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Thought for the Day: Pacifism Revisited

“A child of an Evangelical Friends Sunday school, at an early age I was both born again and schooled in pacifism. While I don’t rightly know how it all fit together theologically, I know that the World War II veterans and their wives grieved what they understood as their necessary service as they loved us into loving Jesus.

As I was coming of age and studying theology, I found myself seeing the ways that war (even “just war”) becomes necessary when we neglect the things that make for peace. I was stunned to learn about the voyage of the MS St. Louis, a ship filled with Jewish Germans seeking asylum in the United States; it was turned away, leaving its refugees to return to Europe and Nazis’ terror (ultimately several European countries received the passengers that we denied). There were things we coulda‐woulda‐shoulda done that would have prevented the Holocaust, things that would have prevented the need for what I’d been taught was a necessary war. Pacifism, I learned, must be proactive and intensely active.

In more recent years I’ve spent many nights praying with my feet in Ferguson, Mo., and beyond. I’ve seen the police state wage war on the people; tasted tear gas; heard the beat of the batons; watched the entrenched, systemic racism up close and personal. As we call for nonviolent resistance, we too often fail to recognize that violence is already present.

In this light, platitudes for peacemaking sound more like acquiescence with evil and have no rightful place. Pacifism, it seems, is a position of privilege more so than justice. And yet as we watch the rise of the alt‐right (essentially Nazi 2.0), I’m finding myself rethinking it all yet again.

Back in the “righteous war” of the European theatre, we defeated one man and his regime with the best of American war‐making tools (or so the story is told). Success was declared, and decades of relative prosperity awaited those heralded as victors. Because our victory was militaristic and focused on one man’s empire, we never addressed what propelled the mass of people to support the madness. Make no mistake, most German folk went along (“it’s a job,” “it’s the law,” “I have to feed my family”), and many actually supported the regime. We never addressed the white supremacist ideology that undergirded the Nazi agenda, the same ideology upon which our nation was founded.

Likely we didn’t address it because it was too close to our own. In the midst of our warring, Jim Crow was having a field day back here at home. After the war, in the era of relative prosperity, the question was raised as to whether the prosperity belonged to everyone or just white folk. Slowly (with hugh sacrifice by Black leaders) some doors opened. But even then white folk never really talked about race and ethnicity. We shared metaphors that allowed us to pretend that everyone is white (melting pot, salad bowl, color‐blind) while maintaining a system of goods and services that were never shared.

Refusing to address the underlying values of the Third Reich (white capitalist patriarchy), we have been destined to relive them. We have a president who recently called a Black woman (his former aide) a “dog,” welcomed the white nationalist folk to the White House Lawn, and continued refusal to return hundreds of Brown‐skinned children to their parents. All the while his base cheers widely and his party stands behind him. In vivid and horrifying detail we are seeing the fruit of the poisonous taproot that we failed to address when we laid the blame for the Holocaust at the feet of a single contorted human. The blame then, and now, belongs with an underlying value system that elevates and dehumanizes in binary categories.

Pacifism is not passive: it is that active work of looking at the deepest causes of violence. Pacifism is a call to address violently oppressive power structures, not a judgment of the response by the oppressed. Pacifism is proactive and militant and actively disrupting [my emphasis].

Had we (white folk) embraced pacifism, we might have engaged the work necessary to identify and unlearn the racism that is suffocating us all. We might have found the courage to atone for our nation’s most original sins.

Instead we are reviving them.” – Katherine HawkerSelf, St. Louis, MO,  April 1, 2019

From: https://www.friendsjournal.org/pacifism-revisited/

It isn’t too late — yet.  Aloha, Renée

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Thought for the Day: Education

Parker J. Palmer,  American author, educator, and activist who focuses on issues in education, community, leadership, spirituality and social change, notes:

“I have thought often and painfully of the education I received — in some of the best colleges in this country — about the history of the Third Reich.  I was taught by good historians, some of them award-winning.  But I was taught the history of Nazi Germany in such a way that I felt as if all of that murderousness had happened to another species on another planet.

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Parker J. Palmer image from Wikipedia

My teachers were not Holocaust revisionists.  They weren’t saying it didn’t happen.  They taught the statistics and the facts and the theories behind the facts, but they presented them at such objective arm’s length that the inwardness of the events was never revealed to me. All was objectified and externalized,  and I ended up orally and spiritually deformed as a consequence.

There are two things that I failed to learn from my history courses on Nazi Germany — things that I should have learned, and did learn painfully in later years.  One was that the very community I grew up in, on the North Shore of Chicago, had its own fascist anti-Semitic tendencies.  I grew up in Wilmette, Illinois, and if you were a Jew in the Chicago area, you didn’t live in Wilmette.  You didn’t live in Evanston or Kenilworth, either, because there was fascism at work.  I should have been taught that.  Had my life been connected with history in that way, it would have helped me understand my own time and place, and my own involvement in the same evil.  Without that knowledge, there was no way for me to grow morally.

The second, even more deeply inward thing I didn’t learn is that there is within me, in the shadow of my soul, a little Hitler, a force of evil that, when the difference between you and me gets too great, will order me to kill you off.  I won’t do it with a bullet or a gas chamber but with a category, a word that renders you irrelevant to my universe: ‘Oh, you’re just a [fill in the blank].”

(“The Grace of Great Things,” September 1998, quoted in The Sun, June 2019, p.46).

Palmer doesn’t even mention the separation of  Poles, Italians, Chinese . . . , but especially the Blacks and Whites in Chicago, where I was born and lived until when I was four years old, when my family moved down state.  I returned after I had earned my Bachelor’s degree – at Southeast Missouri State College in Cape Girardeau, birth place of Russ Limbaugh.  I don’t remember any Blacks or Latinos in any of my classes in the late 1960s – although that has changed now.

After graduation, my first teaching job was in an inner-city Chicago public high school.  The students were smart enough; the education opportunity not so great. My ninth grade students could read 1st to 10th grade level – all in the same classroom.  In that first year  with minimal training and no experience, I taught classes for English, history, geography, and EMH (Emotionally & Mentally Handicapped – not a really good label for anyone).  The administrators thought I was a good teacher because my students stayed in my classroom.  I probably worked harder than I had ever done before or since; I loved my students, but I wasn’t well qualified, and many of the students had  huge challenges. Several of my girls were pregnant or already had babies; at 14, they said they wanted someone finally to love them.

One of my biggest shocks as a teacher was when we were covering WWII in my history class; several of the students said they had never heard of our U.S. bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki!!!   They didn’t know about the U.S. use of atomic bombs that struck mainly civilians and had medical ramifications for generations after the attacks.  Of course, they learned about it in my class.

If we, in the U.S., can not admit to how things have been, how can we prevent them from happening again?  If we can see only positive aspects of the U.S., how can we change the bad aspects?  In Michael Moore’s movie, Where to Invade Next,  he looks at great practices in other countries: Italians get lots of vacation time; the French public school children serve each other at small round tables and practice conversations as they eat healthy, several course lunches; in Germany,  students are taught the bitter truth about the Holocaust and the Third Reich.

