Friday, September 26, 2014


September 2014

Harmony will be five years old, meaning that she is filled with beauty and wonder and curiosity. On our “nature walks” (so named by her) she picks up items that we find and asks questions about them. Once we get home, she glues them to large pieces of paper and proclaims them to be her "work paper".  Her collages are starbursts of pine needles, leaves, pieces of pine cones and a red signature at the top: HARMOnY.

The collages will be with me at the moment of my death – that’s how embedded in my heart they are – that’s how important they are to me. 

Born on September 27th, 2009 - surrounded by love and expectation, Harmony didn’t breathe for her first minutes of life.  We watched, helplessly as doctors massaged her little body and I prayed for the Spirit of the Resurrection to breathe life into her.  When she finally took breaths and became rosy, we all breathed sighs of tearful relief and took oodles of pictures of her.  We haven’t stopped;  Harmony has to be the most photographed child in the world.

Harmony learned to crawl and then walk; make sounds and then talk; and finally call us Grandpa and Grandma – all while we were in Africa.  When we returned to the USA, Harmony was filled with love and joy that we were home.  It took a year of once a week visits before she stopped asking when we were flying “home to Africa.”

These once a week visits to Chico have been wonderful – all filled with the life that is found in a home of small children.  My daughter warns me (as I warned my own mother) to follow her rules with them and not spoil them.  I try my hardest, but it is a feat of note.

She loves to dance, sing, play games, dress up, talk to strangers (like her mother), play with kids her age (my friends!), and most of all - be read to.  My absolute favorite thing is savoring books that I used to read to her mother as we sit against her bed.  As we marvel at the words and illustrations, she finishes the sentences, just like her mom used to. 

“Oh, Grandma,” Harmony will say spontaneously, during our together times.

“What, honey?”  I’ll ask her.

“Oh, I just love you so much.”

That last part is said in her voice which I will never be able to capture with words, no matter how great of an artist I am. 

The love and joy she brings to our lives is irreplaceable and my heart is swollen at the thought of her.  Happy Birthday, Harmony – you are one in a gazillion.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014


Some people are solid gold in your life. 

I met Sue in Los Angeles and right away we were laughing.  I was with my friend, Nicole and we already had the giggles.  I had turned to greet some other folks at the large conference we were attending and as I turned back , Nicole was involved in deep conversation with a petite redhead who seemed happy to have found her. 

I still smile, remembering our first meeting being swept into the most beautiful conversation with her – eventually being struck with terrible, uncontrollable laughter that called attention to ourselves.  We were guffawing so hard it made others stare…and eventually laugh along. 

That’s how I met Sue.

She and I became friends – good friends, although it doesn’t take a lot to love her and become good friends with her.  She is the kind of person who has several good friends.  I just like to think I’m one of her besties….

When  I lived in South Africa, Sue and I were confidantes, having deep, open communication that I thirsted for there and found rare.  If it weren’t for friends like Sue, I think I would have died.
With Sue, I just died laughing.

Sue is a JOY EXPERT.  She works as a Joy activist, a motivational speaker employed by corporations to encourage their employees to lighten up – and become more productive in the process.  This is a dream job for Sue – one that I never knew could exist …until she made it so. 

Sue has recenltly found herself among an elect few that have been given the chance to compete for their dream come true – sponsored by Vodacom (South Africa’s premier communication company).  Sue’s dream is to get Johannesburg laughing together – it truly is an incredible feat.  If anyone can do it, Sue can.  My favor that I ask of you today is that you VOTE for her here:

I am sure our votes can make her win this thing –  LIFE IS BEAUTIFUL!!!

Friday, September 12, 2014


Gran and I - October 2011

Her name was Gertie, but she introduced herself as “Gran”.

“I’m Gran to everyone here,” she laughed.  “No matter how old they are, I am Gran.”

