All posts by Sarah Patten


Summer’s Story: Princess Michal, Wife of King David and Daughter of King Saul

There’s David and Goliath. Then David became king. A huge thanks goes out to Michal, his first wife and daughter of King Saul.

So what’s the story of Michal? Here’s the basic rundown:

She married David, saved his life, and her father married her to another man faraway. Nearly twenty years later she came back to her first husband’s home.

While we don’t know exactly what happened to her during those two decades, we know what she came back to: her first husband, now king, plus his wives and kids. A very big blow.

Then her last appearance occurs when she and David have a public spat over his actions when he brought the sacred Ark of the Covenant into Jerusalem.

Commentators have taken different sides. Some have smeared her image and others elevate Michal. The princess had many enemies and allies during both her life and after her death.

This summer, I wish to share some of my findings about her. They include:

  • What the Bible says—and doesn’t say—about her.
  • Common princess problems.
  • Portrayals of her, including those on primetime TV.
  • Events in the past, her times, and future.
  • Possible psychological effects.

This summer, I hope you will get to know the real Michal.

Stay tune!


Normand,_Ernest_-_Queen_Vashti_deposed_-_1890 (2)

Biblicial Heroines Vashti and Esther: Court Life Has Always Been Controversial and Cruel

Royals. Love them or hate them-they’re an enigma. Tons of debate about their behavior, clothes, and marital problems have been present in the tabloids for years. The Bible also includes royal gossip–and its damages. Here are some of my thoughts about the decisions of the biblical queens Vashti and Esther.


Vashti Refuses the King's Summons, painting by Edwin Long

Vashti set a good example by not appearing to the king and his fellow drinking buddies


As a girl, I would have to squint my eyes a lot.
I still do.

I found myself squinting when hearing people tell the story of Esther:
“It starts out with a wicked queen.”

Okay…so I looked it up. The Bible doesn’t refer to Queen Vashti as wicked. This is what happened…

There’s a party, and Queen Vashti doesn’t come before her husband when he orders her. His male guests have been drunk for “many days, even an hundred and fourscore days.”  Plus some scholars think that the king just wanted her to come with nothing but her crown on.

So Vashti doesn’t come. A dangerous thing to do, but think about it. What perverted thing was likely to happen if she had come—appearing undressed—to a party full of drunk men?

Enter villains: The king (a quasi-villain and weak character) with his advisers—the( not-so) “wise men.”

According to them:

“Vashti the queen hath not done wrong to the king only, but also to all princes and to all the people that are in the provinces of the King Ahasuerus.

For this deed of the queen shall come abroad unto all women, so that they shall despise their husbands in their eyes…likewise shall the ladies of Persia and Media say this day unto all the king’s princes, which have heard of the deed of the queen. Thus shall there arise too much contempt and wrath.”

Faced with an unfair request, Vashti had to chose between losing her dignity or losing her life.

Faced with an unfair request, Vashti had to chose between losing her dignity or losing her life.

The men felt threatened by women. They felt that Vashti set an example for women—women could stand up to their husbands. Vashti was deposed as queen; Rabbi David Eldensohn believes she was killed.

It didn’t matter what Vashti did. I don’t mean for the following comment to be irreverent but whatever decision Vashti made, she was—in one way or another—going to get screwed.

Showing up (possibly with no clothes) in front of men who were drunk for  months—something was bound to happen. No parent would want their child to go to a party like that.

( Please watch Pastor Mark Driscoll’s heartwarming take on Vashti’s decision.  :) )



Queen Esther by Edwin Long

Esther mustered up the courage to do things she was inclined, yet scared to do.

The advisers told the king to gather virgins throughout the land and add them to his harem. The king was “pleased” with this idea. (Perverted.)

So Esther now is chosen as Queen. When I first started noticing Vashti’s situation, I couldn’t help but be a little disappointed with Esther. In the Old Testament, time and time again, they stress the importance of Israelites marrying in the Covenant. Esther did not. She married a man who didn’t even share her same standards.

