Tag Archives: Personal

Pure Water

People are always attracted to water. We hiked up the mountain to this cascade in Le Tigre National Park, Honduras.

(This post has been sitting in my drafts for a couple of years.  Now, that we’re on a “boil” order in my county in northeast Kansas in July 2011, I thought again of how we take our clean water for granted.  I wrote this about a visit to Honduras, where you can’t drink the water from the tap.)

It’s early on a February morning in 2007, Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and already hot.  I don’t mind.  Back home in Kansas City it’s freezing.

Behind the courtyard wall, I wait at the gate, listening.  I’m an early riser so I volunteered to make the water bottle exchange.

“You’ll know when they’re coming,” my friend Michael told me the night before.  “They call out “Agua Azul, Agua Azul.”  He likes the sound of it.  “It’s like a call to prayer.”

Most societies and religions find spiritual and cleansing properties in water, so Michael is right about that.

Three large empty bottles sit on the driveway near the gate.  I hear the faint call, and I lean out to look.

I see a truck slowly rumbling down the steep incline of street in this affluent neighborhood in the capital city of Honduras.  The back of the truck is stacked with large water bottles.

“Agua Azul.  Agua Azul.

I wave my hand at the truck. A man darts to the gate, grabs the empty bottles and replaces them with full ones.  He hops back on the truck and continues his call.  “Agua Azul.  Agua Azul.”

Now we’ll have purified water for the next couple of days.  We go through it quickly, using it for everything that passes our lips. The water truck comes three mornings a week.  It saves the trouble of taking the bottles to the store. The house has running water, but it’s not purified.  We have to be careful not to drink it or even use it for brushing our teeth.  I keep a small bottle of purified water in the bathroom during my visit.

You can’t be careful everywhere, and on a trip to see the Mayan ruins in Copan, Honduras, some of us come down with horrible gastrointestinal distress.  I’ll spare you the details (worst diarrhea of my life!), but it was touch and go on the drive home.  Michael and Anita knew the roads and the rest stops, and thankfully, my husband is an Eagle Scout, prepared with supplies at all times, including a roll of toilet paper.

At home, we take pure water for granted.  But civilization has long been plagued, literally, with contaminated water.  Cholera is one disease spread by water fouled by bacteria.  People would often drink alcoholic beverages, rather than water, because they were less likely to get sick. Steven Johnson writes about a cholera epidemic in “The Ghost Map: The Story of London’s Most Terrifying Epidemic — and How it Changed Science, Cities, and the Modern World.”

Hacienda San Lucas overlooks the Copan River Valley, where the early Mayans settled more than a thousand years ago. Maintaining pure water is always a problem wherever people gather in cities.

In Copan, we visited Flavia Cueva, who owns the Hacienda San Lucas.  Anita, who is with the U.S. State Department, had met with Flavia before on an official visit.  Local people and members of the International Rotary were working to improve the water quality. International Rotary is providing water distribution and health education to six remote villages in the area.

My water district at home, WaterOne, sends out an annual water quality report, summarizing what’s in the water and provides lots of facts, which are also available on the website.  WaterOne was one of seven utilities worldwide selected as a finalist for a global water award for its Wolcott Treatment Plant. We’re very lucky we don’t need to buy bottled water, regularly, although there is a run on bottled water now because of the boil order.

Here’s a copy of the story in the Kansas City Star about our boil order:


Raccoon Believed Culprit in John County Boil Order

By MATT CAMPBELL

The Kansas City Star

Posted on Fri, Jul. 01, 2011 03:57 PM

A raccoon appears be to the culprit in a water pipe rupture that led to a boil advisory for more than 400,000 water customers in Johnson County.
Officials of Water District No. 1 found the animal dead inside an electrical unit at the Hansen treatment plant on Holiday Drive in Kansas City, Kan.
Eric Arner, a spokesman for WaterOne, said the animal may have chewed into wires or just brushed by the equipment, triggering an event that will affect customers at least until 5 p.m. Saturday during one of the hottest spells of the year so far.
People in the WaterOne service area — which includes most of Johnson County but excludes most of Olathe — are advised to use bottled water or to boil their tap water at least two minutes before consuming it. Unboiled water is safe for washing and bathing.
Retail stores in Johnson County are reporting brisk sales of bottled water. People are buying shopping baskets full of it at the Lenexa Sam’s Club, 12200 W. 95th St.
“We’ve got plenty for today and two more semis were dispatched when we heard about this,” said club manager Eric Rector. “We should have more in stock tonight.”
The Price Chopper at 8686 Antioch Road in Overland Park was sold out by mid-afternoon. A new shipment was expected over the weekend but store management did not know when it would arrive.
The boil precaution is necessary because the pipe rupture led to a drop in water pressure, which may have drawn contaminants into the system. Officials are testing tap samples from across the 275-square-mile water district for safety. That process, and flushing any contaminants out of the system, takes at least 18 hours.
Arner said water officials noticed a sudden drop in system pressure at 7:20 a.m., which they later attributed to a raccoon that got inside the housing of one of the huge electrical switches that run the pumps. The animal apparently shorted out the switch.
“The pumps themselves are designed to trip off when there is any fluctuation in power so they don’t fry their circuits,” Arner said. “So when the power was restored in a matter of seconds or even milliseconds the pumps turned back on and created a water surge.”
Officials believe that surge caused a 54-inch pipe near the Hansen plant to rupture at a joint. Arner said the pipe should not have failed even with a surge and WaterOne is investigating whether there were any other factors involved.
Water officials were able to restore pressure throughout the system shortly after the pipe break but some areas may have less pressure than normal.
While most of Olathe is outside WaterOne, between 6,000 and 7,000 people in northwestern and southwestern areas of the city are affected, said city spokesman Tim Danneberg.

