collection celebrate and educate on the immense contributions of our native peoples, but the building brings a presence of harmony with nature that until now has been missing among the district's monumental buildings. the museum, designed by an architectural team composed of representatives of several native communities (blackfook, hopi, cherokee/choctaw, and navajo/oneida), is able to convey this spiritual union with the natural world through its unique curvilinear form, the building's alignment with the four cardinal directions, and the inclusion of wetlands and a mini forest on its grounds which provides a habitat for wildlife. inside and out every detail of the museum is a symbolic celebration of native cultures - from the entrance doors, etched with sun symbols from native cultures to the bird motifs reflecting the cardinal directions found in the elevators. although my visit monday was my third trip to this marvelous museum, I expect I will need to make dozens of trips before I even scratch the surface on all it's offerings!

"The past never changes. But the way we understand it, learn about it, and know about it changes all the time. What was 'gospel' then is often in disrepute now. Yesterday's truth becomes false or irrefutable or offensive today. And visa versa."
(from introduction to museum - part of the 4th floor permanent exhibit)

Monday, May 7, 2007

back 'home'

for the last couple days my husband I have been visiting family and friends in the metro dc area. although I haven't lived here for almost 35 years and when I did live here I only lived here for 7 years, the fact my folks live here make the area a place I feel so connected to I often consider it by the lofty name of 'home.' unfortunately, I can't imagine ever living here -- the area seems too frenetic, too expensive, too car-dependent, and has too many things/issues that get prefaced with 'too' to suit my disposition. what's that saying: 'a great place to visit, but .....'

today was as the day to play tourist. we couldn't have asked for a better day - great weather, no crowds, no travel snags. but no sightings of the queen and for some reason we weren't invited to tonight's white tie state dinner - go figure! we picked two destinations: the national museum of the american indian and the national building museum....perhaps pics to come once I'm back home home of some dc highlights.

the visit has been great and in terms of the reason for coming it has been wonderful to see my folks and report that they look great and are doing well! always a BIG WHEW when parents are getting 'up there.' perhaps more musings later, not used to posting at night, alas a blogger of habit.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

one beautiful word

Peace may sound simple - one beautiful word - but it requires everything we have, every quality, every strength, every dream, every high ideal.

-Yehudi Menuhin, violinist (1916-1999)

picture: monks constructing a kalachakra mandala at cleveland city hall (see march 11 post)

Saturday, May 5, 2007


We receive the light, then we impart the light. Thus we repair the world.
picture: view from jan's home, vermont

Friday, May 4, 2007

politics as usual??

last night was the first of the republican candidates debate - darn I missed it. however, after skimming today's paper and listening to the npr morning edition report, it sounds as if I didn't miss much. seems that all of the candidates got into channeling the spirit of ronald reagan (yeah, such a great leader - great if one is into revisionist history making! so what about iran-contra and the reagan administration illegally selling arms? oh, nevermind, that's just business as usual! and then of course there's the reagan administration campaign against the environment - anyone remember james watt? I could go on but it's too depressing!) in addition to paying homage to ronnie it sounds as if all the republican candidates formed a circle to beat the drums of war.

moving away from thinking about the current slate of the republican presidential candidates - gosh, it's enough to give me angina and make my blood pressure rise! I'd like to use today's post to give kudos to local pundit dick feagler.

on wednesday feagler, a plain dealer columnist, tried to set some of his colleagues straight and confronted them about their terrible treatment of dennis kucinich. in addition to barely covering the story of dennis bringing articles of impeachement against dick cheney, the editors ridiculed dennis mercilessly in an op-ed piece.

feagler doesn't support dennis' campaign to impeach the v.p. even though he believes that there is cause. feagler believes moving on impeachment will have the consequences of tying congress up when what the congress should be doing now is getting us out of iraq NOW.

he makes a good point.

excerpt from column (link above):

War is merely politics if you haven't got a kid in the fight. The political sham going on in Congress this week should make us all ashamed. A bill goes up to the White House, there's a presidential veto, and then everybody swirls around to try to fashion an agreement while many more kids are killed.

Dennis doesn't like this. And we're going to make fun of Dennis?

I don't see it. No, he won't be president. Hasn't got a chance.

But I'm damned glad he's shooting his mouth off.

That's what he's there for. And I'm glad he's there.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

gardening tips

Kind hearts are the gardens,
Kind thoughts are the roots,
Kind words are the flowers,
Kind deeds are the fruits.

Take care of your garden
And keep out the weeds,
Fill it with sunshine
Kind words and kind deeds.
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

maher moment

yesterday I brought the sewing machine down to the living room to catch up on 'my two shows' from last week - real time w/bill maher and bill moyers special 'buying the war' mentioned in last week's 'maher moment' post. if you missed moyers report seek it out - it was one fine piece of journalism. although I am aware of the manipulation of the media during this administration, I never had imagined the levels of deception by the administration and complicity of the media in endorsing the bush war machine. along with the general populace (another video for the new political 'house party' circuit?) every member of congress needs to watch this report - perhaps a wealthy donor will mail each a dvd! if you missed it and want a preview of the show and want to read what folks are saying click here.

okay, again more I have more than one moment from the maher show - but I'll restrain myself and highlight just two. cleveland's favorite son rep. dennis kucinich was one of bill's special guests. dennis is so right on with where he stands, where his heart is, and his vision for the u.s. unfortunately, we live in the era of big money politics (not to mention other 'issues') so the chances of dennis getting the democratic nomination are long odds indeed (but as they say 'if not for hope the heart would break'). I offer the following bit from bill's interview with dennis:

Bill M.: No one considers you're going to win this nomination.

