Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Morning with Sophia

Two or three days a week we have the privilege of 'watching' Sophia so Tim and Anne can continue to work. This means that on those days, everything Jan and I do takes a back seat to doing what Sophie wants/needs. On just about all of these days, I wind up being thankful that I am retired and can watch each little change that takes place in her. I don't remember spending as much time with Jen and Tim when they were this age, and when Jolie and Jeslyn were babies I was still working. This means some days I stay off the computer, partly because Sophia loves to hammer the keyboard and watch the pictures change. She has her own keyboard on the floor, but tires of it quickly because nothing happens when she hammers that one. I have to be vigilant when she's in my lap hammering on mine, so that I don't miss messages like "do you really want to shut down? you have unsaved material."

This morning was both typical and atypical. She was asleep when I picked her up, and just waking up when I got her home. Normally when she wakes she can't wait to get out of her carseat, but lately she's had times when she wants to sit in the car seat (facing it) and play with the buckles and straps. Today was one of those days, so I wound up carrying her and the seat into the house. Jan and I are sure she's trying to figure out how the latches work, and heaven help us the day she is strong enough to use that knowledge!

She also likes to play with her stroller, especially when the tray is loose so she can open/close it at will. This put her next to our set of 100 markers that actually belong to Jeslyn. She loves to pull all of the markers out of the base, then play the game where she's the tornado and each marker is a mobile home. She doesn't rest until they are strewn all over the living room. If I then come in and line up some markers in orderly fashion, she is quick to come and cure me of that desire.

Eventually she crawls out for some outside/porch time. She's become enamored with steps, climbing up and down, and is pretty careful. But just in case, I'm right there with her ready to catch her if she falls. Because I'm bent that way, I realize this is an object lesson for me. She has no idea I am there protecting her from disaster, and would only notice my absence if she fell and hurt herself. And in an "aha" moment, I realize I have no idea the number of times God is there ready to catch me when I make a misstep. I do notice when he lets me go ahead and finish messing up on my own. Perhaps as an indication she is steadily growing, something happened this morning that had not happened before. We were on the back porch and she was getting close to the steps with her back to them. So I took my hand and rested it in the small of her back. That seemed to bother her, so I took it away. She looked up at me, grabbed my hand, and placed it back in the place it had been. Kind of, "I know you're taking care of me, keep it up." Probably reading too much into that but that's what I'm choosing to believe.

We watched a little of "Bolt" on Disney and it engrossed her for awhile. Of course she got tired of it before I did, so we went for a walk and I missed the ending of the movie! We walked in the stroller for almost an hour, and she examined every person, car and bush along the way. I then handed her over to Jan, because she's in charge of the "feeding and putting her down for her nap" part.

So, it's 11:15 and this is the first time I've had any time to myself. And that suits me just fine. By now you've probably stopped reading because all of the above stuff may be very boring/maudlin to you. Each day I'm with her, though, especially when I feel a little put upon because she's SO demanding of our time, I then become grateful when I consider the alternative. Jen, Jeff, Jolie and Jeslyn live 3 miles away. Tim and Anne are 45 minutes away, but work 15 minutes away. We have been "on call" grandparents for over 12 years now, and sometimes it means we can't go on a few-day getaway. Sometimes our plans change at the last minute because of a crisis of some sort with the parents of our grandchildren. Sometimes Sophia becomes demanding while I'm eating and I wind up eating a cold lunch/dinner. (the same goes for Jan, obviously)(Meaning she sometimes changes plans, eats cold meals, etc,. NOT that she becomes demanding and makes me eat cold food!)

Before I let any of that lead to a pity party, I think of my friends David and Anita. I've known them since I was Jeslyn's age. They live in Central California. Their grandkids currently live in North Carolina. Their 2- or 3- year old grandchild tells her friends that Grandma lives at the airport and sometimes they go pick her up and she stays with them. We had lunch with them recently, and they talked about finding a way to spend 6 months to a year in North Carolina. Even that has some built-in drawbacks. So we are blessed to be able to be on-call grandparents.