I had a change of heart, however, when driving home one night. My mind wandered about the queens and princesses blog posts. I thought of how long I procrastinated bringing up Vashti and Esther. I thought of Catherine of Braganza and a comment by her biographer, Lillias Campbell Davidson, who said Catherine “lived in her husband’s court as Lot lived in Sodom.”  I to thought myself, “No, Catherine lived in here husband’s court as Esther lived in her husband’s court.”

Queen Esther and Queen Catherine of Braganza both had similar, selfless agendas

Like Queen Esther,  Queen Catherine of Braganza also had an  agenda to save lives

Two religious queens living in an immoral court for the sake of protecting their nations. It’s not totally right, but in a way it is noble.

The Jews were relying on Esther to stay queen so they could survive. But she had to find ways to survive if she was going to save their lives.


What would you do if your nation was in danger? If marriage was an option over bloodshed, would you marry even a fool?

Fortunately for Esther, she wasn’t ordered to appear in front of people indecent, and remembered her faith

The other woman in the story, Vashti, was asked to do something where her actions would most likely lead to death or sexual assault.

Examining their specific circumstances, we see both women were put in unfair situations. Their behavior was examined during their lifetimes and continues thousands of years later. Read the Book of Esther and see if you don’t agree with me. Keep in mind the queens’ specific situations and outcomes. Both queens were faced with decisions that no one should ever have to make. If you were in either of their place, what would you have done?


The Book of Esther

Persian Queen Vashti is Killed 2500 years ago – The first feminism? (video)

Vashti made a noble, courageous, brave, moral decision (video)

Queen Vashti Deposed by Ernest Normand
Vashti refuses the King’s Summons by Edwin Long
Queen Esther by Edwin Long
Catherine of Braganza by Jacob Huysman



From Maria Anna to Martha: 5 Influential Piano Gals

Life would be a dark place if it weren’t for music. But thanks to creators of music, my world is a happier place. I’m indebted to so many but I have to say there are some standouts that paved the way for my love of music. Maria Anna Mozart, Fanny Mendelssohn, Clara Schumann, Jane Bastien, and Martha Patten.

Maria Anna Mozart

The two prodigy siblings. Wolfgang was inspired by his big sister, "Nannerl" Anna Maria

The two prodigy siblings. Wolfgang was inspired by his big sister, “Nannerl” Anna Maria

When we hear “Mozart,” don’t we think of the boy? Wolfgang Amadeus? We don’t think of  his talented sister Anne Maria Mozart as much.  Smithsonian  magazine called her “The Family’s First Prodigy.”

Her father, Leopold–a court musician and teacher to his children–took them on tour across Europe. The trio was a hit and the siblings made a good team. She was considered one of the greatest pianists.. However, Leopold pushed more for his son’s performances as it was easier for males to break into a professional music career.

Wolfgang saw Anna Maria as a role model. She accompanied him and played his compositions. She also wrote her own, which we sadly don’t have today. But we do have their letters and her diaries which display affection and eccentricity.

I can only imagine her reactions when she opened to write in her diary and found that her brother was at it again. Pretending to be her and writing  irreverent language that I rather not repeat.


Fanny Mendelssohn

Portriat of Fanny Hensel 1842 by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim

Another  equally talented sister. She composed over 460 compositions and sometimes they were attributed to her brother, Felix, because it just wasn’t proper for a woman to publish music. Felix, though,  corrected Queen Victoria that a piece she was fond of was not by him but by Fanny.

She said that one of her piano works, The Year, was for “home use entirely.” Of course it wasn’t, but I’m sure she gave informal concerts to her family that the world will never know.

Clara Schumann

Drawing of Schumann

Clara was romoted by family and friends but had a mind of her own and showed the world that women are master performers too.


Clara’s career was promoted by her father and associates but had a mind of her own. She took the opportunity to show the world that female pianists can be equal to men. I thank her for that.

I’m not sure if I would have gotten along with her, though. But it was nice of her to promote the career of her husband, Robert. I also have to laugh that while he was a student and guest of her father, Robert scared her by popping out of nowhere dressed as a ghost.  She wouldn’t fall in love with him til later,  but perhaps that’s when the sparks started to fly,

Jane Bastien

Everyone in my piano teacher’s studio knew I was on the lowest piano level. (Some things haven’t changed much.) Even when I was promoted to second on the program, it was common knowledge.. For years, I was playing pieces by either Jane or James Bastien. When I saw other names such as Mozart, Beethoven, Schumann, I longed to be playing those composers—or any other composer however obscure. Anyone but Bastien.


