Sunday, July 31, 2005

Kleines Fest im Grossen Garten

In contrast to our 3-month Germany stint this last Spring, we made the decision this time to stay in our own back yard and not travel hither, thither and yon. Didn't want to wear Donica out again! Our reward last night was A Little Festival in the Great Garden of Herrenhäuser Royal Gardens here in Hannover (see 4/21 post).

We stood in line for an hour, not knowing if we'd get 2 of the supposedly 200 remaining tickets. But we figured it was worth the try since this was the last weekend of the festival. I'm guessing everyone in line got tickets since they had to make up for lost revenue from several rained-out days. Besides of which, the Gardens are huge and had no problem holding all of us.

What a night of magic and fantasy from 7 - 11p! Everything from whimsy (the motorcycle sounded like one!)...

...to comedy and acrobatics, often with help from the audience...

...to lavish costumes, stunts and creative art (the man in the picture frame below beckoned to Donica from the crowd to give her this tiny daisy--click to enlarge--while I madly shot photos)...

...to strolling acts from another world (the man, below left, gave me a love-poem in German and the lady gave me a dried rose)...

...to the grand finale of ballet and fireworks.

My photo album fills in the cracks a bit more (nice for photo-taking that it doesn't really start getting dark here until 9:30 or 10p). Let's just say Hannover knows how to throw a party. We enjoyed every minute of it and definitely would not call it a kleines (little) fest. It was a darn-tootin' BIG party, if you ask us!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Let's Hear It For the Boys!

RATS! RATS! RATS! Of all the days in the world when we wish we were in Atlanta, tonight is that day! Westrin & Mowry (as in Pete Mowry, my nephew) are again at Eddie's Attic, this time opening for Shawn Mullins. THE Shawn Mullins. He, actually, got his start at Eddie's Attic, as did John Mayer and the Indigo Girls. So, Man! This is Big Time! Amy and Mark will be there, of course, representing the Hart/Mowry side of the clan. Representing us who are here in Germany whooping it up for them!

This is getting to be quite the "tradition," having the band come down to Atlanta from Michigan almost every other month. I guess this is where it's at for them as they grow into the business. In fact, if plans develop as they're thinking, they'll be moving down at the beginning of 2006, soon after Pete graduates from MSU. Brian has already graduated and passed his MI bar exam in Music Law. Now he'll need to pass it in GA. For him, a cinch!

These guys are no dummies! It appears they're doing something right, so LET'S HEAR IT FOR THE BOYS!

And Amy, I expect a full report from you come morning!

[Click on the image above if you'd like to hear some of their songs on their One Week Epiphany CD.]

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Stamp Of Approval

The USPS recently released its new "Fund the Cure" stamp (left), featuring women of color, to help fund breast cancer research. The stamp was designed by Ethel Kessler of Bethesda, Maryland, the same artist who designed the breast cancer stamp of 1998 which has already raised more than $50 million for breast cancer research. 600 million stamps sold! In that design (right), Diana, the huntress and goddess of fertility, reaches behind her head to pull an arrow from her quiver to fend off an enemy, in this case, breast cancer. The image reflects the same position that a woman assumes for a breast self-exam and mammography. "Fund the Fight; Find a Cure."

In the new release, featuring women of color, I was immediately reminded of photos I saw just yesterday of women in Darfur who are fighting rape and genocide (and breast cancer?) every day. When I saw the photos, like these below, I was stunned by the bright colors midst the poverty and dire circumstances of their situation. It was a visual oxymoron!

You don't want to get me started on Darfur again (see 6/3 post)! Here are a few journalistic stats from Nicholas Kristof's op-ed article Tuesday in the NY Times:

  • The manhandling of journalists accompanying Condi Rice to Darfur recently got more coverage than any massacre thus far.
  • The American news media haven't covered the Darfur genocide as well as they covered the Armenian genocide in 1915. They're much more interested in what Tom Cruise says right now.
  • Newsweeklies should be embarrassed that better magazine coverage of Darfur has often been in Christianity Today.
  • ABC News had a total of 18 minutes of the Darfur genocide in its nightly newscasts all last year; NBC had only 5 minutes of coverage all last year, and CBS only 3 minutes - about a minute of coverage for every 100,000 deaths. In contrast, Martha Stewart received 130 minutes of coverage by the three networks.
  • Last month, CNN, Fox News, NBC, MSNBC, ABC and CBS collectively ran 55 times as many stories about Michael Jackson as they ran about genocide in Darfur.
  • MtvU (the MTV channel aimed at universities) has covered Darfur more seriously than any network or cable station.

