To Kill a Mockingbird Re-released 1-31-12

One of my favorite gifts is an autographed copy of the 35th anniversary edition of the book, To Kill a Mockingbird, first published in 1960.  In the Pulitzer Prize winning novel authored by Harper Lee, she writes about racial injustice, human tragedy and the impact individuals can have through triumph and failure.  It is studied in high schools, college class rooms and law schools.  It teaches us about justice, integrity and the best of family values.  It motivates us to be better people, to fight against injustice and to respect and value diversity.

 My favorite quote from the book is when Atticus gives advice to Scout:

           First of all…if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks.  You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.

Gregory Peck starred in the 1962 movie by the same name.  He portrays Atticus Finch, a small town lawyer, who defends an African-American man wrongfully accused of rape.  His daughter, Scout, is
portrayed by Mary Baddham, who narrates the story through the eyes of a child.  The movie was nominated for 8 academy awards.  Gregory Peck won an Oscar for Best Actor.  He was later honored with the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his lifetime humanitarian efforts.  Perhaps, like many others, he was motivated by the character he portrayed.

The movie is being rereleased today, the 50th anniversary of the movie.  It has been digitally remastered and restored.  Perhaps it is time for all of us to reread the book or watch the movie as a reminder of committing ourselves to being the best we can be.

Chasing the Mayflower

I am fascinated by what I call “my tribe.”  Meg and I are part of a great family and I have always wanted to know more about it: countries of origin, religious affiliations, and all the factors that influence a family through the generations.  When mom and dad moved out of our long time family home, I came upon family records and photographs about which I had no previous knowledge.  Among the records was a copy of my grandmother’s family tree tracing her Lewis family back to Westerly, Rhode Island in the late 1660’s.  I began researching the Lewis and Mesle families and was hooked.  My brother-in-law gave me a subscription to a genealogy research site for Christmas that fed my interest.

Grandmom considered joining the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), but disagreed with its refusal to allow Marion Anderson sing in Constitution Hall in 1939.  Knowing we had ancestors who served in the revolutionary army spurred my interest even further.  Many months of painstaking research established in my mind the accuracy of grandmom’s family tree and helped me locate proof that Elnathan Terry had served in the Revolution.  Researching his family led me to Sprague Project, a wonderful internet source, Sprague Project Database. Through the Sprague Project, I traced Elnathan Terry back to Thomas Rogers, John Rogers, Richard Warren and Francis Cooke.  The book, Revolutionary War Veterans, Chenango Co. NY, provided significant information, confirmed Elnathan’s service and  confirmed his relationship to my Lewis family.

With evidence in hand sufficient to establish for me the Mayflower connection, I decided to apply for membership in the Mayflower Society, one of the many historical organizations focused on the Mayflower and its passengers.  The proof necessary to join the society is far more rigorous than the proof necessary to satisfy me.  (Once I found my great-grandfather, Horatio Lewis was buried in the family plot with Elnathan Terry, my questions were answered).  But it required 6 months or more contacting libraries, genealogy societies and researching on-line records to find the proof that should satisfy the Mayflower Society.  Some members of the family were easy to trace, because of grandmom’s family tree, but others eluded proof.  One ancestor, Freeborn Lewis, who married Esther Terry, died very young, leaving his widow and their children.  She married again and moved to Iowa, where she died.  Records related to Freeborn and Esther and their son, Lorenzo Lewis, were the hardest to trace.  The last piece of the proof came from Myra Shattuck’s Bible, located in the Guernsey Memorial Library in Norwich, NY.

Six years after beginning my family research, I am ready to finally submit my Mayflower Society application.  Relying heavily on Mayflower histories, DAR records, family records, and the wonderful assistance of staff in genealogical libraries, I have found and copied my records, completed the Mayflower Society application and am ready to submit it.  Wish me luck.

For those interested in genealogy, my direct lineage, through Rogers’ Mayflower family to the present, in chronological order: Thomas Rogers, John Rogers, Hanna Rogers, Benjamin Terry, Benjamin Terry, Private Elnathan Terry, (who married Mary Kenyon, a Mayflower descendant from the Warren/Cooke families), Esther Terry, Lorenzo Lewis, Horatio Daniel Lewis, Mary Ocelia Lewis, Frank Carl Mesle, Catharine Ann Mesle, Meghan Ann (Meg) McCollister.

