Sunday, December 29, 2013

Run, Don't Walk to See "Saving Mr. Banks"

Take your tuppence and go see the movie, Saving Mr. Banks. Pop your umbrella and catch an east wind to the nearest theatre.

Based on the collaboration between P.L.Travers and Disney studios in the making of the1964 movie, Mary Poppins, the multi-layered magical ride will certainly prove to be an "E" ticket.

This is a film everyone should experience.

If stories exist to help make sense of our world, as Tom Hanks says, playing the beloved Walt Disney, this one is the pinnacle.

I hope I wasn't too annoying to other moviegoers, but I couldn't help sing along with all the wonderful Sherman and Sherman tunes I'd grown up with.

Richard Sherman, 85, the sole survivor of the songwriting duo.
The movie tenderly opened with the delicate

descending baseline of the minor harmonies of  

Chim Chim Cheree played on piano.

Then sprinkled throughout came

Feed the Birds


Let's Go fly a Kite

A Spoonful of Sugar

A word of advice to you post 60's born youngsters: Do not see Mr Banks if you haven't seen Mary Poppins.

In fact the more you've been immersed in the Mary Poppins culture the more you will get out of  Saving Mr. Banks.

My indoctrination began early as my mother regularly read several of P.L. Travers' books to me at nap time. That was the beginning of my infatuation with that quirky English Nanny. I distinctly remember the hardback books with the whimsical illustrations of the slender, rosy-cheeked British woman and her two charges.

Mary Poppins, Mary Poppins Comes Back, Mary Poppins Opens The Door, Mary Poppins In the Park, Mary Poppins From A-Z, , Mary Poppins in the Kitchen, Mary Poppins in Cherry Tree Lane,
Mary Poppins and the House Next Door.

Even before I was born, my father was keeping close watch on Walt Disney. Maybe because they shared a first name, my father, Walter Allen.

In a July 1955 letter to my older brothers when they were visiting relatives in Massachusetts, my father  wrote abut the grand opening of this wonderful amusement park in Anaheim a few miles from our home. "It's a fantastic place! We will go when you get back. It costs a large sum of $15 for the whole family to go!"

Wow! A whopping $15!  The cost, now? Add a couple of zeros for a 3 day trip to Disney World.

In the early 60's if we did our summer chores faithfully, we'd get a trip to Disneyland as a reward. I remember saving all my A, B, C, D and E tickets in my top desk drawer to use the next time we visited the Magic Kingdom.
When Mary Poppins, the movie came out in 1964, I was done. A year later at age 8, I had to be her at Halloween. Mom bought me the plastic carpet bag and let me wear her old suit, blouse and hat. Add a household umbrella and I thought I looked pretty close to the real thing.

Me dressed up as Mary Poppins - Halloween 1965

The surprise in Saving Mr Banks appeared in the personal conflicts within the author and how Disney was an agent of healing for her past. One doesn't know often where history ends and Hollywood begins, but the message, whether fact or fiction was true and poignant.

My husband shed a tear at the end of the movie too, identifying with having lost his father to an untimely alcohol related death. My husband was 17 and his dad under 50.

The highest purpose of a work of art has been accomplished in this movie. It redeems the horrible things that can happen to a person. It fosters forgiveness and births hope and joy.

One more thing.

If you exit the theater before the credits finish rolling, you'll miss the best part.

Bravo! Bravo! Saving Mr. Banks.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Those Blank Slate, No Agenda, Post-Christmas Days

It's empty.

My schedule is.

There are no piano students coming at 9am to to break the Saturday morning silence and wake my sleeping sons with their Frere Jaques and other Lost-at-middle-C beginner pieces.

The trash truck rumbles past the house, stopping to collect the piles of Christmas box debris and wrapping. The mail truck motors by stopping to pick up the late cards I send out. Several still wait on my desk needing stamps.

It's a slow morning of left over Betty Crocker Jolly Breakfast ring from Christmas breakfast.

Month old chores try to elbow their way into the day's calendar. Cleaning the garage, re-papering the kitchen shelves. Cleaning out old clothes in closets. The bathroom never got a wash down this week.

But I resist them and determine that we will play today. Though the skies are grey, it's warm out. Perhaps a walk in the preserve to sight tropical winter birds. Or a Home Depot run to return an unused tool.

