The Celestial Choir


Christmastide 2018

We have waited patiently during Advent. Now, during Christmastide [the Twelve Days of Christmas], we will joyfully sing hymns about the Incarnation.  Many of these hymns will feature “angels.” However, ponder this:  Every Sunday in Worship, we sing with the angels – not merely about angels!

The Liturgy describes this Trinitarian and Sacramental Mystery:

The Holy Eucharist: [ACNA Renewed Ancient Text]

It is right, our duty and our joy, always and everywhere, to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth because you sent your beloved Son to redeem us from sin and death, and to make us heirs in him of everlasting life; that when he shall come again in power and great glory to judge the world, we may without shame or fear rejoice to behold his appearing.

Therefore, we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who forever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

Holy, Holy, Holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the highest.

How is it possible to sing with the angels?

In Sacramental Theology, the Bread and Wine – the Body and Blood of Christ — are the very center and source of our communal life in Christ.

The Holy Trinity, in the Eucharistic Liturgy, collapses the constraints of time and space and opens up a portal between the spheres of heaven and earth.

Christ, through the Holy Spirit, unites Himself with the Church Militant [on earth] and the Church Triumphant [in heaven]. Together, we offer our sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving to God the Father.

In this sense, every one of us is a member of a great “Celestial Choir” and we rehearse weekly, as we prepare for our ultimate vocation: to sing and worship God forever with the angels!

How do we prepare on Sundays to sing with the angels?

Enter the Nave in silence.

Dip your hand into the Baptismal Font. Remember your Baptismal vows.

Bow, as you face the Eucharistic Table and the Crucifix.

Kneel and pray in the pew. Sit silently.

Meditate upon the words in the Worship Leaflet: Scripture, Prayers, Creeds, and [especially] the Music.

Encourage your children to do the same.

In awe and reverence, we will sing with the angels, a Liturgical moment that is mysterious, glorious, majestic, and transcendent!

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The Space Between Life and Death

Beeswax Pillar Candle-efa4ce661080a75cd5d4a17ef717f5e4

Dear Readers,

What do you do, when you receive the news that a loved one hovers between life and death?

I open the Book of Common Prayer [BCP]:  It contains Scripture, for such a painful time as this.  In fact, Scripture represents eighty percent of the content of the BCP.  Scripture solidly informs the Creeds, Prayers, Statements of Faith, and Historic Documents.

Preserved through the centuries, the Book of Common Prayer bestows a benediction upon us, when prayer is exceedingly difficult.   The Book of Common Prayer offers clarity and direction to the anxious and grieving mind.  The carefully composed words of the prayers and the voices of the faithful who have come before us, impart to us strength, confidence, and trust in the Triune God.

In the Book of Common Prayer, we join our voices with all those who, through the ages and generations, have turned to the Book of Common Prayer in times of deepest grief and sorrow.

Over the past decades, since a friend first introduced to me the  Book of Common Prayer, the prayers have offered comfort and solace.  Below this meditation, I have copied the section of the BCP entitled, “Prayers for the Sick.”  []

Only a thin, translucent sheet of fine paper separates “Prayers for the Sick” and  “Ministration at the Time of Death.”  


John Donne contemplated the translucent space between life and death, in his Holy Sonnet Ten:

Holy Sonnets: Death, Be Not Proud


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.


Through the long, dark night of vigil, sitting with my father, in 2006, I held in my hands the Book of Common Prayer and wondered, “Tomorrow, will it be time to turn the page?”

It was an honor for me to be present with my father, as he drew his last breath. Together, my sister, husband, and son gathered around his bed. I turned the page in the Book of Common Prayer and we prayed the prayers. We sang the hymns from the Anglican Hymnbook, which I had previously chosen. As generations of families had done before us, we ushered our loved one into the perpetual light of eternal life.

“One short sleep, we wake eternally.”

The space between life and death is translucent.

Keep these prayers with you, if you are praying for a loved one. If you are able to be present, bring these prayers [and hymns] to the Vigil. Send [email or snail mail] these prayers to those who are praying for their loved one.

Coram Deo,


Prayers for the Sick 

From the Book of Common Prayer

For a Sick Person

O Father of mercies and God of all comfort, our only help in time of need: We humbly beseech thee to behold, visit, and relieve thy sick servant N. for whom our prayers are desired.

