The Painting

I have watched Pride and Prejudice (a lot), and there is a scene where Elizabeth admires the paintings of Mr. Darcy and his sister. I have had the opportunity to view similar types of paintings of individuals and families at various art museums. I enjoy looking at them and getting a glimpse of what life might have been like those many years ago.

But having oil painting done of one’s family was something that only rich families did hundreds of years ago, right? Well, not if you are friends with an amazing artist like Cheryl Schoenberger! I met Cheryl through Civil War Reenacting and discovered that she had painted portraits of two other Atascadero Civil War Reenacting families. My husband and I decided that a painting of our family would be a perfect 25th Wedding Anniversary gift to ourselves and asked Cheryl if she would paint us. She presented us with our large 3’X3’ painting at the Moorpark Civil War Reenactment last month, and we were thrilled!

The painting is a memento of many things that my husband and I have tried to impart to our children: Family history (I’m wearing my grandmother’s brooch), homeschooling (we’ve learned a lot about the Civil War), hand crafting (The girls and I each made our dresses), travel, friends, memory making and so much more. It is amazing to think that I will be able to enjoy this painting all of my life, and then it will last and last through many generations. I wonder what my great-grandchildren will think of the painting!

My Favorite Things

While some people sing along with Julie Andrews and declare that their favorite things are raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, my favorite things run more along the lines of learning new things, sharing that information with other people, organizing events and making memories. At a Civil War Reenactment, I get to do all of these things. Last weekend, family and friends met up at the Moorpark Reenactment to share food, fellowship and our love of history with others who attended the event. My husband and his fellow musicians who are in the Liberty Hill Band (yes, those same wonderful guys who play for our Civil War Balls) played their music near the battle field while the ladies of the Civilian Camp had a lovely tea party. The Saturday evening dance is one of the highlights of the event for the re-enactors. I always learn a new dance or two to bring home and share with my Civil War Ball group at home. Friends, music, history and dance… these are a few of my favorite things.


I remember watching the Sound of Music when I was a child. I loved the music, the story… the marionettes! But I was especially intrigued by the thought of Maria making play clothes for the children out of curtains. I thought about that as I took scraps of cloth to make clothes for my dolls. Later on, I saw the old classic, Gone with the Wind, and watched another resourceful lady make a velvet dress from curtains.

So when it came time for me and my daughters to move out of our bridesmaid and thrift store dresses into Civil War Ball gowns of our own, it was probably no surprise that, as we began to look for material, I thought of – curtains! The fabric is already trimmed, and as an added bonus, it was already hemmed too. My youngest daughter finished her dress this summer, and my girls and I wore our dresses to the Civil War Ball last weekend. So when it comes time for you to think about making your own ball gown, you might want to consider – curtains!

Who knows… maybe you’ll even get to meet Abraham Lincoln!

Old-Fashioned Fun

One of the books that I read this summer was entitled The Great Reset by Richard Florida, and in it, the author reviews the history of past economic declines and shares what he thinks the current economic situation will bring. He quotes a Gallup survey that said overall spending in the U.S. was down twenty percent in 2009. Florida says, “Although spending on tangible goods, especially luxury goods, is demonstrably down, consumers haven’t stopped spending completely. Some of the consumer power has been redirected toward more experiential purchases: travel, wellness and fitness, entertainment, self-expression and self-improvement. The creative class… will continue to seek out restaurants and cultural events, they will take their families kayaking and skydiving or on “volunteer vacations,” they will brew beer and start vegetable gardens and build furniture…”

This summer, our family looked to travel as a vehicle for making memories, and most of the things we did were plain, inexpensive, old-fashioned-fun activities. My daughters and I visited my mother in Missouri, and in my mother’s small town, there is a roller skating rink. So we gathered up cousins and other relatives and went skating! That evening, my sister barbequed chicken, and we watched as all the cousins caught fireflies. We ate my mother’s famous homemade cheesecake, and to finish up the evening, we gathered around the grand piano, and while my mother played, we all sang. I would rather have that day in my memory than anything that could be purchased in a store.

