Tuesday, March 29, 2005

We're Here in Germany!

Yes, we made it it! A good flight to Paris and then to Hannover, Germany, on Saturday and Easter Sunday, without any glitches. By the time we unpacked Sunday afternoon, we had time to ride the tram to City Center and walk around a bit, pick up our month's tram passes, and basically get the lay of the land for me.

Yesterday was Easter Monday for probably most of Europe, so nothing much was open and Donica had a holiday from work. Still, we went galavanting again, trying to find a T-Mobile hotspot for our laptop, with no success. Our apartment internet connection is still kaput after myriad phone calls back-n-forth from Donica to the service center from her time here before. Ay caramba! Technology and Mercury Retrograde. The two just don't mix very well, I'm afraid.

In the meantime, I at least have access to an Internet Cafe here in City Center and will update this blog as I can. The day I can post photos of the apartment and whatever strikes my fancy is the day I'm up and running on the laptop. You'll hear my hallelujah all across the sea!

Till then, here's my hearty Guten Tag from this country that feels so much like home. I'm guessing I lived here in some past life....

Friday, March 25, 2005

Tomorrow to Germany!

It's almost here! And I can taste it....

Tomorrow is the start of our long flight to Hannover, Germany, most of which is through the night, which helps. Donica will be in business class through work while I'm in coach through retirement (I refused for her to spend the extra $$$!). After a stop in Paris, we arrive in Hannover on Easter Sunday at 2:25 p.m. For one week, we will be 7 hours ahead of EST, since Europe "springs ahead" a week before the USA. But come the following Sunday, April 3rd, we'll be the usual 6 hours ahead of Atlanta.

I hope you all know by now that life will go on as usual when it comes to communication, assuming there's no problem with technology. Trust me. I do it all the time with Donica while she's gone by herself. Our e-mail addresses will be the same and our international phone number is a "local" Atlanta number which I can give you if you want it. Just say the word.

I have created the last 3 posts here using the laptop we'll have with us, so I know the programs work after installing them. I think I've worked out the kinks and am looking forward to many wonderful journaling posts while I galavant around the city. We also have 11 days of Eurorail passes and plan to use weekends to see Berlin, Prague (Czech Republic), and somewhere in Austria and Switzerland, all of which I hope to write about. Hannover, as you see, is in the north-central part of Germany. Berlin is a few miles due east.

We'll have a quick Mother's Day week home from May 6-14 before another extended time in Hannover until June 3 or 10. Same place, same small apartment. BTW, Donica is strategic in getting the Hannover office of Solvay Pharmaceuticals up to speed with the USA site here in Atlanta. Thus her extended time there this year.

I'm the lucky one who gets to go along for the ride! But I also take seriously my role in helping de-stress Donica whenever possible. Housekeeping, grocery shopping, cooking, and knowing when to shut up when she needs silence. I think I'm pretty darn-tootin' lucky!

Lord willin' and the creek don't rise, my next post will be from Germany. Till then, auf wiedersehen!

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Enough Already!

I didn't think I'd succumb to a post about what I believe has come to be a travesty in the Terri Schiavo right-to-live/die case. I usually leave politics to those who can discuss the pros and cons better than I.

But I'm sorry. There's something not quite right with this picture. I'm not sure I get it apart from seeing it truly as a political ploy being used for something not really having much to do with Terri Schiavo at all. And the hypocrisy of it drives me batty! By now you probably know that Maureen Dowd is my favorite Op-Ed, and I guess it's because of her today that I'm willing to put my thoughts out there. She actually starts with "Oh my God, we really are in a theocracy."

"As the Bush White House desperately maneuvers in Iraq to prevent the new government from being run according to the dictates of religious fundamentalists, it desperately maneuvers here to pander to religious fundamentalists who want to dictate how the government should be run. Maybe President Bush should spend less time preaching about spreading democracy around the world and more time worrying about our deteriorating democracy."

"The president and his ideological partners don't believe in separation of powers. They just believe in their own power."

You know Maureen. She has a way of telling it like it is!

A CBS News poll yesterday found that 82 percent of the public was opposed to Congress and the president intervening in this case; 74 percent thought it was all about politics. Not that I always care about polls. But maybe we're saying there is a point at which this is not for the government to decide.

