Friday, September 30, 2005

Growing-Up Connections

Last night I had one of those spontaneous babysitting opportunities while Amy was out-n-about before her birthday today. So, first of all,

  • Connection #1: Happy Birthday, Amy! You're growing up! :)

After supper, I helped Nicholas do his homework (do you remember homework in Kindergarten?!). First of all, he had to draw and name a picture for 4 letters: K, Z, Q and L. While we were eating, he figured out his plan and chose the words that were the easiest to draw: kite, zig-zag, quilt and letter.

THEN he had to write the names of people in his family, count the letters in each name and decide which was the shortest and which the longest. A-m-y (3), N-i-c-k (4), N-i-c-h-o-l-a-s (8). (Hang on, the connection is coming.)

THEN he drew his birthday card for Mommy with flowers, a heart that he colored pink, an I-love-you, and his own lick to seal the envelope. So precious. He loves his mommy!

THEN we played cards: One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Go Fish. Matching colors and numbers. At the end he had 8 matches. Immediately, he had that Aha look and exclaimed:

  • Connection #2: "I have as many matches as there are letters in my name!"

THEN, after his bath and while tucking him in bed, hugs and kisses all around, he exclaimed again,

  • Connection #3: "I really had NINE matches, G'ma, because the number of my name and the number of the matches I won was also a match!"

Duh! Do the math, G'ma. And THEN eat him up!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Omnium-gatherum

n : a miscellaneous collection (as of things or persons).

I was thinking about this yesterday while in flight from Paris to New York's JFK airport: the "collection" of cultures on these over-the-ocean flights is like a microcosmic snapshot of our world at large.

The accents, the languages, the clothes, the hairstyles, the eyes, the smells (as in perfume and/or body odor!).... These are often the "little things" that make me thrill to be alive. To be a part of something much bigger than me-myself-and-I.

My suitcase never made it onto the plane, I found out later! But already being caught up in omnium-gatherum, it totally paled in significance. It'll come this evening soon enough.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Perspective

Today I fly back to Atlanta, via Paris and NY. Donica follows on Friday. We return to our 160-year-old suburban city, Cumming, which was chartered in 1845.

In our Hannover apartment, there is a set of glasses from 1991 that commemorates the 750th anniversary of Hannover's charter in 1241. When I actually stop to think about it, it totally blows me away! This city we live in part of the year is now 764 years old!

My post yesterday was on a scaled-down model of Hannover's Marktkirche, clearly one of the city's best-known landmarks in it's old center. If you look carefully, that's the picture on this glass.

Perspective: whether in size or time, it can't help but make you sit up and take notice!

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED: Marktkirche Scaled Down

For this two-week stint in Hannover, I had 2 specific goals: watch Season 1 of Lost (finished this past Sunday with Donica!) and make the 3-D paper model of Hannover's Market Church (Marktkirche) that I had purchased in August when we went to the Orgelkonzert there. When I saw it was only €5 ($6.0205), I bought it on the spot, knowing it was exactly the kind of challenge I love.

It took me approximately 30-35 hours to make it in a week's time: cutting, scoring, folding and gluing. The booklet was in German but no amount of feeding the phrases into the online translator made any sense out of what I was supposed to do and in what order. Let's just say I had to picture it in my head and figure it out.

The 4 doors and 39 windows were the biggest challenge. The tower was the fun part, as were the 26 buttresses. Guess you could say I really get into stuff like this -- the minute, exacting details! But my small hands helped. Donica and I decided someone with big hands would be "all thumbs" on this kind of project.



One thing about the Marktkirche in real life is that it's so tall, you can't get an up-close shot of the front of it and get it all in (like the model shot top left). You can do it from far away but too many other buildings are in the way. The back shot (above left), however, works just fine.

Even if I say so myself, I'm proud of my accomplishment. I haven't had this much fun for $6 (well, $7, if you count the glue!) in I don't know how long!

