My Extraordinary Day at The Carter Center

In front of the Carter Center and Presidential Library

My time at the Carter Center is one of superlatives. I can’t stop talking about the extraordinary experience.

Over the course of twenty-four hours I met wonderful people, listened to excellent speakers who shared the remarkable accomplishments of the center. I’m grateful and humbled by their work.  The Carter Center continues to make significant and lasting impact on our world in the areas of health and peace.

Speakers: Frank O. Richards, Jr., Aisha Stewart and Dean G. Sienko. At the podium: The Carter Center CEO Ambassador Mary Ann Peters

For a brief time I sat with Ambassador (Retired) Mary Ann Peters, Chief Executive Officer of The Carter Center.  We bonded over the fact that she’s a graduate of Santa Clara University where my oldest son attends. Ambassador Peters is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Women in International Security. She worked for 30 years as a diplomat, holding positions in Dhaka, Canada, Moscow, and Bangladesh to name a few. I could have listened to her speak all day.

Jennie K. Lincoln, the director of The Carter Center’s Latin America and Caribbean Program

I spoke with Jennie Lincoln, one of the Thursday night presenters. Ms. Lincoln is the director of the Carter Center’s Americas Program. She shared a fascinating story of meeting with members of the Colombian guerilla organization known as FARC in a hotel room in Columbia and what that meant for the peace process. I’m astounded at her strength and bravery and grateful for her work. Current efforts include collaborating with Columbia’s presidential advisor on human rights, drafting political reforms, partnering on peace education and helping re-integrate FARC’s child soldiers into Colombian society. Wow! Did I mention the superlatives? You can read more about the center’s work here.

In the areas of health, one of the most significant contributions is the near-eradication of Guinea worm disease.  According to the Cater Center website:

In 1986, the disease afflicted an estimated 3.5 million people a year in 21 countries in Africa and Asia. Today, thanks to the work of The Carter Center and its partners — including the countries themselves — the incidence of Guinea worm has been reduced by more than 99.99 percent to 25 cases in 2016.

The Carter Center works to eradicate Guinea worm disease in four remaining endemic countries: South Sudan, Mali, Chad, and Ethiopia.

I wont share details of the specifics of the disease here, as it’s upsetting to many people. If you want to learn more however, you can follow this link.

And finally, the Carters. President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter spoke with us for about an hour. President Carter is exactly as you would imagine in person: soft-spoken, highly intelligent, direct but with a twinkle in his eye. At 92 he continues to run circles around everyone. First Lady Rosalynn Carter was equally bright, gracious and engaged.

Under the leadership of former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, a long-standing champion for the rights of people with mental illnesses, the Carter Center’s Mental Health Program works to promote awareness about mental health issues, inform public policy, achieve equity for mental health care comparable to other health care, and reduce stigma and discrimination against those with mental illnesses.

As far as I’m concerned, the Carter’s exemplify the gold standard of how we should be in the world.

I’ve never attended an event where I felt more welcomed. Marion Dixon got in touch ahead of time and invited me to join a group for lunch. Barry Nickelsberg, Chief Development Officer, sent me a note asking about plans for Friday evening. From the shuttle bus driver to the welcoming volunteers, everyone made me feel at home.

In a word: magnificent!

About the Carter Center

“A not-for-profit, nongovernmental organization, The Carter Center has helped to improve life for people in more than 80 countries by resolving conflicts; advancing democracy, human rights, and economic opportunity; preventing diseases; and improving mental health care. The Carter Center was founded in 1982 by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter, in partnership with Emory University, to advance peace and health world-wide.”

(source: The Carter Center)

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While I Was Away

Traveling is a wonderful treat.

So to is the homecoming.

While I ponder how much to share about my visits to Atlanta, Virginia, DC and New York (no one wants to plod through someone else’s holiday pics) I do want to share my garden’s amazing transformation while I was away.

Being gone for nearly two weeks as spring got under way gave me the unique opportunity to see everything with fresh eyes.  What a treat! Will you come have a look?

I’m gradually reading through your blogs, so please bear with me. I’m looking forward to catching up.

 

Storming Atlanta or Atlanta Storms

I made it!  It was touch and go for a while, but I boarded my delayed flight to Atlanta, Georgia via Denver International Airport Wednesday afternoon. I arrived at my hotel by 9 pm.  If you’re a seasoned traveler you know how exhausting it is  simply sitting around all day along with the stress of the unknown.