The rise of hateful voices in the U.S. would not come as such a surprise if we had really been paying attention to fringe groups and learning why they believe and act as they do.

One group working to provide accurate history and insights that will help us make good choices is –

Facing History and Ourselves, a non-profit empowering teachers and students to think critically about history and to understand the impact of their choices. <https://www.facinghistory.org>.

HP-schools-small-cta

Facing History curriculum transform schools (and people)

“There are acts that oppose the flow of life and growth and human dignity.  They must be dealt with courageously,” said Stephen R. Schwartz in “The Prayer of the Body III.”

Much is good about our world, but much needs to change.

Moral growth is essential: for ourselves and our nation.

Aloha, Renée

Banner photo from Facing History website.

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Leaking Jet Fuel Threatens Hawaii . . .” by Ann Wright

It’s time for the U.S. military to retire the leaking Red Hill
Storage tanks—and protect our precious water supply
By Ann Wright
    After the big North Korean missile scare in Hawaii a
year ago, one would think that missiles are the greatest
threat to the island of Oahu. Yet, it’s not missiles that are
the threat, it’s our own U.S. military and its massive jet
fuel storage tanks that are leaking into Oahu’s drinking
water aquifer.
    A complex of mammoth 20-story military jet fuel
storage tanks buried 20 stories down in a bluff called
Red Hill is perched only 100 feet above Honolulu’s water
supply. The walls on the 75-year-old jet fuel tanks are
now so thin that the edge of a dime is thicker. Each of the
20 tanks holds 12.5 million gallons of jet fuel, although
18 are in operation now. Two-hundred and twenty-five
million gallons of jet fuel are a mere 100 feet from
causing a catastrophic disaster for the island of Oahu.
    Disaster struck in 2014, when 27,000 gallons of jet fuel
leaked from a tank that had been repaired with a welded
patch. The welding gave way and tens of thousands of
gallons of fuel leaked into the water supply. Studies have
documented leaks dating back to 1947, the continued
corrosion of the tank liners, and the risk of a catastrophic
fuel release.
    Concerned citizens on the island have been trying
for decades to get the U.S. Navy remove the dangerous
tanks. The military states that the underground fuel tanks
are of strategic importance to national security and they
are being maintained as well as 75-year old tanks can
be. Yet those who live on Oahu say: “That’s not good
enough! You can’t have national security by jeopardizing
the health security of your citizens.”
    It is not surprising that the Navy has made little effort
to remove the tanks and put replacements in a less
dangerous place. The military’s hold on the island of
Oahu and its politicians is strong both psychologically
and economically. Oahu is filled with military bases and
accompanying corporations that supply the military with
equipment and services.
    Hawaii is one of the most militarized states in the
nation and Oahu is one of the most militarized islands
with seven major bases and a total of 36,620 military
personnel.
    When the 64,000 military family members and military
contractors are added to the active-duty military, the
military-industrial complex on Oahu numbers about
100,000, 10 percent of Oahu’s total population of 988,000.
The state of Hawaii has only 1.4 million citizens.
    Construction of the military installations on the island
of Oahu began soon after the overthrow of the sovereign
nation of Hawaii by U.S. businessmen and a small
contingent of U.S. Marines:
• Pearl Harbor Naval Base, headquarters of the U.S.
Pacific Fleet Navy and homeport for 25 warships, 15
attack submarines, nine guided-missile destroyers, and
a guided-missile cruiser;
• Hickam Air Force Base, headquarters of the U.S.
Pacific Air Forces, with squadrons of F-15s, F22, C-17
and B-2 bombers;
• Kaneohe Marine Base, with a Marine Air Station
and three Marine regiments;
• Schofield Barracks, home to the 25th Infantry
Division;
• The Tropic Regions Test Center (TRTC);
• Camp Smith, headquarters of the United Indo-Pacific
Command (responsible for all U.S. military activity in
the greater Asia and Pacific region including India) and
headquarters of the U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific;
• Fort Shafter, headquarters for the U.S. Army Pacific;
• Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, a military
educational facility for military and civilian officials
from Asia and the Pacific;
• Tripler Army Medical Center and Veterans
Administration Medical Center;
• U.S. Coast Guard 14th District for the Pacific (while
not part of the Department of Defense, during wartime,
the Coast Guard can go under command of DOD), which
includes three 225-foot buoy tenders, four 110-foot
patrol boats, two 87-foot coastal patrol boats, four small
boat stations, two sector commands, an air station, a Far
East command, five detachments, and over 400 aids to
navigation.
    Major military installations have been built on other
islands of Hawaii. The Puhakaloa Training Area, the
largest U.S. military training area in the world with
133,000 acres for artillery, mortar, small arms and crew-
served weapons firing, is located on the Big Island of
Hawaii. Air Force bombers flying from the continental
United States drop ordnance on the area between the two
volcanoes of the island of Hawaii.
    On the island of Kauai, the Pacific Missile Range
Facility Barking Sands (PMRF) is the world’s largest
range capable of supporting surface, submarines, aircraft,
and space operations simultaneously. PMRF has over
1,100 square miles of instrumented underwater range
and over 42,000 square miles of controlled airspace.
The Navy is currently using PMRF to test “hit to kill”
technology in which anti-ballistic missiles destroy their
targets by using only the kinetic energy from the force
of the collision. The Navy’s Aegis Ballistic Missile
Defense System and the Army’s Terminal High Altitude
Area Defense System, or THAAD, are tested on Kauai
at PMRF.
    On the island of Maui, the Maui High Performance
Computing Center, a Department of Defense Super
-computing Resource Center managed by the Air Force
Research Laboratory, provides DoD scientists and
engineers with one of the world’s largest computers to
solve war-making computational problems.
    [And recently, the U.S. Navy announced plans to expand its ship-to-ship,
ship-to-shore, above water, below water, and on-shore trainings
throughout Hawaii state and Southern California.  See my earlier blog
with excerpts from the published Navy plans].
    According to the Hawaii Chamber of Commerce,
the direct and indirect economic impacts of military
expenditures in Hawaii bring $14.7 billion into
Hawaii’s economy, creating more than 102,000 jobs.
The military’s investments in Hawaii total $8.8 billion.
Military procurement contracts amount to about $2.3
billion annually, making it a prime source of contracting
opportunities for hundreds of Hawaii’s small businesses,
including significant military construction projects.
    The influence of the military in the Hawaiian islands and
on its politicians at all levels cannot be underestimated,
nor can the protection the military is given by its retirees
and the citizens who benefit from it. The pressure on city
and state officials to accept the status quo is very strong.
    Finally, the U.S. government has acknowledged the
medical problems the contamination of the drinking
supply caused in another community—the huge U.S.
Marine Base at Camp Lejeune and Marine Corps Air
Station (MCAS) New River in North Carolina. From
1953 through 1987, tens of thousands of Marines and
their families were contaminated by two on-base water
wells that were contaminated with trichloroethylene
(TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), benzene, and vinyl
chloride, among other compounds from leaking storage
tanks on the base and and an off-base dry cleaner.
    The Veterans Administration has acknowledged the
dangerous situation on the bases in North Carolina that
was ignored for decades. The VA has declared that a large
number of diseases are caused by the chemicals and that
military personnel and their family members who have
contracted these diseases and who are still living will be
compensated. We can expect the same type of diseases
with the continuing leaks at Red Hill.
    On the other side of the country from North Carolina,
the Navy has already closed down one complex of
underground jet fuel storage tanks at Point Loma, Calif.,
which had 54 storage tanks. The riveted seams on the
underground tanks began leaking as they aged. When
1.5 million gallons of fuel spilled from the site in 2006,
the U.S. Navy decided to replace the tanks.
    For us on Oahu, the bottom line is that when, not if,
the massive jet fuel storage tanks leak into the aquifer
of Honolulu, city, state, and federal officials must be
held accountable—the public has given them plenty of
warning of their concerns. As with lead in the water
supply in Flint, Mich., officials knew that the drinking
water was contaminated but didn’t do anything to stop
the community from using it. Remarkably, no Flint
officials have gone to jail yet, but the community is
demanding accountability for malfeasance in office—
which will also happen in Honolulu when the jet fuel
storage tank disaster strikes.
    Why, we citizens ask our elected leaders, do they allow
such a disaster to continue to threaten our water supply
in Honolulu when we know that 75-year-old tanks with
corroding walls are continuing to leak . . . “
vfplogo-high-res
Please speak up.