Monday, September 26, 2005

Oktoberfest Fireworks

As you know by now, we try to take advantage of our weekends while here in Germany. So much to see; miles to go before we sleep!

On Saturday evening we went back to Herrenhäuser Gärten, this time for the Australian contribution to Hannover's International Fireworks Competition. This was their 15th Jubilee year, highlighting from May through September the fireworks from Germany, Italy, Switzerland, Argentinia, Sweden and Australia. We left before finding out who won this year but Sweden won last year.
Leading up to the fireworks each year, a festive atmosphere takes place at many different locations within the Great Garden, offering everything from the classical to the modern, from drama and cabaret to folklore -- like the derigidoo concert and Jodie's country music show (an Australian woman singing country!) -- colourful entertainment for young and old alike. It's all in my photo album.

There's just something about fireworks in what's considered one of the best European baroque gardens left! Unbelievable. When I stop to think about it, I pinch myself.

That was Saturday night. Last night, we went over to the Maschesee Lake vicinity to see what a Hannover Oktoberfest looks like. Uschi (Frau Fahrtmann, our landlady, now on first-name terms with us!) told us to go at night because of the lights. In a word, it was almost exactly what we think of when we say Fair. I'm sure Oktoberfest is much different in other German cities, like Munich, or even in our Helen, GA, but here in Hannover, it's a Fair, like what we'll take Nicholas to at home in a couple weeks. We didn't ride a thing but walked around, took it all in, and ate some good food. I even drank a Beck lemon beer made in Bremen!

The Germans love their festivals! (It's amazing what you find when you stay in your own backyard!)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Sermons from Babylon

Time to brag on another nephew, Nate, the last child (of 4) of my 3rd brother (of 4), Jim. Family tree and all!

In 2001 Nathan Hart got his BA in Religion and Communications from Hope College (MI), followed by his M.Div from Princeton Theological Seminary (NJ) in 2004, and is now the Pastor of Christian Education at Brookville Reformed Church in Long Island (NY). He also has a "freelance" ministry in Manhattan with the New York Fellowship. Just this last March he married Nancy Simar. Every day I visit his Spera In Deo blog to be amused, entertained, educated or inspired. Truth be known, it influences how I do my own blog here (but without the aspiration to finese HTML like he does!).

Now add podcasting to his repertoire, which is where today's post comes in! In August he created a podcasting "blog," Sermons from Babylon, enabling him to publish his sermons audibly via the internet. Once you get to his site, he explains everything about it. But bottom line, pick a sermon, click on it and listen! My favorite is The North American Yellowjacket and the Human Tongue.

I asked him why he named it Sermons from Babylon? His answer: "I feel like someone who grew up in the safety of the Israelite camps (that is, conservative suburbia) and has now been sent out into Babylon (that is, New York City)."

This photo, btw, is from his site. I absolutely love it!

Thursday, September 22, 2005

The New Orleans Blues

If this doesn't bring tears to your eyes! Listen and weep.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Speaking of LOST: the Germany Election

It makes sense to me that if neither candidate won, it's as good as saying they both lost! Gerhardt Schröder (61) is the incumbent Chancellor of Germany. His competition is Angela Merkel (51), who bested him 35.2% to 34.3% in last Sunday's election, but because neither won a majority of the votes in Parliament, it's a stalemate.

So now what happens? Schröder (Social Democrat) and Merkel (Christian Democrat) will now try to secure enough support from the minor parties (at least four of them) to gain a clear majority: a coalition (usually the Social Democrats with the Greens and the Christian Democrats with the Free Democrats or Red-Green vs. Black-Yellow). If either candidate sought to unite with their rivals, that would be a "grand coalition," but is considered highly unlikely. If a deal cannot be reached by October 18, there will be a fresh election.

Wanna hear something funny? Germany may end up with a "Jamaica coalition" -- black, yellow and green -- which would mean Merkel is Chancellor and Germans would be "sitting around in dreadlocks with joints in their hands, and reggae music playing in the background." Sounds a lot more interesting (and colorful) than our Red-Blue choices!

