Merry Christmas!


Merry Christmas friends!

~ Sheila

Disney magic

My kids love Disney. They can’t help themselves, they were raised on it. For most of their early childhood, their tv exposure was limited to the Disney Channel and classic Disney movies. That grew into a love of the parks and an ongoing appreciation of the best of Disney music and inspiration.

I admit I shamelessly fostered their interest, fueled by my own youthful exposure to the House of Mouse, and a sense of security that if the tv was tuned to the Disney Channel I could relax and know their little minds were being exposed to wholesome fare. Alright, sometimes corny, but in the 80s and early 90s, Disney served very wholesome fare every day.

What is it about the formula that has worked so well for so long? The best of Disney, the classic animation, is both charming and clever. The art and music are witty, and hold up well. Best of all, the characters and stories are innocent, hopeful, idealistic…all qualities that nurture, especially today, when childhood is threatened by a too-early loss of innocence.

So this week my son, just out of the army, and his wife, still in the army, are at Disney World. It warms my heart that they chose to go there for vacation. Maybe they feel the need of sweetness and light when their daily lives are grounded in a very different reality. Not sure of the draw, but whatever it is, I support it. You can’t have too much innocence in this world, I’m thinking.

Stephanie and Matt went to Disneyland earlier this month and took little Riley for her first visit. She loved the teacup ride and got to sample several others that were just her speed. She got a Minnie doll and another toy or two that will serve as reminders of her first visit. She’s a 4th generation fan.

Not sure when I’ll get another Disney trip in. Rob and I were in Orlando last year for a conference and I had to carve out a day to visit Disney World, the first time we’d been in several years. It was odd to be there, two adults lining up for rides and wandering through the crowds. No kids in tow, no strollers, no small hands to keep hold of. I missed that a bit. And yet it didn’t stop me from enjoying the nostalgia of being in the park, seeing what had changed, being completely charmed by the amazing fireworks display at the end of the day.

As much as I love some things that are current, modern, up-to-date (think phones, computers, internet), I am equally enthralled by the timeless and classic era that Disney represents. Want to see cute and clever? Watch some of the old Disney cartoons. Or for even more fun, look up some of the Disney live action movies from the 50s and 60s. I promise, you’ll be transported to an America far, far away. And it’s a good place to visit now and then.

I’m not one to look backward, believing that everything from an earlier era was perfect, just because things have been whitewashed by the passing of time, or sentiment for the past and frustration with the present. But there are some things that only seem better as they age. Here’s to you, Mickey! May the House of Mouse stand a long time, entertaining and reminding that humor and cleverness can be kid-friendly and still appeal to the adults in the room. Oh, and some of the current stuff works pretty well too. Can you say Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom? “Yo-ho, yo-ho, a pirate’s life for me!”

Song for Sunday

This is one of my favorite hymns, perhaps of all time, and I’m in good company. This is a beautiful performance of “Amazing Grace” by Celtic Woman:


My Dad

A friend was saying yesterday that she had to get out and buy a Father’s Day gift to get in the mail. I don’t have that task; my dad died in 2008.

If I was sending a gift to him, I would choose music. He loved music and shared his love of many types of music with his family. As a small child I remember him bringing reel to reel tapes home. Many nights I would fall asleep hearing music playing in the house. We listened to folk, learning the songs of Peter, Paul, and Mary; the Seekers; The Brothers Four; The Kingston Trio. We learned the words and tunes of movie musicals: My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music, Fiddler on the Roof, Funny Girl. He loved bluegrass and country music. I grew up on Johnny Cash, Johnny Horton, Charley Pride, Marty Robbins. He introduced me to Ricky Skaggs and the music of Alison Krauss.

Car trips always included favorite music, and many songs are ingrained in my brain from listening to the same tapes over and over again. It didn’t matter if the music was cutting edge or not. It was family music, part of the personal library of favorites that were always popular, whether new or something from my dad’s youth.

Over the years, music was my most frequent gift to him, because I knew it would never be a wrong choice. Once, when he and my mom visited us in Colorado, I got tickets to an Alison Krauss concert at Red Rocks, the amazing outdoor amphitheater at the edge of the front range foothills. We enjoyed a beautiful evening under the stars, listening to wonderful performers share their art. It’s something I’m glad I did with him, for him.

I saw my dad connect with others through music. Besides our immediate family, he and his youngest brother enjoyed a lot of the same artists, and I heard many conversations between them about favorite tunes. He also shared personal favorites with friends. It was a bonding tool for him, but one that he used out of pure pleasure, not for any other type of gain.

I love music too, and although I’m not always up to date, when I find something new, I want to share it. I mention a song or artist to my husband, to my kids, put something on my blog, find the song on Pandora. But there is a part of me that always wants to call up my dad, to say, I found something beautiful, you have to hear it. I find myself wishing I could share with him, my first music buddy. Sometimes, even yet, I can’t believe that it’s not possible to do that.

My dad shared many things with many people: his faith, his love of beauty, his love of flowers; his interest in history and national parks. If I had to say that any one thing defined him, I would say it was his faith. But a close second would be his life-long love of music, and that was a gift I could sometimes give back to him.

Thank you, Daddy, for giving to me. Thank you for creating the desire to give back, to share.

Happy Father’s Day, 2011.

J.C. Choate, 1932 ~ 2008

Do you know “Pandora?”

This is a great find my husband showed me a couple of years ago. For anyone who loves music, lots of different types of music, there is a fabulous free internet radio site, “Pandora,” to enjoy. To explain more fully, this from Wikipedia:

Pandora Radio is an automated music recommendation service and custodian of the Music Genome Project. Users enter a song or artist that they enjoy, and the service responds by playing selections that are musically similar. Users provide feedback on approval or disapproval of individual songs, which Pandora takes into account for future selections.”

In case you are not in the know, you can download Pandora for free on your computer, your phone, and if you have internet access through your television (don’t ask me the exact details), your tv. You sign up for an account, which is also free, and then you begin to build stations unique to your taste by selecting songs or artists you like. If you have more than one application the account will be updated, so anything you choose in one environment will show up in others. How cool is that?!

There is a wide range of music available, everything from classical to country to pop to religious to seasonal…you get the picture. I can’t promise that they have every song ever recorded, but I would guess most are available.

There is a paid subscription option to Pandora, but honestly I haven’t felt the need to do that. The free site is great and works like a charm. I love technology! (At least sometimes!)