And I'm thrilled this year. I measured up, so to speak. To quote the late James Brown, "I feel good..."
Sunday, December 31, 2006
And I'm thrilled this year. I measured up, so to speak. To quote the late James Brown, "I feel good..."
Saturday, December 23, 2006
The fare has a retro, mid-20th century theme, and pays homage to dishes served by my great-aunts and my mother during the 1950s and 1960s., but with 21st century touches.
A Christmas gift from me to my family is a delicious meal, lovingly dreamed and crafted.
A whole ham, pineapple-mustard glaze
Classic green bean casserole (fresh , organic green beans, not canned)
Cauliflower au gratin
Carrots in cinnamon-butter sauce
Whole grain rolls, butter
Fresh peach pie, double-crust
Vanilla bean ice cream, Dreyers' Grand
California chardonnay, apple cider
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
We didn't celebrate Christmas with our two sons, daughter-in-law and six month old granddaughter last year, though, until we returned later that week
We're home this year, and, of course, we're hosting the family Christmas dinner. Trisha and Nino will remain in Oregon, and we'll miss their presence.
But I admit... I've deeply loved hearing from our sons how they're looking forward to celebrating the holiday at home with us.
Kevin, buried deep in his studies, work and head-over-heels for girlfriend Tessa, emailed me yesterday just to say he can't wait for Christmas here. And hard-working Ryan, husband and doting father, told me by phone last night that he and his family are excited about being here for the holiday.
I am many things... wife, sister, daughter, friend, neighbor, not to mention writer, community volunteer, activist, business woman.
But at my essence, I am a mother (and grandmother). I love our children. I pray for them daily, and they're always with me. I'm feeling kind of special... and appreciated... that they long to celebrate the holidays with us.
Saturday, December 02, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Friday, November 24, 2006
* The laughter and play of young children
* The retelling of family stories, and peering at old family photos
* A beautiful, warm home, perfectly cluttered
* A bittersweet, tear-inducing toast by Ron to his mother, who passed away last summer
* Dinner prayers
* Lovingly prepared, delicious holiday fare, including three turkeys (deep-fried, smoked, roasted) and four pies (pumpkin, mince, blueberry, pecan)
* The adults lingering, chatting at the table hours after the meal
* The continual flash of new digital cameras
* Hugs, hugs and more hugs
* Promises to get together soon again
The woman who binds us together was with us, but only in spirit. Perhaps because of her passing, we're all a bit more aware of the fragility of life and the fleeting of time.
It was a joyous and sacred family time on Thanksgiving 2006.
We are blessed...
Wednesday, November 15, 2006
Today is my 55th birthday.
While I'm blessed beyond measure... I just can't imagine where the time went. In my mind, I'm still my ideal age of 35. And I still feel familiar surprise when my body can't follow the plans of my imagination and will.
I love my life, though. Wonderfully happy marriage. Healthy, hard-working, loving children. An adorable granddaughter. Joyful, caring church filled with good people and loving, interesting pastors.
I have meaningful work and many passions. We're finally rebuilding our financial security after Ron's unemployment bouts a few years ago. And I've never exercised more or eaten healthier.
I just wish I had 40 or 50 years more to go.
But here's the curiousity. When I presumed I had decades ahead of me, it didn't feel as precious to me. And frankly, I didn't make as good a use of time as I today.
I'm conscious, now, that time is a limited commodity, and I'm doing many of my "someday" things.
And I work harder to make a difference in this world... not to be remembered, but to be kinder and more forgiving. And to use my writing to help make this world a more merciful and just place.
But not today... :) The world can wait.
Ron took my birthday off from work. After he took Andrea to school, he came home with a fragrant cup of my favorite coffee, a forbidden donut ( I adore donuts... never eat them anymore), and a fresh-off-the-stands newspaper for this news junkie. And he's taking me to lunch today.
Happy birthday to me. I'm 55 years old
Maybe if I say and write it enough, I'll believe it. And not cringe.
Sunday, November 05, 2006
I snapped no photos for four or five years.
I felt like the process of picture-taking got in the way of experiencing the moment. And we have albums full of landscapes... of Mammoth Mountain and forgotten vacation spots, of Hawaii and Canada, of Great Britian, Hong Kong and beyond.
And it was such a bother... getting the light just right, fussing with the focus. Buying the film, dropping off the film, remembering to pick-up the film.
I didn't miss it.
But Ron's mother passed away last summer, and we had few photos of her. We're blessed with an adorable 17-month old granddaughter who grows and changes every month. We don't see Trisha and Nino (our daughter and son-in-law) very often since they moved to Oregon. And Andrea sparkled in beauty and excitement, dressed for her first high school dance.
We recently heard that sadly, our former pastor for 10 years has Alzheimers. They kept it private for three years, but he can't read now, and has trouble remembering much.
And I realized that I was wrong.
Life is fleeting, and special moments are precious. Memories are the stuff of our lives. Gifts from God.
So we bought a nifty new digital camera (a Nikon) last month, and are suddenly on-fire photographers of our loved ones.
For the internet-savvy, the process is amazingly cool. We take the pics and upload them to my laptop. I then upload them to my Yahoo albums, for all to view. I've ordered prints from Yahoo/Target (sent to our home) and WalMart (for faster pick-up).
Ron and I now take new joy from remembering cherished times with family and friends, and sending fun photos to far-away relatives.
