Jan 202013

Tonight I was blissfully happy.

My teenage son, Sunshine, his friend, and I were given free tickets to the Arturo Sandoval Save the Music concert at our beautiful local theater.  I could not keep the grin off my face. I sat on the edge of my seat with tears in my eyes watching teenagers, classmates of my son, play in the first ever Arturo Sandoval Institute Allstar Student Jazz Band opening for Arturo Sandoval himself.  I was filled with pride and joy as I watched kids I ‘know’ step up and play with skill and heart. One of them even got to sub in with Arturo Sandoval’s band at one point.





As a bonus, the actor Andy Garcia introduced Sandoval and then played bongos in his band. (Yes, he actually plays the bongos, as well as the conga and piano.)  





Sunshine had his own fan boy experience watching sax player and band leader Gordon Goodwin play as part of Sandoval’s band.


Arturo Sandoval was wonderful.  He’s not only musically talented, but he’s very funny and a great teacher.  His banter between songs was priceless.   Paying tribute to his mentor, Dizzy Gillespie, in words and music, he explained how Gillespie helped invent Be-Bop when Swing was all the rage.  He confessed that growing up in Cuba, music saved his life.  It was in 1990,when Sandoval was on tour with Dizzy Gillespie, that he was able to defect to the United States from Cuba.


Not one to take without giving, he has created the Arturo Sandoval Institute to preserve instrumental music education in public schools and universities worldwide. Part of the proceeds from the night go to our city’s arts organization as well as our local school district’s educational foundation.  

I find it hard to put in to words just what watching good live music does to me.  It’s as if my soul wants to leap out and dance.  When I watch kids or teenagers pour their hearts into their music, I can barely contain myself.  It is one of the most transcendent things I’ve experienced.

Tonight, I am grateful to my son for asking his band teacher for an extra ticket for his mom.  And, once again, I’m grateful for music.

 Posted by at 09:17
Jan 092013

Anne Lamott has a new book out called “Help. Thanks. Wow.” It’s sub-titled “Three Essential Prayers.”  I know this only because I heard her interviewed on NPR.  I haven’t read the book, but I did purchase it: I gave it to my sister-in-law for Christmas.  This hasn’t stopped me from thinking about these three prayers: Help. Thanks. Wow.

I’m not very good at the first one: Help.  It’s not asking God for help that trips me up, it’s asking anyone.  Truthfully, it’s not just asking for help, it’s accepting it too. For years, accepting help meant admitting that I couldn’t do it myself.  I didn’t like that.  

I still don’t.  

I like feeling capable. 


I’m getting better at asking God for help, or so I thought.  Being weaker than the Creator of the Universe carries no shame, right?


Seriously, there are some things that I just can’t figure out and, after struggling on my own, I’ve finally thrown up my hands and tossed the problem to God.  That’s how it looks in my head, as if God and I are playing some cosmic form of catch with this rubik’s cube of a situation that needs to be twisted and turned until it is restored to order.

I did it the other day.  Hubby and I were talking about the future: sending Sunshine off to college, dealing with the guy that hasn’t paid us for work after 9 months, Hubby’s career –  mostly things that I can’t control, don’t want to control, and shouldn’t control.  So I lobbed it up: “I trust you, Jesus.”  

Honestly, that’s all I said in my head: “I trust you, Jesus.” and I repeated it over the next few days.  When I woke up in the middle of the night and started worrying. When I woke up in the morning and started obsessing. When I looked at our bank balance and started panicking. “I trust you, Jesus.”

At the same time, I made a list and a plan and started baby stepping through that plan.  Just in case God threw the problem back to me.

And then it happened.

Something changed.

God answered.


Hubby got a call for an awesome gig, a chance to travel with good pay for just long enough, but not too long, to an exotic location.

He accepted the gig and my prayer became both “Thanks!” and “Wow!” at the same time.   But, wait…..

This is so outside of what I was expecting that I’m having trouble accepting the answer.  I keep thinking it will fall through, they’ll hire someone else, the timing won’t work out, something bad will happen.  While I am saying “Thanks.” and “Wow”, I am also saying “Wait. Really?  Seriously?  Are you sure?”

I don’t know what it is, but I just can’t wrap my head around this answer.  I’m not sure if I’m doubting God or the magnitude of His goodness, but this is really hard for me to accept.  I’m a little surprised at my lack of faith, or whatever this is.

I know God answers prayer.  

I know God answers my prayers.   

Maybe I have been keeping my prayers general lately. You know “Bless so-and-so.  Help so-and-so.” This was another general prayer- my version of ‘Help’- and God came back with a zinger right down the middle,  an answer so ‘perfect’ that I couldn’t have dreamed it up.  Let’s be clear: I NEVER would have dreamed this up.