Kristof ends his piece by saying "So while we have every right to criticize Mr. Bush for his passivity, I hope that he criticizes us back. We've behaved as disgracefully as he has."

The "bright side" of both breast cancer and Darfur? Incredible, vivid COLOR. What is it with these women?! Buy the stamps and pray for our sisters in Darfur.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

An MR Case In Point

Yes, we're both here safe-n-sound in Hannover, Germany, again, but not without a great Mercury Retrograde (MR) story!

Many of you know that MR not only potentially confuses communication of all kinds (computers especially, so make sure you SAVE SAVE SAVE) but travel as well. I half-expected our internet service to be down when we arrived yesterday but, no, it was my travel that was affected instead.

Because Donica flies business class through work and I fly coach, mostly through her frequent-flyer miles, we often fly on different planes both coming and going. I left at 2p on Monday from Atlanta to NY to Paris to Hannover, arriving here at the apartment at 8p Tuesday (2p EST, so 24 hours later). Yesterday.

Everything was just fine until we were ready to leave from NYK. One passenger did not end up on the plane (who knows why?!), so all the baggage had to be searched TWICE until they found and unloaded what they were looking for, making us 2 hours late for take-off. We ended up only one hour late in Paris but many passengers missed their connecting flights and I missed Donica. She had flown in straight from Atlanta and her connecting flight to Hannover was an hour after my scheduled arrival, so the plan was that I would join her (on her coattails) in her Delta lounge for my 9-hour wait for my plane to Hannover. In missing her, I ended up like all the "normal" people in the airport--missing out on the free snacks, drinks, TV/news, newspapers, internet access and comfort of the business lounge.

The price we pay for airline safety! And the small price I paid for being able to come back again to this home-away-from-home! Instead of being grouchy about it all day, I actually had a knowing smile on my face. It was sooooooo Mercury Retrograde.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Bon Voyage

First of all, bon voyage to Lance Armstrong who did indeed win his 7th consecutive and last Tour de France yesterday. We expected it but, especially on the wet cobblestones of Paris, we held our collective breath. All he had to do was finish the race to win. And he did! Bravo. With his retirement from the Tour this year, it'll take awhile before it'll seem as exciting, I'm afraid. May he find rewarding pursuits in his "life after!"

It is fitting that both Donica and I now leave for same Paris today on our way back to Hannover, Germany. This will be a short stint of only 3 weeks before returning on August 12. As a matter of fact, we'll be gone through almost the entirety of Mercury Retrograde (July 22 - August 15), during which time it's good to tie up loose ends, do research and finish what we've started. So my goal is to hunker down to learn some greeting-card and PhotoShop software we've installed on the laptop, as well as to work hard on learning German through the Pimsleur CDs we've had for months.

AND to research the possibility of my re-entering the massage-therapy field once I return home! It's been 7 years since I sold my table and stopped that side business when we moved into our house here in north Atlanta. Now that I'm retired, it may be exactly what I'm looking for to make some pocket money. I'll keep you posted.

In the meantime, bon voyage to all of us who are travelling or moving from one endeavor to another. Many family and friends are between jobs right now. Journeying mercies and happy trails to one and all. You especially, Ruth, as you're in London during these days of turmoil!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Birthday Parties

Yes, that's right. Parties. We started at Amy's yesterday for the family party and then later in the afternoon ended up at Jumpin' (now Monkey) Joe's for the added soccer friends.

There was a theme here, if you can mix-n-match the big heroes--Power Rangers, Spiderman, Batman--most of which had to be assembled. That's what the family is for, of course.

At Monkey Joe's, it was all about serious climbing, falling, jumping, sliding, pushing, colliding, and sweating up a storm. One and a half hours of it! We the parents/g'parents laughed and got exhausted watching. "They'll sure sleep well tonight!" was a constant refrain.

And then we all ended up with a sugar-high. So cute. Five-year-olds are five-year-olds, basically all the same, it was quite clear. Except for the one that always stands out in our eyes: Nicholas Joseph Grannan. For the photo album, click here.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

A Story of Love

In the opening words of this nature documentary, March of the Penguins, Morgan Freeman says this is ultimately a story of love. And he's right. A love story that is true and absolutely, breath-takingly astounding.

"This is the story of one year in the life of an emperor penguin flock - and one couple in particular - as they trek across the Antarctic on an annual journey that invokes just about every major life experience, from birth to death, from dating to mating, from comedy to tragedy, and from love to fighting for survival."

I laughed out loud; I was brought to tears; I couldn't believe what I saw: "the awe-inspiring sight of the animals' inherent, ritualistic ability to persevere, thrive, and love amidst severely inhospitable environs." To whet your appetite, here's a mini-album of 18 photos. And God thought this up!?!

