A Re-Post in My Birthday Month

Nearly fifty years ago, I was a stay-at-home housewife with three children under the age of five, wildly in love with my kids but often overwhelmed by fatigue and feelings of failure.

Forty years ago, I had three teenagers, served as an active volunteer in church and community, loved entertaining large groups of people in our home and was oblivious to the truth that this good, rich time of my life was rushing by me.

Just under thirty years ago, I walked across the stage to pick up my master of divinity degree from Fuller Seminary after four years of study, all that studying done while managing a small floral business in my home, watching each of my children move into committed relationships and becoming a first-time grandparent.

Fourteen years ago, I was nearing the midway point of my pastoral life here in Santa Barbara, discovering the harsh reality of death in our family circle for the first time, trying to balance (what is that, anyhow?) home and church, family and congregation.

Today, right now, I am retired from parish work; I offer spiritual direction from my home; I write very occasionally on my blog, and a few other places on the internet and in print; I have children older than most of the people I meet with or write with; I am married to a man I love deeply, a man who stays home most of the day because he, too, is retired; I am now without parents, a truly motherless child; and I am Nana to eight grands, two of whom are on their own, working, and in committed relationships, two of whom are college students, none of whom are babies, in any sense of the word. And one is getting married in the spring. Good grief.

And at this moment, on a chilly California afternoon, I am reading this list and wondering . . . who do I want to be going forward?

If I am blessed by continuing good health and even the moderate level of agility which I currently enjoy, I may live another ten or twenty, maybe even twenty-five years at the most.

What will these years look like when I stand there, in the future, and look back at now?

What do I hope for, dream about, pray for, purpose in my heart to do — or maybe more importantly — to be during how ever many years remain?

Here, in no particular order of importance, are the things that rise to the top as I ponder that question.

I want to laugh, a lot, even if it gets raucous and unseemly.

I want to cry easily and regularly, most especially when I’m with someone who is suffering, when I see someone dear to me, when I remember love.

I want to pray more with my body — with my hands and my feet, with my heart and my soul — and a whole lot less with my head and my mouth and my words.

I want to sing — even though this old alto quavers and cuts out from time to time — I want to sing, sing, sing, in harmony, out loud, and often.

I want to move — to sway with freedom, to dance with my grandgirls, to walk on the beach, to stand up and cheer for the next wave of women and men whom God will raise up to lead and to love.

I want to love my husband well as we move together into whatever comes next. We’ve been through some scary crises, the two of us, we’ve watched people we love suffer terribly and we’ve had a few major health issues ourselves. But now, right now, and for the foreseeable future, we’re good. Often tired, getting older by the minute, but good. I want to enjoy the good for as long as we’ve got it.

I want to encourage my children and my grandchildren to be and become women and men of faith and fortitude, of love and loyalty, of commitment and concern — for themselves, one another and others. I want to do this without words as often as is humanly possible.

I want to slowly and carefully divest myself of much of the ‘stuff’ I’ve accumulated over these years — not all of it, I love my stuff a lot. But I want to be more concerned about the inside than the outside, more generous than acquisitive, more open and less protected and protective.

I want to keep on learning — about myself, and how I’m wired, about this world, all its gifts and its flaws, about people and how they work, about life and how rich it is, about God and the mysteries of our faith.

I want to send roots deep into the beauty of life, to stand in slack-jawed joy at the wonder of it all.

I want to be brave and kind and encouraging.

I want to admit my flaws, own up to the messiness, look in the mirror without hesitation, and tell the ugly voices within to shut the hell up — because that’s exactly where they come from.

I want to raise my hands to heaven with gratitude at least a hundred times as often as I raise my fists in frustration.

I want to lean into the future with anticipation, come what may. I want to own my wrinkles and my cellulite, to celebrate the long life that has thinned my hair and thickened my waistline, to embrace the inevitable losses because of the inestimable gains.

I want to stand there when I’m 80 or 85 or 90 (really???) and look back at 74 and say: That was a great decade, wasn’t it?

I want to live until I leave. Every minute, every heartbeat, every breath — a gift.

This post originally appeared at the lovely site of A Deeper Story/Family 5  years ago. It seemed time to take it out, change the numbers around a bit and re-commit to what I said then. Because I still believe it, I still want to live this life as fully as I can for as long as I can. How’s about you??