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Filed under Biology, Drink, Health, Life, Personal, Random, Travel

Remembering Kathy

Here is Kathy in a reflective mood.

Today (December 1)  is Kathy’s birthday.  I often think of her and always on this day.

Long ago, Kathy died five months before her twenty-fifth birthday.  She is eternally young in my mind, but even if she were here today, she’d still be young at heart.  She was one of those perpetually upbeat people, a good soul, a happy person, a helpful person, a fun person.  She was one of my best friends, and the only friend who traveled through grade school, high school and college with me.  We were so different in many ways, but we had a bond that couldn’t be broken — even now.

She was my room mate on and off in our college town, often leaving town for new adventures before returning to go back to school.  She’d tried a lot of jobs, including cab driver and blackjack dealer in Las Vegas.  She’d wanted to be a doctor to help people.  We were in a chemistry class together, when she told me she’d realized that a scientific career wasn’t for her.  She found many other ways to help, such as driving Meals on Wheels to help people who couldn’t get out of their homes or prepare meals. She always helped anyone who asked.

She’d starting moving into my house to be my roommate again a few days before she was killed in a car wreck.  On a Saturday morning, I was getting ready to attend a wedding, ironing a dress on Kathy’s ironing board (which I don’t think she’d ever used!) when I heard the news on the radio.  It didn’t sink in at first, and then I sunk to the floor in shock.  I never made it to the wedding.  A photograph of  Kathy’s mangled truck was in the city newspaper that Monday morning.   A drunk driver had strayed across the center line and rammed head-on into Kathy’s truck.  She and her friend Susan were killed instantly. The drunk driver survived and was barely hurt.

Our hometown church was packed for the funeral.  It’s a cliché to say that those who have passed on before us were the glue that held the group together, but Kathy truly was the center.  Her place is a gaping hole at every reunion.

On our nonstop drive to Berkeley, California from eastern Kansas, we did make a few stops. Here Kathy and I put the camera on top of my car and set the timer. We're in the Great Salt Desert in Utah.

A week before she died, she’d asked me to take photographs of her softball team in action. She and I both loved photography.  She’d been my assistant photographer on the high school yearbook for two years. I later was glad I was able to give the photographs to her family.   She is buried in the same cemetery where my father is now buried, and after his funeral I visited her grave site.  Kathy’s parents had erected a headstone with their names on the stone carved either side of hers. It was heart-breaking to see.

Even now I miss her so much.  It may sound very selfish, but I feel truly robbed. I have lost family members and good friends since, and each new grief stabs me with the truth of how precious life is, how blessed we are to have family and friends, and that most things we think are important are truly trivial.  Still, I need to learn that lesson again and again, and Kathy continues to teach me. One lesson she always “taught” was to have fun!

One of the most fun things Kathy and I did was drive nonstop (except for pit stops) from the Kansas City area to Berkeley, California, to visit Jan.  Kathy was a tireless driver, although I took over occasionally.  That trip is still one of the highlights among many highlights in my life.  Kathy and I had a great time with Jan, and I am blessed that we are still close friends.  Her blog is Planetjan.

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Filed under Friendship, Life

Relax!

Hammock on the Veranda Postcard postcard

Here’s a photograph I took on a recent visit to South Carolina. Can’t you just imagine yourself relaxing in this hammock with a cool drink and a book? I didn’t try it myself, because I probably would have spilled my drink on my book. But it’s a lovely fantasy.

When bloggers start posting just a photo or two or a YouTube video once or twice a month, you know they are on the downhill slide to quitting. It’s true that I’m blogging less and less often. But I’m not giving up, I swear.