(Not to brag about the unusually wonderful women in our family, but........ take a gander at a shot I took last night when we took the gang out for Mexican food. From left: daughter Andrea, daughter-in-law Giovanna, granddaughter Gabriela, daughter Trisha and girlfriend Tessa.)
Monday, October 23, 2006
I forget how confusing it is to be 15 years old.
One day, you're dressed and buffed and polished in ways you've never before experienced. To your surprise, people say you're beautiful, but you just see a geeky, imperfect kid in the mirror.
Homecoming is exhilirating... dancing, laughing with friends. staying out until midnight (without your parents) for the first time in your life. It's all so intoxicatingly independent.
But the next day, your imperfection bites you in the rear. Your mom told you that people steal iPods. Your dad nagged you to be cautious about where you leave your purse. But you ignored them because you adore the freedom of your music, and, well... it's so very teenage-cool to carry an iPod, and parents don't really understand, anyway.
And yes, you took your iPod when it should've stayed at home, and you left your purse where it shouldn't be, and your treasured iPod got stolen.
You understand that you messed up, and it really, really hurts. For many reasons.
You feel like you always have homework and social pressures and tests. You get wonderful grades, study hard, worship God, do chores at home, (usually) obey your parents, and love your family and friends and dog.
But sometimes, all you want to do is play your guitar. And listen to your iPod...
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
A friend emailed this to me this evening, and I adore it.
10 things God will ask you on Judgment Day
1. God won't ask what kind of car you drove. He'll ask how many people you drove who didn't have transportation.
2. God won't ask the square footage of your house. He'll ask how many people you welcomed into your home.
3. God won't ask about the clothes you had in your closet. He'll ask how many you helped to clothe.
4. God won't ask what your highest salary was. He'll ask if you compromised your character to obtain it.
5. God won't ask what your job title was. He'll ask if you performed your job to the best of your ability.
6. God won't ask how many friends you had. He'll ask how many people to whom you were a friend.
7. God won't ask in what neighborhood you lived. He'll ask how you treated your neighbors.
8. God won't ask about the color of your skin. He'll ask about the content of your character.
9. God won't ask why it took you so long to seek Salvation. He'll lovingly take you to your mansion in heaven, and not to the gates of hell.
10. God won't have to ask how many people you told about this list. He already knows your decision.
Saturday, October 07, 2006
I'm blogging these words while sitting in a hip hotel room in one of the great cities, San Francisco. The built-in desk here spans the length of my window view of the financial district and the edge of Chinatown. I lulled to sleep last night with skyscraper lights magically beaming into my room.
The sky is clear and bright baby-blue today. The air is cool, clean and breezy. It's a glorious and beautiful day in San Francisco.
I've visited "The City" many dozens of times, but have never seen it so teeming with humanity:
It's Fleet Week, and three ships of uniformed sailors on weekend shore-leave roam the city.
This weekend, there's a free multi-night Bluegrass concert, featuring Emmylou Harris, Elvis Costello and 60 other performers. It's expected to draw more than 300,000 attendees.
Oakland A's fans are celebrating sweet victory yesterday over the Minnesota Twins, and their progression to baseball's AL championship. Tomorrow is the San Francisco 49ers-Oakland Raiders football game.
And the Blue Angels gave an airshow today, thrilling all with magnificent fly-bys over the San Francisco Bay.
I'm here for an About.com/New York Times weekend meeting, and leave soon for dinner with the NYT crowd. Fortunately, we have reservations (for about 100!).
It's all thrilling and fun, and the city pulsates with laughter and excitement...
But catching a cab is a time-consuming challenge.
In fact, it's 5:40 PM now. Dinner's at 7 PM. I better start now... :)
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
Yesterday in a chain-store pharmacy, I was in line behind a man clutching eight Snickers candy bars. He was about 80 years old, dressed neatly and casually, in athletic shoes and a faded baseball cap pulled low.
He (glancing at me}: "I gave up vitamins two years ago."
He: "Yeah... now, I eat a candy bar a day. Never felt better. "
Me: " Uh... (smiling). Well, they say chocolate's good for you. At least dark chocolate is, I think..."
He: "Keep's the heart going, you know."
He stuffed the bagged candy bars inside his light jacket, and glanced around the store.
He: "My daughter's visiting me from Washington DC. She's one of those Type A types..."
He: "Yeah... she has a big job with the Census Bureau there."
Me: "Great. That's great.... You must be proud."
He (winking): "I have to stay out of trouble when she's here...."
He smiled and walked out of the store, candy bars hidden from view.
Monday, September 18, 2006
We had busy schedules and plans for Saturday... housecleaning to do, a TV baseball game at 1 PM, Andrea had loads of high school homework, and Ron and I both hoped to get work done on our laptops.
But God, and Edison, had different plans.
We showered in darkened bathrooms, and ate cold breakfasts, while waiting for power to return. We read, listened to our one battery-powered radio, and quietly puttered for hours. Andrea played guitar, and immersed herself into an iPod music world.
At noon, we ventured out for a leisurely lunch together at Souplantation, assuming power must be on when we returned. But no... it wasn't.
Mid-afternoon, our un-air conditoned home was warm from the late summer day, so Ron and I took chairs and the radio into the sunny front yard, and listened to our team. Andrea took a nap.
