Saturday, April 9, 2011

Happy Anniversary of Hope

    Happy Anniversary of The Good Friday Agreement: April 10-11, 1998!
I was an intern in Conflict Analysis at The Centre for the Study of Conflict in Coleraine, Northern Ireland in the Fall of 1992, and a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica in 1998 when the Agreement was reached.
   To commemorate the event, I began to send anniversary cards in 2001. I decided to send the cards every year as a message of encouragement, regardless of the status of the peace process. At first I sent a handful to friends and family, then began to extend the message to anyone who might have had any interest -- including the Prime Ministers of Great Britain and Ireland, the Pope of Rome, former President Clinton, The Sinn Fein party, Gerry Adams, and (almost) Ian Paisley. The responses through the years have been heartwarming: mostly sincere and friendly, especially from Mr. Adam's office.
   I have usually included several members of the clergy. When in Cardiff I was asked by one priest to provide a background history to the Agreement along with the cards, since many students who comprised his parish were not old enough to remember the day. An interim Associate Minister of my own church asked for a presentation on a particular Good Friday which happened to fall on April 10.
  The then-Secretaries of State of Wales and Northern Ireland in 2003 expressed interest in my cards.
  Overall, people's responses have been gratifying, as has the cards' increasing popularity.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A Significant Dream

Last night I had a dream that Mom and I were wheeling through Illinois. Throughout the dream, I kept saying that I didn't "get" why we were looking at the various (lovely, in color) views, but then we came to "The Abraham Lincoln Memorial Park," which was Mom's destination.
My dream view was splendid; the "park" was vast, colorful, and beautiful -- a bit like the Grand Canyon, but not a canyon. Mom said, "You see? You wait long enough and the answer is revealed."

Monday, February 28, 2011

A Presence

Rarely have I felt spiritual presences. Yesterday, however, at the coffee machine at church I felt a person approach from my left side and stand behind me. When I turned to acknowledge the presence, I saw no one.
The physical feeling lasted about five minutes. A sense of euphoria replaced the physical experience. It lasted several hours.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

1/1/11-- Indisputably

Well, the first of a series of "1"s during this year, if not this blog.
Happy New Year to all!

Friday, December 31, 2010


Happy New Year! It is 12:34 a.m. here, and I am following a recommended tradition/superstition by engaging in something (writing, that is) that I'd like to pursue all year.

More later ....

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Last night I watched a DVD about George VI and his wife Elizabeth. Something about their daughter -- that she is a contemporary of my mom's -- that she has the same name? -- made me cry a bit.

My mom would have been 87 today. She was a small town woman from Rumford, RI who was raised and went to college in the same state. In college at the University of Rhode Island -- then Rhode Island State College, I think -- she met a G.I. from a very different small town in Alabama. They married and ultimately divorced, after having three children (by true coincidence during the same years that the current Elizabeth II had hers, only opposite genders). But Mom would want me to get away from Elizabeth the Queen; Britain was my thing, not hers.
Mom wanted to be a stay-at-home housewife and mother, but circumstances obligated her to pursue her initial career path, teaching, while raising her mixed brood, especially me, since I was not quite five when my parents divorced. My sister, Dianne (nicknamed Dede, for "diaper drencher", by Mom's father), was sixteen and my brother Steve, was fourteen and a half. Steve might have been called "Jeff", but for his birth in Alabama, which gave folks pause at his being called "Jeff Davis".
My advent was in Rhode Island. I might have been "Caroline", save for the fact that it was 1960 and my Republican mother and father (ultimately, they both changed their party affiliations: Watergate did it for Mom) did not want people to think that I'd been named for Caroline Kennedy. I wasn't named for Prince Andrew of Britain, either, just spelled Carolyn -- without a middle name, as was Dede. Steve has the family name, Whitaker. There were no boys in my mother's generation, so like her cousin Joyce Whitaker Sparling, she incorporated her maiden name into her son's.
Mom's favorite things were, more or less in order, peace, common sense, Newman Congregational Church, her children, financial stability, intellectual and emotional fulfillment,her father, Abraham Lincoln, old movies, Perry Mason, fresh raspberries, and ice cream. I think that she would want me to say that Rebecca was her favorite movie.
These topics will be plenty to discuss in the coming days.