I could read my eldest son's master's thesis he had bound and gave us for Christmas. It's on phenomenology. The philosophy of communication; the function of language; exchange of ideas between the subjector, the subject and the interpreter. Heady stuff for someone who only completed her bachelor's in music.

The pounds of gifted candy will be surrendered to when the afternoon chocolate craving comes.

Not sure what to do. Except we have to fog, cause our lazy dinner dish habits caught up with us and a little colony of dreaded detestable roaches have populated a corner of my kitchen. So we drop the insect bomb at noon and go out to play.

Or head with the masses to the mall to exchange Christmas gifts that didn't fit.

Saturday night church at 6.

That's it.

That's it for the day.

This blank slate, no agenda, Post-Christmas day.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Carol of the See's Candy

Every year my siblings in California send a huge box of See's candy. I'm telling you it just doesn't feel like Christmas until that box arrives. Maybe the Christmas feeling is aloof because it's still 86 outside, I don't know. 
Florida's version of chocolates by Hoffman's just doesn't compare!
My NYC son says it doesn't feel like Christmas. He says the lights, cold, hot drinks and snow bring on the festive feeling much better up north.
"Yeah, but you wouldn't be going to the beach right now if you were in NYC." The younger brother quips.

Being a Californian, I'm kind of used to the weather not being an indicator of the Season. Although it still chills enough there on the West Coast to don boots and sweaters. 
Anyway the See's candy is on my dining room table now and it feels like Christmas. 

Thank you bro and sis,  Chris and Cath!

Carol of  See’s Candy

Some people say the season starts 
When snow lies on the ground
Or when the shoppers crawl the mall
And scurry all around 
Or with the lighting of the tree in the center of the town
I count the season starting...
In chocolate by the pound!!

Does the merriment begin 
With snowman in the yard?
Or with the stockings hung
Or the opening of cards?
I say the Christmas cheer begins
When See's is in my cookie jar!!

Nuts and creams and glorious chews
There isn't any better news
Than when I hear the doorbell ring,
"A package came!" Our hearts just sing!

We look for it throughout the year
That wondrous day of holiday cheer
From relatives so loved and dear
It's Christmastime, the See's is here!!!

Merry Christmas Everyone!!

Friday, December 20, 2013

New meaning to "Smokin' What You Sell."

On a recent missions trip to Cambodia, my friend distributed Bibles.

The third world folks read a few pages.

And smoked the rest.

That's right. Turns out cigarettes are hard to come by. Loose tobacco a little bit easier.

But when the American missionaries brought them Bibles, they learned that the tissue thin pages

were very good for rolling a smoke. They made nice cigarette papers.

Who knew?

So the missionaries tried to teach the Word, while the indigenous people read a little of it

and smoked a lot of it.

Those of us who call ourselves Christians or the new-fangled term:  Christ Followers need to do more of what these Cambodians did. We preach that Jesus is all we need; that He is enough, but we run like crazy to other things when we are feeling a bit down. We fill the hole with things just like anyone else. Instead of satisfying ourselves with the Source of peace and joy, we follow the crowd.

Shopping, drinking, partying, checking the 'likes' on our latest blog post or twitter, instagram, or Vine post. Because the attention gives a little lift.

We tell eveyone else that Jesus is all we need, but we do not practice what we preach.

Nor do we smoke what we sell.

Those Cambodian villagers got it goin' on.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Guess Who Called After I Wrote the President About My Spiking Healthcare Cost?

Well, it was NOT the President of the US (SR, soon to be).

But I did get a call from a representative from the Health and Human Services Department that oversees the new brand of government insurance.

He was concerned about my letter (see 12/7/13 post).

Wow! I was at the Mall where my piano students were playing to benefit VITAS Hospice children's Camp when the call came to my home landline.

I was a little freaked out when my husband texted me that someone from the HHS called in response to my letter to the White House. My heated email to them was about my husband's insurance being canceled and replaced with a policy that was $533 dollars a month higher than our current plan!

Was I in trouble?  (My good friend wanted to know if she needed to bake me some pumpkin bread and hide wire cutters inside). Admittedly, I should have been a little more respectful, but it's hard not to get emotional when the freedom to buy what you want  is being snatched away; when you are being forced to buy something you don't want


When it's being replaced with coverage that defies all logic.

