Saturday, September 23, 2023

Caught in a Downward Spiral


Teachers should NOT be expected to work in a war zone!  This I see and hear of happening almost daily, somewhere in the US. Guns are too easily available, even to children. Our popular literature, movies, and TV programs tell too many of us that the way to solve problems is through violence.  But to paraphrase Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- Violence only breeds more violence. Darkness can only be defeated with light. Hate can only be defeated with love.

I personally know of teachers who have been told to search their students' lockers for firearms. I personally know of a school that was nearly set on fire by two students, but these perpetrators have gone unpunished, or given merely a slap on the hand.  A great many of our schools, and not just those in inner cities, have a teacher shortage because teachers are afraid to work where they have to be police, while still trying to teach.

What is wrong here? What is causing this downward spiral? In part I see that parents and administrators are expecting students to do their jobs for them. If this continues, it's no wonder that fewer people will see teaching as a good choice.

Teachers are unsupported and underpaid. Teaching is one of the most difficult and dangerous jobs in our country. If we don't start giving teachers the support and help they deserve, the downward spiral in this nation is going to continue.

Friday, August 11, 2023

Some Things Forgotten That Should Not Be


            Rough wood planks beneath my feet were rocking so much that I couldn’t regain my balance. I vomited into the bucket again.

          “Where am I?” I gasped.

          “There, there, Maggie,” came a gentle male voice. “They say the voyages to America aren’t always this rough.”

          “America?” I murmured. “Why?” As I lifted my head away from the smell in the bucket, my nose was assaulted by even worse scents—human waste and many unwashed bodies.

          “Don’t you remember?” the gentle voice said. “Ah—but perhaps it’s the Sea Fever. It makes you forget, and some people lose their minds completely.”

          I turned to look at this man, as he patted my back. He must have seen the confusion on my face, for he said, “I’m Thomas Cantlon, your husband. Do you remember me?”

          Then my mind opened like a door, letting in some light of understanding. “Of course I remember, you oaf of a man.” O hoped this sounded enough like recognition. Just then, the floor lurched again, and I fell into his arms.

          “’Tis all right, dear Maggie. You just need to rest. Our wee son Johnnie is asleep at last.”

          Thomas led me to a rough plank raised about three feet off the floor. It just over a foot wide, and the length of a grown man. With his help, I climbed onto what must be my bunk. A pile of soiled clothes was the only pillow and a ragged blanket lay beneath on the plank.    

          On the small bunk beneath me, I could hear a child’s deep breathing in sleep. I assumed this was ‘wee Johnnie’. After I was settled, Thomas climbed onto the plank that stretched three feet above my head. 


          Where am I, Cinda?

          ‘You’re in an emigrant ship from Cork, bound for North America. It’s the year 1847.’

          But why?

          ‘Because of the famine.’

          Famine?  Are you talking about the Potato Famine?

          ‘Yes, but I think I made a mistake in bringing you to 1847. This is in the middle of everything—the worst winter on record, and the largest number of emigrations in a single year. I think I should have taken you back a few more years to when it all started.’

          I sighed, but I couldn’t tell if it came from my real self or from Maggie—or both of us. Okay, Cinda. Let’s get this over with. I hope it means I’ll get off this wretched ship.

      As Maggie fell into a fitful sleep. I felt myself—the Emilia part of me—rise and disappear into those flashing amber lights.

          Cinda’s voice whirled into my mind in the same way as the colors, which were now changing to a harsh vermillion. ‘Maggie Cantlon’ is your great-great-grandmother. Wee Johnnie grows up in America and becomes just John. When he marries, he has a daughter named Mary, your grandmother.

          All right, I get that. Why wasn’t I put into my great-grandfather John. He’s the one Grandma always talked about.

      ‘Two reasons: He was born during the famine, and he was only a child of three when this ship sailed. But we are here to learn history. You can’t go ‘within’ a person of the opposite sex, though.’

          I hadn’t thought of that. So are you taking me farther back to when Maggie was younger, and to when the famine started?

      ‘That’s the plan.’

          You’d better get it right this time.

