“…some place for the singing of angels…”

The night was clear, cold and starry as my husband and I finished dinner near the wharf in Annapolis, Md., and headed down Randall Street toward the United States Naval Academy. Tiny white lights and graceful swags of fresh evergreen with burgundy bows on charming colonial houses beckoned with the warmth of nostalgic Christmases past. But I felt dismally cold inside, politically shredded, at odds with people. What was truth anymore? How could our country be this irreparably divided? Tonight was an early Christmas gift; I wanted to savor it. But I also wanted to reserve the right to stay angry about injustices as I perceived them.

We followed signs for pedestrians to enter the Academy and threaded our way through security, much like in an airport. Then we were fed out into the cold night again to make our way to the Academy Chapel to hear the 70th annual presentation of Handel’s Messiah.

Soon we could see the chapel’s luminous dome rising valiantly through the trees like the November supermoon.  A man walking in front of us dismissively swept his hand in its direction and said, “Of all the buildings on this campus, can you believe this is the one that costs the most to maintain?” img_5459

He’s as grumpy as I am, I thought. But at the same time, something in me had perked up at the building’s majestic beauty. I didn’t want him to ruin it.

We picked up our tickets at Will Call, then split up to go to the restrooms. As I walked down the hall, the women’s chorus in a nearby rehearsal room burst into an energetic refrain. Something buried deep within startled to attention. Choral music. Had this died within me, too?

We settled into our seats in the farthest right corner of the rear balcony. A woman from the row in front of us stood up and grimaced as she held onto the railing and moved into the small open space right in front of us to stretch her legs. Here we were, just three or four of us out of sorts. What state were the hundreds of others of us in?

Eight o’clock arrived, and we prepared for a formal introduction to the evening’s performance. But none came. Instead, the audience quieted as members of The United States Naval Academy Glee Club took their positions and the conductor moved to the podium.

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The overture began, familiar and anchoring. Then the tenor soloist effortlessly spun musical silk as he proclaimed, Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God . . . .

A dial in my frozen soul switched to defrost. I had forgotten these were the opening words. I had played oboe in Messiah orchestras when I was younger and had sung many of the choruses with choirs. But I was immersed in the execution of notes and phrases and certainly didn’t need them like I did now. I felt like a wounded soldier in triage with a compassionate attendant leaning over me whispering, “It’s going to be all right; let us take care of you now.”

. . . The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God . . .  I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land; and I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come . . .  for he is like a refiner’s fire. . . .

One after another, the soloists filled the chapel with long and gloriously complex vocal runs. These were magnificent, world-class singers with monster résumés and voices so rich and resonant the Alto and Bass could have hollowed the center aisle into a canyon, and the Soprano and Tenor could have levitated the Chapel dome. The Glee Club complemented them, harnessing the energy of multitudes of heavenly beings in their ebullient delivery and immaculate diction . . . and the guh-LORy, the guh-LORy of the Lord shall be revealed . . .  all the way to the back wall where we were sitting. Precisely synchronized in the raising, opening, closing and lowering of their music folders, as you would expect from a military academy, this was a night of perfection. 

But not perfection that drew attention to itself. These superb performers had managed, by their extensive and skillful preparation, to get completely out of the way. Only the music was left to speak.

. . . For unto us a Child is born; unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace . . . .

I had thought I was in an impenetrable state when I arrived. But the truth was, I was raw and full of fissures raked open for healing light and love to pour in. So that when the words were sung, All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way, and the tender and heartbreaking strains of the orchestra supporting the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all were played, I broke wide open and wept. For politicians vying for power, for entrenched citizens railing against each other, for atrocities in Aleppo, for oppression, inequality, violence, cyber hacking by foreign governments – and for the bitter judgment in my own heart.