More to come ....

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Yule Log Holiday

Christmas was the happiest time of the year for me in the 1960s. Released and relaxed from the usual demands of school and physical therapy – well, there still was physical therapy, but it seemed less arduous because of the festivity. That was it: festivity – merriment, hopefulness, and beginnings. Family friends visiting from out of state, visiting home from college or work, some people newly engaged and very happy.
I liked to sit at the back of the church during the Christmas Eve service to get a good view of the women’s hairstyles. In my pre-teens I was extremely envious of anyone’s long hair – it would be several years before my own grew to almost waist length – and the 1960s was the era of long ponytails – or falls for instant length – intricate buns, and what I later called “The Great Society” tease.
Aside from coveting people’s hairstyles, I loved their news, particularly the news of engagements. Like many seven- to nine-year-olds I had a not-unmixed view of engagement, and the thought that the bride received jewelry, a ceremony, and a trip just stopped short of making me drool; I was aware that it was the actual event of getting married that was important. And the bride and groom went on their trip together and stayed in the same room. Since I was afraid of being alone in the dark that seemed to me to be an ideal arrangement, and I resolved to get married as soon as possible.
Before I could entertain serious thoughts of getting married, there were the get-togethers of the season to be auxiliary hostess to. People dropped in fairly frequently, and there were many genuine exclamations, gifts exchanged, and stories shared. The older members of my family (everyone was an older member), knew that I was discreet, and so told me things that technically were “secrets,” and, sure enough, I kept them. Throughout the year, my sister was a fervent giver of bridal showers, and I enjoyed the arrangements and (of course) kept the secrets.
Christmas added other dimensions to the parties and the general merriment, perhaps not least because people cuddled together to keep warm. Somehow, people coming in from the cold seemed brighter and more awake (doubtless from the blood going to their skin in an attempt to warm them). I especially liked it when my mother was just in from outside. I liked the idea of it for myself, too, but cold meant increased spasticity, so my encounters were better when rationed: there was the warmth of the car, blasts of cold outdoor air, then warmth. I recalled these feelings years later as my mother repeated often, “I love being warm.”
The food at Christmastime was festive as well. Toast and cereal were replaced occasionally by coffeecake and sweet rolls. There were more meals eaten out, and family gatherings usually featured turkey or roast beef with several vegetables, potatoes, stuffing (with turkey), and steamed pudding, a choice of chocolate or suet (“Who would want to eat suet?” I thought to myself, but many did). One Thanksgiving the whole family went to the Rhode Island Country Club for a meal that I still remember for its ambiance and generally amazing deliciousness. Prior to their marriages and middle-aged years, my mother and aunts went with their parents to the Toll House, a truly spiffy restaurant, for Christmas dinner, but that ritual changed with the passing of the years to our having dinner at our grandmother’s or one of two aunts’ houses.
This Currier and Ives portrait didn’t last. School and work began again in the New Year, and the holiday was not usually as idyllic as I have described it (I have left out many contretemps), but the vacation was a welcome, friendly respite at the year’s end. It comprised a place, time, and feeling that I am happy to recall.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ministering (For Ginny)