Jane Bastien is still one of my favorite composers. It’s evident in the Bastien teaching books that she’s a brilliant teacher. Thanks to her I was wowed and inspired by the other students who went up on stage playing songs by composers whose names I couldn’t pronounce.

I remember bits and pieces from other famous composers’ songs I eventually played, but I remember the very first piano song exactly  I performed in my piano teacher’s annual recital—which of course was a Bastien song.

I became really excited when Jane Bastien was in a piano convention center in San Diego.  She was a gracious, smiling woman, and I got to take a picture with her. Believe me, I couldn’t have been more ecstatic to meet her than meeting the Mozarts themselves.

Martha Patten

I'm honored my favorite pianist happens to my mom. She could have made bucks but continues to share her expertise and expression music with others. Here she is teaching a grandchild.

I’m honored my favorite pianist happens to my mom. She could have made big bucks but continues to share her expertise and expressive music with others. Here she is teaching a grandchild.


A Broadway performer said my mom could have made a lot of money if she moved to New York. My  mom can play by ear, improvise, transpose music into  different keys in a matter of seconds.

The piano could be considered her unofficial sibling when she grew up. Piano and clarinet are her specialties, but she can pick up other instruments. She taught band, choir, drama, and private piano lessons. Her students are complimentary of her and  have invited her to watch them in performances. One student, now a junior high school history teacher, puts on an annual medieval faire in which his students get into character and show the oddities of the Middle Ages. At the beginning of one of his faires, he told the audience how he couldn’t remember much of what he learned in middle school but could remember the words to “76 Trombones” and then announced the presence of my mom.

I can’t count how many times she accompanied a variety of groups–school plays, choir, church functions, talent shows, weddings, and just all type of revenues. I know if my lifetime, she’s played and performed for hundreds of people. So I’ll just say thousands.

Her genius is impressive, but her trademark is how she makes the individual feel. I’m honored that I get a front row seat and hear her best performances–which are played at home.

By the way, she has composed but they are usually “for home entirely.” But my favorites are “Crib Lullaby,” “One By One and Two By Two,” and “No Tail.”



Sources and Links:


Mozart Family Portrait by Croce
Wolfgang and Nannerl Mozart by Eusebuis Johann Alphen
Portriat of Fanny Hensel 1842 by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim
Drawing of Schumann
Grandma Teaching another Prodigy courtesy of Douglas Patten

in white shirts

My siblings drive me crazy

In honor of Siblings Day and my car reregistered, I decided to give tribute to my siblings and talk about our car memories.

us by the car



“Do you see the maroon van yet?” my sister-in-law asked.

I was in a car with people I met a couple hours ago that were headed in the same direction. We were now in a nearly deserted parking lot.

“I think so,” I answered. “Is it covered with snow?”

“I don’t know.”

My ride pulled by a nearly white van. I saw some maroon. “I think I’m right by you guys. Do you see the gray Honda?”

I was annoyed with my sister-in-law when she said, “I really don’t know.”

Another passenger in the car said, “Just see who the driver is.”

I didn’t want to. It was dark and would be slippery.

“Okay,” I told my sister-in-law. “I’m going to knock on the door. Do you see me yet?”

Her response was not encouraging. “Um, no?”

I knocked on the driver’s door. The door opened. It was not my brother’s wife. It was a man wearing a red coat and CowboyS hat.


“Surprise!” My brother helped me with the luggage and then he and I were off to his house. I don’t remember what we talked about but I remember feeling relieved, secure, and happy. I was finally getting the one-on-one time with my oldest brother.


rach's wedding

If it weren’t for Dan, I wouldn’t be writing this post. The car I had to reregister this week? Yeah, I bought it from him a couple years ago. He upgraded to a better car though we’re in agreement I’m driving a fairly good vehicle.

But Dan didn’t always have the classiest cars. But when you’re in high school any car would do. I still felt cool riding in his first, cheap car. I was a freshman and he was senior. He would race with a friend to school from seminary. It wasn’t healthy for the yellow car.

