Saturday, December 21, 2013

On Being Home for Christmas

*A year ago today, Nana heard the angels sing for real. She enhanced the meaning of Christmas for us, both in life and through death. I am reposting the words I shared at her memorial service.

Paris 1969

I wanted to share the rush of thoughts that flooded my mind Friday, December 21, 2012 when I got the news about my Nana. None of us live forever.  Surely, we all knew this was coming.  At 100 years old, Nana had definitely lived a full and complete life.

Being in California, I was not able to visit her in Sandusky, Ohio very easily or often. Over the past few years, I was painfully aware that every phone call might end up being our last goodbye.

As it turned out, I was in a long line at the post office waiting to mail Christmas presents that Friday so, I didn't take my mom's call when it came in. She had joined the hospice workers at Nana’s side the day before so I sensed I might want more privacy to take her call. I did play back her voicemail though while I waited my turn, to hear her say, “Mother is in the arms of the Lord.”

Time froze at that point and all I could hear was Phillip Phillips, “Home” song piping through the post office loudspeaker. Perhaps you know it from his American Idol fame or from the U.S. gymnastics team theme song from the summer Olympics.

Music has a way of ushering us back and forth between the physical and spiritual realms.  As I sat in my car for awhile, called my mom back, and absorbed the poignancy of Nana's passing and the timing of the song, I couldn't help but be impressed by the tenderness of God.

That very week, I was waiting for my daughter, Allie, to return home from her first semester at college in Boston.  She was due back December 22nd and it wouldn’t really be Christmas until she got here.  I could so easily imagine how Nana must have felt during so many Christmasses past as she welcomed all of our extended family--her 4 children, 10 grands and 21 great grandchildren--home for the holidays.  It was the heart of God in her to welcome us home.

For my entire childhood, we came home to 44th Street in Sandusky for Christmas.  It was “heaven” to us as kids.  Nana made it so. Without fail, she greeted us at back door as arrived from various out of town places.

John 14:2 says, In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?”

Waiting to descend Nana's stairs one Christmas morning
Like heaven, Nana’s house had many rooms. Each one bore the mark of her attention to detail and meticulousness. Like her, they emanated a clean distinctive air, an unattainable blend of Bon Ami, Fels Naptha soap, and peroxide all doused in powder puffs of Crabtree & Evelyn "Nantucket" talc and violets. The kitchen had a bulletin board with pictures of the entire family arranged neat as a pin and prominently displayed for all to see--or find themselves.  You could bank on the cookie jar being full of her trademark ice box oatmeal cookies and a not-so-secret drawer stocked with Snickers, York peppermint patties and packs of Wrigley’s gum. The showpiece of the kitchen was her 1940’s Frigidaire in mint condition inside and out.  It was vintage before vintage was hip.

Her dining room boasted custom mural wallpaper depicting a plantation landscape.  It looked brand new and stylish though it was hung thirty years prior.  Her silver service and glasses were always polished and ready at a moment’s notice.  

In the family room were four built-in knotty pine cubbies, one for each of her children, filled with school photos, wedding portraits and other milestones in that particular branch of the family tree.

Like her, the house was always the same: furnished, appointed, and maintained in picture perfect condition.  She set the bar on cleanliness that Py women ever since strive to attain.  It is no exaggeration that you could eat off her basement floor, maybe even the garage floor.

But she was not a “Martha” about it--the woman in the Bible remembered for being slightly frazzled, harried, perturbed, even resentful.  Quite the opposite, Nana went about her tasks gracefully, as if she were royalty.  She was never rushed or busy bodied.  She always had time to sit and tickle your arm or take a phone call. Try as we might, we will never meet her standard, nor her calm.

There was one room in her house that retained a certain mystery.  The door was often closed, especially if you got up as early as her in the morning.  With practical dark brown carpet and hunter green upholstery, it was not exactly off limits but, we all knew to knock.

There was a safe in the closet of this room that I don’t think I ever entered.  We knew it was there though, for on Christmas morning she’d unlock it and retrieve the traditional minted coin sets for all the grandsons, pearls for the girls, savings bonds and distribution checks for her children. This den was where she kept the valuables.  

It was also her sanctuary. The Lord’s Prayer was framed on the wall; a needlepoint kneeler was poised before an open Bible on a stand and a wood carving of praying hands.  Nana prayed there every morning and told us of having done so with Papa when he was alive. I believed her the many times she told me, ”I pray for you everyday.”

Her faith was real, active, consistent and pure, even if private. Her statement of faith might be summed up in these words she told me more than once, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it.”