Neighbors meandered over, and chatted amiably about jobs, the economy, sports and children. An Edison contractor, waiting for equipment to arrive, proudly showed us photos of his wife and two young children back home in Colorado, where he can't find work. He misses them terribly... is going home next week to hug them.
We never worked on Saturday. We never did our planned chores. We did nothing constructive.
We rested, together as a family. And it was an unexpectedly lovely day... one that we needed.
Just as God knew we did.
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
With Andrea's excited return to school yesterday, life feels like it's returned to normal. Which is wonderful and familiar.
To celebrate the advent of fall... even though our Indian summer days remain over 90 degrees... I baked a fragrant pumpkin pie for last night's dinner.
It was soothing and delicious with hints of cinnamon, ginger and cloves, just like comfort food should be.
It's always good to be home.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
It was a long summer. Ron's mother passing away, Ron's father's new dependence on us, moving. And more, too.
I'm a writer, by trade and by nature. I like and need a certain amount of solitude (mornings to early afternoons) to hear God's voice, and to channel it through my voice. To allow Him to use me.
Solitude has been especially scarce this summer. Besides all the unusual events, our precious daughter is now an energetic, emotional, bright, challenging... did I say energetic?... 15 year old.
School starts in one week, the day after Labor Day so there's light at the end of my long summer tunnel. And while I'll miss sharing daily lunches with her, and shopping with her, and chatting with her, and visiting Starbucks with her, driving her to parties and play rehearsels and friends' houses and golf practices and the library....
I simply can't wait to reclaim a consistent window of time for writing.
Friday, August 11, 2006
Today is Andrea's 15th birthday. After our recent sad losses, it's a double-pleasure to celebrate such a joyous occasion.
I treated her to lunch out at the local eatery of her choice, followed by a trip to the Jewelry Mart, where she selected a pretty bracelet as her birthday gift. Tonight, she continues in our church drama department's family-friendly production of Grease, and afterwards, we're hosting friends for a birthday dessert party at Marie Callendar's Pies.
Andrea is a lovely and sweet young woman, and one of God's great blessings in our lives.
While I never preach living just for today, recent losses of loved ones reminds me again that God never promises tomorrow to us.
Eat birthday pie, and honor a loved one, every chance you get!
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
This is Alice and Bill.
They're my parents' lifelong best friends. My mother and Alice have been friends since 4th grade, and they were in each other's weddings... Alice and Bill in September 1948, my parents in November of that year.
Both couples, the children of small-time San Joaquin Valley farmers, married quite young. My newlywed parents moved away from farm life, while Alice and Bill opted to live their lives there... near their parents, children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
When we spent time with them, Alice and Bill were like second parents to me, my brother and sister, and their two children were like cousins.
Alice worked for decades as secretary to the principal at the town high school, and Bill headed janitorial services at a small school for special needs children. He also worked at a local bank in the 60's. Alice has beaten cancer three times over 30 years, albeit with some unpleasant side effects. No one has ever heard her complain.
Without question, Alice and Bill are the nicest and most hospitable people I've ever known. Humble and friendly, with an extraordinary peace and contentedness. They've purposely led a simple life in the same cozy home, a life unusually filled with family, friends, and endless hospitality and kindness to others.
My parents received word yesterday that Alice and Bill and a great-grandchild were recently killed in a car accident. They were hit by a drunk driver (with previous DUIs), and killed instantly in a fiery crash. They were driving to a local restaurant where family waited for them to celebrate Bill's 80th birthday.
Their son told the Fresno Bee that his parents "were just the most giving people that I ever knew."
Please tell everyone you know: Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is evil.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
We moved, merely two miles, but it was hectic beyond words. And on the very day we moved... precisely when movers were mangling our family heirloom piano while carrying it into the new house... we got the call that Ron's mother had passed away. It was earlier than expected, and yet, we later learned that it wasn't.
That was July 14. Ron and I, along with Kevin (22) and Andrea (14) flew to Reno for services, etc. on July 20, returning late on July 23.
The services were of the old-fashioned ilk, complete with unbearable (to me and especially our children, who sobbed openly. Andrea sobbed again the next night.) body viewing, dramatic cemetery burial accompanied by throwing Mom's favorite flowers into the open grave, and, the following day, a lovely memorial service in the Episcopal tradition at their 100-year-old church. (The stained glass windows were magnificent.)
Turns out Mom discussed her service with the priest, but none of us knew that until the service. She asked that the 23rd Psalm be read, and she selected the organ hymns.
Ron was the primary eulogist in his mother's honor, and we both learned a lot about powering through remarks regardless of overflowing emotions. His words were touching and perfect, and he brought everyone to quiet tears with sweet reminiscences, and a tribute to his parents' 54-year marriage.
We stayed with Dad at the house, of course. He's not doing well. He hugged Ron for the longest time when we first arrived. He's aged quite a bit, which is saying something for an 80-year-old man.
Ron's aunt and uncle (Mom's sister) and their three daughters, Ron's cousins, all reside in Reno. The cousins are 35 to 45, married, with children. One hosted a family dinner for 18 of us Friday evening after the burial, the night before the memorial service. And another hosted a generous reception for all attendees after the memorial service. A third, Mom and Dad's Godchild, read a Bible passage at the service.
I have such strong impressions and mental photos of that long weekend, that Ron is encouraging me to jot them down into a short book. So I won't also be doing that here... at least, not now.
