In Remembrance

Today is the seventeenth anniversary of the terrorist attack on September 11, 2001. Let us never forget the innocents who lost their lives, nor how the country came together after the tragedy. Celebrate with a random act of kindness in memory of the first responders.

Here and here are some of my journal writings from that time.

Photo by Robert on Flickr 522px-North_face_south_tower_after_plane_strike_9-11

Posted in Doing Life Together, Fear, Memoir, Terrorism | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Meet Me in the Mountains

I’ve attended several writers’ retreats I’ve attended at the fabulous Breath of Life Retreat House. The last time I was there, the proprietor gave me a copy of her memoir.

Candy Cotton grew up in California in a home with an alcoholic father. She longed for his love and affection, but she never knew from one moment to the next how he would respond to her or her brother or mother. When her parents’ marriage broke up, she blamed herself.Meet me in the mountains

As she grew, so did her faith. Raised Roman Catholic, she took her confirmation classes seriously and strove to live a life pleasing to God.

After high school, she took a job in a Mexican restaurant while studying advertising art at the local college. A young man, Mike Roe, passed her a note through the drive-thru window asking her for a date. She accepted, and they eventually got engaged. A year later, they married and moved to Arizona. They had three children, Sarah, Kayci, and Preston.

One day while playing basketball, Mike fell taking a jump shot and shredded his Achilles tendon. He required surgery to mend the damage. Two-and-a-half weeks later, he developed a cough which worsened over the next few days until he could barely breathe. When Candy took him to the emergency room, after a battery of tests doctors discovered blood clots in his lungs and admitted him. Mike would receive treatment that would isolate and dissolve the clots. Unfortunately, his condition worsened, and he died within twenty-four hours.

When she returned home, while her mother was contacting family and friends about Mike’s death, Candy received a call from the hospital asking if she could come back the next day to meet with the doctor and staff. At that meeting, she learned that Mike was inadvertently given the wrong dosage of medication. His death was caused by an error. In addition to the grief of losing her husband so suddenly, learning his case had been mishandled was a devastating blow. She hired a lawyer and began the process of negotiating a settlement.

In those first few days after Mike’s death, the words retreat house entered Candy’s mind. She was sure God said those words to her, but she wasn’t sure why. She prayed about it, and when her settlement came through, she told her lawyer that part of it would be earmarked for building a retreat house in Mike’s honor. It would be named Breath of Life because the last words Mike spoke to her were “I can’t breathe.”

Breath of life

She bought a property in the mountains of Pine, AZ, and renovated it into a destination for religious retreats and also for quilters, scrapbookers, and writers.

Five years after Mike passed away, Candy met Jim Bridges. They fell in love, married, and ran Breath of Life together. Now they are ready to retire from the retreat house, and the property is for sale. If you ever wanted to run a retreat house or a bed and breakfast, now’s your chance if you act quickly! The retreat house’s Zillow listing is linked to the Breath of Life website along with 84 gorgeous photos of the buildings and grounds.

FireplaceMeet Me in the Mountains was very interesting to me because of knowing Candy from the three writers’ retreats I attended at Breath of Life. Before she moved to the mountains, she lived in a town near mine, and she attended a church near my house. She is also a professional artist and calligrapher, which I admire about her. All these connections made her memoir compelling to me. I loved getting to know her better through her book.

Posted in Book reviews | Tagged | Leave a comment

Landfill Harmonic…by ARHuelsenbeck

This article previously appeared on ARHtistic License.

You may have heard of the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura, Paraguay. This YouTube video, posted in 2012, has been viewed more than seven million times:

Cateura is the site of a huge garbage dump. The 2500 families who live there make a living by scavenging the dump for materials they can sell.

All of their need come from discards. Even their homes are built from garbage.

Favio Chavez, an environmental engineer employed by the dump, observed thousands of children who lived their lives surrounded by garbage. And drugs.

Wanting to provide a ray of hope, Chavez volunteered to teach kids to play musical instruments. He started with a number of donated instruments, which quickly ran out.

Chavez justly gets credit for his vision. He must be an accomplished musician, but I was unable to find any information about his background. For sure, he is an excellent and inspiring teacher, as evidenced by the accomplishments of his students.

And the children! Their dedication to practice shows in the way their performances shine.

A documentary about the orchestra, called Landfill Harmonic, came out in 2016:

In my opinion, the unrecognized angel of the orchestra is Nicola Gomez. A carpenter by trade, “Don Cola” Gomez is who Chavez turned to when he needed more instruments for his students. Could he fashion some violins from materials from the landfill?

Gomez had never seen or heard a violin before. But somehow, he made one out of baking sheets, pallet wood, a fork, and old wires. And then he made some more. Soon, he branched out to other kinds of instruments. Trumpets made from drainage pipes. Drums with x-ray film heads.

Amazingly, despite the humble materials he used to build the instruments, they sound remarkably good. It’s not easy to hand-make instruments that will play in tune with other instruments. Especially without specialized training. The man is an acoustical genius.

60 Minutes produced this segment about the Recycled Orchestra:

I recently visited the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix, and some of the Cateura instruments are on display there (click on the small pictures to enlarge and read captions):

Posted in Hope, Music, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

In the Meme Time: When in Doubt

Do What is Right

Image | Posted on by | Tagged | Leave a comment

Video: The Unicorn in Captivity

Sharing a discussion about my favorite tapestry by Khan Academy:

Posted in Art, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

I is for Icon…by ARHuelsenbeck

This article first appeared on ARHtistic License.


An icon (from Greek εἰκών eikōn “image”) is a religious work of art, usually a portrait-style painting, used in Eastern Orthodox churches and homes. The most common subjects are Christ, Mary, and saints.


Eastern Orthodox tradition holds that the creation of Christian images dates back to the very early days of Christianity, and identifies Luke the Evangelist as the first icon painter. Icons can only be traced back as far as the 3rd century A.D. The icons of later centuries can be linked, often closely, to images from the 5th century onwards, though very few of these survive.


St. Peter

Though the Roman Catholic church encouraged religious art, other Christian denominations are wary about the veneration of “graven images,” forbidden in the commandments (see Exodus 20:4). Even the Orthodox church outlawed images at times. During 726-842, the Byzantine Iconoclasm destroyed most existing icons.

Madonna of Czestochowska

The iconographer is expected prepare himself for his work by following a strict discipline of fasting and prayer. Painting the icon is not a use of imagination. Instead, the icon is painted using the prescribed regimen and style passed down through the centuries. Everything from the facial expressions to the colors used is predetermined. It is understood that a person who saw him in the flesh painted the first icon of an individual; each subsequent iconographer will use the original icon as a guide.

401px-Vladimirskaya (our lady of Vladimir

Icons depict silence; no actions displayed, no open mouths. The icon invites the Christian to enter into contemplation, prayer, and silence. Space is not defined as three-dimensional and time is insignificant. Lighting proceeds from the character portrayed in the icon. There are never shadows in icons. And since the icon’s purpose is to lead the believer into worship, the artist never signs his work.

Angel Gabriel



Information for this article was taken from:

Posted in Art | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Why to Read Aloud to Children

Posted in children, Parenting, Reading, Teaching | Tagged , | Leave a comment