Opening to the New Year — SheLoves

One of the great privileges of my life these days is my association with the wonderful people at SheLovesMagazine. Today is my monthly day to write for them. You can begin that essay here and follow the link at the end to finish it over there. Please do join the conversation!!


Stepping into Epiphany is always a mixed bag for me. January 6th means that Christmastide is finished for another year. Now we are headed for Ash Wednesday, which comes quite late in 2017. In some ways, this shift in seasons is a relief — all the red around my house comes down and is packed away for another year. The ornaments are gathered off the tree, the candles are stored in a cool place, the nativity sets are stacked into a plastic bin, each baby Jesus safely secured in a corner somewhere.

Although I don’t relish the work of lugging Christmas bins from house to garage, I do enjoy seeing the cleaner edges of my usual living space emerging from the red, green, silver and gold lavishness of the holiday season. I love Christmas, truly, I do. But I’m glad when it’s time to turn away from the celebrating and re-enter a more ordinary season. My capacity for holiday decorating seems to have diminished with time!

This time, however, it feels like something important is missing as I move more fully into this new year. Since my retirement from parish ministry six years ago, I have gladly embraced a more open schedule and relished the monthly visits from an ever-changing list of people seeking spiritual direction, either here in my small study or via Facetime or Skype. I have also appreciated my monthly opportunities to write for two magazines, one online, and one in print. Occasionally, I even try to fill my own blog space with reflections both prosaic and photographic; the introduction of a monthly newsletter has been a welcome addition to my writing life.

But at this turn of the year, with 2017 opening before me, it feels like my capacity for the good work of direction and writing is larger than the demand for either one. People I thought were committed to my one-on-one work chose to drift away, usually without any formal farewell. A possible temporary job situation didn’t pan out. Both the inner drive to write and the outer call for it seem to have fled the scene.

So what I’m left with at this moment in time is a noticeable sense of emptiness. Maybe openness is a better word; I am open for more in my life . . .

Come on over and offer an encouraging word to those of us talking about this at SheLoves today!

A Birthday Lunch

I took my mother out to lunch yesterday. I’d seen her five days before, for a visit to the neurologist, but we hadn’t done lunch together yet this week. Today is my birthday, and sometime this week, I wanted to be with the one who made that possible. These are the notes I jotted down after our time together.

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Mom is terribly confused and upset when I arrive at Heritage Court later than I had hoped. She cannot figure out what we are doing, wants me to go into the dining room with her, is distressed when I lead her towards the exit. This has happened more and more often in recent weeks – she doesn’t understand about ‘going out to eat at a restaurant,’ even though we’ve done it once or twice a week for the last three years.

I reassure her gently that she will begin to understand once we get into the car. Something about the forward motion of driving almost immediately calms her fears — as long as there isn’t too much traffic. She is very anxious when too many cars are around us, particularly if they are driving fast.

So we take city streets rather than the freeway; she prefers that and I do, too. She always comments on the lovely homes, wonders if they are expensive, is shocked at the HUGE number of cars on the road, the ones that move and the ones that are parked. Three times on our eight-minute ride, she asks if there are lots of accidents here.

Always, there is fear just beneath the surface. How can there not be? She cannot formulate sentences very well, she cannot see much, her hearing is very compromised and she is confused about almost everything. I’d be anxious, too. It doesn’t help that she is constitutionally wired for anxiety, but this is different from the ‘old’ Ruth. It is almost primitive, child-like and very, very sad.

The weather is a little blustery today and it doesn’t take much for mom to feel cold. Fortunately, there is only a 30-foot walk from elevator to restaurant and I hurry her inside to the waiting area. Hurry being a very relative term — how fast can you go with a 94-year-old using a walker, who walks with a shuffle and is easily exhausted?

We’re told it will be a fifteen-minute wait — a first, for us. There are students crawling around everywhere today. Apparently it was a minimum day at all the middle schools in town and every one of those kids decided to go to the mall.

A lovely small grace of this outing is The Perfect Table – a booth by the window. The only negative is that it’s harder for me to help her with utensils, napkin, food and drink when I’m sitting across from instead of next to her.

It’s been several months since we’ve been to this particular restaurant and it is immediately clear that she has taken several steps further into the mist since our last visit. She is unsure about pizza but does decide that baked potato soup sounds good. I order both. Her long-time favorite pepperoni is now too spicy, however, and she searches frantically for something to drink.

“Here, Mom,” I say, reaching across the table to scoot the glass closer to her. “Just lean over a little and sip from your straw.”