One morning the steering wheel came off. “What???” Dan tried to keep it in place as we slowly crossed the wide intersection where the most car accidents occurred at school. We made it. Barely, but we made it into a parking spot.

I’m thinking our mom picked us up that day. The car got fixed, and Dan secured the steering wheel with duct tape.  The fixes and the car’s accessories  cost more than the car itself. A CD player. A loose fake arm from Spencer’s that Dan liked to stick out the window.

Hope this didn’t embarrass him. But like I said, I felt pretty cool riding in his car.


Rachel is my favorite travel companion. Even when I get us lost, she’s patient. We never go hungry. Wherever we go, it’s a party–complete with Sonic drinks.

Rachel is pretty cool. As she drove me around, her song “Cool Kids” played over and over again. (I wished I could be like her!) One other favorite one was “Rude.” We applied it to a pet.

One of the most exciting times in her car was when we brought home a movie she wanted to watch with me. But we would have to wait for her husband to get home.  Until then we quoted clips in the car and while were eating dinner.  We even threw in wisdom.

“It doesn’t matter what happens in the blender. It’s what happens next.”

When it’s just Rachel and I, it’s a fun guarantee.




A couple years ago, I had the upper hand in some things. That included transportation. Joe is one of the best drivers but needed to borrow my car  a few times.

“Could I use the car this weekend?” Joe asked.

I knew the next thing he was going to say. “I have a date.”

Of course I would let him. And of course he’s gotten a cooler car since then and got married. But he and his wife still help me when I go places.

“Don’t hang up the phone!” (A favorite phrase of his wife) Without her and Joe, I would be in Wyoming right now with bad brakes.

Joe probably thinks (correctly) my car or myself couldn’t survive without him.

Because I needed to reregister my car this week, I needed a smog and safety check and was asking around. I texted Joe who texted back an address. As characteristic of our relationship, he called right after that text.

“This is what you need to know…” He went into greater detail and then asked if I understood. He’s pretty good at simplifying things when I ask.

car sleeping

Zzzzzzzzzz end!


Personal and family photos
Sonic photo taken by Belinda Hankins Miller


Pilate’s Wife: She Tried to Intervene For Jesus

“What is truth?”

Pilate asked Jesus that question. It’s a very appropriate one because of the confusion going on at that time. Within the last day and a half, Jesus had suffered for the sins of the world in Gethsemane which would have killed anyone else. He was betrayed, denied, and left alone by friends. He was moved from court to court being questioned by the Jewish and Roman officials for hours. Any other person would have cracked under such circumstances. But there he stood poised. What was going on? It’s no surprise Pilate “Marvelled greatly.”

Pilate’s wife probably shared those views and worries. She must have struggled with the question “What is truth?” That question—or something similar—likely hovered over her head. Somehow she knew some important truths and was brave enough to step forward. As her husband deliberated, she tried to intervene on Jesus’ behalf.


When he [Pilate] was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.


As I have pondered that verse, one word sticks out.


But Pilate was persuaded by Jewish leaders to release a robber in place of Jesus , and put Jesus to death through crucifixion. Even after the declared death sentence, Pilate still tried to convince the people not to crucify him.

He tried to prolong it and did remember the words of his wife. He said to the crowds, “I am innocent of the blood of this just person”

Though Pilate’s wife was no Martha or Mary in describing the divinity of Christ, she knew he was an extraordinary man who was innocent of all the accusations. She was not one of the women who saw the resurrected Lord, but she also had to be brave to face the future.


A few years later, Pilate’s career plummeted, and she might have been alive when it’s thought he committed suicide. What happened to her?  She had been married to a man that Jews and Romans didn’t respect. Did she feel shame? Did she survive?

Some believe her to be Claudia, a converted Christian, mentioned in 2 Timothy. Romans were weary of Christianity and perhaps early Christians viewed her with suspicions. It would have been a dangerous life.

She was brave in her attempt to intervene for Jesus. In that way, I feel like she could be counted among the women who made sacrifices to champion Him.  I can’t help but think of a James E. Talmage quote:

“The greatest champion of women and womanhood is Jesus Christ.”

She knew little about Jesus Christ, but she was brave in sharing what she knew as truth.