Seriously, Schröder has had 7 years to put Germany back together again, without success. Despite many promises, he has conspicuously failed to reduce unemployment of almost 12%. Our landlords, the Fahrtmanns, are among the many who were hoping Merkel could bring reform. For their sakes, I hope they get it, one way or the other, even if it means holding another election (can we imagine that?!).

Monday, September 19, 2005

The LOST Bandwagon

I see they won the Emmy for Best Drama last evening!

Thanks to the recommendations from many people, Donica bought the complete first season of "Lost" a week ago and brought it with us to Germany. It's a fusing of elements from the movie Cast Away, Survivor, The Twilight Zone and even a dash of Gilligan's Island, and received 12 nominations. Over this past weekend we watched 8 episodes (45 min. each), which is 1/3 of the season. Our goal is to finish the remaining episodes before we return to Atlanta at the end of the month.

We're not big on watching TV at home except for the news and sports. It's hard with Donica's here-n-there schedule to maintain continuity with any series. There's no English TV here at our apartment in Hannover except for BBC news. But thanks to new DVD packaging, we've been able to get hooked on "24" (can hardly wait for last season to come out!) and now "Lost."

It was fun to see this awards photo of the "Lost" characters: they dress up well!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

HERBSTFESTIVAL: Autuum Festival

This is my favorite time of the year: Autuum! Amy says Atlanta is not cooperating, with temps today up to 90° F. But here in Hannover, Germany, we're having gloriously sunny days in the 60's with nights in the 40's. It was so unbelievably gorgeous yesterday that we spontaneously decided to go to the Herbstfestival at Herrenhäuser Gärten. If it was anything like the Kleines Fest at the end of July (7/31 post), we knew we would not be disappointed. And we weren't.

It wasn't as big of a fest geographically in the sense that it occupied only one part of Herrenhäuser Gärten around the Leibniz Temple. But it certainly was big enough to cover all the obligatory signs and symbols of Autuum PLUS a particular catering to the dogs! Instead of our dog days of summer, it's Germany's dog days of Autuum. As you'll see in my photo album, they were everywhere, showing off in all their canine pomp and circumstance.

Add to the dogs the fruits of Fall--the flowers, apples, pumpkins, crafts, whimsy, Canadian geese (in Germany?), warm sweaters, jackets, boots, cafe macchiato, sauteed champignons (mushrooms) in garlic sauce, German beer, lederhosen (leather pants), oils and spices, and everything nice. I loved it all.

And as always, the families. Walking hand-in-hand, old and young alike, and, this time, with their dogs in tow.

And the eis! Don't forget the ice cream! God knows they need it as they watch their TVs right now to see who wins the election held today for Chancellor. More on that later this week, I'm sure, as Germans wait for who will win this close race. But for now, just breathe in the autumnal air. Just breathe!

Friday, September 16, 2005

NICH-O-LAS in Three Parts

When I'm here in Germany, I try to be online between 1:30 - 2p for a quick good-morning chat with Amy when she first gets to her office (six hours earlier). It's been a nice way to stay in touch when we're apart.

Today she told me about the cutest thing Nicholas told her this morning. He said he had a new friend at school named Nick, with only one part. He proceeded to tell her that his name is Nich-o-las, with three parts.

Kids say the darnest things! Don't you just wanna get inside their heads!

Thursday, September 15, 2005

THAT'S Who He Is!

Don't you hate it when you see an actor in a movie and know you've seen him/her before but can't remember where!

I always bring movies with me when I come to Germany and try to watch one a day while Donica is at work. Today I watched Good Bye Lenin! with Daniel Brühl. It's a story that happened in East Berlin at the time when the Wall came down, so I wanted to see it. I eat up anything that helps me understand Germany better!

But who was that guy, Daniel Brühl, the lead character! I knew I had just seen him recently. Guess where? Ladies in Lavendar, starring Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith. Oh my! I can hardly wait till that one comes out on DVD in the States--"the perfect way to spend almost two hours in the company of Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, two of the most beloved grand dames of the English cinema."