All I can say is I hope this motivates everyone to write their Living Will if they haven't done so already!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Reaching the Summitt

Kudos to Patricia Sue Head Summitt and all women everywhere who break records!

She did it! As coach of the Lady Vols at Tennessee, last night she won her 880th college basketball game, breaking North Carolina men's coach Dean Smith for the most victories in NCAA history. "The 52-year-old Summitt improved to 880-171 in 31 years at Tennessee, while Smith was 879-254 when he retired in 1997 after 36 years with the Tar Heels."

To top/'summitt' it off, last night, totally unbeknownst to her, "Tennessee unveiled the new name for its court. The hardwood at Thompson-Boling Arena will be called "The Summitt" in a fitting tribute to the coach who stands alone at the top of NCAA basketball."

Don't you love it! Even though my druthers are for the Michigan State women to get to the Final Four--heck, to the final two--I'll have to say that with this record for Pat, she deserves to win the tournament as well. (Sorry, Ruth--I'll still root for you getting to play against her!)

You go, Girl!

Monday, March 21, 2005

Size Matters

Now that I've got your attention!

Within the same week of seeing What the Bleep Do We Know, which blows the mind away (see 3/16 post), a new study in Nature on the X chromosome was published. Women, of course, have two X chromosomes while men have only one X and a Y. It used to be thought that the second X for women was "atrophied," for lack of a better word. Now it's discovered, however, that women may have more of the second X than originally thought.

Or as Maureen Dowd says in yesterday's Op-Ed, "The researchers learned that a whopping 15 percent - 200 to 300 - of the genes on the second X chromosome in women, thought to be submissive and inert, lolling about on an evolutionary Victorian fainting couch, are active, giving women a significant increase in gene expression over men"...."Women are genetically more complex than scientists ever imagined, while men remain the simple creatures they appear"...."Women are not only more different from men than we knew. Women are more different from each other than we knew...."

"Alas," said one of the authors of the study, the Duke University genome expert Huntington Willard, "genetically speaking, if you've met one man, you've met them all. We are, I hate to say it, predictable. You can't say that about women. Men and women are farther apart than we ever knew. It's not Mars or Venus. It's Mars or Venus, Pluto, Jupiter and who knows what other planets."

From the Nature article, "If we want to understand the cognitive 'X factor' that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, then it seems that the X chromosome is the place to start looking. In the meantime, [Harvard President] Summers and his acolytes can chew on this thought: even if there's any truth in the idea that men are more suited to a career in science than women, they just might owe this mental predisposition to the 'girly' chromosome."

The X chromosome was originally named X for 'unknown,' puzzling geneticists for centuries. Now that more is being discovered, and less is unknown, "the discovery about women's superior gene expression may answer the age-old question about why men have trouble expressing themselves: because their genes do."

Maureen Dowd's take on this is well worth the humorous read! She's the one who says size matters. And she's not talking about that.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

She's BAAAack!

Indeed! Donica is back home from Germany! Reunion for us all after a month's absence!

At Nicholas' soccer game yesterday, Donica and the Big Little Boy (BLB) hugged it out. Pictures worth more than a thousand words. Amy has said that apart from her and Daddy, Donica may be Nicholas' favorite person in the whole world. If so, she deserves that honor!

To top off the day, we got another sleep-over and the preparation for another trip away, this time with both of us, Donica and G'ma (moi), a week from now. How do you teach a child the abstract concept of time and that it will be another 1-1/2 months before we'll see him again?

No answer to that question, other than that it'll be several tomorrows. But I did show him the map of the world (another big abstract?) that hangs in his room here and where Atlanta is in relation to Germany, with all the ocean's water in between. He has some sense of the trip from Atlanta to Michigan and how long that trip is. Maybe he'll "get" more of it than we realize.

Anyway, we'll come back to these photos often, reminding us of the ties that bind.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Want Controversy?

As we enter Christianity's most Holy Week, this Last Supper ad by French fashion house Marithé and François Gribaud seemingly attacks our sensitivities and is being banned in such cities as Milan, the very city where Leonardo Da Vinci's original fresco exists. Roman Catholics especially are saying the poster does "great injury...because it represents the Last Supper in denigrating conditions." The fashion company says it is a tribute to women, inspired by Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code.

In less than a week we will commemorate Good Friday and, more specifically, the Last Supper Passover meal at which time Jesus says someone present will betray him. From there we will go into the Passion of the Christ, leading to his death and resurrection on Easter Sunday.

