Thursday, December 30, 2010

One track mind

I found great excerpts of the December anti-war action on YouTube.

Mike Prysner (a Winter Soldier Conference participant) was electrifying:

Chris Hedges' address:

Daniel Ellsberg:

A great summary from The Real News:

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Stop These Wars

Well, I'll never make it as a real-time, on-the-spot blogger or tweeter!  Here are some photos I took at Thursday's rally:

Here's Chris Hedges.  "We cannot rely on any systems of power, including the pillars of the liberal establishment—the press, liberal religious institutions, universities, labor, culture and the Democratic Party. They have been weakened to the point of anemia or work directly for the corporations that dominate our existence. We can rely now on only ourselves, on each other."

As you can see, snow was falling on Daniel Ellsberg and the rest of us.

The rally was led by veterans who know from first-hand experience that "just war" criteria are just excuses for war.

 This vet steadfastly opposes torture...

Protesters, each adopting the name of an Afghan or Iraqi civilian who has perished.

All proceeded in silence, except for the stark beat of  hand drums.

Here's how things looked from across the street from the White House.

Mounted police.
Police were careful to separate those chaining themselves to the White House fence from those of us bearing witness to their act of civil disobedience.  We were made to stand across the street at the edge of Lafayette Square Park. Three mounted policeman faced a sort of central passageway, created by barricades, reserved for officers arresting the protesters.  Another group of mounted police were on the other side of this barricade, facing us. Those doing civil disobedience were arrested slowly, by one of three officers who handcuffed them, led  to a space under a red canopy where they were ID'd (I guess) and then taken to one of two buses. All proceeded peacefully. Those at the White House fence chanted and we responded. According to the report at Stop These Wars, a total of 131 persons were arrested.

More photos, taken with more sophisticated equipment than mine, and another account.

For me, it was a vacation day put to good use.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Some photos from Bob's Antarctic adventure

My husband just returned from his dream trip to the Antarctic. Here are just a few photos.
Read his reflections here.


tour ship, the Ocean Nova

zodiac expedition boat

group photo

penguin trail

Hey, guys, wait for me!

This is the life!

Gift shop window, Port Lockroy

happy feet

Hello, world!


Thursday, November 25, 2010

Morning on the beach

a memory of a September weekend...

I’d forgotten the sound of the ocean
forgotten its voice
the roar of a natural engine
the swish of white billows
lace curtains in the breeze

I’d forgotten the natural pungence of salt air
smelling salts reviving my swooning spirit
I’d forgotten the motion of the waves
its life force reanimating me

Running barefoot along the wet sand
flying an imaginary kite
tethered only to my reawakened dreams
I feel something soar inside me again

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


A bit of flour
baking powder
some milk, oil
a few spoonfuls of yogurt
throw in blueberries
or on special occasions
chocolate chips
mix well
pop into the oven

Before I can sweep up
the stray flour dust
and wipe the counter
take shape

Pretty silly
  but I'm always amazed

Watching the little
muffin monsters devour them
after First Day school
I wonder
which is the more miraculous:
that sweet,
in the oven
turns into tempting treats
or that the beating
of a human heart
plunged into worshipful silence
becomes the still, small Voice?

And whose delight is greater:
the muffin monsters’
or mine
experiencing the Presence?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Punctilious by day, Zumbaesque by night

1.  Which of the following journal article citations is in correct APA 6th format?

2.  Identify the punctuation error(s) in this citation formatted according to APA 6th style:

Ball, J., & Bindler, R. M. (2008). Pediatric nursing: caring for children. 4th ed. Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson/Prentice Hall.

   3.  If you really care about the above two questions, are you

        a.  a first-year student enrolled in the College of Nursing at the university where I work      
        b.  a spy from the American Psychological Association's committee on style
        c.  a punctilious instruction librarian

   I answer "c" to question #3, and yes, I spent a good part of today initiating unsuspecting first-year nursing students into the miseries --uh, make that mysteries-- of the irrational documentation style codified in the Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association, 6th edition. It is the documentation style adopted by the College of Nursing, and the students are required to follow it religiously when creating bibliographies for their papers. APA style also governs such earth-shattering matters as in-text citations, title pages, margins, running heads, even pagination.