She had no need to beg to differ or debate. She believed the Bible as it was written and applied it daily and consistently with pressure as if polishing that silver so it was ready at a moment’s notice. I think the most valuable legacy she leaves us is her unwavering faith and those prayers for us.

As we’d leave Nana’s house after a holiday, she’d send us out the back door with lunch for the road, ham sandwiches, Snickers bars, and a jar of mustard pickles. As we’d back out the narrow, hedged driveway she’d scamper to the front window, poke her little gray head out between the dining room drapes, throw a kiss and stand there waving until our car rounded Hancock Street.

"Mim" Py
As she left us last Friday, my mom and Betsy, one of her favorite nurses, were on either side of her bed singing old familiar Christmas carols. Music was the conduit ushering her into the heavenly realm.  They sang all 3 verses of Silent Night as we will do at the end of this service. I believe Jesus welcomed her to a place He’d prepared with more care then even Nana could imagine. (And would you believe that very same song, Silent Night, came on the radio this morning as we watched them carry her out of Groff Funeral home?)  God is so tender with us.

For me, the meaning of Christmas was enhanced this year by thinking of Nana’s new reality. At last, she could see what she’d believed for so many years. 

This Jesus, whose birthday we just celebrated, was Lord at his birth and Christ her Savior was born. He made a way for her to come home. As they sang those lyrics to her, I believe she was literally seeing "glories stream from heaven afar.” The Son of God, love’s pure light, surely greeted her with “radiant beams from His holy face.”

2 Corinthians 5:1 says, We know that if the life we live here on earth is ever taken down like a tent, we still have a building from God. It is an eternal house in heaven that isn't made by human hands.

“God said it. Nana believed it. That settles it.” She was truly home for Christmas. 

I can picture her at the back door of heaven waiting for each one of us to arrive so the fun can really begin!  As she would say, “There is always a light on in the window” and it’d be “wunnerful" if you would be there too.

Oh how she loved Pavarotti!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Top 10 Tuesday: Juvenile Christmas Books

Juvenile books maintain their edge as attention spans diminish in the digital age. We appreciate their intensity of flavor that's been reduced like a demi-glace to its essentials--not to mention the illustrations that convey the message visually as we're now accustomed.

Here are the favorites I just moved from the garage to our living room. Since my toddlers are now teenagers, I notice most of these are available used, dirt cheap, on Amazon, except for the few that are out of print.  Gives you motivation to visit your local library or thrift store!

10.  Wombat Divine by Mem Fox. There's a place for everyone in the Nativity.

9.  The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. The original #brokenChristmas that breaks through religious spirits to experience Jesus.

8.  Jotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide. A daily dose of cliff-hanging historical fiction set in the time of Jesus' birth.

7.  Tabitha's Travels: A Storybook for Advent by Arnold Ytreeide. Similar to above with a girl heroine.

6.  The Christmas Miracle of Jonathon Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski. Taps my healed father wound. 

5.  The Legend of the Poinsettia by Tomie dePaolo. Nothing but the blood of Jesus foreshadowed!

4.  B is for Bethlehem by Isabel Wilner. Illustrated by Elisa Kleven. It's all about the pictures.

3.  Santa's Favorite Story  by Hisako Aoki. How I reconciled the Santa myth multi-culturally.

2.  A Dozen Silk Diapers by Melissa Kajpust. I love practicality and inclusion of all the animals.

1.  Luke from The Message by Eugene Peterson. Doesn't get any better than the true story.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

The Truth of Seuss: #BrokenChristmas

I loved having another foodie in the house. Our winsome niece, Kat, unpacked her Patagonia duffels, slept in "the drawer" as we dubbed Allie's trundle bed, and fit right into our family for just shy of a year. It ended all too soon as we stood motionless in the driveway watching her drive into the sunrise. To us, it felt like the wrong direction. Our happy pack of puppies was forever depleted by one, neither the runt nor alpha dog, but surely the one with the wettest nose, keen on frolicking with all the others.

We packed a lot into those months as she pined for a lifestyle marketing job in California. All my household chores were more fun with this Cornell Hotel and Restaurant management graduate. Whether we were kicking tires on used Volkswagens, stocking my pantry with antioxidants from Whole Foods, squeezing specialty produce at Chino's farm stand, or mixing ginger and pear mocktails in our Vitamix, it was more luxury than I'd indulged myself in years. The affectionate nickname she gave me, "DG" (for Domestic Goddess), egged me on. Her tongue must have been in her cheek, when she dubbed herself "DiGiT," (Domestic Goddess in Training). We did nearly everything together. Except when she was playing big sister to Allie.