Aloha, Renée

Reprinted from:  Peace in Our Times  – <peaceinourtimes.org> V5N2—Spring 2019, p. 17.

Banner photo: https://www.commondreams.org/views/2019/02/08/north-korean-missiles-are-not-threat-hawaii-its-our-own-us-militarys-leaking-jet

From:  https://ufdc.ufl.edu/AA00048021/00019

“American Winter”

Here’s a point of view that I hadn’t considered from the Krista Bremer’s essay, “American Winter.”

“The fact is he [my husband] was disturbed by the outcome, but not shocked or dismayed. He did not lose sleep or become paralyzed with dread. He has not given in to despair. Long ago, while growing up in Libya, my husband developed the skills needed to endure a Trump presidency. Living under Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi taught Ismail how to survive a narcissistic, sociopathic leader. My husband is as matter-of-fact about the election outcome as my favorite cashier at our grocery store, a Christian from Gambia who wraps her hair in plain black cloth and wears men’s running shoes that appear to be a size too large. Her dream is to buy land to farm back home. She and her husband, who is working in Europe, are sending as much money as they can back to their children in Gambia. She has worked in this country for more than a decade and hasn’t seen her youngest child in seven years. This is her second job and, at nine dollars an hour, her highest-paying one. . .

When I made a comment about the election results, she lowered her voice so no one else would hear. “Of course Trump won,” she said with a hint of impatience. ‘God is not sleeping.’ Stuffing my purchases into thin plastic bags, she added, ‘God sees the suffering America has spread around the globe.’ She . . . [feels Trump is]  a fitting representative of a rich country that pursues its interests with callous disregard for vulnerable people at home and abroad.”

Read the essay at: https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/494/american-winter

Aloha, Renée

 

Thoughts and Actions: Let them spring from love

War or Peace?

On Saturday, January 13, my husband Barry, our friend Gail from Washington State, and I lounged on our lanai on the warm Maui morning.  We  watched the birds congregate at our feeder: lots of little red beaked Java sparrows, vibrantly colored love birds, red-headed finches, and an occasional Hawaiian cardinal.

 

As we sipped our coffee, chatted, and laughed, a warning alert blared from my phone.  Usually this means a flash flood warning from rain storms up country or a high-surf advisory.  Not at all concerned, I strolled into the kitchen to pick up my phone:

I read:

“BALLISTIC  MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.”

Wow!!

Was this it?

In the three seconds that it took for me to run back outside to where Barry and Gail were chatting, the following thoughts (in abbreviated form) raced through my mind:

1) Where could we take shelter?   We live in a house of single-wall construction, with lots of windows, set on posts and pilings attached to volcanic rock.  We don’t even have basements in Hawaii let alone bomb shelters.   For a short while during the 1960s when everyone in the U.S. was afraid the Russians would attack, my dad – as a part-time job – sold home bomb shelters that could be built in your backyard.  But that was in the Midwest and a long time ago. (I don’t think Dad sold many, and we certainly couldn’t afford one).  At school, we practiced crouching under our desks as a way to be protected from atomic bombs!!   Ridiculous!

2) I’ve read Japanese author Masuji Ibuse’s Black Rain, a dispassionate but memorable novel based on historical records of the devastation caused by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and those who survived.  I’ve been to Hiroshima and  the Peace Museum there where  photos show that  people were vaporized by bombs much smaller than the ones available today.

hiroshima-a-bomb-effects

Photos of the Prefectural Industrial Promotion Building before (inset) and after the bombing of Hiroshima – now known as the Peace Dome, the Atomic Bomb Dome, or A-Bomb Dome (原爆ドーム Genbaku Dōmu)).  It  is part of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park in Hiroshima, Japan and a UNESCO World Heritage.

From:

https://diogenesii.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/hiroshima-a-bomb-effects.png

The report from the first Western journalist to enter Hiroshima after the bombing notes –

On September 3, 1945, “Wilfred Graham Burchett entered Hiroshima alone, less than a month after the atomic bombing of the city. He was the first Western journalist — and almost certainly the first Westerner other than prisoners of war — to reach Hiroshima after the bomb and was the only person to get an uncensored story out of Japan. The story which he typed out on his battered Baby Hermes typewriter, sitting among the ruins, remains one of the most important Western eyewitness accounts, and the first attempt to come to terms with the full human and moral consequences of the United States’ initiation of nuclear war. It was published in the London Daily Express on September 5 and appears below . . .:

30th Day in Hiroshima: Those who escaped begin to die, victims of
THE ATOMIC PLAGUE
I write this as a Warning to the World
DOCTORS FALL AS THEY WORK
Poison gas fear: All wear masks

In Hiroshima, 30 days after the 1st atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly — people who were uninjured in the cataclysm from an unknown something which I can only describe as the atomic plague.

Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller has passed over it and squashed it out of existence. I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world.

In this first testing ground of the atomic bomb I have seen the most terrible and frightening desolation in four years of war. It makes a blitzed Pacific island seem like an Eden. The damage is far greater than photographs can show.

When you arrive in Hiroshima you can look around for twenty-five and perhaps thirty square miles and you can see hardly a building. It gives you an empty feeling in the stomach to see such man-made destruction.

