Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas (No Humbug)

The path of true love never did run smooth. It's never more true than with God's love for mankind. Just ask anyone who was at the heart of the miraculous story of the virgin birth. But you'd best side-step the question nowadays. Most everyone is offended, apparently,  buy the mere mention of our deepest affections, our most ancient sentiments, the core of our beliefs.

Of course this isn't true. It's a cultural lie. We have far more tolerance than we're given credit for, at least here in the mainland, despite the vague sort of pressure that's coming from 'them', those Scrooges who exist in the social consciousness, to silence the words "Merry Christmas". They may as well bury us with a stake of holly in our hearts.

Decades, even millenia of tradition have shaped the modern European/American definition of the holiday (a word that comes from holy day) from the practice of hanging greenery and singing special songs, to the gift-giving frenzy that literally drives economies. It's all rather a phenomenon of gargantuan proportions. 

The legend of Kris Kringle, St Nicholas, or more recently Santa Claus has been at the heart of the celebration of the birth of Christ for as long as western civilization existed, and every western culture and a few eastern ones too, have traditions a mile long. In addition, every celebrating family has their own brand of festivity. 

Every December of my 56 year old memory has been filled with the anticipation of the 25th day. There are countdowns of every imaginable kind, but none with such magnetic attraction as the calendar in my head. Each year is different yet the charm of the season continues to deepen for me as I grow older. My own tradition encompasses a rich musical heritage and a lion's share of baking and eating along with gift giving on a modest scale, (although that term is relative when it comes to Christmas).
We generally visit the re-telling of the original nativity story in multiple ways, including engaging in some musical performance of one type or another. We set up a tree, and hang decorations inside and out. We find a way to give to the less fortunate, and we are all rather warmed up but worn out when it's all over. There is always, for me a defining moment each year, a still, quiet moment when, like the Grinch, I realise the true meaning of Christmas and am changed in some way. It's all rather magical.

Give up "Merry Christmas" in favor of "Happy Holidays"? I'd rather die. My initial reaction is that it's not as much about my faith, if I were brutally honest, though that  does figure in. It's about a practice so steeped in tradition that it's as  inseparable to my being as the flour is to an already baked sugar cookie, or should I say the as the brandy is to the frutcake, but a practice that springs from faith, I am reminded. No holiday has been created simply to be a holiday. There has to be a core, a heart. And the birth of Christ the Savior of mankind is at the heart of Christmas, the reason for 'the spirit of giving'. 

Many times I've tried to imagine a world, a year without Christmas. So far I have failed.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Gospel According to Who?

The British are clever.

They've created a story with a built-in revolving cast of characters that has continued to appeal to the masses for multiple generations. 

I'm not sure that the fan mania over Doctor Who has as much to do with the clever, yet sometimes cheesy story lines, or the superb casting and riveting, attractively interesting characters, although as a shameless Who devotee I enjoy all these elements.  It occurs to me that there might be something subtler at work. There are some elements of our ancient belief system that have informed the writers of the series, and this is the reason I believe we 'get it'.


There is evil afoot in the Doctors's Universe. The bad guys are many: from human fears personified as doll-monsters, hideous figures with terrifying piranha-like teeth for faces, statues that come to life only when you're not looking, walking snowmen, to the Daleks, super robotic machines whose only goal is to "exterminate" the Doctor and all he stands for. I'll spare you the pedantic parallels. 


The Doctor flies through the universe as a reincarnating (read resurrecting)Time Lord in a machine called the Tardis. It is labelled, ironically? as a police call box painted a royal shade of blue. When a new character discovers the Tardis they often remark in surprise, "It's bigger on the inside!" The idea that there must be more than the here and now creates the most puzzling mystery for all of mankind (almost as puzzling as the actual identity and name of the Doctor). We are trapped in time and space, yet we instinctively "know", or at least we hope there is more to both time and space than we have heretofore been able to fully understand. Oh, and did I mention that the Doctor knows the future? I promised to spare you the parallels but I can't help myself.


The concept of rescue and or redemption strikes at the heart of all good narratives. It forms the basis of every hero figures' main purpose. We love a hero almost as much as we identify with the victim figure. In every episode the Doctor saves someone. 


