Prayers for Jerry, from “Grace Goes to Prison”

Prayers for Jerry, from “Grace Goes to Prison”

Those of you who read “Grace Goes to Prison” may recall stories of a man named Jerry in the book. After 27 years of incarceration, Jerry will go in front of the Parole Board for the first time on Wednesday, July 17, 2013 . . .

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Tagged as: criminal justice grace goes to prison restorative justice

Quiescence

Quiescence

The first snowflakes of the season have swirled down out of a gray sky and come to rest on the ruffled purple heads of late-flowering chrysanthemums. Chattering wrens, sparrows and chickadees fatten their tiny bodies at the birdfeeder outside my kitchen window. Squirrels leap from treetop to rooftop to earth and back again, gathering acorns to stash in their wild, oversized nests high in the bare branches. The sage and lavender in my garden have cast their final tender blooms to the ground and curled leaves around stems in a protective pose. The dawn arrives later and dusk falls earlier. It is December, once again . . .

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Stories from House of Ruth

My last post told of the origins of B.I.R.D. Ministries and House of Ruth. Here are a few stories Linda Bird shared about the women she has served over the years . . .

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Beginning In the Right Direction - B.I.R.D. Ministries

One summer morning in 2001, Linda Bird got a phone call asking if she’d be willing to go into the Lancaster County Prison and teach a parenting class for women incarcerated there. Linda agreed to do the class, even though she had no idea what to expect . . .

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Forging a New Path - Lancaster County Re-Entry Management Organization

Elaina* curls up at one end of the sofa in her living room, as she invites me to have a seat at the other end. The petite 30 year-old has short cropped hair, an engaging smile and a radiant glow about her. She launches right into the story of her path from prison to where she is now . . .

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Imagine (redux) - Lancaster County Re-Entry Management Organization

Imagine arriving in an unfamiliar place, with nothing but a few dollars and the clothes on your back. You don’t have a roadmap or any reliable means of transportation. You aren’t sure where to go or where you’ll sleep tonight. You haven’t eaten for hours and aren’t sure where your next meal will come from . . .

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Taking the Lead - Lancaster County Re-Entry Management Organization

Today’s post focuses on Lancaster – and an aspect of our community that’s often invisible: the challenges people face when transitioning back to the Lancaster community after incarceration. This is Harold’s story . . .

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Seeing the Light - Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization

Today’s post once again focuses on Lancaster – and an aspect of our community that’s often invisible: the challenges people face when transitioning back to the Lancaster community after incarceration. This is Ricky’s story . . .

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The Heart of a Man - Lancaster County Re-Entry Management Organization

After two heart attacks in three months, Lancaster resident, Edward*, was diagnosed with “a bad heart.” His doctor told him he needed to stop working, as the strain on his heart could kill him. It was a shock and a devastating blow to the broad-shouldered, muscular 42 year-old former athlete, who has worked steadily since his teen years . . .

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Rest

Rest

Three russet leaves rattle on a dogwood branch in my neighbor’s back yard, holding fast against the late-autumn wind. Chattering wrens, sparrows and chickadees fatten their tiny bodies at the birdfeeder outside my kitchen window. Squirrels leap from treetop to rooftop to earth and back again, gathering acorns to stash in their wild, oversized nests high in the bare branches. The sage and lavender in my garden have cast their final tender blooms to the ground and curled leaves around stems in a protective pose. Even the once-bright blooms of hardy mums have dropped their ruffled heads in surrender. The dawn arrives later and dusk falls earlier. It is December . . .

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Tagged as: peace

Leftovers

“Ten Creative Turkey Sandwich Recipes.” This was just one of dozens of articles featured in magazines this month about what to do with the leftovers from the Thanksgiving Day feast.

A few weeks ago, I went to hear Robert Eggers, founder of DC Central Kitchen, talk about how his organization creatively uses “leftovers” of many kinds to address issues of hunger in Washington, DC . . .

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Tagged as: entrepreneurs restorative justice social enterprise sustainability

$4.50 a day

It’s Thanksgiving Week, and I’ve been thinking a lot about food. But not in the way you might guess . . .

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Saturday in the City – El Maizal

Saturday in the City – El Maizal

Take one step through the dark red door at 306 North Mulberry Street in Lancaster, and you’ll feel like you’ve been transported into another part of the world . . .

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Tagged as: arts&culture; city life lancaster pa entrepreneurs

Six Reasons to Take Kids Holiday Shopping (at GTGH)

Six Reasons to Take Kids Holiday Shopping (at GTGH)

While you might typically be inclined to leave the kids (or grandkids) at home while you do your holiday shopping, the Gifts That Give Hope (GTGH) Alternative Gift Fair is different. Here are six great reasons to bring children or grandchildren along to GTGH . . .

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Avalanche

Avalanche

Signs of the coming holidays have been multiplying fast and furious, especially in my mailbox. Every day since early September, the mailman has shoved another holiday catalog or two through the tiny mail slot in our front door, along with the usual collection of credit card offers, sales flyers, coupon clipper magazines, insurance offers, and other assorted junk mail . . .

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One Year Into the Adventure

One Year Into the Adventure

One year ago today, Bruce and I signed a thick stack of papers in our realtor’s office, picked up the keys for this old city rowhome, and moved in with sleeping bags, pillows and a box of tools. It was the beginning of a new and, according to some of our family and friends, crazy, adventure . . .

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Gifts that Give Hope - Part 5

Gifts that Give Hope - Part 5

Halloween is over. November is here. That can only mean one thing: it’s time to think about the HOLIDAYS! If your stress level just went up a notch thinking about holiday gift-giving, a simple solution is only 12 days away . . .

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Saturday in the City – Behind the Scenes at Tellus360 (Part 2)

Saturday in the City – Behind the Scenes at Tellus360 (Part 2)

Okay, yes, I know it’s SUNDAY – but I promised another part of the story of Tellus360 . . .
(note: photo from the Tellus360 green roof; from textTellus360 website)

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Saturday in the City – Behind the Scenes at Tellus360 (Part 1)

Saturday in the City – Behind the Scenes at Tellus360 (Part 1)

Fine particles of sawdust float in the beams of sunlight coming through the high windows. The air vibrates to the whirr of an ancient Whitney planer as furniture-maker Josh Walton guides a thick slab of walnut lumber through . . .