“That’s not true,” my friend Joy said from across the room.  She was officially the leader of our Wednesday morning prayer group and therefore in charge of order.  “I will always call you Gertie and we are both Grandmothers!”

I smiled at the close bond they seemed to have.  Instead of contradicting her, it was a gentle reminder that they were long-time friends and in this thing together.  The other women in my prayer-group had also known her for a long time, as well.  I was the new one – newly arrived from America –new to the prayer group.

“I’m a grandmother, too,” I said quietly.  The ladies looked at me. 

“Well, you’re a young Gran,” Gertie said, smiling. "It's not the same as being an older woman, like me."

Gran knew the Bible well, especially the part about older women being "reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored." (Titus 2:3-5)

For some reason, Gran took this challenge seriously, and taught us all like she was commissioned by God Himself - and in a way, she was.  I loved listening to her stories of faith and words of comfort – older women have a way of looking back on time that’s passed and saying “Look how faithful God was there!  Do you see?”  

That’s what I love about hanging out with women who are older than me… They are patient with the challeges of today because they've lived through so many challenges already.

It didn’t take long for me to see that Gran was this way for many of the women in our church.  We all saw her as a pillar of faith – a woman who had been through so much and still shone with expectation of what was coming next.  She had sparkle in her eyes and warmth running through her veins.  She lived each one of her days. 

Before Mario and I moved away from South Africa, I visited her at the residence of her son and his wife – our dear friends, the Myburgh’s.  They had retired from Johannesburg and moved to a tranquil piece of land near George that had as much wild as disciplined gardens.  Queen proteas were everywhere, and Gran was able to see them as she sat in her favorite seat by the picture window.

“Gran, you look amazing,” I told her. 

“I don’t like all of these spots on my face,” she laughed.  “Other than that, I can’t complain.”  

We talked a little about her life at the farm, the way she had classic aches and pains and her readiness to go to heaven.  “I think sometimes that God has forgotten about me!” she joked.  “I have to remind Him that I’m ready to go on and be with Him.”

“I think he knows,” I tried to reassure her.

“Tell the ladies at prayer that I still can pray,” she said, emphatically.  I told her I would.

Today I received the news that God remembered Gertie and took her to be with Him, finally.  From my calculations, she was 97 and 5 months old.

I know she’s in a better place, I know she is finally out of pain, but the world has really lost someone special.  She was a classic “woman of faith” – a woman of prayer and a woman who believed God is who He says He is. 

She will always be an inspiration for me to live each one of my days.  

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


They say All Americans know what they were doing that morning.  My memories are here:  a new teacher, a worried mother and a robotic urge to continue...

It was the first week of school, and my first year of having a classroom all to myself (I was the “teacher” after spending years as a teachers' aide).  I had spent the summer getting  ready to host young gifted and talented kids, all who would call my classroom home for the coming year. 

That morning my own kids, Vince and Alicia, were getting ready for school and I was trying to not be late.  I had been getting ready in my room as quickly as possible, thinking of all the things I had to do that morning.  I had agreed give Justin, another student whose mother worked downtown, a ride to school.  I was busy thinking how I would get my two teenagers mobile, loaded into our van, and pick up Justin - and stay on schedule.

Somehow we were all  were in the van on time and as we made our way to Justin’s, we were fairly silent.  

Mornings have never been a chatty time for me - even after two cups of coffee.

My phone rang and I answered it – it was Mario. 

“Where are you?” he asked. He sounded panicked. 

“On my way to pick up Justin,” I said.  

"Pull over," he said.  My first thought was that maybe one of our grown children was in trouble, or had been hurt.   My second thought was that he was being called out to some riot or skirmish (he had a high-profile job with the Department of Justice).

“Are you pulled over?”


 By the looks on their faces, Vince and Alicia could hear what their dad was saying.  They were attentive to his voice on the other end of my small cell phone, since he was speaking so loudly.

“Okay,” I said as my van idled on a random corner that overlooked the back of Justin’s house. 

