Thursday, December 10, 2009

Reviewing 8 days in Haiti

The visit in Haiti was everything I hoped and much more. It was a learning trip for me. Each interview of people who knew and loved Ruth Blackwell taught me more. Home ten days, I'm still processing and still learning. This will take longer than expected.

I wanted to write summaries of all I witnessed: the traffic, the mountains, efforts for education, and mostly the wonderful people. This week I've spent more time on a website of a foundation supporting some of the educational efforts, and I am so impressed with the notes written by a couple of the board members following their visit to Haiti in October 2009. Their impressions were the same as mine. I want to share this organization's website and encourage you to check it out, especially the notes by the two board members about their Haiti visit in October. A paragraph from one these says about the work of the Mona Foundation, " I came away trusting in my heart that we at Mona Foundation are really not supporting simply schools or education. Rather, we are participating in the process of building a revised world, based on the principles of justice and compasssion in which service to others is a way of life, no child will go hungry for food or love, and no war is fought because of corrupt governments." For more go to:

So much good is being done out there in the world, and so much more needs to be done.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Sometimes, writing this book, the Blackwell Book, as I casually refer to it, still feels like an over whelming task, and I know I am only at the "tip of the iceburg" of this process. Then I recount what already has been done since this commitment became very real in mid July of this year. I remind myself that any worthwhile big project has to be broken into smaller parts. With the exception of about three days out of the past near one hundred days, I have done some task every day connected to this book. And I remember to visualize the end at the beginning.

With these thoughts in mind, I happily report that the process and the progress on the book about Ellsworth and Ruth Blackwell are going very well.

Since the last blog post, plans are coming together for a trip to Haiti - eight days over Thanksgiving. In part, this is getting arranged with my travel companion (YES, she is going with me!) Gabs, formerly of Haiti, now living in Hemingway, SC. The office of International Pioneering at the Baha'i Natinal Center in Wilmette, IL, shared its best wishes, wrote a formal introduction of us to the National Spiritual Assembly of Haiti, and even sent a few researched items to me. For me, this trip is possible through generous financial assistance from my family and a few friends, as a birthday gift to me, instead of any other gift, cards, flowers, cake, etc.

Last week, a friend visited me for five days. We taught together on the Navajo Reservation at the Chinle High School from 1994-1997. We had a lot of fun in this long overdue visit. While here, of course Linda heard about the book and was aware of my many hours on it while she was here. She, too, put in several hours - hours of reading rough drafts of a few small sections. Thank you, Linda, for your encouragement and suggestions.

I'm still transcribing stories from Ruth recorded for me in 1984 when we visited in Wilmette. I continue to feel her presence in my living room as I hear her voice, her laugh, her expressions reflecting strict adherence to Baha'i administration, and her deep respect and love for her then departed husband, Ellsworth.

I was in touch with the Baha'i Publishing Trust and received positive encouragement about the worth of this project and its interest in a book about the Blackwells. In addition, new friends have connected me to former co-workers of Ellsworth and Ruth. Their lives affected the lives of so many! I hope to make a trip in the spring to do more research in the Archives at the National Baha'i Center, adding to materials collected in 1984.

I am filled with gratitude at being able to do this wonderful work - generated in me mostly out of love for the Blackwells and for the Baha'i Cause they served so well.
Thanks for reading my blog.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Blackwell Book is such joy!

So far, so good. Each day, each hour spent on the book is confirmation that this is a worthwhile positive project. That's what I was told by the general manager of the Baha'i Publishing last week when we spoke on the phone. And of course, that was great news to hear him as enthusiastic about it as I am.
When I listen to the casette tapes by Ruth in 1984, it's like she's in this room with me. I know I felt this way six weeks ago when I was transcribing 1970's Fireside talks by Ellsworth, but it's the same now with Ruth. In fact, maybe more because her tapes were to me specifically, and his are recordings of talks to large groups.
I continue to surprise myself with new discoveries of material I already have. It's also great to be able to go online and get additional information about various topics from the web.
Tonight Gabrielle called me, and one of our topics was a trip to Haiti for me. She said she would help me plan it, so that my time there would be efficient in getting more stories for the book, especially from people who knew Ruth in her final years there. Last year, Gabs and I had talked about us going together once I was further along on the book, but she said for now it would be best for me to go by myself. Her assistance in the planning and making connections for me with contacts will be invaluable. So now we're trying to plan a time I could go to LGBI so that she and I have time together. I asked her about the best time for LGBI AND the best time for Haiti. It looks like LGBI in October or November and Haiti maybe March or April 2010.
I was thinking that Ruth suggested the book title, "White and Negro alike" taken from the Guardian's cable of 1939. However, she suggested that just as a chapter title for the section discussing their volunteering to pioneer. The more I think about it, the more I like this as a title for the book. I'm pretty sure it was White and Negro alike that Shoghi Effendi said, not Negro and White alike. It's easy enough to find out. I have a copy of that cable in my materials, and it's published other places, too. I'm just too tired now to move and go get it.
I'm learning more about the Inter-American Committee under the US National Spiritual Assembly in the 1940's. I have letters to and from Ellsworth and this appointed body. Interesting. I'll learn a lot more than we'll choose to put into the book. I've ordered a book from Amazon, The Baha'i Faith in America. It was published a few years ago and still usually costs over $40., but I found a new copy online for under $20. I was able to read a few pages online, and I know I'll learn a lot about the relationship of the National Assembly and the Baha'i pioneers in the 1940's and 1950's. Like I said, I'll learn a lot more than will go into the book.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Little bit, every day