Sharing a room with a cousin 10 years older gave Allie more insight, foresight, and camaraderie, than we knew she'd been missing. It was a double portion of intimacy, compensation for waiting 15 years in vain for her twin brother with autism to play with her or converse. In one easy stride Allie could step into Kat's shadow on the sidewalk of life.

Living so far west, we had not experienced family as part of our daily grind. It was a gift as well-tailored as the ones she gave us that Christmas. Kat takes shopping to Olympic levels, both online and off. She presented inspired gifts to each of us: a Lego model of the Guggenheim museum for Jim, a bright turquoise space dye Lululemon jacket for me, Lulu pants for Allie, and a theater-sized poster of Singin' in the Rain for Reid demonstrated both her generosity and keen insight into each of our passions.

My only annoyance with her the entire year was her insistence on reading the Grinch Who Stole Christmas daily during December.

Oy vay, had she not seen the stack of more scriptural Advent devotionals and juvenile picture books I unpacked with the ornaments? Of all the books to reinforce in one's mind right before entering a sub-conscious dream state, why that one? And must we begin our day with it too? I'll admit, it irked me, to hear it's relatively vacuous rhyme being recited as if it were gospel. More than once, I offered alternatives, hand-carrying an illustrated edition of Luke 2 to her bedside. Propping Ruth Graham Bell's luscious summary of the New Testament, A Wintry Night, open on the kitchen table. No nibbles.

I let it go. And like proverbial true love, it came back.

Christmas Eve we grazed on our traditional salade Nicoise and champagne in front of the fire.  The kids, even our newly arrived eldest, nestled themselves into flannel sheets aware that Jim and I would want time to arrange presents under the tree. Hustling to get to bed ourselves, we were mindful that Reid's body clock did not adjust for our champagne consumption. He had been the first one up for many a moon. Holidays were no exception.

I awoke to a whimpering, crestfallen teen, "Maaom, Reid's downstairs. I think he unwrapped all the gifts."

"Huh...?" I mumbled from under the covers.

"Will you go check?" she pleaded with me. I sensed the recurrent, unutterable feeling we worked to repress: he ruined everything. The subtext my mother's heart heard was, can't you fix it?

All I wanted was to rewind to silence and a cup of coffee, or more sleep. I think it was 4 am. I trudged downstairs without stopping in the bathroom. Sure enough, the place had been ransacked. Shredded paper littered the living room. Anything that was not aVHS, DVD, or CD lay discarded haphazardly like a Jackson Pollack splatter painting.

A two year old could have done this, I thought.

I can't believe he's almost 16 and we're dealing with this? 

Will he ever outgrow this impulsivity? 

Why can't we have a normal Christmas?

The injustice of it hurt. I couldn't give Reid a lifetime supply of self-control anymore than I could promise Allie he'd answer her, play with her, interact with her, or tease her like a typical brother. I felt like an utter failure. Failing her...failing him...failing to provide harmony in my home.

Jim joined me, groggy in his slouchy pajama bottoms. Somewhere in the rubble was a new pair that would fit him better.  Together, without talking, we tried to salvage our expectations.

We repurposed any available packaging. Putting books in gift bags, folding clothes in piles, searching for tiny treasures, trying to recall what was missing, we embraced recycling at a new level. Channelling Christo, the environmental artist, we wrapped every store-bought thing. Ribbon bound gaping torn paper in creative disguise. We fluffed and swaddled until it looked how we thought Christmas ought to look.

Jim broke the blur of silence, fatigue and resolution, "I think we're handling this pretty well, don't you?"

As we ruminated, two things dawned on me. The joy really is in giving. Our actual presents were unharmed. Everything we'd chosen was in tact, there in plain sight. What had been taken was the experience of handing each one out expectantly watching how it was received. As the giver, in most cases, I wanted to be present to enjoy each person opening what I'd picked for them.

Second, it was like the Grinch had come through here.

The words of the storybook, practically memorized now, woke me like an alarm: It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags....What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? What if, Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?

It was true! We believed that. Could we actually do it now?

We went upstairs to console the girls. They sat sulking and whispering with arms akimbo. It's not fair. Those were mine, steamed from their nostrils into one conjoined bubble above their heads. Their breathing was audible: a strained inhale then forced exhale.

I couldn't help notice the stack of unharmed, picture-perfect parcels Kat kept stashed beside Allie's desk. Her mom had sent them from designer stores on the other side of the Mississippi. Let's just say at this point they were grossly mismatched with what was under our tree. Their creased corners and glossy graphics salted the wound, underscored the shabby salvage like "wash me" scratched in a cracked windshield.