As you can well imagine, the course faculty have more important things to teach future nurses, things like pharmacology and how to take a patient's vital signs, and do not have time to spend drilling such mindless minutiae into their heads.

That's my job.

Italics, capitalization, the proper placement of periods, commas, and parentheses, as well as the groundbreaking replacement of the Latin abbreviation et al., which has served scholars so well all these many years, by an ellipsis (...) + last named author for citations with 8 or more authors.

I know, gentle reader. All this excitement is too much for you.

OK, in all fairness, I do get to spend a significant chunk of time teaching database searching and a few other things that actually require some reflection and skill. And I tell the students about the cool software available free from the library to make their task easier. Still, all that punctiliousness can leave one rather numb by the end of the day and longing for something just a bit more engaging ... even passionate.

Thank God for zumba!!  I couldn't wait to put on my (uncoordinated) exercise outfit, lace up my Huaraches, and come alive again.
Two warm-up songs, 4 high-impact/cardio songs (salsa, Latin hip-hop, and a lot of plain ol' jumping around), 1 cool down (an Indian selection: "belly dancing zumba style," as the instructor calls it), and a final song to stretch to (tonight it was J. Lo's "Cariño").

The class was particularly well attended this evening -- at least 20 zumba enthusiasts. Our instructor Mary Anne has strung lights around the perimeter of the giant mirror that spans the wall in front of us.  She turns off the ceiling lights, turns on the string lights and a rotating color wheel. "Zumba's a party!" she says.

When Mary Anne does zumba, she looks like she's dancing. Me, I look like I'm exercising. Sort of. But I don't care. I just keep my eyes on her and imitate her moves. (Sure wish I could shake my derrière like she does!) For an hour I feel like I'm dancing. I imagine I have rhythm, coordination, even attitude. Only the music matters. By the second cardio number I've worked up a good sweat. Shedding those commas and ellipses, I'm trampling them underfoot. I don't care what this is doing to my knees, it feels sooooo good!

The final stretch is the icing on the cake.  I take another drink of ice water and towel myself off a bit before heading out to the car.

I feel human again.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Something I recently put together in my writing course (which I've decided I'm going to continue for another 5 weeks)
Eyes Wide Open

In perfect formation
  peaceful and still
two hundred boots
  aligned on a hill

In ten neat rows
  in each ten pairs
pungent leather
  in autumn’s damp air

weather beaten
  scuffed and brown
now empty soles
  without a sound

tell of Esteban
  or John or Lee
shot or dispatched
  by an IED

identical but for a tag
  and a name
their dreams too
  were much the same

one boot holds a news clip
  another a rose
in this one a photo
  a happy pose

before shipping out
  with his duffle bag
thence to return
  draped in the flag

And I softly pacing
  from pair to pair
read each precious name
  and whisper a prayer

Friday, October 1, 2010

Online/Offline Writing

I've been taking an online writing course through the Elizabeth Ayers Writing Center, and I can't recommend it enough.

The very first time my family and I vacationed at Ghost Ranch, NM, I took a week-long writing seminar taught by Elizabeth. She has developed all sorts of exercises to get your creative juices going and to make writing fun. The eight other participants and I would wrote and read our pieces to each other, giving one another positive feedback.  I really enjoyed it.  And I'm enjoying the online version too.  Elizabeth is there, as well as the other participants , even though they're physically located in such far spread places as Connecticut, Washington, D.C., Seattle, and Alberta, Canada!  We all read one another's assignments and respond to them.

   Here's something I wrote for one of the exercises.  We started by listing various sounds, colors, and other elements (there's more to it than that ...but you need to take the course:-) ) and then we put them altogether.

I saw him squatting by the river, splashing his hands in the water, almost playfully. Almost…if it weren’t for those large, forlorn eyes dominating the emaciated face. Sizing him up, I figured he was about 7 years old. Later I found out that he was almost 12, just extremely small for his age due to malnutrition.