Here's an update on The Book progress. I find I'd rather work on something directly connected to the book than write on my blog about the writing of it. Every day I'm spending some time on it, and I am not concerned about how much progress is happening. I'm just delighted to see that with consistent DAILY effort, there is definite progress. Now it's been three weeks.
It took ten days to transcribe a fireside by Ellsworth in Lauderhill, Florida, given in 1974. Some of this tape was not clear, and it was about one and a half hours in length, but it was a joyfilled project for me to type out the words. Then I transcribed journal notes by me on tape after a visit with Ellsworth and his family in Chicago in 1975, recent notes (2008) from a conversation with Dody Theriault-Chattin in Virginia Beach, and most of the interview with Carole Hitti in Farmington, NM, May 2008.
I am especially pleased that even as I had guests here at my home and we enjoyed three movies together, ate out a couple times, prepared fresh shrimp to eat here twice, had much time to visit and laugh and share, during those three days, I did more work on the book than any three day period so far. Hmmmmmm.

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Just a week ago, my cousin Bruce asked, "When will you finish the book?" Finish? I thought. I need to get started. When I didn't answer, he asked again, "When will it be done?"

"I have no idea. It's a huge project!"

"So, when will the book be finished?"

I told Bruce, "I've challenged adults in classes just the way you are challenging me."

"Yeh," he said, "do as I say, not as I do."

After more friendly haggling over a date, we decided 18 months from last Saturday, with an extension of six months.

I've worked on it every day since returning to North Carolina six days ago. That may not sound like much, but it feels like a real shift in my commitment to write this wonderful biography of a beloved Baha'i couple NOW! One reason for the procrastination is the amount of material I already have, much of it collected in the mid 1980's, as well as ideas for a lot more. It's like overwhelming! But at least one friend since last weekend reminded me of the riddle: How do you eat an elephant? (answer: one bite at a time)

My commitment is not for any number of hours at this time, but to work on it every day. As happened in this first week, I expect most days, the work will be for at least two or three hours or more, but even if it's the end of some day when other activities have kept me from the book, I'll do at least a half hour before going to bed.

I have uncovered additional treasures in my plastic storage file box labeled "Blackwell Book." (BTW, this large collection of materials includes about twelve audio cassettes of my visiting with Ruth in 1984, items researched from Archives at the Baha'i National Center also in the mid 1980's, letters to me about the book from numerous prominent Baha'is who have since passed on to the next world, as well as recorded interviews done in the last few years of friends who knew Ruth in Colorado or in Haiti after Ellsworth's passing in 1978. This box has moved from Illinois to NC (several homes in NC) to the Navajo Nation in Arizona, back to NC, again to several locations.) I have three audio cassette tapes by Ellsworth from 1971 and 1972. I'd forgotten these, even though I transcribed them in 1984. In addition, I discovered another cassette of a fireside talk by Ellsworth in 1974 that is now in the middle of transcription. It is very inspiring to hear his lovable, sincere voice, full of stories and witt, humor and love. It sounds like he's in the living room with me now, but the recording was done twenty-five years ago.

I expect to post updates every week or so as a progress journal for me and for anyone who is interested in reading it as I move on now with this exciting real adventure.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Albuquerque with Pearl on Friday

We checked out Estate Sales. Talked on phone with brother Tom in St Augustine, FL, and he was wishing he were with us to look for bargains. Then Pearl and I treated ourselves to lunch at a great Bar-B-Q here so I can remember the next time I'm in Albuquerque. Of course we went to Old Towne.
While in town, I went with Curt and Pearl to the Baha'i Nineteen Day Feast at the Albuquerque Baha'i Center. Curt and Pearl and I left home on Friday at 5:45am to go to the Civitan Breakfast. That morning it was to thank and honor local clergy. Curt, President of that chapter of Civitan, introduced me as representing the Baha'i community.

Quick ten day trip to southwest

Gone from home in NC only February 4 - February 14, this trip includes many of my favorite places and visits with some favorite people. One full day of traveling, three different planes for three flights, and I was there! Sure beats driving both directions as I've done two times recently.
First stop: Albuquerque to be with Curt and Pearl. We went with her mom to medical appointments in Gallup the first day I was in New Mexico. Of course we went to Earl's. Here's a photo, as Pearl says, of her mom wheeling and dealing at Earl's.