Jan sometimes says no to the emergencies because she's just too tired. Being the thinker I am, I keep reminding her that this is not a permanent situation. In fact we will look back on it and realize how fleeting it was. It's already beginning, to a point. Jolie will be in 7th grade this year, is more independent, and has parents of friends who are more than happy to have her around before and after school. So this year we will have no regular "Jolie days." Jeslyn reminds us that she can be alone with just her sister or by herself with no problems. Soon Sophia will be in pre-school and then school, and since her parents live in Riverside we may experience Grandparents Empty Nest sooner than we're ready.

So, whenever physically possible, the answer to "Dad, can you.....?", the answer will be still be yes. "All too soon, the clock will strike midnight...." and Cinderella(s) will be gone. It's been an amazingly blessed run, and I'm going to ride it for as long as I can.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Learning to Trust Matthew 6

I can't count the number of times I have turned to Matthew 6:21-33 when I am beset with worries about my life. Just like I can't count the number of times those worries turned out to be groundless. Having said that, I have been oppressed by two worriesome possibilities the last few months, and try as I might, have not been able to put my trust in the words of Jesus when he says, "Do Not Worry."

The first worry had to do with a test that the IRS is now requiring all tax preparers to pass in order to stay in business. Never mind that I've always loved taking tests, that I've always done well, and the last few years of running my own business tells me I am more knowledgable than most guys out there. The worry started when I took some online sample tests, and did not pass any of them. Now, these sample tests were composed by people who wanted me to pay them to help me pass the test, and I realized that they intentionally created impossible, scary scenarios in order for me to fork over my money to them. 95% of the questions on those things were concerning situations I had NEVER come across in my 10+ years of doing returns, yet the nagging thought was, "What if the test is really that hard?" Jan kept reminding me, "It's an open book test, dummy," and there were two major publications available to me while taking the test. But since I inherited the worry gene from my Mom, and allowed myself to dwell on the "what-ifs?", I worried far more than I should have.

The second had to do with my health. A couple of months ago I was shoveling rocks for the side of my house, picked up a load wrong and tweaked my back severely. Despite trips to the chiropractor, doses of anti-inflammatory medicine, hot tubs, ice, electronic stimulation and ultra-sound, my lower back still felt bruised and the pain would radiate to my hip if I stood up for more than 5 minutes. I told Jan, "I am afraid of getting old and being in constant pain." Our bed is very cushy soft, and often I would get up in the morning hurting worse than when I went to bed.

This morning was the test, and I slept little last night, despite laying off caffeine in the afternoon and retiring early. Got to the test site in Lake Forest about 8:30, put all my belongings in a locker (wouldn't even let me take in my watch) and checked in for the test. This testing center was very nice, and apparently administers all kinds of tests. As far as I could tell, I was the only one taking the IRS test. The test was 120 questions with varying point values, and I needed 350 out of 500 points to pass. I had 2 1/2 hours to take the test. After a short tutorial, I began the test. By question #2, I knew my worries had once again been unfounded. The test indeed was about "basic tax law", and over 90% of the questions dealt with familiar situations. So I went through the 120 questions in about 45 minutes without bothering to check the online reference materials available. The program allows you to "mark" questions if you aren't sure of the answers, and then you can go back and review the marked questions. With over an hour and a half left, I had time to research the anwers to questions I had marked. Some I was not able to find in the resource material, in which case I left my original answer as marked. Though I had probably marked 90 questions, I wound up changing fewer than 10 answers. I finished with about a minute to spare, and knew I had passed. One of the neat things about technology is that I had been told I would be notified of pass or fail before I left the center. I checked out, the proctor printed out my results, and all I saw was the word "congratulations" at the top of the page. As a result, I rewarded myself with one of my favorite lunches at Fuddrucker's, which was across the street from the restaurant.

One final note: As I was walking to the car, I noticed that my back/hip no longer hurt. Matthew 6: 21-33.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Why I'm Not a Republican

I'm fond of saying that presidents are like quarterbacks--they get too much credit when things go well, and too much blame when things go bad. I also have said that regardless of their actions in office, no president has done anything that I can say tangibly affects my life. I've been rethinking that latter statement. In doing so, I've come up with 3 events that directly and negatively affected my life.