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Tagged as: arts&culture; city life lancaster pa sustainability

Living Proof - Lancaster County Reentry Management Organization

At 6’2”, with broad shoulders, and a deep bass voice (think “James Earl Jones” and go down a notch), Zach might not look like a man who’d recite poetry . . .

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Saturday in the City - Upohar Ethnic Cuisines

Saturday in the City - Upohar Ethnic Cuisines

The kitchen is steamy and filled with spicy scents of coriander and limes, chilies and lemons. Five women work around each other, chopping tomatoes and cilantro, sautéing peppers and onions, and whirling mounds of chickpeas, sesame tahini and garlic in a large food processor . . .

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Restorative Justice in Schools - Lancaster Catholic High School - Part 2

Restorative Justice in Schools - Lancaster Catholic High School - Part 2

Adrienne Howe, the new Director of Restorative Justice at Lancaster Catholic High School, knows a lot about the importance of “second chances.” For six years before taking this new position at LCHS, Adrienne worked for Lancaster County Adult Probation and Parole, helping people coming out of prison to get out of the cycle of crime and incarceration to become successful . . .

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Restorative Justice in Schools - Lancaster Catholic High School

Restorative Justice in Schools - Lancaster Catholic High School

“Restorative justice is what made me a high school principal,” Tom Fertal tells me. I am, in fact, sitting in the principal’s office (something I haven’t done in a VERY long time!) . . .

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Saturday in the City - The Alley Garden

Saturday in the City - The Alley Garden

I spent much of last Saturday wandering the narrow and often-fascinating alleys around the city. Down a narrow alley in the southeast part of the city, off of Shippen Street, I found a group of neighbors involved in a clean-up day in their communal “Alley Garden” . . .

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Points of Pride - Lafayette Elementary School

Points of Pride - Lafayette Elementary School

Wanda Suarez, principal of Lafayette Elementary School in Lancaster city, beams as she shows me the numerous awards the school has received. They’re all displayed in the school’s new entrance lobby. And Lafayette has just received another one: they are the first urban school in the United States to become a “Certified Olweus School,” for their comprehensive implementation of the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP), and one of only four schools in the US to have achieved this distinction . . .

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Ghosts of Businesses Past

Ghosts of Businesses Past

Walking around the city, there are clues to Lancaster’s history in some interesting places. I spent most of Saturday afternoon walking around some of the alleys of the city . . .

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ASSETS Lancaster

ASSETS Lancaster

Walking around the city, it’s astounding how many small businesses are here, in glass-windowed shops along the city’s main “royalty” streets (King, Queen, Prince, Duke), as well as down narrow alleys, in old city rowhomes, and in refurbished former warehouses and factories. Catering businesses, bookkeeping services, barber shops, flower shops, photography studios, internet marketing services, mechanics – just to name a few . . .

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Tagged as: city life lancaster pa entrepreneurs social enterprise sustainability

Making Peace

Making Peace

On a recent Saturday morning, seven teenagers sat in a circle in a classroom in a church basement, with two adult facilitators. Each had been referred, either by a judge or a Youth Aid Panel, to the LAVORP Making Peace program. All of the teens had been involved in incidents of fighting and disorderly conduct. One student was referred to Making Peace because he had initiated a fight with several boys who had been bullying him . . .

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A Place for the Arts

A Place for the Arts

I spent yesterday morning with a group of elders at Willow Valley Retirement Community, teaching a life story writing course . . .

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Tagged as: arts&culture; city life lancaster pa

A Whole Lotta TLC

A Whole Lotta TLC

Frank was once “a respectable college-educated former Marine, and business owner with a beautiful, caring wife, three wonderful children, and three beautiful grandchildren.” But after decades of battling alcoholism, he wound up “a penniless, homeless, unemployable drunk.” These are Frank’s own descriptions of his life, in a letter he wrote to the staff of the Transitional Living Center after he successfully completed their “homelessness to housing” program and moved into his own apartment . . .

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Trash Day

Trash Day

It’s trash day here in our section of the city. Looking up and down the block at all of the cans and bags holding a week’s worth of garbage, then mentally multiplying that by all of the cans and bags in all of the other sections of the city makes my head spin . . .

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How I Spent My Summer (and Most of Autumn)

This past Friday was Graduation Day for 28 professionals in social services, workforce development and criminal justice agencies from across Pennsylvania. I was one of them . . .

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The NOW Generation of Peacemakers

The NOW Generation of Peacemakers

I spent last evening with 15 long-time community activists and peacemakers. Men and women from right here in Lancaster County who have been involved for years in a variety of causes, from environmental issues to global peacemaking to matters of social justice. All are in the “second half of life” and have already had long careers as lawyers, teachers, healthcare workers, business people, and other professions . . .

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The Next Generation of Peacemakers

I spent yesterday with 29 new recruits for Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). Fifteen women and fourteen men from Alaska, California, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ireland and Germany . . .

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Tagged as: peace

Gifts That Give Hope - Part 4

Gifts That Give Hope - Part 4

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
~ Margaret Mead, anthropologist (1901 – 1978)

The list of terrific non-profit organizations participating in this year’s Gifts That Give Hope alternative gift fair goes on . . .

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Gifts That Give Hope - Part 3

Gifts That Give Hope - Part 3

Three months from today is . . . CHRISTMAS! Only 91 shopping days left. Luckily, there’s a fantastic alternative to the mall madness that’s called “Gifts That Give Hope” . . .

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No Impact Week

As the last days of summer flutter away on the breeze (the Autumnal Equinox is Friday, September 23, 2011), I’ve decided to join in a unique week-long international project called No Impact Week. The project begins on Sunday September 18th, 2011 . . .

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Tagged as: sustainability

A Sea Change, Rich and Strange

A Sea Change, Rich and Strange

The strong breeze ruffling the curtains of my office window today is a cool weather front coming in, according to the weatherman. A harbinger of the impending change of season. It seems an appropriate metaphor for something else I’ve been feeling lately . . .

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Gifts That Give Hope - Part 2

Gifts That Give Hope - Part 2

In a previous post, I introduced Gifts That Give Hope and some of the organizations involved in this year’s event. This post introduces several more of the organizations that will be part of the 2011 GTGH fair . . .