The frosting on the cake is Morgan Freeman's voice doing the narration. You'd can't get much better than this when it comes to a documentary. Makes me want to see everything National Geographic has ever done!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Shock-Absorbed

There are those points in time when you discover something that totally shocks you. Last evening was one of them for me.

Donica and I had a 7p engagement in Midtown and planned ahead for our usual rendezvous halfway from her work at my former-former place of employment in Sandy Springs. It was my first stint in assisted living and still holds a place in my heart. We were a big family of +/- 20 residents with accompanying caregivers and staff. Several times in the past year-plus I had visited them and kept myself updated with their executive director. But I'd lost track since my recent German stint.

The first clue that something was dreadfully wrong was the blank, painted-over marquee on the side of the road. Then no cars in the parking lot. No sign of life anywhere. Yet, there was the outdoor furniture (some of which I had personally picked out) and the inside furniture and computers I could see through the windows.

It was eerie. I went up to the main door and found it locked, as I expected but wanted desperately to disbelieve. What happened? Where was everybody?

Within a couple hours I found out the place had been shut down at the end of May because of loss in revenue and the need for cost-prohibitive structural repair.

Those were my friends! Totally uprooted in their sunset years. Missing in action. Displaced. Transferred. God have mercy on them all. I love them. I want to know they're okay...as though they were my own parents....

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Tattooed Fruit and Veggies?

"Customers do not like them, and they don't hold enough information anyway."

Those messy stickers on fruit and veggies may have seen their day, to be replaced by laser-coated tattoos that include "their names, identifying numbers, countries of origin and other information that helps speed distribution. The marks are burned onto the outer layer of the skin and are visible to discerning consumers and befuddled cashiers alike."

Ah yes! Technology in our fruit and salad bowls. Just what we were waiting for!

Monday, July 18, 2005

The Love of Sport

To start with, you can't live in this house without being surrounded by sport in one form or another. Athletic sport, I mean (of course), be it tennis, football, baseball, basketball, softball, soccer or whatever it is today. Men and women's both!

Today's sport du jour is like a past, present and future of what's happening right now. Yesterday TIGER WOODS cemented his status as the best golfer in the world with a five-stroke victory over Colin Montgomerie of Scotland in the 134th British Open. Only he is now tied with Jack Nicklaus as having won all four majors twice...and he's only 29, my son's age! Nicklaus is 55.

Today LANCE ARMSTRONG is resting before starting his second week of this year's Tour de France, hoping to make it his 7th (and last) consecutive victory. Right now he's 2:46 minutes ahead of his closest competitor and should reach his goal, barring any catastrophy. He beat testicular cancer in 1996 and has since been awarded virtually every sports honor there is, becoming a symbol of hope and inspiration.

Tomorrow it'll be MICHELLE WIE, just watch. Last week she made history as the first woman to qualify for the men's United States Amateur Public Links Championship. And she's only 15! If or when she makes a cut at the PGA tour, competing with men, she'll make history again. But perhaps more importantly is if she will become to women's golf what Tiger has become to men's golf.

Full circle. Tiger, Lance, Michelle, Tiger. For today, right now, Tiger has won and deserves all the honors he can get. You go, Man! Hopefully Lance will follow suit. And then Michelle?

Sunday, July 17, 2005

From Whence She Came

Today is her birthday! Donica Ann Detamore. Hard-working, conscientious, deeply spiritual, believing strongly in the common good in mankind and in the common yearning for a better life for all. In her career she has found success, thrusting her into the spotlight, but she'll never forget those who have worked for her and will always strive to do things for others no matter how independently successful she may be. Her life will shape up as one long road to understanding and harmony -- and her greatest lessons will be learned on the job and while sitting quietly at home with friends, family and loved ones. She is never one to get too cocky or high-minded; she's more than willing to listen to anyone's suggestions.

That description is my paraphase, "verbatim," of a horoscope that came through today. It describes her to a T. She really has been blessed with success and really does give of herself. She's what we call our Giving Tree.

And she came by it honestly! German, Irish, and Native-American (she thinks Cherokee?). Notice her mom's red hair. She, too, is a giving tree, and we both are often the recipients, as last evening. You'd be hard-put to find a better cook. Anything she touches turns to gold (in our stomachs!), like this Crème Brûlée for dessert. I learn about Donica through her mom...and her Aunt Sari above. In spite of heartbreak or physical pain and suffering, there is laughter, humor and smiles bigger than life.