I just wrote thank you notes to the cousins, as I only today found the thank you note statonary.
So we're home. I don't think we've fully processed her death yet. A couple times this week, I felt an unexpained sadness... which is not my normal disposition.
Dad calls almost every night after dinner. He's lonely, and we're 600 miles away. People are keeping him busy with dinners and get-togethers, but that will fade away as life returns to its normal rhythm. He'll never move down to Southern California, and our life is here.
So we don't know what life holds next. But do we ever?
Mom had great peace and unshakable faith right to her death. She said good-bye to her loved ones, tied up loose ends, and decided to end her medication. We learned that she was sicker than we realized, and that she knew it. She was heavily anesthetized in her last days, and in and out of consciousness. But she was probably aware.
She passed away surrounded by her husband, her sister and the hospital chaplain, leading them in prayer. She inspired us all with her great faith.
A few days after we got home, Andrea had a vivid dream in which her grandmother appeared to her. Mom was wearing a navy blue dress with pale yellow flowers. She smiled warmly, hugged Andrea and told her that she is fine, she feels healthy now, and out of pain. Not to worry. Andrea said it felt very real.
I have no earthly idea how anyone sanely processes death without possessing a faith.
My belief in Romans 8: 28 is enduring and essential: "And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."
God is good!
Friday, July 14, 2006
Beverly White passed away this afternoon. At her bedside were her husband of 55 years, and her beloved sister, Andra, as well as the hospital chaplain.
She left her earthly body in peace, and knowing that she would meet her Lord in heaven. She had been in great pain and exhaustion, and has been released from her suffering.
We are all deeply saddened that she won't be with us here anymore, celebrating holidays and special occasions, and taking an avid interest in our lives. And we'll miss her amazing cooking! She was a lovely woman.
But we know that we will see and be with her again someday.
Thursday, July 13, 2006
In the past few weeks, she's enjoyed the company of her loved ones. Ron flew up there last week, and spent time with her. When she glimpsed him, she almost leaped out bed wth joy, and held onto him tightly. They chatted for hours.
She met with an Episcopal priest on Friday, and he served communion to her and her husband of 55 years on Monday. They were deeply touched, and felt close to God.
So many of you have emailed me to say that she is in your prayers. Thank you.... thank you so very much.
Now would be a good time to keep her in your prayers.
UPDATE - Beverly White will be moving to a hospice in the next day or two. This is her clear choice, and she is at peace.
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
As I write these words, my mother-in-law, Beverly, is being rushed from a convalescent facility back to a hospital emergency room. She was at the facility only two days.
It sounds like congestive heart failure, but I'm getting that info secondhand from Ron, who's following the ambulance in his father's car. His father is with his mother.
Ron says it's not her time... but truthfully, he has no idea. A small part of us might always deny it when it's our parents. He said they have the "do not resuscitate" papers in order.
Please say a prayer for her... for what, I'm not sure. For God's peace, I suppose.
Yes, for God's peace that surpasses all human understanding.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Katharine Lee Bates wrote the original version of America the Beautiful in 1893. She wrote the 2nd version in 1904. Below is her final version, written in 1913.
America the Beautiful
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern, impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self the country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
od shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for halcyon skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the enameled plain!
God shed his grace on thee
Till souls wax fair as earth and air
And music-hearted sea!
O beautiful for pilgrims feet,
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America ! America !
God shed his grace on thee
Till paths be wrought through wilds of thought
By pilgrim foot and knee!
O beautiful for glory-tale
Of liberating strife
When once and twice,for man's avail
Men lavished precious life !
God shed his grace on thee
Till selfish gain no longer stain
The banner of the free!
O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
God shed his grace on thee
Till nobler men keep once again
Thy whiter jubilee!
Friday, June 30, 2006
She's having emergency heart surgery this morning. No one is sure she'll survive it, but it's necessary. Ron talked to her last night. She sounded strong, confident... even casual. Said she can't she can't wait to see him on Sunday, and hopes she's home by then.
But she knows. Please say a prayer for her.
No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manner of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.
-- British poet John Donne (1572 - 1631)
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
And perhaps to say good-bye.
She's been in the hospital for 10 days now with pneumonia and related complications. Things were looking slightly better over the weekend, but she had a setback today, and is in intensive care tonight.
The doctors are worried about her heart. Her poor, frail body is exhausted. We all know how truly tired she is....
But it's hard to believe. And Ron's father can't seem to grasp the realities of her illness. He's still making plans to bring her home soon. They've been married for 55 years, and he knows no life without her. She's been his sun and his moon and his guiding star.
God, please grant Ron and me the wisdom to know how to be present for his mother, and how to help his father.
And for us to remember that in all things, you work for the good of those who love you.
Thursday, June 22, 2006
Please say a small prayer for her recovery, or at least for her to be strong enough to return home. She's now been in the hospital for six days, and badly wants to leave.
She's tired of the hospital, tired of IVs, and tired of the hospital schedule. Our fear is that she's just very, very deep-down tired.....
Sunday, June 11, 2006
I'm not missing.......just busy.
Been working almost fulltime on my gig as About.com's Guide to US Liberals, and I've also been temp blogging for About.com's Diabetes site. My income there is growing, which is a positive for my family. But I do it for the passion much more than for the income.
