Great story, but bland cinema. Okay, how do you make a cerebral story about a fight for the First Amendment visually exciting? Twice a taxi almost hits a newsroom messenger.  Jiggle the camera.  Put Meryl Streep in a gold caftan.  Not enough.

Hanks, who I usually like, and Streep, reprising her Florence Henderson type old lady with hesitant darting eyes role, do impersonations rather than something fresh with the titanic Bradlee and Graham. Give a new actor a chance.

Minor pet peeve: The lighting throughout was brown drab, which I hate. Trying to be ‘natural?!’ The scenes needs more light than just the lamps in the living room and the fluorescent lights in the newsroom. “The Darkest Hour” was brighter!

“Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!” We sang as loud as we could to the neighbors gathered on Cooks’ freshly cut lawn for our production of ‘Mary Poppins.’ In 1965, there may or may not have been parents in the audience.

The Cooks’ house was the number one place to go whenever anyone on our block was bored. With five kids: Mary Ellen, 16; Cathy, 14; Joannie, my age, 10; Lorie, 8, Jennifer’s age; and Paul, the baby, there was usually something going on.

“Let’s put on a show to raise money for the S.S. Hope!” Cathy, proposed one summer afternoon, as we sprawled on their screened porch. We decided on “Mary Poppins.” We all loved the movie, had the record, and knew all the words to the songs.

“Nancy, you’re a good singer, but you’re the tallest, so you’ll have to be Bert,” Mary Ellen pointed out. Nancy, the smartest girl in Overlook Elementary sixth grade, and my best friend, grimaced but was a good sport. She knew her height sealed her fate, and our neighborhood was predominantly girls.

“Jill, you’ll be Mary Poppins.” They knew I loved singing, and I was the right height beside Nancy. Jennifer had to play ‘Michael,’ a boy part, too, but at least it was a smaller part and her hair was very short. Lorie was ‘Jane.’

For weeks we practiced the script that Mary Ellen and Cathy wrote, argued over and revised. We scavenged our closets and attics for costumes. The hoop skirt for my chalk garden dress came from my mother’s wedding dress.

The afternoon arrived; tickets were one dollar. Kathy, another neighbor kid, sat at Cook’s white wooden gate taking tickets. Friends brought lawn chairs or sat in the grass in front of our stage, edges defined by hanging blankets from ropes. The back wall of the stage was the garage. The garage door led to our dressing room and backstage.

“Thank you for coming to our show!” Cathy, now the sole director after having creative differences with Mary Ellen, greeted everyone. Nancy, Jennifer, Lorie and I could hear her as we stood by the garage door, costumed and ready. We were excited.

The show began. Each scene went well, until the chalk garden scene. The choreography stopped the show, literally.

“She’s Supercali-“ Nancy, Jennifer, Lorie and I sang and kicked our feet into the air. My shoe caught the bottom of the hoop in my dress. I went down. The record accompanying us kept playing.

Nancy turned, saw me and the next word would not come.

“…fragilistic…” Jennifer and Lorie then realized the disaster and froze.

The audience stared.

“Get up!” Nancy whispered.

I tried. My foot was tangled in the skirt. I couldn’t stand up.

Cathy dashed out of the stage door, and announced to the audience, “We’ll have a five minute intermission.”

She and Nancy carried me back to the dressing room.

I wanted to cry, while Nancy and Cathy pushed and pulled the fabric to free my foot.

“Did you get hurt when you fell?” Cathy asked, .

“No,” I sniffed. “It’s just so embarrassing. I can’t go back out there.”

“Sure you can!” Nancy insisted. “We’ll have your foot free in a minute.”

“The show is wrecked!” I was shaking. “I looked so stupid!”

“Hey, if I can play Bert, you can get yourself up and go on with the song,” Nancy reminded me.

She and Cathy agreed. The show must go on.

“There!” Cathy grabbed the hem of the dress and ripped it off. I could now stand.

“The dress is ruined!” I protested.

“Back to the show!” Cathy prodded me, while Nancy grabbed my arm. We entered back through the garage door to the patient audience.

Everyone clapped and clapped as we started singing, and dancing, again.

“She’s Supercalifragilistic—“

We raised $35 for our charity.


5-star-movie reviews





Another five hearts! Why: (besides it’s Oscar time)
1. Frances McDormand, Woody Harrelson and Sam
2. Coherent storytelling. I was expecting some inner artsy
Hollywood navel gazing; it’s not. But, this is an
Operatic story of passion (the suffering of love), hatred
and vengeance.   Opera characters and events are
over the top. The language and violence are
over the top, too.  But here’s a person, a mother,
who cares enough to take a bold action; one that
makes her unpopular.  Made me ask myself, do
I care enough, like her, and take that action I need
to take to show my love?
3.   Love changes one character, and that changes
another… and another, and drives the action!  That’s
great story writing and message!
Frances McDormand wears crappy overalls and her hair is a mess and no makeup (?) and she still comes across with a feminine side… how does she do it?  Because she cares!  I want
to be like that although not quite as violent…



Psalm 15:4 “…honor the faithful followers of the Lord…”

I could hear the awe combined with joy in her voice:

“You’re Andy Telford’s granddaughter?!”