And Daniel isn't bad himself! He's good in both movies.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Speaking of Airlines

Just hours after writing my last post yesterday (while waiting for my plane in the Atlanta airport, actually), I heard that Delta and Northwest both were possibly filing for bankruptcy today. I'm in our Hannover apartment right now and guess the decision is still pending? Interestingly, I read an article recently about David Neeleman, the CEO and founder of JetBlue which, like Southwest Airlines, enjoys an unusual depth of customer loyalty and is making a profit!

It's an amazing story that has its roots in a tw0-year mission trip he took to Brazil while a college student to live with the desperately poor. He was troubled by the vast inequities of privilege and poverty and took the lessons he learned there to build a company that eliminates stark differences affecting how customers are treated. The airline offers only one class of seats, for instance, and gives in-flight services with equal attention to all customers. There's more, of course....

So, if Delta and Northwest do in fact file for bankruptcy, I'm guessing it'll behoove them to pay attention to those few who are apparently getting it right. Perhaps all companies need to pay attention!

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Auf Wiedersehen Again

Donica's turn to fly was this past Sunday, to Amsterdam; my turn is today, first to Cincinnati, then to Paris and then to Hannover, Germany, arriving tomorrow. The Frequent-Flyer miles' way! Donica will join me in Germany on Thursday.

In 1940 Delta was the "Airline of the South." In 1968 they adopted the slogan "Delta is ready when you are." In 1987 it became "We love to fly, and it shows." Atlanta is Delta's hub, so we're pretty much aware of their aches and pains these days. A lot of struggling to overcome.

However, in the meantime, we fly the friendly skies (if I may borrow from United, shame on me!), shrinking our world as we do so. We're still but a phone call or e-mail or blog post away.

Come find us with your Guten Tag at any time. We'll welcome you to the day, six hours ahead, till the end of the month.

The Thank-You

She has always known exactly how to say Thank You! That's Amy. For her townhouse painting project she gave me an hour's massage at Spa Sydell, of which I took advantage today. I got there early enough to sit in the Sweat Lodge, opening up my pores to release all the toxic waste of the past weeks to the Great Spirit: the long hours of painting, the hurricane, the suicide attempt, the psychotherapy, the failed marriage, the lost job, all the pain.

And I cried. Massage cleanses on so many levels. It reminded me of why I want to be a massage therapist once again. Maybe yet this year.

Thank you, indeed!

Monday, September 12, 2005

Priorities!

Sometimes weekends end up being chock full of FAMILY! This was one of them, starting with Friday. Donica took the afternoon off work (since she's on her way to Amsterdam as I speak) and joined me at Amy's townhouse to finish up the last of our projects. Mark, too, joined us, followed by Amy herself and Nicholas. Then pizza for supper after all our hard work and Crash, the movie (6/17 post), for Mark and Donica to see for their first time.

We could have stopped there and been thrilled enough. But no, that was just the beginning. Early Saturday morning we all went to Nicholas' first soccer game of his third season and watched him actually kick the ball. He says he's gonna kick 180 goals this season! This is serious stuff (even though they still don't count goals at this under-six age). Most of his teammates are the same as last spring; others are new, as are their shirts (now red instead of green). Goofing off with Daddy, of course, is part of the "game."

Then to our house for lunch and the 2 biggest football games of the day! First it was my alma mater, MICHIGAN (sigh--we won't even go there!), followed later by Mark's alma mater, GEORGIA (way to go!). Like I said, priorities. Amy and Mark grew up in a power football home (both parents grads of MICHIGAN!) and fully understand the importance of watching the season's games. All I can say is it's a good thing the UofM and UGA are from two different conferences!

In between the two games we had plenty of time to stretch our legs outside, getting loved on...