My 57 year old husband needs maternity care coverage? In case he gets pregnant, right?

He is mandated to take out pediatric care for our adult children? Adults covered by pediatric care?

I'm really confused.

The utter lack of common sense kind of jarred my brain and the outraged words just spilled out on the keyboard.

So I returned the call today to the HHS office gentleman and another quiet listener on his end heard my complaint.

But, when I asked him why my husband needed maternity care,





Excuse me sir, with all due respect, you are a reperesentative of the HHS and





I rather think he knew, but would be self-incriminated to verbalize the fact. The reason is that my husband's premium is funding someone else's medical bills.

I believe they call that Socialism.

The end of the free market, earn-your-own-way economic philosophy.

Now we earn for others.

Yes, it's here, now, in the Land of the Free. Socialism.

Over 5 million people are in the same situation as we are.

Over 5 million people have had their insurance plans canceled; the plans that the President said we could keep - over 26 times he said we could keep them along with our doctors.

I believe they call that Corruption. When information is deliberately concealed for the advancement of a political agenda.

That's Corruption.

Oh, but the President apologized, the HHS representative gentleman reminded me on the phone.

Apologies are only as good as the restitution made, I replied. Until the wrong is righted, the apology is worthless.

If we were told the truth, the outcry would have been so pervasive and intense that this unfair, tyrannical, despotic health care bill would have never passed.

But it's too late now. The HHS gentleman said we could apply for an Exemption. I went to the website and no details are available right now for the "hardship" exemption. There was no hardship until it was foisted on us.

He politely, but patronizingly ended the conversation. I told him to call me when he found the answer about the ridiculous maternity coverage my husband was forced to buy.

So, in 2015 my husband has these choices.

Either pay $577 per month for coverage he doesn't need. Or carry NO insurance and pay a penalty of $95 the first year, then $315 the second and $695 the third year. And the next? And the next?

Or (Gee, I wonder if this is was their intention all along), we have the choice to buy government medical insurance from the Marketplace.

Oh, and I understand it's less than affordable. Another Administrative marketing lie: Affordable Healthcare Act.

Not a lot of choice in the Land of the not-so-Free anymore!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Advent: Week 2 - Handel's Messiah, A Holiday Must-Hear

The second week of Advent had our family taking in Handel's exquisite oratorio, sitting in a brick Presbyterian church in West Palm Beach. The young conductress and featured soprano was my eldest son's friend.

Lesson to self:

When hearing Handel, always have a handkerchief handy.

There are few words that describe the glory of his music, and the human response is one of pure tears of joy. The telling of Advent from the prophets to the angels is no better conveyed than through this baroque musical story-telling medium. And Handel created it best.

Soloist, choir and orchestra combine to bring a transcendent offering of the greatest story ever told.

Being in a beautiful church added to the richness of this morning when we heard an abbreviated version of the oratorio.

Arched windows that let in the morning glow,  diffused by leaves of mature trees. My home church meets in a windowless, renovated Target building, so daylight during worship was a welcomed change from my weekly practice.

Fluffy clouds that had just showered, broke to reveal a powder blue sky.

And strains of "Comfort Ye my people" and "For Unto Us  Child is Bo-rn" rang clear, accompanied by an small ensemble of violin, flute, cello; the rest of the orchestral parts transcribed and quite adequately filled in by the small church's lovely pipe organ.

What would Christmas be without a recital of that classic cantata?

But it's not for just this time of year. Many church's reserve that household tune, the Hallelujah Chorus for Easter services.

My Led Zeppelin-Jimmy Hendricks- husband used to listen to the Messiah every morning before he left for high school.

I have no idea where he got the notion to do so, but he bought himself a vinyl record set of the Messiah and blasted it every morning before class.

It charged him up, got him in a Jesus mind-set, ready to face the day and spread his joy through his high school halls.

Annie W. Patterson authored a book on Oratorios that describes a concert of the Messiah from over 100 years ago in her book The Story of Oratorio. Here's an excerpt:

A large concert hall brilliantly lighted. Ladies and gentlemen in evening dress are being bustled into their seats by stewards. the capacious orchestra s filled with chorus-singers and instrumentalists. The bright dresses of the soprani and alti form a broken crescent of brilliant colour, surrounded above and intercepted in the center or rows of black suited male vocalists. Aloft, the organ peals forth the pitch note...all tune their instruments.