      ‘Don’t worry, I will. This my first time being the guide instead of the one being guided.’

          Wait! What?

        No reply came. Her voice faded like a gull winging into a fog.

The colors ebbed away, and next thing I knew, my bare feet stood on green grass. It was day, but fog was drifting and curling around me. My eyes made out a small stone cottage, roofed with thatch. The man who’d called himself Thomas was gazing at me from the single doorway in the stones. He had to duck to come out, for the door was only about five feet tall. He looked much younger, and his brown eyes sparkled as he smiled at me.   

Monday, June 19, 2023

The Perils of Prejudice


Chapter 3 – An Unexpected Visitor


When we arrived home after our twenty-eight days in Ireland and Great Britain, the vision of those statues in Dublin still haunted me. I began accumulating and reading any books about Irish history that popped up on my Internet searches. As I worked my way through this first seven I’d bought, I became more and more appalled at the stories they revealed.

          Over the course of almost a millennium, England had considered Ireland a country of barbarians, and many even called the Irish sub-human. The Irish Problem was a preoccupation of English Monarchs from the fourteenth century onward. Some of the atrocities committed on both sides seemed unbelievable.


          One night, as I lay in bed trying to sleep, images of some of the things I’d read bounced around in my mind. Lord, I wish I could have been there to help those poor people. Or at least to see for myself what they went through.

          ‘I think that’s what I’m here for,’ came a voice in my mind.

          What? Am I going crazy now—hearing voices?

          ‘No, I’m really here in your mind.’

          I glanced over to see my husband sleeping soundly, and sat up in bed shaking my head. This shouldn’t be happening. Lord, help me!

          Then a bluish light appeared at the foot of the bed. Within its glow I saw a face with piercing brown eyes, surrounded by a halo of brown curly hair. I covered my eyes to clear my vision, but when I looked again, the vision was still there. “Who are you?” I whispered.

          ‘My name is Cinda,’ said the voice I’d heard in my head before. ‘I’m one of your descendants, born in 2064.’

          “But that’s forty-two years in the future. How can you be here?”

          ‘It’s called crossing the GAP, a way of jumping across vast expanses of space and time.’

          “I must be asleep and dreaming all this,” I murmured.

          The light suddenly disappeared, and I sighed with relief. Until I heard the voice again. ‘You don’t have to speak aloud to me,’ said the voice that had called herself Cinda. ‘I guess you could call me a time-traveler. I think I’ve been sent here to take you back into your ancestors’ lives.’

          You think?

          ‘Things like this have happened to me before, Emilia. Another GAP-crosser took me back into lives of some of my ancestors. Now she’s told me to do the same for you.’

          I closed my eyes and lay down on my pillow. When I opened them, all I saw was the dim ceiling of our bedroom. All right, if this is a dream, I’ll go with it. And if it’s real—well, I’ll have to go with that, too. Did you hear that, Cinda?

          ‘Yes, I did.’

          My heart pounded and felt like it would jump out of my chest. So am I dreaming, or not?

          ‘Does it really matter?’

          I hadn’t thought of that. Maybe it didn’t make any difference. “I don’t know,” I whispered to the ceiling.

          ‘Just trust me,’ said Cinda in my mind. ‘To start with, I’m only going to take you back 50 years, into your own past. Maybe you will remember this—'

          Strange yellow and amber lights began flashing over my head. When I closed my eyes, the lights were still dancing before me. I felt like I was falling through the bed, then the floor, and at last floating in nothingness. My hands began to tremble. Soon the sensation filled my whole body. Just as I was about to cry out, my vision cleared.

           I was sitting on a soft blue sofa in a sunlit room. Across from me was my grandmother, Mary Emilia, sitting in her favorite rocking chair. Grey hair framed her wrinkled face, but her brown eyes still had the twinkle I knew so well.

          “So you saw Killarney,” Grandma smiled. “Did you also get to tour the Ring of Kerry?”

          “No, unfortunately. I ran out of time and had to get back to Edinburgh for school.”

          “Ah, too bad. It’s a beautiful place.” She had a faraway look in her eyes. “I heard so many memories from my grandfather of times he spent there in childhood. I even got to visit there once with my mother and father, when they went back for a tour.”