She cannot find it and panic begins to rise in me — the glass will fall into her lap, she’ll stab herself in the eye with that straw, why didn’t I sit next to her?

Apparently, anxiety is contagious.

She manages to find it and sucks greedily at the cold beverage. “Ah, that’s better.”

But it is not better, is it? And it won’t be, this side of heaven.

Today, I say it at least twenty different times: “I am your daughter; you are my mom.” It does not stick. Ever. She is always amazed. Or confused. Or both. On the way to the restaurant: “This is such a nice car. Did your parents get it for you?” “Well, no, Mom, I’m old now, long-married. And besides, you are my parent — you are my mom.”


Then: “I am?? Well, that was pretty smart of me, wasn’t it?”

 Yeah, mom. Pretty smart. Pretty darn smart.


I am grateful for my life. She and my dad gave me that great gift seventy-one years ago today, after four years of infertility, special medical treatments, and the grace of God.

I was wanted, I was loved, I was cared for. Always.

We laughed a lot in our home and we were given permission to ask questions and to search for answers. Faith, family, education, care for others — these were the values taught and modeled. My mother was my first and greatest spiritual mentor and guide. Those pieces of her are no longer available to either of us, but I choose to believe that they are still here . . . inside of me. And that I will see her again, even richer and deeper than she once was. In the meantime, I will love who she is now.

Happy Birthday to me.

I love you, Mom.

31 Days of Aging Gracefully: Day 11 — Singing for All I’m Worth

I am writing this on a Tuesday morning. And Tuesdays are now very special days. Here’s why: August marked the beginning of semester number two for me to sing with the local Concert Choir at our community college. I began last January, soon after that BIG birthday event, and except for those unfortunate hospital stays during the spring, I’ve been in that rehearsal room every Tuesday of the school year.

I’ve loved to sing for as long as I can remember. Joined the kids’ choir at our downtown LA church at the tender age of five and kept right on singing in choirs until I moved to Santa Barbara at the age of 52. Nearly 40 years of being in choirs!

And then I stopped. Why? Because our church did not have a weekly choir to join, that’s why. We did sing seasonally the first few years I was here, but even that dropped away about seven or eight years ago.

Then a talented and kind woman in our congregation formed a small ensemble that sang in worship one Sunday and I was simply overwhelmed with how much I missed that kind of music. Initially, I was not a part of that group — and that, I will admit, was more painful than I ever would have guessed. In truth, it was stunning how much it hurt not to be included in their number. And in earnest conversation with my pastors and my husband, I began to realize that choral singing was a piece of my own story, my own identity, that I had buried for way too long. And I was strongly encouraged to find somewhere to sing.

So I did a little online research and found this college/community choir. And I HAVE LOVED IT. One of the hardest things about that second hospitalization was that it forced me to miss our spring concert. I am bound and determined that I will be there for the Christmas one! We’re doing Durufle’s beautiful Requiem Mass and tonight, we’re supposed to get the music for Ralph Vaughn Williams’ Five Mystical Songs — settings for poems by George Herbert, who is a favorite of mine. Not exactly typical Christmas music, but it will be fun to work through. Challenging stuff — and I’m delighted that it is. My voice is not quite as steady as it once was, but I’m still a dang good reader.

It’s interesting how the pain of exclusion served as a huge wake-up call for me, forcing me off of my duff and helping me to do a little exploration of the possibilities. This choir is roughly 50% college students — and 50% old folks from the community. Pretty much exactly what I needed right now.

And then there was this lovely bonus: I was invited to sing with that church ensemble right after their first attempt last winter — and I’m loving every minute of that, too.

What do you love to do? Has it gotten lost, maybe buried under too many other things you love (or don’t love)? How can you help all the pieces of yourself to re-emerge?

Just Wondering

How to Live When the End Is Near — Deeper Story

It happens to all of us. I’m here to tell you, this is the truth: we all get old, some of us a lot older than others. And that day is here for me. Sigh. Truth be told, I still don’t quite believe it! You can start this little reflection here and then follow me over to one of my favorite places in the entire web, A Deeper Story.


Four generations on Christmas Eve, 2014

This is a big year for me, one of those milestone numbers. It’s the year that my 3rd grade self decided would be the year I became really old. This is that year — 2015. I was born on January 23, 1945 (which means my birthday shorthand reads like this: 1-23-45. My father was convinced I’d grow up to be a mathematician, just like he was — but I fooled him. Big time.)