The fact that he is a rescuer certainly doesn't mean that all relations with the Doctor are warm and fuzzy. We don't even know his real name, and when he morphs into the new Doctor, the physical form is new and unfamiliar. He is often percieved as harsh and unfeeling, devoid of mercy and love just before he saves the day, often sacrificing himself in some way. "Is he mad or is he right?" his followers ask, and as one exasperated companion of the Doctor observes, "He'll get us out of here. The difficult part is not killing him before he can."

He is the ultimate savior type, even though in some episodes we are not sure that he will prove trustworthy or that he will be capable of coming through, there is no doubt that we want him to. Danger, peril, even death and suffering run rampant, especially when the Doctor is around. But one thing is clear. He is not called the Doctor for nothing.

Saturday, November 29, 2014


LA you are my secret crush. Even stuck in traffic I adore being here. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Day in the Life

It was an unbelievable shopping trip. I started at Macy's designer clothing section and chose my favorite outfits. Then I picked up a couple bottles of cologne and some new cosmetics. I outfitted my linen closet with fresh towels and sheets, and tossed in a chic new loveseat (delivered next week) for my family room.

Turning right outside Macy's I picked up the diamond ring at Kay's I'd been drooling over, and then I stopped at the Shoebox and grabbed a pair of walking shoes, some sensible flats, and a pair of snappy dress shoes.

Then I snatched up a bag full of body lotions and room fresheners at Bath and Body, and swooped into Cinnabon for a dozen cinnamon rolls to go for breakfast the next morning.

The cost? Nothing. 

It happened in my imagination. 

And it got me thinking. 

What if this was my life? Would a shopping trip like this be exciting if I could do it whenever I want? Or is it exciting because I can't?

I got to thinking about God, and why He often parcels out blessings a little at a time. Think manna from heaven, and how it came each day. The Israelites couldn't stash it in their coolers or dry it for using next week. Some tried, but it didn't work. They really didn't know if the manna would come every morning, though that is exactly what did happen. 

I have been struggling through the expense of my daughter's wedding. I have no available savings and bit by bit, almost daily, things have been taken care of, sometimes in ways I could not have imagined. I do not know if it will all be provided for. I trust and hope so, but I have no special claim on God's provision. After all, innocent people are being beheaded, dying of cancer, contracting Ebola and a myriad of other catastrophes befall mankind perpetually. 

I also thought about how God, who is timeless, could have gifted us with our life all at once, as He experiences reality, but instead He gave us the gift of life in the day-tight compartments we all sometimes take for granted. Apparently one day at a time is the best way.

After I had glutted my imagination with a dream shopping trip, I had a sudden thought. 'I should get something for my husband.' Not once had I thought of shopping for anyone but myself. Well, I may have shared the cinnamon rolls. And even now it was guilt not pure altruism that brought me to think of him. I'd rather not share this with you, but I suspect I am not totally alone.

His mercies are new every morning. It's a good thing. I'll be needing a fresh supply each day.

Saturday, October 11, 2014


The notes rolled off my fingers, taking with them little peices of me. 

Each eighth note, each sixteenth that flew by took it's toll. 

I am left with music ringing in my ears, and a mixed voice of relief, regret, but mostly a job well done.

There were, of course, some wrong notes, some ill-timed ones, and some not as clear and confident. Of that I am painfully aware. 

We do not achieve perfection. We keep trying, knowing that we can get closer each time than we were before.

I did not run a marathon. In fact, I barely got my dishes done, but I did play a lot of notes.

The day is done, and I am done too. 

Such is the life of a pianist. 

Monday, September 29, 2014

An Open Letter to Republicans/Conservatives

Dear Ones,

We hold the last bastion of traditional thought. But blabbering it abroad indiscriminately is akin to holding a viper in one's bosom.

This viper will bite and suck until it has drawn the last drop of blood from our collective veins because the 'other team' and even some of our own do not include the word 'tradition' in their vocabulary except as a profanity. Tradition and by extension all of it's relatives, such as constitutionality, and reverence for the founding fathers of America constitute profanity against progressivism; a drag on the marketplace of ideas that frankly are the driving factor behind most big business.

Can you imagine for a moment what might happen to the most prominent market genuis of our day, if they used the idea of tradition as a marketing ploy? Yeah, well those who dis Apple, the ultimate model of success, do so at their own peril.