Look upon him/her with the eyes of thy mercy; comfort him/her with a sense of thy goodness; preserve him/her from the temptations of the enemy; and give him/her patience under his/her affliction.  In thy good time, restore him/her to health, and enable him/her to lead the residue of his/her life in thy fear, and to thy glory; and grant that finally he/she may dwell with thee in life everlasting; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For Recovery from Sickness

O God, the strength of the weak and the comfort of sufferers:  Mercifully accept our prayers, and grant to your servant N. the help of your power, that his/her sickness may be turned into health, and our sorrow into joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 or this

O God of heavenly powers, by the might of your command you drive away from our bodies all sickness and all infirmity:  Be present in your goodness with your servant N., that his weakness may be banished and his strength restored; and that, his health being renewed, he may bless your holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For a Sick Child

Heavenly Father, watch with us over your child N., and grant that he may be restored to that perfect health which it is yours alone to give; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 or this

Lord Jesus Christ, Good Shepherd of the sheep, you gather the lambs in your arms and carry them in your bosom:  We commend to your loving care this child N.  Relieve his pain,

guard him from all danger, restore to him your gifts of gladness and strength, and raise him up to a life of service to you.  Hear us, we pray, for your dear Name’s sake.  Amen.

 Before an Operation

Almighty God our heavenly Father, graciously comfort your servant N. in his suffering, and bless the means made use of for his cure. Fill his heart with confidence that, though at times he may be afraid, he yet may put his trust in you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

or this

Strengthen your servant N., O God, to do what he has to do and bear what he has to bear; that, accepting your healing gifts through the skill of surgeons and nurses, he may be restored to usefulness in your world with a thankful heart; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

For Strength and Confidence

Heavenly Father, giver of life and health: Comfort and relieve your sick servant N., and give your power of healing to those who minister to his needs, that he may be strengthened in his weakness and have confidence in your loving care; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For the Sanctification of Illness

Sanctify, O Lord, the sickness of your servant N., that the sense of his weakness may add strength to his faith and seriousness to his repentance; and grant that he may live with you in everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

For Health of Body and Soul

May God the Father bless you, God the Son heal you, God the Holy Spirit give you strength.  May God the holy and undivided Trinity guard your body, save your soul, and bring you safely to his heavenly country; where he lives and reigns for ever and ever.  Amen.

For Doctors and Nurses

Sanctify, O Lord, those whom you have called to the study and practice of the arts of healing, and to the prevention of disease and pain. Strengthen them by your life‑giving Spirit, that by their ministries the health of the community may be promoted and your creation glorified; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Thanksgiving for a Beginning of Recovery

O Lord, your compassions never fail and your mercies are new every morning:  We give you thanks for giving our brother (sister) N. both relief from pain and hope of health

renewed.  Continue in him, we pray, the good work you have begun; that he, daily increasing in bodily strength, and rejoicing in your goodness, may so order his life and conduct that he may always think and do those things that please you; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayers for use by a Sick Person

For Trust in God

O God, the source of all health: So fill my heart with faith in your love, that with calm expectancy I may make room for your power to possess me, and gracefully accept your healing; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

In Pain

Lord Jesus Christ, by your patience in suffering you hallowed earthly pain and gave us the example of obedience to your Father’s will:  Be near me in my time of weakness and pain;

sustain me by your grace, that my strength and courage may not fail; heal me according to your will; and help me always to believe that what happens to me here is of little account if you hold me in eternal life, my Lord and my God. Amen.

For Sleep

O heavenly Father, you give your children sleep for the refreshing of soul and body: Grant me this gift, I pray; keep me in that perfect peace which you have promised to those whose minds are fixed on you; and give me such a sense of your presence, that in the hours of silence I may enjoy the blessed assurance of your love; through Jesus Christ our Savior.  Amen.

In the Morning

This is another day, O Lord.  I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be.  If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently.  And if I am to do nothing, let me do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus.  Amen.

Ministration at the Time of Death

When a person is near death, the Minister of the Congregation should be notified, in order that the ministrations of the Church may be provided. 

A Prayer for a Person near Death

Almighty God, look on this your servant, lying in great weakness, and comfort him/her with the promise of life everlasting, given in the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Litany at the Time of Death

When possible, it is desirable that members of the family and friends come together to join in the Litany.

God the Father,

Have mercy on your servant.

God the Son,

Have mercy on your servant.

God the Holy Spirit,

Have mercy on your servant.

Holy Trinity, one God,

Have mercy on your servant.

From all evil, from all sin, from all tribulation,

Good Lord, deliver him/her.

By your holy Incarnation, by your Cross and Passion, by your precious Death and Burial,

Good Lord, deliver him/her.

By your glorious Resurrection and Ascension, and by the Coming of the Holy Spirit,

Good Lord, deliver him/her.

We sinners beseech you to hear us, Lord Christ: That it may please you to deliver the soul of your servant from the power of evil, and from eternal death,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you mercifully to pardon all his/her sins,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to grant him/her a place of refreshment and everlasting blessedness,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

That it may please you to give him/her joy and gladness in your kingdom, with your saints in light,

We beseech you to hear us, good Lord.

Jesus, Lamb of God:

Have mercy on him/her.