I picked my way to a shack used as a temporary police headquarters in the middle of the vanished city. Looking south from there I could see about three miles of reddish rubble. That is all the atomic bomb left of dozens of blocks of city streets, of buildings, homes, factories and human beings.

STILL THEY FAIL

There is just nothing standing except about twenty factory chimneys — chimneys with no factories. A group of half a dozen gutted buildings. And then again, nothing.

The police chief of Hiroshima welcomed me eagerly as the first Allied correspondent to reach the city. With the local manager of Domei, the leading Japanese news agency, he drove me through, or perhaps I should say over, the city. And he took me to hospitals where the victims of the bomb are still being treated.

In these hospitals I found people who, when the bomb fell suffered absolutely no injuries, but now are dying from the uncanny after-effects. For no apparent reason their health began to fail. They lost appetite. Their hair fell out. Bluish spots appeared on their bodies. And then bleeding began from the ears, nose, and mouth. At first, the doctors told me, they thought these were the symptoms of general debility. They gave their patients Vitamin A injections. The results were horrible. The flesh started rotting away from the hole caused by the injection of the needle. And in every case the victim died. That is one of the after-effects of the first atomic bomb man ever dropped and I do not want to see any more examples of it. . . .

 

From:   https://diogenesii.wordpress.com/tag/hiroshima/

Go to the above link for the rest of the article.

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In the Oct. 10,  2016, Popular Mechanics article, Jay Bennett writes:

Here’s How Much Deadlier Today’s Nukes Are Compared to WWII A-Bombs

“With so much at stake, it’s important to understand what these things are capable of.

The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II—codenamed “Little Boy” and “Fat Man,” respectively—caused widespread destruction, leveled cities, and killed between 90,000 and 166,000 people in Hiroshima (about 20,000 of which were soldiers), and between 39,000 and 80,000 in Nagasaki. These are the only two nuclear weapons ever used in warfare, and let’s hope it stays that way, because some of the nuclear weapons today are more than 3,000 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.”

Also,  for those surviving the initial bombing, the radiation sickness caused agonizing deaths.  (Also, the birth defects that follow the family of the survivors reach into  subsequent generations).

3) I would not want to survive an atomic blast.

4) Even if I did somehow survive the blast, there would be huge problems in Hawaii.  Although the Hawaiians were self-sustaining for thousands of years, now “modern” Hawaii imports 90-95% of its food and energy.  We are one of the most food vulnerable places on Earth.  If there were a catastrophe, we would soon be out of food and fuel.  Puerto Rico is still not getting needed help from the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria on September 20, 2017.

In a December 21, 2017 article for Esquire magazine,

Holms reports, It’s been “three months since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, unleashing the full force of a Category 4 storm on the American territory. The intensity of the 155 mile-per-hour winds and the ferocity of the rainfall led the island’s residents to believe they had encountered something not of this world. . .

The troubles were never going to recede with the storm. The recovery was always going to be long, hard, and frustrating. But reports on the ground in the ensuing weeks quickly made it clear that the federal government’s effort was unacceptably slow and perilously inept. One month after the storm, one million Puerto Ricans—American citizens—were without water. Three million were without power.”

From: http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/a14474788/puerto-rico-3-months-after-hurricane/

Puerto Rico is much closer to the Mainland U.S. than we are; we aren’t likely to get much help from our current administration.

5) Where was President Trump – and what was he doing with his “bigger button”?

Such terrifying thoughts raced through my mind as I ran back outside to alert Barry and Gail.

Gail, being the smart Microsoft contractor that she is, immediately opened her computer and checked The New York Times.   Lead stories included one on the U.S. economy and one on gay rights.  There was nothing about missiles headed toward Hawaii.  Barry, the always great researcher, ran to the kitchen and turned on the radio.  There was nothing on any channel.  There were no continuing disaster sirens.

We decided the alert had been a hoax or a hack.

Besides, we were with people we loved, watching birds, and drinking coffee. Our neighbor came up with his cup of coffee.  Our other lovely neighbor was off paddling in the ocean.  Our son and his little family were on the U.S. Mainland.  If we were to go, it would be quick – and besides the crisis didn’t seem real.

Another alarm signal came 38 minutes later saying the first had been a mistake.  Later we learned that our president had been playing golf in Florida, so he didn’t overreact to the “news.”  The whole situation reminded us that we must check our sources, but it also reminded us that we haven’t really worried about nuclear threats since the early 60s.

At home on our lanai, our little gathering did have a heightened sense of appreciation for the beautiful day, our relationships, our lives, and we poured another round of coffee.

A few days later, the following letter (written by my friend Melinda whom I’ve known for about 20 years) was published in The Maui News:

Nuclear war is neither acceptable nor inevitable

Stop the Nuclear Attack Warning System; it deceives people into believing there is something they can do to protect themselves. There isn’t.

 

As an interviewer and researcher who lived in Hiroshima for over 10 years, I learned that any survival is a fluke. The small bombs that were detonated in Japan vaporized people in an instant, leaving only their shadows. Skin melted off, neighborhoods disappeared, people who were in shelters were sucked out by an intense force and those who survived for a while died horrific deaths from radiation poisoning.

The warning signal is a cruel lie. Nuclear war is neither acceptable nor inevitable.

Did you know that in 1929 a law was passed making war illegal? It’s called the Kellogg Brian Pact. It was put forth by our secretary of state, Frank B. Kellogg, and his French counterpart, Aristide Briand.

Did you also know that Hawaii is the first state to recognize the KBP law thanks to Mayor Alan Arakawa’s signing a proclamation making Aug. 27 KBP day? And that Gov. David Ige recognized KBP in a Peace Day proclamation at the Nisei Veterans Memorial Center in September?

Instead of sirens we need to find a way to de-escalate the path toward nuclear war. Could it be through legal action such as fines for incitement since KBP outlaws war?

If the Koreas and USA can negotiate a cease-fire, surely we citizens of aloha can find a way to prepare for “No More War.”

Melinda Clarke

****

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At the Maui Women’s March, January 20, 2018, – UH Maui College

Surely, we can all work for peace and toward peace.

Religious leaders of all faiths advise peace and love:

Prophet Muhammad, said : “None of you have faith until you love for your neighbor what you love for yourself” (Sahih Muslim)

from: http://quraan-today.blogspot.com/2014/01/golden-rule-in-islam-treat-others-as.html

The wise words of Buddha from the Dhammapada  further reminds us where we could be putting our thoughts – and actions:

 

The thought manifests as the word;

  The word manifests as the deed;

  The deed develops into habit;

  And habit hardens into character.

  So watch the thought and its way with care and let it spring from 

  love, born out of concern for all beings.”

