Saturday, December 24, 2016

Norris Family Christmas Letter - 2016

Should old acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot, and days of auld lang syne?

Auld Lang Syne - “For the sake of old times” - is the translation of the Robert Burns poem, penned on the cold Scottish coast in 1788, and something many of us have sung on New Year’s Eve without a thought as to what the words might mean.  For us, this year, we choose to remember you – our long time and dear friends, as you take a moment to catch up on our family’s events of the past year.  You will not “be forgot”, and you are often brought to mind.

As the change and uncertainty of 2016 comes to a close, all the Norris clan gives thanks for our vocations, our friendships with you all, and the promise of a bright future, despite occasional clouds and sadness.  We know Who holds our future.

A year of milestones, new challenges, and opportunities for us all.  For Nancy, a season of transition out of her long-time role of Board Chair at Club21 (support for families and children with Down Syndrome) in Pasadena.  The Summer and Fall have brought new opportunities for mentoring and support raising with Elizabeth House, a home for single new mothers, also in Pasadena.  And this past year, Nancy has made new friends of the 1,500 pound variety – with horse riding lessons with the famed Rose Bowl Riders.  Her year also involved visits and some family change in Toronto, where her Mom and Dad have moved to Assisted Living; a time of transition, some loss, but grateful they are together with excellent care and in a beautiful setting.

For Kelly, the Fall meant back to school again in Room 1 at LAUSD Gerald Lawson Academy – in her classroom of eight autistic K through 2nd grade children.  Challenges and gifts, all rolled into one every school day.  Her classroom is new, bright, and filled with the artwork and study efforts of her students.  Her Mom and Dad are nearly bursting with thanksgiving and pride for Kelly’s faithful efforts each day.  Her pad in Mid-Wilshire is rumored to be the center of all fun social activities for Millennials in Mid City.  This Thanksgiving found Kelly in Chicago, visiting college friends, and 2017 will find her in Cuba.  Stay tuned!

Heather has successfully completed Phase I of her matriculation, with a wonderful sunny graduation ceremony at Husky Stadium at the University of Washington.  Family and friends gathered.  There was laughter and (parental) tears.  Heather is in the midst of studying for the GRE and filling out almost countless applications to nursing schools located mostly in the Western portion of the Fruited Plain.  In the meantime, she is providing specialized care for two teenage girls with Cerebral Palsy – challenging work that she finds deeply rewarding.  Dad had the chance to meet both of these girls and their families in Seattle in November – it was a great privilege, an encounter with what real courage looks like, and a morning I will always remember.  In her spare time, Heather sleeps.

And then there is the bald guy looking smug in the attached card.  He got a smidge older, not very much wiser, and a bit more wistful about this stunning group of beautiful ladies who form his family.  He is involved in somethings new – the Advisory Panel of the DePree Center for Leadership at Fuller Seminary, as well as assisting with Global Ethics efforts through the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.  Teaching at UCLA continues to challenge and inspire.  His team at the office continues to tolerate his often foggy late middle aged leadership, and they impress clients in spite of him.  In all things, he is entirely undeserving and thankful beyond speech.

There it is, our family life summed up in less than a page.  And there you are, our dear friends out there, reading this both near and far.  Together, there is a world out there for us to care for, and to hope to make better in the New Year.  We’ve had enough division.  We need some kindness.  With this in mind, we gift you these lyrics from Robby Burns, again….

We two have sported in the brook,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us have roared and swelled
since auld lang syne.
And here is a hand my trusted friend!
And give me a hand o' thine!
And we'll take a cup of kindness yet,
for auld lang syne!

Christmas Grace and Peace from all the Norris Family!

Friday, November 25, 2016

Unexpected Encounter with Silence and Dignity

Recently, an early Saturday morning found me in a coffee shop in Seattle.

I was in town to enjoy a weekend with my younger daughter.   The morning would be full of conversation and breakfast, catching up as Dad and daughter.  Later in the day, we would head to Husky Stadium, part of an unbelievably loud crowd of more than 70,000 yelling fans. That evening would come dinner with dear friends, celebrating 22 years of their marriage.   I had just a few moments, and stopped into the coffee shop to acquire the caffeine I would need to start the day.

It was just a routine stop.  Or so I thought.  Until I was visited by Silence and Dignity.

As I stood in line waiting to order I noticed out of the corner of my eye a group of four construction workers come in the door.  They queued in line behind me, but in a silent fashion not typical of guys who spend their day either making loud noises with heavy equipment, or yelling at one another in order to get the job done.  After a moment, I began to notice the growing quiet.  Others in the line noticed as well, so did the baristas; together we spied a lively conversation was occurring right behind us in line - all taking place in sign language without a single uttered sound.  Vivid facial expressions, accompanied by the rapid hand movements of sign language filled the silent air.  Conversation, connection, community, all occurring in utter stillness.

As this conversation continued, I smiled and took in this rare moment.  In the midst of a massive noisy city, on what would be a busy, sound-filled day, in a world filled with unceasing motion and noise, I was strangely drawn to this quiet yet vivid conversation taking place entirely without a single sound.  It seemed as if the whole mood of the coffee shop seemed to calm in response to these new visitors.

