Archive for the ‘Events’ Category

Anne Frank’s protector dies

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

Miep Gies preserved the famous diary of that horrible time

The news this morning opened with a reflection on a great legacy of humanity, and the lady who saved it from destruction.

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Dick Coersen / EPA File

Miep Gies has died at 100 years old, after a brief illness, in Amsterdam. She was an office secretary, a modest occupation, but she was a giant in heart and bravery. Along with her husband, Jan, a resistance fighter during Nazi occupation, she shielded the Frank family, bringing Anne reading materials and keeping the family fed and safe. (Read the Associated Press article here.)

After the war, she safely delivered Anne’s diary to her father. In the years since its publication as “The Diary of Anne Frank,” it has become beloved around the world for its message of hope and tolerance.

News reports say she did not consider herself a hero; on the contrary, she said her actions should be considered normal, that we should look after each other as an ordinary action.

When Otto Frank returned to their house after the Liberation, he learned of his daughter’s death in the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen of typhus (it’s in the north of Germany).

As a personal note, I have never read the Diary of Anne Frank. I was never required to in school and have not done so on my own. It is too unbearable for me, I admit. I can’t accept that humanity allowed the Holocaust or that today, we continue to allow such destruction of human lives and souls as in Sudan.

Perhaps it is wrong of me to avoid the hardship of reading her diary, but she is in my heart just the same, a hopeful teenager who can’t understand war, violence and hatred, looking forward to a better day.

Miracle on 40-Second Street

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Launching into the routine this morning of warming the kettle, dishing the coffee and the fairly tedious act of filling the coffee maker without spilling water all over the counter and myself, I waited for the reassuring sound of coffee brewing.

Hildegarde the cat was meowing (and it’s quite a lot of racket). I’m scooping food into three tiny cat bowls, pouring oats into another one for me, and I peer up at the counter, listening for the popping, steaming and dripping, the coffee miracle.

That sound did not come. I don’t know what would be worse, going without coffee, or driving in Christmas traffic to a retail store to buy a new one. The blank shelves, stripped of their contents, the half-opened boxes and shelf models all that remain. The sheer panic of seeing all the strangers that emerge from their hiding places at Christmas, that remind me the South is still a bizarre and Gothic place.

Fortunately, we have a press pot on hand for times like these that needs no filter or electricity. In the end, it’s the fail-safe option for coffee.

Never one to give up, I unplugged the coffeemaker for a few minutes, then tried again — after I’d had coffee from the press pot — and waited, my hand on the hotplate, for warmth. And got it! Yes, the coffeemaker seemed to come back to life.

Of all the Christmas wonders, this one may top the list this year. A working coffeemaker!

Santa, you’re too good.

World AIDS Day 09

Friday, December 4th, 2009

Angels Among Us

On Tuesday, I stepped out after dark to attend the annual candlelight vigil for World AIDS Day. Usually there’s a vigil here in Greenville, and I found one on the ECU campus. It was a small affair, compared to my first World AIDS Day back in 1992.

I was the junior reporter (even at my ripe old age of 31, thanks to my winding career path). So I was given the catch-all assignments. Weekend cops, Elvis postage stamp.

World AIDS Day.

It was freezing and I was running late, and got to the march, where I was met by a joyful, laughing crowd of young men and women. We walked to the Town Common, where we stood around during remarks.

It grew colder every minute and I was trying hard to write, and interview people, and do all the things a hustling reporter should. I was about to crack with the strain of the cold, numb hands, the big crowd, not really knowing what World AIDS Day was or what I would write about it.

A quite attractive young man drew near and allowed me to warm my hands on his candle. He spoke in gentle phrases and seemed to have a glow.

Soon he was walking to the center of the crowd, introducing himself as a person with AIDS. I almost cried at his story. After contracting the disease (which he openly admitted came by not having safe sex), he was spending his final months speaking at schools and to any group that invited him.

This charismatic young man told his story again and again. He was dear and open and nonjudgmental, and I’m sure those young people felt the immediate bond that I did with him. He was inherently likeable.

His name was David Waggoner.