Jesus, bearer of our sins:

Have mercy on him/her.

Jesus, redeemer of the world:

Give him/her your peace.

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

Officiant and People:

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy Name, thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

The Officiant says this Collect:

Let us pray.

Deliver your servant, N., O Sovereign Lord Christ, from all evil, and set him/her free from every bond; that he/she may rest with all your saints in the eternal habitations; where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, forever and ever. Amen.

A Commendation at the Time of Death

Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world;

In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created you;

In the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you;

In the Name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you;

May your rest be this day in peace, and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God.

A Commendatory Prayer

Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant N.  Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive him/her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.  Amen.

May his/her soul and the souls of all the departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.


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Just a Cardboard Box



Dear Readers,

There was a season of my young life, when I was intensely lonely and alone.

I was in college, during this season, living as a boarder, upstairs in one room of a family home. I shared a bathroom with one other boarder.  We shared a refrigerator but we had no kitchen privileges.

I had no car — or even a bicycle — so I walked to the university, where I took classes and worked a part-time job. I think the walk was between one and two miles: good exercise, except for days when it thunderstormed!

I was a Junior and eager to finish my college degree program. Unfortunately, I discovered, too late, that I was totally unsuited for the field that I had chosen. With dread, I began to strongly suspect that I would never choose to work in that field.

I was a quiet, serious introvert, at a huge university, and, in three years, I had never found my place:  I had one or two friends but I had no church or community to which to belong.

I did have a boyfriend but he was attending the University of California at Berkeley.

I had no money to buy clothing. I paid for as many college expenses as I possibly could manage, out of my meager salary, for I tried to be as independent as possible.

One day, a plain cardboard box arrived to the door of my room:   It was from my sister, who lived in North Carolina and was recently married.  She was only four years older than I.

Inside the box were items of clothing that she had either sewn, especially for me, or was passing down to me.  [At that time, we were roughly the same size.] She had carefully packed the items, within tissue paper.

I was not a seamstress but I could easily imagine the hours of time that my sister invested in lovingly sewing those outfits for me:  She chose the pattern, the fabric, and the notions. Then, she found time to construct the outfits, in spite of the fact that she worked full-time.

I can remember the fabric and buttons of one of the outfits, now forty-five years later:  one set was a calico print top with a solid culotte skirt. They fit perfectly.

That was the day that I thought to myself, “Well, someone in the world is looking out for me, caring for me, loving me, and investing her time in me — and that person is my sister.”

I think that, of all the gifts I have received, this is the one for which I am most thankful.  I thank the Living God for my “big” sister, who has always looked out for me.

Coram Deo,



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Sukie and the Other Turkey

guy w turkey platter6742726

[Image Credit:]

Dear Family & Friends:

A friend told me this story about his grandmother, a Southern lady of refinement and gentility . . . .

One Thanksgiving Day, a large group of family members and friends gathered around my grandmother’s large dining room table, eagerly awaiting the sumptuous feast. All eyes were on “Sukie,” the housekeeper, as she ceremoniously carried a platter, from the dining room to the kitchen. On the platter was the main dish, a roasted, golden-brown turkey, redolent with fragrant herbs.

Our collective mouths were watering when disaster struck: Sukie dropped the platter and the fat bird thumped onto the hardwood floor, spilling some of the contents of its stuffed cavity.

 All eyes quickly turned to my grandmother. Her countenance remained serene. With a calm and soothing voice, she offered to Sukie words of assurance and confidence:

 “That’s all right, Sukie. Just take that turkey back into the kitchen and bring us the other turkey.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

Coram Deo,


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“The Valley of the Flowers:” Part Three


Dear Readers,

Click here to read The Valley of the Flowers Part Two.

. . . In stark contrast to the peaceful landscape of the nearby town, Lompoc, “The Flower Seed Capital of the World,” stood the military complex  of Vandenberg Air Force Base [VAFB], California, perfectly situated upon a broad elevated mesa, on the coast.   See the red star, on the map:  Point Conception is the location of VAFB, on the “elbow” of the state of California.


My family lived on the base [1958-1962] during the “glory days” of the Missile Program.  My father was a United States Air Force [USAF] Officer and a Missile Safety Educator.  Among the Strategic Air Command [SAC] bases, VAFB was second only in importance to SAC Headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base [OAFB] in Omaha, Nebraska.



The motto of SAC was “Peace Is Our Profession” — but the protection of peace necessitated a huge arsenal of defensive weaponry.  VAFB owned vast, empty miles of coastal property on Point Conception.  The government property contained  a network of underground tunnels, silos, command centers, and Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles [IBM’s].


In spite of living within four miles of IBM’s,  family life on VAFB was safe and secure:  Armed Military Police [MP’s] guarded the VAFB Entry Gates, through which vehicles entered the base.  Each vehicle stopped at the gate; the MP inspected the vehicle’s official VAFB sticker.  Only after the MP saluted, did the vehicle advance through the gate.


