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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Walking Over the "Bridge" from Middle School to High School

Thursday was a big day in the Holmes household. We attended the first ever Barrington Middle School 8th grade Bridge Ceremony. It was a dress up event and I know I'm biased but Emma looked beautiful in her new pink dress which was a just bold enough color for her, but not too bold. I loved the style too -- again grown up but not too grown up. She paired it with comfy nude patent leather flats that would be easy to wear and dance in at the 8th grade Dinner Dance to be held after the ceremony. Also not pictured is a bow in her hair that I bought way back in 1986 on a trip to Paris when I was studying in Regensburg, Germany. So glad I saved it all these years because Emma loves it.

Emma ready for the evening's events

The ceremony was held in the Gym at the High School. All the parents sat in the bleachers on both sides and the 8th graders walked in in alphabetical order and sat in the middle. I was pleasantly surprised to see and hear the 7th grade band playing as we waited for the 8th graders and while they walked in. There were really good! It was also fun to see so many of our friends kids playing in the band. There was even an order of events for the ceremony.

Program for the Ceremony

The 8th graders all walked up individually to receive their going away remembrance. This was their name in a large font and individual sentences and words that friends and classmates had written about them. Apparently they did this on computers in their connect/counseling groups and within their cluster groups (three clusters for each grade -- about 100 kids in each group -- they only rotate classes within these smaller groups).  An amazing amount of work must have gone into making these, getting the input, formatting them and framing them -- each one totally unique and different for each of the 280 some 8th graders. I realize you can't read the writing on Emma's but here's what it looked like.


When the students walked up they all brought a flower to contribute to a huge class bouquet. Jim thought this was an odd idea, but at the end he said it did indeed look pretty neat. I enjoyed seeing all of the kids -- boys included -- all dressed up. I also got to see a lot of kids who'd been in Emma's classes in past years.  After the ceremony all the kids headed off to the cafeteria that had been decorated (thanks to parent volunteers) in a old fashioned Hollywood theme including stars hanging from the ceiling -- one for every student with their name on it!! I saw other parents tearing up, but oddly enough I didn't. Yes, I am am bit sorry that she's growing up, but I'm also excited about the next stage on her journey.

The dinner was catered and paid for by the $10 ticket and then parents volunteered to bring in desserts (I brought brownies) and drinks. I'm just really impressed by how much time, effort and thought was put into this and am so thankful for the great teachers, and parent volunteers.

Ticket for the dance
Mass of 8th graders
7th grade band playing as everyone arrives
Emma waiting to go up


Monday, May 26, 2014

Barrington Memorial Day Parade and Ceremony



Remarks Delivered at Barrington, Rhode Island, Memorial Day 2014

Twenty-five hundred years ago Pericles, the “first citizen” of Athens, stood before that Greek city-state’s democratic assembly to give history’s first recorded – and arguably most celebrated – Memorial Day speech. So moved was President Abraham Lincoln by Pericles’ Funeral Oration that in 1863, when he traveled to hallowed ground at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he modeled his own timeless address on it.

The occasion for Pericles’ oration was the end of a year of bloody strife against the rival city-state of Sparta. As it turned out, this was the first of twenty-seven years of hard fighting.

Pericles starts off his oration in a curious way. He says he wishes to honor the dead. But at the same time, he claims it’s hard for those who hear stories of valor to accept that their fellow citizens – people like them – are capable of deathless feats of arms. We question whether we could do the same – living up to their lofty standard.

In a way, then, the deeds of the fallen stand as a reproach to the living. We’re ashamed – just as Shakespeare has Henry V jeer at the Englishmen who lie safe in their beds while their countrymen step onto the battlefield at Agincourt to fight a far stronger French army.

And yet Pericles reassures the assembly. He suggests that ordinary people can meet the standard thus set. Indeed, he insists they do so. That’s the point of his Memorial Day speech.

He goes on to depict the fallen both as Everyman and as the best of Athenian society. This is an important connection to make. Seafaring societies like Athens, or America, tend to be free societies. Rather than conscript manpower, Athens relied on citizen manpower to man both the infantry and the Greek world’s finest navy. Citizens, not slaves, rowed merchant and naval ships across the waves. They did battle for survival, the national interest, and renown.

So when Athenian fighting men took the field, they did so as stakeholders in a common enterprise, not because they were driven to it by the lash. They confronted danger of their own accord. That gives free societies an edge so long as that spirit of voluntarism endures. We live and die by the willingness of the common man – of our brothers, and these days our sisters – to dare all, and perhaps to give all.

In short, the first citizen of Athens celebrated the heroics and self-sacrifice of Everyman. He reassured ordinary Athenians that such feats were not beyond them. And he challenged ordinary Athenians to live up to Everyman’s example – to make themselves worthy of the honored dead, and to carry their legacy forward.