Soon after I started blogging here in the Spring of 2008, I read that the average blogger lasts about two years. I don’t know where those statistics came from, but that seems about right. When I make the rounds of my fellow bloggers, I find they are posting less, too. Sadly, some of my favorite bloggers have stopped posting, apparently forever or so rarely that their infrequent posts are merely the sputters of a dying blog. Blogs take time and commitment. They sure as heck don’t make any money.

I know the world isn’t begging for my thoughts, but I do like to post about interesting subjects I find, usually about nature, travel, music and history topics. Lately, though, I’ve been enjoying a rest in my “mental” hammock. What I really want to write about is politics, but I’ve sworn not to. Wouldn’t be polite.

One fellow blogger, Shouts from the Abyss, has kept up the good fight by blogging EVERY day (sometimes twice) for more than a year!

Planetjan has slowed, too. She has a very full schedule, but she’s also dedicated to posting. She’s hilarious, so I’m always happy to read one of her posts. Her latest is Hands On Learning.

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Filed under Communication, Friendship, Internet, Life, Personal, Writing

Hello, Sunshine

Sunning themselves are Stubbs and Fluffy on the lower shelf and Leo on the top in the new sun room in the newly renovated cat palace at Wayside Waifs in Kansas City, Missouri. Many of the cats awaiting adoption at Wayside Waifs get a chance to be free roamers while awaiting their "furr-ever" homes..

The newly renovated cat palace at Wayside Waifs in Kansas City is a great new home for cats and kittens awaiting adoption.  One of the new features is a sun room.  You know how cats love to sun themselves! Just watching the kitties lolling and sprawling in the sunshine makes me smile. I wish I could take them all home.   I have a soft spot for Leo and Fluffy, a cute couple.  Leo reminds me of my sweet old Malcolm.  Leo and Fluffy love to cuddle together, although I saw Fluffy snuggling with Stubbs, too. Fluffy is a darling little cat, with a huge tail.  She’s very friendly with people and other cats! (I might be turning into a crazy cat lady, but I don’t care!)

Fluffy.

Wayside Waifs is an independent humane society and no-kill animal welfare organization established in 1944. According to its website, “Wayside Waifs is the largest pet adoption center in Kansas City, placing over 5,000 animals each year in loving forever homes.”

Click here for the Wayside Waifs website.

Wow, look at Fluffy's tail.

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Kansas City, Life, Pets, Photography

It’s a Diabolical Plot!

Loki realizes that golf balls don't taste as good as they look.

I woke up on Sunday with a bed full of golf balls.  How did this happen?  A pile of rawhide chews I can understand, because Loki the dog hides them everywhere, but how did Loki get these golf balls?  Then I saw Bones the cat slink by.  Aha! 

Bones was briefly top pet -- until Loki joined the household. Bones is plotting ways to return to the top by taking advantage of Loki's love of chewing.

The golf balls are strays from the nearby golf course (some of the balls got pretty darned close to the house!) and sit in a corner on the counter, awaiting use as practice balls.  Bones sits on the counter, pushing the balls over the edge, one by one.  Bones thinks he has finally found a way to get rid of this usurper animal, who is staying with us for a while.  Bones knows we may forgive Loki for chewing up toothbrushes, wood trim and even priceless family photographs, but golf balls?  Never! (Sorry, Bones!  Loki is forgiven again…But, Bones,  I promise you extra head rubs. )

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Filed under Animals, Cats, Dogs, Family, Humor, Life, Personal, Pets

Asleep at the Wheel

"Asleep at the Wheel," an Austin,Texas, based-band, performed in the Olathe, Kansas, Free Summer Concert series on June 11, 2010.

One of my old favorite bands came to town on Friday, June 11, 2010,  — “Asleep at the Wheel” (With a headline like “Asleep at the Wheel,” you might have thought this would be a political post!)  The band performed in the Olathe (Kansas) Free Concert Series.  Fortunately, great friends got us great seats up front, because I got delayed walking the lovely but labor intensive dog, Loki.  (More about Loki in a future post…)

One of the music lovers at the concert sports a tattoo featuring a guitar and a harmonica.

Years ago, my husband and I heard “Asleep at the Wheel” in Kansas City in another free concert series on another humid summer night, and the band was just as awesome last night.  Sounds like we’re a pair of real cheapskates with a hankering for Texas swing! 

Ray Benson, the founder of "Asleep at the Wheel."

Under the direction of founder and lead singer Ray Benson, “Asleep at the Wheel” is in its fortieth year.  Some of the band members are barely even half that age. The band has undergone a lot of changes in membership, but still maintains that polished yet over-the-top Texas sound. Ye Haw!  