When the performance ended with the glorious swell of the scripture from the Book of Revelation, Blessing and honour, glory and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb, forever and forever, AMEN, the audience sprang to its feet and applauded for what felt like five to ten minutes. The soloists took their well-deserved bows, but you had the feeling that they, too, were bowing before the Great Healing That Had Happened Among Us. We had corporately affirmed what Howard Thurman named when he wrote in his book, Deep Is the Hunger:

“There must be always remaining in everyone’s life some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathlessly beautiful, and by an inherent prerogative, throws all the rest of life into a new and creative relatedness, something that gathers up in itself all the freshets of experience from drab and commonplace areas of living and glows in one bright white light of penetrating beauty and meaning – then passes. The commonplace is shot through with new glory; old burdens become lighter, deep and ancient wounds lose much of their old, old hurting. A crown is placed over our heads that for the rest of our lives we are trying to grow tall enough to wear. Despite all the crassness of life, despite all the hardness of life, despite all the harsh discords of life, life is saved by the singing of angels.”

My face was wet when it was all over. Neither of us wanted to leave. Then Rob pointed overhead and said, “Look.” I hadn’t even noticed. Suspended above us the whole time was a ship seemingly buoyed by the arms of Jesus.

The title of a country song, of all things, welled up unexpectedly like a prayer within me.

Jesus, take the wheel.

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Note: After weathering chronic, desperate, paralyzing illness himself, and his servants and musical collaborators the fury of his occasional rage and fussy temperament, Handel was transformed by composing Messiah. “No money for this work,” he insisted. “I will never take money for it, never. It shall always go to the sick and the prisoners. For I was sick myself, and it cured me; I was a prisoner and it set me free.

I respected the note in the program that photography and unauthorized video were strictly prohibited. But after the program had ended, and since we were in the very back row and interfering with no one’s view, I couldn’t help pulling out my phone midway through as the performers did an encore of “Hallelujah Chorus.” Even though my husband and I play this little clip often just to recapture the healing transcendence we so desperately needed that night, I realize trying to record something this magnificent onto a tiny cell phone is doing it complete and utter injustice. Still, it moves us. And so we keep playing it. Over and over.


My deepest appreciation to the superb directors and performers:

The United States Naval Academy Glee Club
Dr. Aaron Smith – Chairman, Department of Musical Activities, Naval Academy
Dr. Cindy Bauchspies – Director, Naval Academy Women’s Glee Club
Monte Maxwell – Chapel Organist, Director of Chapel Music
Edward Weaver – Harpsichord
Jose-Luis Novo – Music Director, Annapolis Symphony Orchestra
Jeanine De Bique – Soprano
Stephanie Blythe – Alto
Harold Meers – Tenor
Morris Robinson – Bass