The first event occurred in 1969, when the Nixon administration instituted a lottery to determine the order of young men to be drafted into the military. Each birthdate was given a number from 1 to 365, with #1 being the first number drafted. I got number 100, and eventually got drafted 5 months away from college graduation. (My roommate and his twin brother got a number in the 360s and are still Republicans today!) So at 8 months of marriage I was shipped off to New Jersey for 4 months, and I blamed Nixon. It didn't help that he subsequently turned out to be perhaps the morally bankrupt president in history when it came to abuse of the power of the office.

Then in 1981, I was hired to be the baseball coach and basketball assistant at Northwest Nazarene College (now university) in Nampa, Idaho. We had college friends in the area. We sold our house and got ready to move. Just before we moved we discovered that President Reagan had cut the funds for the job I was going to have in the Migrant Education Department, and therefore it was impossible to go to Idaho. We did have to move, rented for a couple of years, a victim of a move that typifies conservative administrations--shrinking government. I have no problem with smaller government, except in this instance I was the job that was shrunk. Fortunately I had not resigned my teaching job in Tustin and had a really good year. Reagan later would perfect the concept of deniability in Iran-Contra, and I realize had become the nostalgic hero of all conservatives, but he hurt me personally at that time.

This brings us to George W Bush and No Child Left Behind. The irony of this program is that is big government at its worst, yet is championed by conservatives because, well, it was implemented by a Republican president. It imposes impossible demands on the public education system. I know conservatives are the ones who usually see a conspiracy in everything, but in this case, I felt it was a plan designed to insure that public schools would fail, and the classic conservative goal of the privatization of education would be advanced. It made my job so much more of teaching to the test, and less time for the affective part of education which was my strength. I have over 500 former students as facebook friends, and very few became my friend because I helped improve their understanding of Math and/or English. NCLB dehumanizes education and provides incredible pressure, not only on teachers, but on administrators whose job retention depends on test scores and nothing else. I've always said the impact of a teacher cannot be quantified, and it certainly has no relation to test scores. Rather, it's about an e-mail my daughter Jennifer received from a former student a few months ago. Paraphrased it said basically this, "Mrs. Russell, I made some poor choices after I left school, but I'm getting better now. When I hit bottom, I remembered what you and Mr. Lewis would tell me when I misbehaved--'do you really want to be that person you're being right now?' I finally decided I wanted to be the person you believed I could become. I want you to know that without your caring, I would be dead now." I can't tell you how proud that made this Dad. She forwarded the email to an administrator with the note, "does this matter?" Never got a response.

Back to my original point. Three negative events that impacted my life directly, and all came from Republican administrations. Like all people with political views of any kind, I could be using selective memory. In many political arenas my views are such that my ultra-conservative friends say that I'm "not a typical lefty." If this means I use my brain instead of a knee-jerk response along party lines then I agree. I usually voted the opposite of what the NEA recommended, usually because those recommendations served teachers rather than students. I believe abortion is wrong, that we need to control our borders, and we need to find a way to keep criminals out of the country (I like the old idea of a penal colony, which I would guess is a conservative point of view). At the same time, I think the bewst way to destroy the drug cartels is to make drugs legal, have them sold at government stores at 1/10 the price they are now, and thus reduce the market for the cartels to next to nothing. I know that will never happen, but I think we are foolish to think we can eliminate drugs in America and the bloodbath that is Mexico using current methods.

Personal experience aside, I think the part of conservatism that puts me off the most is the "let them eat cake" attitude towards America's poor. To me the most hypocritical thing many of my Christian friends do is give lip service to the concept that "everything I have belongs to God," but let the government try to redistribute a portion through taxation and it suddenly becomes, "this is mine, you can't take it." I've probably said that in a previous blog, but I think it bears repeating.

In closing, I have an uncle who has said in my hearing, "I don't believe you can be a Christian and vote for a Democrat." I wish I had had the courage to say to him (a former teacher), "I don't see how anyone can be in public education and vote for a Republican." My pension is very nice I admit, and better than most, but without Democrats in government, I would STILL be teaching, at probably less than $40,000 a year.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rocky Mountain High

I think John Denver and Rob Bell would have been great friends. I came to this conclusion during my reading this morning. I was out on my balcony in Vail, reading while watching a rushing stream about 50 yards from my unit. The trees were close enough to hug, if I were so inclined. The sound of the stream was muted somewhat by the sounds of the traffic on I-70 less than 100 yards away. So I thought of John Denver--the things he loved so close to the things he hated.