“Asleep at the Wheel” has won nine Grammys.  The “Wheel” has performed and recorded with many outstanding entertainers, such as Willie Nelson and The Dixie Chicks. (See Barack Obama sing with Asleep at the Wheel in a 2008 video below. Someone should have loaned the future prez a cowboy hat!)   In 2005, “Asleep at the Wheel” debuted its tribute play to Bob Wills, the king of Western Swing.  Check out the websites below for more information.

Jason Roberts and Elizabeth McQueen of the Texas Swing band "Asleep at the Wheel" in Olathe, Kansas, on June 11, 2010.

“Asleep at the Wheel” playing their iconic “Route 66.”

Barack Obama joins in with “Asleep at the Wheel.”

Listen to”Asleep at the Wheel” on their MySpace page.

“Asleep at the Wheel” official website.

“Asleep at the Wheel” entry on Wikipedia.

“A Ride With Bob” website.

Olathe Free Summer Concert Series.

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Filed under Entertainment, Kansas City, Life, Music, Personal

2010 Commencement at the University of Kansas

Potter Lake on the campus of the University of Kansas in Lawrence.

As any Kansas Jayhawk knows, visiting the University of Kansas campus, particularly at Commencement time, is a sacred experience.  One of my nephews graduated from KU on May 16, 2010, so of course I made the holy pilgrimage!  The weather was overcast, threatening rain, but we enjoyed the day with little more than a sprinkle.

My sorority, Chi Omega, is in the background of this landmark -- the Chi Omega fountain. It's a popular photo spot, as you can see here. Our group portraits often were taken in front of it. During my college days, the Chi O house didn't have air conditioning, so there were many nights when I tossed and turned in the early Autumn humid heat listening to the fountain through my open window.

The KU campus in the city of Lawrence is one of the loveliest in the country.  If you don’t believe me, just ask another Jayhawk! KU is perched on Mount Oread, adorned with a jewel of a lake and landscaped with native and ornamental trees, shrubs and flowers.  I took an urban botany class while a KU student and got to know many of the trees personally. We still keep in touch.

Bernadette Gray-Little, the new chancellor, addressed the graduates, reminding us what a treasure our university is as she told us about her first year on The Hill. We have one of the most recognizable mascots — the Jayhawk. Come on, admit it, you’ve seen a Jayhawk, even though it’s a mythical bird.

Education graduates line up with their blue balloons, preparing for their walk down the hill into Memorial Stadium.

Our chant is notable, too.  Rock Chalk Jayhawk, KU. Teddy Roosevelt called it his favorite college cheer. Maybe he was shouting it when he charged up San Juan Hill!

The march down the hill is very festive, almost like a carnival, with some graduates turning cartwheels, walking arm in arm or holding the hand of their child.   Many wore accessories like feather boas or leis or messages on their mortar boards.  Many carried balloons.  One graduate carried a fake ficus tree in a pot. What was that all about?

One young woman tossed off her cap and gown and was wearing a “Where is Waldo?” outfit. I kept looking for her in the stands. Even in that costume, she was hard to spot among the thousands of graduates.  The whole procession takes a little over an hour. 

I walked down the hill as a graduate years ago. We all made it into the stadium and were seated when it started to rain.  The chancellor declared us all graduated, and we all left.  But the best part of the ceremony is the walk down the hill anyway.

More serious graduation ceremonies were held earlier for the various schools and departments.

Graduates pass through a line of faculty to get to their seats. Here, a graduate introduces her baby -- a future Jayhawk?

We are happy to celebrate the success of this great university, forged during the Civil War.

The city of Lawrence was founded in 1850s by abolitionists from Massachusetts who knew they wanted to start a university.   Here’s what the Commencement program had to report:

“Lawrence’s early days were violent, the most deadly being the 1863 raid led by pro-slavery guerrilla William Quantrill and his band of ruffians from neighboring state Missouri.  During the bloody ransacking, the town was virtually destroyed, and nearly 200 men were murdered.  The pre-dawn attack continues to spawn conversation today.”

The Jayhawk mascot visits with graduates.

This conversation is called the border war and breaks out especially during football and basketball season.  KU has some mighty fine teams.  James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, was KU’s first basketball coach. KU has won twelve National Championships: five in men’s basketball (two Helms Foundation championships and three NCAA championships), three in men’s indoor track and field, three in men’s outdoor track and field, and one in men’s cross country.  On April 7, 2008, the Jayhawks defeated Memphis 75-68 in overtime to win the 2008 NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship.  The KU football team has played in the Orange Bowl three times: 1948, 1968, and 2008.

In 1951, the Memorial Carillon and Campanile was dedicated in honor of the 276 KU men and women who had given their lives in World War II. Music from the 53 bells is an integral part of campus life.

The Commencement program stated: “Joyfully, just three years after the horror of the Quantrill raid, KU opened for business.”  Tuition was $30 per year.