With All My Love

       It wasn’t exactly ideal weather to begin an October beach vacation. A low pressure system, driven by the northernmost bands of a hurricane, had started to bear down on the mid-Atlantic. We had driven three hours and unpacked our gear in wet and gusty winds. After finally getting settled and eating a spaghetti supper with the family, five-year-old Hudson was raring to go. “Lolli, can you please take me to see the ocean?” he pleaded.
       We were just two houses from the beach, and since there was a brief lull in the rain, I easily said yes. “It’s chilly and windy,” I said, pulling his blue hoodie over his head and tightening the strings on mine, figuring we had at least 15 minutes before the sky unloaded again. He flew out the door and ran ahead, skittering over the boardwalk and leaping onto the dunes between the sand fences like a calf released from its stall. I followed as quickly as I could, shouting into the bracing wind, “Hud, wait for me! The waves are really rough – don’t get too close to the water!”
       It was just an hour before dark, and the sea was agitated and foaming at the mouth. Gray clouds churned ominously overhead. The wind was dramatic and invigorating, and Hud took off, chasing and retreating from the sudsy white edges of the water like a human sandpiper.
hud-surf-angle
       We had the beach all to ourselves, and his joy was irrepressible and contagious. We laughed and kicked up sand and water, and I threw back my hood and let the wind splay my thick, layered hair into stiff, outward spikes. “Does my hair look funny?” I shouted.
       His laughter penetrated through the roar of the waves. “Yes!” he shouted back. When I captured him later and bent down to roll up his soggy pant legs, I realized the shifting sands and divergent waves had disoriented us and pushed us pretty far down the beach. “Hud,” I said, pointing way up the beach. “See that brown house with the yellow one beside it? Right between them is how we get back to our place. Let’s keep an eye on that spot, okay?” He nodded and took off again as I nudged him northward.
       I stopped to catch my breath, my arthritic back and knees reminding me it had been a long time since I was five years old. I studied his lithe, fleeting form, effortlessly whizzing past me like I was a stalled car on the highway. The clouds unburdened themselves a little, and our hoodies darkened with raindrops. But neither of us were ready to leave.
hud-straight-on-running-toward       As the light grew even darker and the rain a little heavier,  I marveled at this gift of a grandson, who opened my heart back up 18 years after it sealed shut upon the death of my youngest daughter. And then I sank so deeply into the thought that I started to cry. I felt the jaws of time clamping down on me, even as they yawned wide open for him, the weight of my life experience sinking far below the featherlight happiness of his fresh, expanding world. Would he visit me in a nursing home someday? Would he giggle to his siblings about my dementia, look on in horror at my missing teeth . . . cry at my funeral? Would he remember this night? Would I?
       Stay in this moment! I ordered my heart. But how could I convey my deep and effusive love for him – this boy who, age-appropriately, squirms out of my hugs and prefers high-fives?
hud-brown-sand
       I breathed in the energy of sand, wind, rain and sea, and this small, darting human still looping and spinning around me. I knew I could crush him with the weight of my feelings if I wasn’t careful. So standing there at the edge of the continent, I mentally switched tracks and remembered that it wasn’t just time that was moving at a dizzying pace. In just 24 hours, we would each have rotated with the earth a distance of close to 25,000 miles at a speed of something like 1000 m.p.h., which meant that, in just our short time together on the beach, we would have traveled about 500 miles in space.
       It felt like my heart had already gone twice that far. I willed it to come back and give him a blessing instead of this lachrymose longing:
       Go, Hudson, go! Let my love lift, and not ever restrain you! May all the energy in your legs, heart and mind carry you far and bring you and the world as much joy as they’re bringing you and me right now. And may you reciprocate my love not by piling it back onto me (well, maybe a little), but by passing it on to your own children and grandchildren. And like it or not, girl cooties notwithstanding, I am kissing you now, and I’ll be kissing you forever, with all my love and gratitude for you.
       “C’mon, buddy!” I finally shouted. “It’s getting dark; time to go back.”
       He sped past me and raced up the sloping dunes, his body not having stopped once in the half-hour we were out there.
       Without even looking back to confirm with me, he correctly threaded himself between the brown and yellow houses and disappeared from view.

    hud-runningNote: I didn’t have my camera with me that first stormy evening on the beach, but I was able to capture Hud on a sunny day a few days later – much as he was that first night.

My Messy Room

This story ranks up there as one of my top five most embarrassing moments. It was April of my freshman year at a small college in Virginia, and I was in love with a guy at another college 200 miles north. We were both from the same hometown and had been together for well over a year. In spite of the distance, it was a secure, deepening relationship. There was more than a sunny forecast for our future together.

 His family was adorable. His sister was creative and fun, and their parents, Janet and Bob, were servant-hearted, fit, full of energy, and the most thoughtful people I’d ever met. Their modest, well-appointed home (dubbed “The Museum” by his sister) was beautifully decorated in traditional Williamsburg style and full of meticulously cared-for, treasured possessions. Each item was perfectly placed and held a meaningful story behind it. I marveled at the artfully fanned-out vacuum marks on the freshly cleaned carpet, the meticulously groomed dog, and the childhood board games that still had all their pieces in sturdy boxes without worn or smashed corners. An antique Victrola phonograph player in a corner of the living room gleamed with polish and actually still worked. It’s not as if I came from a disorderly or unclean home. Quite the contrary. But this family took order, cleaning and detailing to new heights.