Yes, this is the year — in fact, this is the month — that I turn 70.


But I have something important to tell you right here: that number no longer feels old (as in decrepit). Yes, it does feel old (as in a lot of years), but inside this lined face and underneath this white hair? I feel like I’m about 45.


Aging is a strange phenomenon. The longer you live, the further out ‘old’ becomes. When I was 20, I thought 50 was ancient. But when I was 50, and still two years away from a new job that would keep me busy for a decade and a half, I thought 70 sounded old.


Now I’m 70 and you know what? 90 sounds ‘old’ to me these days.


So as I listened to the end-of-the-year sermon last month, a sermon focused on two of my favorite characters in Luke’s birth narrative of Jesus, I thanked God for every one of these years. For the privilege of walking around on this planet, with people that I love nearby, good work still to do and relatively good health and humor to enjoy. And it was the old codgers — Simeon and Anna — who helped me to say that ‘thank you,’ loud and clear.


You remember those two, right? The oldsters who were in the temple in Jerusalem? The ancient ones, the ones who had been waiting for the ‘comfort’ of Israel to show up. The ones who spent their days praying and hoping and looking, both of them described as righteous, devout and faithful. Those two may have been old, but they were still paying attention to the zeitgeist, they were two strong and deeply centered people, ever on the look-out for God’s promised one. . .



Come on over to ADS to reflect with on all three old people . . . Simeon, Anna and me!



What’s In a Name?

It’s been quiet around here of late. I’ve written around the blogosphere at several different places in the last few weeks, but not terribly often here, in my space, just writing for me, and whoever might stop by to see whatever words I’ve gathered.

We had a quiet weekend, celebrating Dick’s birthday in several small gatherings. On his actual day, just he and I went out for lunch and to a matinee. On Saturday, our son and his family surprised us with a drop-in, take-out dinner from our favorite local Mexican hang-out. And on Sunday, after church, we met our eldest daughter and her husband and youngest son at BJ’s in Ventura. We love s t r e t c h i n g birthdays out as long as we can — and three days was just about right.

My guy was hungry for ribs, and BJs never disappoints. And to finish things off very well indeed, he was served his own individual Pazookie, complete with candle! Do you know what a Pazookie is? Just one of the divinest desserts ever invented, that’s what. A freshly baked cookie (several choices – he picked peanut butter), fresh from the oven, topped with a scoop of Haagen Daaz vanilla. Heaven in a small aluminum pan, that’s what.


The drive south took us past this lovely spot, looking down on Summerland Beach. The day was breezy and the water a little bit wild — always fun to see. And somehow, the celebratory mood of day and meal and family seemed fitting and right after a profoundly moving worship experience earlier in the day.


This was our fabulous worship band-of-the-week jamming after the service was over. Our Director of Worship Arts, Bob Gross, planned a perfect combination of songs for the theme of the day, including a masterful arrangement (his own) of,  “Lord, I’m Amazed by You” with The Doxology. The entire opening sequence brought me to tears more than once — filled as it was with what we do best: contemporary and traditional music, both poured through the inventive mind of Mr. Gross. We sang that old favorite, “Holy, Holy, Holy” this way – verse 1, totally a cappella (and we can SING the harmony in our community!), verse 2, full band with quiet percussion, verse 3, up a key, adding the most moving slow roar of the drums I’ve ever experienced, and verse 4, straight ahead and gorgeous. Oh, my.

DSC01241As always, the music, the prayer, the readings from Old Testament and New coordinated well with the preaching text of the morning, which this week was taken from the last eleven verses of John 16.


God spoke powerfully through Pastor Jon about what it means when we pray in the name of Jesus. Here are a few highlights from that passage:

“My Father will give you whatever you ask in my name . . . I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God . . .  A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me . . . I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”


These few verses contain some mighty huge ideas, ones that linger and permeate. Ideas like these:

The name of Jesus is strong, redemptive, life-changing. It is not magical.

There will be suffering in this life — which should come as a surprise to precisely no one. But because of Jesus, because we are given the inestimable gift of praying in his name, we are never alone, no matter what. 

Praying is not about words alone. In fact it is more often about silence . . . or it is experienced in action. We pray in Jesus’ name whenever we offer comfort/aid/solace/provision for another.

We pray with our bodies, not just in them. WE are the continuation of the Incarnation as we allow the Spirit of our Lord to work through us, as we live out what it means to be the Body of Christ. 