Three Senior Ministers have made their individual marks on Newman during my lifetime.
Then new to his call, The Reverend Bob Symington baptized me. As I remember, his was a conservative ministry, geared principally to the adult members of Newman Church prior to Newman’s becoming part of the wider ministry of the U.C.C. He was a part of the background of my childhood; my memories of him center primarily on the hospital and post-op visits he made to me in the 1960s. My memories of my childhood and early teenage years at Newman focus on the personalities of my Sunday School teachers. I have particularly warm memories of the generosity of Dave Drummond’s intellect and spirit – qualities that I recalled when I became a Church School teacher in the 1980s. Life in the 1960s and the early 1970s was the richer for the influence of many ecclesiastical teachers.
Reverend Shire influenced my initially joining Newman. He came several times to see me at home. We would have tea and discuss a fifteen-year-old’s versions of sociology and theology. What was his concept of Hell? Did he believe in a personal God? How does a person sustain his/her faith during a lifetime, especially during times of trouble? He was, as ever, articulate in his interpretations; I was earnest, if not brilliant, in my questing, and our talks tended to be lengthy.
Later, one of his associates, the first female minister of my acquaintance, influenced my interpretations of independence and self-direction. Shortly before my oral exam for the Foreign Service, she sent me a The Far Side cartoon entitled, “Midway through the exam, [Herbert] pulls out a bigger brain.”
My mother, Betty Whitaker Davis, was a path-setter in her quiet but determined way – at Newman first as a devoted church member, then as a Deacon, then a Trustee. Mom began to attend Newman as a teen in the 1930s (Her father was a Methodist, her mother Episcopalian, and some of her friends were Congregationalists). Mom was Clerk of the U.C.C. Rhode Island Conference in the mid-1990s. She and many others had been impressed in a variety of ways by the last associate minister to work with David Shire, and Mom informed me when I was on a visit home from Boston that she and the Reverend Daehler Hayes had interviewed his older brother for the RI Conference. Her impressions of the young pastor were summed up in one phrase, “What a man!”
How true.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010



My mother and I shared a hobby that helped to shape my moral character as well as entertain us. We both loved classic movies. My “growing up” years were before commercial cable television, but fortunately vintage films had been acquired by television, to be watched either daily or weekly. By the 1970s one station in Boston offered classics as regular evening fare from 8:00-10:00 p.m. Public Broadcasting assumed the role on weekends. There was a cinema near us that specialized in the “oldies,” as well, so rarely were we bereft of film opportunities.
I can divide the decades of my early life by my growing awareness of the films’ messages. Mom grew up during American films’ “Golden Age,” when she and friends or a date went to movies at least twice a week for double features, plus cartoons and news reels. Her absolute, all-time favorite was Rebecca, and I remember the first time that I watched it with her on television. Mom was as engrossed as she must have been the first, second, tenth(?) times that she saw it, and although “running commentary” on a movie in progress was severely discouraged, she broke her own rule for Rebecca. One of her favorite segments was the announcement of the couple’s pending marriage, during which Mom grinned as broadly as she could. Another was the “declaration” scene that I won’t describe because it is a pivotal point in the story, but Mom added a triumphant “AHA!” to the proceedings. Alas, since I was about eleven and it was a school night, I had to go to bed before the ending. Not to worry about missing out, however. The next morning Mom filled me in on the details with the precision and joy of the true movie maven.
Two tales of morality came from The Slender Thread, about the attempts of a volunteer at a crisis line keeps a woman who is suicidal on the phone during the lengthy tracking process (“You see, she feels that everyone’s leaving her,” she remarked to herself and me during one of the scenes in flashback), and To Kill A Mockingbird. Mom identified with the setting of the latter because she had spent some of the early years of her marriage in a rural town in the South. Her in-laws’ front porch was very similar to the Finches, including a porch swing. Mom and I shared an intolerance of injustice, but hers was tempered with first-hand knowledge of the structure of those towns, a decade or so after the time of Harper Lee’s classic story. My mother, whose married name was Betty Davis – with a “y,” not an “e,” – managed to impart a good bit of sociology to eight-year-old me, while skimming over the definitions of “rape” and “incest.”
I think that it was about eight years later when we were watching a musical starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth. Mom suddenly said, “It’s so nice that you like these movies.” By that time, I was a veteran of countless Saturday afternoon and weeknight viewings of everything from the light and fluffy Top Hat to the severe No Way Out. “Oh, yes,” I laughed. “I was raised on them.”
Years passed, and Mom was in a nursing home. My sister, brother and I kept her supplied with videotapes of classic movies and television programs that we hoped provided her with some diversion. Then, as before, our mother had her favorite film. One day my sister and I asked her what she had watched recently. Mary, Mom’s caretaker and friend, who usually was the soul of cheerfulness and accommodation, said with an aspect of woe,
“Yesterday we watched Rebecca – three times!”
Mom responded with the wide, gleeful grin of decades past.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Midnight in Piccadily Circus

Thirty-five years ago my mother and I took off from Boston for London, England. In the previous six years, since age nine, I had developed Anglophilia extraordinaire, and in 1975 the National Education Association, of which my mom was a member, offered a week-long tour.