As my coffee came, the workers settled into a corner of the shop to continue their intense chat in an animated fashion that seemed to fill the room, all in absolute quiet.  In those wondrous still moments in that otherwise mundane corner of a busy city - a profound silence broke out.  How can quiet make so much beautiful visual noise?  It was wonderful.  Quiet in the midst of rushing.  Calm found in a completely unexpected place.

Something else was there.  Dignity.  These men, who were so animated, so vital, so at ease in the mist of their Saturday morning work break, seemed to exude a very special form of poise and dignity.

This was a normal work day for them in 2016.  But if we just remember back several decades, these same hearing-challenged folk would have been relinquished to occupations far more simple - and placed in a quiet corner of society, typically out of view of the rest of us.  And now, they were there with us all - a normal part of a working day.

I was reminded me of the words of the Apostle Paul,
"But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me.
This small group of otherwise ordinary working men spoke without words to me of the unseen power of silence, of self-confidence, and of the dignity of work.

There is depth of meaning and strength to be found in places that look, well, muted and weak - at least to those of us who might take a few quiet moments, and listen.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Henryk Górecki - Symphony No. 3, Op. 36 with Lyrics

This piece is know as the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs", and was composed by Henryk Górecki.

First Movement

My son, my chosen and beloved
Share your wounds with your mother
And because, dear son, I have always carried you in my heart,
And always served you faithfully
Speak to your mother, to make her happy,
Although you are already leaving me, my cherished hope.
(Lamentation of the Holy Cross Monastery from the "Lysagóra Songs" collection. Second half of the 15th century)

Second Movement

No, Mother, do not weep,
Most chaste Queen of Heaven
Support me always.
"Zdrowas Mario." (*)
(Prayer inscribed on wall 3 of cell no. 3 in the basement of "Palace," the Gestapo's headquarters in Zadopane; beneath is the signature of Helena Wanda Blazusiakówna, and the words "18 years old, imprisoned since 26 September 1944.")
(*) "Zdrowas Mario" (Ave Maria)—the opening of the Polish prayer to the Holy Mother

Third Movement

Where has he gone
My dearest son?
Perhaps during the uprising
The cruel enemy killed him

Ah, you bad people
In the name of God, the most Holy,
Tell me, why did you kill
My son?

Never again
Will I have his support
Even if I cry
My old eyes out

Were my bitter tears
to create another River Oder
They would not restore to life
My son

He lies in his grave
and I know not where
Though I keep asking people

Perhaps the poor child
Lies in a rough ditch
and instead he could have been
lying in his warm bed

Oh, sing for him
God's little song-birds
Since his mother
Cannot find him

And you, God's little flowers
May you blossom all around
So that my son
May sleep happily
(Folk song in the dialect of the Opole region)

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Bon Voyage, Vin Scully!

Bill Plaschke of the LA Times, tells it true, here.

Monday, August 01, 2016

Arcturus, Hokule'a, Star of Joy

The Ancient Sky
When a city dweller is placed in a location where the night sky so easily reveals itself; there is a change to pause, look up, and wonder anew.

A Zenith Star is the point on this celestial sphere directly above an observer.  Zenith stars have been used for eons by explorers to way-find their way around this globe; something simply mathematical and quite amazing altogether - that by looking up, you can find your way forward.  I've been thinking about this the past couple of days.

This week, our family, all four of us, are taking some time away from the constant onward rush of life to rest and vacation.  And we find ourselves again in the Hawaiian Islands, which our youngest daughter refers to as "Dad's happy place".  And so it is.  I am very happy, thankful and grateful.

Part of my gratitude is expressed by taking the time each evening to walk outside, and simply take in the wonder of the night sky.  To pause and consider my nearly infinitesimal smallness in the scope of the universe.

The Zenith Star of the Hawai'ian Islands is the star Arcturus, which is known by the Hawaiian name Hokule'a.  Hokule'a is also known as the "Star of Gladness" or "Star of Joy" in Hawaii and Polynesia. This star is 36.7 million light years away from Earth, which I have learned, is not that far in terms of celestial measurement.  Hokule'a is also one of the brightest stars in the night sky; a good star to find your way by.

For Hawaii, Arcturus moves along a circle which passes directly overhead, through the zenith, once every twenty-four hours.  Traditional ancient way-finders use the rising and setting of the stars to navigate across the open ocean without compasses or other modern equipment; in effect, steering by the stars.  And as we'll learn, this is still happening even today.

How quaint, how ancient, how outmoded.

The Modern Dilemma 
But we modern folk, what need have we of the stars?  We have smartphones in our pockets that contain thousands of times the computing power that found the way of the Apollo lander on the moon.  We have modern science, world-renowned universities, medicine, and the self help book section of Amazon.  Certainly now, stars are of little use to us, other than to gaze at on vacation, and perhaps have a brief moment of existential wonder and then, back indoors.