My reading for the day turned out to be one of those "coincidences" in that it was along an environmental theme. Bell was talking about creation, how God would create something, call it "good" and then give it the power to recreate itself. For example, when he saw that fish were good, he didn't create more fish, he gave fish the means to reproduce themselves. Then he created man, and gave man dominion over the earth, which in Bell's interpretation included the charge to take this "good" thing and make it better. Then he penned the line that stopped me and became the subject of this post : "That's why litter and pollution are spiritual issues."

It was awhile before I read on. I looked out at the stream and realized I hadn't seen an empty beer can or a sandwich wrapper floating along. My thoughts went back to age 6, when we were visiting family in Illinois. On the drive, litter was commonly a foot deep along the side of the road. We got to Illinois and I was excited about going swimming in Lake Michigan. Except that we couldn't even get into the water because there were literally millions of dead fish floating at the shoreline and as far out as we could see. One of the things that amazed me on our family trip to Chicago in 1989 was the beach was as pristine as one would hope it to be. This is not about who was responsible for the cleanup, but that it has taken place. And Denver and Bell would say we are coming closer to doing the job that God gave us to do in Eden.

Why is litter a spiritual issue? In its purist interpretation, I suppose you could say that anything that makes the planet less beautiful is subverting the intent that God had in creation. It's a man saying that his comfort is more important than taking care of God's creation, that the job we have been given to make the planet better isn't worth his time. Even more so, it is showing a disregard for others that God has commanded us to love and make better. The fish that eats the metal thrown into the water and dies. The man that is paid to clean up after us. I have heard people callously say that they are helping people employed by making them clean up after them. Then I was reminded of yesterday when we checked out of our villa in Park City and we had about 4 bags of trash and the dumpsters were 4 floors away. I said to Jan, "Housekeeping's going to be here anyway." Shame on me. (One of the things that was amazing about attending a baseball game in Montreal was that the fans threw away their own trash, not leaving it under their seat for the custodians after!) I suppose if we truly took our responsibilities to heart, hotel housekeeping staffs would never have to do anything but laundry. But in casually tossing away our trash, we are in effect being selfish, expecting others to do what we should do for ourselves, and we know how God feels about selfishness.

Pollution to me is all of the above taken from the individual to the corporate level. It's the pursuit of profit above all, regardless of the means necessary to get there. So we had burning eyes from smog in '60s Los Angeles, companies dumping their waste in the middle of large bodies of water, etc. Largely because they have been forced by legislation, companies now are more accountable for correcting those behaviors.

Now, I don't belong to the Sierra Club, I'm not a vegan, and you will never see me chaining myself to an oak tree marked for cutting. But I will also never toss my can out my car window even if I'm in the middle of the desert with no other cars for miles. I honestly believe we are closer than we were 50 years ago, to becoming the kind of people God intended for us to be.

So I don't long for the good old days. To me they mean a highway with litter piled on the sides. The better new days mean I can enjoy a litter-free mountain stream during my morning read. The good old days meant dead fish in the lake. the better new days mean a pollution-free beach. If I may expand, the good old days meant breathing other people's smoke in public places or workplaces. Finally in the good old days, an African American woman couldn't ride in the front of the bus. In the better new days, an African American woman is the First Lady.

And I promise to work on the whole throwing away my own trash at the ballgame thing.

Think I'll go with John Denver for the closing. In this Rocky Mountain setting, I wish to live out my life so that people can say, "he walks in quiet solitude, the forests and the streams, SEEKING GRACE IN EVERY STEP HE TAKES."

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Thoughts on a Churchless Sunday Morning

We are on vacation in Park City, thus our normal Sunday church activities are obviously unavailable to us. I brought Rob Bell's "Velvet Elvis" along with me and, as sometimes happens, a phrase leaped off the page at me this morning. I've always known grace is available to all, but I don't think I've ever heard it expressed the way it way this morning. (Disclaimer #1, I may have heard it before and wasn't in a position to process it the way I did this morning. Disclaimer #2 I ran it by Jan and she wasn't impressed, and she's usually a pretty good sounding board for these things. So feel free to stop reading now.)