It's not that traditional values are the enemy of the modern world, because they aren't. In fact you probably agree with me that they are a big part of the answer for the onslaught of violence, poverty and pain in our world. However the perception that one is remaining in or returning to the past endgenders all kinds of nightmares including but not limited to, slavery, the oppression of women, and a world without, *gasp* the constant flow of communication and information.

Now, I know that for us T/C types this is not necessarily true, but it must be understood before any ground is gained on the poitical front. "Know thy enemy" was never more crucial advice.

If I hear another politician on the right use the phrase traditional values, I think I will zone out like a kid listening to a sermon on transubstantiation.

Recently I heard a sane voice calling on all candidates to "find the issues that transcend party lines" and it has been buzzing in my head ever since.

While the viper of the semantic of traditionalism is a real danger, the other is more elusive.

It is a lack of vision, a vaccum waiting to be filled by the left with a myriad of social issues that all hunker under one battle cry - "Fairness". Such a nice idea. I wish it could be legislated. While I remove my tongue from being embedded in my cheek, please take a moment to think how the idea of "Fairness" has stripped reason and initiative from the country. Lest you mistake, "with liberty and justice for all" as a substitute for fairness, may I suggest that "fairness" at least in our household of four daughters, is a dead ringer for dissension and lack of unity.

Here then is the vision that is so sadly needed. Unity. One people. All different. Life has not treated them all the same. It never does. Get over it. Get beyond it. We may have forgotten that we are one people, no matter our party affiliation. We must remember it lest we tear ourselves apart.

Let's go after a "more perfect union" and let's take everyone with us.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Mother Only a Son Could Forgive

When Philip Oglesby's mother is in the room, the tone is unmistakably, well, not motherly. She has a demeanor that dominates by insulting decency itself. This is precisely why he did not really want to visit her on Mother's Day. 

But, in fact, he did. And that visit rewarded him with a trip to jail for being an accessory to Williemaye Oglesby's armed robbery of a church. But that's not the most insane outcome of the story that Vincent crafts from the sardonic tale of lost childhood, neglect, and dysfunction that runs so deep you can cut it with a knife. Amid the backdrop of the American south, complete with comfort food, nepotistic law enforcement, and what would be a comedy of errors but for the sobering fact that Vincent just might know about this firsthand, we are treated to a backdoor peep into rural America. But the most remarkable element of the story is the choice that Philip Ogelsby makes after the chaotic and  criminal way he has been treated by the woman who should have protected him, proving once again that evil can be overcome with good. 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Coming Back

A stranger for a time to the traditions and habits of my faith, I crawl back on tender knees and ask my Father if He has minded too terribly that I took a Sabbatical from the trappings of a world that had grown too narrow, too dusty, and too cramped for my bursting lungs. The only guilt I have is from the echos of mortals I can't seem to emulate in their self-flagellation, their view from the bottom. 
He seemed to say, "We've been here all along. But then, for that matter there's nowhere that we aren't. You haven't gone so far after all. Glad you got some air."
Does anyone understand this? 

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Dr. Who?

The doctor makes house calls. In fact, he traipses through my living room almost nightly.

Yes. I'm hooked.

Cheesy? Yep. Unbelievable plot line and trekky-like sci-fi props? Yep.

British accents? Well, yes and more. Scottish and Welsh. American English and Dalek. Oops, I just slipped into that annoying fan habit of referencing a show as if everyone knows what I'm talking about,

But...if you are still reading, you probably do. 

So I'm among friends, then? Good. Just please don't respond with ANY spoilers about ANYTHING, since I have no idea what season I'm in or how much on either end I've missed. I've just been time-travelling with the doctor, and I can't always keep track of where I am.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Final Score

The flu and I tangled. There was pain. There was blood. There was phlegm. And an awful lot of tissue.
Flu lost.
I won.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Requiem For American Bread

 I came. I saw. I ate bread.
German Brot. 

I now, I know. I should have been wowed by the cathedrals, especially the monstrously big one at Cologne. 
the castles,

the autobahn, the beautiful and quaint old streets and houses,
the beer.

I was...but.

The bread. 

How do we keep a country running on Sara Lee, Wonder, Little Debbie, and Dunkin Donuts?

*Embarrassed pause*

I think I just discovered the secret of the universe. 

You heard the one about the tourist who walks into a German bakery and asks for a loaf of bread?
Yeah, never happened. It was always two loaves or three if I could get away with it. I smuggled three loaves through customs. Everyone told me I couldn't. "Hid" one in each piece of luggage and they all made it through. 