  –The Buddha

Gandhi said, “The real love is to love them that hate you, to love your neighbor even though you distrust him. Non-violence requires a double faith, faith in God and also faith in man. I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent. . . .

quote-when-i-despair-i-remember-that-all-through-history-the-ways-of-truth-and-love-have-always-won-mahatma-gandhi-283137

From: http://izquotes.com/quotes-pictures/quote-when-i-despair-i-remember-that-all-through-history-the-ways-of-truth-and-love-have-always-won-mahatma-gandhi-283137.jpg

And what did Jesus say? “Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Let’s put our focus and energy on understanding and loving everyone.   Our survival and that of the Earth depends on it.

Aloha,

Renée

Banner photo:  Birds in the papaya tree off our lanai

In America: Guns & Violence

Barry and I are on the road again.

Barry-bikes

Barry loading up our bicycles in St. Louis

At the beginning of March, we flew from Maui to St. Louis, MO, where much of my family lives.  My nephew is getting married there in April, so we will join the family celebration.  Before that event, we are taking a road trip to visit friends, family, high school and college friends, Servas hosts, and a newly discovered first cousin who lives in Boyton Beach, Florida.  We are now in Plantation, Florida, visiting dear friends, Fran and Roy, whom we have known for many years.  On our way, we have visited – among others – a Green Party Servas family in Memphis, TN, a Mennonite Servas family in rural Macon, MS, my terrific brother and his wife in Gainesville, and  three of Barry’s high school friends from New York, who now live in Florida. . . .  We have more great encounters ahead.

One of our stops along the way was in Memphis at the Iron Works Museum.  What we learned there in the Guns, Violence, and Justice special exhibit – about guns and violence in the U.S. – shocked us.

gun-ownership

Guns and violence

Among many facts, we learned:

Percent of Americans who say they have a gun in their home in 2014:

By race –

White 41%, Hispanic 20%, Black 19%

By environment –

Rural 51%, Urban 36%, Suburban 25%

By ideology –

Conservative 41%, Moderate 36%, Liberal 26%

Number of guns per 100 people by country:

U.S. – 88.8

Yemen – 54.8  [this is a war-torn country so citizens are likely to have guns, but the U.S. has more]

Switzerland – 45.7

Finland 45.3

Serbia 37.8

Mass Shootings – since 1982 in the U.S. [when 4 or more people are killed in one incident]:

Total Mass Shootings – 84      Total Victims – 1,353

Type of Weapons Used in Mass Shootings:

Semi-automatic Handgun – 73

Rifle – 29

Revolver – 24

Shotgun – 23

Top Five Reasons Americans Own Guns:

60% – Personal Safety/Protection

36% – Hunting

13% – Recreation/Sport

8% – Target Practice

5% – Second Amendment rights

When I went to school in Southeast Missouri, a date could involve target practicing.  Now I’ve been in Hawaii for many years.  The low gun violence rate there is another reason to say, “MauiKa ʻOi” – Maui is the best.

guns-and-justice-poster

“This group exhibition features artists using guns and gun references in their artwork to address issues impacting our lives. The works in Guns, Violence and Justice explore concepts of militia consciousness, individual and national accumulations of weapons, protection and aggression, recreation and justice. Several artists are examining their personal relationships with guns while others are engaging in a cultural critique in response to the increasing gun violence across the country.

Participating artists: Boris Bally | David Hess | Darryl Lauster | Bill Price | Stephen Saracino | Victor Hugo Zayas”

Go to –https://www.metalmuseum.org/visit

Gun Deaths  – “33,636 people died from firearm related causes in the United States [in 2013].  63% of firearm related deaths were suicide [my emphasis]. 33.3% were homicide and 3.7% were unintentional, undetermined, legal interventions or war.

Of those gun deaths in 2013:                                    Male                       Female

Total White 25,044                                                    21,116                       3,928

Total Black  7,797                                                         7,016                          781

Total Hispanic  2,951                                                   2,595                          356

Total Asian or Pacific Islander 469                              381                           88

Total American Indian or Alaskan Native 326          281                           45

Many of these facts (with sources) surprised me by not fitting into  assumptions that I’ve made.

gun-tools

Guns converted into tools.

On the wall behind this artist’s piece of transformed guns: “In 1791, total estimated population of the U.S. – 3,929,214 at the same time total estimated firearms in U.S. – 118,629.  In 2016, total estimated population of the U.S.  325,025,419 and total estimated firearms in U.S. 357,000,000.”

There are more guns in the U.S. than there are people!  That’s ridiculous!  The current administration has passed a bill that allows people who have a history of mental problems to buy guns!!!  What’s wrong with us?

The exhibit presents gun facts and artists creations.

twisted-guns

Twisted guns

duck-gun

QUAAK (Quintessential Ugly Amphibious Attack Kraft), 2016 – Steel, pewter, brass, bronze, cherry – by Bill Price

long-neck-bird---guns

G-11-12GA GooseGun, 2016 – Steel, shotgun, brass, maple, mahogany, bumper guards – by Bill Price

writing-on-the-wall

Museum viewers reaction to this exhibit – some more informed than others

Besides the special gun exhibit, the museum also has metal pieces of beauty, humor, and whimsy.

metal-flower

Metal flowers

metal-fence-copy

Beautiful metal gate

metal-bird

Metal bird

 

Banner image:  Loaded Menorah 2, 2016 – 925 silver, altered handguns, gun barrels and gun components (steel) (weapons courtesy of Goods for Guns Anti-Violence Coalition, City of Pittsburgh, PA – by Boris Bally

P.S.  More information: in  the Columbia, South Carolina April 2, 2017 paper, The State,  p. 9A article by Lisa Marie Pane, “Once-booming gun industry recalibrating under Trump,” notes: “President Donald Trump promised to revive manufacturing in the United States, but there’s one once-burgeoning sector poised to shrink under his watch: the gun industry.

Fears of government limits on guns – some real, some perceived – led to a surge in demand during President Barack Obama’s tenure and manufacturers leaped to keep up.  Over the decade ending in 2015, the number of U.S. companies licensed to make firearms jumped a whopping 362 percent.  But sales are down and the bubble appears to be bursting with a staunch advocate for gun rights in the White House and Republicans ruling Congress.”

fileZD5F6WF0

In this March 9, 2017, photo, a row of AR-15 style rifles manufactured by Daniel Defense sit in a vault at the company’s headquarters in Black Creek. Ga.

Image from: https://www.scribd.com/article/343693403/Once-Booming-Gun-Industry-Now-Recalibrating-Under-Trump

May all guns remain in their vaults.

Go to the Metal Museum when you are in Memphis.  And let’s put guns to good use: transform them into art.   Aloha, Renée

Barry’s Gleanings: U.S. 2016 Election – Thoughts

While some people in the U.S. are celebrating the recent presidential election, many are not.  In the most recent edition of Utne magazine, Eric Utne provides good links to a variety of American voices in his article “Now What?”:

American Flag
Photo by Fotolia/photolink

“Let’s start with Ronnie Bennett timegoesby.net) who puts out a must-read blog on aging called Time Goes By. She writes:

…It is not so long ago that when someone in the family died, people mourned for a long time. Custom dictated that mirrors in the home be covered, social life curtailed and that the mourners wear black (widow’s weeds) for up to a year and even more in certain cases.