Andrew Telford and his twin brother Huey were born on a farm in 1895. His parents Thomas and Rose had immigrated from Ballymena, Northern Ireland to Canada after their marriage in 1881.

“If you weren’t born on a farm, you need to be born again,” I often heard my grandfather, who my cousins and I called PopPop, comment.

He served in France in World War I.

His parents were not church goers. He heard his brother in law Roy speak on John 5:24 at a street meeting. “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who send me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.”

Years later PopPop wrote, “After I was converted a friend said to me, knowing that I was saved, “How do you know you are saved?” I said, “Well, something happened to me.” He said, “A lot of things happen to people, and yet they are not saved.” I said, “Well, I haven’t sworn since I was saved, and that was three weeks ago.” He said, “A lot of people have not sworn for a month, and yet they are not Christians.” “Well,” I said, “I read John 5:24 and believed it.” He said. “That’s good.

Andrew Telford wanted to know God. He jumped on a train for Chicago and the Moody Bible Institute. He arrived at the school, and told them he wanted to be a student.

“I’m sorry,” the secretary at the desk responded. “You have to apply to be a student here. There are papers to fill out.”

The president of the school at the time, James M. Gray, heard about Andrew Telford. Impressed with his initiative, he said, “We’ll make an exception. Andy will be a student and can wash dishes in the dining room to pay for his room and board.”

That’s a story I heard about my grandfather from Uncle Tommy. PopPop lived to be 102, spry and eager to drive himself to preach in churches until he was 95, so I have many firsthand memories.  He was a big part of my life until I was 42.



“I don’t believe in God,” I announced to my fellow four year old friends and Sunday School teacher, Miss Watson, as we sat around the formica table at Berachah Church one Sunday morning.

Miss Watson, young and pretty, jumped.  She stopped passing around the lollipops she brought each week, to keep us quiet while she taught the Bible lesson.

“You can’t see him,”  I continued. This the obvious reason he did not exist.

When class was over, she hurried to warn my father, the Sunday School Superintendent.

He listened sincerely, then later he and my mother had a good laugh about it.  I was four.  This became a classic family story.  In my Christian Ed classes at Wheaton, I learned that Piaget’s theory of children’s cognitive development would support their lack of concern.

I am here

Now 62, I still struggle with the invisible.  A few years ago, I painted the words “I AM here,” from John 6:24, in various spots around my house, as a visible reminder of God’s presence and reality in the day.  I used a shiny translucent white, so that the truth is only seen when the light catches it at a certain angle.  Most of the time it is hidden from view.

My father died in 2014, and my mother in 2015.  Now they are invisible, too.  But still very real.

The Shape of Water




Why I loved this movie:

  1. There’s a point, but you have to figure it out.  I wasn’t sure where it was going, and as a person who goes to the movies a lot, I love that.
  2. There’s a bad guy, a terrible, powerful guy, but he cannot overcome love.
  3. The good/‘normal’ characters are looking for something: love. They have friendships, and jobs, but are looking for something more.
  4. Made me think about my search for love/God. Oh yes, this movie is all about God.
  5. Twists of humor like Russian spies.

However, although some have used the word ‘fairy tale’ and/or ‘Beauty and the Beast,’ this is no children’s movie.  There is sex, blood and torture.  Not too much, but enough to prove this is a movie about real life.  Present term:  ‘magical realism.’


Star Wars




Rotten Tomatoes’ critics on this film: 90% approve/ Audience: 50%.  Big disparity.  What’s going on?  I looked at some ‘audience’ reviews.

You’re wimps!  This is a great film… what’s wrong with you?

  1. Great minds discuss ideas
  2. Average minds discuss events
  3. Small minds discuss people

Complaining reviewers didn’t like some of the events and people, which tells you about them… never mentioned the ideas that the story hangs on:

  1. Hope (the Resistance) will triumph
  2. Evil will not
  3. Leave the past behind…
  4. … and keep fighting

Creative, believable and fascinating characters/acting:

  1. Rey – powered by the Force female but also conflicted… great to watch… she’s the next Jedi so of course the film’s title has a double meaning.  And her ‘parents are nobodies.’  Love that theme because aren’t we all ‘nobodies.’
  2. Kylo – LOVE a villain that is physically normal looking, hallelujah, and also conflicted…  their relationship/dialogue/everything – works!  He should get an Oscar.
  3. Luke – conflicted too! Love it.  Life’s not simple, we’re all struggling with stuff. Don’t like seeing Mark Hamill aged but he’s still a hero and a Jedi.

I ask myself, who is the audience for this film?  Little kids?  Would they understand the inner conflicts of the leads?  Probably not, but nothing inappropriate for them except Snoke might be too vividly disgusting.