Anyway, here's the phrase: "Hell is full of forgiven people God loves, whom Jesus died for." I've always known that God loves all, and Jesus died for all, but somehow the concept that people in Hell are forgiven had never occurred to me. I think most evangelicals have been taught God's forgiveness needs to be asked for and accepted. But pre-conversion forgiveness? That's a new one to me, but it makes sense, for a number of reasons.

First of all, I've always been told and taught that forgiveness needs to take place even if the "offender" doesn't ask for it, even if they are unaware they have wronged me. It's for my benefit that I don't hold on to that hurt and let it turn into bitterness. Forgiveness of others is an important command of Christ, and it doesn't come with the condition that it needs to be requested. So, if that is the standard for us, it makes sense that God has the same standard for Himself. The Bible says Jesus died, "Once for all," which means that all forgiveness for all time took place at that moment.

Secondly, if you think of Christ's words on the cross, "Father, forgive them...", he was at the moment referring to his murderers, who obviously didn't believe they were doing anything that needed to be forgiven. But they were forgiven at that moment, whether they wanted to be or not.

Thirdly, that forgiveness obviously applies to me and to you. One of the sticky things about switching churches is that we switched to a church that was pretty much at the other end of the spectrum in many theological positions. I remember the pastor at our orientation saying, "you've been forgiven for every sin you've committed and every sin you WILL commit." I struggled with that, and asked him about it later. He said it wasn't a blank check to continue sinning, but rather that the provision for any future transgressions was already there. (I suspect Rob Bell's quote wouldn't be that much of a shock for him).

In context of the entire chapter, the quote has even more meaning than can be discussed here, but it was an "aha" moment for me. As I said, we've been brought up to believe that part of the salvation process is asking for forgiveness, and then accepting that forgiveness. This can be a stumbling block for the person that says, "God can never forgive all of the things I've done." Before, I would say something inane like, "Sure he can, he wants to." Now I am going to say, "He already has." I think that was the "it is finished" part on the cross. That may not be a big change in your eyes (or my wife's evidently) but it is a paradigm shift for me.

So,even though I am 1000 miles away from Huntington Beach today, FCC had a big part in my going to church today. The teaching from day one has been about the marvelous grace that is available to all, and how easy it is to accept. Rob Bell was unknown to me until we started there, and his books were recommended by my friend Don (don't get all that much out of his videos). I love my church.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Of Yvette, Jan and Rick (not me)

Rob Bell tells a story of a young lady named Yvette who came up to him after church one day and told him she disagreed with everything he said and wanted to stand up in her chair during the messages and yell at him. His response: "I immediately liked her." She went on to say she was studying witchcraft and was totally opposed to his entire message. (I know a lot of churches where she would have immediately been escorted from the property). He said, "But you keep coming back," and told her that he hoped she would continue to do so. A few weeks later was the Sunday after the 9/11 attacks, and he preached on the need to forgive and let go of the hatred when people have wronged us. After, he saw Yvette face down on the floor sobbing. She later told him she had been raped years ago and had been carrying around that bitterness and anger and it controlled her entire life. She turned it over to the One who had suffered far more than her. A few months later she handed him a sheet of paper with her contact info on it. Whene he asked why, she started telling stories of witches she had been meeting who now wanted to become Christians, and if I met any, to send them to her.

That's a great story, and I'm using it to justify my claim on the story I'm about to tell. For Rob Bell said "I claim Yvette's story, for Yvette's story is our story and our story is God's story. Faith is a communal experience."

So I'm going to tell you about Jan and Rick (not me). Jan is adopted. A few years ago, through a series of miraculous "coincidences" the Aunt who arranged her adoption found her. We have since met with Aunt Glennis and Aunt Alice and have had conversations with one of Jan's nephews. Jan's mother had three other children, all boys, and two of them have passed away. The third, Rick, is about 18 months younger than Jan, and has basically been out of touch with the family since about 1984. He didn't know he had a sister, and the aunts gave us little hope of finding him. That's where my son Tim came into the picture. Tim has recently gotten really involved in ancestry exploration, and has traced all of our families back hundreds of years.