As I write this, I'm part of a conference call with Al Gore , and listening to Mr. Gore talking (at this moment) about global warming and the Kyoto Protocol Accords. (He's talking from his home in Nashville.)
We were at a graduation party this afternoon, and we left a few minutes early so I could participate in this Sunday afternoon call.
I've had several successful careers, but I always ultimately ended or limited them, believing that they interfered with my family life, and especially parenting. It's a woman thing. Men don't do that much. I did it out of choice, and without regret.
I think about the roads not taken, though. And I wonder: If I had invested more time and effort, where would those roads have taken me?
Please don't get me wrong.....I have more blessings than one could ever wish for: a loving husband, great children, an adorable granddaughter, caring friends, health and a strong walk with God. And a good doctor, a wonderful church led by two exceptional men of God, and a life full of laughter, books and warmth.
God has gifted mewith another chance, however, to make my mark. To make a difference. And He has his reasons, I suppose. For the past 18 months, I've again limited my work under guise of family needs. And that's partially true.....but I wonder. Am I lazy? Afraid of success? Resistant to changing status quo? Too comfortable?
I blew off attending a three-day conference this weekend in Las Vegas, at which I was supposed to listen to and mingle with the likes of Howard Dean, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid and US Senator Barbara Boxer of California.
As I sit here, listening to Al Gore, I just had an epiphany.....I'm going to take this professional opportunity the full ten yards. I'm glad we came home early from this afternoon's party. My interests and passions are important, too.
Andrea is in high school, and our other children are responsible adults. Ron works fulltime. This is my time. Finally. And I'm not afraid of success.
God has graciously offered me a rare chance to speak out and be heard. And He's clearly provided the unique and complex path to this point. (The path to here has been incredible, thusfar, to the point of defying coincidence.)
I will take myself seriously. I am not afraid of success. I will follow and trust God's leading. And I will not blow-off any more essential, contact-rich three-day conferences.
To paraphrase my favorite poem, this time around, I will take the road less traveled by, and I have faith that my choice will make all the difference.
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Today in the mail, we received the gift of a CD of lovely country-tinged music recorded by my brother and his wife, and a high school graduation announcement for the son of long-time dear friends. I also received an email today from close family friends who invited us to join them at their daughter's high school graduation. Last weekend, we traveled to San Diego to watch a beloved nephew graduate from California State University, San Marcos, and we had a ball at a lively family after-party.
These sweet expressions of love remind me that Ron, Andrea and I have untold riches in family and friends, in church and community and in personal gifts and skills.
As most family and friends realize, for the first time in our half-century lives, Ron and I have struggled financially since 9/11. First, we wisely (but oh-so-sadly) closed our business in December 2001, an economic victim of 9/11.
Then, Ron was unexpectedly laid off in Fall 2002 when his engineering job was outsourced to Mexico. He was out of work, and we were without income, for eight months. His new job, with a high-flying high-tech start-up lasted 15 months, until it was outsourced to somewhere in Southeast Asia.
He was out of work another three months, until he started his present job in April 2005. (And it's going well, is a perfect fit for Ron, and is only four miles from home. God had His plan!)
We seem to have stabilized financially. We're still standing, but have few backup resources. We have little in monetary riches.
It occurred to me today.....we're richly blessed with every type of riches except monetary. We love and we are loved. We love God. We see beauty in everyday life. We're satisfied in our pursuits.
And.....here's the odd thing.....we've become more satisfied and happy and appreciative, and our walks with God have strengthened measurably, in these last five years when we were the most financially challenged. Despite these past five years. Because of these past five years.
We've truly learned the difference between need and want. We learned that having stuff doesn't make us happier. And we learned that simplicity of habits and schedules equates to greater inner peace.
So we are rich. God has blessed us with riches far beyond our imaginations or expectations.
We are better for the past five years. And we are grateful.
But trust me....the ride has been rough, and we would have opted out of it many times since 9/11, if God had only offered us that choice. :) And we still face financial challenges resulting from the past five years.....
Thursday, May 18, 2006
For all those Christians who worked themselves into a frenzy, worrying that one action-laden work of fiction would shake the deeply held faith of millions......here is Roger Ebert's perfectly-stated film review of The DaVinci Code:
"They say The Da Vinci Code has sold more copies than any book since the Bible. Good thing it has a different ending. Dan Brown's novel is utterly preposterous; Ron Howard's movie is preposterously entertaining. Both contain accusations against the Catholic Church and its order of Opus Dei that would be scandalous if anyone of sound mind could possibly entertain them.
I know there are people who believe Brown's fantasies about the Holy Grail, the descendants of Jesus, the Knights Templar, Opus Dei and the true story of Mary Magdalene. This has the advantage of distracting them from the theory that the Pentagon was not hit by an airplane."
Read the rest of Ebert's review here.
He rates it a respectable three stars, and concludes, "The movie works; it's involving, intriguing and constantly seems on the edge of startling revelations."
Here's my question: where were all these hyper-vigilant Christians when the horribly paranoid, supremely silly, deeply flawed and biblically distorted "Left Behind" fictional books by LaHaye and Jenkins sold untold hundreds of millions of copies?
I'm always astonished when I find these trash books in church libraries.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
I think it takes 10 years off my hair age. But more importantly, I smile more. It's new and fun and I like what I see in the mirror.
