December 07, 2015

Hannukah:: Second Night

The Second Night:

This candle reminds us of the bright light of reason, our unique glory. It is our power to think that sets us apart from all other creatures. When we choose to think, we become masters of all we survey: We build tall structures of steel and glass and send our voices and images across wide spaces, we transform ugliness into beauty and erase the pain of disease. May reason be the guiding light in the lives of all people.

December 06, 2015

Hannukah:: First Night

First Night
We dedicate this candle to Life. Its light will shed its beauty upon all the other lights, just as life makes possible all other values. The earth may exist without life, but existence will have no meaning. Life is the wellspring of value. Life is the fountain of light.

My life has always been full of interest in, affection for and appreciation of the Jewish faith. As a kiddo I grew up with Richie and his Conservative mom and dad and Orthodox Grandma and Grandpa. They were a part of my culture, as were the candles and the music and the reverence for God I'm so drawn to.

When I met Joe Tradii in an advertising agency somewhere in the early 90s, he gave me a gift I use every year in my broad-faithed home. We celebrate Hannukah largely because I want to kindle the lights in a simple act of worship. Remembering, who the Light of the World really is. And also, because I believe it's a deeply beautiful opportunity to commemorate God's faithfulness as the lights burn on our mantle, and we recall what happened with the Macabees.

I'll share Joe's gift with you. The home service we use each year. The thoughts are gorgeous. They make me consider. The language and ideas are pertinent today as they would have been ten, twenty, fifty, seventy, a hundred years ago. Like they will be tomorrow.

After the traditional Hebrew prayers, there is a blessing for the year and a blessing for each night (like the one above). I hope you enjoy the poetic simplicity. And, may God bless you.


A candle is a small thing,
but one candle can light another,
And see how its own light increases,
as a candle gives its flames to the other,
You are such light,
Light is the power to dispel darkness.

You have the power to move back the darkness in yourself and in others.
To do so with the birth of light,
creates when one mind illuminates another,
when one heart kindles another,
when one man strengthens another.

Throughout history, dictators large and small
have tried to darken, diminish
And separate men by force. But always in the end they fail.

For always, somewhere in the world,
the light remains;
ready to burn its brightest where it is dark:
a light that began
when God created the world.

And every free people has remained free
by resisting those who would
extinguish in men the light
of freedom,
of love,
of truth.

To do our daily part to increase this light,
we remember that a candle alone is a small thing,
a man alone is a small thing,
a nation alone is a small thing,
Remembering this,
we must recognize something much
more than our indispensability to us.

We cannot hope --
either as individuals or nations --
to reach our highest capabilities
until we help those around us reach theirs.
To be strong
the strong must serve.
You too are strongest
when you serve.

Birthday of the World.

November 09, 2015

Day 3:: Simply yes! Telling the truth

I like how not very bold this looks.
But it is a bold statement. And, once again, this week, it comes from reading what I was told to read (Hi Krissy!):
Telling Secrets.

I promise, after reading I started with undone before I got to yes. I sat in my office weeping. Had to close the door. Then my friend walked in to see how my weekend was to find me with the drippy eyes. I just went on to tell my truth.

I have so much work to make the big number required, and I feel alone. (I am not alone.) I am struggling to be a great mom as I raise a very strong-willed teenager. (I am a strong-willed grown up.) I am exhausted. (Even though I slept 7.5 hours last night.)

I like that when she asked, I didn't say fine. She was kind and climbed up on a ladder to change my (not-yet-reset) clock to PST. It relieved some stress and I felt a little loved.

So yes to truth!
Yes! Yes! Yes!

November 08, 2015

Day 2:: Simply Yes -- My cold, dead hands

Well, from hello to heavy with joy I go.
Krissy got off the phone this morning saying, go watch Glennon's video on cold, dead hands. Go! And write.

I take direction well (sometimes). So I cozied on to the comforter on the couch and watched it.

First: wow.
Second: yes.

Being unwilling to live one more minute carrying shame for any offensive move is ridiculous. Even if you haven't forgotten or forgiven me. I've seen it. I've acknowledged it. I've repented to God. I've apologized to you (and you, and you). And, I've been forgiven by the only One who could count it all against me. So, yea, I'm choosing to walk away from it. Dropping the stuff that I've been willing to hold on to as an eternal penance. But what Glennon said is so, so true. The whole point of my faith is that someone else took on the darkness of my dark behavior -- I'm through with it if I'm willing to accept the GRACE and let the shame go.


For this moment, those things, like my volume, my disagreement, my forgetfulness, my being unlovable, my dismissiveness, my messiness and my unkind words are all left at an altar.