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Profound Reconciliation

Profound Reconciliation

On this anniversary, a powerful message from two mothers . . .

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Tagged as: peace

Gifts That Give Hope

Gifts That Give Hope

Regular readers of my blog know that I often write about people and organizations who dedicate themselves to making a positive difference in the world, creating peaceful, healthy, strong and sustainable communities – whether by promoting peace and justice, respect for diversity, environmental sustainability, high quality education or equal access to basic human needs like nutritious food, clean drinking water and safe shelter.

Well, on Sunday, November 20, 2011, thirty such organizations will be gathered under one roof . . .

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Restorative Justice in Lancaster County - LAVORP at Work

I’m going to wrap up this multi-post series on restorative justice in action with another LAVORP story . . . and a call to action. First, the story . . .

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Restorative Justice and Violent Crime - Part 2

In my last post, I shared the first part of Jenny’s story – about her request to meet with the man who had killed her brother, and the journey of preparing for that meeting. Today’s post is about their face to face meeting . . .

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Tagged as: criminal justice grace goes to prison restorative justice

Restorative Justice and Violent Crime - Part 1

In an earlier post in this series, I told the story of Michael and Mr. Good, and how restorative justice was utilized as an alternative to the criminal justice process. This post is about a different type of restorative justice program, for victims of violent crime . . .

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Tagged as: criminal justice grace goes to prison restorative justice

Back to School - Part 3 - Peer Mediation in Schools

Back to School - Part 3 - Peer Mediation in Schools

Back in 1989, Frank Albrecht taught phys ed and health at J. P. McCaskey High School in Lancaster, PA. He’d been at McCaskey for four years, and enjoyed teaching students about healthy living and physical fitness. Then, one afternoon after school, five of his students had a fight. One of them was stabbed, nearly fatally, in the heart . . .

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Restorative Justice in the Community

My last few posts have focused on how schools address situations where students violate rules and cause harm in the school setting, and I’ll be writing more on that subject in the coming weeks. But what about situations where young people violate rules or laws and cause harm in our neighborhoods and communities? . . .

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Back to School - Part 2 - Restorative Justice in Schools

A fight broke out in the middle of the hallway at a Lancaster area school. Two teenage boys – one black, one white – threw punches and hurled racial slurs at each other . . .

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Back to School - Part 1 - Schools and “Zero Tolerance”

Back to School - Part 1 - Schools and “Zero Tolerance”

This week, lots of my friends have been taking their kids back to college, while others are getting their younger children ready to go back to elementary, middle or high school . . .

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Living Lighter

Living Lighter

Today’s brilliant blue skies and cool breezes are sure signs that autumn’s right around the corner. You can almost smell September in the evening air. And as the sun settles over the rooftops on the other side of the street, the whirr of locusts is replaced by the gentler rhythms of cricket song. I love the sound of it . . .

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Reflections and Direction

It’s been an intense week of learning, reflection and decisions . . .

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What About the Children?

Last night, both of my children went to sleep many miles away from us, their parents. They were in safe, comfortable surroundings and fell asleep secure in the knowledge that they are deeply loved and that we are here for them, accessible and available any time they need us for anything.

Last night, approximately three million other American children went to sleep many miles away from one or both of their parents, with no way to contact their parents, and no way for their parents to help them with much of anything. Many of these children haven’t even seen their parents for months, maybe even for years . . .

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Scenes from a Life - How it all began

As more and more people are “weighing in” about whether I should continue researching and writing about Ruth’s life, my good writer-friend, Lisa Hess, invited me over to her “Porch Swing Chronicles” blog to share a little about how this journey with Ruth’s story began . . .

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Scenes from a Life - Quandary

The quandary over whether to go forward with Ruth’s story continues. Since the article and then the critical letter to the editor appeared in the Sunday news, I have been talking with quite a few other people about whether to proceed with this project . . .

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Scenes from a Life - Good Ju-Ju

I spent the morning with six women who are all related to Ruth and her mother, Marie . . .

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Lancaster City Culture - 28th Annual Hispanic Cultural Festival

We’re coming into “fair & festival” season in Lancaster County – one of my favorite times of the year. Pennsylvania is known for county fairs, but here in Lancaster County, plenty of individual communities have their own fairs and festivals: Elizabethtown, New Holland, Ephrata, Denver… And right here in the city, for the next 3 nights, we have a fantastic festival going on: the 28th Annual Hispanic Cultural Festival . . .

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Scenes from a . . . City Garden

Scenes from a . . . City Garden

While Sunday’s letter to the editor raised questions about how Ruth would feel about my digging into her past and doubts about the legitimacy of some of the information and theories about Ruth that were shared in the newspaper article, there is NO doubt that Ruth loved being in the garden here at the house . . .

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Scenes from a Life . . . or Not?

Today’s Sunday paper contained a letter to the editor about last week’s article on Ruth and this house and my project to research and write about Ruth’s life. In part, the letter read, “I believe Ruth would be appalled to know someone acquired her private files not intended for them and likely headed for the Dumpster. Would any one of us want that for ourselves?”

The question brought me up short . . .

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Lancaster City Culture - History - 1944 Photo Tours

Lancaster City Culture - History - 1944 Photo Tours

It’s been a wild and busy week, so today’s post is something a little bit different . . .

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Lancaster City Culture - History - 1944

Lancaster City Culture - History - 1944

As Ruth was finishing her final year at Ogontz Junior College, back here in Lancaster city, residents were feeling the pain of wartime . . .

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Scenes from a Life - Ruth’s Story - 1945 - End of the Ogontz Years

Scenes from a Life - Ruth’s Story - 1945 - End of the Ogontz Years

All the clues I’ve uncovered so far point to Ruth having been an unconventional young woman, even perhaps a bit of a rebel. Yet, in her final year at Ogontz, it appears she tried to do at least some of what was “expected” of Ogontz girls . . .

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Lancaster City Culture - Fulton Youtheatre

Lancaster City Culture - Fulton Youtheatre

Among Ruth’s memorabilia are dozens of theater programs, playbills and ticket stubs from theaters in Philadelphia, New York, London, Edinburgh, Barcelona and other major cities around the world, as well as from F&M’s Green Room Theatre and the Fulton Opera House right here in Lancaster. Ruth clearly enjoyed theater – all kinds of theater from opera to Broadway, from comedy to musicals to drama.