The Gift Economy

My daughter spent the summer at the L’Abri in England two years ago, and when she returned home, she brought audio copies of some of her favorite lectures. We listened to one of these CDs on the way home from Los Angeles earlier this summer. It was about the difference between the Market Economy and the Gift Economy. In the Market Economy, you exchange something of value, like money, for a commodity. After the exchange is through, you have received your commodity as “a right” since you paid for it, and there are no lingering effects.

The Gift Economy builds community in several ways. First, when you have received something that you did not pay for and did not deserve, you have gratitude toward the giver. Gratitude leads to thankfulness which is one of the foundations of our human experience. Secondly, the receiver often feels indebted to the giver and looses some of his independence and autonomy which is necessary for community to build. (and which is why some people do not like to be given gifts.) But most importantly, the Gift Economy must take place in real community. The Market Economy creates boundaries while gifts move across boundaries and abolish them.

This summer, a couple from our community of friends gave us the wonderful gift of staying at their river front cottage for a few days. My family enjoyed swimming in the river, doing puzzles, writing stories, hiking and playing games. The gift of the cottage included much more than a house. It encompassed all it means for a family to have time away to enjoy each other. I am forever thankful and indebted to our dear friends, and our community together grows deeper and deeper.

The Importance of the Arts

My family went camping at Lake Cachuma a few weeks ago, and, for the first time, I attended an outdoor PCPA play in Solvang. Although I have attended many musical performances, plays and operas over the years, this play stood out as one of the best theater performances that I had ever seen.

In the play’s program guide, the artistic director of the event, Mark Booher, wrote about the fact that many of the people at the performance were “arts supporters” – people who are willing to invest their money and time in promoting the arts. I would definitely classify myself in that category. But perhaps more importantly, Mr. Booher goes on to say that those of us who attend these events are not only supporting the arts, but the arts support us also.

He says that the arts, “… lift our heaviness, they buoy us on the stormy sea, they elevate our low points, they bolster our foundations and occasionally they prop up our otherwise crumbling facades. The arts support our fully realized humanity – the expression of ideas, feelings and realities that are otherwise difficult to express and activate. Art is one of the prime means of conveyance of our internal essences to our outward life – bringing us from being into action, from silence to communication, from isolation to connectedness.”

I thought about that quote as I watched the Too Young to Marry trio perform at Cambria Pines Lodge a few days later. Their music did express their inward beauty that we, as an audience, would never have experienced without their music.

Below are a couple of links to their music that day. I hope that you will be inspired to become even more of an arts supporter, and that you will find yourself supported and encouraged by the arts as well.

The Wedding

The daughter of our good friends got married last Friday. They had a country wedding with white daisies strewn along the grass aisle and paper butterflies decorating the seat backs. The bridesmaids wore sunny yellow dresses, and the couple was married with a glowing sun setting in the background. They were married on a Friday because on that particular day, the bride’s grandparents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary as well. In honor of the legacy of love and commitment that this older couple was setting for these newlyweds, the two couples had a special dance together with the Bride’s father and band providing the music.

After a fabulous BBQ meal, I got to teach some of my favorite lines dances to the group. I knew many of the people at the reception, and it was quite a treat to be able to introduce them to some new dances. I shared a fun memory that both the bride and groom, long before they were a couple, attended one of the first Victorian Era dances that I ever taught and called.

As the wedding guests departed, they were given a jar of locally grown honey with a tag on it that said, Meant to “Bee”.

Celebrating Milestones

I’ve had the privilege of calling dances for several 18th Birthday parties, and, as I was getting ready for the party last weekend, I began thinking of all the different milestones that people celebrate. I remember our eldest daughter’s first birthday and the relief we felt that both she AND her parents had made it through their first year. A sixteenth birthday often heralds in a new era of mobility with a driver’s license. We celebrate baptisms, graduations and weddings as well. But there is something special about an 18th birthday, especially when a daughter has been home schooled. For those of us who years ago looked at our small child and decided to take on the responsibilities of educating that child ourselves, an eighteenth birthday is chance to celebrate all that we’ve managed to impart and teach, and then hand over the reins of responsibility to this new young adult. The party last weekend was made even more special because the young lady got to share this birthday celebration with her good friend, and as part of the preparation, they spent time together making new dresses and wreaths for the event. There is so much joy when family and friends come together to celebrate milestones.

