Passages 2

Two weeks ago I wrote that life has a way of reminding us of the passages that await.  Over the past four days – in the midst of Claire’s beach week to celebrate graduation, travel, and planning for summer fun – life reminded us again of how fragile it really is.

Reach out and tell a family member you love them.  Connect with a friend today.

On Wednesday, Claire called as I was preparing to head to Tucson, to let me know that three friends in her class had been hit by an automobile while crossing the street at the beach.  Two were banged up with cuts and bruises, while the third had multiple fractures and was airlifted to a larger regional hospital, where she underwent surgery.  Everyone will be okay, but the impact one second can have on life was clear.

The worse news came yesterday:  a call at dinner saying that a colleague and friend, who once worked as my executive assistant, had passed away unexpectedly after  complications from surgery.  Susan was 38 and was one of those people who grabbed at what life had to offer.  I especially admired her decision to take a sabbatical and go to Ireland – a land she grew to love – to help a fellow National Trust organization.

Like all three friends who passed away this month, Susan died much, much too early.

So I’ll end again with the blessing I used in the first Passages.  It still rings true.

Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us.  So be swift to love, and make haste to be kind.  And may the blessings of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us this day and in the age to come.  Amen.

More to come…


San Xavier Del Bac – A World Treasure

My trip this week to Tucson was filled with meetings, tours of work-related projects, and presentations.  But one part of the tour allowed me to slip into full-tourist mode:  the visit to San Xavier Del Bac.

A National Historic Landmark, San Xavier Mission was founded as a Catholic mission by Father Eusebio Kino in 1692.  Construction of the current church began in 1783 and was completed in 1797, when Southern Arizona was part of New Spain.

This is – simply stated – a spectacular building of international importance, with masonry vaults and beautiful  interior artwork, the latter restored after $2 million was raised by the local community.  Little is known about the artists – most likely from Queretero in current-day Mexico – but their work mixes New Spain and Native American motifs.  The architect, Ignacio Gaona, designed what many consider to be the finest example of Spanish mission architecture in the United States.

We had a great tour from Bob, one of the leaders of the Patronanto San Xavier, who recommended A Gift of Angels by Bernard Fontana as the best book on the artwork of the mission.  A more appropriate title was never penned.  I’ve posted pictures from inside, outside, and then of the small passageway that is in the walls of the bell tower to provide access to the choir loft.


More to come…


What’s Wrong With Sports

Sports Illustrated had an online article this Friday that in one sentence encapsulates what’s wrong with the modern sports-entertainment complex.

In writing that “It’s time to get rid of Wrigley,” Richard Rothschild quotes a Chicago Sun-Times columnist who says the following:

“There’s still rust, the concourses still resemble dark alleys and people still have to elbow their way to their seats. … It’s a great park when you look at the field from your seat. It’s not so great on the way to and from your seat.”

Isn’t the purpose of the ballpark to look at the field from your seat!?  Can I tell you how many BAD ballparks I’ve sat in where the view of the field was lousy; but hey, we have an arcade to distract the kids (they shouldn’t have to suffer and watch an entire game!), we offer a wide variety of sushi, and we have television screens in the bathrooms and team stores so you don’t really have to go sit in your seat.


Wrigley Field doesn’t need to be torn down to be improved.  It just needs renovation – like the award-winning renovation of Fenway Park a few years ago.  I’ve sat in seats at Wrigley as recently as two years ago, and it is – without a doubt – one of the best places on earth to feel you are one with the game.  Do we really think that the corporate types that run baseball will get a new field as right in the one key element that’s critical for a great ballpark experience?

Rothschild also says that Wrigley needs more parking.  Really?  Take a look at the photo below.  The park is full, the streets are teaming, and the elevated train which brought most fans to the park in an efficient and environmentally sustainable way is zipping along just outside the park.  Go to FedEx Field in Washington if you want the suburban experience of miles of parking lots without a real public transit option in sight.  I have – once – and I’ll never go again.

