Mother’s Day 2022

In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul says this:

We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. (Romans 12:6-8, NIV)

Many churches sometimes ask members to do a spiritual gifts assessment. That’s teacher-talk for a test, y’all. Anyway, these assessments generally indicate the area or areas wherein the Christian has gifts. However, mothers and grandmothers know that they’d better be pretty good at all of them.

Prophesying is, to an extent, discernment. Moms have much to discern these days, from social media to some really odd fashion trends. God does care about matters in today’s world, and it takes the Holy Spirit’s influence to help us deal with the craziness. 

Moms must also serve, whether it is hosting the rec department baseball team, chaperoning the youth group, or making sure that everyone has clean clothes for school. 

Moms are also teachers, with a huge curriculum to cover. Moms teach social skills, such as how to shake hands and make up after a playground dispute, practical skills such as tying shoes and making killer peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Moms teach organizational skills, by making schedules to accommodate all the busy-ness of modern life. 

Moms are tasked with encouragement, too. Mom has to help kids get over the loss of a soccer match, a best friend, or a beloved pet, and help children have hope for a better tomorrow. 

Moms give, of their time, their talents, as well as their income. 

Moms often take on leadership roles, whether it is planning a homeschool outing, a bake sale to pay for summer camp tuition, or figuring out how to pay for a week’s worth of groceries with half a week’s worth of income. 

Moms must demonstrate mercy, because sometimes there’s some slight which must be forgiven. Yes, mothers need to have a lot of spiritual gifts.

Every person here either is a mother or had a mother. Some of us are fortunate to have the opportunity to honor our mother, and perhaps even a grandmother today. I lost my mother many years ago, but she was a good Christian as well as a great mom, and she modeled many of the spiritual gifts. I hope to honor her by following her example.

Thanks to all the folks here who are mothers, have honored mothers, or merely remember what your own mother did for you, whether it was today or long ago.

By Pamela/Pilar Posted in writing

The Sound of Music Companion by Laurence Maslon— a brief review

Since I was quite young, I have loved this musical, as have many other people. I’ve owned the sound track in various forms, as well has having first a VHS then a DVD of the film. However, recently I read a short but glowing recommendation for this volume, so off to eBay I go, and low and behold, I got the book in a box with yet another DVD and sound track CD. Sweet!

This is what I’d call a “coffee table” book in size, but the content is a bit more than some such books. The forward is by Andrew Lloyd Webber, who was engaged in putting on a revival of The Sound of Music for the stage in London around the same time as this book (2006) but the book itself begins with the story of Maria von Trapp, the subject of a couple of books prior to her story being turned into the now famous musical.

For those of us who discovered the story via the 1966 movie, the musical actually begins a bit earlier, as a Broadway vehicle for Mary Martin. The music was done by Rogers and Hammerstein, of course, and the book takes the reader through much of the creative process, with photos of notes and typewritten song lists, as well as pictures from the Broadway and traveling productions. There is quite a bit of detail regarding the modifications done as the play was transformed into the movie. Fans of the film will know much of the content, no doubt, but there are nuggets of information which should prove interesting for even well-read aficionados, and there are quite a number of pictures taken during the lengthy location filming in and around Saltzburg.

There’s a bit of information regarding the careers of the “children” in the film, and a couple of pictures showing them all grown up. However, the book doesn’t end there. As this play is still being performed in various venues, there is some detail regarding its continued success. The last section is a fairly detailed recount of the revival done by Lloyd Webber’s production company.

When it comes to these photo centric books, sometimes one thumbs through, reading the captions, and that’s that. With this book, I read it, all in a couple of days. While it was not suspenseful, it was interesting and kept my attention from the forward to the credits. That’s rare for me. So, for fans of the film, it a top pick. For those interested in how a feature film is developed, it is also of more than passing interest. And, as it is no longer new, it is quite affordable, too. Win-win!

Best of 2021

There’s a certain irony in the title of this post, as 2021 wasn’t a great year in some regards. Politics seemed crazy and crazier. People seemed to be getting over the virus, for the most part, but some were really sick or lost their lives. Healthcare providers seemed to get a handle on it, but not entirely. Oh, there were some bright spots in 2021, such as overall success for the stock market, and college football seemed almost normal.

And, entertainment, especially streaming video, always appreciated, became even more so. Everyone needs a break from reality. So, here’s some of the best books and shows I enjoyed in the past year:

On YouTube TV, hubby and I both very much enjoyed Yellowstone. This show is a modern western, with cowboys and rodeos, guns, big pickup trucks. The story reminds me of family shows of the past, such as “The Big Valley” which I saw in re-runs when I was much younger. However, the Dutton family is led by a patriarch instead of a matriarch, with Kevin Costner doing a fantastic job as the father of three grown children, and the head honcho of the ranch. His offspring are diverse and all interesting, if rather flawed. The Montana setting is certainly an important part of the series, and if you haven’t tried this show, unless you are extremely prudish or need a knight in shining armor to be the main character, I think you’ll like it.

Other streaming winners include the comedy series, Ted Lasso, which is now in its second season over on Apple TV, and Lost in Space in its third season on Netflix. Ted Lasso is a quirky story about an American football coach who is hired to coach a professional English soccer team. Lost in Space was originally a campy cult classic, but the modern iteration is more far more serious and has killer special effects along with good acting and quite a bit of suspense. The first season was amazing, the second season suffered from the sophomore blues, and season three is somewhere in the middle. Overall, it is one of the better space operas online, far surpassing any Trek or Star Wars recent entries that I have seen. (BTW, my son likes the Mandalorian, but I haven’t seen that, so the comment might not be entirely fair.)