“What’s your name? “I asked him. “Vidu,” he said, and as he stood up a homemade toy dropped out of his shirt and fell to the ground making a rattling sound.

  He looked at me expectantly, although he didn’t hold out his hand. In retrospect, I’m amazed that he still had faith left in any adults who approached him,considering how little they’d cared about him (and about Lakshmi, the crippled little sister he cared for as best he could). Seven years old, I thought, the age when I made my first Communion. Me in a white lacy dress, him in a whitish rag that just about covered him where he needed it most. His brown baby face and eager eyes transported me back in memory to my kitchen, where I used to whip up batches of mini chocolate chip-banana muffins for my kids. How I wished I had a half-dozen to give him. I’d love to see his eyes light up as he tasted them. I laughed to myself, remembering how disappointed I was when I tasted the host for the first time. Panem de coelo praestitisti eis, we used to chant in Latin. “You gave them Bread from Heaven filled with all sweetness and delight.” Well, to me it tasted like a piece of white cardboard.

What did I think I was accomplishing here, anyway? I’d journeyed from an Italian-American neighborhood in Chicago to a teeming village in Delhi, recruited by a transnational conglomerate to teach English to a bunch of teenagers… so they could get accepted into the Indian equivalent of a trade school and get a job where they would make the Indian equivalent of 25 cents an hour. Why on earth they were respectful of this know-it-all foreigner was beyond me.


Writing with Elizabeth is fun!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Bye-bye, Bloglines, owner of Bloglines, has announced that the aggregator will close on October 1. I know that I'll sure miss it. I've been subscribing to my favorite blogs through Bloglines over the past few years.  My blogroll is arranged not alphabetically, but sort of chunked by broad topic: news, politics, Quakerism, anti-torture groups, librarian groups.

Bloglines has kindly provided a way to export my blog list to another aggregator, which will probably be an RSS reader in Firefox. Nothing will be lost, I'm sure, and the export process will give me the opportunity to review my blog roll and maybe eliminate those that I don't read too often.

But I'll still miss you, Bloglines.  Thanks for the years of service!

Update 10/1/2010 -  Bloglines is still online for another month.  Will officially close Nov. 1.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Prayer for 9.11

I recently connected with a group of French Unitarians online.  How I came to know about them is too long a story...but I enjoy reading their newsletter and participating in their forum. And they seem to like having an English-speaking Quaker hanging around :-) There was a request for an English translation of a prayer, and I did my best to rise to the occasion. It occurred to me that, on may levels, it's a very appropriate prayer for today:

Breath of Life, in spite of us,
Breath of Life that believers call God,
Breath of freedom and forgiveness,
You give us life and sustain us in our life’s struggles;
You give meaning to our existence;
You make it possible for us to live and pray together, in spite of our differences and singularities;
We thank You, Breath of freedom and forgiveness, for in You and through You respect and love can exist, always in spite of us;
In You and through You always, in spite of us, we have the power to dream and to work for a new world, a world of freedom, love and forgiveness.

Translated from the French text written by

Paulo Renato Garrochinho and the group of Liberal Christians and Unitarians of Portugal, and presented by the  l'Eglise unitarienne francophone (EUfr)

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

In other words, walk a mile in their shoes...

 Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible.  To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.  I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1Cor 9:19-23)

 The above passage from St. Paul's first Letter to the Corinthians came to mind when I heard  Pastor Terry Jones' plan to hold International Burn a Koran Day on 9/11. Paul, who dedicated his life to spreading the word about Jesus, not only refrained from insulting others' beliefs but put himself in their place, walked in their shoes, became one of them, "for the sake of the Gospel." 

Quite a different approach...

Friday, August 13, 2010

The same old routine, but better

Just got through my first week of work and did my second load of wash since returning from France. I've also done food shopping and prepared quite a few meals. (The terrine didn't turn out too pretty.  As a matter of fact, it broke when I took it out of the baking dish. But it tasted yummy. OK, so I'm not Julia Child.) The enchanted aura of my trip has worn off, but some positive effects seem to have stuck.