There was no crime on the base:  law and order prevailed.  We never locked the doors to our homes or vehicles.  Children safely played ball, roller skated, or rode  bikes in the streets  — because the MP’s strictly enforced the posted “20 miles per hour” speed limit on the base.  [My mother once received a ticket for driving “22 miles per hour.”]

Each of the residential neighborhoods contained a network of sidewalks, a park, and an elementary school.  As a ten-year old, I was completely free to roam the neighborhood all day, as long as I returned home in time for supper.  I took my younger siblings and we played together in the park.  Alone, I walked to school in the morning, walked home for lunch, returned to school, and walked home in the afternoon.

After school and on weekends, I  roller-skated up and down the sidewalks.  The neighborhood was full of hills. I think I probably walked on the grass, next to the sidewalk, if I was going uphill.  Then, I  turned around and coasted downhill on the sidewalk.  How exhilirating! I was free and I was flying!  As a result of frequent tumbling and falling, however, I suffered “scabs upon scabs” all over my  knees.   After each fall, my father carefully dressed the knee wounds and urged me to wait until the wounds properly healed.  But I was tough, reckless, and fearless.  To his credit, he didn’t stop me, a few days later, when I bolted out the door, to skate — and to tumble and fall on my pitiful knees.

163771-MM7950L 24_roller-skates

After school and on weekends, I also rode my bike up and down the same hills — but I rarely fell off my bike.


I remember a beautiful fall day in 1962:   I was a ten year old fifth-grader,  climbing on the “Jungle Gym” during recess at school.  I loved to climb onto the “Monkey Bars.”  I had already suffered through an agonizing process:  First, I developed blisters on my hands, from hanging from the Monkey Bars.  The blisters hurt like the dickens!  The blisters healed and then I repeated the agonizing process.  Finally, my hands developed callouses and I was then pain-free, as I glided along on the Monkey Bars.

After school on that fall day, I walked home, put on my corduroy pants, and walked over to see my friend, Linda.  I carried my skates with me and we skated up and down her street.  Then, we took off our skates and  came inside her home, to play a board game and enjoy some refreshments.  It was five PM:  I remember the time because etiquette dictated that, by 5.30 PM, children should return home.

At 5 PM,  I had not yet left Linda’s home.  We were sitting down on the carpet in the living room, playing a board game.  The television was on and Linda’s mother walked from the kitchen to the living room, sat down on the couch,  and listened intently and quietly, as President Kennedy read from a script in front of him. I was mesmerized by the speech but did not understand the ramifications of President Kennedy’s Cuban Missile Crisis Message.  Cuban Missile Crisis Wikipedia

But Linda’s mother understood!  After the broadcast, she leapt to her feet and said, “Oh, my God!  We are going to be invaded!”

Then, she told us, “Now, listen, girls, you have to learn what each different Civil Defense siren means!  The sirens each have a different sound, according to a “color code:”  The “color code sound” will tell you how many minutes — or seconds — remain before an enemy missile strike!”


My heart stopped.  I wondered if I would have time to run home, before the invasion began?  Or, should I stay at Linda’s home?

No! I wanted to be home, with my own family, before an invasion!  So, I either ran or skated home, faster than I have ever traveled under my own power in my entire life.  I scanned the skies as I raced home, to see if I could detect any hint of enemy missiles.  My ears were tuned and ready to hear the dreaded, heart-stopping scream of a siren.

Breathless, I safely arrived home and, to my amazement, my parents were calmly discussing the events of the day, while my mother prepared supper.  It appeared to be a normal day! What a relief!  The invasion would not occur today!  I fervently hoped that I might enjoy a few more days and weeks within the safe cocoon of my family, before nuclear disaster swept us all away, in a cloud of dust.

Within the span of one half-hour, between 5.00 pm and 5.30 pm on Monday, October 22, 1962, my mind confronted a horrifying truth:  I would never, ever be safe and secure again!  There were forces and powers that might unleash  at any moment — and my father could not protect me from disaster.  My father could not stand between me and the spectre of enemy missiles, whistling through the skies over Vandenberg.

My safe, secure world in The Valley of the Flowers was shattered.  The world stood on the precipice of nuclear world.  As the world held its collective breath, I stood on the precipice of adulthood.   At only 10 years of age, I tumbled and fell through the invisible portal that separated the innocence of childhood from the terrifying realities of adulthood.

Now, fifty years later, recording these memories gives me “the willies” and makes my teeth chatter.  Yet, I will continue to record, for my children and grandchildren, the historic events during October 1962, to which I was an eyewitness.  I will continue to write about these events, in the hope that I can confront the nightmares that have haunted my dreams for the past fifty years.