But I wonder what the rest of my world thinks, other than Ron and Andrea who love whatever I dream and do.
In the market about an hour ago,I quickly rounded the corner with my almost-empty cart ( dog food, four bell peppers, body lotion) when I nearly ran down an old man slowly, painfully trudging to a door.
Me: I'm so sorry.
Old Man: No...I'm sorry.....
Me: Can I help you?
Old Man: No, no. (waves me away with his hand, then shakes his head.) I'm old.....and slow.
Me: (with a small laugh, pondering my blood pressure concerns) I'm getting old and slow, too.
Old Man: (pause) No you're not. You're young.
Me: Uh.....thank you!
Old Man: (looking straight at my eyes) You're young and beautiful.
And he trudged away.
Maybe it's my new 'do.
Or maybe God sent one of His angels to give me a kind, cheery word.
I hope it's both. I'll assume it's both......:)
Thursday, May 04, 2006
While cleaning out some books today, I ran across four books about parenting. We have three adult children in their 20s (two of them married), one teenager left at home, and one adorable granddaughter who will celebrate her first birthday this month.
You know you're a grandparent when you find four books on parenting, and the two books you keep are Helping Your Child Love to Read and 52 simple Ways to Build Your Child's Confidence, and you toss James Dobson's Dare to Discipline and The Strong-Willed Child.
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Just got back from seeing the new film, Akeelah and the Bee, with Andrea. I have to tell you......it's the best film I've seen in a few years. Film critic Roger Ebert was absolutely correct when he awarded it his highest rating.
Akeelah and the Bee is about triumph and compassion, the healthy balance of education and humor, the importance of parental love and support, and about valuing others. And.....get this.....this sparkling film is never boring. It unexpectedly touched both Andrea and me.
Akeelah and the Bee has my A+ recommendation. Go see it!
Thursday, April 27, 2006
Join me there, and learn more about Ron and me, and about keeping diabetes at bay. It's been part of our daily lives since Ron was diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic eight years ago.....and we've learned a lot about health and wellness.
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
Flower god, god of the spring, beautiful, bountiful,
Cold-dyed shield in the sky, lover of versicles,
Here I wander in April
Cold, grey-headed; and still to my
Heart, Spring comes with a bound,
Spring the deliverer,Spring, song-leader in woods, chorally resonant;
Spring, flower-planter in meadows,
Child-conductor in willowy
Fields deep dotted with bloom, daisies and crocuses:
Here that child from his heart drinks of eternity:
O child, happy are children!
She still smiles on their innocence,
She, dear mother in God, fostering violets,
Fills earth full of her scents, voices and violins:
Thus one cunning in music
Wakes old chords in the memory:
Thus fair earth in the Spring leads her performances.
One more touch of the bow, smell of the virginal
Green - one more, and my bosom
Feels new life with an ecstasy.
--- Robert Louis Stevenson
Photo of Oregon 2006 Tulip Festival, courtesy of Patricia Marchetti (my daughter!)
Monday, April 24, 2006
It's a time thing, and a priority thing. Perhaps this will change when we're empty-nesters in three years. But for now, with our busy lives and my professional obligations, that's the deal.
But the summer is an entirely different matter.
Little is more pleasing to me on a warm summer day than sitting on the slouchy couch in the living room, mint iced tea at hand, a sweet breeze wafting gently through the open front window, as I vacation in imaginative fiction, read pleasingly slow.
Today, I selected my summer 2006 reading....and I'm beside myself with self-indulgent anticipation. I'm reading a 1,067-page anthology of sixteen short novels by some of my favorite classic American writers.....John Steinbeck (Tortilla Flats),Willa Cather (My Mortal Enemy), Edith Wharton (The Old Maid), Mark Twain (Pudd'n Head Wilson)....and a few internatonal authors I that I've longed to meet, most notably Albert Camus and Fyodor Dostoevsky.
Been feeling down and a bit dry lately, and it hit me that I need to live my life with more imagination and less dogged determination.
And then I remembered that I feel like this every year.....just before my annual renewal by fiction.
The anthology (Sixteen Short Novels, selected by Wilfrid Sheed) is sitting here on my desk. It's hard to wait.....:)
Sunday, April 16, 2006
Saturday, April 15, 2006
Once heard a pastor preach about change. He said that it's not possible to resist change, but unhealthy people often attempt to do just that. "Life IS change," he thundered. "Get used to it."
And baby boomer poet laureate Bob Dylan sang, " For he that gets hurt; Will be he who has stalled; The times...they are a' changing."
I've worked only for myself since about 1990, with a brief exception in the mid-1990s. I'm now fulfiling my lifelong dream of being paid for my writing......making me a Professional Writer...and I love it. God has truly blessed me.
But I don't earn a lot of $$$, which frankly, doesn't bother me much. (Apparently a strange, nonconformist attitude in 21st century America....) Being heard and touching others is far more important to me than buying and having lots of new stuff. And contrary to Southern California sentiments, money is not a source of security or happiness.
(I kept telling Ron that all this top-quality, hard work will pay off someday. Not sure I really believed that.....but deep down, I clearly felt God pulling...not just calling....me along this path. I consciously chose the adventure of following God's call.)
But college tuition is looming ominously in the future for our bright high school freshman daughter. And inflation is running rampant here, while Ron;s engineer salary remains the same. It's getting harder and harder to make ends meet, visit out-of-town relatives and enjoy a quiet annual vacation, too....especially if you plan to drive.
