Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Lamppost and the Leaves

I'm fascinated with the trees here on the Monterey Peninsula. Sometime I'll post pictures of all my favorites. Today though, I'm writing about a new discovery - I just found out that one of my best friends (and neighbors, who sees the same trees I do every day) shares that same interest. Yesterday she pointed out a tree I've passed by daily but hadn't really seen before, at least not the way she had. And it's really cool.

It's not so much about the tree itself, but about the lamppost and the leaves. She pointed out to me that all the leaves have long since fallen to the ground - except - the leaves right around the lamppost. They're even still green for the most part, at the end of December. It must be the light from the lamp at night that is keeping them alive.

I love analogies and I think there's a good one here! In fact, these lyrics came to my mind as I thought about the power of that light:

Thou gracious God, whose mercy lends
the light of home, the smile of friends,
our gathered flock thine arms enfold
as in the peaceful days of old.

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (1809 – 1894)

This was a beautiful reminder that in this past year, His mercy has brought me the light of home, the smile of friends, and deep, inner peace as I've felt His loving arms gather me in. Like that lamppost, His light has given me the extra strength I've needed to keep holding on through long, dark nights. May this strength and peace fill us through the weeks and months ahead. Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

It's Christmastime in Carmel-by-the-Sea

I love living in such a cool place!

My morning, in pictures:

I could never get away with using this purse, let alone afford it, but isn't this creative?

More of my endless fascination with the flora of California's Central Coast. Looks like Christmas to me. (Red, green, and shiny!)

We turned off the main row of shops and art galleries and found this sweet, peaceful haven. Inside the pipe organ Christmas carols and stained glass windows filled me with the reverent spirit of Christmas. I could use a stop here every day.

And I could use a stop here everyday, too!

May your days be merry and bright.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Let it, uh, B

So this is what we get for turning the ornament hanging over to our 6 and 9 year old boys... the paper tag labeling one of the parts of the artificial tree becomes a decoration! It is rather special since both of their names start with B. I think this is hilarious - guess we'll see how many years this shows up on our tree!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Silver Bells and Sunshine

This morning our boys reminded me it was time to break out the chocolate advent calendars - can it really be December already?

You have to understand that I'm asking this for more than the "where did the year go?" reasons that we all have. Here in Monterey the weather is sunny in the mid-60's, and the trees and grass are lush and green this time of year. It feels like Spring. (But not the "Spring" we had here last year - the kind of Spring I'm used to!) Having lived in places with four distinct seasons my entire life until one year ago, I feel really displaced seeing Christmas lights on neighbor's homes while deciding we really don't need our jackets as we head out the door. Displaced, yes. Ungrateful? Absolutely not!

Displaced and ungrateful was me this summer while I was wearing sweaters (and a jacket) and could barely see through the fog day after day.

But now that it's gone, I'm over it. It's December, it's not going to snow here, and I'm grateful. And it might be the only December I can ever confidently say that again. So I put on the silver jingle bell earrings my youngest son gave me last year and I'm going to be grateful all month long. (And I'm putting this on my blog to be accountable to it!)

Happy December and may this be a month filled with blessings and sunshine! And maybe a chocolate advent calendar. : )

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Independence Day Surprises!

This year I got to go home for the 4th of July - back to the home where I grew up in Missouri! We enjoyed a delicious brunch out on the front porch with extended family - aunts, uncles, lots of little cousins, grandparents, and even my kids' great-grandmother! We started the gathering by singing the National Anthem and saying the Pledge of Allegiance together, and it was sweet to see all the little grandkids with their hands over their hearts in honor of the flag and country we love so much.

That afternoon we got a surprise call from my Grandpa, whose flight plans were changed en route, landing him in nearby Kansas City! He invited us to drive down with him to Branson, Missouri that night (where his original flight plans were) to see my cousins, the Brett Family, and their morning music show. We did a whirlwind packing job, enjoyed a tasty BBQ dinner all together, then hopped in the car and drove about 3.5 hours south. I loved the time with my grandpa, and as a bonus we got to watch fireworks the last two hours of the drive down!

Now I have to insert a quick story about another surprise that happened prior to the 4th. While I was still in California, before we left for Missouri, my cousin Brydon called me from Branson. Their family's show regularly has a stunning patriotic section, but he told me about a special Fourth of July program they were planning and asked if they could use my Star-Spangled Banner video in it. I was just as honored that they wanted to use it as I was surprised by it! We didn't have time to talk much about it, but I asked him to please let me know how it went.