Our plane flew through thirty minutes of thunderstorms, before touching down in heavy rains. Will someone please give that pilot a raise? It continued to pour throughout the cab ride to my hotel, and then things got really exciting as I watched the thunder and lighting from the safety of my hotel balcony, 21st floor. We never get this kind of weather at home.

I’m in Atlanta, Georgia fulfilling a life-long dream. I’m attending an executive briefing and presidential reception at the Carter Center, where I will meet Past President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn Carter.  Together they founded The Carter Center with the mission to: Wage Peace, Fight Disease, Build Hope.

The Carter Center, in partnership with Emory University, is guided by a fundamental commitment to human rights and the alleviation of human suffering. It seeks to prevent and resolve conflicts, enhance freedom and democracy, and improve health.

  • The Center emphasizes action and measurable results. Based on careful research and analysis, it is prepared to take timely action on important and pressing issues.
  • The Center seeks to break new ground and not duplicate the effective efforts of others.
  • The Center addresses difficult problems in difficult situations and recognizes the possibility of failure as an acceptable risk.
  • The Center is nonpartisan, actively seeks complementary partnerships and works collaboratively with other organizations from the highest levels of government to local communities.
  • The Center believes that people can improve their own lives when provided with the necessary skills, knowledge, and access to resources.
There’s a reception this evening, and a full day of briefings on Friday.
So, what do you suppose a gardener does when she finds herself alone in Atlanta for a few hours?
I spent part of the afternoon touring the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

I’m off! More pics to follow soon.

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Visiting Santa Rosa: Friendship and Memories

In what feels like a lifetime ago, I spent three consecutive summers in Santa Rosa, about 100 miles north of San Jose. I graduated from San Jose State in 1982 with a degree in Theatre Arts. Summer Repertory Theatre known as SRT hired professional designers and directors, but the actors and technical positions went to current or recently graduated students like me.
SRT bio alys 1983-002

We received a stipend of $900 for the entire summer, with $300 of that going to shared-housing. In the first four weeks, before all six shows opened, we worked ten and half hour days, six days a week with an hour off for lunch, and a two-hour break for dinner. The hours were long and grueling and emotions ran high as they usually do when artists surround you.

In short: I loved it!

I worked with talented costume designers all three summers, learning techniques in pattern making, costume building and diplomacy. I look back on those summers with a profound fondness. I met incredible people along the way. Those years were among the most memorable of my youth.

Several of us came from around the state each summer, but the rest lived in Santa Rosa. In my second year doing summer stock, I met Marcia Ford. She’s a talented pattern maker and kindred spirit. We kindled our friendship in 1983, and have stayed in touch through marriages and children. Her son is 31, an accomplished artist and linguist, living in Spain. He married a poet and scholar when they met in Egypt, and they’re now raising Marcia’s grandson in Madrid. I have a beloved snapshot of her son holding my son we he was three-months old. My boys are now 16 and 19.

I spent a couple of days with Marcia in Santa Rosa this week, helping her organize her sewing room and catching up on life. Marcia is recovering from a year spent abroad helping with her grandson, her father’s recent death and breast cancer.

Alys and Marcia

With Marcia this week

costume shope SRT 1984

In the SRT Costume, 1984 Marcia, back left, Alys, back right

She recently celebrated a milestone birthday, so I wanted to mark the occasion with a unique and special gift.

I made a set of greeting cards and a small folio using vintage seam binding and scrap-booking paper with a vintage sewing theme. Isn’t the paper fun?

I also purchased the most gorgeous sewing box from Lynn at Tialys. She sells ready-made sewing boxes in her Etsy shop or you can buy her pattern and make one yourself. I opted for the former and I’m so glad I did. Isn’t it stunning?

Tialys sewing box

Marcia poses with her new sewing box

The third part of the gift had us both in stitches (seamstress pun). About a year ago I shared a picture of a yarn bowl on Facebook and she commented that she would love one. I ordered it online via Darn Good Yarn. As it turns out, she ordered the same bowl herself.

I had such a good time. I miss Santa Rosa and all it represents. It’s a beautiful place. They average three times the rain that we do so things are lush and green. It’s less crowded with a slighter slower pace, and open spaces still prevail. I fell in love with it all over again.