Maybe that’s the point.

Looking back over my journal from the last week, I actually did spend some time with Ephesians 3:20: 

God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams!

I guess he can.

As the details fall into place and Hubby makes arrangements, I’m still repeating “Thanks. Wow. Really?”

And God keeps answering “Yep.”

 Posted by at 19:27
Jan 022013

westminster-tube.jpgWe woke early on our last morning in London to give ourselves a few more hours of sightseeing before the tour bus came to take us back to Heathrow.  Having skipped a few key sights, we hopped on the Tube and headed for Westminster by way of the Embankment.  Our first stop was the Battle of Britain Memorial on the shore of the Thames.


The memorial is really amazing. It was dedicated in 2005 to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the Battle. It highlights various events in the nearly four month long siege designed to annihilate the Royal Air Force.



We headed back past the House of Parliament. The bobbies were particularly laid back that morning.



Just past Big Ben, we finally made it to Westminster Abbey, church of the royals, which dates back to 1065. It has been the location of countless coronations, weddings and funerals since then. 



We didn’t have time to take the 90 minute guided tour of the inside since we were on the clock, but the Gothic facade was absolutely gorgeous. The detail on every bit of the building was overwhelming. I can only imagine how beautiful it is from the inside.


As we stood outside and marveled at the majesty of the area, we spied a little stone church wedged between the House of Parliament and the gorgeous Abbey. It was called St. Margaret’s Church and is the working church for the House of Commons.  It turns out it is also the burial site of Sir Walter Raleigh (See Tower of London).

As you stand with your back to the Abbey, there is a beautiful lawn and courtyard ringed with statues, monuments and other important buildings.  It is said that if you drive a vehicle onto the lawn, it will sink into the Underground.


We headed west from there and found ourselves outside the New Scotland Yard (boring office building).  Just a few blocks up, we stumbled across the back of the Royal Guards where they were either training or holding tryouts. It was pretty cool to get a glimpse behind-the-scenes.


We walked a bit further along St. James Park. It was really beautiful even though it was drippy and cloudy.  st-james-park.jpg

squirrel.jpgThe squirrels in the park were especially friendly and Hubby held a rather long conversation with one of them. 

diana-walk.jpgThey park was also home to some rather fat pigeons, one which we named “Winston.”  


As we got closer to Buckingham Palace, we came across the Princess Diana Memorial Walk.

Our first sight once we got to Buckingham Palace was of the Queen Victoria Memorial out front. It is rather unmistakably her.


The palace itself was rather unimpressive and I kept thinking that couldn’t be it.  After the gothic splendor of the House of Parliament and Westminster Abbey, the ‘palace’ seemed plain and unimpressive.  After being extremely underwhelmed by Buckingham Palace, we headed back to the hotel to pack for home.

 Posted by at 15:27
Jan 012013

Faced with our last night in London, it was time to get serious about what we wanted to do.  Being unable to function without eating, we headed to a local pub for fish and chips.  Since it was tea time when we arrived, we were the only ones there.  Our waiter was from Hungary and very chatty.  He apologized to us for the weather and couldn’t believe it when we explained that living in Southern California, we get tired of sun all the time.  He assumed I wanted white wine with my fish – um, wrong.  I managed to get him to bring me a beer and we had a very nice meal.


Once fortified, we headed off to Covent Garden to shop the markets.


It was beautifully decorated for Christmas and full of activity even though it was raining and near closing time.  The area has a rich history with performers and artists and is home to the Royal Opera and St. Paul’s (the actor’s church). 


It is said that the first British performance of Punch and Judy took place here in 1622.   The night we were there, we saw street performers ranging from opera singers to break dancers.  acrobat.jpg

Hubby’s favorite was an acrobat who also told jokes as she performed.


We were able to shop the various markets and buy some Christmas presents.  I had been looking all trip for a ring for myself and finally, I found one!  There was a vendor selling sterling silver rings and I immediately fell in love with a square one.  I put it on and haven’t taken it off since.

As the markets closed for the night, we again wandered back towards the hotel to make the most of our remaining time.

agatha-christie.jpgSometimes the things you see on London streets are completely random like an Agatha Christie memorial or a post in the middle of the street declaring that you can not dig there.  (Is this an issue?)strictly-no-digging.jpg

I don’t think Starbucks in the US would get much business if they piled their garbage outside every night, but in London, everyone does it. Go figure.


Piccadilly Circus is pretty gaudy and held no appeal for us.picadilly-piano-bar.jpg

I think the Piccadilly Piano Bar and Comedy Pub may make the list for next time….Sounds intriguing!

 Posted by at 16:17