I think I successfully distracted my brain with spectacular sights, my taste buds with fresh fruits and cheeses, and my spirit with rejuvenating encounters with friends.  All that seems to have relandscaped a lot of my mental and emotional ruts.  I find that I can do my work with a lot less anxiety about trivial things that I had gotten in the bad habit of worrying about day in and day out.

Hmm...maybe that's why the French believe in spending a significant period of time away from work every year.

Et c'est une très bonne idée!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

On being ministered to by F/friends

Rublev, The Hospitality of Abraham
It's not the memory of the Palace of the Popes,  the Coliseum at Arles,  the Eiffel Tower, or even Taizé ... or the sight of fields crowded with sunflowers or hills lined with grapevines that I will cherish most about my trip to France. It will be my visits with friends...some of whom were Friends as well.

It was a pilgrimage of sorts: Avignon, Congénies, Bassy, Lons-le-Saunier. At each stop friends welcomed me into their homes, shared their meals with me, took me sighteeing, gave me a room to sleep in...even let me take a refreshing dip in their pool.

I shared their living space and their lives for a few days, even trying to make myself useful when I could, setting the table or peeling vegetables, but mostly feeling inept and useless. Marie-France keeps a little vegetable patch and the Quaker House at Congénies has a sumptuous garden, while I've got to be the most horticulturally illiterate person in the world, not knowing one plant or tree from another. Like the lilies of the field that neither toil nor spin, I neither grow nor harvest ...nor sew for that matter! Overcoming my self-consciousness, however, I let my friends in, listening as they told me all about about their lives, their families, their neighborhood, their concerns. I left my familiar habits and haunts behind and didn't miss them at all, letting myself become absorbed into my hosts' daily routine.

I went food shopping at les Halles in Avignon and in the outdoor marché at Pont-de-Vaux...bought fresh brioches for Susan's girls at the boulangerie in Congénies...and cleaned sorrel freshly picked from Marie-France's garden. Laurent showed me his drawings and Daniel played his bouzouki for me.
The sounds of late-night revelry kept me awake in Avignon, and sunshine poured through my bedroom window in Congénies.

The pilgrimage was inward too, I let friends enter some hidden recesses that I didn't know existed in my heart. The transformation may not be dramatic, but I'm sure it is enduring.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Rest in peace, Dr. Karen

Dr. Karen Woo, a humanitarian working in Afghanistan and killed along with her colleagues by persons blinded by hatred, was a fellow blogger:

Like Margaret Hassan, Nick Berg, Tom Fox, Michel Germaneau, and others,  she lived a nonviolent life and died giving service.

She was an example for us all.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Coffee confusion

The beauty of a blog is that that it can handle quite serious topics such as complicity of medical personnel in CIA torture, as well as the flimsiest of personal trivia. So here goes my trivial pursuit of the day: my coffee addiction.

Because I spent a lot of my time in France with friends who were generously hosting and feeding me, their meal times were my meal times, and what they purchased and prepared was what I ate and drank. Which in France is a step up from normal American fare.  Fruits especially were much tastier and juicier, because they hadn't been picked before maturity in New Zealand or some other faraway place and then force ripened in a storehouse. And the humble baguette sold at the corner boulangerie is an unheard of delicacy here in the states.

However, I did not have access to a drip coffee machine and was obliged to limit my consumption to what my friends served at breakfast and lunch, plus an occasional crème in a café.  No coffee after dinner either (which I can drink and still manage to sleep, to my husband's consternation)!  Thought I was going to go through withdrawal but, of course, there was good company, lots of activity, and splendid things to see, so my caffeine-craving cells were quickly distracted.

In addition, the coffee I was served was stronger than the brew I've been accustomed to making at home, whether my friends prepared it in an espresso percolator...

or in a cafetière à piston, which we commonly call a French press.

Net result of drinking great French coffee for 2 1/2 weeks: back at home, my daily drip tasted so weak I was desperate. I dug out my Bodum French press. I purchased it last year after staying with some friends who made delicious coffee with it, but I soon relegated it to storage as it just wasn't as convenient to use as my electric drip coffee maker. Complications immediately ensue: coarsely ground coffee beans are required for the French press. Fortunately, had some whole beans on hand.  Got out the little gizmo I use to make breadcrumbs and did some quick and dirty grinding. (sacrilege!!) Used a large quantity of ground coffee...and voilà, a reasonable facsimile of what I enjoyed in France.