Give me a break.

Greater, Greater Washington gets it right when they note that “Given that Wrigley is always packed despite not being surrounded by seas of parking lots, the status quo seems just fine.”

Owners (and the sportswriters who enable them) need to stop salivating over plush new parks (paid for by the public), recognize and renovate the great places they have, and get on with putting a winning team on the field.

More to come…


Landmark Alert: World’s Best Custard

Travel has its benefits.

I was in Milwaukee yesterday for the announcement of the 2011 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.  We had a terrific event with our local partners, pointing out the threat to a real national treasure:  the National Soldiers Home Historic District.  One of three homes built for Civil War veterans after Abraham Lincoln authorized them as one of the last acts of his presidency, the Milwaukee Soldiers Home is the only one to maintain the context of the historic buildings and landscape.  One of the veterans who spoke at our event said that this place was critical to his recovery from PTSD, noting that the two words most associated with the site by veterans were “peace” and “serenity.”  To lose such a place of healing would  be a travesty.

On this trip my colleague Genell introduced me to another national treasure (though not endangered):  Leon’s World Famous Frozen Custard.  My, my!  What a wonderful frozen custard.  It was great to watch the employees pour a large bucket of milk into the machine to make the custard right on site.  The result was beyond delicious.  As the Wikipedia entry notes, Leon’s IS a Milwaukee landmark.

So on a day of celebrating a Civil War-era historic place, it is nice to remember that 1942 landmarks can be important as well.

More to come…


Graduation Day

When I graduated from high school, the year was 1973 and the future – even with war, inflation, and changing social values – looked bright.  For many of us it was.

Fast-forward almost 40 years.  The world is a very different place.  But to Andrew and Claire, who graduated from high school this weekend, this is their rite of passage to a new world full of equal parts promise and challenges.  I can’t imagine even 1% of what their world will be.  Seriously, as recently as 10 years ago did you figure you’d be sending kids pictures to your family via Facebook or watching movies on smart phones?  Could we have conceived of the rise – and possible fall – of suburbia, at the same time that some cities are booming and others are losing population at an alarming rate?  How many of my generation – in 1973 – would have seen China as the biggest economic superpower in parts of the world?  Would we have imagined that the Boston Red Sox would ever win a World Series, much less two?  Well, we do still have the Cubs, so some things never change.

(Blog interruption:  And let’s not even go into how 40 years passed and I have high school graduates.  Heck, my younger sister has grandchildren out the wazoo!  I’m just a late bloomer, I guess.  Now,  back to the regularly scheduled blog.)

Our approach to raising Andrew and Claire was to give them the best education we could, share our values, support their growth into adulthood, and love them every step of the way.  The last part has been easy.  On Saturday and again today we saw the fruits of the first three decisions.

Andrew (St. Albans, 2011) and Claire (Maret, 2011) have received top notch educations.  The schools are very different, but fit the personalities and needs of our children.  The graduation ceremonies reflected the DNA of the two schools.

Andrew’s graduation, held in the Washington National Cathedral, was full of academic gowns, bishop and clergy, tradition, and…tradition.  I enjoyed the commencement address, because rather than following the “predictable path…framed around pursuing your passion,” this speech spoke to the class of 2011 about deciding what type of man you will become (this is an all-male school, mind you).

You see, life will present a multitude of opportunities through which you will choose the character that will form the contours and relationships of your life. Natural gifts are fulsome for some and spare for others; but character—character is there in great abundance, for all of you. My message is not about discovery. It’s about decision.

That message fit the values of the school and is one that privileged young men and women – as well as all of us who live in relative wealth compared to the rest of the world – need to hear.  So the pictures below of Andrew’s graduation show the tradition of the pomp and circumstance of the cathedral…along with the tradition of a good cigar after graduation!