...and immense outburst of applause....four soloist singers take their place....the conductor bows solemnly.....applause sinks to a murmur....conversation of the wand...

The opening chord - a chord which resounds in anticipation already in the mental ears of many cultured musicians present. At last it comes; solemn, grand, pathetic, and yet heroic in its strength and nobility - 
the full e minor common chord that ushers in the fugal opening movement of Handel's Messiah.

...The solo tenor, "Comfort ye...Every valley shall be exalted...And the glory the glory of the Lord"...
While tears rise in the eyes of many as they hear, Come unto me, all ye that that are heavy laden..
Through the music of the Messiah many have felt their hearts burn within them as the divine words of scripture wedded to Handel's sublime music have fallen upon their ears..

Even for the free thinker and agnostic, therein is the triumph of Purity and Truth, the symmetric harmony of the universe, the evolution of perfection and purification of all things good and evil, the glorious consummation of the Faith, Hope and love that rules the universe.

Perhaps the genius of the composition is found in George Frederic's quote after emerging from a feverish 24 days of sequestered composing:

"I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself. "

The Messiah, an Advent must-hear for all.

And be sure to carry tissues.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

How my Health Insurance went from under $50 to $577 Overnight!

We interrupt this series on the Advent to address the current federal administration. Here's a letter I sent to and my senator this morning.

Dear Mr President,

An administration that forces me to buy healthcare is an oppressive one.
Here's my story.

We thought we were spared the government healthcare gauntlet. 

But my husband who has minimal Blue Cross Blue Shield plan (which BCBS said would satisfy Obama care requirements and avert a penalty, yes penalty, not tax, when I opened it last summer) received a cancellation letter. Our less than $50 per month plan ,which was just fine thank you, was going to be cancelled and replaced with a $577.70 plan that included pediatric care and maternity.

Pediatric and maternity care???!!

 We are 56 and 57 with grown children! I am mid-life (hence the incredulous letter) and well past childbearing. Our college age kids are covered in my employer plan. You're joking right! Did anyone check out our age?  This is almost as crazy as the guy who got healthcare from The Marketplace for his dog!

Is this the level of intelligence that surrounds this healthcare initiative? THIS IS LUDICROUS! 

Thankfully, I received another letter yesterday saying my husband could keep his BCBS $44 a month plan, thanks to the government changes of law. (You can just do that?)

We don't want a change! Please don't force us! This borders on totalitarian law. When I get letter in the mail saying my healthcare is going from under $50 to $577, I find these scary days to live in. This is not the America our past leaders intended to be. Please stop the madness.

Unbelievable, right? The government has only postponed their dictatorial programs for a time.

At least we'll have a merry Christmas this year.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Advent: Day One - Invasion of Love

My Christmas lights are half hung.

Only on the highest peaks where my son hung them before traveling back to college.

The other son protested my request for help with a facetious, "It's the Sabbath, mom!"

Ignoring the comment, I took up where the first son left off, but then it started to rain. I'm not that driven as to get soaked just to meet my self-imposed weekend deadline of getting the house exterior decorated.

So I left the lights and sat down with my Bible and coffee to draw take a Sabbath.

This is December 1st, the first day of Advent. "Arrival" is the meaning of the word. We celebrate the coming of our Lord. The Invasion of a love that caused a revolution.

Raised Baptist, I don't remember a strict Advent liturgy. Or even hearing the word much except in reference to the card stock Advent Calendar my mom gave us. Each day you open a little window to see pictures of the Nativity story up to the 25th.

As an adult I like the idea of a little more liturgy to help us turn our minds to the monumental act of sending God's son into this despairing world.

So, here is Advent, Day One.

 And I am awestruck by the love that propelled the God/man's entry into our time and space to rescue us. It was an audacious move;  nothing less than revolutionary.

A Revolutionary Love.

Have you been ambushed yet? It's a hostile take over for the better. A spiritual coup designed by the greatest campaign Strategist.

Let Him invade your heart and transform it. Raise the white flag.

Then join the Invasion of Love by spreading it around. Let more than the lights on your house shine this season.

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