           She had a faraway look in her eyes and lapsed into silence.  At last, I spoke, just to break the uneasy feeling in the room. “The weather was dreary and rainy when I was there in 1973, Grandma.”

          “Yes, it often rained, my grandfather Thomas Cantlon told me. The worst was the bitterly cold winter of 1846, when it snowed for weeks on end.”

          “Were you there. Grandma?”

          “Heavens, no! I wasn’t born until 1889, long after my parents and grandparents had made their way to America.”

          “When did they come?”

          “I believe it was 1847. My father John Cantlon was a child of only three ,

          “What was that like?”

          “I’m sorry, dear. I should have asked my grandfather more about it, for my father was too young to remember much. The only thing he remembered was feeing sick and hungry as the boat tossed and rocked in storms on the sea.”

          “I wish I could know what it was really like.”

          “Oh, child, those memories are terrible, I think. Whenever I asked my grandfather, all he would say was: ‘Those times are best forgotten. My mind recoils from them when I try to remember.’ 

          Shining tears appeared in Grandma’s eyes.

          “I’m sorry,” I murmured. “I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

          “Oh, I cry at the drop of a hat these days. I guess it’s the price of having lived eighty-five years. Each morning I ask the Lord if I can go now—to see my dear departed husband Frederick.”

          I stood and moved toward her, taking her quivering hand. “I’m sure the Lord will take you home soon, Grandma.”

          She pulled one of my hands to her cheek. I felt the softness of her flacid skin. “I pray God hasn’t forgotten me,” she whispered.

          “The Bible says He will never leave us or forsake us,” I murmured.

          Her head nodded against my hand. “Yes, well I’m ready whenever He is.”

          I stood there a long time, just holding one of her hands with one of mine, while she pressed my other hand against her cheek.


          Then the room around me began to swim before my eyes. Those amber lights flashed in my eyes again.

          Are we going somewhere else, Cinda?

       ‘Yes, it’s time for you to see the Potato Famine for yourself.’

          After all I’ve read I’m not sure I want to.

      ‘Admit it, Emilia, you do want to deep in your heart.’

          Yes, I suppose so. What year are we in now? I’m all confused.

          ‘You were just back in time with your grandmother in 1974.’

          She died in 1976, I think. Are we going back to my own time now? To 2022?

     ‘No, we’re going backwards again.’

     My stomach churned, and I tried not to be sick. I failed, though. Soon I found myself vomiting into a stinking bucket.     


Tuesday, June 6, 2023

An Irish Odyssey, Chapter 2


The following is from the second chapter (first draft) of a new historical fiction book I'm starting, titled An Irish Odyssey.  You are the lucky few to see it first!

Photo of Famine Ship, Dublin, Ireland, 2022

With a maiden name of Emilia Rene Haas, most people would assume my ancestry is German, but that’s only partly true. My father’s mother was one hundred percent Irish, which makes me one quarter Irish on his side. On my mother’s side, there is mostly English and Scots-Irish. 

These Scots-Irish ancestors of mine were Protestant Scots and English from the Borderland--southern Scotland and northern England--to whom King James I of England in 1610 offered free land in the northern counties of Ireland. This was done to create a buffer between Catholic Ireland and Protestant Scotland and England, and it came to be called The Plantation of Ulster--the 9 counties of northern Ireland. His plantation of Protestants on seized Catholic lands wasn’t the first, however. In the 1500s Queen Elizabeth I also planted Protestants in Munster, the six southwest counties of Ireland. My Irish ancestors came from this region. In fact, English political attitudes toward Ireland as The Irish Problem date all the way back to Henry VII, father of the better known Henry VIII.

          By the 1800s very few landowners were native Irish, and the majority of Catholics in Ireland were tenant farmers, who relied almost solely on the lowly potato as their source of food. As time passed, their potato crop became their only source of revenue to pay rent to their Protestant landlords. In addition, they were required to pay a tithe of their earnings (ten percent) to the Protestant Church of England, a church they didn’t belong to and gained no benefit from.