Now let tell you a story about an American Everyman, a United States Marine by the name of John Basilone. A native of Buffalo, New York, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone was the sixth of ten children of Italian immigrants. He served in the Philippine Islands with the United States Army in the late 1930s before enlisting in the Marine Corps in 1940, on the eve of U.S. entry into World War II.

He was evidently quite the pugilist, winning boxing championships in the Philippines. Which would serve him well. In August 1942 Basilone landed in the initial wave at Guadalcanal, part of the Solomon Islands chain northeast of Australia and due east of New Guinea. The Imperial Japanese Army had been building an airfield on the island since May. Presumably the Japanese meant to station fighter aircraft there, cutting the shipping lanes connecting Australia with North America. Allied leaders agreed to contest the Japanese effort, in hopes of keeping the lifeline to Australia open.

Sergeant Basilone was a member of Dog Company, 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division. Commanding his battalion was the legendary Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller. The key event for Basilone on Guadalcanal came in late October 1942, when his machine-gun detachment was assigned to a lightly defended sector of the defense perimeter around Henderson Field, which the Marines had successfully wrested from the Japanese.

And the Japanese Army wanted it back. As the fortunes of war had it, that weak spot was where the Japanese chose to make their major assault. Let me give you some numbers to describe what came next. Seventy-two. That’s how many hours the battle raged, with no respite, in a narrow ravine. Three thousand. That’s how many soldiers of the Japanese 2nd Division crashed into the Marine perimeter. Fifteen. That’s how many Marines Basilone had to fight off the Japanese assault. And three. That’s how many of his Marines still stood at the end.

Three thousand to fifteen. Truly, that’s the stuff of legend. But don’t take it from me. Here’s what President Franklin Roosevelt had to say about Basilone’s actions in his Medal of Honor citation:

“For extraordinary heroism and conspicuous gallantry in action against enemy Japanese forces, above and beyond the call of duty, while serving with the 1st Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division in the Lunga Area, Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, on 24 and 25 October 1942. While the enemy was hammering at the Marines’ defensive positions, Sgt. BASILONE, in charge of 2 sections of heavy machine guns, fought valiantly to check the savage and determined assault. In a fierce frontal attack with the Japanese blasting his guns with grenades and mortar fire, one of Sgt. BASILONE’S sections, with its gun crews, was put out of action, leaving only 2 men able to carry on. Moving an extra gun into position, he placed it in action, then, under continual fire, repaired another and personally manned it, gallantly holding his line until replacements arrived. A little later, with ammunition critically low and the supply lines cut off, Sgt. BASILONE, at great risk of his life and in the face of continued enemy attack, battled his way through hostile lines with urgently needed shells for his gunners, thereby contributing in large measure to the virtual annihilation of a Japanese regiment. His great personal valor and courageous initiative were in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. [Signed,] Franklin D. Roosevelt.”

Nor does John Basilone’s story end there. After a tour back stateside selling war bonds, he insisted on returning to the Pacific. In February 1945 he took part in the landing on Iwo Jima, helping the Navy and Marines breach the Japanese Empire’s inner defense perimeter. While displaying the same raw courage that earned him the Medal of Honor, Gunnery Sergeant Basilone was killed by shrapnel on the first day of combat. The Marine Corps acknowledged his actions with the Navy Cross, the nation’s second-highest award for battlefield heroism. That made him the only United States Marine thus decorated during World War II.

Unbelievable, isn’t it? That is a lot to live up to. Now you see why Pericles worried he would dishearten his countrymen by recounting tales of martial gallantry. Can we live up to John Basilone’s standard? I believe so. People of valor live today. Some of them wear military uniforms. I have the pleasure to work with them every day, in Newport and sometimes on foreign stations.

But valor is not exclusively a military thing. Just read the daily news. How often do we hear about Americans – regular people like us – running into burning buildings, or performing other feats demanding what looks like superhuman courage?

We need not look far away, or into the remote past, to find such examples. Just this past March a nine-alarm fire engulfed a four-story building on Beacon Street, in Boston’s Back Bay. Fire Lieutenant Edward J. Walsh Jr. and Firefighter Michael R. Kennedy ventured into danger – rescuing the people trapped in the building, before succumbing to flames, heat, and smoke.

They did their duty – and then some. Like John Basilone, Edward Walsh and Michael Kennedy gave the last full measure of devotion for the common good. I believe John would welcome them into a fellowship of honor, alongside military heroes of old.

Let me close by quoting an Army general and a contemporary of Gunnery Sergeant Basilone, George S. Patton. Shortly after World War II, at a gathering not unlike this one, Patton declared that it is “foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” Just so. I would only add that such people walk among us today – still.


Thank you.

[Written and delivered by James R. Holmes -- your blog writer's husband and Professor at the Naval War College in Newport, RI]






Monday, April 21, 2014

A little bit of Sacred Ordinariness on Easter Sunday



I had a very enjoyable time this evening whipping up this digital scrapbook page from several photos that Emma took yesterday at our Easter celebration at our friends house. I love three year olds -- they have so much joie de vivre. My Godaughter Rose was particularly delightful yesterday and as you can see she thoroughly enjoyed her chocolate cake with chocolate frosting!