Everything is faster now and today that kind of mourning is obsolete, even considered morbid. Not me. Given what has just happened, I do not believe it is unreasonable at all.

Two things for sure. Like some people in the comments on Wednesday’s post told us, I am wearing black. Complete black, even earrings. Maybe not all the time, but a lot of the time to remind me every day what a terrible thing we as a country have done.

My attire will probably lighten up in time but I own a lot of black clothing so I’m giving it all a new kind of symbolism and meaning.

Second, never again will I say or write that man’s name.

Neither of these silly, little protests will change anything. But they will keep what has happened in the forefront of my mind and that will inform choices I make from now on.

Mostly, right now, I want to be quiet and to learn to breathe again. I don’t know when I will be done with that and unlike the go-getters, I think it is a good thing to do – to be quiet and reflect.

The there’s the Canadian journalist Naomi Klein, author of The Shock Doctrine and, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate. She writes (naomiklein.org):

They will blame James Comey and the FBI. They will blame voter suppression and racism. They will blame Bernie or bust and misogyny. They will blame third parties and independent candidates. They will blame the corporate media for giving him the platform, social media for being a bullhorn, and WikiLeaks for airing the laundry. But this leaves out the force most responsible for creating the nightmare in which we now find ourselves: neoliberalism, fully embodied by Hillary Clinton and her machine… Trump’s message was: “All is hell.” Clinton answered: “All is well.” But it’s not well – far from it.

Charles Eisenstein, author of The More Beautiful World We Know in Our Hearts is Possible, (newandancientstory.net) writes:

For the last eight years it has been possible for most people (at least in the relatively privileged classes) to believe that the system, though creaky, basically works, and that the progressive deterioration of everything from ecology to economy is a temporary deviation from the evolutionary imperative of progress… The prison-industrial complex, the endless wars, the surveillance state, the pipelines, the nuclear weapons expansion were easier for liberals to swallow when they came with a dose of LGBTQ rights under an African-American President… As we enter a period of intensifying disorder, it is important to introduce a different kind of force… I would call it love if it weren’t for the risk of triggering your New Age bullshit detector… So let’s start with empathy. Politically, empathy is akin to solidarity, born of the understanding that we are all in the uncertainty together…

Rebecca Solnit, (rebeccasolnit.net) writes:

Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes—you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others.

Ricken Patel, Avaaz.org) writes:

The darkness of Trumpism could help us build the most inspiring movement for human unity and progress the world has EVER seen, with a new, people-centered, high-integrity, inspiring politics that brings massive improvement to the status quo.

Michael Meade, (mosaicvoices.org) writes:

Solstice means “sun stands still.” At mid-winter it means the sun stopping amidst a darkening world. We stop as the sun stops, the way one’s heart can stop in a crucial moment of fear or beauty; then begins again, but in an altered way… There may be no better time than the dark times we find ourselves in to rekindle the instinct for uniting together and expressing love, care and community.

Bill McKibben (350.org) never fails to inform and inspire. He writes:

I wish I had some magic words to make the gobsmacked feeling go away. But I can tell you from experience that taking action, joining with others to protest, heals some of the sting. And throughout history, movements like ours have been the ones to create lasting change—not a single individual or president. That’s the work we’ll get back to, together.

And then there’s Dougald Hine (Crossed Lines, dougald.nu), co-founder of my favorite collapsarian website, Dark Mountain:

It’s not the apocalypse, of course, but if you thought the shape of history was meant to be an upward curve of progress, then this feels like the apocalypse… It reminds me of the conversations that sometimes happen in the last days of life, or on the evening of a funeral… There’s a chance of getting real… Donald Trump is a shadowy parody of a trickster, a toxic mimic of Loki. We don’t know the shape of the war that could be coming, nor how that war will end, and not only because we cannot see the future, but because it hasn’t happened yet: there is still more than one way all this could play out, though the possibilities likely range from bad to worse. Among the things that might be worth doing is to read some books from Germany in the 1920s and 30s, to get a better understanding of what Nazism looked like, before anyone could say for sure how the story would end… If someone were to ask me what kind of cause is sufficient to live for in dark times, the best answer I could give would be: to take responsibility for the survival of something that matters deeply. Whatever that is, your best action might then be to get it out of harm’s way, or to put yourself in harm’s way on its behalf, or anything else your sense of responsibility tells you. Some of those actions will be loud and public, others quiet, invisible, never to be known. They are beginning already. And though it is not the bravest form of action, and often takes place far from the frontline, I believe the work of sense-making is among the actions that are called for… This is where I intend to put a good part of my energy in the next while, to the question of what it means if the future is not coming back. How do we disentangle our thinking and our hopes from the cultural logic of progress? For that logic does not have enough room for loss, nor for the kind of deep rethinking that is called for when a culture is in crisis… I want to say that this is also history, though it doesn’t get written down so much: the small joys and gentlenesses, the fragments of peace, time spent caring for our children, or our parents, or our neighbours. These tasks alone are not enough to hold off the darkness, but they are one of the starting points, one of the models for what it means to take responsibility for the survival of things that matter deeply…. We’ll get through because we have to, the way we always have, one foot in front of another. Hold those you love tight. Be kind to strangers… There is work to be done.

Each of these thinkers and visionaries has a finger on the pulse of our times. If you’re not reading them, I urge you to do so. You won’t regret it.

Eric Utne is the founder of Utne Reader. He is writing a memoir, to be published by Random House.

http://www.utne.com/politics/eric-utne-2016-election-zbtz1611zsau

eric_utne01

Eric Utne from –

Image from – http://www.meaningfulwork.com/books/bio_utne.html

You’ll find interesting readings – and ideas.  Aloha, Barry (and Renée)

Thought for the Day: Our Farmers

Since President Abraham Lincoln declared it a national holiday in 1863, those of us in the United States have been celebrating Thanksgiving  Day on the final Thursday in November.   We give thanks and count our many blessings – and usually eat too much with family and friends.

pumpkin1

One important blessing is our many farmers who provide the food we eat.

A way to become more conscious and make more informed choices about the food we have offered is to get to know our local farmers and their concerns.

 

If you live in Hawaii, a great way to do that is to join the Hawaii HFUU 2016 colored w microns Farmers Union United, a vital community group.  Whether you are a family  farmer, an avid backyard gardener, or just like to know where you can get good local produce, HFUU offers wonderful workshops, informative meetings, and works on important agricultural concerns.

For more information and to join, go to: https://hfuuhi.org/

Current President of Maui Farmers Union United and Vice President of Hawaii State Farmers Union United, Vincent Mina says about the challenges of farming (and everything else),

“If you do anything substantive, it will be hard.  Just get on with it.”

vincentmina-newphoto

Vincent Mina – from the HFUU home page.