Marcia’s sister Alice invited us to dinner at her home along with several of her life-long friends. We enjoyed a delicious vegetarian meal, laughter and an evening’s walk to a field of irises. Alice has a lush garden and, be still my heart, she keeps bees! What a treat it was to spend time in her garden. What a shame, too, that I was too busy enjoying myself to take a single photo while we were there.

Picture instead curving paths, verdant green plants, a majestic tree and a quiet corner with happy, humming bees.

Gardens and friendships remain my “drug” of choice.

On the subject of friendships, I’m just days away from reconnecting with Kelly from Kelly’s Korner and Boombeeadda, Laurie from Life on the Bike and Other Fab Things and Julia of Defeat Despair. We’ll also reconnect with Lisa of ArlingWords and Stacy, a street photographer and sometime blogger, who can be found on Instagram.  We’ll be missing Pauline of The Contented Crafter, but plans are under way to connect with her in New Zealand in 2018. We’re gathering in Virginia and Washington, DC for a few days, than Kelly and I head to New York. There we’ll meet two more bloggers for the first time, Joe at The Visual Chronicle and Patti at Nylon Daze.

I’m as giddy as a schoolgirl. Meanwhile my flight to Atlanta has been delayed three times due to weather. It’s not all fun and games. 😉

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An Unexpected Treasure at the Nursery

On a recent visit to SummerWinds Nursery, I rounded the corner to find this:

potted ficus with do not move tage

Potted Ficus carefully tied to a cart

They’ve pushed a shopping cart against a sheltered exterior wall. Resting on top is a potted Ficus, attached to the cart with twine. The warning is clear: Do not move!

So what is all the fuss about?

Potted ficus

Potted Ficus

Come have a closer look.

nesting Anna's hummingbird

Nesting Anna’s hummingbird

It’s a nesting Anna’s hummingbird, native to this part of California. She must be resting on eggs, generally two. The eggs incubate for about two weeks, then the young spend another three weeks in the nest.

There is something about a mama bird in her nest that makes my heart sing. I wanted to linger, but her comfort outstripped my desire to pull up a chair and just sit there all afternoon. I took a non-flash snapshot with my phone from a distance, then zoomed in when I got home.

On the subject of nests and homes, my older son is home from college for spring break. I’m looking forward to the weekend ahead with all three of my “men” in the house.

Ah, spring. Thank you for all these gifts.

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Vernal Equinox: The Garden Always Knows

I refer to my calendar each year to confirm the first day of spring. My garden needs no such reminder. While I’m busy planning in my head or on paper, my garden knows it’s time to spring forth. Every year it takes my breath away. I’m more steward, than gardener most days. I keep the weeds at bay, train the vines away from the sidewalk and trim away spent flowers or browning leaves.

In truth, none of these things are necessary. I like a tidy garden, so grooming the plants brings me pleasure. It’s also an opportunity to kneel on the earth, a way to feel connected to something magnificent. Mother Earth never ceases to amaze me.

According to The Farmer’s Almanac:

“On the equinox, Earth’s two hemispheres are receiving the Sun’s rays about equally because the tilt of the Earth is zero relative to the Sun, which means that Earth’s axis neither points toward nor away from the Sun.”

Meteorologically speaking, March 1st is the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Astronomically, the equinox is generally considered the start of spring. Today is the day that both hemispheres have exactly the same amount of daylight. That in itself is something fun to celebrate.

Come have a look at my garden on this cool, overcast, early spring day.

California poppy

California poppy, waiting to open. It’s our state flower

Cornflower bud

The first of the cornflower buds

Nigella bud

Nigella ready to bud. The bees love them.

Fuchsia freesia

Fuchsia freesia (say that three times)

curb garden spring

The narcissus stems make great supports for the budding sweet peas in the curb garden

three flowers in the curb garden

The beauty of threes

assorted freesia

Assorted freesia

mystery flower red

I planted this in a pot last summer and I forget what it is

yellow freesia and violets

Yellow freesia with violets at their feet

I have a bounce in my step and a racing heart. Spring, glorious spring. You never let me down. Are you ready for the changing season? Are you entering Spring or Autumn?

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The Greening of the Little Free Library

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

We’re celebrating by featuring green-covered books, bookmarks and a few small craft kits in our Little Free Library.

…and a pot of gold at the end of the fairy garden rainbow.

Lá Fhéile Pádraig