...and then watching Nicholas drive up and down our loooong, hilly, curvy driveway. Donica enabled the 5 mph on his Jeep so he could make the incline to the top of the drive (first time). Once up, he switched gears to Reverse to turn around and then once more to 2.5 mph to head back down. Three gears! And knowing how to turn the steering wheel while in reverse! Even Mark was impressed.

To top off the evening, Donica and I left the brood at our house and headed to Chastain Park for the Indigo Girls' concert. (Priorities are sometimes a family of two!)

Some weekends go like that--so chock full you don't know if you're coming or going! But we needed it because now we head back to Europe for a couple weeks. We needed a good dose of FAMILY before leaving! (Donica left today; I leave on Tuesday.)

Friday, September 09, 2005

Apology Accepted

COLIN POWELL: I've always liked the man and would actually vote for him to be President if the chance ever arose in the right situation. His resignation from his post as Secretary of State at W's second term was a sad day for many of us.

Tonight he'll be on Barbara Walters' 20/20, airing openly his disappointments and frustration on everything from the invasion of Iraq to the federal response to Hurricane Katrina. I hope I can see it or at least read the transcript.

"It was Powell who told the United Nations and the world that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and posed an imminent threat. He told Walters that he feels "terrible" about the claims he made in that now-infamous address -- assertions that later proved to be false.

When asked if he feels it has tarnished his reputation, he said, "Of course it will. It's a blot. I'm the one who presented it on behalf of the United States to the world, and [it] will always be a part of my record. It was painful. It's painful now."
Powell was able to admit he was wrong in spite of his loyalty to the president. He's glad Saddam's regime was toppled but acknowledged that he has seen no evidence of a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 terrorist attack. And while he questions some of the administration's post-invasion planning of Iraq, he says it's a difficult situation that we can't just walk away from. It has to be worked on and solved.

For me, it's just refreshing to hear someone of his stature admit he was wrong. How can you not accept his apology! (Now, if just others would follow suit!)

Holy Water

Remember the movie What the Bleep Do We Know? (3/16 post) and the photos of water crystals at the subway station?

Masaru Emoto, Ph.D., is the main proponent behind the possibility of human intention altering the way water freezes, as demonstrated in this crystal that was exposed to prayer. Water, he says, responds with beauty or ugliness by what you expose it to. Hold that thought.

Switch gears to a stable, superoxidized water called Microcyn that kills bacteria, viruses, and fungi without toxic effects on human cells. It's being used by doctors in Mexico on diabetic patients to heal longstanding, nonhealing ulcers, as well as peritonitis. In the USA it's only been approved thus far for topical use. But someday it may be as life-altering as penicillin.

Now, put these two thoughts together: the possibility of changing the structure of water (by our prayers and love) and developing it to kill pathogens on contact. Can you imagine doing this to the "sewaged" flood waters of New Orleans!

Granted, I'm not a chemist, doctor, or physicist. What do I know! But I suddenly want to see a miracle multiplied to the nth degree by such an incredible transformation from positive thought and energy. A gazillion such beautiful crystals to heal the New Orleans water!

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The Hundredth Monkey; the Millionth Circle

I first heard about The Hundredth Monkey in the '60s while a student at Michigan. It's a story about a few monkeys who started washing their sweet potatoes before eating them so that they wouldn't taste the dirt. Before long, monkeys everywhere were washing their sweet potatoes:

"Although the exact number may vary, this Hundredth Monkey Phenomenon means that when only a limited number of people know of a new way, it may remain the conscious property of these people. But there is a point at which if only one more person tunes in to a new awareness, a field is strengthened so that this awareness is picked up by almost everyone!"

Today the story is about The Millionth Circle and the hypothesis is that when a critical number of people change how they think and behave, a new era will begin:

"A proliferation of circles with a spiritual center becomes a worldwide healing force by bringing feminine values of relationship, nurturing, and interdependency into a global culture in which hierarchy, conflict and competition, power over others and exploitation of the earth's resources are dominant values."

There's a lot of reading these days about what coulda, woulda, shoulda happened differently in the New Orleans fiasco. Blame flying all around!