Wherever you are in the world, check out what your farmers are doing.   “Get on with it.”

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family — and all who provide for you.

Aloha, Renée

 

A Witch? A Relative? Mary (Bliss) Parsons

On our recent trip home to the Midwest, we learned about an early ancestor–a controversial one: Mary (Bliss) Parsons, who went to court twice under suspicion of being a witch – and survived.   Cousin Elaine shared what she had learned from Lin, our Wisconsin cousin who has studied much about our genealogy.  Mary (Bliss) Parsons is our eighth great-grandmother.

Born in Gloucestershire,  England, in 1628, Mary  emigrated from England to Hartford with her family and later married Joseph Parsons.   Mary and Joseph settled near Springfield and later Northampton, Massachusetts. The couple had 11 healthy children (who mainly flourished).  The family joined the church and experienced financial success.  Among other ventures,  they opened the first tavern in Northampton.  Probably as a result of her good fortune, Mary Bliss Parson was suspected of being a witch.

Because neighbor Sarah Bridgman had spread rumors most particularly insinuating that Mary was a witch,  in 1656, Joseph Parsons took Sarah to court.  Joseph charged Sarah Bridgman with slander on behalf of his wife.  Mary Parsons had her name cleared in court, but the suspicions remained.  Eighteen years later, Mary Parsons was again charged in court with being a witch

According to Wikipedia, Mary Bliss Parson’s Witchcraft trial began in 1674, decades before the infamous Salem Witch Trials.  “She was one of many persecuted in the decades before, illustrative of the mindset common in accusals of witchcraft that targeted the richer members of society rather than the poorer outcasts. . . What sparked the accusations in 1674 was the sudden death of neighbor Sarah Bridgman’s daughter, Mary Bartlett. Mary Parsons’ body was searched for “witch marks” [skin lesions].  In 1675. . . [Mary (Bliss) Parsons] was sent to Boston for the trial but found innocent of witchcraft. . .

According to a blog on “John Bliss – Miner Descent” – “Local tradition has remembered Mary as being ‘possessed of great beauty and talents, but…not very amiable…exclusive in the choice of her associates, and…of haughty manners’” [She also had 11 children in a time before washing machines or electric stoves–and so had no time for idle chatter].

from: http://minerdescent.com/2011/12/01/john-bliss/

The site also says the following photo although often identified as Mary Bliss Parsons – is NOT her:

Not - Mary Bliss Parsons - this hat would not be the thing to wear to your witchcraft trial
Although not Mary Bliss Parsons, the woman wearing this hat fits our Halloween stereotype of how a witch would look.

In a recent note to another blog on Mary Bliss Parsons, Kathy-Ann Becker, author of “Silencing the Women: The Witch Trials of Mary Bliss Parsons” noted: “There are no know paintings of Mary Bliss Parsons.” <https://tasteofwonderland.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/the-witch-of-northampton/>

Even though Mary Parsons was found not guilty,  rumors did not die down, and Mary and Joseph Parsons eventually moved back to Springfield in 1679-80.

Not guilty
Not guilty

According to Mass Movements:

“Although Mary Parsons occupied a far more secure social position than almost all of the other women charged with witchcraft in early New England — after all, she was the wife of one of the richest, most respected men in western Massachusetts — her experience fit the norm in other ways. Middle-aged women were the most likely to be accused of witchcraft. The issues of jealousy, personal animosity, and family feuds that were so evident in her case would fuel the Salem Witch hysteria  of 1692 as well.

Perhaps Mary (Bliss) Parsons
An image perhaps – but not likely – of  Mary (Bliss) Parsons

The horror that began in Salem Village (present day Danvers) and spread to almost every town in Essex county saw women, children, and men, including the former minister of Salem Village, hauled before magistrates. At one point some 170 accused witches were being held in jails in Ipswich, Salem, Boston, and Cambridge. Between June and September of 1692, authorities hanged 19 people and pressed one to death; four more died in prison, awaiting trial. In 1693 the madness ended [after the wife of a judge was accused of being a witch. No longer was spectral evidence allowed in court — that an accused person’s spirit or spectral shape appeared to the witness in a dream at the time the accused person’s physical body was at another location].  There would be no more convictions and executions for witchcraft in New England, although it would be another century before the belief in witches lost its hold on the people of the region.

Sources

A Delusion of Satan, by Frances Hill (Da Capo Press, 1997).

Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England, by John Putman Demos (Oxford University Press, 1982).

“The Goody Parsons Witchcraft Case: A Journey to Seventeenth-Century Northampton.”

From:  http://www.massmoments.org/moment.cfm?mid=142

Mary Parsons lived for thirty years after her husband died in 1683.  She continued to amass fortune and endured rumors of Witchcraft for the rest of her life.  In 1712, Mary (Bliss) Parsons died at the age of 84.

From: <https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_(Bliss)_Parsons

Mary and her husband had many descendants
Mary and her husband Joseph had many descendants

Our family story is that Mary Parsons was one of the few women charged with witchcraft who was allowed to defend herself in court.  Her arguments were believed, and she was acquitted  of the charge.

Another version, however,  is that her husband paid to have her acquitted.

Two descendants have written books about Mary Bliss Parsons:

1) Kathy-Ann Becker has written SILENCING THE WOMEN: The Witch Trials of Mary Bliss Parsons – “the true story of what happened to a Puritan woman who was too beautiful, too rich, and too outspoken for her times”  – The novel is historical fiction, a love story.  [I’m thinking a life of having and caring for 11 children and her husband in the 1700s – and being accused throughout her life of being a witch – might not be that romantic, but I haven’t read the book.  If you do read it, please let us know how you like it].

http://www.amazon.com/SILENCING-WOMEN-Witch-Trials-Parsons/dp/1626464200/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1444094734&sr=1-1&keywords=mary+bliss+parsons   Reviewers give it 4.9/5 stars.

“Silencing the Women”

2) In The Strong Witch Society: The Diary of Mary Bliss Parsons, the author D.H. Parsons says Mary has channeled her story through him.  This book is the first of three volumes.  D.H. Parsons notes, “What is not so well known is that Mary was a member of a small but powerful group of witches, The Strong Witch Society. After her death in 1712, it became Mary’s purpose to somehow “awaken” in the mind and spirit of one of her future descendants in order to re-institute The Strong Witch Society. The author is that grandchild. What unfolds on the pages of this book is a roller-coaster of supernatural events and ‘lessons’ designed with the express purpose of calling together the remaining Strong Witches in order to divert an impending world disaster. This book is about far more than just Witches. It introduces and covers many other subjects including Alien Contact, Inter-Dimensional Travel, the Natural Disasters our world is facing today, political crises, and etc. It offers “Simple solutions on how to deal with all of those problems before it is too late”

Reviewers give it 4.6/5 stars.  The author says it is a non-fiction book.  I’ve read the first 40 pages in the first of three volumes.  So  far, I’ve not learned of any “Simple solutions” to any of our modern problems, but I have many pages to go.  If you finish this set of books before I do, let us know what you think.

amazon.com/dp/B004J8HT7G/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

The Strong Witch Society
The Strong Witch Society

Whatever is true, Mary Bliss Parsons was a strong, resourceful woman, one who had 11 children and lived to be 84 back when there were no antibiotics, many women died during childbirth, and the average longevity rate in the early 1700s in the U.S. was 36 years old!