The net result, hopefully, will be fewer cups of better tasting coffee consumed each day.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

It's not the heat, it's the humidity

If that truism is familiar to you, then you must be from Philadelphia.  I stepped off the plane last evening and stepped right into a sauna. Very different from the heat in Avignon, even though the thermometer reads the same: 33⁰ C (92⁰ F).  As a matter of fact, the heat was so dry in the south of France that my skin started to get dry and I had to buy some moisturizer.

 Managed to stay awake till 10pm here (4am Paris time) but then woke up at 4:00 this morning.  Still have a bit of adjusting to do.  Including getting used to what passes for coffee here...

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Day and a half in Paris

 My last day in France, and I have so many experiences to process and memories to catch up on, including meeting and spending time with two penpals.

Statue of Rouget de Lisle (wikipedia)
...rolling hills of Bourgogne where grape vines grow in neat rows...Romanesque churches, deserted castles, a cheese tower, the ruins of Cuny...and Lons-le-Saunier, with its lovely park and statue of native son and La Marseillaise author Rouget de Lisle. Unfortunately, both camera batteries are now drained, so I can't transfer photos at the moment.

Got caught in the rain without an umbrella last afternoon in the Place de la Concorde...but waiting out a soft summer shower under the trees in the Tuileries is nothing to complain about. When the rain stopped, strolled down the Champs-Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe.

Today, concentrating on several sites that my husband and I didn't get to see when we visited Paris in 2002, I managed in 12 hours to do the following, starting out from my hotel in the Marais district and taking full advantage of my carnet of Métro tickets:
  • Climbed the narrow, winding streets to Sacré Coeur
  • Crossed the Pont Marie to the Isle St-Louis - bought most of my gifts for family and friends there and had a delicious crêpe with warm goat cheese prepared at a little place run by two women.
  • Checked out Rue Cler (sorry, Rick, but it was underwhelming.)
  • Took a very long walk past the Ecole Militaire, the Tour Eiffel, the Invalides, the Assemblée Nationale, the Madelaine, and the Opéra Garnier
Strolling down the Champ-de-Mars and watching the Tour Eiffel loom larger and larger...and then seeing the mass of humanity from all countries lined up to climb to the top is impressive and unforgettable.

Vraiment formidable!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Two Arenas and a Tormented Painter

I can't help wondering what it's like to live in a place where there's an ancient Roman arena right smack in the middle of the main thoroughfare.  Do you just get used to it like the corner newspaper box?

I'd think it would be pretty hard to ignore...

Les Arènes, Nîmes

Torero (bullfights are held in the Arènes also)
There's an amphitheater at Arles too. In the Middle Ages it became a fortress with a little town nestled instide, and a few towers were added...

 Here's the view from atop one of the towers.  That's the Rhone River in the distance.

 Longing for a place where he could work in serenity and also invite other artists to come join him, Vincent Van Gogh rented a house in Arles.  His most cherished dream was eventually to found a cultural center that would be a place of support and fellowship for artists. As you probably know, he was only able to stay in his beloved little house for about 18 months, during which time he created about 300 drawings and paintings before being forced to seek treatment at a mental hospital for his bouts of severe depression.

I visited the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh, which houses many touching works of all sorts --paintings, drawings, dioramas, photos-- created by other artists in homage to the painter who started out as a minister to the poor.

The sculpture at the entrance is entitled "Vincent Crucifié" by Louis Cane.

This lovely garden is part of the Espace Van Gogh.

Tomorrow, on to Bassy (near Mâcon) to meet my longtime cyberpal Daniel...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Meeting for worship bilingue ... et le Musée du Désert

Connectivity has been problematic, but I'm online at least for moment so ... faut en profiter.  I'll have to upload photos later.