I had no idea during that conversation that I would see the Bretts the same night of their special program, and get to hear about it in person! Oh, how I wish I could have been there to experience it myself. I could tell that it was a very stirring, powerful event and one that brought great honor to our country's veterans. (I always cry at things like that!) I just read an article reviewing the show that captures the details and spirit of it very well. The full newspaper article can be found here.

Here's a picture of us with my cousins, the Brett Family, after their show that we attended the following day. They deliver an amazing performance and we were lucky enough to see it twice! This will be a 4th of July we will fondly remember for a very long time. Thank you to our country's servicemen and women, past and present, who make such great celebrations possible.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day Reflections

I watched a terrific Memorial Day tribute this morning and it really got me into the right spirit of what this holiday is all about. It was the live broadcast of "Music and the Spoken Word," and when it is up on their website I'll include a link to it. You don't want to miss this one!

Here are a few of the highlights from the "spoken word" part of the program, from Lloyd Newell. (These are his words, not mine. And he says them in such a beautiful, soothing way!)

"How can we say thank you to such heroes? How can we express heartfelt gratitude for the men and women who have given so much in our behalf?

We can remember.

To remember is to build on the foundation of freedom they laid, so their loss is not a bitter end, but a beginning of better times. To remember is to read and share their stories, so their memory remains alive and fresh. Remembering means we strive to avoid making the same mistakes that made their sacrifice necessary. To remember is to think of them as they thought of themselves – not as heroes of extraordinary bravery, but simply as regular people who recognized their duty, and tried hard to do it.

We can reflect often on the price of freedom, the courage it takes to maintain it, and the men and women who had that courage and paid that price.... To be held in sacred remembrance is the finest tribute of all."

I created this video last summer and posted it last fall, but want to share it again as my way of honoring and remembering those who have paid the price of freedom, that we may have the opportunity to courageously maintain it. Please feel free to share it if you like.

Happy Memorial Day!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

An Unforgettable First

I got to be part of the coolest experience - one that came as quite a surprise - and was reminded why I feel so lucky to get to do what I do!

I've been a violin teacher since I was fifteen. (And that is another story - a great one!) That's 20 years I've been doing this now... and in all that time, most of my students have been children or teenagers. I've had only a handful of adult students. But they are a blast to teach, so when one comes along, it's a rare delight. Yesterday was one of those times.

It was her very first lesson, the very first time she'd ever put the violin under her chin, even though it's been a dream of hers for several years. When she drew her bow across each string - for the first time ever - it was the coolest experience to witness. Her eyes filled with tears and she said, "I can't believe how beautiful this is."

I think as much as describing the sound she heard, she was describing how the sound felt to her soul. She put her hand on her chest and I knew what she was feeling. It was the beginning of realizing a dream. Finding a part of yourself that you'd always hoped was there. Feeling the vibrations of the strings ring deep into your being and it is real and exactly as she said, beautiful. These are the things that literally moved her to tears through the beauty of the experience, even though at the moment you really don't need to pinpoint or verbalize why. I felt so honored to get to witness such a deeply satisfying moment in her life.

An interesting memory came back to me as this was happening. When I was 18, my dad took me to watch our new foal step out of her little fenced-in habitat for the first time, and into the much broader world of the round pen. She looked like a baby deer with her skinny little legs and miniature body. At first she hesitated at the open gate, as though there were still a barrier that only she could see. But she soon bravely took a step across that invisible line, and the step turned into a happy little run, which quickly turned into a wild tear through her newly opened world, with a few hops and kicks thrown in just for fun. It was so amazing to watch her sheer delight as she realized what she could do now. I'm so grateful that my dad had the foresight to include me in this moment of her life.

Back to the studio yesterday - it was that same kind of exhilarating, inspiring, and somehow sacred moment, all at the same time. I could tell she was a little embarrassed by her unexpected reaction, but I told her, "No, it's good! Let it out! This is a beautiful thing to experience and it's important to let yourself feel it." I can't wait to be in the audience someday when she performs, because I get the feeling she's going to have us crying, too. Her joy is going to be felt as well as heard. And that is a beautiful thing to be part of.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

An Easter Message - Becoming




Nature is such an inspiration this time of year! I love watching the development of beautiful things all around me. I think this is the right time to tell my story behind "Allegretto alla Romanza" by Edvard Grieg - how it came into my life and why I chose to include it on my CD. It is a story of becoming.