Praying in the name of Jesus touches on one of the foundational truths of the Christian faith — we serve a Triune God, Father, Son, Spirit — One in Three, Three in One. 

We do not ask Jesus to pray for us, so as to somehow buffer the space between us and God the Father. Too much of the church has painted a picture of a scary God, one that Jesus saves us from, a God that cannot be approached by the likes of us. But Jesus says clearly and beautifully, “. . . I am not saying that I will ask the Father on your behalf. No, the Father himself loves you  . . . “

“Take heart,” Jesus says. Immediately after predicting that all his friends will desert him in his hour of need, that they themselves will have their share of trouble. “Take heart,”  he says. TAKE HEART?  Yes. And not only that, but because of that name, that powerful name, they — and we — will have peace, the kind of peace that makes room for this truth: the One in whose name we pray has overcome the world.

I carried these pieces of grace with me as we drove down the coast, as we laughed and ate a good lunch with our daughter’s family, as we came back home and prepared for the week ahead. Turns out there’s a lot, a LOT, in a Name. I am grateful


31 Days of Giving Permission . . . TO BE OUTRAGEOUS (once in a while)

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I never cease to be amazed at what I learn from my grandchildren.
Two of the younger ones, a duo I’ve written about before, the ones that were born

during one of the darkest seasons of our family story,
those two turned EIGHT years old this fall.

Born one month and one day apart, Griffin and Grace
have been a source of blessing and joy to all of us
during their short lifetime.

And today, Gracie is eight.
Full of fun, great questions, imaginative ideas,
artistic skills and a voracious reading appetite,
she is delightful and delicious.

We met them at a local restaurant for pasta dinner
and then came back here for ice cream and presents.
I noticed our pretty girl’s cute bun on the top of her head
and thought she looked particularly fetching as the evening unfolded. 

Most of the time, Grace poses for pictures willingly and easily,
and she provided me with two lovely smiles
as I snapped away with my iPhone. 

Then I asked her to turn sideways for the camera.
Because this girl – well she loves to do something
fun and wild and a little bit crazy every once in a while.

She asked her mom to come up with a brand-new hair treatment
for her day at school.
In a school that demands uniforms,
there isn’t a lot of individuality allowed.
But hair-dos?
Oh, my! Let the outrageous ideas roll!

Her mom found this do on the web and it’s called a bun-hawk
(like a mohawk, but without the shaved sides!)

Too cute! 

Sometimes I think it’s good for the soul to just do something
completely flamboyant, creative and new, don’t you?
I’m not sure I would have thought of such fun things for my hair at her age,
but I’m sure glad she did.

Griffin turned eight last month
and he opted for a big party this year
(Grace had a sleepover with a small group of girlfriends last weekend.)

I wanted a picture of him with his cake, and he did what he often does:
he put a pose on.
We all begged him to relax, to be himself,
and he couldn’t quite find that look, though he did try! 

So somebody in his immediate family, either a brother or a mother,
started tickling him,
and immediately, we began to see the true Griff, shining through. 

So, I got the picture I wanted — our sweet boy,
looking relaxed and natural,
showing the world what eight looks like on a blonde-haired boy. 

And then, of course, it all went to h**l in a handbasket!
He totally cracked up and couldn’t stop!

And isn’t that a fun thing to do once in a while, too?
To laugh until your sides hurt.

I do believe it’s good for the body as well as the soul! 

So, when the timing is right, don’t be afraid to be a little outrageous —
to wear something wild, to sing a song when least expected,
to laugh until you’re too tired too move.

Outrageous looks good on you! 

31 Days of Giving Permission to . . . CREATE

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In January of this year, our family gathered to celebrate birthdays. Fully 25% of our current family group was born in that month, and we decided to do something a little bit different to mark this year’s rite of passage.

Did I mention that I have a lot of creative relatives? Well, I do. And the fact that they’re so talented doesn’t intimidate me (most of the time!) — in fact, it encourages and emboldens me. It gives me permission to try a little bit of creativity myself. My daughter, her husband and all three of her sons love to dabble in painting – and their breakfast room looks glorious, decorated with their own work.

So for this birthday gathering, we all came to their house. Taking our inspiration from the art work surrounding us (while the men and children played and watched games), the women gathered around the sewing machine.