For 8 years now I have had this influence in my life. Donica's and her heritage. In the long-run, I love the lessons I learn from observing and receiving, even though I often feel so far behind. So much to catch up on. So much more to learn.

Sometimes you know that someone came before Time to join your pilgrimage. A reason. A season. Now instead of Then. Reincarnation? Karma? Who knows. All you know for sure is that it's a Gift and you're meant to take good care of it.

Happy Birthday, Donica!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

A Far Darker Tale

The witching hour has come and gone and, according to those who count, this penultimate Harry Potter book (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) is on its way to break the records. It is "a novel that depicts Harry Potter, now 16, as more alone than ever - all too well aware of loss and death, and increasingly isolated by his growing reputation as 'the Chosen One,' picked from among all others to do battle with the Dark Lord, Voldemort."


The wizarding world is at war. And as the sixth of seven books finally solves some of the riddles and ties up loose ends of when, how and who, all us kids around the world who care have a chance once more to escape into the fantasy world of JK Rowling's incredible mind (6/27 post).

Interestingly, "the terrible things that Ms. Rowling describes as being abroad in the green and pleasant land of England read like a grim echo of events in our own post-9/11, post-7/7 world and an uncanny reminder that the Hogwarts Express, which Harry and his friends all take to school, leaves from King's Cross station - the very station where the suspected London bombers gathered minutes before the explosions that rocked the city nine days ago."

Fantasy? The "far darker tale" is suddenly "as improbable and as mortal as our own."

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Baseline Spirituality

So many thoughts and feelings are whirling around inside of me today.

I've been reading about the secret Gospel of Thomas from Elaine Pagels (Beyond Belief) and how it differs from the Gospel of John in our New Testament. John portrays Jesus as the only true light of the world while Thomas taught that "there is a light within each person, and it lights up the whole universe. If it does not shine, there is darkness."

Other sayings of Jesus from Thomas were squashed in the early centuries after Christ when the creeds and NT canon were established: "If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you." Elaine goes into depth about why this happened and how the Gospel of John is in actuality a refutation of Thomas and his followers in the early years of Christianity. Hold that thought.

Then I read that Bill Clinton is planning a summit on global woes for the private sector because "there are plenty of problems governments simply cannot address. " "It's unrealistic to think all the world's problems will be solved only by government actions," he said at his home in suburban New York. Everyone who participates must make a specific commitment to be fulfilled by the next annual meeting, he said. For example, a corporation might commit to building schoolrooms in Kenya or sending educational materials to Mexico. Anywhere from 500 to 1,000 people might attend.

And then I read how Susan Sarandon believes in the Power of One in service and the responsibility for her and teaching her children that "they would develop some kind of habit that involves understanding that their life is so full they can afford to give in all kinds of ways to other people. I consider that to be baseline spirituality."

Her children had a rite of passage at age 16 whereby they picked a volunteer situation (like Habitat for Humanity, chosen by her son) to indicate their induction into the world of service. "It's a spirituality that's empowering and inclusive and gives you a world that's so large and full of possibilities and so full of rewards. That's joyful."

These thoughts from 3 different people are timely for me right now as I meditate and ponder my second adulthood. Where does service come in? Being light in the darkness? Effecting change one step or person at a time? The Power of One? Making a commitment?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

It's Hard to Be Five

Today Nicholas turns five. This book we're giving him from Jamie Lee Curtis is adorable, talking about all the problems 5-year-olds face. Poor thing. He knows he's starting Kindergarten in just a few more weeks and is excited and anxious both. But he'll have to stay in line and not hit or push, not talk when he's supposed to be quiet, yada yada yada. Learning how to work [his] control panel.

So now watch Donica give him a HIGH FIVE! I blame this all on her because what do I know about this stuff. I didn't grow up with it and neither did my 2 kids. But Donica firmly believes he is ready for the responsibility of a car and needs to learn now. HA. So I sat on the sidelines this past weekend taking the pictures with a big grin on my face, my own little 5-year-old wanting to come out to play.

His actual birthday party, when his soccer friends can join him, is on the 23rd. The car will stay at our house, so it made sense to give it to him a couple days early. It was a surprise waiting for him when he and Amy arrived on Saturday. We had him cover his eyes...and then we all checked it out.

Then the fun began. The mini-photo album is a riot. At one point, on Sunday, the second day of driver's ed, he turned the wheel so that it'd go in circles and then closed his eyes with his arms extended out while putting his foot on the excelerator. NO NO NO. Bad habits early! That's NOT how you drive a car! (It's hard 2 B 5!)