If you are interested you can see what digital scrapbooking products I used here in my Designer Digitals Gallery

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Toronto: More Photos from Day Two



First item of the agenda on Saturday was to head out to the CN Tower, also near our hotel and down by the waterfront of Lake Ontario. It wasn't a sunny clear day so we knew we weren't going to able to see Rochester or Niagara Falls, but thought it would be fun to be up that high anyway, plus when are we going to be back there again to do it? This 1,815.4 ft high tower was built as a radio tower, but also as a tourist sight. It is the tallest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere and a signature icon of Toronto's skyline. For more on this incredible structure read the Wikipedia article.

On a cloudy day in late March we definitely didn't have to fight the crowds that this  place was set up to handle. In fact we almost had the place to ourselves. Despite the clouds we still had an incredible view. I made myself stand on the glass floor and look down -- it was amazing how difficult it was to make my body do that -- even though my brain knew that it was safe.





The CN Tower is right across from the Railway Museum and original train turntable. This area by the lake used to be filled with railway yards, but is being reclaimed by tall buildings that look residential -- and I imagine have fabulous views of the Lake. We didn't have time to tour the brewery by the museum or visit the train museum as Jim and to get back for an early afternoon panel presentation. He was attending a conference after all!




After Jim's panel we took the Metro to an area called Kensington Market. It was pretty quiet there too -- not the hustle bustle outdoor market combined with funky shops the guide book described, but we did enjoy the walk past the Art Gallery of Toronto (I wanted to see the Henry Moore sculpture that's outside the building) and through China town. I imagine things are much busier on a warmer Spring or Summer day! I did get a few fun photos though.




Next we rested our somewhat weary legs back at the hotel in the Library Bar, before heading out to dinner at a nearby restaurant called Richmond Station. My friend had given me a gift certificate to this restaurant for my birthday and we were looking forward to a good meal together -- just the two of us. It didn't disappoint! We were sitting right near what they called the "Chef's Table" which was actually a long table right under a window with a view of the kitchen and the chefs at work. The food was terrific and beautifully presented. The desserts were works of art and clever too. I actually loved the carrot sorbet and the cream cheese powder that my creme brûlée was topped with!



It was great to get away for a couple of days -- and maybe sometime we'll get back to Toronto and the Niagara wine growing area!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Toronto: Some of my Favorite Photos Day One


I've never been to Toronto and a couple of weeks ago I tagged along with Jim when he went to Toronto to attend the ISA conference.  We decided to drive the 550 or so miles there because neither of us had been farther than western Massachusetts on this route and thought it would be fun to drive through upstate New York. It was cheaper than two flights as well of course! We made it in nine hours as there was little traffic on a Thursday in late March.

We only had two days to explore and Jim was moderating and commenting on two different panels for part of that time. We did get out and experience a bit of the city though. I spent my first morning at the Bata Shoe Museum. Since we had limited time I wanted to see something that was unique and I'd never been to a shoe museum before. It turned out to be a great place to while away a couple hours by myself and I was surprised by how interesting the history of shoes and of shoe fashion could be. It was raining so I didn't take any photos, but the building itself is very modern and cool. Built to suit its use as a shoe museum and filled with neat shoe related artistic touches -- even the door handles into the galleries. My favorite shoes were a pair of very high platforms boats worn by Sir Elton John.

That afternoon when Jim was finished working for the day we walked over to the St. Lawrence Market not too far from our hotel. All of the food there looked delicious and I enjoyed taking photos. I especially loved the cheese, meat and the flowers. I wish there was a market like this close to where we live in Rhode Island. It reminded me of the York, PA market -- only without the Mennonites and eight-shaped glazed doughnuts and with Asian food and spices.



Next we walked a bit further to the Distillery Historic District. This area was once a distillery in the 19th century. All of the buildings have been restored and now house boutiques, restaurants, theaters and art galleries and other spaces for artists. We enjoyed browsing in the stores and bought a couple of gifts for Emma and a funky (but not too funky) pair of John Fluevog shoes for Jim. You can see how neat the restored factory spaces are here in these photos of the Fluevog store.  I also got some neat shots in this area. Really loved the blue in the outdoor dining space at a restaurant in this district.




We ended our first day back at our hotel -- the Fairmont Royal York , which was itself a really terrific historic building, dating from the 1920s. We headed to the Library Bar for drinks and finally a light dinner. We tried some local Niagara region white wine which turned out to be absolutely delicious. We even asked the waitress to hold up the bottle so we could take a photograph. Now to find some of this here in the States! I had no idea that the area along Lake Ontario just over the border from Buffalo was known for it's grape growing and wine making.


That's it for Day One. More later -- maybe.