America the Beautiful

The North Tower Fountain (9/17/2011)

Photo: Kai Brinker (CC BY-SA 2.0)

America the Beautiful is one of those patriotic songs that we Americans heard so many times growing up that we barely think about it anymore. Like the National Anthem, we only know the first verse, and when we sing those words it’s from memory and often from habit.

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

My view of this song changed forever after September 11, 2001. Due to the mix of grief and patriotism that naturally gripped us all in the weeks following that horrible day, I heard all four verses of America the Beautiful sung for the first time in I don’t know how long. It was the last verse that brought me to tears.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

May God comfort those who lost loved ones that day, shed his grace on all of us, and grant us peace.


Ten Years Ago

Julia and I after our wedding.

June 26, 2004

Ten years ago, these words from The Song of Songs were read at our wedding. They have always expressed the depth of my love for her in a better way than I ever could.

“Set me like a seal on your heart, like a seal on your arm. For love is as strong as death, passion as relentless as the grave. The flash of it is a flash of fire, a flame of the LORD himself. Love no flood can quench, no torrents drown. Were a man to offer all his family wealth to buy love, contempt is all he would gain.” —Song of Songs 8:6-7

Ten years ago, I vowed my love and my life to her and I have never regretted it for one moment. She is the best wife, best mother to our daughter, and best friend I could have asked for, and I thank God every day that he brought her into my life.

Happy Tenth Anniversary my love! May we have many, many more together.

Spilled Salt

Spilled salt

Detail of the copy of Da Vinci’s The Last Supper by Giacomo Raffaelli (1809)

There isn’t a Five Minute Friday topic today. Lisa-Jo Baker is taking a break until January. But I felt like writing anyway, so here goes. Today is Friday the 13th and my prompt—chosen just this moment off the top of my head—is “superstition.”

I’ve never been superstitious. I don’t put any faith in little trinkets or actions that might help things break the right way. I don’t believe in “curses” or “hexes” or “mojo.” I don’t think the universe is capricious and certainly don’t believe that God is either.

But I inherited one superstition from my mom. A silly one—more a habit than anything else.

If I spill salt, I immediately pick up a pinch and toss it over my shoulder.

I don’t believe for a minute that spilling salt is unlucky. I also don’t believe that tossing a little of it over my shoulder before I clean the rest up somehow negates this non-existent bad luck. I just do it without thinking.

I’m not sure why. And I’m not sure what it says about me. Maybe just that I have habits like everyone else—habits that I don’t think about. Maybe I have more that I don’t even notice.

Five Minute Friday

Twelve Years and Two Days Ago

The Moving Wall in Florence (9/9/2001)

Photo: Julia Ozab

On Sunday, September 9, 2001, Julia and I visited the portable Vietnam Veterans Memorial (“The Moving Wall“) during a stop over in Florence, Oregon. I’ve never been to the permanent memorial in Washington D.C.—it was built three years after my family moved to California—so this was the closest I would get unless I ever made it back east again.

Under normal circumstances, this would have been a memorable visit. But that week was anything but normal. Two days later, almost 3,000 innocent people would lose their lives on a day none of us will ever forget.

And in my memory, these two events that came two days apart by coincidence will be forever linked in my memory. I pray every year at this time for the families that lost loved ones on 9/11, and I also pray for those who lost loved ones serving in Vietnam, in Afghanistan, and in Iraq.

Some September, I hope to make it back east again. To visit the Vietnam War Memorial and also to visit the September 11 Memorial. To return to the place where the towers once stood, and to pray for peace.

The North Tower Fountain (9/17/2011)

Photo: Kai Brinker (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Remembering Jellybean



It’s been less than two months since we said goodbye to one of our pet bunnies. Last week, we had to say goodbye to the other one.  Jellybean seemed to handle Oreo’s absence just fine for the first month. For a nine-year-old rabbit, she was still pretty spry. But then she stopped eating.

This wasn’t the first time. We nearly lost her three years ago when her digestive system shut down. An early morning trip to the emergency vet clinic and a few doses of Critical Care recovery food got her eating again and she was fine.

We hung on to the bag of Critical Care and had to use it another time, about a year or so ago I think. She bounced right back again. But this time, it didn’t work.

The strange part was that she seemed to act normally otherwise. She slept more, but she’d been doing that for awhile. She still sniffed around, still explored the living room, and she even begged. She just didn’t eat more than a nibble or two.

It’s hard to tell when rabbits are sick. You have to watch them very closely. We think she’s probably been sick for awhile, and maybe Oreo’s loss got to her more than we realized. They were bonded and hadn’t been apart for eight years. But on Wednesday, she started grinding her teeth—a sign that a rabbit is in pain, and we didn’t want her suffering. So we had to say goodbye.

(Which—along with the holiday weekend—is why I haven’t been posting too much lately. I needed some time to grieve.)

But I don’t want to focus on the end—which was very quick, she fell asleep and was gone within a few seconds. Instead I want to remember her the way she was.

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