So on Wednesday for the first time ever, I took a gander at JournalismJobs.com. I finally have credentials and a writing portfolio now, and I heard that is has a plethora of leads for freelance work.
For curiosity's sake, I looked at employment ads, too. And there it was...... a plum, well-paying opening at the respected regional newspaper in our area, exactly like what I do at About.com: Online news and commentary, and working with longtime print journalists to acclimate them to online pecularities. The job title is something like Senior Online Editor of News and Commentary. Honestly, I couldn't believe my eyes.
I sent an email and resume, and received a response the next day. I had a telephone interview that same evening with a top editor. Turns out we have much in common, live in the same neighborhood, even both attend a church in the same Lutheran denomination, in which he is quite active. We both commented how odd it is that someone in the neighbrohood so perfectly fits what the newspaper needs. How very, eerily odd. The chances might be a billion-to-one.
I have an interview on Wednesday afternoon with the managing editor, the editorial director, the two online editors and this director of the online team. I don't have the job...and I'm not sure how I feel about holding a job at age 54. But if it's offered to me, I will take it.
The times...they are a changing.
God always provides for our needs. God is so good!
The progression of my professional writing second-career, our family financial trials since 9/11, even our spiritual journey to be part of our new church......it all feels very, very strongly tied-together into God's plan for something.
I've finally learned to Trust (with a capital T) and follow God's promptings.....but wouldn't it be great to know what He has in mind? :)
Saturday, April 08, 2006
I've been avoiding my doctor for the last six months, working hard to bring my blood pressure back under control. My control. It flared up for the first time about six years ago. With exercise, a closer walk with God, a change of certain circumstances, and a tiny diuretic, my BP returned to normal.
But this last year, I've again struggled with it. Just as my dad did and does....just as his sisters did. Just as his mother apparently did when she died one day, standing on her farmhouse back porch while calling her family to dinner.
I could avoid the verdict no more. Saw Dr. Mutter on Monday, and yes, my blood pressure still soared at lofty, frightening heights. And I had to finally accept what I didn't want to accept: actual medication and daily BP monitoring at home.
It's admission that I can't handle it alone. It's an admission of aging. It's an admission of needing help.
I admitted it all. And the good doctor smiled at me for the first time in two years.
(Started taking the teeny white pill on Thursday. BP today is 121/84, the best it's been in I-don't-know-how-long. And I feel absolutely fine, with nary a side effect. )
OK, that's not the strange part.
Arrived home on Monday from the doctor's office, and sat down to send Ron an email at work. And our cable connection was down, which is very, very rare. Unheard of. I called the cable company, and they couldn't send a repairman until today, Saturday.
So the very week that I was forced to focus on my health....to rethink time management and peace of mind....to ponder my passion for getting caught-up in great causes....I was also cut-off from the internet, except for inconvenient forays to the public library.
Ron said it was God.
I think Ron is correct. But it seems to me that Dr. Mutter may have secret connections to the cable company.....:)
Saturday, April 01, 2006
May the spirit of St. John Wooden bless UCLA in today's Final Four semi-final game today against LSU.
Tip-off time is 5:47 PM, Pacific time.
(I found a photo of Coach John Wooden famously holding a rolled program during a game, which was a essential part of Coach's good-luck game-day routine. This is a perfect likeness of him as he sat on the sidelines, coaching UCLA basketball. )
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
I've been trying to write this lovely true-story collection about people whose lives are touched and even transformed by their local library. The reason I'm writing it is because too many life-in-the-fast-laners...which is most of us today.....rarely visit a public library. We're too busy, we buy what we need at Amazon, whatever the reason. Since we have no pressing need to visit the library and know few others who do, we instinctively believe that local public libraries are antiquated, slightly musty institutions for young children and idle seniors. Because of this pervasive attitude, funding for libraries has been radically reduced in recent years, resulting in cuts in hours, staff and resources.
That, of course, is far from true. Free public libraries are the foundations of democracy (free access to info), education (on anything, for everyone) and creativity (inspiration and resources).
I'm trying to recount true tales in lovely prose and soothing words that draw the reader irresistibly into each storyline. But...that's not my writing voice. I rarely write in "pretty" or "soothing."
I write with energy and insight, and I'm talented at cutting through the c**p, rather like a hot knife through butter. When I'm true to my inner voice, creativity and clever prose flows through me at an amazing pace (It comes from God, not me. It flows through me, not from me.) It's the way I write...it's the way I live life, too. It's an unfortunate family trait. (You should meet my brother. I'm the very soul of patience and tact compared to Jeff.)
So I'm frustrated and moving at a snail's pace with this book. It hangs over my head like a pregnant cloud. I feel pressured to meet my self-imposed deadlines. What I've written is good, by professional standards.....but it's very little. At this rate, it might take the rest of my natural life. And it bores me; I wouldn't read it.
So I guess I'll throw out what I have written, and start all over.
There....I said it. I admitted a false start. Black and white decision. I can do it...admit failure, throw out the old, start anew.
Why is this so hard?
Thursday, March 23, 2006
Their last second, heart-stopping victory tonight surprised me, and yet it didn't.
They've done it before, over the decades. Many times. It's in the Bruin blood. It's tradition.