Enough already! Isn't it time for the hundredth person and the millionth circle to "tip the scales and shift planetary consciousness!"

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

Monday, September 05, 2005

Our Broken Levees

I'm guessing thousands of sermons around the world were preached yesterday about the Katrina hurricane and breached levees in New Orleans. I'm sure as many made reference to our own personal broken hearts whose levees often hold on only by a thread.

One of my own levees broke this holiday weekend over the news of an attempted suicide by someone I hold dear. It's not my own broken heart that needs repair but his as well and all who know him. Life just doesn't go on as normal after such a hurricane. In fact, new life can hardly be imagined following that kind of devastation.

Even now as I cry, will it take weeks, months, years before there are glimmers of hope? We know he/we will never be the same. Can we hope we will all be better?

Sunday, September 04, 2005

The Grand Finale

Did I believe it would ever happen? YES! I finished Amy's Townhouse yesterday, Day 11 of painting!

It was the one day where I needed assistance, namely with the extension ladder for the 2-story stretch at the stairway ceiling. The roller painting was done but not the cutting in. So Donica was the lady of the hour. She not only bought the ladder (which we needed anyway at our house!) but put it together. That included the leg extenders for the stairs. Tricky. Then every time I had to move, she was there to help re-situate the ladder (midst the other projects she was doing, like installing 3 dimmer switches). She's afraid of heights; I'm not. So thank God I'm the painter.

Once done, it was time for celebration! Amy pulled out the champagne, we toasted each other, and then ate the most magnificent meal she has cooked to date (from our prejudiced perspective). Amy is a gourmet cook and loves to use us as guinea pigs whenever she finds a new recipe she thinks we'll like. This one was pork tenderloin medallions with rice and snow peas...and a seasoning to die for. We were all in heaven on so many levels.

The nice thing about races or competions or series or projects is that there always comes the grand finale time. How can you NOT celebrate! How can you NOT raise your glass, look at everyone in the eyes and say "I love you!"

Friday, September 02, 2005

My Backpack, Your Suitcase

Years ago I heard something I have never forgotten: each one of us is expected to carry our own backpack but to help others carry their suitcases.

As the USA, "the country best prepared to deal with such a disaster," deals with the seemingly impossible task of "fixing" Louisiana's and Mississippi's ravaged coastline, attempting to carry its own backpack, here comes the UN to help carry our suitcase.

"The sheer size of this emergency makes it possible that we can supplement the American response with supplies from other countries, or with experience we have gained in other relief operations," U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said.

Not that we should be thankful for disasters (?) but so often we don't even think of anything but our own backpacks without them. God save us from ourselves! God help us carry the world's suitcase, one person/disaster at a time!

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Anti-Rape Device: She Says, He Says

If there were such a device as a women's condom that could actually "catch"a rapist in the act, would you be for it or against it?

In South Africa, 50,000 rapes are reported to the police every year. Multiply that by 4 for rapes of acquaintances or children that are never reported. Sonette Ehlers, 57, has invented a "rapex" device that a woman (or young girl!) can wear like a tampon. If/when penetrated by a rapist, tiny barbs hook onto the rapist's penis, allowing the victim time to escape and helping to identify perpetrators. Besides being terribly painful for the rapist (but not lethal), the only way he can detach the device is by going to the hospital for surgery. In the process, of course, he turns himself in.

Producton is set for next year but, in the meantime, it has raised fears amongst anti-rape activists that it could escalate violence against women:

"If a victim is wearing such a device it may enrage the attacker further and possibly result in more harm being caused," said Sam Waterhouse, advocacy coordinator for Rape Crisis.

Other critics say the condom is medieval and barbaric -- an accusation Ehlers says should be directed rather at the act of rape.

"This is not about vengeance...but the deed, that is what I hate," she said.

So, what do YOU say? Which is worse, inhibiting the rape act itself or the possibility that a deterrent will only cause more violence?