Quantrill’s raid is vividly depicted in Ang Lee’s “Ride With The Devil.”

Various KU websites list notable alumni and faculty.  I’ve been lucky to meet or interview a few of them for articles.  One is internationally known paleontologist Larry D. Martin, who with David Burnham, discovered in 2009  a venomous, birdlike raptor that thrived about 128 million years ago in China.  In 1975, I met Dr. Martin at a dig of Pleistocene mammals, The Natural Trap, Wyoming.  In 2004, I visited Dr. Martin at a dig of Jurassic dinosaurs near Newcastle, Wyoming, and will post about that in the future.  Another person I was privileged to interview was Cora Downs, a professor of microbiology, who developed the flourescent dye that is used to identify and trace bacteria and viruses. I also interviewed Takerua Higuchi, a KU professor, known as the “father of physical pharmacy.”

Graduates celebrating!

Among notable alumni are Elmer McCollum, who discovered Vitamins A, B and D;  Walter Sutton, who discovered that chromosomes come in pairs and carry genes; Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered the recently demoted Pluto, now a dwarf planet; doomsayer Paul Ehrlich (“The Population Bomb”) and  Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius, formerly Kansas governor,  whom non-Kansans may know as the official who recently taught a reporter how to sneeze into his elbow at a press conference on the flu.

Graduates appear on the big screen as they stroll into the stadium with their own festive accessories.

Click on famous University of Kansas faculty and alumni for a more complete list.  (I’m not on the list, ha, ha.)

Official University of Kansas website.

My post on the KU Museum of Natural History.

This Week in KU History.

Wikipedia Entry on the University of Kansas.

Link to photo gallery of KU Commencement.

In an annual tradition, medical school graduates open bottles of champagne.

The School of Education graduates release their balloons.

Check out the KU commencement photos on facebook.

KU Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little gives her first KU Commencement Address.

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Filed under Education, History, Kansas, Life, Personal, Photography, University of Kansas

Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson

   

Thomas Jefferson Postcard postcard  

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  ~ Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence.  

I’m sure I’ve been smitten with Thomas Jefferson ever since my parents first took me as an infant to the Jefferson Memorial, where the great man’s statue towered over me the way he does over United States history.   We also visited Mount Rushmore many times in the Black Hills, where my father’s family lived, and Jefferson’s sculpture there loomed even larger.  

After an introduction by my parents, Tom and I meet! It would have been love at first sight if I could have kept my eyes open.

Jefferson’s birthday on April 13th is a holiday for me.  Happy Birthday, Tom!  Thomas Jefferson wouldn’t have welcomed any attention to his birthday, however.  

“In 1803, citizens of Boston wrote a letter to President Thomas Jefferson asking to make April 13, his birthday, a holiday.  Jefferson courteously turned them down, saying he disapproved of ‘transferring the honors and veneration for the great birthday or our Republic to any individual.’  For the rest of his life, he refused to reveal to the public the day he was born,” wrote Peter Gibbon in an article published in the Philadelphia Inquirer in 2007.   

Among his many political offices, Jefferson was the third U.S. President, second vice president, first Secretary of State, Ambassador to France and Virginia’s second governor. Jefferson was cofounder and leader of the Democratic-Republican party, which favored states’ rights, while the Federalists  favored a strong national government. These differences continue in some form in the U.S. political parties today.  

Years after our first meeting, here are Tom and I on another date. I should have worn heels. My friend Anita captured this moment.

Accomplished in many fields, Jefferson was a horticulturist, political leader, diplomat, attorney, architect, archaeologist, paleontologist, inventor, and founder of the University of Virginia.  He played the violin and was a dedicated diarist of his daily life.  He was a brilliant writer.  He invented many conveniences and devices, such as the swivel chair. The entry hall of Monticello contained a natural history display of items collected by Lewis and Clark on their expedition, and which are now re-created in a display for visitors to see.   

In 1962, when President John F. Kennedy welcomed 49 Nobel Prize winners to the White House, Kennedy said, “I think this is the most extraordinary collection of talent and of human knowledge that has ever been gathered together at the White House — with the possible exception of when Thomas Jefferson dined alone.”  

Thomas Jefferson by Charles Willson Peale, 1791.

Scholars rank Jefferson as one of the greatest of U.S. presidents.  

How did Jefferson view his own accomplishments? It was Jefferson’s wish that his tomb stone reflect the things that he had given the people, not the things that the people had given to him, so his epitaph at his burial place at Monticello reads: HERE WAS BURIED THOMAS JEFFERSON, AUTHOR OF THE DECLARATION OF AMERICAN INDEPENDENCE, OF THE STATUTE OF VIRGINIA FOR RELIGIOUS FREEDOM AND FATHER OF THE UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINA.  