Plopping on the trundle with them, I asked, "Kat, where's that Seuss book you've been reading all season?  Read the last page."

Seuss left it open ended. I wasn't going to risk confusion. Truth needed to be declared in the face of this attempted robbery.

After some succinct theology, we clustered in the chill around a wooden manger Jim had built as decoration for our front door step. Filled with evergreen boughs and a baby doll wrapped in a linen napkin, it was a semblance of the first Christmas.

We sang I Love You Lord, which was more of a solo but, I didn't care. They really did rally for Happy Birthday to Jesus.  And even a little Fahoo fores...Dahoo dores...

A poignant memory was born out of the hullabaloo Reid caused. He hadn't ruined anything. In fact, God may have sent him to fix a few things.

I’ll give you a new heart, put a new spirit in you. I’ll remove the stone heart from your body and replace it with  a heart that’s God-willed, not self-willed.  Ezekiel 36:23-25 

“Where can we find and pay homage to the newborn King of the Jews? We observed a star in the eastern sky that signaled his birth. We’re on pilgrimage to worship him.”  Matthew 2:1-3

A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.  1 Kings 19:10-12 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Reflect

Taking Lisa Jo Baker's prompt here: that not all I do? "A Mother's Reflective Voice in the Hullabaloo" is the subtitle on my auto signature promoting this blog--my attempt to summarize all I post in one pithy phrase.

Reflect: to look back at what has happened in an attempt to find meaning or make meaning out of it.

Reflect: to shine from a light that is not your own.

Sara Groves has a song about this and I'm certain she had more than 5 minutes to write it. "You are the Sun"...I am the moon.  I have no light of my own...but find purpose in reflecting yours in the dark places of the world.

Gotta get in His presence if we want to shine, not flicker out....(Boy, I write slowly....STOP)

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Top 10 Tuesday: Thrift stores

I wonder if Reid might single handedly rid the world of old technology.

Like father like son, I guess. Jim is an early adopter; he had the iOS 7 software a year ago through some early bird developer special. Like his dad, Reid itches for electronics. He finds internet in spots it's not supposed to be available. I've watched him hack online in the back room of ski resorts and rewire the complex mess of U-verse, Sonos, and miscellaneous cables behind our flatscreen. Taking even one step closer to the cutting edge, Reid seems committing to buy up all remaining vestiges of VHS media in San Diego county.

The 25 cent-$1.00 price point on VHS tapes make it a reasonable entry in our budget. (I compare it to the amount of Starbucks Allie drank.) We try to limit it to 1 or 2 a week, not because of the money so much as the viewing time that ensues.  Every Friday is thrift store day. Half the fun--in all thrifting--is the pursuit...the search and find.  Not knowing what they'll have, ensures a constant craving.

We've memorized the hours and befriended the owners at these establishments.  It's a slice of life for sure. Honestly, I find them refreshing for the grace they embody. Recycling, redeeming, rescuing treasure, whether inanimate or flesh and blood.

10. Dan the Man's (otherwise known as St. Peters Thrift, Academy Drive, Solana Beach)

9.   Solana Beach Library

8.   Del Mar Library

7.   Rancho Santa Fe Library Book Cellar (bundled 10 for $5 in curling ribbon can present an issue)

6.   Cardiff-by-the-Sea Library branch

5.   Community Resource Center (only DVD's in Encinitas now, Carlsbad for VHS)

4.   Salvation Army, Rosecrans in Point Loma, the motherlode, don't go on Friday in traffic

3.   The Resale Shoppe, Rancho Assistance League (beside Trader Joe's in Encinitas)

2.   St. James Thrift Store, Del Mar behind Union Bank

1.   DAV's in Oceanside, or as we like to say, "Dave's"

“God’s kingdom is like a treasure hidden in a field for years and then accidentally found by a trespasser. The finder is ecstatic—what a find!  Matthew 13:43-45

"If you seek God, your God, you’ll be able to find him if you’re serious, looking for him with your whole heart and soul.  
Deuteronomy 4:28-30

"You may think you have cleaned out the junk from your lives and gotten ready for God, but you weren’t hospitable to my kingdom message, and now all the devils are moving back in.”   
Matthew 12:42-44

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Movie Lines Aptly Spoken

Reid has a knack for pulling a movie line out of thin air at the most opportune times.  As they say in Mary Poppins, "There is a word, a perfectly good word...something to say when you don't know what to say..."  Going way beyond "supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" he stuns me frequently with an appropo reference.

