Saturday, December 1, 2012

Using My Creative Energies To Promote Unitarian Universalism

The story behind the webApp whose image you see below started when a set of very colorful and inspirational posters or "banners" suddenly appeared in the sanctuary of our Church, the First Parish Church of Groton, in Groton, Ma. I'm sure they were long in the works for those who created them, but at that point they were all new to me and I admit I was quite taken by them. They were the inspiration for what I describe in this posting. 

What fun — and what a learning experience — it has been creating the page that I call: From the beginning, I dreamed of having a web page where you could just see each of those banners as an animation because that's exactly how I 'see' these values and principles playing out in our UUC community.  

A secondary motivation that I had for WhatIsUU is that I was looking for an excuse to brush up on my JavaScript because it has been a while since I used the technology and because I wanted this to be a standalone page — using client-side scripting, if necessary — but otherwise not needing any special support from the web server.  

And then there were the end-user requirements: I wanted someone to be able to really read the page, so that meant that I had to do more than just have it be a picture annimation — because people read at different speeds. Hence "next / prev" vs. slide show modes which are mutually-exclusive and intended to support both reading models. To add a little flexability to the slide show there is a DropDown where you can chose how long the WebApp waits before it shows you the next UU banner.  

A final JavaScript challenge was to see if I could provide a search capability on the page where the thing that you end up searching for is a function of which banner you're looking at. For that one I tried several different techniques, and although each one of them quickly led to a solution for one browser, typically it wouldn't work with other common browsers. That's why I ended up with what you see on the lower right-hand part of the page where it says "Find Out More".

Friday, August 31, 2012

Auntie '•' & Uncle Buster — May You Rest In Peace

Tomorrow in Southern Mass we'll be having the memorial service for a great lady whom I've had the privilege of knowing for some 35 years now — my wife's Auntie '•' — as she liked to call herself.

In this picture you can really see Auntie Dot's spirit — the I see you fire in her eyes. She looked at you with a kind gentle love, a sense of genuine interest in you. I always remember talking to her and getting a real sense that she cared about me and really wanted to know who I was. She had a great smile and a warm, genuine way of being.

For a more recent picture of Auntie '•' along with some of her extended family, click here for my blog article about when Auntie Dot turned 100 years old.
Sept 2nd : As it turns out, the memorial service was to celebrate the lives of both Auntie '•' and her beloved husband, Uncle Buster. Though he passed away in Jan 2002, she kept his urn with her for more than a decade because of their commitment to be laid to rest together. It was very sweet.

To the right, above, one of the great granddaughters sings “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” as her Dad accompanies her on guitar. Below that the Chadwick gravestone holds an amazing testimonial about this family : Buster's name does not appear on the stone so that the name of a dearly beloved family friend would have a place of honor for eternity.

We sang beloved hymns, prayed together, and many more family stories were told during the service. It was very inspirational. It left me with an intense feeling of pride just being part of a family whose legacy of Faith and Strong Family Values goes (literally) back to immigrants who came over on the Mayflower. As '•' clearly documented in her monumental genealogy “Hold High The Torch — The Genealogy of 350 Years of OUR REDFIELDS in America”, the grand children with us now are the 14th generation. She also published a truly amazing book about her place on the Redfield family tree : “The Last Twig”, among others.

The impressive Chadwick gravestone, dating from 1887, is just one of the name markers at the site where they held the memorial service. Several others names — including Buster (Frank Goddard Chadwick, Jr.) and '•' (Doris Redfield Chadwick) — are on flat markers visible on the ground.

I have posted some more pictures that Ruth gave us after the memorial service so click here for snapshots (or the SlideShow) of these treasured images of (mostly) the Alexander side of the extended Chadwick / Redfield family.