However, not everyone appreciated Jefferson’s many gifts, talents and contributions.  In his own time, members of the rival Federalist Party called Jefferson the Antichrist.  Though he was a brilliant writer, he was a poor public speaker and had a lisp.   His estate at Monticello never earned enough to pay his expenses, and he was forced to pay the debts of others, as well.  At his death, his estate and its belongings were sold.  Jefferson liked to live well, introducing exotic foods such as olives and capers and serving French wine nearly every night.   He introduced many new crops and tried to grow grapes for wine, but they didn’t prosper.  There were plenty of political guests to be entertained, which caused him to go deeper and deeper into debt each year because his salary didn’t cover the bills. He agonized over both personal and public debt.  These days, our top leaders jet around and entertain at public expense.  

My husband surprised me with a trip to Monticello for the 250th anniversary celebration of Thomas Jefferson's birthday in 1993. (The trip just happened to coincide with a Grateful Dead concert in Washington , D.C., that we also went to.) Years earlier, we'd driven to Monticello as part of our honeymoon, made it to the parking lot, but both were so stricken with colds that we lacked the strength to even go inside. He knew I'd always wanted to go back.

His beloved home Monticello was designed on neoclassical principles.  Jefferson constantly worked to improve it over the more than forty years he lived there.  After his return from France, he added the dome. It looks much larger than it actually is, perhaps because of its stately lines.  A private non-profit organization, the Thomas Jefferson Foundation, operates the houses as a museum.  Monticello is the only private home in the United States that is designated as World Heritage Site.  

Even today, Jefferson catches flak even from people who might otherwise admire his devotion to the Constitution.  According to the New York Times,  in a recent fight over what would be included in Texas textbooks, “Cynthia Dunbar, a lawyer from Richmond (Texas) who is a strict constitutionalist and thinks the nation was founded on Christian beliefs, managed to cut Thomas Jefferson from a list of figures whose writings inspired revolutions in the late 18th century and 19th century, replacing him with St. Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin and William Blackstone. (Jefferson is not well liked among conservatives on the board because he coined the term “separation between church and state.”)  

“The Enlightenment was not the only philosophy on which these revolutions were based,” Ms. Dunbar said.

Jefferson loved books. After the British burned Washington, D.C. and the Library of Congress in August 1814, Jefferson offered his own fifty-year collection of books to the nation to rebuild the Library of Congress. Congress accepted his offer, appropriating $23,950 for his 6, 487 books.  After watching the carts haul away the books, Jefferson wrote to his old friend and one-time adversary John Adams, “I cannot live without books.”  He immediately began to buy more. I know how he feels.  I can’t imagine life without them and am now sure that I’d feel the same way about books on electronic devices. I need the smell, the feel, the bulk of them lined up on my shelves. Jefferson was widely knowledgeable about a great deal of topics and liked to expound on them.  A recent book has even suggested that Jefferson had Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of autism.  I doubt it, but the author, who lived in my area, made an interesting case for it. 

 “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend,” Jefferson wrote, but he had his differences and fallings out with friends over politics, including John Adams.   

 Years later, mellowed with age, Jefferson and Adams resumed their friendship by letter.  On July 4, 1826, at about the time Jefferson died, Adams whispered, “Thomas Jefferson survives.”  Adams died later that same day, the Fourth of July.  The spirit of Jefferson does survive. 

Here in 1993, researchers dig and sift the dirt around Monticello to look for household goods and other items from Jefferson's time.

Some of Jefferson’s opponents accused him in print of being an alcoholic and of other moral weakness, which may explain Jefferson’s ambivalence about newspapers.  He also used them against others, as well.  

 “The man who reads nothing at all is better educated than the man who reads nothing but newspapers,” he said.   Another famous quote of  his:  “Advertisements contain the only truths to be relied on in a newspaper. ” 

This time, Tom brought along some of his stellar presidential friends. I've been making this pilgrimage to Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota since I was a toddler. (I'm not sure it's such as good idea to blast giant sculptures in a mountain, but it was a great childhood memory.) UPDATE: On the April 16, 2010, episode of Jeopardy (my favorite show) there was a question about Jefferson's position on Mount Rushmore.

Yet he also said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.” 

He was a strong advocate of educating the public, saying “Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.” and  “Where the press is free and every man able to read, all is safe.”  I wonder what he would make of today’s endless noise on the internet.  

According to Willard Stern Randall, “No presidential election since 1800 has taken place without an attempt to damage at least one candidate’s reputation by innuendo, rumor, and ridicule in order to make him appear unworthy of the nation’s highest office, but none has more brutally combined these tactics than the 1800 campaign, which left Jefferson stunned and the country deeply divided for years.”  