Kauffman Garden’s Winter Beauty

It is cold outside and really dreary. I could stay in Hilton Head until Spring or come home and head over to Kauffman Gardens. Even in the midst of winter, Kauffman is filled with beauty and color. Since it can truly be said that one picture is worth a 1000 words, we will let these pictures speak for themselves.

Sophia is in Town

Sophia is in town and all is  right with the world.  My husband is a great guy.  He is a wonderful man who, at age 65, is still a workaholic. He is enticed from work for Sunday drives, to play tennis, or to take one of our many great trips. Then  he returns to work with renewed determination. He loves me, our family, our friends and our dog, Casey. But more than anything else, he loves his granddaughter, Sophia.

Sophia is two.  She lives with her parents in Amsterdam where she is loved and pampered by her wonderful paternal grandparents. We only see her a few times a year when she is  in the States or we are in Europe. When we are not with her we Skype constantly and watch her grow and change through the lens of a camera.

While Terry wishes Sophia lived just around the corner, she doesn’t. We live with life as it is presented to us for good and bad. For now, Sophia is in town and all is right with the world.

Malcolm Gladwell’s View Through his Own Looking Glass

If you haven’t read any of Malcolm Gladwell’s books, I suggest you start with Outliers The Story of Success. I have been a big fan of his ever since I read Blink and Tipping Point.  But as much as I love those books, I really want to encourage those who have not yet encountered his work to start with Outliers.  

Gladwell’s unique world view is evidenced by his lengthy explanation of why a disproportionate
percentage of the very best professional hockey players are born in January through March and almost none are born in December.  The reason, according to Gladwell is that when each grade of children is introduced to hockey, the oldest children in that grade level are more physically mature than the children born later in the calendar year.  They  become, from the beginning, the best players. They are encouraged in the sport.  They receive extra coaching, extra practice time and extra playing time. The best within that group are elevated to the premiere hockey teams, where they play against stiffer competition, and are able to gain the skills essential to become competitive at the highest levels of the sport.  Meanwhile, the youngest players, those born in November and December, lag behind because they are–well–younger and never given the opportunities or encouragement to excel.

Gladwell approaches the remainder of his book in similar fashion.  He focuses on what it is that enhances the opportunities of “extremely successful people,” i.e., Bill Gates among others. He identifies the importance not only of the month of one’s birth, but the year. He explains why an individual born in 1954 and 1955 had significantly enhanced opportunities to excel in computers sciences.  He talks about the importance of mentoring, of access to education, to employment opportunities and to the opportunity to practice, practice, practice.

While he does not discount the importance of intelligence and hard work, he focuses on the advantages individuals gain due to financial security, family connections and even summer academic opportunities. He also addresses the disadvantages and hardships that can stand in the way of success: limited access to education, the life long impact of being burdened with debt and poverty.  He never, ever discounts the role of luck in the good fortunes of extremely successful people.  He also never discounts that luck without hard work is not enough.

In a book that is considered to be at least somewhat autobiographical, he addresses the circumstances of his own success, starting with the story as to how his ancestors moved from slavery to opportunity.

While much of the book deals with the luck that will benefit few of his readers,  the stories and the examples of individuals and groups who study hard, work hard and create their own opportunities are more than worth the read. While much of what he writes seems obvious after I read it, Outliers gives new insight into the impact of luck, class and even intergenerational family values and experiences.

It is one of my favorite books.  I wish you “good reading.”

Walking in Hilton Head’s Maritime Forest

Hilton Head Island, S.C. is a barrier island protecting South Carolina’s coast from the ocean.  It has oak and pine forests, salty marshes and sandy beaches.  It is rich with alligators, snakes, swamp lands and golf courses.  It is amazingly beautiful.

I was fortunate to have meetings on Hilton Head Island, S.C. with some of my favorite people.  We stayed at The  Inn at Harbour Town, a wonder destination by almost any standard.  But you can’t visit this island without spending some time either playing golf, biking or walking.  I am a walker.