The Spirit breathed its presence into our bilingual meeting for worship here at the Maison Quaker in Congénies in the south of France.  (Trilingual, actually, if I take into account the crickets who gave nonstop vocal ministry the entire time!)

 We were Friends from Scotland, England, Ireland, New Zealand, and Philadelphia (moi, bien sûr !), gathered by Louise and Françoise of the Quakers Languedociens. Françoise, who lives just up the road, had invited us for a welcome, refreshing dip in her pool last evening.  Felt so good after dragging my heavy suitcase around Nîmes all day yesterday.

Themes that emerged from ministry ranged from a reminder to live in the eternal now, since the past no longer exists and the future does not yet exist, to the words of  Teilhard de Chardin who reminded us that "Nous ne sommes pas des êtres humain vivant une expérience spirituelle mais des êtres spirituels vivant une expérience humaine." We are not human beings having a spiritual experience but rather spiritual beings having a human experience." Coffee and conversation followed.

  The garden at Congénies is bursting with greenery. Tall, narrow cypresses live side-by-side with short, silvery olive trees. Jacqueline is the jardinière and has been working for several years to tame the former weed heaven.

Friends-in-residence Deborah and David

Deborah and David are the current Friends in Residence, come all the way from New Zealand. Also staying the weekend are Susan and her lovely daughters from North Carolina.  They've been kind enough to share the food they brought with them, as I failed to take into account that the town épicerie would be closed on Sunday!

In the afternoon, Arthur generously gave of his time to drive Deborah, David and me to the Musée du Désert, about an hour away in Mialet, in the mountainous Cévennes.

The birthplace of the Camisard rebel who came to be known as Roland, the museum houses the largest collection of artifacts attesting to the period of religious persecution suffered by the Huguenots of the south from the time Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes until the Revolution. Those Protestants who were not won over either by money provided by the crown or by a sword to the throat went underground. A generation later, a bloody period of Camisard guerilla warfare was waged for about two years, followed by continued suppression during which the Protestants were again forced to practice their faith in secret.  Little pockets nestled between the mountains served as their places of worship where they could assemble to sing the psalms and hear their ministers' sermons, as look-outs kept watch. Men caught doing such things by the authorities were sent to the galleys...if they weren't hanged, burnt at the stake or broken on the wheel. The women were sent to prison. But as one of these steadfast believers declared, "Je ne changerai pas !" (I will not change !)

  On to Nîmes again tomorrow to hop a bus to Arles and see the haunts of the fou roux, Vincent van Gogh.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Le Festival d'Avignon

Très rapidement, because my battery quickly running down.
a preview of one of the a few of the characters

Avignon saute aux yeux, saute aux oreilles, s'anime, sautille, scintille pendant le Festival ! Costumed actors roam the streets all day long, handing you announcements of their performances. The outdoor cafés couldn't be more packed, and everyone in the boutiques and restaurants is super friendly.

A bientôt !

 More photos:

a wall plastered with announcements

Friday, July 16, 2010

Last Zumba before Paris

Went to what will be my last Zumba class for at least 2 ½ weeks…I return from France on a Wednesday. It remains to be seen whether or not I'll have recovered sufficiently from jet lag to go to Zumba Thursday evening. Said à bientôt to my teacher. à bientôt, l'espagnol too…getting ready to spend my time speaking en français.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hope (thanks, Emily)

Hope is the thing
hanging by a thread
from the mouth of an oil-caked bird

A thing with black feathers
bathed by loving hands
and returned to a purer sea

A tear riding a blue-green ripple
keeping her promise
to the tar-bruised beach

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Read any good books lately?

Remember those things called books? They were composed of elements called pages, printed with words and then sewn or glued together between two covers, sometimes rigid, sometimes soft.

Hard to explain, but when I hold one of those old-fashioned objects in my hands, my stress level drops and my imagination soars.

Books can be
illustrated or plain
oversize or pocket size
massive or miniature
comic or serious
cosmic or local
juicy or dry
scary or sensible
devotional or dangerous
sentimental or scientific
but always
chock full of letters
arranged in most amazing ways...

Do Nothing but Read Day

Read the Printed Word!