Coram Deo,



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The Valley of the Flowers — Part Two


Dear Readers,

Read this post first:

“The Valley of the Flowers” Part 1

. . . . And as if this childhood setting was not quaint enough, we also had the good fortune to live near the village of Solvang, California: “The Danish Capitol of the World.”  Danish settlers named the town “Solvang,” meaning “Sunny Fields,” when they migrated to California in 1911, to escape the harsh midwestern winters.  And, really — who could blame them?

Entering the village of Solvang was like entering one of the “countries” of Epcot — except that this village was authentic!  For special occasions, Dad & Mom drove us [my three siblings and me] over and through the undulating hills of The Valley of the Flowers, to Solvang, where we dined  at a Danish restaurant named, “Paul and Margaret’s.”


We also lived near Buellton, CA, the home of Andersen’s Split Pea Soup Restaurant:
The South may know a thing or two about BBQ — but I was raised near the Santa Maria Valley, “The BBQ Capital of the World” and home of the “Tri-Tip Beef BBQ:”
Our Valley of the Flowers was famous for “Pinquitos”  [“Little Pinks”], which we ate with our BBQ.  The Portugeuse farmers brought “Pinquitos” from the Old Country, when they first settled in the Valley of the Flowers:
TriTrip and Pinquitos_June 2012 028
Way before salsa became “hip” and replaced ketchup  — way before you could buy salsa in a grocery store, we dined at the Far Western Tavern in nearby Guadalupe and enjoyed freshly-made salsa with our BBQ and pinquitos:
At this point, I am getting a little ahead of my story — but I cannot resist posting these last two photos of Los Olivos, CA, home to “Mattei’s Tavern,” an Old Stage Coach Inn, circa 1886.
This historic site included a restaurant that was so quaint  and romantic that I fell in love with it — and with my future husband — when he took me there to dine, in 1970.
. . . These are the snapshots – the postcards — of my idyllic life in “The Valley of the Flowers,” circa 1958 – 1962.  The events that interrupted that life will be the subject of the next post, Part Three of this series.
Coram Deo,


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The Best Advice Ever



[Deviney Hall, Florida State University]

Dear Readers,

I recently read some rather sad news:  FSU is going to tear down Deviney Hall, my home for three years [1970-1973].  I guess the modern university student will not tolerate the monastic conditions under which my dorm mates and I thrived, during those years:

— The dorm had no air conditioning but we each had a window fan [remember, this is Florida, folks!]

— The dorms had steam heat [which the students could not regulate].

— 16 women shared one large, cleaned, shiny tiled room which contained three showers with curtains, one bath tub with curtain, five sinks with mirrors, and five toilets with privacy doors.  [This room was always in pristine condition, thanks to the housekeeping crew.]

— Each room had a small refrigerator.

— FSU did not allow ANY cooking or baking devices in the dorm rooms.

— There was a kitchen downstairs but it was easier to dine in the FSU Cafeteria.  There were no “fast-food” dining spots on campus.

— There was a Parlor downstairs, to which you might invite a male friend.

— There were NO MEN allowed on any of the floors at any time.

— I owned no vehicle but I had a bicycle.

— I owned no typewriter but there was a typewriter in the “Study Room,” which we took turns borrowing.

— All my earthly belongings easily fit inside the trunk of my parents’ car.

— The dorm Basement offered laundry facilities.

— The FSU Library was a QUIET place and did not allow beverages or food.


– 16 women shared one telephone, located in the hallway.

If that phone was in use, you could take the elevator [or hop down six flights of stairs] to the Basement, where you could find a telephone to use.

It was there in the Basement, in the Fall Quarter of 1970, during Midterms, that I telephone my parents, to touch base with them.

Like many other students, I had never had to study very hard in high school.  Now, competing for grades at a huge state university, I was completely overwhelmed.  I had not previously developed solid study habits.  Western Civ I was utterly daunting and “Bone-Head Math” eluded me.  I could not skillfully compose an English paper to save my soul and Biology at 8 am was a puzzlement.

And the lecture halls were huge!  Every class seemed to hold 250 students.  There was no hope of asking the Professor or Teaching Assistant for help.

It was humiliating.  I had been an above-average student in high school and now I was studying afternoons, nights and weekends, just to earn a “B.”  I had absolutely no life outside of my part-time job and my classes.

So, I called my parents one evening, hoping, I suppose to elicit some sympathy.  My dad answered the phone and my mom got on the extension.  They asked me how my studies were going, and I said, with a waver in my voice, “Well, it’s hard!”

That was the defining moment.  Right then.  I heard my mother’s quiet voice first: “Oh, sweetie . . . ” Her voice was full of the sympathy that I had hoped to hear.