My senior year at BYU was a monumental one. Not for the cap and gown reasons, but for all the life challenges I had to keep finding the courage to face and the hope to overcome. In early December 1996, I lost three young cousins in a tragic car accident. We had all been together at an extended family gathering, and I remember hugging each of them good-bye before they left. Of course none of us had any idea that would be the last good-bye.

The following Spring, I found myself knee-deep in work as well as in grief. I had a senior violin recital to give in just a few weeks and was having a hard time getting through the feelings of loss. I finally talked to one of my professors about it, a trusted friend who had lost his son in a car accident during the same time period. I wondered how he kept going day after day after such a deep and shocking loss.

His response was truly a gift to me. He encouraged me to take my sorrow and emotion and put that energy into creating something meaningful, something beautiful. I knew exactly what it was going to be, what it needed to be.

I put my feelings of love for my three little cousins, now angels, into this particular movement of Grieg's Sonata. Instead of it being one more thing I had to find time to learn and hope to polish in time for my recital, the time I spent with this music became a creative outlet as well as a time of personal healing. At my recital when I performed this piece, I wasn't nervous, because I played it for them. It was a moment when I had become more than a stressed-out senior who had carried a lot burdens while racing to the finish line. I had found deep inner peace and was able to share it through the music I had created in the meanwhile.

As the concept for my CD's theme came together, I knew this piece needed to be included, even though it wouldn't be obvious to anyone but me why this song held so much love within it. I hope as you listen to it (an excerpt is in the pink box, top right) you will feel some of that spirit coming through.

With Easter comes sweet reminders - the hope of healing, the joy of becoming - the unmatched peace of Christ. I am more aware of the significance of His mission and sacrifice in my life as the years go by. As much as I can work on it and struggle through my own efforts, He is the reason my life can become something beautiful! And He is the reason I know I will see my cousins again.

Happy, Happy Easter!

Monday, March 21, 2011

All Things Bright and Beautiful

While looking through some of the pictures I've taken since we moved to California, the words to "All Things Bright and Beautiful" came to my mind. It's an Anglican hymn (Cecil Alexander, pub. in 1848) that I just love. So I've really enjoyed pairing these images with his words, both of which remind me just "How great is God Almighty". Hope you'll enjoy them, too!

All things bright and beautiful,

All creatures great and small,

All things wise and wonderful:

The Lord God made them all.

Each little flower that opens,

Each little bird that sings,

He made their glowing colors,

He made their tiny wings.

The purple headed mountains,

The river running by,

The sunset and the morning

That brightens up the sky.

The cold wind in the winter,

The pleasant summer sun,

The ripe fruits in the garden,

He made them every one.

He gave us eyes to see them,

And lips that we might tell

How great is God Almighty,

Who has made all things well.

(I've taken all of these pictures here on the Monterey Peninsula, except for the last one - the rainbow was in Germany. With all the rain we're getting now, I'm hoping to get a good rainbow picture here soon!)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lucky Enough

"If you are lucky enough to live here, you are lucky enough."

I saw this quote, decorated with shamrocks, hanging on a friend's wall today. And I think it's true! Lucky enough, blessed enough - whatever you call it, it's a great reminder to be happy enough and grateful enough.

Happy St. Patty's Day!

Monday, March 14, 2011

The story behind "As the Deer"... aka How not to observe Daylight Savings Time

So, I don't know about you, but with Spring Break starting today, we celebrated Daylight Savings Time by sleeping in exactly one hour. (No alarm clock necessary... we actually didn't know we had celebrated it that way until we woke up.)

I first became acquainted with the lovely song, "As the Deer," when I played for Mass in Italy several years ago. My accompanist introduced me to it and we scheduled it for services one Sunday in early Spring.

Can you see where this is going?

I distinctly remember my cell phone ringing when I was only about one minute away from my house. Violin in the backseat, dressed to perform, ready to go. Had to pull off the road for legal cell phone usage. (One of the smartest laws in Italy, honestly.) I answered and the conversation went something like this:

Accompanist: "Hi Arian, where are you?"
Me: "I just left home and will be there in a few minutes."
Accompanist: "Don't bother. It's already over."
Me: "WHAT?"
Accompanist: "Today is Daylight Savings Time, didn't you know?"
Me: "I thought that was next Sunday! That's what's printed on my calendar."
Accompanist: "That's when it is in the States. See you in an hour for the next service. Change your watch!"