I have a hunch she would have really loved the upcoming production of For We Were Strangers In The Land by Fulton’s Youtheatre . . .

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Music of the City

Music of the City

With the music of drills, hammers, saws and other construction instruments silenced , I’m more aware of the many other forms of music that surround us . . .

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Rhythms of City Life - Part 2

Rhythms of City Life - Part 2

Around 5pm yesterday, eight months to the day since we moved into this old city rowhome, the chorus of hammers, drills, saws, extension ladders, paint scrapers and brushes that has been the accompaniment to our days went silent. The last of the major work we’d set out to have done on this place was completed. There was no grand finale, other than a tired goodbye from the last of the workmen – painters – and the rumble of their utility van as they drove away . . .

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Lancaster City Culture - 2nd Sunday Flavor Fair

Lancaster City Culture - 2nd Sunday Flavor Fair

The sounds of rocking blues music drew me up the 300 block of North Queen Street this afternoon. The rich scents of grilled meats and exotically spiced ethnic dishes filled the air. I followed my nose into the courtyard behind Building Character (342 N Queen St). And I thanked my LUCKY SUNDAY STARS! It was the Second Sunday Flavor Fair . . .

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Scenes from a Life - Ruth’s Story - 1944-45

Scenes from a Life - Ruth’s Story - 1944-45

Among Ruth’s files is a letter addressed to her at Ogontz Junior College, dated Dec 11, 1944, from a man named Evan L. Synnestvedt, an agent with Standard Life Insurance Company in Philadelphia. He wrote to say that he’d found Ruth’s wallet on a train . . .

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Scenes from a Life - Ruth’s Story - 1943-44

In my last blog post about Ruth’s story, set in 1943, Ruth’s father, William, was very ill. Via correspondence, he and Abby Sutherland agreed that Ruth should attend two years at Ogontz Junior College after her graduation from Ogontz High School (in May, 1943), in order to, as Abby wrote, “prepare her for something she wants to do later.” Abby’s opinion was that Ruthie was not a serious student, though Abby told Ruth’s father, “she is trying to the limit of her strength.” In September, 1943, Ruth entered Ogontz Junior College, taking a rigorous course load including psychology, college math, and “Semimicro and Macro Organic Chemistry.”

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People. Stories.

“My sister’s voice was like mountain water in a silver pitcher…” Scott Feifer read aloud the opening lines of “Silver Water,” a short story by Amy Bloom, as forty people listened and followed along on printed copies of the story. The listeners were suburban school teachers, teen boys from a residential treatment program, middle-aged moms, former gang members, young women recovering from addiction, business professionals, high school dropouts and people with Master’s degrees . . .

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Little Wads of Beauty

Little Wads of Beauty

One of my dearest, long-time friends, Marion, has an amazing gift for seeing beauty and possibilities in things many people would overlook. She’s expert at fashioning something wonderful out of odds and ends, scraps and remnants. A mutual friend calls Marion’s creations “little wads of beauty.” But it’s occurred to me that Marion’s “little wads of beauty” are really outward evidence of a manner of living . . .

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Rhythms of City Life

Rhythms of City Life

With all the traveling of the past month, I’ve really missed the daily rhythms of life at home and in the city . . .

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A Tiny Slip of Blue Paper

A Tiny Slip of Blue Paper

June has been a “travelin’ month,” including trips to North Carolina, Virginia, Kentucky and, most recently, Maryland, to help with orientation for a new group of volunteers with Brethren Volunteer Service (BVS). Now, I know lots of you who follow my blog know all about BVS, served as BVS volunteers yourselves and have your own stories to tell. But for those who don’t know about BVS, I thought I’d try to give you a little glimpse of what it’s all about . . .

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Tagged as: peace

Secret Beauty - Shakespeare Behind Bars

Secret Beauty - Shakespeare Behind Bars

with guest blogger/co-author Rose Kolonauski

We do pray for mercy; And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
The deeds of mercy.
~ Portia in The Merchant of Venice, Act IV, Scene I

On Tuesday, June 14, Rose and Melanie attended a Shakespeare Behind Bars (SBB) performance of “The Merchant of Venice” at the Luther Luckett state prison in LaGrange, Kentucky . . .

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Tagged as: criminal justice restorative justice

From Harm to Healing - The National Conference on Restorative Justice

Yesterday’s post shared stories of Ann and Therese – two women who have each lost a brother to violence. Both Therese and Ann have found support in their journeys toward healing from several organizations that operate on principles of restorative justice . . .

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Two Sisters, Two Brothers - The National Conference on Restorative Justice

Today’s post focuses on the stories of 2 women who spoke at the National Conference on Restorative Justice. Therese and Ann have each lost a brother . . .

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Each Other’s Angels - The National Conference on Restorative Justice

We are each other’s angels,
And we meet when it is time,
We keep each other going,
And we show each other signs…

(lyrics from “We Are Each Other’s Angels”, written by Chuck Brodsky, and recorded by David LaMotte*.)

Hundreds of “angels” of justice and peace from around the world gathered in Raleigh, North Carolina this week for the National Conference on Restorative Justice . . .

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Tagged as: criminal justice restorative justice

Standing on the Shoulders of Women Peacemakers

Fifty years ago today, on Monday, June 5, 1961, eighteen year-old Shirley Thompson, of New Orleans, was getting ready to take a trip. She was a student at George Washington Carver High School. The next day, she would board a Trailways bus bound for . . .

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Tagged as: peace

Lancaster City Culture - Recycling

Lancaster City Culture - Recycling

The sun was barely up this morning when I heard the now-familiar clink and clatter of city trash haulers emptying cans and glass bottles from the big green plastic recycling bins all of us put out at the curb every week. The clinking and clattering seemed louder and longer than usual after the Memorial Day weekend – lots of bottles and cans! I had spent the holiday weekend in Virginia, visiting a dear friend. While I was there, I helped her load up her truck with recyclables and trash, and we took them to the local landfill and recycling center. (she joked that she sure knows how to show her guests a good time!) All of this got me thinking about trash, landfills, recycling and the impact of all that we manufacture, all that we consume, and all that we throw away . . .