Now, Tim has had not much use for the institutional church for quite some time, causing his dad quite a bit of soul-searching, but as I get older I realize that Tim's heart is more Christ-like than most of the Christians I know. And this was never more true than in his search for the lost sheep that was his Uncle Rick. In hindsight, I think that was his ulterior purpose in digging into his ancestry. The search has gone on for about 3 years. Finally a couple of weeks ago, he told us he had found a couple of possible addresses for Rick (Trowbridge last name), and was going to write him a letter with our contact information.

Three days ago, Jan was at the dentist and I was home alone when the phone rang. The caller asked for Tim, and when I said Tim didn't live her, he finally got around to saying, "This is Rick Trowbridge." We talked for awhile and he promised to call back later in the evening. I immediately called Tim with the news, and to say he was excited would be a gross understatement. His next facebook post referred to shaking hands and pacing the floor. When queried, his response was simple: "I found my Mom's brother." There were some personal reasons for his quest, but I believe his main reason was that he knew how happy it would make his mother.

When Jan got home, I said it was too bad she hadn't been home, because then she could have taken the call from her brother. She immediately dropped all the mail on the floor, doubled over and began sobbing. She could have been the poster child for tearss of joy.

Rick called back and he and Jan talked for almost an hour. He had gotten Tim's letter the night before, had no idea he even had a sister, was somewhat miffed at Aunt Glennis for never telling him, but mainly it was evident that he was as joyful at having a sister as Jan was at finally talking to her brother.

We went to the movies yesterday, and a voice mail from Rick was waiting for us, the underlying message being, "I want to talk to you again." So Jan called and they spent another 45 minutes or so getting to know each other. His life has been as tragic as Jan's has been blessed, but my wife plans to do whatever she can to make sure the rest of their lives are spent as a family.

That is a great story. And, as Rob Bell did with Yvette, I'm making it my story. It's really Jan's story, Tim's story and Rick Trowbridge's story, but I can't imagine any of them being any more joyful than I am. The brother that was lost has been found. And we're having a banquet in our hearts.

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Cindertiller Weekend

I will never be a fan of dance, and it's probably too late in life to develop an appreciation. But I am (no shock to those who have to listen to me ramble about them) a fan of my grandchildren. And THEY are fans of dance. This past weekend they had their annual recital at Long Beach State, and I set a new personal record by attending 3 of their performances. Each show is about 40 dances, and the girls are in about 3 of those 40. So the in-between is excruciating for me. I am actually beginning to be able to tell the difference between a gifted dancer and the non-gifted one (guess which category my girls are in!), and I'm trying to develop an appreciation, especially since the more times I go, the more dancers I recognize from previous shows and it's kind of fun to watch them grow up.

For example, one thing I notice is that periodically the audience breaks into applause in the middle of a performance. As I analyzed, this usually occurred whenever a dancer was standing on one leg and going in circles. And it seemed like during the course of the weekend, every time I woke up there was a dancer on one leg going in circles. So I began to applaud, by myself. No one joined me. So it must be some special kind of one-legged twirling, like a triple toe loop or double axle or something. But I'm trying. I actually think that only two or three people begin the applause and the rest of the crowd joins in to make people think they know what they are watching.

My first show was Saturday at 1 pm. One of the reasons Jen scheduled me for that hour was that the rest of the day was filled with a Tustin High School runners reunion (hence the "tillers" part of the title of this blog). The theme was "A Day at Disneyland," which did nothing to improve my mood! However, since a few years of these events have taught me what to expect, I had my game face on and was ready to do battle without complaining. Jolie was in a dance in what looked like the Cinderella segment, and also a Pocohantas dance, and Jeslyn was in a 10 Little Indians dance (and, yes, there were 9 other girls). So, Jolie comes out for her first dance, and the music begins, sounding vaguely familiar. Lo and behold it is Stephen Curtis Chapman's "Dance With Cinderella," which as my friend Curtis pointed out is the "Dad Kryptonite" song. If you don't know it, it's about a little girl who asks her daddy to dance with her, starting with an imaginary ball and ending up practicing to dance at her wedding. The first time I heard it was a few years ago when I was, ironically, in the parking lot at HAD waiting to pick up the girls. Jen called me and told me to switch my radio to a particular station, which was playing the song. Given the song's effect on me, I'm glad I wasn't parked. Let's just say that when the girls got in the car their first words were, "Grampa why are you crying?" So that's the real reason Jen got me tix for this show. I'm so thankful that I have a daughter that loves her husband and kids dearly and still goes out of her way to make her Daddy happy.