A Mother's Song

When my first child was born, I used to sing to her every night while rocking her in the rocking chair that my mother gave me as a baby shower gift. Sometimes I would sing a familiar lullaby or make up a little tune to hum. As she got older, we continued to rock and sing every night, but she began to choose the songs. One of her favorites was Rain Drops On Roses, and I can’t remember how many times I’ve sung that song over the years. Eventually a brother and sister joined her in the rocking chair, and the tradition of singing a bedtime song continued every night for years and years.

This weekend, our two broody hens hatched out a bunch of very cute, yellow chicks. It was fun to sit and watch the mamas cluck and encourage the chicks, even while the babies were still in the eggs. It almost seemed like a little song that the mamas were singing, and from inside the eggs, we could hear the chicks sing back.

Now that the chicks are two days old, the mama hens takes them out in the yard and show them where to find bugs and grass. But in the evening, she clucks her bedtime song to the chicks, and then all her little masterpieces come running to snuggle under her warm feathers and listen to her song.

When my son was a small boy, one of his favorite bedtime songs was, “You are a Masterpiece” by Sandi Patty, and went it like this:

“Before you had a name or opened up your eyes
Or anyone could recognize your face.
You were being formed so delicate in size
Secluded in God's safe and hidden place.

With your little tiny hands and little tiny feet
And little eyes that shimmer like a pearl
He breathed in you a song and to make it all complete
He brought the masterpiece into the world.

You are a masterpiece
A new creation He has formed
And you're as soft and fresh as a snowy winter morn.
And I'm so glad that God has given you to me
Little Lamb of God, you are a masterpiece.
And now you're growing up your life's a miracle
Everytime I look at you I stand in awe
Because I see in you a reflection of me
And you'll always be my little lamb from God

And as your life goes on each day
How I pray that you will see
Just how much your life has meant to me.

And I'm so proud of you
What else is there to say?
Just be the masterpiece He created you to be.”

I think that maybe I heard our mama chicken singing that very song!


I never listened to opera music when I was young which is surprising since my mother is a classically trained pianist. We listen to plenty of classical music, and when we were sick, we were allowed to wrap up in a blanket and sit in the living room (which we rarely used) and listen to Peter and the Wolf on the stereo console (which we usually weren’t allowed to touch.) The sick days passed quickly and pleasantly while listening to Peter’s string instruments and Grandfather’s bassoon while the oboe quacked like a duck.

But having children brings new experiences to one’s life, and I have a daughter who loves opera music and has had the opportunity to sing in two operas so far – The Carmen last year, and this year she sang in the La Boheme. And when she is not in the opera, she likes to attend, so we saw Madame Butterfly and La Traviata too. She says that it’s not a real opera unless the heroine dies tragically, which is certainly true of the four operas I’ve seen recently, but the music is beautiful, and the comic relief in La Boheme is quite fun. And to top off the experience, my oldest daughter played violin in the opera orchestra. I may just have to start buying some opera music to listen to the next time we have a sick day!

Suzuki Violin

It’s been a musical weekend! On Saturday, I went with a group of friends to the dress rehearsal of the San Luis Obispo Symphony. The featured violinist was David Kim, a man who I had the pleasure of hearing a couple of years ago. I appreciate the emotion and technique he brings to the pieces he plays, but more than that, I admire the fact that he spends some of his time visiting numerous schools near his home in Philadelphia bringing classical music to children. He is a Christian and a former Suzuki student who gives of himself to benefit others.

On Sunday, I attended (and played piano for) another concert with many Christian Suzuki students who haven’t been playing quite as long as David Kim. The young violinists were students of my daughter, Melissa, who has been investing her life in the lives of young children for over seven years by teaching Suzuki violin lessons. Some of the students were very young and played tiny violins. Others had been playing for several years and were mastering more complex pieces. Parents smiled and snapped photos, and I think that we all knew that more was happening than just songs being played by children. We were watching children grow and blossom. They had been given the gift of music by their parents and teacher, and now they were giving of themselves by sharing their music with us.