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Lancaster City Culture - On Two Wheels

Lancaster City Culture - On Two Wheels

Walking to a meeting a few days ago, I heard a rhythmic squeaking noise behind me, getting closer and closer. I turned to see . . .

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Lancaster City Culture - on Foot

Got a new pair of shoes last weekend. Nothing fancy – plain black, low heels, suitable with casual or business attire. Most importantly: good for walking. I’ve set two goals for the summer: to get in shape and to cut my car use. A sort of combined 50th birthday present to myself and a little gift to the environment too. I started this week by walking either to or from (sometimes both) every meeting I had here in the city (including the 3 mornings I spent at Lancaster County Prison – more on that in a future post!) By my calculations, I logged about 13 miles (many of them in the rain) . . .

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Lancaster City Culture - Architecture - Reynolds Middle School

Lancaster City Culture - Architecture - Reynolds Middle School

_Lancaster’s architecture is a significant part of the “feel” of the city and a major contributor to Lancaster city culture. After my recent post about our renovation of the 3rd floor bedroom that used to be Ruth’s, my friend Rose commented that she wondered what kind of view Ruth might have had when she looked out the three large windows in that room. Unlike many city streets, which are lined with rowhomes on both sides, our street (or at least these few blocks of it) has rowhomes on one side, and John F. Reynolds Middle School on the other side . . .

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Two Adventurous Young Women and A Room Renovation

Two Adventurous Young Women and A Room Renovation

Today’s post is a combo-post – part Ruth’s story, part home renovation story and part story of another adventurous young woman, our Hannah . . .

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Scenes from a Life - Ruth’s Story - 1943

Scenes from a Life - Ruth’s Story - 1943

Over the past 2 weeks, I’ve had the opportunity to visit the former Ogontz School campus (now Penn State – Abington), where librarian & archivist, Lil Hansberry, was a tremendous help. I’ve also interviewed Terrie Smith, former archivist at Ogontz/PSU Abington, as well as several neighbors here in Lancaster who knew Ruth. So, here’s another installment in Ruth’s story…

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Lancaster Central Market Renovation Celebration

Lancaster Central Market Renovation Celebration

Lancaster’s Central Market is truly one of the city’s great treasures, and a big part of what makes up the “culture” of this city! After an extensive renovation, this week is the Grand Renovation Celebration at Market. I got up there early this morning and got some wonderful photos. Be sure to check out the photo tour I’ve posted. BUT FIRST

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Lancaster City Culture - Race Against Racism and Humanity Fest 2011

Lancaster City Culture - Race Against Racism and Humanity Fest 2011

Yesterday, much of what makes Lancaster City such a great place was evident at the YWCA’s 13th Annual Race Against Racism and Humanity Fest . . .

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Some Thoughts on Diversity - and a Blog Naming Contest

I’ve been thinking a lot about the notion of “diversity” this week. On Thursday, I was at the 6th Diversity Seminar, sponsored by Mental Health America of Lancaster County and Lancaster County Office of Mental Health, Mental Retardation, Early Intervention. Though the term “diversity” is often used in reference to racial and ethnic differences, speakers at the Diversity Seminar helped us to explore additional aspects of diversity including socioeconomic status, religion, sexual orientation, criminal justice system involvement, educational disparities and other differences upon which stereotypes and biases are formed. They also challenged us to examine how those biases and stereotypes are formed, and how they are often perpetuated through the media, religious and other organizations, governmental, educational and other “systems.” . . .

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Mama’s Garden - Ruth’s Legacy

Mama’s Garden - Ruth’s Legacy

According to the neighbors, Ruth was an avid gardener and she spent hours puttering around in “Mama’s garden.” This spring, we are the lucky beneficiaries of Ruth’s green thumb. So today’s post is a photo tour of Mama’s garden . . . Ruth’s legacy.

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Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part4

Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part4

Today’s post is the final segment of a 4-part post of the keynote speech I offered at last week’s Lancaster Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (LAVORP) Annual Dinner

Boise, Albuquerque and City Heights aren’t the only places striving to incorporate restorative practices into the very fabric of their communities . . .

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Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part 3

Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part 3

Today’s post is the third in a 4-part post of the keynote speech I offered at last week’s Lancaster Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (LAVORP) Annual Dinner

The last question I’d like for us to consider is when we apply restorative justice principles . . .

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Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part 2

Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part 2

Today’s post is the second in a 4-part post of the keynote address I offered at last week’s Lancaster Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (LAVORP) Annual Dinner

Let me get back to the quilt story . . . and another question it raises. That is the question of who we might involve in RJ efforts . . .

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Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part 1

Lancaster Area Victim Offender Reconciliation Program Keynote Address_Part 1

I’ve been asked to share the keynote address I offered at last week’s Lancaster Victim Offender Reconciliation Program (LAVORP) Annual Dinner. So, I’ll post it in 4 segments here on my blog over the next 4 days.

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Scenes from a Life - Ruths Story - Second Installment

The year: 1942
Another round of correspondence between Ogontz School and Ogontz White Mountain Camp staff to Ruth’s father. This time, I’ve included some historical context as well. Ruth is 16 years old. The United States has just declared war on Japan in December 1941 . . .

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Living Downstream

Living Downstream

The constant thrum of rain today on our brand new roof made me both grateful (no more water dripping from a cracked skylight into the 2nd floor hallway!) and mindful of what I learned at a Rain Barrel Workshop last week . . .

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Scenes from A Life: Ruth’s Story

Scenes from A Life: Ruth’s Story

Sorting through more of Ruth’s memorabilia, I continue to come across fascinating tidbits of information that provide little clues about her life. But every clue also raises a dozen questions about all of the details of her life that AREN’T here. So far, I’ve managed to inventory the contents of about half of the ten huge boxes of photo albums, scrapbooks, letters, diaries and other memorabilia that were given to me. And I have to say, it’s a little overwhelming to figure out how to pull all of this together into a book. So for now, in order to make it somewhat more manageable, I thought I’d occasionally share little bits of what I’m discovering about Ruth’s life and her family, and invite all of you to comment . . .

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More Buried Treasure

Yesterday, I found more buried treasure here in Lancaster. It was in a nondescript room in a nondescript building on the south side of the city. Not the sort of place anyone would go looking for treasure. But there it was . . .