Case in point: we were downtown recently and decided to check out the new San Diego Central Library. It wasn't quite open yet. Two guards stood out front at the police barricades.  Reid, dying to know if they had a book sale room with VHS tapes, had one foot out the open car door when the security officers saw us.  I spied the CLOSED for CONSTRUCTION sign about the same time they yelled out across the vacant 3-way intersection, "September 28th we'll be open. Come back!"

Oh you know we will!  It's a plan. At Reid's insistence, I promised we would come back on September 28 for the Opening Festivities.  Music, family friendly street fair, activities...we're in!  As we anticipated the outing everyday after school, he kept tabs "Is it Sept. 28?  Is this Saturday the day? We are going to the Central Library Saturday right, Mom?" I assured him, yes.

On one of these occasions he reflected on our drive by, "It was like in the Wizard of Oz when they said, "Come back tomorrow."

I had to look it up. Sure enough:

Wizard of Oz: [speaking in a booming voice into microphone]

Do not arouse the wrath of the great and powerful Oz. I said come back tomorrow.

We did go back, just as Dorothy and friends did. Approaching the new structure was a bit like the Emerald City.  It's as big and glass and as ominous as a spaceship in the wrong port.  The enormous crowd made me think there was a game at Petco stadium. The band made me wonder who defined "family friendly."

"It's kinda like California Adventure," Reid observed as I looked up to see various dance troupes performing in the barricaded street. Just like the Pixar parade...but not.

It was a formula for fiasco as we beelined in hot pursuit of the obligatory Book Sale room--through a path designated as the exit for today only. Reid minded my changing directions, u-turned, walked around the entire spaceship until we found today's entrance complete with security check and a queue wrapped around the other corner of the building. "Oy oy is this going to work?  It isn't." Was I talking outloud?

I spied an Inclusion Community social group, easily identifiable by their matching t-shirts. Their leader appealed to the powers that be to jump the line while her matching colleagues corralled the escalating adult clients struggling to cope in the chaos. I considered joining them. That might be just the ticket and even without the t-shirts, we qualified. Reid actually skirted half way in but came back out to me complying to another guard.

By then I'd learned the Book Sale room wasn't open yet anyway--for this very public sneak peek.  And opted to appeal to Reid's sense of logic.

"Reid, this would be a lot more fun if we come back next week when there aren't so many people. Whadd 'ya say we go get lunch instead?"

"You're right, Mom. Let's go."  And off we disillusioned as Dorothy and the TinMan when they met the Wizard.

A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.   Proverbs 25:11

The market is flooded with surefire, easygoing formulas for a successful life that can be practiced in your spare time. Don’t fall for that stuff, even though crowds of people do. The way to life—to God!—is vigorous and requires total attention.  Matthew 7:12-14

Friday, October 4, 2013


You don't need relish, but it sure improves a hot dog. Relishes, chutneys, tapenades...those sides I rarely take time to serve yet, make a meal of by myself.  Their real purpose is contrast, perspective, juxtaposition to the main thing, be it pork, poultry or beef...

Reid's new mainstay is walking up the hill (and down in the afternoon) to his classroom independently. Basic as this is, he has never done it. For his entire school-going career, an aide (or multiple staff) have met him or accompanied him curb to curb. Well intentioned and precautionary, at some point their close proximity can also become a social barrier to independence. 

Rather than the short bus this year, Reid arrives to high school by Prius in the drop-off circle. This creates a new context of typical peers rather than a throng of severely handicapped individuals with mostly 1:1 aides. It's a healthy stretch. 

His words through the car window glass are relish to me.  I could make a meal of them. Turning back like a film director, "Mom. You go now. See you back here at 2:00. Love." The hand gesture and head nod are teenage.

That piquant something extra he has over his typical peers is the distance he's traveled to get to this point.  How far he's come from sitting at a toddler table and chair doing discrete trial with countless therapists to learn the meaning of "yes" and "no" as language constructs. (Picture laminated PECS cards of family members and facial expressions.)

And at the end of the day, he comes bounding down the slope full throttle his feet getting ahead of his body. Seeing me he shouts gleefully "Mommyyyyy!" I wouldn't dare correct him or explain it's not age appropriate. It tastes too sweet after the years of effort invested in forging attachment, engaging with eye contact, and expressing feelings. At this point, let the typical peers learn from him.