In closing, let us all be grateful… and remember the responsibility that comes with belonging to such an amazing family — to live those family values in our own lives as we pass them on to our future generations.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

KevLyn at Casa Cecchi in Italy

So far, all I've done is create this picture for my blog story. And/but I will get to writing this... soon.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

To Live Powerful Purposeful Lives — Why We Remember

During our UUC services we sing* the words you see on the right below… and today, it being Memorial Day 2012 and because of the amazing service we had, my eyes were opened and I realized that these words can also be taken in the much broader context of commitment to service and giving that I've seen in just the last few days:
Some recent, compelling, examples of selfless giving …

• The men and women whose dedication to preserving everyone's freedom trumps their fears — that I can hardly even think about — of going to war,
• Aging hippies whose sweet voices remind us of the 60s music from Woody Guthrie and Simon & Garfunkel and brought me back to what's important …
• A young boy who practiced and learned to play grand piano and then had the courage to come and perform it for the entire congregation,
• The gifted men+women quartet from the UUC choir whose harmonies of “America, the Beautiful” really showed what an incredible song this is.
• Ellen's compelling testimonial, the result of tedious research, and Rev. Elea's “Why We Must Remember” sermon that inspired me to write this,
• I'm grateful for the opportunity to be part of a strong, committed team of men who dedicate themselves to mentoring men, young and old, to realize their full potential as mature masculine men via the upcoming Legacy Discovery weekend coming up June 8-11th in Fishkill, NY. (sign up)
Thanks be to all who freely give,
who guide us in the way to live,
with generosity of heart…
inspiring us to do our part.

* Sung to the familiar melody of The Doxology — the one where I can just barely keep myself from singing “Amen !” when we finish.

On Memorial Day (and every day) we remember… so that each of us can do our part to move mankind forward toward the elusive — but very achievable — dream of every human being living in peace and in harmony with every other man, woman, and child on this Earth today and in the future.

I've changed my Initial "placeholder for an animation" icon, on the left, to be a link to what that "idea" became: a separate page to which I've given the name where you can navigate the UUC banners or see them in an animation which features the 6 posters that we have depicting “The Six Sources of Unitarian Universalism”. And now that I more fully understand this, the page also talks about how that relates to the 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism and features links and searches to a myriad of related resources.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

In Touch With the Vibration — Hallelujah !!

One morning recently my sweetie and I got up very early to go explore the ancient walled city of Siena, Italy. And once inside the city, walking along the bright, colorful, and clean cobble-stone streets, I noticed a particular song — a very farmiliar one from my past — building up inside my head:
  I've heard there was a secret chord
that David played and it pleased the Lord…
Initially, I didn't think too much of it.

And then we came upon an Ancient Chiesa — a Church which was certainly not "Notre Dame" so I'm not sure whether it was a Cathedral (or Duomo?) or not, but it had huge pillars and a large Dome, so in my mind it's a "small Cathedral". From it I felt a compelling voice that drew me in so I decided to do so, mostly because this one did not have a lot of people around it so I thought maybe I could appreciate it — just for what it is, without all of the usual distractions.

The picture here is from when I first walked into the Cathedral and I was immediately moved by how bright and inviting it was. I noticed only two people near the back of the Cathedral, and as I wandered towards the front there was only one old man sitting quietly off to the right-hand side. The quietness and "echoes of silence" in the place drew a sharp contrast to the music that was now building even more inside my head:
  It goes like this: the 45th, the 5th5th
… the minor fall, the major lift…
Very quietly I hummed a few notes from the song and even though it was almost inaudible, I got a sense that this was a spiritual place — one that was carefully designed and built to be accoustically "perfect". So I decided to sit and just feel the presence of spirit, and music, over the ages, watching out of the corner of my eye for the people in the back to leave. And they did, as did my sweetie who wanted to go see something else just outside the Cathedral. Then I stood and walked out into the center / front part of the Cathedral, right under the dome, and allowed myself to very quietly let some of the notes from the song come out more like a quiet humming than actually singing. And the Cathedral responded with just the right amount of vibration… as the old man got up, wandered slowly to the far back of the Cathedral, and after a moment he too left.