In other words, the setting of the Last Supper in Christianity's doctrine is of utmost severity and horror: Jesus predicts his imminent death by the betrayal of one of his own disciples sitting at table with him. His disciples' response is their incredulous, "Is it I?!?"

So, is this fashion ad a sacrilege? Is it a sacrilege to you?

For me, the sacrilege is only in the trivialization of a somber moment by focusing on the fashion statement of the disciples. What's next--a fashion ad of what Jesus could have been wearing while hanging on the cross?

Beyond that, I am not offended. Are you offended by the fact that Jesus is protrayed as a woman? And likewise the disciples? Could God's "only son/child" have been a daughter and how would it have changed history? Would we be living in a matriarchal world with men as second-class citizens? Does God care about the gender of Jesus' disciples? Is gender the point?

The male model in this ad is a take-off, of course, from Dan Brown's interpretation that the person to Jesus' right in the Da Vinci painting is a woman, namely Mary Magdalene. Even that does not offend me. And if Jesus actually married the woman and had children with her, does that change the basis of Christianity?

Are conceptions that don't fit our own beliefs, viewed by us as offensive, akin to intolerance? And to ban such an offense akin to censorship? Where do we draw the line?

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Top O' the Mornin' To You

(And Happy 22nd Birthday, Silke!)!

I chose several fabulous photos to post today but this is the only one that took! (sigh) Mercury is in the process of going retrograde, which means computer, editing, printing, and communication problems abound. Just make sure you save everything! And if I can figure out the photo-editing problem, I'll fix it before the day is through.

In the meantime, here's the Irish blessing I've chosen for this St. Patrick's Day:

I could have wealth beyond my dreams,
But where is the joy in that?
And I could travel the seven seas,
But I would always come back.
Everyone could know my name,
And there would be no peace.
I could have undying love,
And heartaches still increase.
No, if I were wealthy beyond my dreams
(And where is the joy in that?)
It wouldn't buy friendship such as yours --
And there IS joy in that!

"As you slide down the banister of life, may the splinters never point in the wrong direction."

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

What the Bleep Do We Know!?

Since first reading about this movie in our AJC newspaper back on 12/11/04, I knew I wanted to see it. Yesterday it came out, and I jumped at renting it (leisure-lady that I am).

What is reality? Why are we here? What is our relation to God? And like Alice in Wonderland, how far down the rabbit hole do we want to go?

The inspiration for this film came from a number of different directions, the first being "the continual convergence of the two great modes of human inquiry – science and spirit. Quantum physics, neurology and molecular biology seem to be saying things that are in agreement with what mystics have been saying for centuries. Furthermore science as a language of the spirit seems to cut across old beliefs and superstitions and present ideas, in a way that encourages people to examine for themselves and make their own decisions."

"What the Bleep Do We Know? says that science and spirituality are not different modes of thought, but are in fact describing the same thing. And it brings the power back to the individual man and woman as it demonstrates creation as the god-like capacity of every individual."

There are so many "quotable quotes" in this movie! I wish I could quote them all. Maybe the best one for me was "the real trick to life is not to be in the know but in the mystery." It follows what I've been reading in Thomas Moore's The Soul's Religion.

Don't get me wrong. I don't have much of a clue at all about quantum physics or mechanics (let alone science!), but I know it's pretty big stuff for the brain. To have it connected to Spirit as though they are mutually inclusive, if not one and the same, is mind-boggling. As one of the scientists said, "quantum physics is the only thing that allows the Kingdom of God to fit into a mustard seed!"

The physics of possibilities; our inter-connectedness to the universe; our intention to be creators--where is there a small study group when I need it! I could talk about this for hours....

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

TB or Not TB

Yesterday's news reminded me that the three big killer epidemics in today's world--AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria--together cause about six million deaths a year. Not a laughing matter! For the two years I worked in assisted living, I was most aware of Tuberculosis (TB) and the need for screening all employees and residents alike before acceptance into our community. These diseases are so highly contagious. Let me repeat: they are not a laughing matter.

