Welcome to our family: Caroline Marie Soper

She is a beauty.  I just have to say it!  Born at St. Luke’s Hospital on June 26, 2012, at 2:08 a.m., she didn’t make her entry into this family easy on mom or dad. As is always the case, mom (Dana) bore the brunt of it.  But dad (Jon) was also a trooper.  He was with Dana for the duration.

The maternity ward seemed full with just Caroline’s grandparents and step grandparents.  Caroline, of course, has no idea that she is the source of such joy for her parents and all the members of her extended family.  It will take her years to understand the traditions, stories and values that come with any family, and certainly ours.  It will take a lifetime for her to understand her own value to each of us and to the families of which she is a member.

Sweet Caroline.  Welcome to the family.  You have cousins, parents, grandparents, a great-grandfather, and aunts and uncles all waiting to meet you.  May your life be filled with love and happiness as you bring love  and happiness to us.


A carriage ride

What can be more fun for adults and children on a warm summer evening than an open air carriage ride.  Shaped much like Cinderella’s carriage, this carriage is a popular entertainment for tourists visiting the Plaza throughout the year.  But it is a ride made for summer evenings.

The horses may be somewhat past their prime, but they are docile and patient and decked out with braided manes.

Just another beautiful experience for tourists to Kansas City.

The “Art of the Car Concours”: a Kansas City Art Institute Tradition

Sunday morning Terry and I spent a wonderful hour on the grounds of the Kansas City Art Institute wandering among approximately 180 vintage automobiles and motorcycles.  They included U.S., German, English, Swedish and Italian automobiles.   Most were truly classics.  Every one was worthy of a place in the show.

Even by arriving at 10 a.m., when the event opened to the public, we were surrounded by exhibitors, automobile enthusiasts and those who were merely curious to see this remarkable display of history.  Many attend every year.  Some were there for the first time.

The younger generations will not remember the “woody”, which is remarkable not only because of its exterior wood panels and funny shape, but also because of the songs that sing its praises.  Even if you are under 50, maybe you have heard that great song: “I got a ’34 wagon and we call it a woody, surf city here we come” by Jan & Dean.

Well, this is a woody and it is pure nostalgia for me!

But there were so many wonderful and unique vehicles.  The convertibles and “carriages” reminded me of “toad hollow” meets the “Great Gatsby”.

There is no vehicle built today that is as creative, colorful and has nearly the personality as this 1913 Hudson.

Or this one, that looks like it should be powered by a horse rather than an engine.  I guess that is why they were called “horseless carriages”.

Last but definitely not least, here is another real beauty taken from Terry’s iPhone camera.  The woman in the background taking a photograph of another wonderful antique is yours truly.

If nothing else I have written about Kansas City has persuaded you to travel to our fair city, maybe you will want to make a special visit to Kansas City for next year’s “Art of the Car Concours”.

I promise you will not be disappointed.

A lesson from my Mum: turning the lawn chair into art

My Mum started taking a photography class recently. One thing her instructor suggested to her was to try to turn ordinary everyday things into art. As a result, she came up with several pictures of a staircase. One looking up, and one looking down. Very cool pictures, I must say.

So here is my attempt to take a lesson from my Mum. It doesn’t have the same effect as the stairs, but with the sun rising this morning, I thought I would take a shot or two of the love seat on our patio.

It was a fun experiment. I will have to start doing this more often. Thanks for the lesson Mum!

Closer to Heaven or Hope Interrupted

As I was driving through East Kansas City I came upon this beautiful, but broken, church.  While the glass is gone from the window, even empty it is elegant and powerful.  The gothic architecture is in some ways reminiscent of the finest cathedrals in Europe.  The church spire still points to the sky.

I do not know what caused its destruction, whether it was simply a result of neglect, vandalism or fire.  Even in ruins it symbolizes for me hope, loss and the potential for renewal.  For a moment in time, it suggests a portal between the heavens and earth.  But I know in my heart that this lovely building is lost forever.

Mom goes back to school again: my introductory photography class

There is so much to learn with a new camera.  As soon as I bought my Nikon D5100 DSLR camera I signed up for a three hours class with a wonderful Kansas City photographer.  It was one of those classes where you pass the course just by attending and not dropping your camera.  With only those minimal requirements for success, I squeaked through.

I learned far more than I expected and gained some sense of the ways to improve the photographs I take.  But there is oh, so much more, that was totally beyond my feeble attempts to understand. All I can do is practice, practice, practice.  I am sure I wasn’t the only member of the class struggling.  But we had lots of help and explored nearly every gizmo on our cameras.

As grateful as I was for the technical information, I was more excited by the instructor’s obvious passion for photography as an art form.  He encouraged us to look at ordinary objects and to envision them as art.

Among the ordinary objects in my life are the stairs where I work.  I walk up and down these stairs day in and day out.  But art????  I decided that if he can make art from the ordinary, I can try to do the same thing. Here are my efforts to turn stairs into art.