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Things to Love about Lancaster - for Visitors and Day-Trippers

Things to Love about Lancaster - for Visitors and Day-Trippers

Seems we finished renovating the downstairs in this old place not a moment too soon! Our dear long-time friends, Rob & Kathy, sent an email saying they’re coming to Lancaster (from Philly) for meetings on Friday and could they come and visit us? ABSOLUTELY!! We’ve invited them to stay overnight. (Don’t worry – we managed to get one 3rd floor bedroom (mostly) renovated last week. So they’ll have a decent place to lay their heads. Stay tuned for before/after renovation pics later!)

With that little detail “handled”, the next question was which Lancaster treasures to show them while they’re here. The list of possibilities is long, and their visit, alas, will be brief. So today’s post is my own “short list” of must-see/must-do in Lancaster city. Not rated or ranked – just a few things I’d want to do in a day in the city, if I were only a visitor here . . .

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Living Room - before and after

Living Room - before and after

Today’s post is a photo tour of the renovation/transformation of our living room

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Dining Room - before and after

Dining Room - before and after

Today’s post is a photo tour of our dining room, before and after . . .

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Buried Treasure - Part 2

Buried Treasure - Part 2

As I’ve been going through the boxes of Ruth’s memorabilia, doing research for my next book, I made another amazing find: stacks of 1920’s, 1930’s, 1940’s and 1950’s era recipe booklets – many of them published by companies anxious for homemakers to use their products. Here’s a sampling . . .

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Time Capsule House

Time Capsule House

Friends have been asking to see and hear more about our “time-capsule” house as we first saw it. A little background for those who haven’t yet heard the story: it’s a city rowhome, built in 1915, that was owned by a woman named Ruth. This had been Ruth’s childhood home (she was born in 1925). Ruth grew up and moved out on her own years ago, but Ruth’s mother continued to live in this house until she died in 1989. Ruth then inherited her mother’s house. Even though Ruth had her own apartment across town, she was unable to part with “Mama’s house” and it appears she left everything intact, just as it had been when her mother was still alive. When we saw the house for the first time, it had been sitting, unoccupied but fully furnished, for over 20 years: a true time-capsule. I’m working on writing a book about Ruth’s life, which I’m discovering little by little from the records and memorabilia left to me when we moved into her childhood home. In the meantime, here are more photos with detailed captions.

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Things to Love about Lancaster

Things to Love about Lancaster

This post will be the first in a series of Things to Love about Lancaster. But don’t be fooled by the word “series” – it does NOT imply that there will be any order or regularity or even rhyme or reason to these posts. There won’t be any ranking of the “Things to Love,” nor will there be any consistency in number or type of items posted. The only thing I promise is that the posts in this so-called “series” will be sporadic, random, occasionally obscure, sometimes baffling and periodically repetitive. But hey, it’s my blog . . . so here’s your photo tour of the first eclectic assortment, gleaned from an early morning “gotta get outta the house” walk this morning . . .

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Buried Treasure

Buried Treasure

It’s been a week of unearthing buried treasure, as I’ve stripped ancient and crumbling wallpaper, removed layers of accumulated renovation debris from our little back yard, and continued the journey of discovery through the memorabilia of Ruth’s life bequeathed to me by the Salvation Army.
Here’s a photo tour of this week’s “discoveries” . . .

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The Kitchen

The Kitchen

Yesterday, I wrote about getting OUT of the kitchen. Today, I’ll write a little about the months we spent IN the kitchen, renovating it . . .

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The Heat

The Heat

“If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the old saying goes (attributed to Harry S Truman). It wasn’t heat, but cabin fever, that drove us out of the kitchen and into downtown Lancaster last evening. It was First Friday and the streets were buzzing with other winter-weary souls, young and old, despite the cold, damp weather . . .

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Bathroom - before and after

Bathroom - before and after

(note: if you receive automatic emails when I post new blog entries and get an error saying “Invalid GET data” when you try to click on the blog article link contained in the automatic email, click on the link at the top of the email that says “Melanie G. Snyder’s Blog” instead)

Friends have been asking to see some before and after photos – so over the next few blog posts, I’ll give you an idea of what we’ve done with some of the rooms so far.

Today’s post: the bathroom . . .

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Before and After - Fireplace & Hearth

Before and After - Fireplace & Hearth

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, Ruth’s father bought this house in March, 1923, and in May, he and Ruth’s mother were married standing in front of the fireplace in the house. Though it was in bad shape when we moved in, we’ve been able to clean up the bricks and the tile hearth with the help of a surprising “secret ingredient.”

Here are before and after photos (the photo captions reveal the secret)

Tagged as: home renovation

Clairvoyant Calendars and Other Phenomena

I told my daughter that one of my goals when we moved into the city was to revive my Spanish language skills that had lain dormant for three decades. So, for Christmas, she gave me a “Learn to Speak Spanish Phrase-a-Day” calendar. It seems this calendar is clairvoyant. Either that, or there are spirits here, watching me.

In a previous blog post, I wrote about the day the calendar declared, “Hay mucho polvo” : “There’s a lot of dust.” Okay, I’ll admit, that declaration would have been true on any given day in this old place. But last weekend, just before we started buffing and restoring the living room floor, I turned to this calendar entry:

“Voy a barrer la sala.” It means: “I’m going to sweep the living room.”

Coincidence? I think not . . .

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The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Okay, I’ve waxed rhapsodic about the charm and character of this old place – the lovely little details that captivated us and tempted us to take on this project. But there were also lots of problems and plenty of, ahem, not-so-charming features. Some of these were obvious and we knew we’d have to address them if we bought this place. Others were, shall we say, a “surprise.” A picture is worth a thousand words, so here’s a photo tour of “the bad and the ugly.” (I’m sorry, Ruth and “Mama”! Please don’t take it personally!)

Tagged as: home renovation

Mucho Polvo - Part Dos

Mucho Polvo - Part Dos

Yesterday’s post was about “polvo,” Spanish for dust, and an alternative process we decided to try to restore our hardwood floors without the dust or expense of full-scale floor refinishing. Here’s how it went:

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Mucho Polvo

Mucho Polvo

“Hay mucho polvo.” That was one of this week’s entries on my “Learn to Speak Spanish Phrase-a-Day” calendar.