I had almost forgotten there is such a thing as a sewing machine. When we moved to Santa Barbara, I packed mine away and haven’t threaded a needle in almost 17 years! But my daughter has one, another daughter and I bought fabric. I found some feed corn, my daughter-in-law helped us measure, and we set to work. 

Our project? Making corn bags! Do you know what those are? Soft flannel pockets that contain kernels of feed corn, which you pop in the microwave for two minutes and then apply to any body part that needs a little soothing heat. Perfect for fall and winter days and nights!

We had so much fun! Why? Because it is fun to make something together – something that is pretty to look at, easy to handle and has such a wonderfully restorative and practical function. We made enough for every family unit to take home two or three bags each. 

And mine have gotten a real work-out ever since! 

And when it came time to celebrate those birthdays? We ALL enjoyed the creativity of our daughter’s youngest son. Joel, age 14 at the time, made this scrumptious and beautiful cake from a recipe in a baking book I’d given him for Christmas. And friends, it tasted even better than it looked. 

In the home in which I grew up, my dad was the admired creative genius — he played the piano exquisitely well. My mom was a talented decorator, seamstress and floral arranger. I, however, did not quite fit into that circle of creativity and felt inadequate and unsuccessful at every creative endeavor I tried.

Until I left home.

In college, I tried my hand at some homemade Mother’s Day cards and began to play the piano for my own enjoyment. I gave myself permission to try things and ‘fail.’ But here’s what I learned — if you try it at all, you automatically WIN. I discovered that the joy is in the process even if the finished product doesn’t quite measure up to expectations. I also learned that the more I did it, the better I got. No, I never reached the status of ‘artist.’ I found something even better — the fun of creating.

And I am delighted to observe that my kids and grandkids do this naturally and well, in all kinds of ways. From photography to baking, from piano playing to imaginative play — they all create. For the joy of it, just that. For the joy of it.

“When I’m 64…” – 2009 – Archive-Diving

And here is one more from the deep pit of 2009 — a post written on my birthday that year.

Well, in 95 minutes, I will be.

Who woulda thunk it? 
How is it possible to feel every age I’ve ever been – but this one, least of all?

At some points, my 14-year-old self is just inside my skin – especially when I feel naive, gullible, misled.

At other points, my feisty, unnecessarily self-confident 22-year-old self pops up and surprises me with her strong opinions and readiness to express them.

There are even those rare moments when a tall-for-her-age 5-year-old shows up, filled with joie-de-vivre whenever the sun is shining and the water is clear.

Sadly, the 64-year-old shows up when I have to stand up after sitting a while, or climb stairs that are uneven, or try to read the really fine print. 

 And yet…there is something to be said for age. Not much, but….something.

Perhaps the best thing is that every age I have ever been is still available to me at a moment’s notice, that what I’ve learned at each of those ages is usually pretty close to the surface when needed, that I know that the reservoirs of love, affection, commitment developed over a lifetime are deeper than I could have imagined at 5, 14, 22 or even 45.

I am deeply grateful that my partner of 43 years still chooses to love me, ‘when I’m 64.’

And overall, life has been good; through it all, God is good.

My restless, often rebellious nature can still trip me up from time to time, but one good thing about 64 is that I have learned to be just a little bit more patient with those parts of myself, sometimes even grateful for them.

Restlessness can lead to dissatisfaction with the status quo and a willingness to make changes when needed.

Even rebelliousness has its plusses, for asking questions about seemingly foregone conclusions can keep the fires of curiosity burning. And I never did believe it killed the cat!

Happy Birthday to me. I am glad I was born, I am grateful for my life, I hope it lasts a while longer.

Milestones… Archive-Diving, June 2009

Reflections on our eldest grandson’s graduation from high school – now THREE years ago. 

Well, it’s here. We are officially OLD. No matter that we started ‘young,’ having babies in our early 20’s and grandchildren in our mid-40’s. Because now, we have a high school graduate. Yes, our eldest grandson, Ben – age 18, a generous, kind, smart, talented and funny young man – has graduated from Oaks Christian High School. Wow. And weird. 

I distinctly remember, like it was yesterday, the anxious early morning phone call: “Come NOW, Mom. My water broke!” Driving to the Burbank airport to catch a nearly empty flight to Oakland, landing in the densest fog I’ve ever seen, hitching a ride from complete strangers to get to Lisa and Mark’s little house on Abbey Street in Pleasanton where I could pick up my own car, left there two weeks before, and driving to the hospital. Where Ben decided not to come, thank you very much, requiring an emergency c-section and then weighing in at 10# 5 oz. Started setting those milestones early!