As time passed, these seeds planted in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries led to sectarian violence that has lasted into the twenty-first century. The roots of the problem still haven’t been fully resolved, but are simmering beneath the surface like a dormant volcano. The conflict has always been more about political power and less about religion, and those plantations by English monarchs have borne much bitter fruit.


          Four days after our tour of Derry/Londonderry, our tour group settled for two nights in Dublin, capital of the Republic of Ireland. In 2022, it’s a bustling city with a harbor on the River Liffey, which runs through the center of the city. The old dockyards have been given a make-over into a pleasant pedestrian way, paved with gravel and concrete stones and a lane of shade trees running parallel to the riverbank. We didn’t see any of the graffiti which we’d seen in Northern Ireland.

          As my husband and I walked along an esplanade, we saw a three-masted sailing ship moored by one of the quays.

          “That’s a beautiful sight, isn’t it?”

          “Yes,” said John. “It reminds me of the tall ships we sometimes saw sailing on Lake Huron, when we lived in Michigan.”

          “It would be interesting to sail on a ship like that,” I said.

“Of course, the sailing wouldn’t be nearly as smooth as on modern cruise ships.”

“I know. You’re right,” I nodded. “We’ve been spoiled by our two cruises on Radiance of the Seas. Cruising was a relaxing way to travel, wasn’t it?”

“Oh, sure. But I’m not ready to go cruising again until we see if Covid is really over and done with,” he said. “I don’t want to be stuck on a quarantined ship.”

By this time we were standing right above the gangplank leading to the tall ship. A chain stretched across the entrance with a sign showing prices and times of tours. Printed above an archway were the words: This is a replica of the Famine Ships which carried thousands of Irish overseas during the Potato Famine in the mid-1800s.

“I remember my dad talking about how his grandparents and their families came to America during that famine,” I said, looking down at the rough planking of the deck. “Those must have been very difficult voyages.”

John nodded, “Crossing the stormy North Atlantic is seldom smooth sailing.”

The ship didn’t show any signs of life, as we stood and gazed down on her. “They must not be doing tours today,” I shrugged.

“Maybe they will before our group heads back to England.”

“That’s tomorrow morning, though.”

John reached over and took my hand. “Let’s walk some more.”

We strolled away from the ship, and soon came to some statues arrayed along the walkway. They were unlike any statues I’d ever seen. The first two we came upon were a man and a woman. Each clutched a small bundle to their emaciated frame. Their clothes were rags, and their feet were bare, but the faces captured me most. They had the most haggard features and haunted-looking eyes. The man was gazing slightly upward, and in the midst of the fear and desperation on his face, I thought I sensed a tiny ray of hope. To his left, though, the woman’s face showed only bewilderment and despair.

“I’ve never seen statues like this in my life,” I murmured to John. “They look so forlorn and hopeless.”

“From what I’ve heard of the Potato Famine, over a million Irish starved to death,” he whispered. “Those who could manage, left this island forever. Here, look at this sign.”

A few paces beyond these first two statues, a placard read, “In 1844, the Earl of Tullamore evicted all his 120 tenant farmers, tore down their rough stone cottages, and left them to find their own way to Dublin.  Those who survived the 100-mile walk boarded ships like the one moored here, in hopes of finding a better life in America, Canada, or Australia.”

Just beyond the sign was a small statue which was merely a pair of worn-out shoes. Near these, another placard displayed a map, showing the road many had taken. It was labeled “The Famine Memorial Trail.”

I stood rooted to the spot in silence for what seemed a long time, until my husband spoke, “Are you all right?”

Turning to him in a daze, I murmured. “I’ve heard Dad talk about the famine and his family’s emigration from Ireland many times in my life. But it never hit me until today what a tragedy it was. To think that the landlords refused to help their own tenants, and just left them to starve or fend for themselves--if they could.”

“I remember a saying from one of my literature classes in high school. Our teacher often talked about stories that showed ‘Man’s inhumanity towards man.’ This is a classic case, I think,” said John.