And the mighty UCLA Bruins move closer to the Final Four...
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)
Today, she giggled in wide-eyed wonderment as I blew bubbles. She drank scads of pear juice and ate crackers. We watched a TV show she loves because they clap and cheer a lot. She claps along with them.
As she played with cracker crumbs, I watched her for a while ....... and thanked God for His gift of this precious child.
Studying her sweet face and trusting contentedness , I was reminded of Jesus' words in Mark 10:15: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."
Sunday, March 19, 2006
It feels good to be in the right place. It feels good to be home.
The two primary pastors are Divine-designed ying and yang....one leads with his warm, warm heart supported by scripture, the other leads with his deep intellect supported by compassion. This congregation emphasizes Joy (with a capital "J"), unflinching inclusiveness, and above all, servant ministry to family and friends, to the strangers among us, and to our local and world communities. Ron and I couldn't feel more fed by the sermons, which are rich with meaning and message, humanity and humor, and God's Word.
But I've discovered something more on this journey to find and fit: the sacraments mean something. They are Holy.
Let me explain: Until 2000, I was a lifelong attender of Presbyterian churches, and a member of two from 1975 to 2000. It was my experience that baptism was a occasion for adorable babies, and that the Lord's Prayer and various creeds were recited rotely and without thought. The Gloria Patri was sung with boredom, and much of the music was akin to Disneyland's "Haunted Mansion" theme song. Parishioners argued incessantly over drums or no drums, casual or business casual dress, caffeinated or decaf, and endless what-not. (Trust me on the endless what-not...ordained as both an elder and deacon, I likely sat through a hundred or more meetings.)
In a word, it was joyless. It felt like God had left the building.
So in 2001, we went church-shopping, and stayed for four years at a new-style evangelical mega-church that our fifth grade daughter wanted to attend.
First let me say, the music was invariably delightful and moving beyond words. Many sermons were insightful, enjoyable and certainly biblical. And some wonderful, Godly people are members of the mega-church.
In four years, we never saw or heard of a baptism, which was considered a superficial. Communion was celebrated only a couple times yearly. And never once did we recite the Lord's Prayer or the Nicene or Apostles' Creeds. At first, this felt freeing. But after a while, I missed them. Then, I really missed them. And I knew that God was whispering to me....
MInistries to serve the poor, the homeless and the hungry were almost non-existent. Servant ministries meant doing work around the church for fellow attenders or staff, not for the outside community or world. Community outreach was defined as bringing or inviting others to attend this church. I once confided in a few that I was active in literacy programs at the local public library. Several were astonished (and a tad horrified) that I would give time to the public library rather than the church library.
I'll never forget the deliberate and rampant nepotism present in every aspect, every program, every decision, every single action of that church. It's an entirely different leadership model that I've ever seen or heard of in a church. The nepotism led to interpersonal dynamics completely foreign to my 50 years of church experiences. It led to cliques, intransparencies, vast insularity, and imperviousness to fresh ideas and flexibility. And it led to constant judgment of those outside the mega-church.
And then....my blood still boils about this....in Fall of 2004, the church allowed Focus on the Family-sponsored and legally-sanitized voter registration booths to operate outside the sanctuary after Sunday services. I kept my mouth shut....speaking up wouldn't change their actions, and would only make waves for my poor family. Conservative politics on the church steps, heartily approved by the pastors. They should've just hung a sign: Inclusiveness not practiced here. (Wait...maybe they did.)
The high school program to which Andrea was headed to was not.....healthy. She felt and knew that as strongly as we did. (I'll leave that one alone in this blog.)
While we dutifully completed our obligations, we carefully researched and called churches in the area, embarrassed to again be church-shopping.
In June 2005, when we attended Messiah Lutheran Church for the first time, we were promptly met by Pastor Ron, who chatted with us for a few minutes before service. We left with a CD of snazzy praise songs by some of the musical ministry team, smiles and cheery greetings from many, and a good feeling.
The Lords' Prayer is said with fervor each week, and the pastors don't appear bored. Communion is taken twice monthly, and it's a sacred time. Joy infuses worship, study, play and service. The Holy Spirit is present.
We know that churches are not perfect, and that pastors are fallible people, just like the rest of us. We know that programs can't be and aren't designed to suit just a few. (We've learned that Lutherans are not particuarly expressive during praise songs.) And we know that, like all living organizations, churches go through cycles of feast and famine, good times and bad.
We made a commitment today. We will be there, as God has called us there.
We are grateful and quite thrilled.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
As I work and drive, my music preferences are light jazz, soothing classical notes and the occasional Christian praise tune. I do savor the music of some rock and pop artists. Carlos Santana. The poet laureate of my generation, Bob Dylan. R.E.M. The late, great, smooth Marvin Gaye. My secret 70s vice, John Denver and his love of Colorado and the environment. And, of course, my lifetime heroine, Joan Baez. (Framed and on my office wall is one of the original Apple"Think Different" ads with Joan Baez. Best ad campaign ever....) I admire an eclectic basket of musical artists.....I even like some hip-hop.
So I sit here writing, and listening to my daughter's U2 CDs....The Joshua Tree, All that You Can't Leave Behind and How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.
Good stuff. Updated late sixties-style with flashes of Jim Morrison. Christian. Heartfelt. Souldeep.
(US Liberals at About.com)
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
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 healthy.
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....:)