Having said that, laugh with me about a memory that comes from high school days. I don't remember why this lady from Lansing came to see my pastor dad, but when she came, she always brought her blind daughter, Faith, with her, who was about my age. Somehow we latched on to each other, perhaps out of my curiosity to learn braille. I even bought a metal slate and stylus, along with the proper paper stock, to start practicing the punched-dot "language," while Faith helped me learn the shorthand for -ing, -tion, etc. What I most remember about Faith, however, is this ditty she taught me that just stuck:

TB or not TB.
That is the congestion.
Consumption be done about it?
Of cough, of cough,
But it takes a lung, lung time.

Can't you just hear Val Kilmer, as Doc Holiday in the Tombstone movie, say to that, "I'll be your Huckleberry!"

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Braggin' Rights

Yesterday it was my nephew; today it's my grandson! In a matter of time, I'll be bragging about everyone I know. I think it comes with growing older...the "rights" of passage.

So here's Nicholas, at 4-1/2, starting his second season of soccer. "Soccer" is somewhat loosely spoken: no goalies, no score. We're lucky if anyone remembers to go after the ball in the right direction, with coaches and parents on the sidelines constantly yelling, "Nicholas, look at the ball;" or "No, Graham, go the other way!" What a hoot.

Last fall, when Nicholas got his first taste of soccer, he was giddy with the excitement of his own ball, shoes, shin guards and team shirt with the number 6. He knew the game was about running around after a ball and kicking it into the goal but clearly had no clue about anything else. Most of the time he ran behind the pack, watching the shoes of those in front of him to give him direction of where to go. If the ball happened to pass his line of vision, it surprised him more than anyone. And if his reflexes connected quickly enough, he might even sometimes get a foot on it.
This year, with new shirts exactly like last year's, Nicholas chose the number 6 again. At the beginning of the game, it even looked like he had actually "gotten it," often at the front of the pack and obviously following the ball. Wow, we all said to each other. What a difference a few months make! But alas, within a few minutes, he was reverting back to the old patterns.

But, that was encouraging, yes!?! A tiny taste of things to come. He'll eventually get it and we'll think back on these days and laugh.

Guess who Nicholas called at the beginning of the game! Indeed, Donica (in Germany) doesn't miss much, thanks to all our modern conveniences.

The team coach is great. So patient and getting a kick outta everything as much as the rest of us...and yet still taking it seriously. Same coach as last year, through the YMCA. Nice.

Nicholas' dad, Nick (pictured here), Mommy, of course, as well as Papa Nick, and sometimes G'pa and G'ma Tiffan, Donica and myself--it's a tribe of us by the time we're all there. This kid is definitely loved and "spoiled" in all the right ways.

It does indeed take a village to raise a child, no doubt about it!

Westrin & Mowry

Time for some big-time bragging!

Last night, Westrin & Mowry (aka Brian and Pete) were back at Eddie's Attic here in Atlanta, maybe the 7th or 8th time now in over a year. Driving down from Michigan State is quite the trip for getting their name and music out, but it's definitely working because, by now, they have a nice following here in our neck of the woods.

Here's where the bragging starts. Pete Mowry is my nephew, the son of my sister, Ruth and Don, from Michigan. It's a long story about how he became the lead guitar for Brian's singing, which you can read for yourself at their site under The Band link. But trust me. He's good; they're good. I know I'm prejudiced but they really are good!

Part of the fun when they come south is to whoop it up as their biggest fan club. My daughter Amy, Pete's cousin, invariably gets a group of her own friends to join the camaraderie. And while the nights don't usually start until it's my bedtime, this old-timer whoops it up with the best of them. I love it. (And yes, that's Brian.)

Last night Pete and Brian opened for Matthew Kahler, who sings like James Taylor (who turned 57 today, I noticed--trivia!). After their 6 or 7 songs in the limelight, it was Matthew's turn. He was so obviously blown away by Pete's electric-guitar playing that he invited Pete to accompany him, along with his bass guitarist, for maybe 80% of his songs. It was unbelievable in 2 ways: Pete, who knew none of the songs, immediately found his groove and soared. It was written all over his body that he was in total ecstacy. And secondly, the audience shared the utter electricity of the moment. You had to be there! I found out from Ruth when I called her today that what happened has been a dream of Pete's for some time now. He was clearly in his element! In Soul!

The only sadness of the evening was that Donica, in Germany, couldn't be here to share the joy. Actually, I did beam up one of the songs to her voicemail via my phone (while she slept, 6 hours ahead), so she at least got a taste.