And yet, life happens to us, and oftentimes it hurts beyond measure, and bewilders us.  We are left entirely without answers.  Friendships dissolve for reasons that make no sense.  We loose our jobs, and wonder what in the world will happen next.  Wars rage, with no end in sight.  A frightening diagnosis comes in a call from the doctor, and we cannot see the way forward through our fear.  Children, the most undeserving and innocent of all, become sick, or are abused or abandoned - and it makes absolutely no sense.  We feel rage, often at God.

Jackson Browne once wrote in a song "The Night Inside Me":
I used to lay out in a field under the Milky Way
With everything that I was feeling that I could not say
With every doubt and every sorrow that was in my way
Tearing around inside my head like it was there to stay
With all that seems to give life order, often things do not work out in order at all.  It makes no sense.

That Star 
As it turns out, there is a boat named after that star.  Hokule'a is a twin hulled ocean going canoe, built by the Polynesian Voyaging Society.  For many years now, Hokule'a has been navigating the oceans of the world, showing us all that wayfinding is a remarkable achievement.

The amazing voyages of the Hokule'a are undertaken without modern navigational equipment such as GPS devices, and even without compasses: ancient traditional navigation techniques are employed instead. In a remarkable book entitled The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World, author and National Geographic Society Explorer-in-Residence Wade Davis describes in compelling prose the techniques used on these journeys:
Enshrouded by the night, the canoe itself became the needle of a compass that was the sky. Behind us sat the navigator, a young woman named Ka'iulani, Nainoa's protege. She would remain awake for twenty-two hours a day for the entire voyage, sleeping only for fleeting moments when the mind demanded a rest.
Ka'iulani, like her mentor Nainoa and all of the experienced crew, could name and follow some 220 stars in the night sky. She knew and could track all the constellations, Scorpio and the Southern Cross, Orion, the Pleiades and the North Star, Polaris. 

More than 20 centuries ago, it seems the Polynesians knew more than we do.  They had committed the patterns and rhythms of the night sky to memory - they had taken the sky into their heads and hearts - and by this found their way across an ocean to a new future.  They looked up and found their way forward. Simple, yet elegant; plain yet stunning in its geographic reach.  A guiding star - what a concept.

In the ancient, we find something of great use to use to moderns.  Just look up; for guidance, but also for wisdom, for courage, hope, and for gladness and joy.

And so, we have come more than 2,300 miles to this lovely, sublime tropical spot in the middle of the Pacific.  Almost mysteriously, we arrived here at jet speed, by GPS guidance and world-wide communications systems, on board the most modern of aircraft.  We will go home the same way, all that distance in a matter of hours.  It never ceases to amaze me.

But this time, on the way home, I'll look out of the window at the sea below, and remember Hokule'a the star and the boat.  I'll also remember the Maker of all the stars in the Universe, set so beautifully in order above us all.

If only we might look up, we can make our way forward.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Godspeed - The Film - Coming Soon

I am fascinated by this film, which is presently in production, and due to be released soon.

Godspeed Trailer // 2016 from The Ranch Studios | Danny Lund on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Great Remember (for Nancy)

In the end, love and friendships are all that matter in life.

Recently, I noticed my wife listening to a song on Pandora, something I had heard before and yet could not place.  It was a solo banjo piece (called "The Great Remember - for Nancy) written by Steve Martin. Haunting and so melancholy.   Several weeks later, just now, I have found that song, and read more about its meaning.  Oh my.

Steve has been friends for many years with Martin Short. I smile just thinking about "Father of the Bride" and the way those two made for such a fun film.  As it turns out, and I was unaware of, Martin Short lost his wife Nancy several years ago to ovarian cancer.  They were married for many years, and together raised their three adopted children.  Those kids have done well, one graduating from NYU, and two from Notre Dame.  

Steve has been quoted about the song,

 “That sounds like a song that could take lyrics, but I actually talked it over with my wife and … lyrics almost come to a listener and that’s why I actually didn’t write lyrics for it, because the mood is so clear in the song. I didn’t really want to ruin it with lyrics. I didn’t want to direct the listener one way or another because it’s such an emotional song.”
A touching love story - a great loss - and Steve's song for his friend Martin.  All so bittersweet.  Such is life itself.

My wife is named Nancy.  She has had a brush with cancer, by undeserved grace she is by my side today.  This song always sort of stopped me in my tracks, I never want it to end.

Now I know why.  I think this melody may always be playing softly in the background of my life.  Thanks Steve Martin; blessings to you Martin Short.

Here, the music speaks for these deep emotions in an entirely touching and mysterious way.....

Friday, June 03, 2016

Honoring the Greatest Generation

My Dad was a WWII pilot, about which I have written here before.

"For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return."

Leonardo da Vinci

This video is remarkable, and speaks of the graceful humility of a current Southwest pilot, and the quiet service of another WWII vet, born the same year as my Dad.

In an age of brash, offensive, and seemingly thoughtless politicians and business leaders, this is what service, humility, and leadership really look like.  Forgive me, but men such as these are what helps make America a great place.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Behold. Our Home!

Make sure you watch this full screen.....

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