 My college was in a small town so safe they didn’t even issue keys for the dorm rooms. I was hardly in mine much anyway; majoring in music kept me moving all the time. Because almost every class produced a fair amount of performance anxiety, you simply couldn’t sit back and coast. Four mornings a week there was 8:00 AM theory class, where we had to practice ear training and piano harmony in front of everyone; then voice and instrumental method classes where we had to master, at a basic level, many of the instruments in the band and orchestra. In addition, there were long hours spent in listening labs, group rehearsals, and practicing instruments for private lessons, juries and recitals.

 By this time in the year, everyone had spring fever. The cows in the pasture across the street from my dorm chomped contentedly on the lush grasses springing up around their feet, while students took to beach towels outdoors to study for exams. But the music majors couldn’t relax. This was the week of the campus chorale’s annual choir tour.

 My roommate, also a music major, and I were scrambling to get ready to leave. We were madly finishing up term papers, laundry, and perishable food. Cleaning the room simply had to wait till we got back. Time bore down on us, and we fled to the waiting tour bus with our suitcases and music scores, barely closing the door behind us.

 We left our beds unmade, books strewn all over our desks, the peanut butter jar open, beverage cans on the window sill and cracker wrappers fallen just short of the waste can. There was a half-eaten banana rotting on a nightstand, and some of our dirty laundry trailing out of the bottom of our closets.

 The tour was lots of fun, and the college raised significant funds because of our fine singing. But after it was all over and we returned to campus, we were exhausted. Tired of staying in host family homes, we were ready to climb into our own beds before classes would begin the next day. My roommate and I dreaded the thought of all the cleaning and laundry we still had to do. We lugged our gear up the stairs and opened the door into our hallway.

 We were halfway to our room when I spotted it – a note tacked to our door. I drew closer and let out a horrified gasp.

Right then and there I cursed the no-lock policy of this idyllic campus and kissed goodbye to my future with this family. Were they being sarcastic about my room?  

 I opened our door, anxious to bury my humiliated face into my pillow. I flicked on the light – then drew in a startled breath. The beds were beautifully made, all trash removed, desks organized, no signs of clothing spilling out of the closets. There was even a fresh daffodil in a tiny glass jar.

 “THEY CLEANED OUR ROOM!” I cried.

 I sank onto my bed and did not know what to do next. I was flushed and breathing hard, sick to my stomach, mortified that they had not only seen our room in all its chaos, but also handled my personal stuff, thinking they were helping me out. That was the kind of people they were.

 “They did a good job,” my roommate softly offered.

 I had been suffering emotionally for over an hour when our next door neighbor popped her head in the door to welcome us home and saw my pained expression. “Are you okay? Did you guys not have a good time on the tour? What happened?”

 I blurted out my embarrassment, how the revelation of my unkempt ways would most certainly cause my boyfriend’s parents to warn their son to find a higher pedigree sort of girlfriend. “It was such a fun week… and now this,” I groaned.

 She listened with deep concern, then softly said, “Oh Lisa, I’m sure it’s not as bad as all that.”

 “Not sure it could be any worse,” I said, sniffling back tears.

 She was clearly feeling my pain, then seemed to grope for words. “I… I didn’t want to tell you this, but… I’m the one who cleaned your room. I did it right after you left. I knew you were both pressed for time.”

 There has to be a better way than I personally know to describe her gift to me in that moment. I could offer, inanely, that it was like being carried when you can’t walk anymore, or stepping into a warm, healing bath. But it was so,so much more than that.

 It was an extravagant unburdening, an undeserved love.

 I fell into her sweet arms and cried into her shoulder. “Thank you, thank you,” I said over and over. “I can never repay you for this.”