So now I am attempting to make this delicious hearty food of the gods. The problem is it takes about 12-14 days all told to make. So my sourdough starter is fermenting on the counter, and I am salivating as I type.

More on this later...

Highlights from the trip to Germany that were unrelated to bread.

Beautiful. Hard to walk on for hours.

The castle at Krefield. A medieval castle complete with moat, turrets and a dungeon. When I walked onto the grounds, I felt for just a moment that I was a princess stepping into a dream.
Until I had to climb the steps to the tower. I remembered  I wasn't in tiptop shape. This was painfully obvious by the last set of quaint, winding irregular stairs. 

The Brandenburg Gate.
The Bundestag.
The complete lack of homeless people. Ok well, I did see three. And that was three total in three major cities. But for the most part I observed a lot less fear of crime as corroborated by my amazing, wonderfully gracious native German hosts. We left cameras in our car, with no problem.

 I entered a metal flying machine and was whisked away to another world. I will never be the same.

I even used a little of the German I've been working on. Ein bisschen. 
And now it's a memory logged in my heart and mind forever. And if I can manage it, in my digestive system in the future. Pictures of my sourdough starter to come in a future blog. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

What To Expect On Your First Plane Ride

In must confess, I stole this blog idea right out of my daughter's mouth. She and I were talking on a morning ride, and as usual we were throwing out ideas that we had as they came up. We do this constantly. This is both a blessing and a curse, because we never do even half of the great ideas we come up with! 

"Why don't we write a post for first time flyers?" She suggested. And I, supposing this would go the way of most ideas, said," Sure!" while thinking it would fall under the bridge, as did our idea for getting churches to open recycling centers, and making our own paper from dryer lint. But alas, no. This one is a trifle easier than those two boldly ambitious ideas, and this one will make the cut.

Hence, the post you hold in your hands.

As an experienced flyer, I remember the first flight I ever took, a red-eye from the west coast to the east coast. Back in those days (1978 as far as I recall) they actually offered passengers an inflight meal that was included in the ticket cost. 

Tip #1 Don't expect to be fed. Peanuts, pretzels (or, not  and) individually wrapped shortbread cookies are standard offerings. You will be offered water, juice, soda or coffee and tea. Anything else you pay for. The airport food is abundant but pricey. 

Tip # 2 Expect some turbulence, or not. Yeah, the plane moves and jerks. And sometimes it's still as death. Its a wierd phenomenom that as you reach the cruising altitude and crusing speed (and you'll know this because the pilot/captain will announce it) that it feels like you're not moving at all.

Tip # 3 Along with the announcements you will hear from the cockpit, expect never to have a woman pilot. Well, I'm sure there are a few, but if so, I've never heard of a single one. 

Tip # 4 Expect to hear strange, differing noises. There are often engine noises that crop up from time to time, and the landing gear coming up and down on hydraulics is eerie the first time you hear it.

Tip # 4 Bring foldable legs. I'm pretty sure that they install all the seats closer to each other every year, to pack more people in. Standing up in your seat is not a real option. Trust me on this one.

Tip # 5 Be prepared to balance all that inactivity in your seat with lots of walking in the airport. They've moved everything so far apart, that you will probably walk a mile or two inside the airport just to get to your gate, or to your luggage. 

Tip # 6 Plan to hear a few bad landing jokes from the flight crew. The best one I've heard one was "It's his first landing" after a really rocky one. They weren't kidding. But on that note, don't make any jokes about terrorism. Not unless you want to extend your stay in the airport. 

Tip # 7 You really do have to take off your shoes. so wear some that are easy to remove. The security line does not in any way resemble a dressing room. 

I'd love to hear about your first flight, or your thirty first! 

Happy Jet Streams!!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Life as I know it

There are far too many reasons to live life positively and zero benefits from being negative. 
I think I'll err on the safe side. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Requiem for the Living: A Review

I am a Protestant and not accustomed to hearing the Latin Mass. But as a trained musician I have sung it. I have also sung in German, French, Italian, Old English and Hebrew. I know the hymnal like the back of my hand and can quote from the King James Version of the Bible. In training and sensibilities I am an old soul. 

But none of this prepared me for the grandeur and timeless beauty of Dr. Dan Forrest's Requeim for the Living as performed by The Master's College Collegiate Choir and Orchestra.