Rechargeable battery. Reverse. FM Radio. 2.5 and 5 mph speeds (thank God he doesn't know about that 5 yet!). A no-pedal brake when you take your foot off the excelerator. What else. It's a JEEP, for Pete's sake!

Man, is it ever hard to be five! Can I come out and play?!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Dumb Sheep

This is actually very sad and not intended to be funny. But it is a good case-in-point for the addage about how dumb sheep really are.

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Hundreds of sheep followed their leader off a cliff in eastern Turkey, plunging to their deaths this week while shepherds looked on in dismay.

Four hundred sheep fell 15 yards to their deaths in a ravine in Van province near Iran but broke the fall of another 1,100 animals who survived, newspaper reports said Friday.

Shepherds from Ikizler village neglected the flock while eating breakfast, leaving the sheep to roam free, the Radikal daily said.

The loss to local farmers was estimated at 100,000 new lira ($74,000).

All those sermons we've heard about us being like sheep...kinda makes you wonder!

The Bumblebee and Zebra Sermon

Yesterday's calendar quote for my day was this from Mary Kay Ash:

Aerodynamically the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly,
but the bumblebee doesn't know that so it goes on flying anyway.

That reminded me of this photo Ted Roth (6/23 post) took and sent me a couple weeks ago. I love it. Thanks, Ted and Mary Kay.

Then this morning, wouldn't you know it, Nicholas and I watched the movie Racing Stripes while Donica caught some more z-z-z's and (speaking of zees) saw a zebra who thought he was a race horse until someone made fun of him and told him he was only a zebra. "A ZEBRA? I thought I was a race horse! Why didn't anyone tell me?"

Sounds like 2 stories for a good Sunday sermon, Dad!

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Menopause The Musical

As a week-early birthday gift to Donica, I took her last night to see Menopause The Musical, "a celebration of women who are on the brink of, in the middle of, or have survived The Change. It was created to be a 'grassroots' movement that deals with life after 40, with all the challenges that result in the mental, physical and spiritual freedom of over 20 million baby-boomer females. A parody of 26 relyricized '60s and '70s tunes, the production culminates with a high-spirited salute to every woman who has turned 50...I've got a new attitude!"

Unbelievable! It's worth every minute. If you know of any woman in your life who needs a good laugh (and the man who loves her who can laugh with her), please check out this site to see if there's a show near you. I'll personally pay for the ticket if you're disappointed!

Seriously, you had to see it to believe it! We almost died laughing, hysterically, for the entire 90 minutes. This photo of the Atlanta cast won't mean much to you unless you've seen them in action. It's a reminder to me of something we'll never forget.

Friday, July 08, 2005

The Big-Bang Reunion

The start of the cottage week when we arrived last Thursday morning, after our all-night drive, was wonderfully cool, calm and collected. Just the 5 of us. Standing on the beach looking up at the cottage (below left) was that lone memory etched in all our minds of the peace and place of Hukilau, our Hart Family Cottage. Within a couple days, some of us became what Donica called The Whirling Dervishes!

But it all had it's time and place. At one point on Sunday there were 45 of us across 3 generations. The cottage sleeps 35 on beds and couches (below left). One family of 3 was in a tent and we all made it fine, even with only 2 bathrooms. We're used to it by now. The kids of our kids are pure joy when we see them together once every year (not often enough!). But what will it be like when the oldest of them (now in high school) start having their kids within 10 years from now? God have mercy!

As the lakefront is a rallying point for family time, so is the evening meal. We all provide our own meat and a dish to pass per family unit--enough food to feed an army. So next year we may separate the evening-meal planning into half of us on any given day. Makes sense to me. Donica was the grill lady; I was the dish-to-pass preparer (here with brother-in-law Hank).

Alone time with anyone during high census was nigh impossible. I really did flit from one person to another when I wasn't taking pictures (like the one below right of Ruth with her daughter, Lesley, and my daughter, Amy). But I was able to catch almost 45 minutes with nephew Paul (below left) to get some HTML tips for this blog. One tip alone was worth the whole thing (indenting a quote) which I fully intend to use soon! How nice to have an entire generation of nephews and nieces so literate in IT and word processing! I love it.

When Donica and I left on Tuesday evening for our drive home, we were the last ones standing. An hour of calm once again. Yesterday I spent almost the entire day sorting through the 491 photos I took, trimming them down to 365 buyable prints for the family Snapfish album. But I also did a smaller album of just 80 Nicholas shots on my own PhotoSite. He was, after all, center stage for me with the fireworks and extra-curricular activities. But of course!

So until next year, we stop to breathe again. Once-a-year whirling dervishes is plenty enough!