“Come to think of it, our tour guide mentioned a field we passed on the coach tour in County Kerry last week. He said it was full of unmarked graves of victims of the famine. No one even knows how many graves there are scattered across the country,” I said. “People were so poor they couldn’t afford coffins, and many were buried in mass graves

“I’ve read that the blight which killed the potatoes was worst in the western counties, like Kerry,” added John.

“I’ve done a little genealogy research,” I said. “My Dad’s mother’s family name, Cantlon, comes from County Kerry.”

We stood gazing at those sculpture shoes, as a cool breeze began to whip the trees above our heads. Yellow leaves scattered in the autumn wind. I shivered, and pulled my sweater tighter around my chest. “Let’s head back to the hotel, okay.”

As John took my hand again, he squeezed it and said, “We’re lucky we have a warm shelter. The poor people that these statues commemorate had no place to go.”

“And no coats, either,” I sighed.

That night, after a rich and filling dinner, we settled into our luxury hotel room. As I stared into the darkness above me, I tried to imagine what my ancestors must have experienced during the famine and their journey to America. What challenges they must have faced when they arrived dirt poor in the place they hoped would be a land of opportunity. Lying there, gazing at a barely visible ceiling, I decided I needed to learn more about their story.

It needs to be told and not forgotten, I said to myself. In many ways, it reminds me of things I’ve heard said about the Jewish Holocaust. We must remember so these grim parts of history won’t be repeated.





Friday, May 26, 2023

Fifty Years Ago in Ulster


Walking along the city wall of old Derry, my mind slipped back to the first time I had been in Northern Ireland.  It was 1973, and I was in the midst of a semester abroad program through the University of Edinburgh. One long weekend, I took it into my head to go see Ireland, knowing from stories my father had told that I had Irish ancestors in my family tree.

          Back then, the accepted mode of travel for students on limited incomes was hitchhiking, and this was how I got from Edinburgh, Scotland to Liverpool, England. I couldn’t hitchhike across the Irish Sea, however, so I bought passage on an overnight ferry to Dublin. This way I didn’t have to pay for lodging.

          When I arrived in the Irish capital early the next morning, I wasn’t sure what to do next. Many friends in college had talked about the Guinness Brewery, so I went there for free samples. After a draught or two—or four—I felt energized enough to wander around seeing the sights. Following my usual travel pattern, I found the Dublin Youth Hostel that afternoon and stayed the night. 

    The following day, I decided to explore the countryside of the Emerald Isle. It was only March, but the land was moist and green, living up to its moniker. As I walked along the roadways, I held out my thumb each time I heard a vehicle approach. It turned out getting rides in Ireland was quite easy. The people were very friendly and helpful. In one day I got all the way from the east coast of Ireland to the western side to Killarney, whereupon I found the Youth Hostel there, as well. 

          That evening a rainy cool front moved in. It struck me that I had only two days to get back to Edinburgh for school. Unperturbed for the most part, I set out for Dublin again the next morning, walking along with my thumb out. I’m not sure what I thought I would accomplish that day since there was no way I could walk all the way across the Emerald Isle in a day. As it turned out, I didn’t have to. One of the rides that stopped for me on my trek back from Killarney was a group of three young men in a small compact car.

          “We’re heading over to Kilkenny to visit a friend,” they said. “He’s sure to have a lunch for us. You’re welcome to come along.”

          Some people might say I was foolish to accept this ride with three males I didn’t know. But in some strange way, I wasn’t worried. God has seen me safely thus far, I thought. I’ll just keep following his lead.

          When we arrived in the town of Kilkenny, they went straight to what looked like an old church. Parking the little car, they led me into the ancient-looking stone building. A man in a rough brown monk’s robe met us in the hallway and exclaimed, “Ah, so good to see you fellows. I see you’ve brought a friend. Come on in, I have a light lunch here to share. There’s always enough for a guest.” (Years later, I’d learn there was a deeply-rooted belief in Irish culture to help the stranger or traveler along their way, whether by food or other means.)

          After our meal of fruit, cheese, and bread, the monk asked me, “Where are you heading today, dear?”

          “I have to get to Dublin,” I replied.