It helped that my daughter was a vibrant and joyous alto, sparkling and shining in the back row of the choir. It helped that the performance was set on the beautiful grounds of Forest Lawn overlooking the lights of Los Angeles. It helped that the performance was in a cathedral with 25 foot ceilings and a breathtaking rose window. And it certainly helped that the composer himself was there to explain the motivation and premise for each nuance of the music, and even to divulge clever tricks like the instrumental blast of air illustrating the shortness of life in the Vanitas section of the Mass.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'm eager to talk through the Mass and I'll begin with this explanation: 

A Requiem is traditionally a service to honor the dead, and to pay respect to them in light of God's eternal truth. But this was a Requiem for the living. Incidentally, I'm a piano accompanist by trade, and I'd learned that the choir's accompanist had worked through the first half of rehearsals and then had succumbed to a battle with cancer. She was nearly my age. This was a very real and personal, poignant reminder of my own mortality which I began internalizing before I heard a note of the music.

On another personal note, my grandparents are interred at Forest Lawn, and as the Requiem began I found myself in a state of surprisingly cathartic grief, mourning every family member, friend and acquaintance that had passed on before. I realized then that we, the living, do need a Requiem of our own, if only to bring us to that moment of acceptance and peace in the truth.

And so, the Mass by section:

Introit - Kyrie
"Rest eternal grant to them, O Lord"
The Kyrie, a cry for mercy, begins with a soul rending theme with descending melodic patterns that continue to woo throughout succeeding sections. No cold, austere self flagellation, this is a warm approachable belief in real mercy, supported by texturally complex choral fabric. 

Vanitas Vanitatum
"Vanity of Vanities, all is vanity"
The emptiness of despair often leads to the abandonment of reason and a degradation into what could only described as buffoonery. The orchestra's use of horns to denote foolishness, the odd sounding choral text, and the above mentioned blast of air to denote the brevity of life added to the general rowdy nature of this piece. I found myself suppressing a chuckle or two. Humor is often a gentle reminder of reality. 

Angus Dei
"Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world"
This incorporates a male soprano solo, whose vocal emasculation perfectly illustrates the humility of Christ and the emptying of the divine in order to take on human form, the likes of which I have never heard. In this I saw the form of God and heard His voice. A rich female solo compliments the sentiment as well.

"Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts"
Originally inspired by pictures from the Hubble telescope, the Sanctus offers a sound picture of space, pulling focus away from earth and offering a vast, but corporeal sense of the greatness of God. Later on, in a rush  of orchestral energy described by Forrest to depict a return to the hustle and bustle of humanity, I envisioned the Almighty literally 'gathering up His robes' to meet his Creation, His holiness and power momentarily eclipsed by His great love. Forrest explains how he took poetic license and switched the traditional order of the Sanctus and Angus Dei portions of the mass believing that God's holiness is best understood in light of His mercy. I couldn't agree more. 

Lux Aeterna
"May eternal light shine on them, O Lord"
We are surrounded with a lush blanket of choral and instrumental sound, 'enshrouded' in the truth of the love of God, and the peace that this reality gives us. A male solo, "Come To Me", echoes the voice of our Savior as we contemplate that in eternity all is well in Him. In such surroundings it is easy to believe that God is light and peace. 

Kudos to Maestro Forrest and abundant thanks to the chorus, orchestra and crew of The Master's College for gifting us with such a nourishing musical feast!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Of Language and Music

I've been learning German as fast as possible for the trip Jim and I are planning this summer, and I can tell you it's given me a whole new perspective on the world, myself and every beginning piano student I ever taught.

Review is the key to learning something new, and until now I thought of review as, well, kind of a bore. But after taking up a new adventure like Deutsch, I've come to realize that review can be like the warm fuzzy slippers you come home to at the end of a very long day! When every new thing feels so very foreign then anything that you even vaguely remember feels like an old friend. 

I'm not going to tell you how many times I've repeated listening and saying my new German words and phrases, but I will say that I have, in response to my own learning experience offered a lot more review to my piano students. I'll say, "Let's travel back in time and hear a song you learned a long time ago", or,"Pick out one of your favorite songs and play it for me". Usually they are delighted to play something easy, but if not, then we know exactly where to reinforce older concepts! Brilliantly simple.