So there I was, totally alone in this place where I knew I would offend no one as I started to let the notes and then the words of the song come from that voice inside me, very quietly at first… — standing right in the center of that enormous space that was built for harmony. Louder I sang, with no inhibitions about not really knowing the words, and it grew until I felt like I was completely part of the vibration of that ancient spiritual space.
  And it's not a cry you can hear at night
It's not somebody who's seen the light
It's a cold and it's a broken Hallelujah…
     Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah
The whole thing probably didn't last very long, but after the climax I was overcome with intense feelings of joy — and sorrow, combined — something I don't really have words for.
  … The embattled King, composing Halleluja …

Completely consumed and spent, I made it back to a sitting place still under the dome, and was literally overcome with tears and exhaustion. And I sat there for a long time… returning to the reality of the place and imagining how many people over the ages have had life-changing experiences in this Ancient place.

I know that I certainly have. It's a “Hallelujah !! ” that will be with me for the forseeable future.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Leaving Seh-Chie-eel-Yah to Go See Southern Italy

OMG… talk about serendipity — but first, a quick digression about how to pronounce “Sicily” : It was only on our very last day before leaving Sicily (Can that be just yesterday?) that someone finally corrected us about saying “Seh-Chie-eel-Yah” ! We've been trying to speak Italian every chance we get and have thought that we've been doing pretty well at it… but certainly not even being close in saying the name of the place where you are is a pretty big gaff — a total tell-tale that we're yankie tourists, which I guess I should admit we're doing a better job of when we speak French or I speak Spanish than when we stumble our way thru “Quanto costa … ? ”.

But I digress… We found this out by talking to really old people. It was actually from a conversation that Lynn had with an ancient couple when I wasn't there, so no actual picture. But another example of an amazing encounter you see in this picture from breakfast in the garden at a B&B that we found in Roccalumera, on the Eastern coast of Sicily. We didn't find the B&B until pretty late at night, and from the street view it didn't look that great. But inside the rooms were perfectly clean, very comfortable, and the internet worked easily. And then in the morning we had breakfast “en el giardino  where they had dozens flowering trees, most of which had ripe, delicious fruit. In fact, just after we started eating, Felice, whom we could just barely understand, brought us a plate full of little yellow fruit ("Nespola") which turns out to be “loquat” and was the most delicious fruit we'd had yet — not that it hasn't all been delicious. The man who runs the place, Giovanni, is the younger one in the picture and was so friendly and accommodating — he reminded us of our dear friend Didier in Paris. So Felice is the father-in-law and Giovanni's been running this place for years. We left there VERY grateful for all of their kindness and generosity and had an amazing ride along the Eastern coast of Italy right up to the very Northern tip.

After that we caught the ferry to Italy and were wow'd by the vistas crossing the straights of Messina … but not as much amazed as we were that the cost for us to bring our rental car with us on the ferry was an extra 1 Euro. Yup. I'm not making that up. Once we got up the coast we stumpled upon “Baia Del Capo” near Capo Vaticano on the coast of the Mediterranean, and that's where the serendipity comes in because we had no idea what it would be like when we booked it, but it's a most amazing place with absolutely incredible food and stunning landscaping. After a great afternoon around the pool, my sweetie and I sat outside and watched the 100% full moon rise over the mountains behind us and head out over the sea before we drifted off to pleasant dreams after another wonderful day exploring Italy. Tomorrow — off to Napoles.

Wow… What an amazing day we had leaving Sicily and exploring Southern Italy!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Our Italian Dream Comes True

For months, my sweetie and I have been planning a 2-week vacation in Italy, and finally here we are. This particular place is not the first one we've found — we've already had many adventures and have found wonderful places — but those stories are yet to be written…

But today, unlike many others, we do have a fully working internet connection and we're relaxing at “Baglio Pollicarini ”, an Agritourismo in the central part of Sicily (Italy)… so I've decided to take a little time to write.

This place is so incredible that in every direction you look it's a breath-taking view. We have lots of great pictures of this ancient Monastery which has been marvelously preserved over the centuries and most recently turned into a working farm (olive trees) where they also take in vacationers in a Bed-and-Breakfast style, but I'm not going to take the time to post those pictures today. Instead, this collage is of my sweetie and I when we got up this morning to take in the sunrise at 6am as it rose right beside Mt. Etna.

Oh… I'm a very lucky man, today!