He was an absolutely fearless toddler and little boy, climbing everything, jumping from dizzying heights, constructing fabulous inventions, painting early masters, figuring out how things worked. Towheaded to a blinding blonde color, blazing blue eyes, energy out his fingertips – he was a wonder to us all. Our first grandchild – nothing short of a miracle.

He grew up in much the same way he began – fearless, inquisitive, capable of amazing technical expertise and with a wonderful artistic eye. When he was 13, he showed interest and ability in photography. So I gave him my original SLR film camera when I bought my first digital.

Immediately, he figured out more things to do with that camera than I ever dreamed about. The kid had talent – real talent. And the school he chose to go to aided and abetted that talent in a big way.

Oaks Christian is an anomaly in education – a huge endowment from an invested grandparent created a magnificent campus, drew gifted administration and faculty members, and made possible absolutely top of the line technical resources. And all of it anchored in solid commitment to discipleship, commitment and mission.

Ben took every class that was offered in both photography and videography, successfully mastering every challenge. His work won first place in multiple shows and he was in demand as the videographer of choice for most of the faculty, from football coaches to dance instructors. He did good! Real good. And we are all so very proud of him.

A tableau of graduation accoutrementes -(clockwise)
robe & stole, fabulous $$ lei made by Ben’s other grandmother, the senior award certificate, diploma and medallion (well the ribbon shows, at least.)

His graduation ceremony was last Thursday afternoon and I drove down to Westlake early in the day to help Lisa with flowers and errand-running. She, as usual, had everything organized to a fare-thee-well, having accomplished both a new roof and a complete re-landscaping of their backyard in preparation for this momentous day. It was a day rich with deep emotion as Mark’s presence was strongly felt through every moment of it. And how grateful I am that Mark was able to participate as fully as he did in his sons’ lives right up until the day he died last fall! He is, I am sure, so proud of these remarkable young men.

Family came from all around southern CA to attend the ceremonies and/or the wonderful dinner party Lisa hosted afterwards. Lisa and Joel, her youngest, held onto 3 rows of seats (Luke, grandson #2, was playing clarinet in the orchestra) and was soon joined by one great-grandmother, a great-uncle, two great-aunts, two sets of grandparents, two cousins on Mark’s side, an uncle, two aunts and two cousins on Lisa’s side – and those 3 rows filled right up! It was a great ceremony! Good speakers, a suitably (and intimidatingly!) impressive valedictory address and a lovely setting.

The big surprise, that hit us all in our communal solar plexus, was that Ben was one of 5 seniors honored with a special award! We knew that he had won the departmental award in art the previous week, but this one was completely unexpected. The 3 ‘prongs’ of an Oaks education are: Leadership, Athletics, and the Arts – and Ben received the medallion and certificate in the Arts.

It was just so lovely to hear the tribute offered by the head of the department, based on the comments of all Ben’s teachers and on Ben’s own fine work and many contributions to the school through his technical and artistic gifts. He proudly wore the medallion for the picture above and it’s inscription is shown in the one below. The actual introduction is printed in italics below the picture. It was written by Ryan Kelley, Chair of the Arts Department at Oaks.

The recipient of the Dallas Price Van Breda Fine Arts Award is a wonderfully talented visual artist. This fine young man has a passion for photography and film that he has shared with all of us at Oaks Christian School. His exceptional photography was recently featured as the cover of our poster and program for our high school art show and his marvelous film work at our dance concert, Define. His creativeness and technical expertise is only surpassed by his generosity. He never turns down a
request to help others; this includes producing numerous football highlight videos, helping teachers with various video needs all the while making full use of our incredible media studio. He is creative, inquisitive and is always the first to try out a new technique. I have no doubt that we will hear his name again – probably announced at the Oscars for best cinematography. And we are all certain that your father is as proud of you today as we all are.
The winner of the Dallas Price Van Breda Fine Arts Award is Ben Fischinger.

The party itself was grand! A great celebration – with another great-grandmother, great-uncle, two more cousins and multiple friends of all ages. And to top it all off, that day happened to be the 15th birthday of Ben’s brother, Luke, another stellar student at Oaks Christian High. It was a rich day – tiring! – but incredibly blessed. We are all full to the brim with gratitude for God’s good gifts of family, education, beauty, love and laughter.