She Deserve a Google Doodle

Audrey Hepburn Google Doodle from May 4, 2014

Audrey Hepburn Google Doodle from May 4, 2014

Today’s Google Doodle celebrates Audrey Hepburn, a worthy choice to be sure.  She was one of the most respective actresses of her time, ranked by the American Film Institute as the third greatest female screen legend in the history of American cinema, she is one of the few people to have won an Grammy, Tony, Emmy, Oscar, BAFTA, and numerous other accolades for her work as an actress.

She was also a fashion icon, but she may be most worthy of honor for her work as a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador.  She first did work for UNICEF in the 1950s, but it wasn’t until 1988 that she began work in an official capacity.  She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1992, only a year before she died of cancer at the age of only 45.

She’s a worthy subject of honor, to be sure, but I’m curious what criteria Google chooses.  Around this time two years ago the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace launched an effort to ask Google to dedicate a Doodle to Pearl S. Buck.
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New Book: Spring and Summer at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace

Spring and Summer at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace is a collection of images and texts from the year I spent as an Americorps volunteer in Hillsboro, WV.  I’d like to think the text and images speak for themselves, but the book wouldn’t exist at all if weren’t for the initiative and efforts of Martin Magee, who edited the volume.  He saw something worth collecting in my work, and he had the will and persistence to push this project through to completion.  I hope you will check out the book!

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For My Mother, Born August 7th 1935, Support the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace

Mom’s 70th Birthday with my niece and nephew


There is so much about my work at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace and my life in West Virginia that makes me think of my mother.  She would have hated the snakes and loved the birds!  She would have loved the country homes, but hated the widespread poverty.  I often find myself taking pictures of things in the Pearl Buck Birthplace, brightly colored birds, or unabashed wildlife staring at me defiantly from my yard and thinking, I can’t wait to show this to Mom!

She would have been very proud of my work here, though like my father is now, she would have been concerned about me getting by on the modest stipend of an Americorps Volunteer.  Still she would have approved.
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What Makes a Family?

I was researching something I was writing today when I came across a compelling article by Pearl S. Buck  “The Children Waiting: The Shocking Scandal of Adoption,” published in the September 1955 issue of Woman’s Home Companion.  1955 was after World War II and the Korean War.  During both those conflicts there had been many American troops stationed in Asia who, as the euphemism put it, “had needs.”  The needs of the Asian women who satisfied them mattered less, and many were left behind with child.

At that time adoptions were handled largely by sectarian religious institutions and the children were placed into families that “matched” them in terms of race, religion, and other characteristics.  This meant a lot of children, especially those of mixed race parents, were simply not adoptable.  They spent their lives in institutions until they could fend for themselves.

Buck saw the injustice of this.  Moreover, having adopted several children herself, she new that not all potential parents shopped for children as if they were furniture or shoes.

Two babies came [to me] from adoption agencies, where they were considered unadoptable because it was difficult to find adoptive parents to “match” them. I was sure that there must be good families, matching or not, who could love these babies and indeed there were. . . .

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Greenbrier River Trail, Come Ride With Me

A clip filmed with my iPhone riding a short stretch of the Greenbrier River Trail in Hillsboro, West Virginia. The clip tells you a little about the trail and the experience of riding it.

Yesterday I biked about 15 miles of the Trail, as you can see mapped out on the site below.   I biked out about 7 1/4 miles then most of the way back.  Then I stopped MapMyRide and continued for the remainder narrated in the video.

The clip is a rough cut.  I’ll do a proper edit eventually, probably collecting clips from different parts of the trail.  But I have only recently started my job here at the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace and we have a lot to do, so for now, rough cuts it is.
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An Exciting Three Weeks So Far!

I could leave here tomorrow and this will already have been an extraordinary experience.  I’m not planning on it, mind you.  I’ve only been here three weeks and have barely gotten started on the project that is my main reason for being here, and I’m really just getting settled in.

Nonetheless, it’s been an exciting three weeks.  I’ve heard some amazing bluegrass music played live, nearly run over a black bear, spent some time riding along one the best bike trails on the East Coast, seen a stunning display of fall foliage, been visited on my front lawn by a family of deer in the wee hours of the morning,  learned that Pearl Buck was a much more fascinating person than I ever gave her credit for, met some really interesting people, and hopefully made a friend or two.  That’s just some of the highlights of these three weeks.

I’m no stranger to the countryside.  Between the Boy Scouts and family trips, we did a lot of camping when I was growing up.  Yet I’ve been astonished by the wildlife I’ve seen in just a few weeks, ranging from the wide variety of birds, to small mammals and arachnids.
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Hillsboro, West Virginia. Who knew?

Just a field down the road from me. It's still beautiful, even in October.

(Composed on October 4) Who had Hillsboro, West Virginia when I was graduating from high school and we were betting on where I would be when my 46th birthday rolled around? Anyone? Because if you had that kind of foresight, you win big! I suspect no one even came close. I sure didn’t see myself living here or in any place like it. Nor did I at any of the subsequent milestones such as when I graduated from college or completed two higher degrees. All that education was supposed to take me to far away and exotic places, which it it did when I went to Morocco in the 1990s. Hillsboro, on the other hand, is a mere 4 hours drive from where I spent the first two decades of my life. That’s hardly far away….

But it is a little exotic! I’ve only been here a couple days so far, but it’s already clear to me that life in rural West Virginia is very different from life in suburban Richmond, Virginia. Too many of us fail to appreciate the internal diversity in this vast land of ours, and when we do, we tend to indulge in negative stereotypes. My experience in life has shown us how wrong those can be.
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