This is my ticket to Monticello for the 250th anniversary of Thomas Jefferson's birth, when many of his belongings and furniture were returned. A few years later, I painted a mural of Monticello and its grounds in my kitchen in a house inspired (in a modest fashion) by Monticello. (Okay, it was a rectangle and had red brick and white pillars on the front porch.)

The political parties were bitter foes, and violence wasn’t unusual.  While Jefferson’s vice president, Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton, a Federalist, in a duel. (See link below.)  

Accusations against Jefferson about his alleged sexual liaisons were widely publicized as a way to discredit him.  He denied them or ignored them, but some, such as his relationship with his slave, Sally Hemings, were very likely true.  DNA analysis of Sally’s descendants show that they are related to at least some member of Jefferson’s family. Jefferson’s granddaughter pointed the finger at another family member as the father of Sally’s children.  Even if the rumors had not been true, Jefferson, the fervent writer of documents on freedom, was a slave owner. He was troubled by slavery but only freed seven of his slaves, two during his lifetime, all probably related to him.  Although Jefferson was an outspoken abolitionist, biographers have pointed out that his slaves were encumbered by debt and mortgages, which Jefferson never overcame.

Tom and I enjoy some quiet time together after a busy day on the slopes at Beaver Creek, Colorado. Tom finally got to see the great West that fascinated him so much. Of course, he's writing about it here.

Further ickiness:  Sally Hemings was the half-sister of Jefferson’s wife Martha.  Three-quarters white, Sally was said to look very much like Martha, who was long dead before Sally entered the Jefferson household.  While a Virginia legislator, Jefferson succeeded in passing an act prohibiting the importation of slaves but not slavery itself.  On March 3, 1807, Jefferson as president signed a bill making slave importation illegal in the United States.  

Here is a Thomas Jefferson First Day of Issue Stamp. I think I bought it in the Monticello gift shop. Jefferson and Monticello have been featured on several stamps. Jefferson is portrayed on the U.S. nickel and the two-dollar bill.

Jefferson favored states’ rights and a strictly limited federal government, yet one of his most significant acts as president was the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 of 828,800 square miles of territory from Napoleon Bonaparte.   This purchase now comprises 23 percent of the current United States.  Many Americans opposed the purchase as being possibly unconstitutional.   Jefferson himself thought that the U.S. Constitution did not contain any provisions for acquiring territory, but he decided to purchase Louisiana to prevent France and Spain from having the power to block American trade access to the port of New Orleans.   Jefferson believed that a U.S. President did not have the Constitutional authority to make such a deal.  He also thought that to do so would erode states’ rights by increasing federal executive power.  But the potential French threat outweighed his constitutional queasiness.  Additionally, Jefferson had always been fascinated by the west and its people and animals and began drafting plans for a western exploration as early as 1793.  Immediately after his election, he began to plan for an expedition to explore as far as the Pacific, so the prospect of buying the land from the French must have been irresistable.   In 1803, Jefferson sponsored the  Lewis and Clark expedition to explore this newly purchased land.

Thomas Jefferson founded and designed the buildings of the University of Virginia, Charlottesville. Along with Monticello, the University of Virginia is one of only three modern U.S. sites designated as a World Heritage Site. Of this University, Jefferson explained, "This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it." The University also followed the direction that higher education should be completely separated from religious doctrines.

It’s probably obvious that I have a crush on Thomas Jefferson.  I’m a Tom Girl.   Though very cerebral and devoted to reason, Jefferson was also passionate.  While in France, he became smitten with Maria Cosway, an Italian artist married to a much older man, a celebrated miniature artist.  William Sterne Randall writes in his biography of Jefferson: ” Thomas Jefferson fell in love with Maria Cosway the moment he met her.  For four years he had been faithful to the vow he had made to his wife on her deathbed.  There is no hint that he had made even the briefest liaison with any of the many Frenchwomen he had met in Paris. But no sooner was Jefferson introduced to the Cosways than he began to devise how he could spend every possible moment with this lively, languid, beautiful Maria, with her musical, slightly Italian accent.”  

Maria and Jefferson spent almost every day together for weeks in Paris, which could partly explain Jefferson’s love of that country, if not its government.  Once while dashing to his carriage to meet Maria, Jefferson fell and broke his right wrist, which made playing the violin very difficult after that. He wrapped his wrist and went ahead to meet her, despite the agony.  Later, struggling to write with his left hand, he penned his now famous “My Head and My Heart” letter to Maria in which reason battled emotion.   

Jefferson, at 29,  married the 23-year-old widow Martha Wayles Skelton. During their ten years of marriage, they had six children, but only two survived to adulthood, including the oldest, Martha Jefferson Randolph.  Jefferson’s wife Martha died on September 6, 1782, after the birth of her last child. Jefferson never remarried, honoring his wife’s deathbed wish. He destroyed all correspondence between them.   After his wife’s funeral, Jefferson refused to leave his room for three weeks. Then he spent endless hours riding horseback alone around Monticello. He didn’t resume a normal life until mid-October, but suffered from depression for years afterward.  