Then, I heard my dad’s voice, full, booming, confident, with the mere touch of a chuckle:  “Yeah!  It’s supposed to be!”

And that was it.  Just five words.  I felt as if someone had splashed cold water in my face but it was refreshing and woke me out of my self-pity.  Just five words but they were exactly what I needed to hear.

Our conversation was short and I hung up the phone.  I don’t remember anything else we talked about.  But I remember those five words. It was the best advice anyone has ever given me.  My father, the former military man, had seen events in WWII that were too horrible to contemplate.  He raised four children on one salary. He knew a thing or two about life and he knew that each of his children needed to be strong to get through this life.

I contemplated all this, climbed the stairs to my dorm room, grabbed my books, and walked over to the library, where I dived into my studies.

I did graduate with a degree but I still have haunting dreams about still working feverishly, to finish my degree. So, I know that the stress of those university years will always be with me.

I wish my dad was still alive so that I could tell him this story.

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Filed under parenting, the university circa 1970, Tribute to My Father

Out of Sync With Pink: One


[Image Credit:]

Dear Readers,

Please read this post first:   The Problem With Pink.

Last year,  I devised what I thought was a very clever and original title for a series of posts regarding Breast Cancer Awareness.

However, last week, I  “Googled” the phrase, “The Problem With Pink” and discovered, to my dismay, that several other writers have already used that title.

So, I asked for brainstorming ideas from my sister, who provided this title for the series:  “Out of Sync With Pink.”  Thanks, Susan!

. . . I am “Out of Sync With Pink” because of this concern:

The philosophy behind the ceaseless flow of commercial products and advertisements, which target the Breast Cancer Population.  

We, as Breast Cancer Patients, float upon — and threaten to drown under– an undulating river of Free Pink Plastic Products.

I do not wish to appear ungrateful and cynical — however, I am smart enough to realize that I am a target and the ultimate goal is profit.

My strongest objection is focused upon:

The advertising campaigns which recommend “feel-good” Glamour Products as “the best treatment” for Breast Cancer Patients.

I object to these campaigns because they trivialize the potentially deadly nature of Breast Cancer and the devastating nature of the required therapies.

Breast Cancer Patients endure therapies that include surgeries, chemotherapy, and radiation.  We endure complications, ER visits, hospitalizations, short-term side effects and long-term side effects.

In what universe would Glamour Products be “the best treatment” for a woman walking through this nightmare?

If I may be so bold:

I will “speak up” for my Breast Cancer Sisters . . .

. . . We long for the day when this “ceaseless flow of commercial products and advertisements” will stop.

. . . We envision a time when the money invested would instead be diverted into Breast Cancer Research, in order to save the lives of women:  in this generation and the next.

. . .We look forward to a time when research will improve the quality of life and health of women who are struggling with the devastating side effects of therapies.

Yet in the meantime . . . .

. . . If we lose one or both of our breasts, we submit to Reconstructive Surgery or, at the very least, we have the decency to wear our Prosthetic/s.

. . . During the course of Chemotherapy, we agree to wear wigs or hats in public, to hide the shameful sight of our bald heads.

. . . We agree to wear Glamour Products so that we will appear to look good — even if we feel dreadful.

We hide the ravages of Breast Cancer and its therapies so that no one will see.  

And, as a consequence, people forget what Breast Cancer does to women.

Example:  I am a swimmer and people sometimes ask me:  “Are you careful to ‘cover up’ in the Pool Locker Room?”

The answer is “No” but I  find that implication in that question full of irony for this reason:

— Before surgery, I would have offended no one if I had walked onto the Pool Deck, wearing a revealing bathing suit, which shamelessly displayed  the cleavage of my bounteous breasts.

— But after surgery, I must offend no one:  I must “cover up” in the Pool Locker Room, to hide the view of my “shameful” scarred and concave chest.

Because no one wants to see what Breast Cancer does to women.  We want to forget.

Please do not misunderstand me:  I am NOT suggesting that Breast Cancer Patients “bare all”  and become visual “Poster Children” for Breast Cancer Awareness.

If you have had Reconstructive Surgery, I salute you.  If you wore a hat during Chemotherapy, as I did, I understand.  If you have mastered the art of applying eye brow powder, I say, “Well done!”

However, together we can send a strong message to the “For-Profit” Corporations:  

“I refuse to accept ‘Free Plastic Pink Products,’ which focus merely upon my ‘appearance.’

Deliver, instead, substantial help to this generation of Breast Cancer Patients and to the next.  

Contribute, instead, to Breast Cancer Research, to significantly increase the longevity of and improve the lives of women:  now and in the future.”


Coram Deo,

Margot Blair Payne,

for Breast Cancer Awareness Month:  October  2013

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Filed under Breast Cancer, Cancer, Chemotherapy, Mastectomy

My Unplanned Wedding: Part Two


[Image Credit:  Father of the Bride film]

Dear Readers,

Click here, to read My Unplanned Wedding: Part One . . .