Sea Pines Development, where our inn is located, is a planned eco-friendly development designed and developed by Charles and Joseph Fraser.  Every land owner is required to sign low impact covenants agreeing to protect the land and the environment. It was further designed to protect sea views and limit the removal of trees.  The original plan reserved  one-fourth of the land for recreation including lands developed with picnic areas, wildlife areas, and biking and hiking trails.

I was fortunate to take a tour of the nature trail.  Our guide, Rita Kerman, is a “Master Naturalist.”  She generously shared with us her knowledge of, and passion for, this special area.  She explained that we were walking in a maritime forest, distinguished because the trees and plants are compatible with the salty soil adjacent to the ocean.  She showed us sweet gum trees ringed with rows of small holes drilled into the bark by yellow-bellied sap sucker woodpeckers in search of the sweet sap. She explained that after the woodpeckers drill these holes, the sweet, sticky gum attracts and traps insects that then  become food for other birds. She further explained that the sweet gum balls are a source of shikimic acid, an ingredient in a vaccine for avian flu. This has been described as saving the world one sweet gum ball at a time!

We learned about red bay ambrosia beetles that are destroying red bay and wax myrtle trees, and are now attacking avocado trees.  The potential loss of trees seems comparable to the mass destruction of Dutch Elm trees in the Mid-West.

As we walked in the forest and immediately adjacent to ponds and man-made canals, we were reminded that alligators were nearby in the murky waters, where they live and breed in close proximity to human populations.

Near the end of our journey we came across a sign posted on the trail with a lovely poem that ended with these words, “Spend an hour with the earth and her nature and I promise that you”ll surely see, the truest meaning of the season…the one Best Christmas present you could receive.”

A beautiful walk it was, indeed.

SOPA and what it means for online content

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on maintaining the balance of community and environmental health, healthy lifestyles, and encouraging sustainable living.

There is a bill in Congress right now called Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). It aims to stop websites that facilitate copyright or intellectual property infringement by allowing the Department of Justice to seek court orders against those websites.

In response to the bill, Google and Wikipedia are on “blackout” today. If you go to Google.com, you will see the image blacked out. If you click on the blacked out image, you will be directed to a page that says, “End Piracy, Not Liberty.” Wikipedia’s homepage reads, “Imagine a world without free knowledge.”

The bill is not designed to put the user at risk of facing charges. Instead, it would target the websites, many of them overseas, that facilitate the downloading of illegal content. The “powers that be” in the internet industry are opposed to the bills because they say it would mean Congress would regulate what content was available to users, therefore limiting free speech. Proponents of the bill say it will end piracy and prevent content providers from losing billions of dollars in content purchases.

In an interview with a CNN correspondent in Silicon Valley, there was a discussion about whether or not this bill is the best way to accomplish the goal of ending piracy. One example was given of how people used to download music illegally through sites like Napster, then iTunes started selling music and all of a sudden people were buying music again. The suggestion was that Hollywood should innovate regarding the marketing and sale of content, as opposed to increasing web censorship through legislation. CNN also fully disclosed that its parent company, Time Warner Cable, is supporting the bill.

This is an interesting issue that seems to focus on who should be in charge of our access to the internet and web content. I am curious to see how discussions go in Congress and whether the bill passes.

A Walk in the Park: Shollenberger Park in Petaluma

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on maintaining the balance of community and environmental health, healthy lifestyles, and encouraging sustainable living.

This past weekend we decided to take Lily and Cousteau for a walk around Shollenberger Park on the south end of Petaluma. The park is a 165-acre area with a two-mile trail surrounding wetlands and mudflats. On the north end of the park, another trail juts off toward the marina that goes a mile through a marsh. The park also abuts the Petaluma River, which is a beautiful sight to see. To give you an idea of the flow of things, the river flows downstream to San Pablo Bay, which connects into San Francisco Bay, which connects, of course, to the Pacific Ocean.

Shollenberger is a great place to go for a walk, run, or casual stroll. The whole park is filled with different kinds of birds. There are ducks, geese, swans, vultures, avocets, gulls, doves, plovers, falcons, crows, hummingbirds, and more. And that’s just a list of the commonly seen birds in the wetlands! There is a great list of birds on the Petaluma Wetlands website, the organization that oversees the protection and operation of the park. You can see the list at www.petalumawetlands.org.