 Martha Randolph, who had twelve children, was considered the third First Lady, acting as hostess to her father, because her father was a widower.  

It’s impossible to do Jefferson’s life justice in this post.  I recommend reading Willard Sterne Randall’s “Thomas Jefferson – A Life.”  I also read Fawn M. Brodie’s  “Thomas Jefferson: An Intimate History.”  

For more information here are some Wikipedia links are Thomas Jefferson  Monticello  Jefferson’s Democratic-Republican Party   The Federalist Party  Aaron Burr-Alexander Hamilton Duel  The University of Virginia

A great website is Monticello — The Thomas Jefferson Foundation.  

Additionally, I’ve selected many of Jefferson’s quotes, all of which I think ring true today.  

  • It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.
  • We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.

    On my most recent visit to Washington, D.C., with my friend Anita, I finally visited the Jefferson Memorial -- the first since I lived in Alexandria, Virginia, as a baby. The dome of the Jefferson Memorial suggests the one topping Jefferson's home, Monticello.

  • It is more dangerous that even a guilty person should be punished without the forms of law than that he should escape.
  • To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.
  • A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.
  • A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned-this is the sum of good government.
  • All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.
  • Conquest is not in our principles. It is inconsistent with our government.
  • Delay is preferable to error.
  • He who knows best knows how little he knows.
  • I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us, that the less we use our power the greater it will be.
  • I hope we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial by strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.
  • I have come to a resolution myself, as I hope every good citizen will, never again to purchase any article of foreign manufacture which can be had of American make, be the difference of price what it may.
  • I’m a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
  • General Washington set the example of voluntary retirement after eight years. I shall follow it. And a few more precedents will oppose the obstacle of habit to any one who after a while shall endeavor to extend his term.
  • I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change another’s creed. I have ever judged of others’ religion by their lives…for it is from our lives and not from our words, that our religion must be read.
  • The happiest moments of my life have been the few which I have passed at home in the bosom of my family.
  • Were it made a question whether no law, as among the savage Americans, or too much law, as among the civilized Europeans, submits man to the greatest evil, one who has seen both conditions of existence would pronounce it to be the last; and that the sheep are happier of themselves, than under the care of wolves.
  • Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government. I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the later.
  • When angry, count ten before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.
  • I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours…They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of the labor, property and lives of their people.
  • We are not to expect to be translated from despotism to liberty in a feather bed.
  • I own that I am not a friend to a very energetic government. It is always oppressive.
  • I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than those attending too small a degree of it.
  • No freeman shall be debarred the use of arms.
  • My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
  • No man will ever carry out of the Presidency the reputation which carried him into it.
  • No occupation is so delightful to me as the culture of the earth, and no culture comparable to that of the garden
  • None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army. To keep ours armed and disciplined is therefore at all times important.
  • Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal; nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
  • Nothing gives one person so much advantage over another as to remain always cool and unruffled under all circumstances.
  • Nothing is unchangeable but the inherent and unalienable rights of man.
  • One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them.
  • Peace and friendship with all mankind is our wisest policy, and I wish we may be permitted to pursue it.
  • Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.
  • Politics is such a torment that I advise everyone I love not to mix with it.
  • Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear.
  • Speeches that are measured by the hour will die with the hour.
  • Taste cannot be controlled by law.
  • That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.
  • The advertisement is the most truthful part of a newspaper
  • The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave
  • When we get piled upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, we shall become as corrupt as Europe.
  • When you reach the end of your rope, tie a knot in it and hang on.
  • Whenever a man has cast a longing eye on offices, a rottenness begins in his conduct.

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Spay Day 2010 Online Pet Photo Contest

Malcolm never saw a pile of laundry he didn't want to sleep on. In his last year, he couldn't make the jump onto the bed.

Vote for Malcolm!  A $5 donation would really help the Humane Society cause.  To find out more about this contest click on the link below.  To vote for Malcolm click on the link in the upper right column. 

You can enter your own pet, too. 

via Spay Day 2010 Online Pet Photo Contest.

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Cardinal on Christmas Morning

Cardinal in a Snowstorm print
Cardinal in a Snowstorm by catherinesherman
This male cardinal waited for his chance at our bird feeder on Christmas morning.  Eight inches of snow covered the ground, making food difficult to find, so there was a lot of bird traffic in line for a meal.  Below is a high resolution version of this photo.

High resolution photo of Cardinal in a Snowstorm.

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Filed under Birds, Kansas, Life, Nature, Photography