(Click here to view a video that gives an overview of Gethsemane, Jesus’ trial and crucifixion, and Resurrection entitled “He is Risen: John the Beloved’s Witness of the Resurrection”)

Matthew 27
John 18
he Illegal Trial of Christ by Steven W. Allen
2 Timothy 4

The Message of Pilate’s Wife. by James Tissot
The Dream of Pilate’s Wife by Alphonse Francois
Ecce Homo by Antonio Ciseri




Twenty-nine. Such an Awkward Number.

The eve of my birthday, I received a comforting e-card from an eleven-year-old friend who said,

I heard that you are turning twenty-nine. That seems like such an awkward number, doesn’t it? But I’m sure you’ll pull it off beautifully.”

It was even more reassuring than the other insightful articles about people who also freaked out when they turned twenty-nine. Some articles were silly, serious, and a combo.  I came across memorable quotes. Actress Helen Mirren wrote some gems:

“The hardest period in life is one’s twenties. It’s a shame because you’re your most gorgeous, and you’re physically in peak condition. But it’s actually when you’re most insecure and full of self-doubt. When you don’t know what’s going to happen, it’s frightening.”

I see where’s she coming from.

I haven’t completed the duties one has do before they reach thirty. Like travel. Do something incredibly crazy. Have a successful career Get married. Have a family.

This year might be the most frightening of all. And it’s not just about the pressures to fulfill all twenties expectations. It’s to see if I can survive. The type of attitude winning survivors put on. Some of these survivors are found on this very website.   Some who didn’t live up to their culture’s ideals while they lived their terrifying twenties. Yet, they would shine later on…



bride-groom-new-testament_1154694_inl by Lyle Beddes

The pressure to produce posterity was perhaps greater for Jewish women in biblical times.

Elisabeth, mother of John the Baptist, had been expected to have children by her twenties. Did others think she did something wrong? But the Bible assures us she and her husband “were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” I’d imagine that she had to make the decision if she was going to be faithful young. She had made the choice to keep all the commandments and people looked up to her. She was a sort of mentor when the young Mary stayed with her for three months.

Mary visiting Elisabeth, who was someone she could turn for guidance.

Mary visiting Elisabeth, who was someone she could turn for guidance.

Elisabeth’s life became more eventful as she and her son were on the run during the Massacres of the Innocents. (Luke 1:6-7, 56;Luke 11:51; Matthew 2:16)



rtiist: After Dirk Stoop

At 23, the little Portuguese princess didn’t know the humiliations and scandals that awaited her in England.


She expressed a desire to go home from early on, Perhaps it was the realization of protecting Portugal that motivated her to stay in England and dodge lurking dangers.

While in her twenties, Catherine of Braganza became queen of England. Despite striving to do the right thing, she never did produce an heir. She became a forty-seven-year old widow but had learned to survive–and she eventually thrived. During the last twenty years of her life, she accumulated more money, returned to Portugal as a hero, ruled as regent, and was a mentor and maternal figure to her nephew who later became king of Portugal.


Catherine gave herself a new life at 47. She died at 67 and every inch a queen.


Let’s recall the Barrett sisters, Elizabeth and Henrietta. By the time they were in their twenties, they lost siblings and their mother. How were they supposed to look at the world? They might have  struggled to answer. Elizabeth became a successful poet early on but still faced serious illnesses. Henrietta had loved once, but experienced heartbreak. Such losses and experiences, however, would lead to a more accomplished life.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The possibilities of getting a new last name looked slim, but they wouldn't be Barretts forever!

Elizabeth Barrett Browning. The possibilities of getting a new last name looked slim, but she and Henrietta wouldn’t be  Moulton-Barretts forever!

We wouldn’t have gotten Elizabeth’s most famous poem “How Do I Love Thee” without the hardships of the Barrett family. She wrote that sonnet among other classics in her late thirties during her courtship to Robert Browning. By age forty, she eloped with him to Italy. She became active in politics and had a child at forty-three.


Elizabeth with her son Pen whom she gave birth to when she was 43. Henrietta had her last child at 47.

Henrietta, didn’t give up on love either. She married at age forty-one. Between ages forty-two and forty-seven, she gave birth to three children.