Please have a listen, if you've not heard them yet. You've Got It All may be my favorite, on their One Week Epiphany CD. Supposedly they have songs ready for their second CD, hopefully out this Fall. We can hardly wait!

Talk about proud cousins! Talk about this proud aunt!

Friday, March 11, 2005

Networking Serendipity

Ever since I started this blog on 1/23/05, it bothered the heck outta me that I couldn't manipulate the text to align to the right or left of my images. Blogspot would let me align my images left, right or center, kinda like a Word document, but not the text, or so I thought.

One day Serendipity happened, in the form and shape of a homeless man named Kevin Barbieux. This is how the story unfolds:

My nephew, Nate, has his own Spera In Deo blog that I visit every day. One day, 2/23/05 to be exact (the day after I was fired! Ever notice how significant mileposts always seem to have pre or post meanings? But I digress...), he had a post on Homeless Blogs with this photo of Kevin.
Lo and behold, Kevin himself has 2 of his own blogs, one of which is on knitting, of all things, and which, coincidentally, uses the same template as mine here at In Soul (Rats! I see he has changed it!). As I glanced through his blog, I was so excited to see that, YES, text can indeed be manipulated in this template. So I e-mailed him and asked him how he did it. Was it an HTML thing?

Yes, it's an HTML thing and in a response back, he essentially told me how to do it. It didn't make a lot of sense until I started playing around with it last weekend before I went on My Roots Trip. Besides of which, I had started a self-taught course I found on the internet, which helped.

So, did anyone notice!?! My last 4 posts about My Roots Trip are totally manipulated around the photos. HA. I bet you didn't even notice (except you, Silke, but that's not fair since I had already told you). Small joys can be so powerful. So serendipitous.

Kinda gives networking a whole new meaning!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

ROOTS 4: Auntie Sue, Bridgewater, VA

It was a mere 57 miles northwest from Charlottesville to Bridgewater, VA, where I spent 4 hours with Auntie Sue at the Bridgewater Retirement Community in their assisted-living unit.

Her brother, James (my uncle), born in 1906, also lived there and passed away a couple years before Dad. Sue/Susan was born in 1910 and will turn 95 on 6/28/05 (Bennett's birthday, may he rest in peace--oh my, he'd be 57 this year!). Dad (Carl Clarence) was born in 1917 and was only 78 when he died in 1995, so Auntie Sue is outliving them all. Those tough Hart women!

How does one describe her! I'm guessing she's best known for her dry wit. In years past, she'd have us all rolling on the floor, especially with her dead-pan southern drawl. When you mix the drawl with the wit, you've got something you can't beat.

The wit was but a wisp this time. I most noticed her forgetfulness but not really in an Alzheimer's way. Sometimes she remembered I was Boots but couldn't remember my real name. She told everyone I was her niece, which worked out just fine. But she'd first start with, "You'll have to forgive me but I can't for the life of me remember your name!" She said that to every resident who passed by. They'd chuckle (like this happened all the time) and tell her.

She couldn't remember that Nelson was the first of us 8 kids; she had no idea her brother James had already passed away; and did I have any children? etc. She spends most of her time reading, and I wondered if she remembers any of it...perhaps in the moment, which may be enough.

On the way to supper, she suddenly stopped (with her walker) and exclaimed, "Oh no! I believe I'm losing my bloomers!" She then asked if I would pull them up for her. Now that's a memory I'll definitely have and hold forever!

So there you have it. The wee saga of finding my roots in a 2-1/2 day trip. The farthest point north was Bridgewater, VA, 709 miles from home, the long way to Auntie Sue. Coming home without sight-seeing stops was an easy 514 miles, more or less as the crow flies.

Now, after the recording of the events, I'll sit back and cogitate it all. I did see lots of cows all over the place, Nicholas, and thought of you. So yes, now I'll just chew the cud.

ROOTS 3: Charlottesville, VA

From Lynchburg, VA, on Tuesday morning, after visiting the Baptist Hospital where I was born, I drove the 72 miles north to Charlottesville, VA, home of the University of Virginia Cavaliers, Wahoos and Hoos. My first stop, right next to where I parked, was the University Bookstore where I stocked up on the memorabilia we always collect. I pulled a Donica and purchased the store (ha)! She'll be so proud of me.