When I found out a couple of years later that he died, I wrote a column about him. His kindness in standing there with a candle while I warmed my hands, his candor about his disease.

Every year on Dec. 1, I remember David, just as I did on Tuesday. If there is an afterlife of some kind, whether in heaven, or through reincarnation, I know David is in a special place of honor. He spoke out about AIDS to rob it of stigma; he gave me a warm human face in place of a fearful acronym.

He no doubt helped hundreds of young people understand that they didn’t need to feel ashamed for anything, for any reason — because we are all the same, human beings, in a big confusing world and we need each other. That it doesn’t matter if we have red or black hair, different skin shades or some kind of disease; and it certainly doesn’t matter who we love.

That was his message to me, and now mine to the world.

Mayberry Monday

Monday, August 17th, 2009

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Just a happy photo of Mayberry Walker Hound for Monday. Photo by Greg Eans

Mayberry: The True Story

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

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I’ve had Mayberry for a few months now, and he is showing himself to be a wonderful dog, and a truly worthy successor to Annie. I couldn’t have imagined I’d luck up twice now, but it seems I have.

Readers of this blog know how I first met Mayberry, coming across his listing on Petfinder.com one weekend. I arranged a rendezvous with his foster mom, who had also rescued Annie nearly 10 years ago. Though he appeared a wreck of a dog — lumbering, scarred, with an uneven gait — he placed his big whiskery head in my lap, and I fell for him.

I brought him home about a week later. Since then, I have marveled at his stature and his stubbornness. This dog will stop in the middle of the road on our walks and refuse to budge, forcing me to either pull him by the neck or push him from behind. Treats thrown down the street will work, but not always.

Last weekend, however, I learned more of the big guy’s story when I ran into his foster mom and other animal volunteers at PetsMart.

One person told me Mayberry was at PetsMart every weekend for a year, hoping for adoption. People passed him by, week after week, as he looked out at them from the big pen.

She also told me how kind and patient he was, never growling or fussing with the other dogs. How he tried to sit in her lap every time she rested beside him in the pen.

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A year waiting for adoption! Rejected time and again!! The thought just broke my heart.

The heroic lady who rescued him also told me how when she took him from his previous owner, in addition to having nearly starved to death, he was in a filthy pen and covered with “everything,” she said.

He has tested positive for Lyme antibodies, and I think he must have been exposed during his previous life. She agreed that since he has not shown symptoms of the disease in the 1 1/2 years she had him, I can feel pretty good that he was exposed to the disease, but with any luck will not contract it.

When I got home I couldn’t wait to give him a big hug. It’s pretty certain this guy has won the lottery.

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And he’s earned it too. Not just with his previous years of suffering, but also with his behavior these days. As I write, he is sharing his big bed with our cat Garbo, who is hogging the lion’s share of it, so to speak.

Over the weekend, I was visited by one of my favorite neighbors, a 10-year-old girl who comes over to visit the animals from time to time. She sat on the floor with Mayberry, petting him, ruffling his fur, patting his head and doing everything short of pulling on his tail. I kept a close watch to see if he was getting annoyed, but to the contrary, he curled up beside her as close as he could get.

So while no one can ever replace dear Annie, the great Bodhisattva and Zen dog, I feel overwhelmingly blessed to have found Mayberry.

And, he might say, the feeling’s mutual.

ON THAT NOTE, if you haven’t seen it yet, this article describes new research showing dogs are at least as smart as human 2-year olds. As I’ve always said, any animal that I have to spell words around has got to be pretty smart.

Walker Hound News!

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

We have our priorities straight here at Fiction Daily.

So while the world watches the hopeful protesters in Iran, mourns the loss of two pop icons in Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson, the Fiction Daily world is abuzz with news of a different kind.

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After the loss of our beloved Annie Karenina Walker Hound, I took it upon myself to scour Petfinder.com last week while the husb was away … to search for a dog here in our community.

I went to PetsMart in his absence and, well, silly me! What was I thinking? That I would leave without wanting another dog?

After milling around for some time, I remembered seeing this Walker Hound, Sport. I asked if he was still available, and the young volunteer said, Yes, as a matter of fact, he was still available. And he’s a big couch potato.