 I have never forgotten Sylvia Ballou. She was the first to teach me what grace feels like.

Lady Liberty and The Hemorrhaging Woman

Years ago we were returning from a trip, sailing along the turnpike to music on the radio. As we approached a mountain tunnel, we took off our shades and flicked on the headlights. The moment our car slipped into the darkness, the music abruptly stopped and the “seek” feature went berserk.

Station numbers flashed wildly at lightning speed, one after another, as the radio attempted to salvage its lost connection.

There are times, like now, when this is an apt metaphor for my life. Am I the only one less certain these days of my footing in this rapidly morphing culture, a bit seasick from everything happening in our country and around the world?

I rifle daily through TV news and social media, like our car radio in the tunnel, trying to latch onto something that clarifies, enlightens, inspires, anchors. Often I am left exasperated and empty, unable to dial down the noise, lift my despair, turn from the powerfully addictive screen light, or recognize the numb, depressive haze that comes over me when I feed on it for too long.

Every now and then, something special bursts through.

I was getting ready to take a grieving friend to lunch a few weeks ago, and I happened to check her Facebook page when her cover photo stopped me so hard in my tracks, I inexplicably burst into tears.

The Touch
“The Touch” by Aaron and Alan Hicks

Some will recognize this painting as the biblical story of The Hemorrhaging Woman, and I will admit that part of what arrested me was that she is black, unlike all the white depictions of her I’ve seen in movies and print. It pierced me deeply to think how I take for granted all the heroes and heroines I’ve grown up with that have skin color like mine, and how non-whites need to see the same. (Thank you, Black Art Depot, for being the first place I landed where I could identify the painting and buy a print.)

If Lady Liberty is a symbol of our country’s freedom and democracy, then The Hemorrhaging Woman – whose name is not recorded and who could be of any skin color – should be in the running for the symbol of our pain and suffering.

We have an incredibly beautiful, great and strong nation. But we are also hemorrhaging from grief, fear, and racism both blatant and so subtle that even caring white folk can barely see it in themselves. We are bleeding from divisiveness and a host of disorienting sins and inequities only God can truly name and judge. How do we stop the bleeding? What signal do we lock onto to keep our bearings?

This woman gives us a clue.

She had been hemorrhaging for 12 years. In her day, menstruating women were considered “unclean” and were socially isolated. With such chronic bleeding, there are no words to describe what she must have been going through. Her body and spirit were most certainly emaciated and anemic. To grind her further into the ground, repeated doctor visits drained her of all the money she had. Nothing helped. She got worse.

Enter Jesus, wildly trending at the time as a healer of the sick. Who, in her condition, wouldn’t summon up every bit of spare energy to find him? She doesn’t dare think herself worthy enough to ask him to heal her. Just touching the hem of his garment will do it, she tells herself.

Jesus has just come from delivering a tortured man of a herd of pigs’ worth of demons. Now he’s on his way, at the request of a synagogue official named Jairus, to heal the man’s dying daughter when all of this happens. Large crowds have attached to him and are pressing him on all sides.

This woman sees the swarming mob with him at the center coming toward her, and her heart beats wildly as she strategizes. She can do this quickly, just touch his garment from behind, without making a big scene. But there are so many people, so many garments! How will she be sure she’s touched his? But here he comes, and she can’t overthink it. She crouches low to the ground, and with a mighty surge of her body, she stretches and makes contact with the hem of his cloak.

She knows immediately that her flow of blood has stopped. But she can’t just steal quietly away with this wondrous, personal miracle. Instead, she causes a startling transfer of divine power.

“Who touched my garments?” Jesus stops and asks, which is a seemingly ludicrous thing to say since everyone is pressing against him. But he knows the power has gone out of him in a particular way, and he wants to know who caused it.

His celebrity eyes lock on hers and she knows she’s screwed. She has caused the scene she didn’t want to, made community headlines: Unclean Woman Has Gall to Touch Popular Healer! Her face flushes and she trembles wildly with fear as she pours out her story, breathlessly and apologetically.