These numbers and accomplishments I’m spurting out motivate me!  I’m less afraid of what I haven’t done and more excited for the future. As C.S. Lewis said, “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.”

I admit I’m still  frightened. My sister pointed out:

“ We are constantly evolving and ever changing. I don’t think a decade defines us. We can always become something new. The gospel is one of progression, so that means we are always working toward something-not limited to our past.”

Dramatic or not, I’m thrilled to adapt plans I’m working on. I’ve decided not only to accept what I haven’t done, but also to celebrate it! Go forward with faith. Not all the best things in life have to be compacted in the twenties package.

I’ll get through twenty-nine.

And I’ll do it beautifully.





Painting of Bride and Groom by Lyle Beddes from New Testament Student Manuel

La Visitatio by Niolas Labbe 

Catherine of Braganza paintings:
Dirk Stoop
Peter Lely
Benedettp Gennari

Images of Elizabeth Barrett Browning are also public domain.



The Austen Vs. Barrett Sisters


One sister was near marriage but outside forces dashed those hopes. Her writer-sister had a proposal of marriage and….

How will such a story end?

The Austens

Cassandra’s fiance  worked in order for them to get married. He went on a military mission but died after he caught yellow fever in 1797. Cassandra now had some money, but no man to share it with. She never married.

Then we all know Jane.

CassandraAusten-JaneAusten(c.1810)_hiresParties, balls, humor, but never she seemed to find Mr. Right. She briefly accepted a proposal in 1802. The man was financially secured and perhaps it would have been perfect if she loved him. She didn’t and soon declined.  One portrayal of possible romances include Becoming Jane.

The Barretts

Henrietta could have been a character out of an Austen novel—was religious but determined to have fun and find romance at balls and parties. It seemed marriage was in her grasp at one point, but  any suitor was kicked out of her life by her father.

Mr. Barrett would never let his children marry.

Elizabeth couldn’t spend time outside like she used to, but kept contact with her family, friends, and intellectuals through  correspondences and others visiting her.  Her mind was active, but felt close to death till fellow poet Robert Browning showed intense interest in her.Elizabeth-Barrett-Browning,_Poetical_Works_Volume_I,_engraving One of the sonnets she wrote during their courtship starts:

“My future will not copy fair my past.”

The sonnet talks about the new life she feels like she’s been given. She can’t go back to the past where she thought love was lost.

Elizabeth couldn’t make the same mistakes other did. She had to be stealthier than Henrietta. And unlike Jane, Elizabeth had the means to support herself and was in love with a man who loved her. But could Elizabeth back out at the proposal of marriage from Robert? Would she find enough strength to go through with the marriage?

She did. She eloped with Robert Browning to Italy in 1846.. Elizabeth’s father disowned her but she continued to compose poems.

Now what of Henrietta?

Could she find true love? Even if she did, could she find a way to marry?

Four years after her sister eloped, Henrietta married a Captain William Cook.  Like Elizabeth, she too was disowned by her father.

We don’t know much about Henrietta but we know she displayed gumption. Some of that gumption is portrayed in, The Barretts of Wimpole Street.

Though the Barrett sisters could afford marriage, could they be indebted to the Austen sisters who gave some do’s and don’ts when it came to marriage and love?

P.S. And which film is better–Becoming Jane or The Barretts of Wimpole Street?

"The Two Sisters" by Henri Fantin-Latour
Portrait of Jane Austen by Cassandra Austen
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Engraving September, 1859,      by Macaire Havre, engraving by T. O. Barlow
80s prom (2)

All Grandma Wanted For Christmas Was…

All Grandma Wanted For Christmas Was…

Christmas of ’76 was memorable for my dad and his family.

Just a few days before that Christmas, my grandpa wrote:

 December 22, 1976 – Geraldine had the operation in the St. John’s Hospital. All went well. We all visited her except John – under 14 not admitted to the hospital…


My dad tells it to me:

Grandma had to have some surgery, and elected to do it during the holidays because she felt that she would get better service – on account of so many patients wanting to be out of the hospital for Christmas. Gerald and Cathy felt the children should all band together and pay for the operation.  I was going to optometry school at that time and didn’t have a penny to my name.  My 3 youngest siblings were likewise poor. 