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Come to find out, Sport was saved by the same wonderful animal cruelty officer who rescued our Annie. And Sport was at her home! I went to see him, and he was something of a train wreck of a dog. The volunteer foster mom said, “No one will ever adopt this dog.”

Well, those were fighting words, and over the next few days, I found myself thinking about that poor old guy more and more.

Yesterday, Greg and I went to see him. I was hedging, unsure, and Greg said, let’s take him home.

And we did!

So today, we’ve bathed a nearly 100-pound Walker Hound, taken a couple of walks, and had a few stern reprimands about not “treeing” the cats.

He seems to be fitting in very well. What’s best of all, he’s house trained!!

We wondered what to name him, and this morning, Greg comes out with “Mayberry.”

And so it is.

Mayberry.

May … Berry … RFD!!!

PLEASE PARDON THE IRREGULAR ENTRIES WHILE I AM CAMPAIGNING FOR GREENVILLE N.C. CITY COUNCIL. FD RETURNS IN NOVEMBER.

Mid-June News

Monday, June 15th, 2009

A brief hello from Fiction Dailyland, where I am putting together a large article, working on a Web site and managing to get by in these uncertain economic times.

The article I worked on for many months, describing the earliest discovered European settlement in the Southeast (spoiler alert: it was Spanish!) has appeared in Archaeology Magazine. My hat is tipped to the fine editor I worked with, whose drive for a better article pushed me to a new level. My husband took the photos during our site visit last year.

You can find part of the article here, and the full article in the July/August issue of the magazine.

Meanwhile my campaign for Greenville City Council is chugging along. Met with my treasurer yesterday and she has taken the ball and is running with it. That’s one of the most important volunteer needs for a campaign, so it is a gift to have her on board.

Filing opens July 6 at 8 a.m. and Yours Truly will be there. Bright and early.

Meanwhile, in really really big news, I bought a new bird feeder from Wild Birds Unlimited. It’s awesome! Made from 37 recycled milk jugs, it has a lifetime warranty. It’s quite sturdy and the birds love it. If they can ever get away from the squirrels, that is. Yep, one squirrel just parked himself on the feeder last week until he emptied out all the seed. That must have been a half pound or more. (Must buy a baffle.)

The feeder was an investment, as it cost more than your average feeder. I purchased it during a moment of clarity when I reminded myself that
— I wanted to support local businesses, and Wild Birds Unlimited is a locally-owned franchise. Thanks Debbie!
— I needed more than “lip service” about recycling. Buying recycled items is as important as tossing plastic in the bin
— I believe in “Made in the USA.” The feeder components are all U.S. made, though I’m not sure where the feeder was assembled.

Meanwhile, I hear Mr. Blue singing a lot lately, so I imagine he must be ready to raise more babies with his wife. I’ll keep you posted. Happy week from all of us here at Fiction Daily!

Campaign Update

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2009

A bit tired today after many appointments yesterday, and a Town Hall meeting with two councilmembers and their voters last night. Even though it was not my district, I know that a council representative must understand the entire city’s needs. There is one pie, one city and making decisions has to take all things into consideration.

This morning appointments, and a big feature project that I’ve been too scattered to focus on.

I wanted to post an update about His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is in the Scandinavian countries.

Attic Days

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

The landscape of the home

Greetings from Fiction Dailyland, and my apologies for not posting yesterday. A peaceful Memorial Day brought a lot of focus and concentration … due not in a little way to the great clearing out of the past two weeks.

Yes, the roulette wheel spun and it came up ATTIC. So for that past two weekends I have gone through everything in the attic, from one end to the next, every box, every book, Christmas decoration, old cookie sheet and file.

To begin, I dragged out box after box and starting to pull everything out of them. It’s remarkable how, with time, I am better able to see what has meaning, for me, today. I tend to hold on to things because I want to remember times of my life, people and ideas I’ve read.

Yet years pass, and I no longer need to remember those times — either they are solidly a part of me, or I no longer care to cling to them, for whatever reason.