Translation: “There’s a lot of dust.”

No kidding . . .

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The house that captivated us

The house that captivated us

So many people have asked to see some photos of “Ruth’s house” as we first saw it . . . so here are a few. Note: in the exterior photo, it’s the rowhome on the left of the 4-home building.

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Old Relics

Old Relics

“What are you writing these days?” my friend Marty asked me this morning.

“Nothing but big, fat checks to subcontractors!” was my smart-aleck reply.

We laughed and ordered breakfast at the Neptune Diner (one of Lancaster’s little treasures – more about that later) where a group of Etownians and former Etownians had met to catch up with each other. Over coffee, eggs and toast, I told them about this house restoration project that has consumed Bruce and me for three full months now (as of this past Saturday . . . not that I’m counting . . . ) I also shared a little bit about the book I’m hoping to write eventually: about the woman named Ruth who grew up in this house and her extraordinary life . . .

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Joe and Red

Joe* is being paroled today after 34 years in prison. He is 58 years old. He was about the same age as my son – 24 years old – when he was sent to prison, before his adult life had ever really begun . . .

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Lessons from the Yellow Brick Road

Lessons from the Yellow Brick Road

You may remember “Dorothy Gale” simply as a sixteen-year old Judy Garland in the original movie version of The Wizard of Oz. But Dorothy Gale was far more than a starry-eyed Kansas girl in ruby slippers. Dorothy is one of my heroes. Here are some things the girl in the blue gingham dress taught me about life . . .

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Not About the Book

“How was the book tour?” is one of many questions people have been asking in the last couple of days. There are so many possible responses to that question, so many experiences and challenges and things I’ve learned along the way that I will need to reflect on and process and ponder. It may take me weeks, even months to fully understand and formulate my replies to that question.

But my initial response is this . . .

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One Last River to Cross

One Last River to Cross

I drove along the Monongahela River and up the winding hills out of Morgantown to I-68 just after the morning rush hour. A few miles after that came the glittering Cheat Lake, fed by the Cheat River . . .

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Take Me Home

Take Me Home

Had some real John Denver moments today as I made my way north and east along winding country roads through Kentucky horse country and then into West Virginia. Despite the torrential rains that pounded out a drumbeat on the windshield for the first 100 miles or so, it was a gorgeous drive . . .

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Re-entry

For weeks now, I’ve been thinking every day about what it will be like to get back home after 74 days on the road (almost THERE!!! see Countdown clock at right!!)

Various metaphors have come to mind: astronauts re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, sailors returning home from sea, explorers returning from an expedition . . .

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Walking in the City on a Hill

Cincinnati is a city of hills. Local legend says it was built on seven hills, like Rome, though as I drove up and down, around and through the city, it seemed there were way more than seven. (the van does NOT like hills, either up or down) . . .

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A Stranger in . . . Goshen

A Stranger in . . . Goshen

Midwestern friendliness has abounded in my week spent here in Hoosier country. Indiana is surely one of the prettiest and most welcoming places in the country . . .

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The Value of Tears

I’ve been thinking a lot about tears lately. Maybe because I’ve been shedding so many of them. Don’t know if it’s menopause, exhaustion or just too many hours and too many miles traveling alone. Whatever the reason, it’s prompted me to think about the value of tears (no, not the vale of tears…

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The Passion of Youth, The Wisdom of Elders

College-age peace activists . . . new professors and those with long experience . . . retired social workers, doctors, teachers, pastors, peace activists and others . . . people working to build a fledgling mentoring program for women transitioning out of prison . . . founders of one of oldest programs for perpetrators of domestic abuse in the country . . . all have been part of my journey through Indiana over the past several days.

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Impromptu Pilgrimage

Elkhart, Indiana: a town of about 50,000 people at the confluence of the St. Joseph and Elkhart Rivers in the north-central part of the state. It’s been known as the “Band Instrument Capital of the World” and “RV Capital of the World.” But neither of those was the reason I decided to make an impromptu stop there on my way through this part of the state . . .

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One for the Choir

United Church of Christ, Church of the Brethren and Presbyterian groups in Madison, WI, Chicago and Elgin, IL have hosted me in the past week to share stories of restorative justice and Marie’s work in the prisons . . .

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Interviews on RJ, prison reform, Brethren roots and other good stuff

In the past few weeks, a radio interview, YouTube videos and a web interview have been posted where I’ve talked about restorative justice, Marie’s prison work, prison reform, the Church of the Brethren and other topics. So, in case you’re interested, here are the links.

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One - Revisited

“I am trying to prepare myself for the outside life but how do I do that when I don’t even know what it is or how to expect it,” a man named Rocky wrote to Marie Hamilton shortly before his release from prison. “Believe it or not I don’t know if I want to come out there. Right now I am thinking about turning down parole. . . . Everyone has fears and this one of mines now. If I had someone I could talk to maybe I would feel differently…”

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Imagine

Imagine arriving in a new place, with nothing but a few dollars and the clothes on your back. You don’t have a roadmap or any reliable means of transportation. You aren’t sure where to go or where you’ll stay tonight. You haven’t eaten for hours and aren’t sure where your next meal will come from. You don’t know anyone – at least not anyone who could really help you . . .

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Preparing the Fields

Preparing the Fields

They’re preparing the fields for planting here in Iowa, where I spent most of yesterday driving straight up through the middle of the state on I-35, past farming communities with idyllic names like Garden Grove, Winterset, Swaledale and Woolstock . . .

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Postscript

So many friends and family members have called me or sent emails already this morning to check up on me after yesterday’s blog post. Thank you! I wanted to add a little postscript to yesterday’s post . . .

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One

One

I guess it was bound to happen sooner or later. Actually, it’s a little surprising that it hadn’t happened before now. But this morning, it struck without warning, with the force of a Kansas twister . . .

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Regional Oddities

As I’ve traveled across the country, I’ve discovered some unusual regional customs, foods and other miscellany. Here are a few . . .

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Small Town Wonders

Small Town Wonders

“Snow . . . accumulations . . . high winds,” the weatherman said. High winds are nothing new. I’ve been dealing with those since Oklahoma . . .