By the way, I'd like to offer a plug for the two programs I've been using for my German studies (besides a very patient German friend). These are the Coffee Break German lessons by Radio Lingua on the soundcloud app and the wie geht's app. Both have been extremely easy to use and totally free. When I get a little more advanced, I may have to pay a small amount, but it'll be a while.

It is so exciting to learn something new, and even more exhilarating to share it!

Ausgezeichnet! It's a perfect German word to describe how I feel!
Gute Nacht, und bis spater! 

The letters below were spotted on a trip to a local dairy, and are a logo for the company that made the steel milking machines. Of course I had to take a picture. 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Why We Love Disneyland

Well, duh. Who doesn't love Disneyland?!
But my recent trip there caused me to think about the reason for the universal appeal of Walt Disney's "Happiest Place On Earth", and what is underneath the multi-billion dollar empire. Disney is currently worth somewhere around $35 million. What is behind it all?
My latest trip came about because I recently got a job accompanying a junior high choir that has had the privilege of performing at Disneyland for many years. This was their 19th trip! 
My epiphany came inside the 'Haunted Mansion'. This ride is not nearly as scary as it could be, which could be said of most of the rides, but in case you haven't been (and chances are you have) the entire experience simulates a haunting in which the rider hears and sees the dead in various states of decay and suffers apparition like appearances, from a body trying to escape its cobwebby coffin to the lively dancing among the ghosts in the haunted dining room. There is a seance, with objects floating around in the air, and finally a long hallway where mysterious knocks are heard at every door. 
Just before the exit a clever mirror trick allows us to see a projected image of a 'hitch hiking'ghost sitting beside us in our 'doom buggy'. Presumably narrated by 'the deceased', the experience culminates in a voice from a hologram admonishing us as we leave, "Bring your death certificate next time, in case you decide to join us!"
Despite the macabre tone of this attraction, the Haunted Mansion is a popular ride for all ages and never ceases to lure us all to stand in line behind scores of people to get in. Even though the entire ride would be a complete nightmare if real, it still mirrors the reality of death which no living person ever escapes. But the caveat. 
SOMEONE is in charge. SOMEONE will make sure we don't actually end up in the coffin or the hearse or even see a real ghost. SOMEONE is protecting us from our worst nightmare while displaying it to us in living audio-technicolor.
I think it is the knowledge, or call it a wish to know that no matter how horrible things appear, SOMEONE is in charge. SOMEONE will keep us safe in the happiest place on earth. Who wouldn't want that? 

Friday, February 28, 2014


All the rain we've been praying for is coming! It just happens to be the weekend we are going to Disneyland. 
But no complaints-we'll take it;-)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Creative Crunch and Sauce on the Back Burner

I'm in a bit of a frenzied flurry of creative activity right now. Does that ever happen to you?
It must be Spring, and the accompanying awakening of earth after winter, but my schedule as well as my brain is swimming in new ideas and projects. Among the directorship of a play, teaching private piano, accompanying for a middle school and our church choir, hosting a writer's meeting, teaching a writer's workshop, and planning drama classes, I have the dream of continuing my education on the back burner. Frankly, the pan is starting to burn - it's been on there so long.

I've narrowed it down (or to continue the metaphor, reduced the sauce) to an interdisciplinary Master's degree that incorporates my three interests, Music, English and Theology.  My goal is to be more of an expert in literacy as it relates to the christian culture by association to the world in general. The trends I've seen in the Christian church lately have spurred my interest in the whole 'christianization of a culture' and how that relates to literature, entertainment and music. My fear is that modern christianity may soon be reduced to a very trendy lifestyle 'scene-ism' that further marginalizes the group of people who as Eric Metaxas so eloquently phrased it "have the secret to the universe".

Now, to find a place that fosters this plan of study. It would need to be a place that can embrace a diverse and broad range of ideas, without the threat of heresy breathing down the student's (my) neck. And at the same time it must be a place that takes the idea of the christian faith seriously as a philosophy and not as  a fanatical delusion. Hmmm...any ideas?

Meanwhile, I've got a novel to edit and submit, and a bit of a household to run. It's no wonder creatives are labeled as crazy.

Friday, February 14, 2014

V - day Nudge

Love on, for love is free. Everyone can afford it. Everyone needs it.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


"The power of the word is real whether or not you are conscious of it... Behind every word flows energy."
-Sonia Choquette

Saturday, February 1, 2014


Packing a big box of socks for the troops in Romania. Thanks everyone! Keep it coming - socks and candy still needed. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Operation Free X

My baby brother is in the Army. He's the one on the right.
Read here about how I'm collecting socks, candy and toiletries for him to distribute at the transitional hub for soldiers returning from active duty in Afghanistan. 