As I pulled items, papers and books out of those boxes, it became easier and easier to let go. Oddly enough, I felt my values and character emerge with each decision … I let go of all those old magazines I once held on to, worried that I’d not have enough strong clips of my work; I let go all those books I hoped to read one day (I’ll surely find them again if they are still worth reading) (though I did hold on to War and Peace) (some day!)

I decided that if a book was going to be worth reading, I needed to get it out of the attic. Because many times, I’ll store a book away, only to rediscover it, later. Such is the case with the book I can’t put down these days: Seven novels by Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of Perry Mason. His narrative is lock-tight. This book I’ve held on to for years and years, and once considered getting rid of it.

So how to make these decisions?

In one case, I saved a receipt for a power cord bought in Prague — but got rid of the cord itself.

I have limited days left, and want to read the best writing in the time that’s left. Pulitzer Prize winners in general get a reprieve, while lesser books — especially the experimental fiction I once loved to dip my toes in — is out.

Award certificates (OK, not many of them) were removed from their frames and will be kept with my papers. Bye-bye clunky frames.

Two boxes of MS drafts … gone. I once thought someone might care about my short-story drafts, but I’ll be happy if anyone cares about the stories themselves one day!!

As I sorted and let go, I felt inner peace. All those created items are returning to the world, to others, or to dust. As they do, I am freed.

As the Buddha said before his transfiguration, “Every created thing will pass, even the Buddha.”

After emptying the boxes, I recombined what remained of the books, my Grandmother’s china, my French materials and teaching papers, in an orderly way into plastic bins from Kmart. (Plastic, yuck, but sometimes it is useful.)

As I look over that marvelously neat and airy attic now, I realize that until I know who I am, I can’t decide what to save and what to keep. At 48 years old, I’m finally getting that figured out.

BLUEBIRD UPDATE: I hear the bluebird fledglings and parents from time to time in the yard as they call to each other. I’ve seen Mrs. Blue feeding two juveniles, but so far, have only seen the pair. Greg assures me that the other three are not lost, and that they must have already learned how to take care of themselves.

DUCK UPDATE: My neighbor’s female ducks have nested in our yard, where they are sitting on eggs. Not sure if they will hatch, but they sure enjoy chasing the dogs.

With Love, Sherlock Holmes

Friday, May 22nd, 2009

FIGURATIVELY SPEAKING, MY DEAR WATSON

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Today marks a big celebration in Fiction Dailyland: It is the 150th birthday of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930), creator of that marvelous character for all times, Sherlock Holmes.

Nothing compares to Conan Doyle’s writing for clarity, subtle humor and mystery. It’s interesting to note that prior to Conan Doyle’s Hound of the Baskervilles, never had there been a true detective character in a novel. We indeed had the masterful Edgar Allan Poe’s detective C. August Dupin, in “Murders in the Rue Morgue,” a short story. (He also appeared in “The Mystery of Marie Roget” and “The Purloined Letter,” one of my personal favorite short stories.)

We also had an early prototype of a detective story penned by Wilkie Collins, The Moonstone. I can’t remember at all how that one turned out, but I certainly enjoyed reading it. That novel centers on a missing, exotic, gem and the family who possessed it. There were strange bands of touring gypsies, magicians and Indians; ladies with honor; families with class and wealth. (They just don’t write them like that anymore.)

In 1892 appeared The Hound of the Baskervilles. Sir Doyle also gave us these stories: “A Study in Scarlet,” “The Sign of Four” and “The Red-Headed League.”

On today’s “Forgotten English” calendar (by Jeffrey Kacirk), a fascinating story with which we writers can find considerable affinity. Trained as an eye doctor, he took an office at 2 Devonshire Place, and

… Every morning I walked from the lodgings at Montague Place, reached my consulting room at ten, and sat there until three or four with never a ring to disturb my serenity. Could better conditions for reflection be found? It was ideal, and so long as I was thoroughly unsuccessful in my professional venture, there was every chance of improvement in my literary prospects.

Imagine if he had instead collapsed with self-pity and done nothing all day; instead, this stellar “failure” gave us one of mankind’s most delightful writers.

HAPPY MEMORIAL DAY FROM FICTION DAILY