So Gerald and Cathy, and also Yvonne and Bill, contributed the lion share of the bill.  They paid it ahead of when Grandpa went down to see how much he owed for the operation and hospital care. 

 I wondered what I could do to help my mom? I hoped that there might be something that I could do for her, as I loved her as much as anyone else. I went up to see her and to try and figure out what that special something could be that I could give. I said to Grandma, “Mom—What would you really like for Christmas?”

 Grandma astonished me with her answer.

” I want to see your little brother”.

ANother group chart (2)

 That might be impossible. My little brother, John, was not old enough (according to the posted signs) to enter the hospital.  The hospital was guarded on the front steps by an armed guard. Gun at his side.

 As I prayed and pondered I remembered the time a few years before when I had dressed up like Santa when the youth of our ward went Christmas caroling. I thought, I could do that again and maybe – just maybe – I could get John in, if he was dressed up like an elf.

 I asked my sisters, Beth and Joyce,if they could help me with John’s costume. I would need green tights and green everything for John. They assured me that they could furnish the costume. I asked John if he was willing to go along with the idea, explaining that there was a chance that it might not work and that we could be severely reprimanded by the guard or hospital authorities. John said he was willing to give it a try.

So John and I got all dressed up – I as Santa Claus and John as an elf. We went up to the hospital entrance. The guard spotted us coming.

 “Well, what have we here? Santa and his helper! Right this way!”

 It was hard to get up to Grandma’s room. When I dressed up like Santa before, I just ran around with the other youth in the ward singing Christmas carols. People seemed to think it was cute that Santa was along. I had not anticipated this time that so many patients would want to say hi to Santa or to tell him that they had been good.  It was a treat for Santa to be where they were in the hospital.


Eventually our family – including John and I in costume -made our way up to Grandma’s room. Grandma seemed to be resigned to her circumstances, and comforted by the fact that she was indeed getting find treatment. You should have seen the look on her face when she saw us, and spotted John – she was overjoyed! We had a nice visit that day. 

“You brought me the best thing ever!”    

John and I walked away with a feeling that I will never forget.

 To this day that is one of my most memorable Christmases.


 My Grandpa’s Diary Entry for that Christmas:

December 25, 1976.

All gathered around the Christmas tree at 8:00 am, except Geraldine who was still in St. John’s Hospital. We all opened the presents. We had a wonderful Christmas time.

Cathy Lynn prepared the Christmas dinner. It was truly a banquet. We had lots of leftovers.

At 2 pm we all went to the hospital to see Geraldine. Douglas dressed as Santa in the Ward’s Santa Claus suit, and John was made up as an Elf. We put all her presents in Santa’s bag- she was really surprised to see us. We spent about an hour at the hospital. On the way out of the hospital Douglas and John made several stops to see children both young and old to wish them a Merry Christmas.

 We all felt at the end of the day it had been the best Christmas we had ever had, even though Gerri was in the hospital. We begin to see that even during trying times we are able to have very choice experiences and good times. The Lord truly has been good to us. He has blessed us in so very many ways. But best of all he has blessed us with each other.

A better family I could not be part of, they are really great.

family pic 74

Marie-Antoinette with her children by Élisabeth Vigée-Lebrun.

Marie-Antoinette: The Maligned Queen

I wrote how impressed I was with how Philippa Langley headed the operation to find Richard III’s grave.

Richard III. A very complex man. Shakespeare brought us the image of a murderous hunchback with a withered arm which caused the king to be maligned.

Is there a “maligned queen” in history?

Hollywood and sensational biographers keep bringing an image of an irresponsible  Marie-Antoinette only caring about looks, the most expensive luxuries in life, and her dashing lovers. And we keep falling for it.

Even I resisted the idea to give her her own post. Everyone knows who Marie-Antoinette is, so why bother? But as I researched her sister-in-law and daughter I was led to a different side of the queen who NEVER said “Let them eat cake.” Very few actually know the real Marie-Antoinette.

