A deep cello accompaniment and the soaring voices of young women created an inspirational performance of Ava Maria at the Pembina Trails Voices Christmas concert we attended last night. Our daughter-in-law is one of the Pembina Trails music directors and we were sitting with her parents. “What does Ava Maria mean?” my husband asked our son’s father-in-law after the concert was over. Neither of them really seemed to know so I looked it up this morning.
Botticelli image of the angel Gabriel greeting Mary
Ava Maria directly translated from the Latin is ‘Hail Mary.’ They are the first two words the angel Gabriel said to Mary when he told her she was going to give birth to Jesus. The angel went on to tell her she was special and blessed and that God was with her.
I really like the version of the angel’s words in The Message translation of the Bible.
You’re beautiful with God’s beauty,
Beautiful inside and out!
God be with you.
I think those words are ones for us all to take to heart. If we woke up each morning remembering we are not alone in this world and that we are truly beautiful and special we would feel assured, motivated and hopeful.
Jesus is Born at the Sagrada Familia
God as A Stranger
Filed under Music, Religion
At my writers’ group Christmas party on Thursday night we each had to bring food for a potluck. We were supposed to prepare something that was related to a novel we have written. I have just finished the first draft of a middle grade novel about a boy who travels by train from Kansas to Saskatchewan in 1907. Here is the excerpt from my novel that I used to plan my potluck contribution.
My contribution for the potluck
The next day at the station Mama doesn’t say anything about me getting on the train. Sometime during the night Papa must have convinced her to let me go. She hugs me and two hot tears slip across her cheeks and slide down my neck as her arms squish the air out of my lungs clear to my ribs. Before I turn towards the boxcar with Prince and Gypsy inside she hands me an old sugar sack that smells of spicy pickles, smoked sausage, buttered bread and her dried cinnamon apples. I can tell Mama wants to say something. She gnaws her lips and opens them so wide I can see all of her teeth right to the back of her mouth, but only short frightened gasps come up from her throat. Papa shakes my hand strong and steady like I’m a real grown man and then he puts his arm around Mama’s shoulders and leads her away. She doesn’t look back at me.
So Much Hard Work
A Quick Five
I’m In Chicken Soup Again
Eight year old Bana Alabed narrates a tragic story in the book Dear World. She and her family lived in Aleppo Syria and Bana started a Twitter account to describe the horror and deprivation her family was experiencing. She garnered nearly 400,000 followers. Bana’s family has now escaped to Turkey where they have become citizens and Bana and her mother have written a book about their family’s experiences that has been published by Simon and Schuster.
I had heard nothing about the book before I read it myself and I was moved and mournful as Bana described the terror of bombing raids, the agony of hiding for hours on end in cold and dirty basements, the stark reality of having little or no food to eat, the fear of dodging bullets to get water, the disappointment of having her school destroyed, the anxiety of seeing her family separated and the sadness of losing her dearest friend in a bombing.
The city of Aleppo where Bana’s family lived
After finishing Dear World which includes a response from Bana’s mother Fatemah at the end of each chapter, I went online to learn more about it and now I am not at all sure what I think of the book. Many Amazon reviewers, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and a host of websites have questioned the veracity of Bana’s tweets and her narrative in the book. Even in favourable articles like this one in the New Yorker there are suggestions that Bana’s videos on Twitter are too scripted and that she is being coached. Critics say in interviews Bana simply doesn’t exhibit a good enough knowledge of the English language to have written the tweets she did. Some even accuse her parents of being aligned with terrorist organizations. Since the announcement of her book launch some of her more political tweets have been removed from her feed.
Yet I am left thinking …….. Would Simon and Schuster publish her book if they didn’t think it was true and would author J.K. Rowling be Bana’s number one fan and supporter if her story wasn’t verifiable? It’s hard to know.
The bottom line is that the war in Syria has been devastating for thousands of children. If Bana Alabed’s story brings attention to their plight and inspires people to help them that’s a good thing. But it is not a good thing if questions about Bana’s motivations and authenticity does anything to hinder bringing support and aid to the refugee children of Syria . I am not sorry I read Dear World. I wish I could still take its very sad story at face value.
Meeting the Street Children of Delhi
Standing Up For Children
Thoughts About Children
Those are works of art! Charming portraits of a family on the Canadian prairie’s flashed on the screen during the slide show I put together for my Aunt Viola’s 95th birthday. I had found many of the photos saved in albums and envelopes when I helped her move into a personal care home. Some of the scenes were so idyllic and lovely my brother suggested they could be turned into beautiful paintings. I just loved these portraits of my mother’s family. I asked my Aunt Viola who had taken all the lovely photos and she said most were taken by her Aunt Marie. My Great Aunt Marie, my grandmother’s sister never married. She had a job in California working for a wealthy family. When she came home to visit her family in Drake Saskatchewan she always brought along beautiful clothes for her sister and her sister’s children. Great Aunt Marie also owned a camera and she took photos of her sister’s family.
Tbese are just a few samples of the charming prairie family photos taken by my Great Aunt Marie.
I am grateful to her for recording these beautiful memories from my mother’s childhood.