I don't have any reason to go back and pick them up. My hands are filled with grace. And when I'm able to fill my hands this full, just try keeping me from joining the dance.

I already knew all of this. I just had to say the simple yes.


November 07, 2015

31 Day Challenge:: Yes!

My lovely friend Kris just challenged me to write everyday, specifically she challenged me to 31 days of saying yes. So, here I am -- yes. Challenged. See the intro post from Lonette Baity here.

I'm in. And as I hung up the phone and walked from the kitchen to the couch I heard the words Faithful Consistency. 

What a perfect relationship. Consistency and a 31 day challenge. I'm noticing more and more that my Faithfulness, my consistency in things has a big impact. Everyday with the dishes. Everyday with the writing. Everyday with the prayer, the painting, the playing. What ever it is, the benefit is bigger than me.

So Yes. I'm saying yes to 31 days of writing about Yes.

Where are we heading?

August 30, 2015

It is well with my soul.

I'm adjusting, slowly, to my new life as a mom in California with part of my heart walking around in Texas. My son is studying film there. He's my firstborn and a freshman. Off, as he should be, pursuing higher education. It's a very good thing. But it isn't a very simple thing.

There was the work of graduation and packing and moving. Certainly good work and very well done. The real work, though, is in the adjusting gracefully. It's also good work. But doing it well requires some significant amount of vigilance and a whole lot of living very aware of the present. I can be good at that, but that too, is work.

It hasn't been a full week since we said goodbye outside his dorm. The adjusting to the new reality is just beginning. The dogs are still waiting near the front door for him to walk through. I reach for his favorite foods at Trader Joe's. I listen for his car late at night. Not so much melancholy behavior, just habit. We've lived in our old house since he was two. He and his sister are as much a part of this house to us as the walls and windows. Their words, their sounds, their comings and goings are part of the life of us. And it does take some getting used to losing a part of the rhythm section.

Yesterday my daughter found a new breakfast restaurant to try. We love an occasional Saturday breakfast out. We typically go to the same place and order the same things and talk about the same stuff. But, we're looking for new ways of being. It's clumsy. We'll get there.

I was hit with a wave of sadness yesterday because I truly miss this kid I adore. (No one is playing Ben Folds piano riffs in his absence either.) I was talking with someone on the phone when it hit. And, as friends can tend to do, she wanted me not to be sad so she hit me with this thought: "You have to get used to the idea he may never come home. You just have to be ok with that."

I tend not to agree.

After the coldness of the bucket of ice water warmed, I thought, "What I have to do is know all that I know:" He's smart. He's resourceful. He's pursuing what he loves. God opened doors for him to attend a college where only about 8% of the student body is from the 49 states that aren't Texas. He'll be home at Thanksgiving. I'll see him soon. My Dear Husband is fully in this with me. We can connect via text just about anytime. He's launched, (if you like the ship metaphor). He's growing. We can Facetime. He'll be back. He loves his home. He's only 1380.80 miles away. There are airplanes.

That's probably enough for now.

And for now, I'm just planning to allow the adjusting to come as it does. Slowly and gracefully with a few bumps and waves that feel the opposite of slow and graceful. It's time for me to grow. Time for me to settle. And time for me to enjoy time with the beautiful girl we get to know anew, in a one-on-one way now. Time he had before she was born.

Tomorrow I can adjust to the lower grocery bills.

It is all well with my soul.

August 01, 2015


I'm enjoying my summer of denial.
I'm spending a fair amount of time denying that I'll be back at work full time rather soon.
I'm spending time denying that my boy will be packing up for his first year of college far, far away in a couple of weeks.
I'm also spending time denying that my garage needs a good clean out.

This means we've had days of indoor reorg, cooking, movies and walks with dogs and now, finally, some art.

I'm taking this super fun online class at CreativeBug with the quite wonderful Pam Garrison. A class on Creative Sketchbooking with the first exercises intended to help you free up art ideas. So up my alley.

Here's my first non-dominant hand ink and paint process.

My girlie was sitting along and drawing along with me and she urged me to try a bird like Pam's. I love birds (see blog title) and kinda laugh at the outcome. Fun. Fun. Fun.

I see a bit of influence from the art journal peops I tend to follow. And a lot of me. Leaves and hearts seem to show up quite a bit. And blueberries.

You should try this course! I don't know how I missed out on the VALUE of Creative Bug. Monthly price ($4.95?) and seemingly unlimited opportunities to learn and play
Even the amazing Yao Cheng teaches watercolor. Really how did I miss this?