(Luckily she wasn't really mad, and we both thought it was pretty funny.) So that's when I learned that 1. Daylight Savings Time happens one week earlier in Europe. And 2. when in Rome, do buy yourself a local calendar!

So this story really isn't about the song, except that it got played one less time that day. I've never forgotten the melody, though, with it's simple beauty beckoning to be heard again, and felt like it would have a nice place on my CD. The lyrics compare our longing for the Lord to how a deer thirsts for the water brooks. (Psalm 42:1) That might tie up a few loose ends for anyone who's heard the melody and seen the title but not the rest of the words!

Happy sleeping in, if anyone is so lucky to get to continue celebrating tomorrow!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Post-President's Day post

You just never know when or where Inspiration will strike next! This past weekend I found some meaningful insights on our nation's Founding Fathers in a place I certainly didn't expect: the introduction of "The 3 Word Journal: Finding Your Purpose in Life," by Randal A. Wright.

He talks about figurative "help-wanted" signs posted throughout history, and the heroic people who realized they had been given the gifts to "fill the job". He mentions by name Thomas Jefferson, recognizing the need for an author of the Declaration of Independence, and stepping up to fill the job. George Washington, realizing that our new nation needed a father. Abraham Lincoln, who saw the "help-wanted" sign for saving our country from division. These great people saw not just a job posted on those figurative signs, but saw "their unique missions written upon them."

His point is that we each have a unique life mission to fill. That, of course, resonates with me. My Post-Presiden't Day post is mostly for me - to take a moment to reflect on my deep respect and gratitude for our Founding Fathers and how much my life has been blessed because they recognized their gifts, the challenges/opportunities that required what they could give, and sacrificed to connect the dots themselves. I believe they were truly inspired; designed with the traits and talents and desire to fulfill the tasks at hand during their lifetime.

This is our lifetime; there are more tasks at hand than seem possible to fulfill - what gifts and missions have we been given? What needs can we meet that have enormous implications on future generations?

This beautiful mosaic was created by a local art class, on display just yesterday!

I didn't know I'd be thinking these kinds of thoughts on President's Day. But I think this was part of our Founding Father's mission as well. To make us think about our own.

Friday, February 11, 2011

New Video: "I'm Sorry"
(Click on the link to see the full screen.)

The wintry day, descending to its close,
Invites all wearied nature to repose,
And shades of night are falling dense and fast,
Like sable curtains closing o’er the past.
Pale through the gloom the newly fallen snow
Wraps in a shroud the silent earth below
As tho ’twere mercy’s hand had spread the pall,
A symbol of forgiveness unto all.

~ Orson F. Whitney, 1855–1931

Every time I watch this video, these lyrics come to my mind and I just feel like they belong together. The snow that covers so much of the country right now is a symbol of closure on what lies behind us. It is a symbol of the fresh, clean start to the new day ahead of us. It is a symbol that change is possible and it can be good. Forgiveness of others and of ourselves is real and it is liberating. And that brings deep, sweet peace.

My good friend, Heidi Johnson, wrote, directed, and produced this "short" (a term, I learned from her, that identifies it as a short movie as opposed to a full-length movie). I was honored when she asked me if she could use one of my recordings for the music. "Love At Home," written by Kirk Davies, was the perfect fit. Not only did the music's mood fit seamlessly with the flow of the scenes, but the timing was perfect! No cuts or extensions needed to be made on either the movie or the music track. We're pretty sure that's not coincidence!

I especially love the message of "I'm Sorry," delivered even more powerfully because there is no dialogue. This sweet young woman shows so sincerely the beautiful peace that happens inside us as we chose to change, forgive, let go, and move on. It is a powerful inner process that is so very real. It gives us something to think about while waiting for the snow of life to melt!

This song, "Love At Home," is on my album "A Time to Love" and is available as a single digital download at iTunes and at cdBaby. Feel free to share the video.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

We Love Jenny Auction Update

It's almost here! The fund-raising auction to help my cousin Jenny cover her chemotherapy and medical expenses from leukemia is right around the corner. There are now 63 items available to bid on! Check them all out at or click on the "We Love Jenny" button above.

For more details, see my post "Cousins are For Keeps".