“The World Trade Center has been hit,” he said.  I didn't understand the magnitude of what he was saying.  Hit?  How?  My ears started ringing. Mario’s parents lived in New York City.  I thought of their safety, but I needed to know more….

“How?” I asked. 

“A plane crashed into the North Tower and then another one crashed into the South Tower,” he said.  

"A plane crash?"

"It was purposeful..."

A flash of information fluttered like confetti  in my mind: Attack. Terrorism.

There had been a similar attack a few years before- the WTC was targeted by Muslim extremists and a car bomb failed to bring the tower down.  The Jewish Banking System’s capital was there and things had been heating up between the oil dependent USA and the oil providing Middle East.   

I could hear a commotion from Mario's side of the phone, and he gasped.  “Both Towers have collapsed.”


What did that mean? 

I felt slapped in the face, but I faced the kids, who were looking at me.  “The World Trade Center was hit by two airplanes,” I said. 

“And the Pentagon,” Alicia said.  She knew something I didn’t and the news didn’t seem as surprising to her. 

“What!?” I asked, panic now in my voice.  Mario was still in my ear on my phone.  “The Pentagon, too?”  I asked both of them. 

“YES!” Mario said.  “The Pentagon, too.”  HE was distracted – I could tell he was watching news reports – probably with others in his office.    

“Were you watching TV this morning?” I asked Alicia.  

In the middle of this emergency, all I could do was to chide my daughter for breaking house rules that morning.  We didn't allow TV before school.

“Yes,” she answered.  I nodded, but I looked back at Vince.  The news seemed surprising to him, but he looked at the clock and then back at me.  We were going to be late for school.

“I have to go,” I said to Mario.  I was in shock but I knew I had to function for the kids.  I also thought about the kids in my classroom – and their families.  I had to pick up Justin.  I had to get Vince and Alicia to school.  I  saw the future as the next half-hour of my life.  Get Justin- get to school.

“I’ll be home as soon as I can,” Mario said before he hung up.  Translation: we will all soon be home- all of us together.  Safe or not safe – together.

Justin knew what was going on and started to talk about it in the van.  It gave us all license to speculate what had happened.  All of us seemed to know it was a terrorist attack and that it was most likely coming from Muslim extremists.  

This was not over.  

I knew school would be a good  place for them all to process this thing together.  Teens need peers to process.

By comparison, I was going to a classroom of kids whose main support were their parents.  I would be the “delivery system of normal and safe” that I was trained to be as a teacher.  Would any of them be there?

We had drills for fire, earthquakes and floods.  We even had emergency drills for school shootings now.  What we didn’t have was emergency drills for terrorist attacks coming from the sky – no one in the USA did then….

I drove to school, my heart in my throat and a feeling of wariness.  I had to get to school.  What would I do?  What would I say to the kids?  I drove, carefully.  I tried to react to everything carefully.  I arrived at school, the parking lot bustling with familiar scenes: kids dashing to the halls to chat with each other, parents dropping off...

I knew better than to demand my kids kiss me before they exited the vehicle.  I would check on them later....

I walked toward my classroom that morning, smiling at the kids on the playground. On the way to my classroom the principal, Pastor Greenfield, stopped me to see if I had heard the news.  

"I have!" I whispered, carefully.  "You want to give me some direction on how I should conduct myself this morning?  What should I say?"  I felt very scared and cautious.

"Why not follow their lead?" he said, rather comfortably.  "See if the kids bring it up.  If they do, explain that they are safe here and that it will be a normal school day.  Encourage prayer.  God is in control, as always."

He turned to another teacher who asked him the same thing; I walked slowly toward the classroom to begin the strangest, normal day of my life.  I was the one who was supposed to be calm and provide peace?  Tall order for me...

That morning I realized how vulnerable our country was to random acts of terrorism. 

That kind of feeling doesn't go away easily.