One night when we were in Kyoto Japan with our friends Rudy and Sue we went to a local market and bought fruit, vegetables, cold meats, bread, cheese and wine so we could have a meal in the dining area of the traditional Japanese house where we were staying. We arrived at our lodgings and dumped out our shopping bags onto the table. We were tired and hungry and began nibbling away silently at the things we’d bought when Sue said, “Wait a minute.” She gathered up our purchases and went into the kitchen, returning a short while later with all our foodstuffs cut up and arranged and presented beautifully on a tray she had found. Suddenly our meal took on a whole new tone. The lovely presentation of our food made us take time to savor what we were eating and really enjoy it and each other’s company. Even though it was the end of a long day of walking and sight-seeing we had a great time visiting, eating, sipping our wine and talking about our new experiences.
We all know appearances aren’t everything but my friend Sue taught me that the look of things makes a difference. Whether it was the artistic way she served the delicious meals she cooked, the comfortable way she designed the interior of her home, the creative way she could organize a vase of flowers or the classic way she often dressed, Sue had a flair for presentation. It made food taste better, rooms seem more inviting, flowers look even lovelier and simple outfits appear perfect for the occasion. Sue had a talent for arranging things so their innate beauty shone through.
My friend Sue died on Monday night. She was a successful businesswoman, adventuresome world traveler, supportive wife, caring mother, loving grandmother, wonderful cook, avid reader, wine aficionado, first class social coordinator, experienced cyclist, hardy hiker, brisk walker, talented bridge player, serious golfer, easy conversationalist, empathetic listener and many, many other things to her family and to her wide, wide circle of friends. I count myself blessed indeed to have been one of those friends. I will miss her greatly.
A Serendipitous Sail
Hecla Island Inspiration
Getting To Know A Famous Inventor
My brother and Aunt Vi check out her cake.
My Aunt Viola turned 95 years old yesterday. On Saturday our family hosted a party for her in Saskatoon. I think over a hundred people came to wish her well. I was so happy that a big group of my cousins and their children as well as some of my aunt’s cousins were there.
My sister and Aunt Vi enjoy a happy moment.
I made a speech about my aunt describing her as a world traveler, devoted daughter, voracious reader, dedicated teacher, loyal friend, faithful sister, caring aunt, gracious hostess, prolific needle worker, active church member, dedicated volunteer and plant lover!
Aunt Vi greets some of her many friends who came to the party
Aunt Vi surprised us all when she got up to make a speech too. She talked about her life and how it had been her desire to serve God in all she did. She also encouraged us to share a kind word or even just a smile with others.
Aunt Vi with some of her cousins.
I thought Aunt Vi would be tired after meeting and greeting people for almost three hours but when we got back to her suite she wanted to look at all her cards. So we formed a little assembly line. My Dad and brother opened the envelopes, my sister read Aunt Vi the notes and signatures in the cards and I put them all up on a wall in her room so she could look at them again and again.
Nieces and nephews and great nieces and nephews and a couple great, great nieces and nephews who came to the party along with my Dad.
It is quite something to live to be 95 and still be in a state of health and mind to enjoy it. I’m glad that’s the case for my aunt. Happy Birthday Aunt Vi!
A Tipped Caboose, A Black Eye and A Wedding
Aunt Vi’s Autograph Book
“I’m just disgusted with what’s going on.” I was chatting with a disgruntled man after the service at my church last Sunday. He was depressed about the state of our world. I asked him if he had listened to the sermon. Our pastor had done a first rate job of making us feel hopeful about humanity despite the scary headlines.
Blindness is epidemic in India as I discovered when I visited there
Our pastor introduced us to Govindappa Venkataswamy (Dr. V). Dr. V is an opthamologist who decided he wanted to eradicate blindness in India and set about developing a system that would allow him to perform inexpensive, quick and successful cataracts surgeries. His system led to the creation of a chain of hospitals in India that have brought sight back to nearly 5 million people. Two thirds of these surgeries have been performed for free and yet because Dr. V developed economical ways of producing supplies and efficient methods of training surgeons, his hospitals actually make money.
Palestinian and Israeli women take part in a march near the Jordan River, in the West Bank on Oct 8, 2017.
Our pastor also showed us a video of Palestinian women and Israeli women marching together for peace. This past October more than 5000 women from both Israel and the Palestinian territories arrived in Jerusalem after a two-week march through Israel and the West Bank. These women were of different religious backgrounds, different economic backgrounds and had different political affliations but they were united on one thing – they wanted to prevent another war in the Middle East and they wanted a peace agreement between Israelis and Palestinians.
Primeminister Justin Trudeau visibly moved during his apology to LGBTQ Canadians
Another nugget of hope in the sermon was our pastor’s description of the heart felt apology in Canada’s House of Commons the previous week, when our prime minister stood and recited more than twenty ways in which our country had acted reprehensibly and oppressively towards lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and two-spirit communities. You could see many members of Parliament were visibly moved as our Primeminister declared, “We were wrong. We are sorry. And we will never let this happen again.”
Our pastor had other hopeful examples in his sermon. I pointed them all out to my disgruntled fellow church member. I also mentioned the heavenly music provided by a string and wind ensemble during the service. Hadn’t that given his soul a measure of peace?
I’m not sure I convinced him. We live in a time when we need to look for every sign of hope we can. I’m glad I attend a church that helps me do that but I realize that a lot depends on me too. I have to be ready to listen with a positive attitude and take to heart those nuggets of hope.
Thoughts on Hope
Hopeful Families in South Korea
That’s How Light Gets In