The update is that now instead of the auction ending on Valentine's night, it has been extended to end on the 15th. (So now you can enjoy a night out and get in on the last minutes of the auction as well!) The official bidding window is from February 14th @ 9am to February 15th @ 10pm, EST.

You don't have to know my cousin to bid; you don't even have to know me. But there are so many really cool and beautiful items donated by people who love Jenny and you can know that you have done a great thing to help a really great person if you place the winning bid on an item!

Instructions on how to bid are here.

Thank you and happy bidding!

PS I have 3 of my "A Time to Love" CDs up for bidding on!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Pure Joy


Watching this little boy conduct his heart out - and with such phenomenal artistry and enthusiasm - has brought me pure joy today. I don't know who he is, but what a blast to play in his orchestra someday. Enjoy!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cousins are For Keeps!

One of life's funnest blessings has to cousins. I have a lot of them and they are some of my favorite people in the world! I want to tell you about my cousin, Jenny. Our boys call her "Cousin Jenny" and they actually know her better than any of their own aunts, uncles, or cousins.

(Jenny is on the far right - I'm so lucky to be related to all of these awesome women!)

When we moved to the DC area from Germany four years ago, Jenny was the one who met us at our hotel (all jet-lagged and lolly - us, not her!) and hosted our first night's experience living in America after six years overseas. First stop: dinner at Taco Bell. Main menu: a night driving tour of the Nation's Capital. Soundtrack: Local radio Christmas music. (It was December 1st, after all.) The experience was so dream-like and all the monuments and architecture and iconic buildings so larger-than-life in my memory. It was so hard to believe that just the day before we'd been in our little farming village with cows, a tractor path, and windmills behind our house, surrounded by neighbors who spoke little to no English. Suddenly there we were looking at the White House, hearing familiar Christmas songs in English, and best by far, we were with JENNY!

Now if you know Jenny Reeder, it won't surprise you one bit that she was able to do this - drive all over DC at night (with two kiddos in carseats in the back) and be able to tell us the names of each building and monument - after only having lived in the area for four months herself! This is pretty much the essence of what Jenny is all about - diving headlong into life's experiences (without plugging her nose first, like I do) and making it as meaningful of an experience for as many people as she can take with her along the way. And then reveling in the memories (or at least laughing about it), taking life's lessons learned and gratitude for the little things along with her to the next adventure.

Jenny has been this way for as long as I can remember - I think she came that way - and I have always looked up to her and taken strength from her example to have courage to do new, hard things and love it. She just makes life fun!

This past October we had to say good-bye as our family left Northern Virginia for California. I can not say enough how much Jenny made those four years something special for me. I thank the Lord that He gave us that window of our lives together and what a comfort it was to have her so close.

Less than three weeks after we said good-bye, I got a call from my mom that Jenny was in the hospital having a blood transfusion and that she had just been diagnosed with leukemia. Shocked doesn't even come close to describing it. We were at our new house with the movers unloading boxes and wanting to know which rooms to put them in when I got the news, and I couldn't even see straight. I didn't care anymore what went where. Jenny. She was all I could think about.

I am thrilled to report that through the weeks of treatments, tests, transfusions, (and trauma I can't even imagine) Jenny has beaten the leukemia! The trials are far from over, though, as she has two years ahead of her of continued chemotherapy treatments. She has pulled through this in amazing Jenny-like fashion of facing it with courage, faith, humor, and hope. She's keeping a wonderful blog that will have you laughing, crying, and feeling inspired all at the same time. I love that she titled her blog "Tender Mercies" long before this chapter in her life came along, as a way to recognize and remember the beautiful things that happen in an otherwise overwhelming, difficult world. I love reading about the tender mercies she is being blessed with along this part of her journey, as it certainly strengthens my faith as well.

To help Jenny make a dent in her medical bills, some friends of hers have organized a "We Love Jenny" Auction that will be held on Valentine's Day. Along with many other cool, beautiful, and fun items/services that have already been donated, I am donating three of my "A Time to Love" violin CDs to the auction! Jenny and I share the same musical heritage that began with our Great-Grandad, and she also plays the violin. "Meditation from Thais" is one that she played with Grandad as well, so this recording belongs to her, too!

Go to the We Love Jenny auction blog for instructions on how to bid on February 14th. Feel free to pass it on to your friends or post the button on your blog; there's a lot of cool stuff there to bid on already! And all the proceeds go straight to Jenny. If you already know her, of course you love her - and after reading through her blog, the rest of you will, too!