Thought provoking,  inspiring heroes (Poe and Finn light up the screen!) and visually exciting.

Look out, I’m feeling like a Jedi Warrior!

A great film changes you.

Explain something from nothing.

Annemarie, the teacher, stops talking mid sentence.  She glances at the clock on the wall: 12:30.   Rising from her chair, she heads to the whiteboard, picks up the marker, and scribbles, “Blue.”

Was the ink blue?   I should know.   The second week of class she had taught, “notice everything.”

I’m one of a dozen in her Memoir Writing class.  For eight weeks we gather in chairs around the formica table in a study room at Countryside Library.  Each session ends with a ‘prompt’: our writing assignment.

First I think: “oh, no, everyone’s going to write about being depressed.”   Second:  “that’s my favorite color…wait, white is actually my favorite color, being the presence of all colors.”  Then, “think harder… Dad’s eyes were the most beautiful blue.”

I signed up for the class to be accountable to write about my Mother and Father, and the house where we lived on Abbott Avenue.  I try to tie each week’s prompt to that.

I hear singing: “I’d rather be blue, thinking of you, I’d rather be blue over you, than be happy with somebody else….”

My little sister Pam, only 4, and I, fifteen, belt the tune into the mirror, our arms around each other, in the 5 x 8 foot bathroom.

“…Blue over you, I’d rather be blue over you, than be hap hap happy with somebody else else else else else!”

I fell in love with Barbra and “Funny Girl” in high school.  Every afternoon after school I’d lay on the living room floor listening to her albums, singing every word by heart.

Born for the stage, Pam practiced the song from the “Funny Girl” album with me.  Even at one year of age, she had been a star: the Christmas angel in the annual church pageant.  Dad, spiffy in navy suit, carried her in her taffeta dress, shiny black Mary Janes and gold tinsel halo, up the steps for the finale.  She smiled and glowed, capturing the congregation’s hearts.  Dad was so proud.   His delight deflated, after the show, when someone remarked, “Your granddaughter looked so cute!”

Annemarie asked a few weeks ago in class, “Does anyone sing in the shower?”  She was probing us on how we express ourselves.  I did not raise my hand.  I sing.  But the shower has poor acoustics.

The bathroom where Pam and I sang duets had excellent sound quality.  The mirror was our audience; our television camera.   The sound of our voices blending and bouncing around the room energized us.

We loved us.

But nothing else was lovely about that bathroom.  Four sisters squeezed into it every day for daily routines.  Small does not necessarily eliminate beauty.  My mother spent time and love decorating her house.  But Dad had chosen the wallpaper for the bathroom, when we were out of town visiting family.

A color blind person in an unlit factory created the turquoise with brown daisy patterned mess.  I can’t understand why Dad, a fairly artistic person, thought anyone would like that wallpaper.  Was it low price? To him, choosing the paper and getting it glued to the walls was a gift of his love to Mother.  He was so proud of his work.  So eager to show her.

Mother was not a crier.  But she could have.

On that ugly floral wallpaper opposite the toilet, she hung a small wooden plaque with the quote:

“Why were the Saints saints?

Because they were cheerful when it was difficult to be cheerful, patient when it was difficult to be patient; and because they pushed on when they wanted to stand still, and kept silent when they wanted to talk, and were agreeable when they wanted to be disagreeable. That was all. It was quite simple and always will be.”

Mother, always a teacher, had placed that plaque in a spot we would see every day.  So the wallpaper stayed.

Where do these stories come from?

From the prompt…

What has come from the stories we write and hear each week in the five minute timed readings we share?

Delight and awe.  We’re revealing ourselves to each other.  I, we, want to be known.  Each story is a surprise.  For me, to only look at a person doesn’t help at all.   As I write, I think I know myself.  Think I have a plan.  But writing takes me where I did not expect to go.

From a “blue” prompt  on a whiteboard, jump to the idea of ugly wallpaper.  Then jump to love, which is the story I always want to tell.

Thank you, Annemarie.  Thank you, Countryside Library, for providing this magical learning space, with the giant window framing the tree that reaches into the azure sky.


Before and After

Pertinent for BSF friends studying Romans 8 this week:

I used to interpret Romans 8:19 as ‘the creation is waiting to see which people are actually God’s children.’ Confession: I am too judgmental and sometimes look at people that way: “they can’t be Christians because of the way they’re acting,” so it will be interesting to see, one day, who the real Christians are!”

Heard a completely different, excellent interpretation by our pastor Dr. Phil Burggraff, “it’s not really ‘who’ – it’s ‘what.’ What Christians are going to eventually be like in Jesus Christ. That meaning fits this passage. Intriguing. All creation is waiting to see our ‘before and after’ and who doesn’t like a good ‘before and after!?’

My grandfather’s Bible, the old King James (which I struggle to understand because of its language), is clear in this actually: “The creature (creation) waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.”

Who are we in Christ today, and what will be like when we are like him (‘glorified’)? Wow!

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