Go! Find something and create.

July 12, 2015

The Cavern

I am well aware that I have a penchant for challenges.
But this one, well, it's gone too far.
I tried the Lumosity brain games. Just to, ya know, improve my brain. But I got stuck. I found a game that appeals to my sorting mind and just like the gamers in my life, I bit on the challenge.
I have to say hours of my free time have gone to "seeing if I can get that high score."
This morning I was perusing my sketchbook teacher's blog and wondered how I'd drifted from my favorite pursuit. I watched this and remembered that joy is in the challenge, for sure, but the outcomes with art are pure satisfaction.

And then I heard the word.


I've fallen into a gully.
I shall now climb out.

May 23, 2015

Persistence rewarded.

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not: unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

-Calvin Coolidge

As a parent, I'm all too often concerned about getting it done, arriving on time, being sure they've eaten, said their prayers and finished all the homework. We're at the end of the school year and for one of my two, the end of high school itself. The end of the year seems to bring heaps of homework summarizing what they've learned before studying for final exams and then the end-of-the-year concerts, try-outs, banquets. 

In these weeks of work there are also honors. My daughter tried out for our high school's elite Madrigal Choral group and made it, and she was offered a singing spot on the Praise Team. She and her big brother performed a beautiful guitar and vocal rendition of City of Lions Shining Star. And after 4 years in the top jazz band, which meant Zero Period two to four days a week (depending on the year), my son was honored with the Louis Armstrong Jazz Award at the final jazz concert last night. Sure, I'm a proud mama, I'm thrilled for both of them truly. But the thing I'm most delighted about is that they get it. They understand the thing my dear, dear Uncle Jimmie shared with me and my cousins in our generation -- it's all about persistence and determination. And they have it in buckets. Buckets they're willing to carry and fill just about every day to get where they hope to go.

He wants to direct films, so since he was a freshman he and his friend Noah have shot footage, cut videos and made a couple of films to enter in festivals. (Both of them have taken top honors more than once together and on their own.) When my son didn't get in on the first round of (pretty competitive) film school admissions applications, he wrote appeal and support letters detailing the co-curricular work he does to augment his and his peer's school experience. He connected with counselors, admissions officers and deans to give them the reasons he should be a part of the student body. I was astounded by the quality and volume of work he did. And, it yielded an awesome result. He got in to one of the top 10 film schools in the country last week. It's a wonderful thing, the reward. But I honestly believe the gift was in the exercise -- perhaps the most valuable of his life.

In 6th grade my daughter and I attended Mother Daughter camp and found ourselves on a treasure hunt where, at one site, we were to share with each other something we really want to do in our lives. She shared that she wanted to become a singer. We wrote both of our dreams on rocks with a Sharpee marker and prayed, promising to uphold and support each other in these dreams. The very next week I sought out a vocal teacher who agreed to a six week trial for her. Five years later, after weekly sessions learning how to use her voice, she got into that Madrigal Choir and onto the Praise team.

God provides talent and I believe He also instills the dreams, it's a beautiful thing. But how many dreams do I have, do you have, that weren't really nurtured and attended to? Several for me. But those that get/got the attention and support of the sometimes agonizing work, are the ones we get close to or actually put our hand on.

When someone said the other day that my kids are lucky I graciously agreed (probably correcting to the word blessed in my head). But what I wanted to say is that they are lucky to understand that hard work is the only way you get what you want. Good old, determination and persistence. Not money or connections or even talent. Work.

My daughter was just invited to audition for a choir which, if she makes it, will perform at Carnegie Hall. She's ready to get to work preparing an Italian Song and one more classical offering for the audition tape. I'm excited at the opportunity she'll have -- upping her game in a tough genre. But ya know what came into my mind first? The joke.

How do you get to Carnegie Hall?


April 05, 2015

Easter dinner musings

Everyone's gone after the evening and I'm thinking about how much story is in our wonderful family dinner. For years, since the kids were little we had a simple Easter dinner with Honeybaked Ham, my sisters potato salad, a caesar and Easter candy. A few years ago my niece, not a ham fan, asked why the menu never changes. So we changed. Last year it was salmon.

This year as I was musing about the menu, Ina Garten's Provencal Lamb roast jumped into my experience and became the centerpiece for the day.

My Grandma Edith used to cook a leg of lamb for Sunday dinner every few months. She'd prep the lamb, stud it with onion slices and roast it perfectly. (Edith Mary loved the kitchen.) She'd make a proper mint sauce, not jelly, our roots are from England. So lamb is a very comfortable part of my repertoire. Ours for Easter was roasted with a Provencal taste -- tomatoes and onions, balsamic vinegar, honey and dijon mustard​, thyme and garlic.