That trip was an experience that exceeded even my exalted expectations. We were on a coach tour, and we traveled to select spots that were favored by teachers, historians, businesspeople, and teen-aged Anglophiles.

The first experience that I was a witness to in England involved the couple next to me on the airplane. We had the same last name. Mrs. Davis was somewhat phobic of airplanes, and had been a little nervous during the flight. As we began the descent, she became truly frightened. All the way down, her solicitous husband held her hand and rubbed her back. I was warmed by their understanding of and care for each other, and not a little envious.

Throughout London and its environs -- at the changing of the guard, at Ann Hathaway's Cottage, at Hampton Court, in restaurants, and at theaters, everyplace except the Tower of London, which was almost totally inaccessible -- the tour guides and bus drivers were tremendously friendly and accommodating of my wheelchair and me. I think that I assumed that this was the behavior of London drivers generally. Then, alone, Mom and I went to see Henry Fonda as Clarence Darrow. It was a marvelous performance, which we viewed from the Royal Box, because 1) The Royal Family wasn't attending that night and 2) It was the easiest place for the ushers to reach.

The performance ended at about 11:40. Then came the considerable challenge of flagging a cab in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. No cab driver wanted the bother of a wheelchair when so many other fares were easier and faster to dispatch. As we were wondering what to do, a large car pulled up, and we were invited in by a very well tailored and beautifully mannered gentleman. Any hesitation that either Mom or I might have had about accepting a ride vanished because it was the only one offered.

We had a lovely trip. Our "car host" was from Saudi Arabia, and he stated that he was deeply distressed by the divisions between people. We pulled up at a hotel that may have been the Dorchester, and he handed the driver a wad of money to take us anywhere we wanted to go. Mom and I were both honest and sleepy. We gave the driver the name of our hotel, full of thanks for the eccentric experience and to our gracious host.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

The Poet BASICally and Verbally

Four and one-third pages. Those were all -- four and one-third. There was no use to pretend that the last page comprised two-thirds or even one-half, which might have counted as five if the professor were in a generous mood. This measly third looked exactly that atop a lot of white paper. This was 1986 and electric typewriters were the machines of choice for essays, which meant that one-third of a page certainly looked it.
The essay's topic was the BASIC computer language's use in the binary coding of archaeological sites. I was no expert, so there was no sense of, "There, everything that can be said about this topic has been said in these four and one- third pages of shining prose." My mind drifted to the Curies' naming of polonium so that everyone -- even those in the Russian army (at least those who had access to the Periodic Table of Elements) -- would be obliged to read the reference to Poland, Madame Marya Sklodowska Curie's homeland. The country was then under Tsarist (or, more accurately, the Russian army's rule), and to write or say its name was illegal. But this BASIC author had no true "authority" to wield ...or, maybe?
In a case of a deadline generating inspiration, I filled in the last page:

The archaeologist thus goaded
Who BOOTed the system and loaded,
She applied her might,
And out came the site,
All patterned and binary coded.

The result: B+ and another limerick for the world.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

An Arresting Story

Coming back to the US from my first trip abroad alone, I was let off at the airport in Stockholm. I was fairly heavily laden with luggage, and pushing my wheelchair was slower going than usual.

Two young men, who appeared to be about 16, and were dressed in blue berets and short blue slacks, came over to me, their faces wreathed in smiles. "Can we help you?" they asked.

"Yes, please. I need to find my airline," I replied, showing them my ticket, and wondering who they were.

Off we set, me holding the luggage and the two of them in back. Some of the passers-by gave me sidelong, skeptical glances, but I attributed those to my wheelchair. As my benefactors and I progressed through the airport, I decided that I really needed to know who they were.

"Are you with Traveler's Aid?" I asked, somewhat tentatively.

"Oh, no," they chortled. "We're the police!"