As we walked around the trail, I could not help but think that this is exactly the type of park that both provides a healthy place for people to visit and a safe haven for local wildlife. It is a place of balance. People can enjoy the trails and the scenery, and the birds and other creatures can live relatively undisturbed. What a wonderful environment.

We continue to explore wonderful places like this in and around our new stomping grounds. Let the adventures continue!

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929 – 1968) The Man and his Mission

Martin Luther King was a man of peace, who sought radical transformation.  The power of his
personality and the impact of his words on the civil rights movement cannot be overstated. Dr. King lived in an age when the Ku Klux Klan instilled terror in sections of the South and even into Missouri.  He lived when drinking fountains, schools, buses, housing and employment were highly segregated.  His influence in the civil rights movement extended through the mid 1950’s until his death in 1968.  He changed the national dialogue on issues of race while steadfastly maintaining a commitment to non-violence and the importance of personal integrity.

His famous “I Have a Dream” speech, given August 28, 1963, at the Lincoln Memorial includes these words, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” It concludes, “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.”

A disciple of Mahatma Gandhi’s message of nonviolence, Dr. King constantly reminded his followers that love is better than hate, that character and integrity are the measure of individuals and society.  Following are some of the quotes that exemplify his message:

Love over hate:

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”

“Let no man pull you so low as to hate him.”

 “Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy to a friend.”

Non-violence

“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.”

 “The choice is not between violence and nonviolence but between nonviolence and nonexistence.”

 “We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

 The Importance of Social Commitment

“Never, never be afraid to do what’s right”

 “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

 Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

The day we see the truth and cease to speak is the day we begin to die.

Due to his accomplishments, Dr. King received Time Magazine’s 1963Man of the Year” award and the 1964 Nobel Peace prize.  In 1983, President Ronald Reagan signed the law making Dr. King’s birthday a holiday.  It has been observed since 1986.

Made in the USA: The importance of buying local

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on maintaining the balance of community and environmental health, healthy lifestyles, and encouraging sustainable living.

How much of what you buy is actually made in the USA? My mother and I were discussing this very topic the other day. We both make it a point to buy U.S. made products whenever possible. Obviously, it’s difficult to make sure everything we buy is made here, but if you’re patient, you can find many U.S. made options for almost any product.

“Made in USA” used to be a considered a stamp of quality. You knew that if you bought something made here in the States, it was going to be top quality and last forever. While that may still be the case, unfortunately, people just don’t think about where products are made anymore. As a result, it becomes more and more difficult for corporations to justify the “higher cost of labor” to have products made here and not somewhere else. So where do they go? Where does almost every “Made in…” stamp say? China.

I don’t have anything against China. From what I know, and I only know from what others have told me based on their experiences, China is filled with smart, kind people who care about the world and how to keep things in balance. These are definitely concepts I find valuable. My only problem with China, quite frankly, is that everyone here complains about how frustrated they are that we are dependent on China to keep our economy running. I have no idea how to approach that frustration, but I do know that we can all start by buying local.

There are a lot of products still made in the USA, you just have to make an effort to look for them. It may mean you have to be patient at times, but if we all make an effort to avoid buying products made somewhere else, then we can do our part to support our own economy and our own workers. Personally, I have been looking for a desk to use at home for several months now. Part of the wait was because I didn’t find anything I liked, but also because I wanted to desk I bought to be made here. Sure enough, when Jake and I went to the hardware store this week, there it was. A nice, simple desk made by Sauder Woodworking Company, manufactured in Ohio. It wasn’t even expensive, which is usually a concern people have about buying local. It was perfect.

So with that in mind, I challenge you to buy local. Whether you are looking for clothing, appliances, vegetables; with almost every product, you can find something “Made in USA.” Some products may be more expensive, but not all of them are. Some of them are still considered top quality, like St. John Knits, Levi Jeans, Maytag, KitchenAid, Lenox fine china, Simon Pearce glassware. One of my personal favorites, Harley Davidson, has a major manufacturing center in Kansas City. Ford still makes their vehicles in Detroit. If you just take the time to look at the label before you buy, you really can do your part to support the U.S. economy.