My dad attended the University of Virginia for 2 years, I understand, but was unable to finish because of his mom needing him back home. Dad's father (Thomas) was 70 when Dad was born and died 9 years later. Dad's mother, Elizabeth, never remarried. The one time I remember her, when I was around 10, she was already in her 80's. With 3 children, James, Susan and Carl (my dad), I'm sure it was a struggle to manage and make ends meet.

The University of Virginia's photo op is the Rotunda. Even on a cloudy day it's impressive.

The university colors are orange and blue and the mascot is the Cavalier: "A military man serving on horseback; a knight. A gay, sprightly, military man; hence, a gallant. Gay; easy; offhand; frank. High-spirited. Supercilious; haughty; disdainful; curt; brusque." Okay, so that's a definition from a different era, obviously, but I'm guessing it pretty much fits. All Nicholas will care about is the crossed swords on his orange T-shirt, which I'm guessing he'll want to wear often.

The other 2 nicknames, Wahoos, and the shortened version, Hoos, are of unknown origin but have been incorporated in the school song as "Wah-hoo-wah." Ah yes. The traditions of our great schools! So fun to get to know.

Nelson told me to eat at The Virginian restaurant on University Ave, established in 1923 and across from the Rotunda on the corner. So I did. As I sat in my booth, eating a Rueben sandwich (my maternal step-grandfather's name!), I tried to see everything through my dad's eyes. Did he ever sit in this booth?

Hmmmm. And did he ever whoop out the "Wah-hoo-wah" cry at a football game? Now that he's gone, I suddenly have hundreds of questions.

Where are you, Dad, when I need you!

ROOTS 2: Lynchburg, VA

From Hartsville, SC, I drove 259 miles north to Lynchburg, VA, where I was born at the Virginia Baptist Hospital on June 13, 1945. I had no memories whatsoever of Lynchburg because, first of all, I was only born there (my parents lived out in the hicks somewhere else where Dad was pastor of a country church) and we moved from VA to MI when I was one.

I arrived late afternoon on Monday, the same sunny, warm day as in Hartsville, and had warm, fuzzy feelings about the city as I drove through. It wasn't until the next day that I actually drove to the hospital on a freezing cold, blustery, rainy day. Funny how weather can change like that. But it didn't keep me from walking the halls of the hospital and checking out Medical Records to make sure I really was born there and not at Lynchburg General Hospital. The short of it is that I won't know for sure till they call me back, but for now, I assume my memory serves me well. Don't you love that southern architecture!

Truly, I was very excited to see where I was born, don't get me wrong. But the biggest, "funest" part of my roots in Lynchburg was to finally meet Mel White and his partner of 24 years, Gary Nixon, and to spend the night with them in their fabulous home. Gay guys! When it comes to interior decorating and food, you can't beat them. And this was definitely no exception. Mel would be the first to tell you that he himself is not the cook or decorator. So we'll lavish all the praise on Gary. Oh my! It would take me pages to even get started. But the bottom line is this: Gary's soulfulness is clearly seen in and outside their home, including the incredible life-sized bronzes in their yard of 2 deer in the woods, a man reading a book on a bench, and a boy pushing a girl on a swing. (You know I have this thing for bronzes!)

Mel's soul is literally in his work, as the founder (along with Gary who keeps the books and organizes everything!) of SoulForce, a ministry of "freedom for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people from religious and political oppression through the practice of relentless nonviolent resistance," using the principles of Ghandi and Martin Luther King, Jr. It's a ministry I have supported for several years now.

So you can imagine my delight when I received a generous invite to spend the night with them instead of at some nearby hotel. I had e-mailed them that I would be in town and wanted to meet them. Pinch me.

But I get ahead of myself. My personal "roots" with Mel go back to high school when I was in Youth for Christ. We'd have these big rallies in Lansing with kids from all over central Michigan. Big speakers, programs, Bible quizzes, roller skating, a trip to Washington, D.C.--and Mel White! Those are my memories. Mel was the producer of films (53 prize-winning motion picture and TV documentaries) about such things as the blind musician, Ken Medema (who often visited my dad's church and our home), and the Jim Jones' cult disaster in Guyana. He also knew Cam Floria, the musician who with his singing group, the Spurrlows (now The Continentals), recorded my mom's Christmas cantata, A Star Is Born, back in the 60's. Since 1972, he has also written 16 books, 9 of them best-sellers.