We had roasted potatoes the way Maureen Feldman​ serves them, cubed and cooked with a bit of fresh rosemary and butter. My friend Julie Prendiville Roux​ introduced me to 400 degree roasted carrots about fifteen years ago and I make them very often. Laurie O'Toole​ gave me the recipe just yesterday for asparagas bundles wrapped with bacon and lemon peel and roasted, and we enjoyed purple and white roasted cauliflower with credit to Sheri Litherland​ and Mary Arranaga Landis​. Margaret Gill​ brought her new recipe for Irish Soda Bread and her in-demand potato salad which is a must have when Grama brings ham, which she did. We finished, much later, with macerated strawberries and a little vanilla ice cream. A dish that graced the Sunday dinner table a throughout summer when I was a kid.

I love it. Not all from a recipe book or a magazine, but a little map of our history spread about the aqua linen tablecloth, bedecked with the multi colored foil of See's chocolate eggs and sprinkled with both the light of the candle and the love of a family's shared history.

January 25, 2015

Keep Practicing!

I have a newfound appreciation for the art of practice.
My very earliest recollections of practice were when I was eleven and a violin was placed in my hands. Initially the practice was just to be able to find a note. Get a sound.

But then, it became about finding a string of notes, a lyric, a rhythm and at some point it became about playing. Oh! The double entendre. Playing. Not so much for me at the time. I was working! I wanted to be really good, I wanted to have my teacher and my friends notice this. But of course, it takes facility. All this practicing wasn't building to one point, it was the point. Somehow either the adults around me never said it, or I just didn't get it.

Practice is exploring.
Practice is learning.
Practice is the path.

It can be that we practice what we love. If we let go, we can fall in love with what we practice. 

Since seeing the movie Whiplash, my son, a fairly talented trumpet player, has taken to loads more practice sessions. He sees the connection. Practice is a path leading to the level where he'll have more freedom. 

Me? I love to write. I have since high school, (which was a while ago). I began, then, filling spiral bound notebooks with words. And poems, and ideas and rants and schemes and dreams. I wrote and write because I love words. I love connections. I love the connections that words allow. Words in my head and words on a page. Strings of words that at some point become a real idea. Many mornings as I get those pages filled, I'm simply exploring -- practicing moving my hand and my mind together.

I've tried to keep this in my thought as I've approached other arts. So, some twenty months ago the words art journal came across my path and I added some art to a journal and then more and then, I, who know nothing about art, was making some art. Gratefully, I could hear my own words -- the ones I'd said to my kiddos when they were little and playing with art:

Art is an exploration.

Today Pam Garrison shared a bit about how important the rhythm of practice really is. Her work is wonderful. Always an inspiration, and because she writes about it in her fabulous blog -- we get a peek into how she thinks and all the joy she spills all over the place. While you go there, just look at all the practice. (It doesn't look to me like she wants her teacher to notice what she got right.)

All of this reminds me of the Ira Glass quote floating around right now. 

Then I remembered, I'd found something similar on the interwebs a while ago and pinned it somewhere. It's important. Oh, and it turns out Pam Garrison put dip pen to paper to share it. 

Here's my take: Practice doesn't make perfect. Practice makes possible.

Oh, and thanks Pam.

January 10, 2015

A perfect day.

I wait for this day every year. It doesn't always get here. This is a downside to living in beautiful Southern California. Rainy days? Not so many.

But today is just lovely. It's not too cold. The rain is constant and just a drizzle. Things are in a beautifully chaotic state with Christmas being packed away for another year.

The Narcissus is blooming.

And my big dog? Well, he can't decide if he wants to be in or out, so we pass in the kitchen, often.

The pup and I were up very early to pick up papers from the vet so she could go to obedience school. Then school. Coffee in the rain with my friend and her doggy. I just said coffee in the rain. Ya really can't say that very often here in our town. But we sat outside at the Starbuck's with our poochies until the drizzle turned to drops and got a bit soaked walking the dogs back to our cars.

The first part of the day had Lucy and me just a bit exhausted. I made a fire out of our wonderful cedar firewood. Crack! Pop! Good night right there on the living room floor. I snoozed a bit and was joined by both Lucy and my girlie. At this point, I'm heading back to Christmas while the two of them nap.  I'm in and out with boxes (and my big old German Shepherd) and just enjoying every minute.

Crackling fire. Raindrops. Naps. Reorganizing.

This is my idea of a perfect day.

A nice cup of tea is in order, don't you think?


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