Saturday, January 25, 2014

World News From My Perspective

Disclaimer: I get most of my news from the internet and the rest from my family and friends.

I have an eclectic view of the world, and so do you. We simply can't help it. Everyone has a vanishing point, and due to the nature of perspective, it cannot be the same for any two people.

From my vantage  point, Afghanistan is losing several thousand troops and may face a tough transition. But then Afghanistan is no stranger to tough times. Does anyone know what's going on in Iraq (besides constant bombings)?Africa is not exactly fulfilling all of Mandela's dreams (yet).The Ukraine is streaming live video of what must be the longest continuing protest in history (unless you count France's ongoing protest against morality) over the government's involvement or lack of such in the European Union, while Germany is playing big brother (big sister, if you will) to the other members of the EU, and still manages to lead economically around the world. Egypt is just happy, for a change, that the  attention is diverted elsewhere, and it can make plenty of money on those sheets that cost twice as much if they're 'Egyptian cotton'. China (if we're talking economics, we can't leave out China) holds the biggest note from the US, who is making a slow comeback in financial matters, and absolutely can't seem to find a way  to keep random citizens from shooting strangers in public. Russia is simply too big and confusing to get my head around, especially now that Mr.Snowden is in exile(?) there. I think Russia is my vanishing point. By the way, China makes laws to keep the population down, and the US just legalizes abortion. Is there a difference in outcome? Due to the high price charged  to US in Kyrgystan, (where, let's face it peace doesn't exactly run rampant) Romania is soon to be the new host to most of those troops coming from Afghanistan, but is experiencing a shake-up due to a failure in the newly rolled out (and very expensive) overhaul of their national emergency system (similar to our 911).

In a nutshell: Afghanistan can't manage inner conflict, US steps in to divert attention from its money and family troubles, Germany props up everyone else, while China lends money to make money, but is very private about its own woes. Kyrgystan licks wounds over losing the American account by doubling rent. Romania isn't really ready, but then GI's don't need much. Did I leave someone out? I did leave a lot out, but I warned you this would be eclectic. Besides the rat infested ship drifting dangerously close to Ireland, there's relative calm in the UK.They have Downton Abbey and Sherlock. That's enough drama for one country.

Friday, January 24, 2014


By now most everyone knows about the massive troop draw down in Afghanistan. Whether it will be complete, or partial as has recently been recommended, a lot of military personnel will find themselves in Romania soon.

As Providence would have it, my baby brother, Dan Hamilton's chaplaincy in Bamburg, Germany has been chosen to set up the chapel in the new base in Romania. (Yes, that's Romania, as in the home of Dracula's Transylvania.) He and his crew (not sure how many) will be setting up what he's calling a FREE X, in the absence of a PX. 

Thousands of field weary troops will soon be descending on this new facility (in the process of  being built). Word is they're in need of (among other things) a change of socks. He's also asked for candies of all kinds. I'll be betting the nearest See's is afar off. Another plan is for regular movie nights (Redbox hasn't gotten to Romania yet) so used DVD's will come in handy.

Chances are you know someone who has a loved one in Afghanistan, and if so, consider giving a gift of support if you're able. If you live  in the Modesto, California area here are the drop-off locations for white athletic socks size 10-13 (higher top rather than low top because they wear boots). We'll post again soon for candy and DVD donations.
Community Business College 3800 McHenry Ave
Maris Media Productions 2521 Willow Oak Ct, Modesto Ca,95355
Veteran's Services 121 Downey Avenue
Any monetary gifts can be sent to me, (the Willow Oak Ct location is my address) and 100% of the money you send will go to buy socks or candy for the troops in Romania. We will take care of postage.

You can like us here on facebook and see regular updates. Thanks ahead of time to all of you for your generosity!