Jolie's next dance was to "Colors of the Wind" from Pocohantas. Again, I enjoyed it because of her presence. Also, those of you Tustin staffers who may read this will probably remember an infamous inservice when the presenter suddenly broke into this song. So, hopefully, Jolie's performance will help erase that memory.

Jeslyn's performance in 10 Little Indians was as bright and energetic as she is, and even included some one-legged stuff. One of her fellow dancers was Rachel LeTourneau from our church.

Another great thing about the day was that Tim and Anne and Sophie joined us, and we had gone to lunch and then we had a great time of discussion/fellowship on the way home. Again, I am grateful for two grown children who have made good partner choices, and who still love to spend time with Mom and Dad.

Off to Louise's house for the THS runners reunion. There were about 15 of us and it was a great time. Saw Tom Coffey who I coached and taught with for many years, and most of the runners there were from the small window during which I coached cross country. (I love running almost as much as I love dance!) Great fellowship, but even greater were the times when I was able to spend some one-on-one with those who are still so special to me almost 30 years after they were a daily part of my life.

Great sermon Sunday morning. Two takeaways from Bruce's message: "One of these days is none of these days," meaning decide what you want/need to do and then don't put it off, and "My everyday life is not determined by decisions the government makes." I've been preaching that to my doomsday friends throughout this administration and it's nice to have my brilliant pastor agree with me.

Off to the one pm performance on Sunday. In addition to our girls, the recital included the debut of two little ones from our church, Lolly and Roxy Brookhyser. I love the little ones, especially when I have some connection to them, perhaps filling in for the one thing I miss from our previous church--children's programs at Christmas and Easter. Jolie was in a group dance from Mulan and was a card in a queen of hearts Alice in Wonderland dance. Jeslyn was a flamingo with 2 other little girls and a boy. My girls, of course,were great, but my limited dance knowledge/appreciation put it into the "same dance, different costume," category. But it appears to me that in the technical skill and "performance sass" category, my grandgirls are ready for high school dance teams, if those programs still exist when they get there.

The last show on Sunday night is reserved for the girls who are taking private lessons, and most of the dances are solos or duets. I told Jan after that it seems that for most of the older girls, they had chosen "Music to open your veins by." But this program had 3 highlights for me. Jolie was flawless in her solo as a doll come to life. Then the girls performed their dance from "Chicago" called "I just can't do it alone." I had seen it twice before but it was the first time for Jeff and the girls really wanted to surprise him with it. And each performance they got better. It was also special because Jeslyn was the youngest performer in this evening session.

I had thought on Saturday that it would be great to have "Cinderella" done with the dads, and that's what happened Sunday night. Two younger girls came out with their dads, danced on the verses and then their dads picked them up and danced with them on the choruses. My optic faucets opened up again.

The final number was a troupe number performed by all the girls who had been demonstrators for the young ones during the year, and Jolie was part of that.

Then the girls sat down, and they started showing pics on the wall of the girls through the years, including 4 of Jolie. Then the graduating girls were given flowers and a good cry was had by all. I found myself thinking, "this is just list a basketball banquet." It was a time to come together and reflect on the hard work for sure, but even more for the bonded relationships that were forged during the process. For these girls (I might mention there were also 2 boys who were very skilled) dance is every bit as much a part of their growth and life as basketball and baseball were to me and the kids I coached. It was a very special time, and I'm glad I was there. I'm sure the parents of the seniors were thinking, "It's over, already?"

So, really, the entire weekend was tied together. There was the enjoyment of my grandchildren at this stage of their life, the enjoyment of my children at this stage of their life, the enjoyment of my surrogate children in the runner's reunion, the realization that no government decision influenced the events of my weekend, and ultimately life is reduced to relationships. So I found myself thinking of a song that fits the theme of the weekend, sort of...from Jefferson Airplane, who sang "White Rabbit" which is from "Alice in Wonderland," sort of, which was a Disney movie.
"Don't you want somebody to love, don't you need somebody to love? Wouldn't you love somebody to love? You'd better find somebody to love!"