Stairs up:

Stairs down:

If nothing else, the photographic images, reveal that photograph is a lot like our everyday experience, it is a lot easier to see life looking down, than envisioning life looking up!

Little Boy Lost–in 1869

James Churchill was born May 8, 1863 and died Nov. 22, 1869.  He was 6 years old.  I do not know where he was born.  Presumably he died near Leavenworth, Ks., since he was buried there, by the Missouri River.

More than 125 years later, his tombstone was found, upside down, in an open field.  I have searched high and low but have found no record of his birth or his death.

I believe I have identified his parents.  The tombstone lists his parents as R.D. and S.C. Churchill.  I believe they were David R. Churchill and Sophia C. (Brown) Churchill.  I find no record David and Sophia had a son named James, but they had other children in this same time period.

James was born 2 years after the civil war began, and died 4 years after its end. Most residents of Leavenworth in 1863 were pro-union, since Camp Lincoln, in Fort Leavenworth, was a reception and training center for Kansas volunteers for union soldiers.  Since it seems unlikely confederate loyalists would live within the shadow of a Union stronghold, that suggests the family held anti-slavery beliefs and, more likely that they moved from the North or the East. Of course, nothing is certain.

I doubt the family was traveling west.  In 1862 David Churchill lived at 211 Delaware in Leavenworth.  Someone in the family is listed as a member of the Mayflower Society which may be helpful, because it suggests a family with an interest in its own heritage.

The person who found the tombstone wants very much to return it to the family.  He indicates he took the stone originally because after an extensive search he found no indication of a cemetery, no indication of houses or of any homestead near the land where the stone was found. He offered it to a historical society which was not interested.  (There probably are many other tombstones with similar stories.)

The stone itself evidences a certain level of affluence for Kansas in the 1860’s.  It is not illegible, like many stones from the late 19th century.  Even after so many years of being subject to the weather, it is a substantial stone, with the family information clearly carved and easily read.

Please, if you have any information about the Churchill family, or even about a 19th century cemetery along the river in Leavenworth,  just send me a comment.  Thanks

The day I met the President

Meg has a J.D. in Urban, Land Use and Environmental Law. She focuses on political organizing, environmental policy, and sustainable living.

If you’ve ever met a sitting President, you know what that day feels like. Whether you voted for him or not, it leaves an impression on you. It may be a handshake, a short conversation, or perhaps you met the President in a completely random setting you never expected, like he was out getting ice cream with his family. For me, it was a handshake and a few words at the airport.

While President Obama was in San Francisco a couple of weeks ago, I had the honor of meeting him at the airport. It wasn’t about a campaign. Sometimes it’s just nice to be able to meet the nation’s leader, have him shake your hand and look you in the eye. Not many people get to do that, so I am glad I was given the opportunity.

For me, meeting the President really wasn’t about the politics. It wasn’t about being a Democrat or a Republican. It was about meeting the man in charge, as one of his constituents, and being able to share that experience with others. Well, definitely a cool part about the morning was getting to stand in front of Air Force One. That thing is HUGE!!

“Unattended children will be given an espresso and a free puppy”

If you’ve ever visited Balletto Winery near Santa Rosa, you’ve seen this sign in the tasting room! It was the last stop on our Father’s Day tour of the wine country, but let’s start from the beginning…

My Dad wasn’t there per se, but we did have two Dads with us to celebrate for Father’s Day on Sunday. Tio (okay, I SUPPOSE he can have honorary “Dad” status:) and Jake (Dad to two beautiful puppies!) were our guests of honor for the day, so Auntie and I decided we would do what they wanted to do. And what did that entail? Wurst Sausages and wine tastings, of course!

First we drove up to Healdsburg to visit Wurst Sausage. Very yummy I must say. We sat outside while eating our polish sausages and hand-cut fries, and enjoyed the breeze and the warm summer day.

Next, we took a little adventure into Russian River to stop at Korbel. Someone told us they actually had a tasty Cabernet Sauvignon. I can’t say I was super excited about their reds, but they actually had some decent champagnes aside from the cheap ones you always think of at the grocery store. The muscatto was particularly delightful.

Lastly, we stopped at Balletto, one of the wineries Auntie and Tio now belong to as wine club members. We were served by a nice gentleman named Richard, who engaged in great conversation and made us feel right at home. I continue to be surprised by their Pinot Grigio, which is nice and crisp without having the sharp taste I never seem to like in whites. The grounds surrounding Balletto are also beautiful, so I took a few pictures of the vines while we were there.

It was a delightful day in the wine country. We never seem to tire of the adventures we can have on a given Saturday or Sunday afternoon here in California. There are so many things to explore, and we never know what we’ll stumble upon next. Tio and Jake, I hope you had a wonderful day!