Dennis: I think I am

Bill: But what I want to get to is if you go through your platform let's see there's universal health care -

Dennis: not-for-profit health care, not having the insurance companies subsidized by the government

Bill: - and having everybody covered. Ending the war. Getting serious about the environment. Getting out of Iraq right away. I just don't know why you're the 'crazy one.' None of this seems radical to me. And if you poll the democratic electorate, especially the base, they would agree with most of your platform. Why do you not poll higher among the candidates?

Dennis: It's only a matter of time before the American people realize I'm the candidate who would end these polices that keep us in war and create an America that responds to the goodness and greatness that exists in this country. These policies of preemption, unilateralism, first strike are all dead ends. Our role in Iraq was immoral and wrong from the start...I'm talking about the end of war as an instrument of policy, reconnecting with the world community in a way that America will be loved world wide and focusing on things back home.

[ah....yes, we can hope]

the other moment is from bill's closing monologue, again my unofficial transcript:

In light of the tragedy in Virginia, George Bush said that when somebody sees someone exhibiting abnormal behavior you do something about it. Thanks for the head's up McGruff! If that's the case I want to warn the country about a man I saw last night on T.V. He's six feet talk, Caucasian, and goes by the title 'President of the United States"... I'm not kidding. George Bush is the crazy person we need to keep an eye on. He needs to quit taking money from the pharmaceutical companies and start accepting samples.

There's an old frequently used definition of insanity which is: 'preforming the same action over and over and expecting different results' and then it says 'see the surge.'

Now, I'm no doctor, but I am on TV and in my professional opinion George Bush is a paranoid schizophrenic. He thinks the terrorists hate us for our freedom and believes they are going to follow us home - that's why he keeps obsessively clearing brush so they can't use it for cover.

Other symptoms: Do you see things that aren't there? Such as a link between 9-11 and Iraq?

Do you feel things that you shouldn't be feeling? Such as a sense of accomplishment?

Do you have trouble organizing words into a coherent sentence?

Do you hear voices that aren't really there? I don't know, like your imaginary friend Jesus telling you to start a war in the Middle East?

Well, guess what? There are a large number of people out there suffering from the same delusions, because there are republicans, there are conservatives, and then there are the 'bushies.' This is the 29% of Americans who still believe he's doiing a heck of a job. And I don't believe it's a coincidence that almost the same number - 25% - told a recent pollster that they believe this year, 2007, would bring the second coming of Christ. I have a hunch these are the same people, because if you think you are going to meet Jesus before they cancel 'Ugly Betty' then you're used to doing things by faith. And if you have so much blind faith that you think this war is winnable you're nuts and shouldn't be allowed near a voting booth.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

cleveland +

last week the greater cleveland marketing alliance unveiled it's new campaign for the region branding it cleveland +. I first encountered the campaign on wcpn my first reaction was mixed as I heard cleveland plus and not cleveland + . okay, so what's the big diff? when I heard cleveland plus I thought, "plus... plus sizes! oh great, call attention to cleveland's problem with community obesity" (cleveland routinely ends up on lists of the country's 10 fattest cities , and sometimes makes the top 5!) so that's why my reaction was mixed. but then later the same day I encountered a print story on the campaign which showed it as cleveland + and provided some examples of prospective ads - my reaction went from mixed (leaning toward negative) to positive. the campaign hopes to promote the entire northeast ohio region (cleveland + akron + canton + kent) and the benefits and attractions of the region (the rock hall + the metroparks + the cleveland museum of art + the medical institutions + outstanding colleges and universities).

yesterday while I was on a photo gig I met barb - another transplant to cleveland. barb has lived here seven years, this summer will mark my tenth year. unlike me, who came to cleveland after living for years in new england and being a self-identified 'easterner,' barb is pure southern charm. prior to moving to cleveland barb and her husband lived and raised their family in the south - arkansas, louisana, mississippi, and kentucky.

despite our different paths to cleveland, barb and I discovered a mutual love for cleveland and all it offers. barb shared a story about how a few years ago she was on a plane, the man sitting next to her asked her where she's from. she answered "cleveland" his response was "oh, I'm sorry." barb said her immediate response was to launch into this guy and ask him when was the last time he was in cleveland! she let him know that cleveland is a great place and maybe he should visit cleveland and learn that for himself!
before barb moved to cleveland she admitted that she shared her fellow passenger's attitude and actually swore to her husband that she would "never" live in cleveland! well she moved here, in addition to learning never to say never, in short time she discovered that she loved cleveland. she and her husband will soon be retiring and moving back down south in order to be near their kids and grandkids. but it's with a heavy heart that she will be leaving. although she said she won't miss the cleveland winters she will miss the friendliness of the people here and the ease and comfort of everyday life.

I hope that this cleveland + campaign is effective - the region has so much to offer. however, until folks experience things for themselves, they will often hold on to biases and prejudices. at one time cleveland was known as the 'mistake on the lake' but it's been a long time since its lived up to that reputation. cleveland + is re-inventing itself - we are moving away from the rust of its industrial- manufacturing past and toward a bright high-tech, cultural inventive and intensely green future!