Years later, while Bill and I lived in Pasadena when our kids were young, we were members of Pasadena Covenant Church, next door to Fuller Seminary, where Mel White was the pastor just before we arrived. We reaped the benefits of the many innovative programs he started, including the integration of art and music in worship.

Then, horror of horrors, he came out! That story is written in Stranger At the Gate, which I had read with great interest since he and I both had been in long-term marriages with 2 kids and had been in ministry.

So, being with Mel and Gary in Lynchburg, where I was born, was very much a home-coming of sorts for me. Very much a connection to my own personal Roots! And I can tell you this, they did not leave me a stranger at their gate!

ROOTS 1: Hartsville, SC

There and back again, all 1223 miles of my roots-finding journey! To make this easier to handle, I'm doing a separate post of each segment of the trip.

I started with Hartsville, SC (320 miles from home), named after 2 of my Hart relatives. First is Captain Thomas Edwards Hart, my great-great grandfather (1794-1842), who came from nearby Society Hill, SC, to build a farming plantation along with a general store, school and post office. He also served as the neighborhood doctor, justice of the peace and captain of a local militia company (thus the "Captain"). He "had a very genial, loveable disposition and soon gained the love and confidence of the people, and in this way wielded an influence that is felt to this day." I found this out at the Genealogical Research Library in the old train station.

The Hart House he built in 1817 now stands in Kalmia Gardens of Coker College outside of downtown Hartsville and is on the Nat'l Register of Historic Places. What a thrill to walk through the house and see the original wood floors, the fireplace mantels he carved by hand, and the oil paintings of him and his wife, Hannah. This is my history. My people! My land! (And also my photos! :) The day was spectacularly sunny and warm, in the mid-60's.

Captain Thomas married Hannah Lide in 1815 and had 8 children (just as did my own father!). Their 3rd child, John Lide Hart (1825-1864), my great uncle, purchased 400 acres of land in what is now downtown Hartsville. His Hart Cottage, also on the Nat'l Register of Historic Places, is the only remaining structure from his plantation. He essentially cleared the land where the town is now built. He died as a soldier in our American Civil War.

Another son of Captain Thomas was James Arthur Hart, my great-grandfather, who married Caroline Linton. Their son, Rev. Thomas W. Hart, was my grandfather. This Thomas was 70 when my dad was born in 1917, so it's not a stretch to see how it was possible for him to serve in the same Civil War as his uncle (John) as a water boy around age 14. Yes, my grandfather served in the American Civil War! (But becoming a father at 70 may be the greater miracle?!)

Alright then! This particular branch of my Family Tree looks like this (9 generations):
  • Arthur Hart and Elizabeth Irby (emigrated from England in 1766; he died in 1777)
  • James Hart and Sarah Edwards (1769-1805; 1774-1849)
  • Capt Thomas E. Hart and Hannah Lide (1794-1842; 1796-1875)
  • James Arthur Hart and Caroline Linton (1821-1847; -1847)
  • Rev. Thomas W. Hart and Elizabeth Hodges (????)
  • Carl Clarence Hart and Barbara Bennett (my dad and mom! 1917-1995; 1916-1997)
  • Virginia Louise Hart and Bill Tiffan (moi, 1945-; 1946-)
  • Amy Tiffan Grannan Tiffan and Nick Grannan (my daughter, 1972-; 1969-)
  • Nicholas Joseph Grannan (my grandson, 2000-)

I clearly have some more dates to round up but this is a start. My niece, Shari, has done considerable research from Hannah Lide's line (Captain Thomas' wife), going all the way back to Longshanks and William the Conquerer. Gotta get royalty in there somehow, of course!

One last tidbit: in 1996 (the year the Summer Olympic Games were in Atlanta!) Hartsville was named "All-American City." This honor is given to 10 municipalities in the USA each year and is the nation's most prestigious and most coveted civic award. That's royalty enough for me!

Monday, March 07, 2005

Off To See the Wizzard

For the next three days, Monday-Wednesday, I'm off to find my Roots: first to Hartsville, SC, (east of Columbia off of I-20), the city founded by my great-great grandfather; then to Lynchburg, VA, where I was born in 1945; on to the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, VA, where Dad attended; and finally, to Bridgewater, VA, (south of Harrisburg), to see Auntie Sue, my dad's sister and only living relative from the generation before me.

When I come back, I'll tell you what I found!

