Archive | November, 2008

Ellis Island–Fear and Freedom

5 Nov

Fear gripped me stepping off the boat…

Fear and freedom at that moment were the same.


Several weeks ago, I was culling through some old National Geographic magazines looking for pictures that might spur a story idea for my fiction writing class. I found one in the September 2007 issue when I came across some compelling photos of the ruins of Ellis Island taken over a five year period by Stephen Wilkes.

My favorite photo is one of two sinks in a hospital room. Above one of the sinks, a mirror reflects the image of the Statue of Liberty. The article explains: “As he stood up from studying dead leaves on the floor of this hospital room, Wilkes remembers that his head reached a point about five feet, two inches off the floor–and he saw the Statue of LIberty reflected in the mirror over the sink. ‘I suddenly imagined a petite eastern European woman rising out of her bed every morning,’ the photographer says. ‘That reflection would have been the closest she would ever come to freedom.'” Sounds like the beginning of an interesting story to me…

I wanted to know more about Wilkes’ photographs and learned that they have been published in a gorgeous coffee-table-sized book entitled Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom (published by W.W. Norton) and can also be viewed on his website

Although I am not aware of any of my direct line immigrant ancestors passing through Ellis Island, I found The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation website fascinating, too. Anyone can register for free and search original ship manifest documents and passenger lists.


The Sandwich Generation

3 Nov



As a perfectionist, I’ve been making myself crazy with my blog. I have literally been paralyzed about what to write about lately as you can see by my lack of posts over the past six months. So instead of abandoning my blog altogether, I have decided to take a somewhat different approach and post here the things that I find interesting, fascinating, or thought-provoking in some way. I have always been an eclectic learner and glean information from many different sources. I take pleasure in ruminating over topics in nearly every discipline so I will be very random from now on (at least until my next great idea comes along…)

This past week, I was flipping through the November 2008 issue of the National Geographic, a particularly rich source of inspiring material. On page 14 in the Photo Journal feature, there was a picture of an elderly man’s face partly in shadow that caught my attention. The article that accompanied the photo described the work of photographer Ed Kashi (age 48) and his writer-filmmaker wife Julie Winokur (age 42). Together, they produced a documentary about their personal experience of taking care of Julie’s elderly father. Click here to watch “The Sandwich Generation” Part I and Part II.

The films are movingly beautiful yet forthright about the particular challenges my generation faces with the demands of raising our children while simultaneously trying to care for our aging parents. This is a film that addresses head on the agonizing decisions that must be made as we attempt to make the best care choices for the ones we love.