God can’t stand deceivers, but oh how he relishes integrity. Proverbs 11:19-21 

Then I’ll tell the world what I find, speak out boldly in public, unembarrassed. I cherish your commandments—oh, how I love them!--relishing every fragment of your counsel. Psalm 119:40-42 

The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. Oh, they’re so glad in your presence! Festival joy! The joy of a great celebration, sharing rich gifts and warm greetings. Isaiah 9:1-3 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

He's a Cheap Date

My first giveaway.  Could you use a $25 Visa gift card? Just leave a comment to this post and  I will announce a winner next week. No strings attached.

This giveaway is sponsored by the They have several autism awareness designs available and wanted you to know about them.  Yours, should you win, will come with the $25 gift and you can reload it then as needed.

One of Reid's current IEP goals has to do with spending money in the community.  Or as some call it: shopping.  He can go pretty far on $25.  I keep his debit card pre-loaded with that safe amount and it lasts for weeks.  As he ventures out with his classmates to the shopping center near the high school, he might spend $4.51 at Rubios or $1 on a Sprite or maybe more if I give him my short grocery list.

Reid is a cheap date. He isn't addicted to Starbucks. He doesn't shop for the latest fashions. He prefers a VHS tape for 50 cents to a DVD. He doesn't go for pizza and a luxury theater with friends on weekends; he's content with YouTube.  

So when he asks for a box of 12 Ticonderoga pencils at Staples or a bear claw at Panera it is easy to say yes. Likewise, at Disneyland last week when he asked for this oversized lollipop, I said yes.  I had already stipulated we would not buy a DVD souvenir this time.  Not one for extraneous spending myself, I can go a whole day without so much as a water bottle. Saving myself for a better deal outside the park, I try to pass along my frugality without starving or dehydrating the poor kid.  He did well searching for water fountains, "just browsing" at the gift shops, and skipping the sub-par Mexican options.

He gets more mileage out of a $5 lollipop than any kid I know.  It was so worth it. Thanks to "beautiful Molly" for capturing 23 seconds of our gleeful day on tape!

How would you spend your $25?  Tell me in a comment. Thanks for entering the giveaway;)

Until now you have asked for nothing in My name; ask and you will receive, so that your joy may be made full. John 16:23-25

My son, eat honey, for it is good, Yes, the honey from the comb is sweet to your taste; 
Proverbs 24:12-14

Friday, June 21, 2013


Five Minute Friday: want to play?


I love the snapping.  I love the dynamics. I love the hum. I love the rhythm. He keeps time, sets the tempo, grabs the crowd.  But woe to those who snap along past the first introduction.  Rules are rules.

He told me in the car on the way...Frank will play two introductions but I only snap on the first introduction.

What I notice is how the rocking, twisting, and alternate "standing like a tree" are his effective way of keeping the rhythm.  Like a jazz player tapping his foot to keep the beat, he's just got the whole body keeping time as a foundation for the lyrics. It's the physicality that makes Dick Van Dyke funny. We just need to add choreography.

Watching this video of Reid's recital performance last night gives me as much joy a watching Gene Kelly in "An American in Paris" singing the "Igot...." song with those French youngsters and their aeroplane arms in charade imitation acting out his language lesson.  I got rhythm. They got rhythm. Reid got rhythm. Who could ask for anything more...???

See for yourself:

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Favorite Movie All Time?

Reid has an effective conversation starter.  Whether in the hot tub at our neighborhood pool, on the church patio, or a line at the bank, it works like a charm to engage friends, strangers and countrymen.

"What is your favorite movie of all time?" he inquires with characteristic enthusiasm.

Some struggle with the superlative, but everyone seems able to spout off at least a multiple choice of three or so.  Then there is common ground.  Reid walks away with something new to search for at the thrift store, his horizons stretched.  His conversational counterpart pleased by the meaningful exchange.

Embracing the movie obsession as I write my book, The Poppins Revelation, I've compiled a Top 10 Movies of All Time list for each member of our family.  It can be telling.  What are yours?  Can you accurately name those of your spouse?  Of your kids?  Endless dinner conversation ensues...(and fodder for future Friday movie nights)


1.  Lost in America, Albert Brooks
2.  Julie & Julia, Amy Adams
3.  Kate & Leopold
4.  Hans Christian Anderson, Danny Kaye
5.  Singin' in the Rain, Gene Kelly
6.  The Soloist
7.  You've Got Mail
8.  The Nativity
9.  Down with Love
10. Mary Poppins


1.  Brazil
2.  The Seedling
3.  Sprout
4.  Bourne
5.  Ip Man 2
6.  Ran
7.  Annie Hall
8.  2001 Space Odyssey
9.  Adam's Rib
10. Endless Summer


1.  Mary Poppins
2.  Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
3.  Swiss Family Robinson
4.  Singin' in the Rain
5.  Melody Time
6.  Peter Pan
7.  Old Yeller
8.  Mulan
9.  American in Paris
10. The Jungle Book


1. National Velvet
2. Count of Monte Cristo
3. Swiss Family Robinson
4. Bourne Supremacy
5. Shawshank Redemption
6. The Notebook
7. Gladiator
8. A Walk to Remember
9. Sleepless in Seattle
10. Inception

Monday, June 17, 2013

Musical Influences

What draws you back to the same restaurant over and over?  Food might be the obvious answer. But ambiance and service weigh in heavily.