Follow the yellow brick road; follow the yellow brick road!

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Live From Central Station

Once again, real live pics from off of Donica's cell phone...this very day in Barcelona!

Always the ubiquitous mime, as seemingly elsewhere in Europe--this time Angels in Spain, I see, not just in America! When Nicholas (here for another sleep-over!) saw the sailboats, he said, "Is that California, G'ma?!" What a memory from last Labor Day!

And to show that Barcelona isn't all Guadi (a la my last post), here are some more modern shots. The structure on the left is of woven copper (click on it for a close-up), sitting on top of a casino, Donica says. The other is a sculpture down by the waterfront.

Ah yes, Viva la tecnología!

Friday, March 04, 2005

Barcelona Es Una Ciudad

As I've previously said, Donica is in Barcelona this weekend. Talk about memories! Memories that started back in Grand Ledge High School (Michigan) in 1960 when in Spanish class we sang the ditty, "Barcelona es una ciuduad, es una ciudad de Espana:" Barcelona is a city, a city of Spain (northeast on the Balearic Sea coast).

Little did I know then that in October of 2002, Donica and I would have a long weekend in Barcelona before one of her business trips there. One thing stands out from that visit: the art and architecture of Antoni Gaudi, born in 1852. While his work can be seen throughout the city, La Sagrada Familia temple/cathedral and Park Guell are the standouts.

La Sagrada Famila, begun in 1882, is his most famous work and has been under on-again, off-again construction after he was killed by a streetcar in 1926 at age 74. And yes, we climbed one of the 12 bell towers representing the apostles, along a narrow, spiral staircase, and snapped great pictures of the city! Park Guell, built between 1901-1914, is a totally different feel but every bit as breath-taking: so "colorful and playful." It amazes me that for how incredible his work is, I had never heard of him before. Barcelona is worth the visit for him alone.

La Rambla boulevard with its flower stalls, artists and mime, Tablao Cordobes flamenco dance, the Columbus monument at the waterfront... Oh my! The memories start to flood over me. Definitely one of the cities of Europe to visit!

See it for us all, Donica...again.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

My Little Chickadee

Of all the birds, I'm guessing this is my favorite, not only because it's so tiny and "constantly active" (ha) but because it has so many terms of endearment. Bill used to call me "My Little Chickadee" frequently while we were married. Often with Donica I'll ask, "You okay, Miss Chickadee?"

Speaking of the Dutch (last post), I loved this article today on a team of Dutch scientists testing a European relative of the black-capped chickadee and finding that "some birds are shy and others are bold, broad personality differences that have a genetic foundation. This finding doesn't erode the basic differences between Homo sapiens and Poecile atricapillus (the black-capped chickadee). But it substantially enlarges the similarities."

The article goes on to say that "Humans do not like to think of themselves as animals. Nor do they like to think that their behavior may have genetic or evolutionary roots. But the richer perspective - morally and intellectually - lies in examining and coming to terms with the kinship of all life. There's a certain tragic isolation in believing that humans stand apart in every way from the creatures that surround them, that the rest of creation was shaped exclusively for our use. The real fruit of that perspective is, in fact, tragic isolation on an earth that has been eroded by our moral assumptions. Science has something much wiser to tell us about who we are. So do the birds around us." (emphasis mine)

I like that! Sounds so Native-American.

BTW, some of my posts are long, drawn-out, thought-through-the-night affairs (even if you can't tell!). Others, like this one, come in the blink of an eye when I see something that grabs me. Sometimes I hesitate with the latter, as though it weren't as real or valid, but today's Cainer for Gemini said: "Spontaneity is an expression of creativity. Creativity, in turn, is an expression of intuition."

I like that, too!

Will Wonders Never Cease!

Yesterday Donica flew from Hannover, Germany, to Amsterdam to spend critical work time with her Dutch co-workers. On Friday she'll fly from there to Barcelona, Spain, for quick business and then fun till Sunday, before flying back to Hannover. (Don't even get me started on Barcelona, one of our world's most fabulous cities!)

Tonight, on her way back to the hotel (six hours ahead of us here in Atlanta), she took these 3 pictures of the Amsterdam snow via her cell phone and sent them home to me.

I don't know what blows me away more: taking photos on a cell phone or getting them to me just minutes later, all these countries away, and my being able to post them here!

I'm a kid again. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.