          “Ah, well then we’d best help get you on the right road,” he smiled.

          The next thing I knew he was standing beside me in his long brown robe, helping me thumb a ride. Of course the very first car stopped. Yes, they were going to Dublin. As I climbed into the car and waved good-bye to my new friends, I couldn’t help thinking that it would be nice to have a monk along on future hitchhiking trips.

          I arrived back at the Dublin Youth Hostel shortly after dark. Getting out my map, I contemplated how far I still had to go in only one day. Another fellow-lodger was looking over my shoulder.

          “You don’t want to hitch in Northern Ireland,” he said. “It’s not safe like it is here. The Troubles, you know.”

          I was well aware of the Protestant and Catholic violence in Ulster in the 1960s and 70s, so I wasn’t all that keen on visiting Northern Ireland at all. “I’m not sure I could hitch all the way from Liverpool to Edinburgh in a day, though,” I said. “The ferry would take half my travel day.”

          “You could take a train from here to Belfast.” He pointed at the route on my map. “There you could get to the Larne Ferry to Scotland. That would connect you with trains to Edinburgh.”

          This would be more expense than I’d hoped, but it did give me a guarantee of making it back to my goal in one day. So the next morning I bought a ticket for the Belfast train.

          Riding along, I watched the green countryside of the Republic of Ireland fall away behind me. Trains often travel through the bleaker parts of cities and landscapes, and this ride was punctuated by high walls with barbed wire and broken glass embedded in the tops of stone or concrete walls.

          Once we reached Belfast, I was told I had to go to a different station to change trains. At an information desk, I asked the attendant, “Which bus do I need to take to get to the Larne Ferry train?”

          “No buses are running,” came the reply. “One was bombed last week.”

          My heart did a flipflop.

          “You’ll have to walk,” the attendant’s voice continued. “Here, take this city map. It shows you which streets to take.”

          My heart pounded as I took the city map and set out in the streets of Belfast. Walking along one row of glass-fronted shops—with bars protecting them from possible outside violence--I happened to hear a low rumble. When I turned my head, I saw a huge armored tank rolling by, British soldiers--with their guns ready--seated on top.

          This was the mental picture my mind jumped back to when I was standing on the ancient city wall of Londonderry almost fifty years later, looking at the fence constructed to keep out the Molotov Cocktails which were being thrown from Bogside.


          As our tour group walked to the next stop, I told the guide about this Belfast adventure, especially the tank.

          “How old were you?” he asked.

          “Not quite twenty-one.”

          “I find it very surprising that you’d so such things alone, and so young.”

          I shrugged. “Maybe I was foolish, but God took care of me.”






Friday, May 5, 2023

Beginnings of "An Irish Odyssey"


An Irish Odyssey

Chapter 1

           The sign pierced my deepest mind: “England is Ireland’s Enemy.”

It was as harsh in its style as in its words, printed in black block letters on white, a sign framed on a metal stand.  Not your usual graffiti, and there was plenty of that in Londonderry’s streets, even in 2022.

          As we walked along the city wall of Old Derry, our guide pointed out where the wall had been raised and augmented by chain link fencing and razor wire.

          “Below us,” he said, “Is the Catholic neighborhood of Bogside.  Up here on the other side of the wall is one of the headquarters of the Protestant forces.  Why do you think they made this wall higher?”

          “To keep the Catholics out?” said a member of our tour group.

          “Even more than that,” the guide replied.  “People down below would throw bottles filled with flammable liquid over the wall and into this building.”

          “Ah, Molotov Cocktails,” someone else said.

          “Yes,” said the guide.

          “I’m confused,” I said. “I thought The Troubles ended with the Good Friday Peace Treaty in 1998.”

          “I suppose you could say so in theory,” the guide added. “But even now each side has different interpretations of what that document means. I guess you could say it ended the particular Troubles here in Northern Ireland, but the sectarian differences between Ireland and England are deep-rooted.  The history goes all the way back to the English King Henry VIII, in the sixteenth century. That was when Henry established the Church of England, the beginning of Protestantism.”

          “So he could defy the Pope, right?” said a woman beside me.

