As we say above, this is mainly for friends and family. Michael's blog on the Middle East can be found here. Most of our other links can be found below on the right, but be sure to keep up as well with our family website, here. We also have discussion groups for genealogy, links to genealogical information on us, and our (semi-private) Flickr and YouTube accounts for those who are invited. You can also get a quick-navigation guide here.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Angel on the Frightful Night

(The angel herself wrote the title above.) Happy Halloween. In keeping with my blog policy we don't show Sarah's face on the blog, except when she was a baby, for her privacy and safety, but you see her at left as a trick-or-treating angel, out there among the witches and such. Our family and friends have previously been invited to join our secure sites at Flickr (for stills) and YouTube for videos, where you'll get the full record, but few have. The invitation is open.

For the second year in a row, Sarah was an angel, though perhaps I should note that this is a halloween costume, and not always a description of her behavior. Tonight, she insisted that we keep trick-or-treating until her plastic pumpkin (yes, it's a pink, not an orange, pumpkin) was full. We hit the local streets, mostly people who know her and think she's darling. The angel outfit no doubt helped add to the image.

Earlier in the day both Tam and I were able to take time off work to see her school's halloween parade. Pics of that are on the Flickr and YouTube sites. When I went to pick her up at school, she was still in her angel costume, on the monkey bars on the school playground. (Sorry, since I wasn't expecting this, I didn't have a camera with me.) Having visions of the costume being destroyed before trick-or-treating I tried to get her home quickly.

Real conversation:

Me: What did you do in your class halloween party?

Sarah: We had relay races.

Me: Relay races?

Sarah: Yes, we wrapped up Adam as a mummy. Four people were mummies.

Me: Mummies?

Sarah: Yes. We wrapped them in toilet paper. Good thing it hadn't been used.

Yes, obviously, though I'm still far from clear what they did during their halloween party.

While trick-or-treating, as I noted earlier, she announced she wanted to fill the pumpkin to the brim. It wasn't quite to the brim, but as this photo shows, it was a pretty good haul of loot.

Oh, yes, if you wonder where I've been, it's been the Middle East Institute's 61st Annual Conference. That link already has the audio and will eventually have transcripts and stuff if you're really interested. Banquet Monday, conference all day Tuesday, my Board meets tomorrow. Craziest week of the year for me,and this year halloween was right in the middle.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Some Follow-ups

Okay, I should add a few comments to the last post. I don't think Sarah asked if I knew how to make a nuclear weapon because all the other kids are bringing them to school, and my honest answer was not just "no". I said that I understood the general principles of building a nuclear weapon but had neither the engineering skills, the machine shop or the fissionable materials to do so. And, [any homeland security folks reading this please note] I clearly noted, I had no desire to have one. (Well, no more than the next guy who gets cut off in traffic.) I didn't say it in those words exactly, but then Sarah has often said to me, "Dad, when I ask you a question, I want a short answer." Therefore I did not discuss the pros and cons of an implosion weapon versus a gun-type weapon (Fat Man vs. Little Boy, Nagasaki vs. Hiroshima) or the differences between highly enriched uranium, plutonium, and various thermonuclear and other enhanced options. Okay? Department of Homeland Security, I am not teaching my seven year old to build a nuclear weapon. I don't know how. Okay? And even if Sarah builds one, she won't be allowed to take it to school. Not even for Show and Tell day.

On my posting on my Mom's death, several relatives commented kindly when I e-mailed them the post, but nobody has yet commented at the site. I guess none of my relatives know how to post to a blog. Okay.

Sarah is going to be doing her first communion next spring, and I have a photo of my Mom at her first communion, and several of me at mine, and maybe we'll post these as the time approaches. I want to give her a sense of continuity through time.

That's it for now. I'm trying to race to keep up.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Has second grade changed a lot since my day?

Asked by Sarah, at Mount Vernon, in a very public place:

"Dad, do you know how to make a nuclear weapon?"

Umm, no?

Mount Vernon for Harvest Days

"George Washington", originally uploaded by michaelcollinsdunn.

Harvest Days today at Mount Vernon; Sarah enjoyed the pioneer farm stuff. Fairly decent George impersonator shown in the picture.

Sarah spent quite a long time petting two ponies; she also watched avidly as a group played 18th century instruments and as volunteers demonstrated the making and spinning of flax. Though she will insist when asked (by me) that she finds history boring, she's in fact getting more and more interested. She also watched the end of the presentation by the impersonator shown above. (Tam asked if he would run in 2008.)

The time spent with the ponies suggests we're moving into horse-loving age, I guess. My digestive tract was acting up so I wasn't enjoying things as much as Sarah was. It was the first visit in a while that she didn't spend most of in the kid's activity room doing hands-on archaeology. We have been annual members at Mount Vernon which saves a lot of money, and it's close enough to allow us to get down there fairly often. There was also a hay maze which she talked about as we looked for it but was disappointed in (not enough bales high, so she could see to solve it: no real puzzle). The animals and activities she liked; there were also wagon rides we didn't take, river cruises at a discount (she's still in her "remember the Titanic" mode about boats, unfortunately, despite there being remarkably few icebergs in the Potomac this time of year).