“They told me that it could not be done!”

I always did like that kind of challenge and, in the end, we proved them wrong.

This is the story of how My Professor and I planned our Wedding & Reception in just 30 days and for merely $500:

The Ring:

After the Unplanned Proposal, the first order of business, of course, was to select an Engagement Ring — and it was done — in a heartbeat!

Directly across the hallway from Morrison’s Cafeteria,  was Carlisle’s Jewelers.  

I told my newly-minted fiance that I wanted a simple setting, similar to my grandmother’s engagement ring, circa 1918:



[Image Credit:  Orange Blossom]

And, lo and behold!  The very first ring that I saw, as I peered into the glass display case, was an engagement ring, which appeared to be inspired by my grandmother’s ring:


[Image Credit:  Orange Blossom]

The jeweler asked us if we wanted to inspect the diamond, using the “loupe”  and the criteria of the “Five C’s”* of diamond selection.

We declined.  We were too embarrassed to admit that we had never heard of either the loupe or the Five C’s.


But what did we know?   And what did we care?

We were buying an enduring symbol — not an investment!  The ring would be an emblem of our life-long commitment to each other.

We were horrified when the jeweler assured us:   “Not to worry!  You can  purchase of a larger diamond ring, in the future, when you can better afford it.”

How dare he suggest that my diamond was small!  Would I ever part with the ring that my True Love bestowed upon me?!   Perish the thought!

The Theme:

If there was a theme to the planning our wedding, it would have been “Little Women.”  I was only eight years old when I first read the book, by Louisa May Alcott, but I have read it many times since.  The book’s philosophy of life, themes, ideals, and virtues have continued to give shape and form to my mind and life.

I could imagine no more perfect Wedding Theme than that of the simplicity and sincerity of the marriage of Meg March and John Brooke.  I perused no books or magazines on “How to Plan a Wedding.”  The book, “Little Women,” provided all the instruction and guidance that I would ever need:  Not merely for the Wedding Day but, more importantly, for the serious business of nurturing and forging a life together.


[Image Credit:  Little Women film, 1994.]

Pre-Marital Counseling, a Minister, and a Church: 

Rev. George E. Nickels, our good friend, was also a minister and counselor and he graciously agreed to provide both pre-marital counseling and to officiate at the wedding.

He was the Director of Faith Counseling Center, located at Faith Presbyterian Church, where he arranged for us to have our Wedding Ceremony, in the Sanctuary, and the Reception in the Parlor.

The church was available on Sunday, September 2, 1973 and we decided that an Evening Candlelight Ceremony would be perfect.  We planned the wedding for “Half-past Seven O’clock.”

Budget:  $500

Like my sister and her husband, who were married in 1970, Stephen & I decided that we would pay for almost all of the expenses of the Wedding and Reception.  The two exceptions would be the fee for the photographer and the expense of the Rehearsal Supper.

At the time, my sister and I considered the planning of a low-budget wedding to be perfectly normal.  In retrospect, my sister and I could have co-written a book, “How to Have a Simple Wedding for Under One Thousand Dollars,”  if only we had known that we represented the last vestiges of an “odd normality.”

Wedding Attire:    

Dress:  Stephen & I went shopping at a little boutique and I quickly chose a dress:  It was on sale for $25 and fit perfectly!  It looked exactly like what Meg March might have chosen for her Wedding.

[On the day of the Wedding, I “did” my own make-up and hair — in the style of any regular day — as Meg might have done.  Simple.]

Suit:  Stephen wore the one suit that he owned.


I asked my college friend to be my one attendant and she chose a dress from her closet.  Stephen asked his friend to be his one attendant and he wore a suit from his closet.  Sadly, we have lost contact with both friends.

[NEWS UPDATE:  My college friend and attendant just found me, through this blog!]

Guest List & Invitations:  

Stephen & I composed the text of the invitation.  A friend and I hand-wrote — not only the addresses — but also the text of each invitation, on sheets of plain ivory stationery.  We invited 50 people and 35 of them were able to attend the Ceremony and Reception.

Rehearsal Supper:  

In those days, invitations to the Rehearsal Supper included only the Bridal Party and the Immediate Family Members.  We chose Garcia’s Restaurant [now Cypress Restaurant], made reservations, and just “showed up.”  There were no decorations, no program, and no “toasts” [that I can remember].  After supper, three family members each insisted upon paying the bill:  Stephen’s mother, my father, and Stephen’s grandfather.  I do not know how they resolved it.


The Faith Presbyterian Church Flower Guild agreed to leave the floral arrangements from the Sunday Morning Worship in the Sanctuary; we needed no other decoration.  The Sanctuary, with pipe organ, stained-glass windows, and vaulted ceiling, provided all the beauty and grandeur that one could imagine or desire.