Perhaps Mary Bliss Parsons was a witch (a good witch).  🙂

What about you?  Do you have any suspected witches or warlocks in your family history?

Happy Halloween.  May all the spirits be good to you.  Aloha, Renée

P.S. My cousin Lin, who told me about our ancestor Mary Bliss Parsons recommends:

Lin says, “Read this book. It’s a wonderful read and nothing like the other Mary Bliss Parsons books.” Happy reading.

Bali and Mainland U.S. – our trip continues

Barry and I had a fantastic and varied trip last year.  It took us time to make it back home.  For about two months, we stayed in green and hot Ubud, Bali.

Bali spiders

Bali spiders – even the insects are colorful

Bali - green and lush

Bali – green and lush

Surprising art

Surprising art

And then flew – via Qatar and Philadelphia – on to St. Louis.

We got there at the beginning of April – in time to see –

The last of the snow in my sister's yard.

The last of the snow in my sister’s yard.

And family:

Front row: Brother Mike and his wife Erika came in from Florida, my sister Trish between Barry and me, and cousin Coleen - on the Missouri River

Front row: Brother Mike and his wife Erika came in from Florida, my sister Trish between Barry and me, and cousin Coleen – on the Missouri River

Niece Jennie, nephew Chris' wife Val, and our youngest family member - Cooper :)

Niece Jennie, nephew Chris’ wife Val, and our youngest family member – Cooper 🙂

Nephew Chris with Quinn

Nephew Chris with Quinn

Near where we ate lunch, on this spring day on Main Street, St. Charles, MO, we saw this bush. Can you see what's there?

Near where we ate lunch, on this spring day on Main Street, St. Charles, MO, we saw this bush. Can you see what’s there?

Lots of snakes - big and little sunning themselves. All beings happily greeted the sun1

Lots of snakes – big and little sunning themselves. All beings happily greeted the sun!

Mike, Erika, Barry, and I drove to Effingham, IL to see our cousin Elaine; she knows much about our family history and always has something for us to learn.  She took us to the grave of our Great-Great Grandpa Benjamin Backensto (the grandpa of my Grandma Ola Edith Riley, who made the terrific pineapple-upside-down cake).

Mike, Erika, & Barry listening to Elaine explain our family history. The land for the church and cemetery were donated by an ancestor.

Mike, Erika, & Barry listening to Elaine explain our family history. The land for the church (in the background) and cemetery — in Loudon Township, near Beecher City, IL — was donated by Great-Great Grandpa Backensto.

Now what had been his land – has many producing oil wells!   If only Great – Great Grandpa Backensto had given the land to us!   But he had many of his own children, so that land didn’t go all that far, and he held it generations ago.  😦

xxx

Near Beecher City, IL – the cemetery where our great-great grandpa is buried

Benjamin Backensto - died Jan. 12, 1873 - age 63 years and 10 months - a notable age for the time

Benjamin Backensto – died Jan. 12, 1873 – age 63 years and 10 months – a notable age for the time when life expectancy in the U.S. was 45!

We also learned about an even earlier ancestor–a controversial one: Mary (Bliss) Parsons, who was charged with being a witch – twice – and survived.

Besides learning of ancestors, we caught up with young members of our family.

Mike and Kegan searching for treasure under the refrigerator

Mike and Keegan searching for treasure under the refrigerator

We had a wonderful visit with our cousin Elaine.

Elaine's wonderful pineapple upside down cake

Elaine’s delicious pineapple upside down cake – the recipe is in an earlier post.

Back near St. Louis, we had lots of family gatherings at my sister’s house.  We did lots of eating,  talking, and laughing.

Trish, Elaine, and Erika

Trish, Elaine, and Erika

Mike and brother-in-law Chuck - solving world problems

Mike and brother-in-law Chuck – solving world problems

Kegan, brother Al, and nephew Jason - in the foreground

Cousin Keegan, brother Al, and nephew Jason – in the foreground.  We saw lots of other family members: Brianna, Lori, Dale, Fred, soon to be family Amy.

More young Rileys :)

More young Rileys 🙂

Outside - lots of turtles

Outside along the Missouri River bank – lots of turtles – on a walk with Trish and Chuck

Lone biker - out on a spring run

Lone biker – out on a spring ride

The geese were there

Geese

Then we headed to the West

Then Barry and I headed West.

We needed to deliver our car

We needed to deliver our car “Russell” to the Seattle docks, and we got one last road trip in this great touring car.

From friends Fran and Roy's deck in Breckenridge, Colorado

From Fran and Roy’s deck in Breckenridge, Colorado

For a day or so in Breckenridge, we thought we were going to be snowed in.  But we were with friends Fran and Roy;  they are good company (and have a fireplace and good food), so we weren’t worried.

Barry staying cozy in Breckenridge

Barry staying cozy in Breckenridge

However, the storm didn’t really hit us.  Instead of huddling inside, we walked beautiful trails through snow covered trees with Fran and Roy and ate wonderful vegan meals and talked and laughed over great dinners.

Then we were on our way to Bountiful, Utah, where we stayed with a lovely Servas family for two days.  We got involved in the annual Bountiful food drive.  Cars, trucks, vans filled with Boy Scouts (sponsored by the Mormans) – and lots of donated food – came to the food bank site in a continuous parade from about 8 – 11:30 a.m.   It was really an impressive event.

Barry and I also wandered around Salt Lake City:

From the Salt Lake City Public Library

From the Salt Lake City Public Library

At the University of Nevada, we got to see the women’s gymnastic championships – awesome.

We saw the PAC - 12 Women's Gymnastic Championships

We saw the PAC – 12 Women’s Gymnastic Championships – the best attended women’s sports event in the U.S.

We always love getting to meet Servas hosts and seeing a glimpse of their lives.  Our Bountiful Servas hosts were great.

Then, if you know Barry, you know he likes to play Texas hold’m poker.  And Reno is between Salt Lake and Seattle.

A magician show with cool dancers

A magician show with cool dancers – Madame Houdini in Reno

I don’t gamble – at all.  I don’t even want to take my chances at the slot machines.  Instead, weird person that I am, I went to a great Pilates studio.

xxx Pilates in Reno

Club Pilates Reno – new facility, great teachers

Lots of food - some of it could be healthy

Lots of food – some of it could be healthy

Barry got his poker fix - and we had fun

Barry got his poker fix – and we had fun

I will leave you here for now.  We had more road ahead of us before making it back home to Maui.

Aloha, Renée

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