The best book I read in 2021 was probably The Book of Lost Names, by Kristin Harmel. This novel is set in set in Europe, during World War II. In The Book of Lost Names, the point of view character remains the same, but there are some deliberate time skips as the story moves from 2005, wherein the main character, Eva, is quite elderly, and 1942-46, when a young Eva spent several months forging documents in order to save people from the Germans who were occupying France (and threatening all of civilization.) Eva’s story is a real page turner, as there are moments of suspense, of hardship, and (thankfully) success, both in saving children from the Nazi war on Jews, and in Eva’s growing affection for a fellow member of the resistance. While I don’t want to include any spoilers, the book in the title refers to a code added to an existing book in the library of the local Catholic church, and the code included the real names of children who were perhaps too young to remember their birth names, which had to be altered so they could travel using forged documents.

Other good reads included Walter Issacson’s The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, which I reviewed on this site. And, since I didn’t read them until 2021, I will mention Inside Marine One by Colonel Ray L’Heureux and Star Trek Voyager: A Celebration. None of the honorable mention books are fiction, which is rather unusual for me, as I am primarily a fiction reader. My most oft used source for fiction these days is a daily email from BookBub. Depending on the taste (or tolerance) of the reader, many eBooks are free or very low in price. Reading hasn’t been this cheap since I used to go to the public library every two weeks.

Inflation may be raging, but between streaming and eBooks, entertainment is fairly inexpensive these days. Gas and groceries are skyrocketing, but being entertained is fairly easy. Welcome, 2022!

Redshirts by John Scalzi—a brief review and commentary

Fans of Star Trek, the original series, will immediately understand the premise of this very humorous novel. For the few folks who aren’t familiar with the show, there were a handful of officers who were the “stars” of Star Trek. In the show, the starship ventured from planet to planet. Often, one or more officers left the ship on “away” missions, and they were almost always dangerous. Those bridge officers were usually accompanied by security officers, and in the color scheme of the original series, security staff wore red shirts. As the show couldn’t lose any main cast members, the extras, playing security staff, would invariably be the ones to be maimed or killed.

In Redshirts, the author follows a young officer assigned to the Intrepid, the flagship of the Universal Union. Ensign Dahl is thrilled to be onboard, but soon becomes apprehensive, because he quickly realizes that when lowly crew members accompany the captain, its chief science officer, or its chief engineer, those lowly crew members would bear the brunt of any dangerous action. In other words, Ensign Dahl is a “red shirt” without actually wearing a red uniform. So, as a very intelligent young officer, Dahl must navigate the command structure of the Intrepid and learn how to stay alive. Quickly, he figures out that it is best to be anywhere other than on an “Away Mission.”

At times, Redshirts is laugh out loud funny. For instance, any attack on the ship will take out the lower decks, but the bridge always remains unscathed. And one young lieutenant has so many close calls, but he never dies, as he is a “main character.” Soon it becomes apparent that only a few characters will always survive. More experienced crew members seem to have figured out how to dodge being tapped for away missions, thus newbies like Ensign Dahl are more likely to end up dead. Rather than explain what they do and what the manage to figure out, I will simply say that the novel goes where the reader might not expect. And, while the novel really is funny, it is also a bit challenging.

Not since Galaxy Quest have I seen such a good parody of television space opera. Fans of the genre will certainly find something to like in Redshirts. And, for those few folks who have never seen Star Trek in any of its various iterations, this novel is still funny, but probably won’t resonate quite so well. However, the novel is rather, well, novel in that it doesn’t end at the end. Instead there are three sections after the end, called Codas. Some reviewers liked them, some did not. Hopefully, some of my readers will take up the challenge and try this book.

Science fiction fans tend to be smart, and it takes some smarts to appreciate this novel. That said, it is quite creative.

Joyful Passage: A Woman’s Path to Retirement, by Joan B. Reid— a brief review and commentary

While reading a business article about retiring in Florida, without a lot of monetary resources, the author was mentioned, hence my purchase. First off, I am a bit farther along this same path. So, I really wanted to like this book. At times I did enjoy her insights, and at times I was rather frustrated. I’m a very practical person, so I was hoping for some tips on how to make the path to retirement and into retirement in a better manner. This book is more about feelings and less about specifics.

Like many of the boomer generation, Ms. Reid moved from full time to part time employment. That’s not always possible, but often recommended. However, like many other boomers, she was less valued by her employer, and ultimately she was pushed into full retirement. (This happens a lot, trust me!) Fortunately, she had secured a second part time position, which gave her both a bit of income and validation. This book is really a series of very short essays, mostly first person accounts, but there are some others sprinkled in which recount similar journeys by friends and colleagues. Boomers will no doubt find something to identify with in these essays.

This book is self published via the Amazon platform, and while there are a few technical issues with formatting, it is overall fairly well done. While I noted a few punctuation issues, probably the average reader would not notice. Spelling and grammar were fine.

My non fiction reading tends to be either “how to” books or an occasional biography, and this is neither. I would liken it to a group therapy session for soon to be or newly retired boomers. There’s quite a lot about feelings, both good and bad, in this journey. Ultimately, Ms. Reid decides to love retirement. I wish her well. And, I hope she will write another book, with some of those practical tips that she must have acquired during her Joyful Passage.