Tuesday, February 28, 2006

ABC's Dancing with the Stars:The New Lawrence Welk Show?

To the embarrassment of our four children and their two spouses, Ron and I get a big kick out of ABC's Dancing with the Stars.

What's not to like? It's full of glamour and laughter, good sportsmanship and gentle, self-deprecating humor. While not suspensefully addicting viewing, it's fun, delightfully escapist television. In a word: it's

It's not about dead bodies, crimes and violence. It's not about war or greed or national security fears. It's not about hate, cynicism and racial/age/gender stereotyping. It's not about patients suffering weekly from painful, disfiguring diseases. It's not angry or cruel or mean or even sad.

It's doesn't send a a sly, smiling wink at extramarital affairs or heavy gambling, greedy materialism or leaving bad behavior secretly behind in Las Vegas.

And it's not limited to participants under 30 who fit a certain mold.

Debonair sixty-something film veteran George Hamilton competed cheerfully (and competently) with winner, thirty-something boy-band star Drew Lachey. Rapper Master P rubbed friendly elbows with fortyish soap star Lisa Rinna, and gorgeous wrestling pro Stacy Keibler and Academy Award winning actress Tatum O'Neil joined dancing forces with ESPN's Kenny Mayne and football superstar Jerry Rice.

Imagine an updated-fusion of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers with the immediacy of reality TV, the competitiveness of sports, and bubbly pop-tunes of the late 20th century. And millions of viewers empowered to choose the dancing victor.

So if Dancing with the Stars is so with-it and cool and today......why do I have flashbacks of my grandmother glued to the Lawrence Welk Show (which I thought embarrassing and horribly corny) as Ron and I settle down with a bowl of popcorn for an hour or two of dancing, catchy music, sparkling gowns and pretty people?

Have I become my grandmother, who I thought was ancient? Or in the arrogance of youth, did I misjudge my beloved grandmother's tastes?

Truthfully, the answer doesn't matter. I'm already searching TV listings for word of the third season Dancing with the Stars. I don't care what my kids think....:)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Precious and Fleeting

Life is a precious but fleeting blessing.

Two days ago, a 14 year old girl in our community suddenly died after cheerleading practice. She told her friends that she felt dizzy and laid down on the school grass. She died there within minutes, apparently of cardiac arrest. School officials attempted to revive her with a defibrillator, to no avail.

Shauna was a sweet blonde with a warm girl-next-door smile. She was a Christian who attended Christian schools until this, her first year of high school. She had accepted Jesus as her Savior, so she's surely with Him now.

I'm not one to wonder what kind of God takes from us a bright, young girl.....but it causes me to wonder what He could possibly be thinking. Of course, this is where faith comes in....faith to truly know that in all things, God works for the good of all who know Him.

Please say a prayer for her parents and brothers, who must be shattered beyond imagination. And for her friends, too, especially those present when she passed on.

I heard about this yesterday from our 14 year old. And I gave her an extra hug or two, each time she left home today.
And yet, God bestows blessings precious beyond words at the same time He takes away.

Our 8 month old granddaughter spent the day here today, and Ron had the day off, also. We took turns with Gabriela...playing, eating, napping, crawling, talking and giggling. Late this afternoon, Ron and Andrea took Gabriela and our dog for a long walk in the cool winter air.

I don't know what is it between grandparents and grandchildren. It's a corny cliche, full of truth: it's a deeply loving bond I never before knew existed. Maybe God saves this magical treat for middle age, because we're unable to appreciate it earlier in life. Her hugs fill unrecognized ancient aches for lost youth and for joy at the future.

Gabriela's innocent and full faith in us is the embodiment of the faith Jesus admonishes we need in Him, as "anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Life, indeed, is a precious but fleeting blessing.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

The Wild Artichoke in Yorba Linda

Like most middle-class Americans in 2006, we eat out at restaurants mainly for an occasional hour of low-cost,convenient fun in our neighborhood. And it's usually at a local coffee shop, the corner Chinese eatery or a chain restaurant....Marie Callendars, Chilis or Mimi's here in Southern California.

Last night, for the first time in too long, Ron and I celebrated our anniversary at an intimate, quietly elegant cafe, The Wild Artichoke, a few miles from our normal daily sphere.

The Wild Artichoke has only eleven tables, and the sole chef, James D'Aquila, is also the owner. He cooks purely for passion, but has arrived at enough profitability to quit his former day job. His beloved cafe is open for dinner from 5 to 9 PM Tuesday through Saturday, enough for two seatings each of the five days.

When patrons are dining, and he's reached a lull in his cooking, forty-something Mr. D'Aquila unobtrusively wanders from table to table, warmly greeting guests and chatting ambiably about the food.