Jesus turns her world upside down – which really lifts her right side up – and calls her “Daughter.”

He tells her her faith has made her well, and to go in peace and enjoy life again as a healthy person.

While he is telling her this, folks back at the house of the dying girl rush to tell Jairus it’s no use for Jesus to come after all; the little girl has passed. But Jesus isn’t out of sauce, and he continues toward their house, telling them not to worry, to have faith. And when he finally gets there, he stuns the family by telling them the young girl is only sleeping. He raises her up from her bed and tells the astonished onlookers to give her something to eat.

Jesus gets such a terrible rap. Some have an aversion to him because of his association with “evangelicals” and “the religious right,” while others say his name so thoughtlessly it slides off their tongues like spit.

We can barely see him anymore for who he is.

This is the man who didn’t have much to do with politics, who said his kingdom was not of this world, and whose humble, servant-hearted life split the human calendar into B.C. and A.D. He said we need to “rend to Caesar what is Caesar’s,” but also to give to God the things that are God’s.

He might just be worth seeking.

When our car rolled out of the tunnel and burst into the sunlight that summer day on the turnpike, the radio quickly recovered its signal and restored the music it had lost.

So have I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming Down Out of the Clouds

It’s all over – as ephemeral as a rainbow or the enchanted village of Brigadoon rising out of the Scottish mist for one day every hundred years. In one instant, my husband Rob and I were lifted up into rarefied air to soar for a short time at heady altitudes. And then we were gently dropped back to earth. And it’s a good thing. No one can keep living that high up without a lot of protection.

I’m referring to the political campaign contest I won where the prize was for me and one guest to attend a dinner in L.A. at a very prestigious address with very prestigious guests. [Apologies to folks who want even more pictures and juicy details than what reputable media outlets have already provided. But I’ve seen what shady media hounds can do to their prey. So for this post, I’m leaving out names, keywords, and certain photos.]

Without a doubt, it was the experience of a lifetime.

To be honored guests at an event with people most of us would never have access to, except from a distance in a mad throng of gawkers and paparazzi, is pretty thrilling, to say the least.

And to realize you got there simply by using your fingers to click on a contest link, enter an email address and a phone number, and then answer a few phone calls, is incredulous.

So what stands out to me from all this? Things you may not expect:

  • Winning a contest like this is stressful. I’ve learned that there were 50,000 entries randomly whittled down to 100. I later pieced together that the two *polling* calls I received in the weeks prior to learning that I won were, in actuality, vetting calls. It’s understandable that the campaign would need to ensure they weren’t awarding the prize to someone who might embarrass or threaten the event in some way. But the call telling me I’d won came with just six days’ notice.

Along with the all the excitement comes conflicting energy: Is this a hoax or not? Are we being groomed for something illegal and financially catastrophic?

All communications were friendly and seemingly legit until the night before our trip, when we were asked for our Social Security numbers – allegedly requested by the Secret Service. It made sense, in a way, that they were needed. But it wasn’t until we were actually admitted into the venue that we could finally release that niggling doubt. We had to show our photo ID’s twice, got hands-in-the-air scans by the Secret Service at the door, and our car was bomb-sniffed by this dog:

security dog

  • CLOTHING. I am a woman. Ladies. Need I say more? I was told “business attire.” Rob spent $12 on new socks and $5 on dry-cleaning. I spent…a little more.
  • My daughters – Leslie, who lives in Baltimore, and Lauren, who lives in L.A. (my remote fashion consultants) – didn’t approve of the purse I had brought. So the morning of the event, Lauren took us shopping at the Beverly Hills mall. After about 10 stores of justnotquiteright clutches (ranging from $39-$950), and jet-lagged with emotions that had been stretched tight as a high wire for six days, I finally said, “I can’t look anymore. I need to go back to the hotel and rest. Let’s just take the one at T.J. Maxx.” The reason why we didn’t buy it in the first place was because of its color. I had thought it was perfectly black. But keen observer Rob wasn’t so sure. “I think it’s blue,” he said. “It won’t match.” We’d had other disagreements over color before. (Men are more color-blind, especially about blues and greens, right?) So I got impatient. “It’s light black – charcoal, maybe,” I insisted. “But it’ll be fine. NO ONE WILL NOTICE!” Rob dug in his heels, perfectionist that he is. I dug in mine, stubborn as I am.