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Unfinished Business

Okay, I'm not posting often. I said I'd post more about my Mom, about our anniversary, about Sarah's second grade experiences, about turning 60. Except for the latter (I've decided to do a Jack Benny and scale back to 39) (Daddy, who was Jack Benny? None of my friends' parents' know either?), I actually will do so soon. We're two weeks out from my job's big annual conference, I'm behind on bills, taxes, and probably breathing, and so I'll get to it when I get to it.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Remembering my Mother, I

My mother, Sarah Agnes Jones Dunn, died 41 years ago today on October 9, 1966. I was only 19. She was only 54, six years younger than I am now. If she had lived, she'd now be 95.

Those four sentences provide the major facts. I could write a book about my mother. I may someday. In fact, I think over the days to come I'll try to blog a bit about her, and what her death meant to my life. Maybe not tonight -- it's late, I'm tired -- but I wanted to note something on the day itself.

Her name was Sarah Agnes. She always said she preferred Sarah to Agnes, joking that "in movies and on TV, Agnes is usually the name of the mule." But her family -- everybody, sisters, brothers, even my Dad -- always called her Agnes or Ag. (I think she disliked Ag even more than Agnes.) Once, when I was in high school and she was starting to look for a job to help out financially now that I was old enough to be on my own during the day, I answered the phone and someone asked for Sarah Dunn and I told them they had the wrong number. My mother was furious; she feared it was a possible job offer. I was innocently ignorant: I knew somehow that her name was Sarah Agnes but I'd never heard her called that.

I hope she's aware of the fact that my daughter is named Sarah, not Agnes. Just as Sarah is named for her grandmother, my mother was almost certainly named for her grandmother, Sarah Fitzpatrick Cleary, shown in the second photo here. If you look at the two photos, this one and the one above (I'm the kid if you haven't figured that out yet), I think you'll see a clear family resemblance in the eyes, eybrows, nose, and facial structure.

It was traumatic, of course, to lose my mother when I was 19; it seems impossible that it can have been 41 years. But it also gave me an early lesson in the uncertainties and foul balls life can throw at you. My Dad lived another 10 years after that, but by the time I was in my late 20s I was without my parents, an orphan at 28. Not alone in the world: I had and still have valued relatives, aunts and uncles then, cousins now. I owe them a great deal. If my Aunt Kathleen Landis had not left me a comfortable bequest, the Chinese adoption would not have been affordable.

Sarah Grace Dunn has an interesting pedigree, even if not a genetic one. The Sarah Fitzpatrick Cleary on the right was born in Ireland (either Leix or Tipperary, there are conflicting reports); Sarah Agnes Jones Dunn was born in Galena, Kansas, and my Sarah was born in Changde, Hunan, but they alternate generations by passing down the name. Her middle name, Grace, comes from Tam's great aunt, a powerful figure in her family apparently. I'll let her tell that story. I'll tell more of my Mom's in coming days.

Miss you, Mama, even now. More later.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

An October Update

If anyone is actually reading this, even occasionally, it will be fairly obvious that I haven't been very active as a blogger. And Tam barely posts at all. Consider it a result of our jobs, an overwhelming backlog of other stuff to do (including clean house) Sarah's demands, etc. etc. I keep planning to come back and reflect more on my 60th birthday, or Tam and my 14th wedding anniversary, or Sarah's early weeks in the second grade. But E-mail unanswered, bills unpaid, and just being more TIRED than I used to be, tend to deter spending time at the keyboard.

At one point we thought we'd visit Tam's dad in Colorado Springs this fall. Now that looks more likely in the spring, but he and his friend/companion Marge are planning to visit us again at Christmas. There just isn't enough time to get things done.

Same with the blog. My biweekly newsletter, which began in 1989, went into hiatus earlier this year and needs to be brought back, this time in an electronic incarnations. But I still have much to do to bring that incarnation about.. The information revolution makes it easier to deliver information quickly, but also makes the infrastructure more difficult to put in place.

I've also been helping a neighbor get computer literate for his kids. It's a reminder that while half of the country is on Facebook or Myspace, the other half is still trying to figure out how to get online, or how to boot their computer.

I'm not the only person with a blog (I have two actually, the other being The Estimate's blog) who never has time to post. Forgive me and stay tuned.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

14th Wedding Anniversary

I haven't written much lately because of the press of other duties, but today (or really yesterday as I'm posting after midnight) was our 14th wedding anniversary. I had known Tam for a decade before we got married, and our original marriage date was the year before, but finally, on October 2, 1993, we did it. It's too late to post a lot about it now, but Tam has expressed a desire to record some of her memories and I'll probably do the same, in coming days.

Anyway we went out to eat at Clyde's. Sarah had been balking a bit but liked it in the end. More to come, I hope.