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Publications Slice of Life

By Carolyn Davis

A Role Made to Order
My role as a researcher and author of various aspects of disability can be said to have begun in childhood, since I was born physically disabled.
The treatments and understanding of the human body in the 1960s were fairly primitive by twenty-first century standards, to a considerable degree because technology had not advanced enough to enable people to observe as much of the function of living bodies as they do today. However, attitudes regarding the practice of rehabilitative treatments were changing. Particularly notable to me in the early seventies was the vast improvement in 1970s New York from 1960s Rhode Island. That was a prerequisite for the tidal wave of information, new treatments, patient participation, and the multitude of possibilities that were to manifest during the next thirty years and beyond. People wanted to read first-hand, realistic accounts about living and working with disabilities. A market that had been small and “sanitized,” with “super humans” accomplishing much by endless work and fortitude, was simultaneously opening up and growing up. The laws and policies that had begun to develop at the demand of the World War II veterans obliged the public to hear truth and facts regarding the significant integration of people with disabilities into education, housing and employment. People who were and are disabled have been telling their stories in writing. Librarians who are disabled and want to inform colleagues and others of situations that we have experienced, observed, and researched have niche markets for which to write.
Some of my publications that have my disability as one of their subjects include to date:
How to Write Persuasively Today. Greenwood Press/ABC-CLIO Publishers. Santa Barbara, CA 2010

"Jumping In Tandem," Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages. All Things That Matter Press. 2009. Carol Smallwood and Cynthia Brackett-Vincent, Collectors.
“The Mobile Librarian,” Thinking Outside the Book:
Essays for Innovative Librarians. McFarland Publishers, Inc. Jefferson, NC 2008. Carol Smallwood, Editor.
“Combining Careers in Research,” Info Career Trends.

vol. 2, no. 3. May, 2001.

"The International Graduate Summer School in England and Wales," Technicalities. vol. 16, no. 2. February, 1996.
"Some Experiences of an Internet Researcher," The Audio Visual Librarian. vol. 22, no.2. May, 1996.
Carolyn Davis and Rebecca Barton, Access Guide. As the facilitator of this project, I co-researched and co-authored this physical access guide to Cardiff.
Four of these publications tell of my work abroad.

My Role in Jamaica
I conducted research on agencies that provided services to people with disabilities while a Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica in 1997 to ’99. The national newspaper The Jamaica Gleaner published an article about The Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities, where I worked, and the research results to that time. The article, entitled, “For Love of the Disabled,” appeared in March of 1998 and led to a meeting between Dr. Marigold Thorburn and myself. Dr. Thorburn was a powerhouse who had developed national programs and agencies from scratch. We felt that the development of a national coalition would answer the needs of the then-competing agencies. We began to develop forums to discuss this possibility with agency directors across the country.
In its newsletter entitled “Hearing Hands,” published by the Jamaica Association for the Deaf (JAD), Iris Soutar, who is the Director of the Association, cited the importance of the Coalition. The Jamaica Coalition is considered to be one of the most effective of its kind, thanks to the work of the agency directors and personnel who have shaped and currently maintain it.

My Role in Wales
After my term of service in Jamaica ended I moved to Wales to conduct research in medieval Welsh history. A friend and I also began to look at physical and psychological access to public places in Cardiff for people with disabilities. I published our results on a blog at:, by Carolyn Davis and Rebecca Barton (now defunct).