Lauren mediated the dispute by checking the tag on the clutch: midnight navy. “So we’re both kinda right,” I said, choking a little on my forkful of humble pie. Here’s what the purse looked like (to me) in store lighting:

black purse

And wouldn’t you know, a large part of the big event took place in the low evening sunlight, and you can see for yourself, there was no midnight about it:

RobLisaLuxeRodeo

I began to wonder whether this was a lesson in political persuasions. Maybe we all need to take a deeper look at our entrenched positions.

  • We had some deeply engaging conversations with some VERY rich and famous people. One tech investor couple moved out of Silicon Valley because they didn’t like the vibe there. Their favorite thing to do is to stay home with their young children. “We’ve earned our money,” this young father said. “Now we just want to help people.” We felt the same thing from the host couple, whose lives reflect their deep concern for human rights around the world.
  • With my compare-and-despair tendencies, and a body that mimics every phase of the moon, you would think it would be intimidating to be photographed next to possibly the world’s most exotic, sleekest, smartest and classiest woman who happens to be married to the Sexiest Man Alive (1986 and 2013). But it wasn’t. We had things in common – like being enrolled in different graduate programs at the same university in the same year. (Okay, one thing.)
  • The campaign delivered everything they promised – and more. They were nice enough to extend our stay beyond the one night (on our own dime) so we could visit with our daughter. The other winner and I, along with our guests, were guided through everything by top-notch, smart, affable campaign staffers. We were given a private 15-min. meet-and-greet photo session with the Three Big Names, seated at their head table, introduced by name from the platform by the Presidential Candidate, and given goodbye handshakes as she left early to get to the next destination on her schedule. We were also treated with fascination by so many VIPs who were intrigued about the contest, some of whom were also thrilled, like us, to be guests in the home of this particular celebrity couple. Imagine.

It was a heady, convivial time with the glitterati. When we landed in Chicago on the way home, and I took my phone off airplane mode, it lit up with about 10 media requests. Rob said, “Gosh, we need an agent!” But it’s all died down now. (We ignored most of them, but that didn’t stop some from swiping our photos and twisting our information anyway.)

We’ll probably never again see the people we talked with at the dinner. No business cards were exchanged, and we’re not going to be on each others’ holiday card lists. And while we got all this for free, we will have to pay taxes next year on the prize (winnings estimated at $2,200).

It was a lovely time in the clouds for sure.  But it’s also very nice to touch the ground again.

 

 

Soup for Everyone

Returning from a long walk this frigid April morning, I unwound my scarf, unzipped my down vest and heard myself say out loud, “What’s for breakfast this morning?” I was conversing with God, as I had been doing all morning along city streets spanked with sunshine and raucous with birds twittering in blossom-laden trees stunned by frost.

On such a cold morning, reaching into the fridge for a container of homemade chicken-rice soup may not have been the oddest choice. But it felt like I had bypassed what, if I were God, I would have fed me. (Perhaps a fruit and spinach smoothie with chia seeds, for my health.)

But as I took a spoonful and let the warm, deepening flavor of the broth (this is Day 3 for the soup) spill over my tongue, I started to cry. And suddenly I was a child of seven or eight, back at the long, white paper-laden tables in the Fellowship Hall of the Lancaster Church of the Brethren, hovering impatiently over a bowl of chicken-rice soup for the scriptures to be read and the prayers to be said. It was the annual  Continue reading “Soup for Everyone”