          “Yes, and all because he wanted to divorce his first wife so he could marry Anne Boleyn,” added a man behind me.

          Our guide was smiling and nodding his head. “The strangest part is that both sides—Protestant and Catholic—living here in Ireland rarely attend church.”

          “So it’s not really about religion at all—”

          “Of course not,” the guide nodded.  “It’s all politics, and always has been. England has always considered this island a big problem, ever since King Henry. One side commits violent atrocities, and the other side retaliates in the same way.  The spiral never really ends, though right now we’re in a period of relative peace.”

          “Except for the occasional Molotov Cocktail?” the man behind me laughed.

          “I’m confused,” I said, raising my hand. “Which name is correct here—Derry or Londonderry?”

          Again he smiled, “If you’re Catholic, it’s Derry. And if you’re Protestant it’s Londonderry.”


Sunday, March 26, 2023

It Wasn't My Superpower--It Was God's


This week I finally retired from a 31-year career of teaching music.  During those years I taught private lessons in piano and guitar, even oboe.  Also taught preschool music classes through Kindermusik and Musikgarten, classroom elementary general music, beginning band, and directed many children's and adult choirs. I've lost count of how many Christmas Concerts and Spring Programs I put on.

It all started in 1990, when my 9-year-old son missed the children's choir, from our former home in Montana, after we moved to Michigan.  At his urging I started one at our new church home in Tawas City, Michigan.  One thing led to another after that, as God slowly nudged me into a field I never thought I was qualified for.  The children's choir led to adult choirs, and my piano teacher in Michigan, Kaye Phelps, encouraged me to begin teaching beginners.  She mentored me and knew when to push me, as I learned more than I could ever have imagined.  Teaching something really increases your learning, I discovered.  By the time we had to leave Michigan and return to Montana, I'd been teaching music over 16 years.

During this same period, the Lord got me in the "back door" of a Master's in Music Education program at Concordia University, near Chicago.  I was able to take my classes there in the summer, so I could continue my music teaching jobs in Michigan, and graduated with an MME in 1998.  I still look back amazed that I was admitted to a Master's of Music program with no Bachelor's degree in music.  My BS was in Biology and Environmental Education!

 When my husband retired and we returned to build our retirement home here in Montana, part of the floor plan included a music studio.  Here I taught students of all ages, from preschool through senior citizens for another 15 years.  Once I reached 70, I knew it was time to retire, and move on.  God had morphed me into a music teacher by giving me the skills I needed.  It was not my talent, but His, and He deserves all the glory.  He provided me with what I needed to do the ministry He called me to.

I have been blessed with getting to know over 500 students over these past years.  And many tell me that I have blessed them, too, with the gift of music--whether they moved into music teaching and performance themselves, or just enjoy playing or listening to a favorite song.  Those are things, I still hope to do.  Some of the most-beloved songs of my teaching years now bring tears of joy to my eyes.

I don't know what God has in store for me around the next bend, but I know He has a plan. Right now it looks like I'll still be writing some historical fiction, and doing acrylic painting. (The music studio is already in the process of being converted.)  One of my favorite composers, Johann Sebastian Bach, wrote these letters at the end of every piece he composed: SDG.  They stand for the Latin words, "Soli Deo Gloria" -- To God Alone Be the Glory!  That's my motto, too.

Monday, February 27, 2023

I Thought This Was Pure Fantasy, But Now It's All Around Me

 Has anyone else noticed how our culture is shifting away from the written word to the visual? I don't even know how many streaming services are out there. Many people don't want to read a book if they can watch it on a screen. (I know some of you still read, so don't get mad at me. Otherwise you wouldn't be reading this.)

For me, all this streaming, YouTube, TicToc, etc, reminds me of the future world I projected in my first book, "Peaks at the Edge of the World"-- where books are obsolete and forbidden. It's almost scary to see it coming to pass all around me. By the way, I must add that the seed of my idea was inspired by Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451".
From my first book, begun 50 years ago and first published 10 years ago, several other have been spawned. And my focus has moved from sci-fi to fantasy, and on into historical and contemporary fiction.