A couple of years ago, we happened upon The King's Highway within the Ace Hotel, Palm Springs.

Better than a sports bar with umpteen sets hanging from the ceiling, King's Highway has Linda.  She is the entertainment.  She rings her bell and like a female Dean Martin croons her way tableside with such confident panache that all are mesmerized.  Our first time we could only observe.

The next time for Allie and Reid's 16th birthday, she sang directly to them. Allie wished she could've crawled under a carpet at the time, but I think she enjoys the memory of it.

What song, you ask?  Her go-to birthday serenade began, "It had to be you........Allie and Reid...It had to be you......"  Linda is a versatile vocalist and personable too.

The whole place just works for us.  There's a pool, mixed ages, gourmet food, hip design, something for everyone --just like the movies Singin' in the Rain or Swiss Family Robinson offer romance, action, and song.

So last January break, Allie suggested we take a couple nights and go there.  It was wonderful.  Nothing like a roadtrip to rekindle sibling bonding.  We hiked Joshua Tree one day then enjoyed all the amenities of the Ace. Jim takes pictures profusely. Who knew how much "thrifting" Palm Springs offered--the new activity of choice for Reid whereby we rid the universe of old VHS technology by buying them up at a quarter a piece, viewing and dismantling the tape inside, rendering them finally and totally defunct.

But Saturday night ohhh Sturday night, we arrived early for dinner hoping Linda was on.  And she was. Whether she remembered us was unclear.  But give us a show she did nonetheless.  In rapt conversation with Reid, she asked if she could try a new one on us, "Rockabye my Dixie Baby...would that be okay?"

"Sure, that's the one!" said Reid rubbing his hands together in frenetic glee.

We ordered.  Took a sip of our drinks. Then a bell rang vigorously cueing the soundtrack to pause.  Linda slinked over to our table.  The woman is bold....and my smooth, supremely stealth husband got it discretely on film.

So to the musical influences on Reid's Cdbaby site--Jason Mraz, Jack Johnson, and Scotty McCreery--we add Fabulous Linda!  She may not be on 94.1's radio rotation. She won't be in next season's Idol competition. Yet, she's an unmistakable household word at our table.

Linda Gerard is an influential lady. She sings it like she means it. She has confidence. She is relational.  She has pipes! Reid's even taken to wearing shades like hers.

The mark of a good leader is loyal followers; leadership is nothing without  a following.  Proverbs 14:27-29 

Friends, let me give you an example from everyday affairs of the free life I am talking about. Galatians 3:14-16 

I scrub my hands with purest soap, then join hands with the others in the great circle, dancing around your altar, God, Singing God-songs at the top of my lungs, telling God-stories. Psalm 26:5-7

Everything Here is Broken

The Kingsmen band Reid was in had a lot of gigs.  About 30 in the course of 5 years.  Some were on large stages; once was at the Belly Up. Others were rather funky spaces.  Maybe that's true of all bands.  My music industry experience is still more limited than my imagination.

Once we found ourselves at the Park Avenue Gallery on El Cajon Blvd. These North county suburban families and our naive, clean cut boys were slightly unaccustomed to the urban environment.  In daylight, it may have felt different.  Arriving at night, I could feel the malaise form the other moms. Where are we? Is this safe? Next tothe clogged entry, a back alley lurked with mystery.

I had booked the gig so came the weight of responsibility.  It was an art gallery operated by a church.  Surely, we'd be fine. As the night wore on, we all settled into the vintage vibe of the veneer wood wall panels, low ceiling and the interplay of bare bulbs and twinkling Christmas lights.  As Angela and the boys set up their equipment, we introduced ourselves to the sound guy and manager, quickly realizing he was one in the same.

Joey (name changed) is perhaps the most persnickety of the bandmates.  As polite and mannerly as a character on Barney's television set, he shook the man's hand. Then observed him digging miscellaneous amps and equipment out of the dark backstage. Joey is as honest as he is polite.  Asking for a power cord he commented, "That cord's broken."

"The floor's dirty. I'm not sure that will work. We don't want anyone to trip," he continued noticing.