Claire’s graduation this morning under a beautiful sky on the school’s front lawn was just as full of tradition, but it is tradition that springs from a school that nurtures a spirit where – as the class speaker described it – the football running back will have beautiful pottery in the art show and the softball player will also have a lead in the spring musical.  I also loved this commencement address, from a local entrepreneur who spoke to the value of the education the class of 2011 received…not only the academic kind but education in life.  He told this from a perspective of someone who was kicked out of St. Albans as a junior.  The comments from his high school report cards were hilarious AND instructive.

So here are photos from the weekend, beginning at the top with the twins giving each other a hug after Claire’s graduation.  I hope you enjoy.

And now after a week or more of all twins all the time, we’ll return to our regularly scheduled blog.

More to come…


Celebrating Andrew

If Thursday was all about Claire, then yesterday was Andrew’s turn.

(Editor’s Warning:  I treat my blog like the 21st century version of letter writing, in that I can write one item and it can go out to family and friends everywhere.  This weekend’s blog posts are all about family.  If you don’t want to read about how wonderful my children are – then stop reading.  Note…you’ve been warned!)

We’re lucky with twins in different high schools that the schedule has worked so that the multiple events around graduation are held on different days.  Andrew’s day started early yesterday morning with the service of Holy Communion in The Little Sanctuary for members of the graduating class and their parents.  The service began with the beautiful Kyrie Eleison from Missa Secunda by Hans Leo Hassler.  The acoustics of The Little Sanctuary were perfect for the Madrigal singers to blend the voices as well as I’ve heard them over the past three years.  A little later in the service Andrew sang a wonderful solo in the Brazeal Dennard arrangement of the spiritual Great Day.  For many parents, it was the first time they were in a setting so intimate and focused with Andrew singing.  The rest of the day, we received countless congratulations.  It was a great way for Andrew to end his term as co-president of the Mads.

A breakfast followed where each boy was individually recognized with a tribute by the headmaster.  Then in the afternoon the scene shifted to the National Cathedral, where the upper school held its prize day.  Andrew received honorable mention for Spanish and – along with his friend Ben – was the co-winner of The Prize in Choral Singing.

But while Andrew has accomplished a great deal of which we are very proud, I’m here to celebrate the person he has become.  Andrew has always been curious and able to balance multiple interests with a prodigious work ethic.  But several years ago he came to the full realization that we loved him for who he is – no matter what – and that opened doors for the growth of his soul.  His curiosity now takes him off in directions with the understanding that it is okay if he’s not the best or even if he decides he doesn’t like this new part of life.  His growth on the stage is an example…and his high school yearbook says that in 20 years he’ll BE Corny Collins!

The piece we wrote for Andrew’s yearbook pretty much sums it up:

Congratulations, Andrew!  We love you and are proud of the person you are.  Your admirable self-discipline and curiosity support and nurture the musical talent and intelligence you show every day.  The faith and kind spirit we see and respect are central to your being.  We appreciate your willingness to help, unfailing sense of humor, and excitement for all life has to offer.  With your inquisitive spirit and work ethic, we know you’ll always be out there giving it your best.  May God bless you and go with you as you venture on to college.  Mom, Dad, and Claire.

I love you, Andrew.

More to come…



Life has a way of reminding us about the passages that await.

In the midst of activities surrounding the twins’ high school graduation, a passage we’ve been anticipating and celebrating for more than a year, we have also been called to attend two funeral services this week.  Both friends were accomplished.   Both touched many  lives.  Both died too young.

At today’s service celebrating a life of love and service of our friend Sue Edwards, her husband Mark reminded us of a blessing that another friend, the Rev. Tim Boggs, used to end each service at our Parish.  Like Sue and Mark, I have always loved these words, which were adapted from a saying by 19th century Swiss philosopher Henri-Frederick Amiel.  In these times of passages, it is worth remembering.

Life is short, and we do not have much time to gladden the hearts of those who travel the way with us.  So be swift to love, and make haste to be kind.  And may the blessings of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be with us this day and in the age to come.  Amen.

More to come…