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The Long Haul - Part Two

The Long Haul - Part Two

Driving east into the sunrise out of Albuquerque, the colors of the landscape changed from chili-powder red to the browns and golds of cumin and turmeric as the miles rolled away beneath my wheels . . .

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The Long Haul - Part One

The Long Haul - Part One

Have you ever been a victim of your own stupidity? Well, on Monday morning, I was . . .

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Midway Oasis

Midway Oasis

Apache Junction, Tempe, the Papago Buttes Church of the Brethren and the Circle of Peace Church of the Brethren have all offered a peaceful oasis for the past four days . . .

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Kindred Spirits . . . and Starfish

Kindred Spirits . . . and Starfish

An evening of meeting and talking with kindred spirits here in New Mexico has re-energized me and renewed my hope that restorative justice can and will take hold . . .

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Uniquely Texas

Uniquely Texas

Friday’s long drive across western Oklahoma, the Texas Panhandle and into New Mexico yielded some interesting photos. Here are some gems that are uniquely Texas

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Exodus House and Redemption Church in Oklahoma City

I spent Thursday afternoon and evening with folks from Exodus House and Redemption Church, two ministries run by the Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church. These and other programs are part of their “Criminal Justice and Mercy Ministries” (CJAMM), directed by the Reverend Dr. Stan Basler, who had invited me to visit . . .

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Oklahoma City National Memorial

Spent several hours at the Oklahoma City National Memorial yesterday. These photos express the swirl of emotions I felt there.

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Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign

I’ve encountered some interesting, disturbing, attention-grabbing and downright strange signs along the highways and byways . . .

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Other gems and nuggets

Other gems and nuggets

DINER WISDOM: In a choice between a chain restaurant and a “Mom & Pop,” always choose the “Mom & Pop” . . .

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Bits of wisdom gleaned along the way

When you cross a mighty river . . .

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Downshift

Downshift

After a very intense start to this journey, I’ve downshifted into a couple of quiet days in Nashville. I’ve felt somewhat guilty for not having more meetings and speaking gigs set up here, but about half a dozen Nashville-based organizations and individuals I had contacted repeatedly over the past several months just didn’t seem interested enough to respond. I’m not sure why. It’s been frustrating, disappointing, and a little depressing, but finally I had to just let it go and decided to give myself a little break and do some sightseeing.

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The list goes on

The list goes on

The list of great people I’ve met goes on and on . . . here are several more:

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Activists, Peacemakers and Rabble Rousers

Okay, now that I’ve “vented” a little about some of the dissenting voices I heard last week, I’d like to tell you about some of the other wonderful and inspiring people I’ve met who are dedicated and passionate activists, peacemakers and rabble-rousers, each “troubling the waters” in their own way . . .

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Troubling the water

Troubling the water

It’s been an interesting week here in the south, where I’ve managed to shake things up, stir the pot, and do some rabble-rousing. I’ve encountered people who sharply disagree with the message of restorative justice . . .

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Renewed

After a hectic couple of days with 3 speaking gigs in 36 hours, I had a chance to regroup…

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Shine a Light

Shine a Light

I woke this morning to grey skies and a grey cat peering down at me through the rooftop skylights. It seems “Bubba Bad Boy” has appointed himself my bodyguard and guardian angel (he also occasionally poses as a hood ornament for the RoadTrek). But I had to leave him behind as I left the comfortable cocoon of being among dear old friends and familiar landscapes. It was time to head further south, first to Roanoke and then on to Greensboro, NC . . .

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Things that go bump in the night

THUD!
My eyes fly open.
Whawazzat? my sleep-addled brain sputters.
I hold my breath and listen.
Nothing.
Did I dream it?
Still silence.
Maybe I kicked something…
I listen for a moment longer
Then start drifting back to…

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Traveling Mercies

Traveling Mercies

With 5 days and 385 miles under my belt, this week has been filled with traveling mercies . . .

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The journey begins

The official start of this journey was a little anti-climactic, as my first speaking gig was canceled due to a forecast of snow. The snow never materialized, but blessings did . . .

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With love and gratitude

With love and gratitude

An endeavor like this would be impossible without the love and support of many people. So, on the eve of my departure, and, fittingly, on Valentine’s Day, here’s a small expression of my love and gratitude for each of them . . .

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Listing

Listing

A recent exhibit at the Louvre was titled “The Vertigo of Lists.” In explaining his chosen theme, guest curator Umberto Eco said that lists help human beings to “make infinity comprehensible . . . to create order.” Ultimately, Eco says, “We like lists because we don’t want to die” . . .

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Tagged as: book tour grace goes to prison

Fellow Travelers

Zach Bonner. Bob Votruba. The McCullough family (Carrick, Colin, Gareth and Jennifer). Al Whitney. Pranav Mehta and friends. Lorenzo Abundiz. So, who are these people? And how’d they get into my blog? . . .

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Tagged as: book tour grace goes to prison

Small Spaces

Small Spaces

19 feet by 6 feet…those are the dimensions of the home-on-wheels that I’ll inhabit for 10 weeks on the road. 114 square feet, though in reality, it’s smaller even than that . . .

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Tagged as: book tour grace goes to prison sustainability

Looking Back . . . and Ahead

Look back or focus on what’s ahead? That’s always my quandary on New Year’s Day. And a New Year’s at the end of one decade and the beginning of another feels especially noteworthy. So I’m doing a little of both today . . .

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Tagged as: healing communities restorative justice

Wheels for the Journey

Wheels for the Journey

Spent the last 2 days driving to and from Wilmington, North Carolina with my Dad to pick up my “wheels” for the cross-country trip…

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Tagged as: book tour grace goes to prison

Ironies

Judge Dennis A. Challeen, who has been on the faculty at the National Judicial College for the past 30 years, and was one of the first judges in the US to promote alternatives to incarceration, wrote these observations about the culture and practices in our prison system . . .

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Tagged as: criminal justice

Notes from the Road: Richmond, VA, November 2009

While on a mini-book tour to Virginia in early November, I spent a day attending a statewide Restorative Justice conference . . . which was held in the Virginia Holocaust Museum in Richmond, Virginia . . .which was just a short drive away from where John Allen Muhammad was executed that same night. The juxtaposition of those three facts made for an intensely emotional and powerful day on the road . . .

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Tagged as: book tour criminal justice death penalty grace goes to prison restorative justice