And oh...the cuisine. Here's a link to the dinner menu. Jame's creations are otherworldly in delicate, unique goodness.

Ron and I shared the The Wild Artichoke Napoleon appetizer. He had a cup of roasted artichoke soup, and I had special fried calamari salad with fresh basil, thinly julienned red onions, and a sprinkling of sliced jalapenos, all marinated in balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.

For our entrees, I enjoyed an off-the-menu seafood pasta with scallops and shrimps in a lobster sauce, and Ron savored Jack’s Creole Shrimp and Hot Sausage Pasta-Jambalaya, with sautéed garlic, diced tomatoes, diced applewood smoked bacon, roasted red bell peppers, shallots, okra, fresh herbs and spice, simmered in a white wine cream sauce.

We love fine cooking and dining, and relish spending time with others who also enjoy the same pleasures. Our two-plus hours at The Wild Artichoke were a delightful way to celebrate sixteen years of marriage.

I recommend The Wild Artichoke for sophisticated yet comfortable dining. Leave the kids home or drop them off for pizza. They'll be happier, and so will you.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

A Magic Wedding Anniversary

Today is our 16th wedding anniversary, and we've never been more in love or happier.

This is the second marriage for both of us....the one in which we both discovered the meaning of love and of God's love through marriage. We hope to have many more decades together.

This past year, though, we've both become acutely aware of our mortality.

We're in our early 50s, with various health concerns. Ron was diagnosed as a type II diabetic eight years ago, and I battle high blood pressure and weight. We both exercise, and eat healthier than ever... but we're not young. We also suddenly lost a dear friend last summer to cancer. We sometimes talk about her...it's still hard to imagine that she's gone.

We have palpable appreciation of being together. Is it out of love? Is it out of fear of losing the other, our companion and partner in life? Is it out of futile hoping to freeze fleeting moments, rather like capturing a butterfly? This may be a special malady of the divorced and happily remarried....we acutely realize the preciousness of a good marriage.

We both have a deep faith, and instinctively believe we'll be together in eternity. Our parents are all alive, vaguely well and close to 80 years old, so genetics are on our side.

Perhaps this is a normal stage for 50-something happily marrieds. But we treasure life together, and truly can't imagine life without the other. I hope this is a new depth of love, and not a dimension of fear.

But if it's partially fear, it's causing a new appreciation of each other. And fresh appreciation is always great, magic fun..... :)
We're good with that.

Happy Anniversary, my love.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Strange Desert Winds

The blue sky above our city is topped with a layer of jaundice-yellow tinged gray smoke from wildfires ravaging scrubby hills five miles from our home.

The air smells like burnt toast, and sooty ash smothers yards, roofs and car windshields.

Local news says the fires, now burning for three days, are 22% contained. Most evacuees have returned to their generous suburban neighborhoods.

But the legendary Santa Ana winds are blowing today, and the February 8, 2006 temperature hovers around 85 farenheit. We've had less than an inch of rain this winter, and spring starts next month.

Life in the desert we call Southern California is vastly different from most of the US. It's about water, sunlight and fire, not snow, tornadoes and hurricanes. And it's about earthquakes.

Southern California is an alien landscape. But when away, I long for the strange winds of the desert....

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Daily Devotional Recommendation

The daily devotional I'm enjoying for 2006 is Unto the Hills by Billy Graham.

Not sure what I expected, but this quiet devotional is surprising and fresh. Just 33 days into 2006, I've been blessed with many new and intriguing insights on familiar scripture.

Unto the Hills by Billy Graham, published in 1996. I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Book Intro: Be Kind...Ok?

Here's a draft intro to the book I'm (finally) starting to write.....

"The local library was my sanctuary when I was a child, and books were my safe haven from reality. When very young, I savored girl-adventure books by Laura Ingalls Wilder and Maude Hart Lovelace, and treasured each word uttered by teenage sleuth Nancy Drew.

As I grew older, I devoured biographies and history, dreaming of living a grander life than mine. I read modern classics by Ernest Hemingway, Somerset Maugham and John Steinbeck, and thrilled to Agatha Christy mysteries.

While I was hiding in books, I learned of a world bigger than my meager dreams, more diverse than my neighborhood, and healthier than my home.

When my last child slid headlong into high school, I returned to the local library to save me from too much sanctuary. And once again, I found a world more diverse than our street or church, and more important to others than I ever imagined.

These are the stories of people you'll meet at the library. People who depend on its vibrancy and richness for their lives and their livelihoods. People who need the sanctuary of the local library….as I once did."

What do you think? (Be kind in your constructive comments...Ok?)