How to Get Published
As stated above, there are niche markets both for research in the field of disabilities and for the life experiences of people with disabilities. Since librarians have basic training in research and reference methods, we have access to professions or sub-specialties in research in a variety of fields; particularly librarians who have qualifications and experience in additional fields. I have found that the best way to begin to have my work published in Library Science, whether or not my disability was to be part of the story, was both to approach and be approached by editors of journals and anthologies. Among the people with and for whom I have worked are: Professor Anthony Hugh Thompson of Aberystwyth, Wales, who was the editor-in-chief of The Audio-Visual Librarian; Sheila Intner and her successor Peggy Johnson for Technicalities; the multi-connected Rachel Singer Gordon at and Carol Smallwood and Cynthia Brackett-Vincent, the latter at, for their growing list of anthologies.
Additionally, there are many general listservs that provide access to work and publication. Check out for an abundance of information.
These projects can have an impact on the quality of others’ lives. I strongly encourage anyone who is a librarian with a physical challenge to share her or his experiences with others in our profession.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Betty Davis savored moments and vignettes. She remembered in detail pertinent moments of larger situations, and would mention them in tones that ranged from toss-away to profound. One story is about Betty's life as a grandmother.
In response to an eighteen-months-old girl’s repeated, tearful plea for a “H-A-A-A-MB-U-U-U-RGER,” Mom feigned ignorance and exclaimed, “Yes!” while clapping her hands together. She then looked at the child’s twenty-year-old aunt and followed up singing, “There are such things!” amid peals of laughter from the two women. The little girl had been fed, but felt that there was always room for McDonald’s. At that age, she was similarly devoted to the Muppets, pronouncing “Mup!” with passion.
Betty (who was my mother, so I'll call her "Mom" from now on) loved watching her grandchildren and enjoyed their personalities and motivations.
One grandson was a gourmet who at a very early age enjoyed watching the preparation of food as well as its consumption. Mom and I showed him ingredients as he reached to stir them and enjoy the result.
Mom exclaimed over another grandson's photograph prior to a trip to Disney World, "Look at his eyes; he is all set to go!"
One of Mom's strengths was observation. She could read people fairly accurately, and knew a good deal about people's strengths and weaknesses.

Found In A Bookstore

Leave aside closets that lead to Narnia and cyclones that carry passengers to Oz. Some of the greatest emotional and spiritual revelations for me have happened in bookstores, especially when Christmas shopping. There have been many times that are common to bibliophiles: finding a new author, finding a subject that hits the spot -- the first book that I truly related to was a children's story of a string that went through various stages of relaxation and tension. In my young teens there were the Jeeves stories by P.G. Wodehouse; a touching platonic love story by Ray Bradbury; the discoveries that John Steinbeck and Shirley Jackson had written humorous stories about their families; everything I could find about the history of flight, which led to Anne Morrow Lindbergh's writing, which made me feel (at ages fourteen to seventeen) that I wasn't unique or as solitary as I thought -- also a revelation to an adolescent. Mrs. Lindbergh had had a complex relationship with her husband, but she had an infinitely better spatial sense than I had. Her phrase about the sun "buttering" the leaves, from one of her collections of Diaries and Letters, impressed me for months.
Once, while selecting gifts for relatives, I looked up into the serious face of a young man in a photograph on a book cover that contained the first volume of George Kennan's Memoirs. Whoosh -- that was a life-changing event. I bought volumes one and two, gobbled them up greedily at home, and I haven't been the same since.
The most interesting discovery was, as Chris Rock said it in Everybody Hates Chris, "... finding a needle in a needle stack."
My mother had bought a Vietnam POW/MIA bracelet in the early 1970s. The officer’s name and rank were Lt. Col. Lawrence Guarino. He was listed as “Missing In Action” since 1967.
As groups of former POWs came home after the war, Mom and I checked the lists for Col. Guarino, but did not see his name. Eventually, we assumed that he had died. Years later, we were Christmas shopping in a Providence bookstore. We were in separate aisles, and I was seated next to a pile of books. Peripherally I saw photographs, and red-and-gray colors. I looked down and saw the title, A POW's Story: 2801 Days in Hanoi by Col. Larry Guarino. I picked up one book, but put it down quickly. Col. Guarino’s photograph showed him at about half of his healthy weight. I was appalled and tremendously excited.
“I’ve found the man on my mother’s POW bracelet!” I cried to the people near me. No doubt they were bewildered. “Mom, I’ve found Lawrence Guarino!” Mom walked to the pile of books and exclaimed over them. She picked up one and thumbed through it, her face a picture of intense concentration.
“Well, I don’t really want to read it,” she mused, commenting on her abhorrence of descriptions of torture.
Although unable to read his story, after eight years we knew that Col. Guarino was alive and had been able to write a book about his experiences. We felt that we had found a missing person, and the feeling was extraordinary.