Amy Maris

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Unlikely Tryst

Between the hurry and flurry of the holidays and the unfolding of spring there is a no mans land of dead winter.
In that time we feel restless. Something is coming but in the meantime we must get on with the business of life, often without much daylight in which to do it. 
Even in sunny California, where the sun rules most days, the dead trees and cold dark nights hold us in the grasp of a paralyzingly pose between the old and the new year which has not yet unfolded most of it's wonders or bewilderments.
Here we must agree to the handshake of the in between. 
All the while the beauty of blossom and leaf lies hidden, yet growing. 
It is a dance of opposites, and we are in the middle of the dance floor, being led by fate.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bonhoeffer by Eric Metaxas: A Review

If you happened to see telecast of the 2012 National Prayer Breakfast you may have known that the author of this book was the keynote speaker. And if so, I think you'll agree with me that Eric Metaxas is a compelling figure in his own right. His work on Bonhoeffer only legitimizes his voice.

This comprehensive history of Dietrich Bonhoeffer traces his life from the origins of his parents, to his untimely death by execution at age 39. One of the most helpful insights into the complex difficulties of second World War Germany is the detailed correspondence between the various religious leaders, especially of the 'Confessing Church'. This exclusively German religious entity literally shaped the essence of the conflict between Nazi ideology and the prominent conservative protestant bodies of faith. I found it particularly insightful regarding the particular and singular uncomfortable and confusing position that a man of Bonhoeffer's education and intellect must have experienced, as a somewhat wealthy German theologian and as a person with Jewish relatives. 

Perhaps the surprise for me was the gradual and fluid nature of the escalating climate of madness in a country which was not only historically the seat of reformed Protestantism, but also known for its high priority on proper order and precision in daily life. It is easy to  form a simplistic view as an American looking back with the full benefit of hindsight, and quite another thing to live in the center of a maelstrom, (as Bonhoeffer did) and make sense of what is happening around you.

Bonhoeffer's choice to 'work for the enemy' was one that not everyone could make. I find the cunning with which he juggled this and the role of fully engaged and compassionate pastor and theologian as perhaps the most fascinating element of his life.The book left me permanently riveted to the study of World War II
Germany. I highly recommend it. There is also a movie which provides a rather chilling picture (less warm than Metaxas depiction) but a good companion to the book. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Downton Abbey Reflections - Goodbye O'Brien, Among Other Things

Did anyone else want to see O'Brien's face one more time before she took off?

If you ask me, Thomas isn't the same without her. She provided a stiff and strong figure whose absence makes a hole in the staff. No one else seems able to fill the gap. She had the kind of waspish personality we love to hate. I can't seem to dislike Edna enough to let her take that place. Not even when she laughs in cahoots with Thomas (Barrow, if you will).

I don't want to be misunderstood. Julian Fellowes is a master story crafter and I'm still enjoying the series. I even cried over Matthew all over again. But the abruptness of the lady's maid's departure was a low point that only took away from the story rather than enhance it.

Are we sure Branson (Tom) can't find a way to fit in? They all certainly need him. Let's hope he sticks around. There's been far too much leaving.

Moving on to the shocking conclusion of last night's episode, I wonder if my daughter's gut feeling of wariness about Bates (which I don't share) could be right. For Anna's sake, we all hope not.

Favorite quote of the season so far:

"There are all kinds of mothers." - says Granny to Mary. Indeed. And all kinds of sons and daughters. Thank goodness. We aren't all Edith.

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Closet That Holds Everything

It's normal after the excesses of the holiday season to toss out, consolidate, sort and otherwise organize our stuff. Finding places to put everything is somewhat of a challenge for us 'first-worlders'. We have so much and where to put it?

Organizing twenty pairs of shoes is a snap, however, compared to organizing the mind. There I run into a snag very similar to the problem of the clutter I must weed though in my house. Things which I cannot understand are like odds and ends out of place. They can block my peace of mind and drain away my energy. Often, there are circumstances I cannot control and even more puzzling is the question of what to do with the regret and disappointment that I myself have caused.

Many people use a system of organization for their possessions. I believe a system of organization exists for those errant thoughts as well. It is found in the Bible. "For we know that all things work together for good to them that love God." All things? Could this be an awfully big and accommodating closet into which I can put all the troubling thoughts and events of life? In fact, it seems that after I've put in everything I can think of, there's still room for more. That physical disability, those youthful decisions, that money problem, those pesky relatives. Far from taking away every problem, this filing system merely relegates thoughts to the wisdom of God. A safe harbor, a balm for the slings and arrows of life.

God has promised that every part of this life is to be somehow crafted into good. Astounding. Open the door, please, I'm throwing in my disbelief.