His tone and posture might flag anxiety to a shrink.  To us, it was just Joey being Joey pre-show worrying that the muzak would be turned off in time and that no cables present a fire hazard. He's a persistent perfectionist. As the patient manager produced more and more equipment to meet our needs, he continued.  The stand was wobbly.  The keyboard stand missing a leg cap.

"That's broken," he offered again for emphasis.

Finally with kindness and a deeper understanding, the gracious soundguy-manager said, "Joey, everything here is broken."

True that. Present company included. No problem. Let's make music anyway and enjoy it.

God created a perfect world. Sin entered. It's a fallen world now. We are all broken. But there's a plan of carry on...eyes forward...let's sing.

Warm and gracious, with that simple truth, he set the tone and instantly we were safe.  Seeing his eyes, I knew nothing could go wrong. Anything the boys might do or not do, would be fine.  He's cool! They're cool. We're all good. That was Jesus in him.

If your heart is broken, you’ll find God right there; if you’re kicked in the gut, he’ll help you catch your breath. Psalm 34:17-19 

Not only that, but all the broken and dislocated pieces of the universe—people and things, animals and atoms—get properly fixed and fit together in vibrant harmonies, all because of his death, his blood that poured down from the cross. Colossians 1:17-19 

Soak me in your laundry and I’ll come out clean, scrub me and I’ll have a snow-white life. Tune me in to foot-tapping songs, set these once-broken bones to dancing. God, make a fresh start in me, shape a Genesis week from the chaos of my life. Don’t throw me out with the trash, or fail to breathe holiness in me. Bring me back from gray exile, put a fresh wind in my sails!  Psalm 51:6-8 

Friday, June 14, 2013

Dreams become Reality

My friend, Joel Anderson (no relation) has had a dream since he was a little boy: to go to China.  This summer it comes true..and in so doing the prayers of many others may be answered as well.

A team of 10 professionals, parents, autism specialists (Joel included) will visit China to teach caregivers in an orphanage the autism interventions that Joel grew up with and have resulted in his proficiency today.  Teaching methods that are common here in the States but not necessarily in China where cultural perceptions are quite different.

In preparation for the trip Joel has painted Noah's Ark banners for the children's rooms. He also produced this mini-documentary to show Chinese officials and leaders ways children on the autism spectrum can become contributing members of society.

Although I can barely imagine the flight with my Reid, I am continually encouraged by watching what Joel accomplishes in consistent, manageable steps. Who's behind his success? His mom, Sandi, is a paragon of encouragement and creativity.  As much as any paid therapist we've hired, she injects the right shot of adrenaline or creativity or optimism every time I call her in a quandry.

I hope you have a friend like Sandi to remind you all things are possible.  I hope you have a role model like Joel to show you dreams become reality.

Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; I will sing the praises of your name. 2 Samuel 22:49-51 

“But the seed planted in the good earth represents those who hear the Word, embrace it, and produce a harvest beyond their wildest dreams.”  Mark 4:19-21

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Believing what you Hear

I've always had a certain fondness for SAP. They moved us back to California with a generous relocation package, back in the day, when that was the norm. They recognized greatness in Jim.  

They continue to set trends by employing hundreds of people with autism as software testers and programmers. This article explains it further.

  • “Many people say that if a company like SAP said it makes sense ... it's very good for us,” said (Auticon's) chief Dirk Mueller-Remus. “That means it's something serious, solid."

  • 'Its goal is that by 2020, people with autism will make up 1 percent of its worldwide workforce of 65,000."  

Apparently when SAP acts, other people take notice.  Their goal which I believe they will accomplish,  will make a dent in employing the growing and maturing population of 1 in 54 boys on the spectrum who have serious skills and will need jobs. Thank you SAP and Auticon for stepping out in front.

A credible reference, a testimonial, a vote of confidence.  It makes all the difference to one's success.  For example:  getting an agent convinces me I can write a book.  That first donation for a mission trip makes possible to raise the rest of the funds. It is so empowering to have someone believe in you and say so. Words of affirmation have power over our behavior.

That's why this list of true statements God makes about you could be life changing. Read them outloud and see what I mean.  Read them over your kids at bedtime and see what I mean. Hearing--and believing--what God thinks of you makes all the difference to your success.

You are a spirit beingalive to God. I Thessalonians 5:23

You are a believer, and the light of the Gospel shines in my mind. II Corinthians 4:4

You are a doer of the Word and blessed in your actions. James 1:22

 Then the Lord said....I am watching over My word to perform it.”  Jeremiah 1:12