From Elinor Doyle Florals, I ordered seasonal floral bouquets, a wreath for my hair, and a centerpiece for the Reception Cake & Punch Table.


My parents brought from their home a brass candlestick holder, which held three candles.

By now, you have perhaps witnessed so many “Unity Candle Ceremonies”  that you have grown weary of them.  However, we were one of the very first couples to introduce this enduring ritual.

Ceremony Liturgy & Music

The Liturgy was straight from the Book of Common Prayer and the Order of Worship for a Wedding, which provided suggestions for Scripture Lessons, Prayers, and Hymns.

George delivered a Wedding Sermon.  If he were still alive, that dear man, I would ask him for a copy of that Sermon.

My friend, Karen Jackson, played beautiful harp music for the Prelude, Procession, Recession, and Postlude.  She chose classical sacred music selections for the harp [Bach] and the congregation sang hymns from the Hymnal:  “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee”  is one that I remember.

Reception Catering & Cake:

A friend recommended “Mrs. Roberts,” who suggested a menu of cake, punch, nuts, and mints.  As a luxury item, I also agreed to the suggestion of sandwiches, cut into quarters and served without crusts:  chicken salad, egg salad, and pimento cheese.  I ordered a Publix  cake, specifying cream [not white] icing.


Richard Parks Photography:  My father paid for this luxury item and the photographs were lovely.  However, sadly, Stephen & I could not afford to buy any of the prints!  [I should not have to point out that, in 1973, all cameras used film and photographers retained the rights to all images.]

Fortunately, my father was an excellent photographer and I cherish the images that he captured on our Wedding Day.  These are the ones that I will soon share with you!

. . . To Be Continued:  The Un-Planned Honeymoon and the First Apartment . . . . 


*”To establish a diamond’s quality, you must examine each of the Five C’s:

  1. Carat Weight
  2. Cut
  3. Color
  4. Clarity
  5. Certification

It is the overall combination of these that determines the value and beauty of a particular diamond.”  [International Diamond Center]



Filed under Engagement, Marriage & Wedding

My Unplanned Wedding: Part One

[My favorite scene from “Father of the Bride,” 1991:  “Bryan McKenzie” and “Annie Banks”]

Dear Readers,

The charming 1991 film, “Father of the Bride,”  first introduced me to the concept of the Professional Event Planner:

“Franck Eggelhoffer” [pronounced “FRAHNK”] [Martin Short] and “Howard Weinstein” [B. D. Wong] were the stylish Coordinators for the Wedding Ceremony and Reception:


But “Oh, my Kleenex!”

Even the trendy “Franck” might not have predicted the news that, twenty years later, Event Planners will stage your Engagement!

This new development in “staging” prompted me to remember August 1, 1973:  That was the day when My Future Professor and I became engaged, without the benefit of a Consultant!

We were each living and working in Tallahassee for the summer.  In the Fall, I planned to complete my Senior year at The Florida State University  and he planned to return to The University of California at Berkeley, to complete his Senior year.   We were young [21] and had never dated anyone else, since our high school days in California.

He had some doubts about his program:  He said, “It seemed as if every other student in my UCB Electrical Engineering courses had already taken the class!  I have to compete with those students for a job!”  

There was one thing about which he had no doubt:  He had predicted, when we were both 18:  “Someday we will be married”  and his resolve had never wavered.

I was not too keen on the commitment of marriage.  I had, sadly, observed only a handful of happy marriages in my lifetime.  However, my sister was married in 1970 and she and her husband seemed happy.   Besides, I could not imagine spending the rest of my life with anyone else besides my high school sweetheart.

We spent an enjoyable summer, in 1973, working and playing tennis together.  Soon, he would return to California, where 3,000 miles would separate us, once again.

The moment that would change our lives forever occurred in the most mundane of venues:  Morrison’s Cafeteria, at the Tallahassee Mall.  Sadly, the cafeteria has since disappeared:


As we waited in the line, I was thinking about having the “Liver and Onions.”


It was at that moment that he turned to me and said, “Well, I guess I could stay here and finish a degree at FSU and we could be married.”

I said, “Ok.” 

And that was it.  Un-staged, un-planned: no romantic setting;  no garden nook or ocean sunset; no candles, wine, flowers, or love poems — not even a ring!

And no observers or participants, unless you count the folks in line at the Cafeteria.

Just supper at Morrison’s Cafeteria, where we sat down and began to plan our wedding.

For reasons I cannot now remember, we decided that Sunday, September 2, 1973 would be our wedding day.  We had just thirty brief days to plan it . . .

Click here, to continue the story: My Unplanned Wedding: Part Two

Coram Deo,



Filed under Courtship & Engagement