One of my favorite websites about strong woman is Elena Maria Vidal’s website Tea at Trianon.  Anyone truly interested in Marie- Antoinette needs to go there. Good layout, pictures, and FACTS about Marie-Antoinette. Vidal backs up her articles with credible sources and gives references where we can learn more. I like how she discusses when certain myths appeared, who made them popular, and their motives. Her article  “Marie Antoinette: A Reputation in Shreds” is a must-read for every student who studies the French Revolution era and every history teacher—including college professors.

Arrest of Louis XVI and His Family Varennes, 1791

Arrest of Louis XVI and His Family Varennes, 1791

Before I post about the three wise women of Christmas, I knew I had to post about Marie-Antoinette. She kept coming to my mind because she was a person who understood the true meaning of Christmas. I thought how she encouraged her children to give away their Christmas presents. How she didn’t leave her husband, and how she strived to keep the family together to the point of her hair actually turning white in prison.

Marie-Antoinette is one of the women I respect most in history.

Marie-Antoinette in the Temple

Marie-Antoinette in the Temple


Marie-Antoinette with Her Children by Élisabeth Vigée-LebrunVarennes, 21st June 1791, XIX sec. painting
Marie Antoinette in The Temple, XIX sec. painting

Catherine_of_Braganza_-_Lely_1663-65 September (3)

Keeping Up Appearances: Catherine of Braganza, Charles II’s Underestimated Wife

Game Face

I love it when the “just there” players in reality TV shows make it to the end—and win. Their opponents hadn’t realized they were making moves the whole way. One “just there” historical player is Catherine of Braganza. She played one of the best games in the history of queens vs. mistresses.

It’s easy to overlook the Portuguese princess who married Charles II in 1662. Oh that shameless Charles II. He restored the English monarchy but any wisdom he possessed was overshadowed by his foolishness. The Merry Monarch openly had mistresses and acknowledged his illegitimate children. They even received more attention and had greater political influence than his wife.

“Poor Catherine” and “pity” are the phrases included in articles about the Queen of England. I had similar reactions at first. Catherine was a tender wife. I believe she would not want to be remembered as the pitiful queen who, at best, brought the tradition of tea drinking to England. I think we’ve been deceived. She played the game well and walked away with the money and ultimately didn’t need a man to fight her battles.

We can only feel a little bit of her great pain, but we need to focus on her practical side. What was her agenda?  Why did she stay in a marriage where she was rejected? How did she do it? She had her reasons for staying. After Charles’ death, she wrote to her brother that she married the king for the sake of Portugal. Portugal relied on the marriage alliance for protection.  Catherine had a lot riding on her shoulders.

Escaping Death and Divorce

Catherine got sick from pressures expected of her. She suffered three miscarriages and caught an illness that temporarily left her deaf loss and unable to walk. Good thing she recovered. She loved dancing and continued to enhance the quality of Italian music in the catholic friary she built. Technically British monarchs were not supposed to be practicing Catholics go there but she practiced her religion anyway. She was definitely in danger of treason, though, when she was accused of planning to poison the king along with other conspiracies. King Charles didn’t believe the accusations against his wife and ignored suggestions to divorce her. He said, “She could never do anything wicked, and it would be a horrible thing to abandon her.”

“A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”

She might have had trouble learning English, but she found ways to communicate and change people’s perceptions. Catherine literally painted herself out to be a saint. After she was painted as St. Catherine, other women at court followed suit. Some of the mistresses attempted at being depicted as heavenly but it wouldn’t do. They had influence in government but Catherine was bold enough to remind them she was the only one who held the title of queen.

For example, look closely at this portrait.

390px-Catherineof_Braganza wikicommons

An accident? It’s almost as if she’s pointing at the crown. Time went on, and most of her portraits included the crown and sovereign orb.

Catherine worked hard on her public image of being a pious woman (but she also loved to party), and conveyed the message that she was still the queen.

The person she needed to convince most was the king. Though he had many mistresses, he viewed the queen as infallible.

The King’s Apology

Part luck, part strategy, and all miracle, Catherine outlived her husband by twenty years. She must have been envied—and admired—by past queens when her husband actually asked for her forgiveness on his deathbed. She sent a message: “to beg his pardon if she offended him all his life.” He said “Alas poor woman! She asks for my pardon? I beg hers with all my heart, take her back that answer.”

Sweet and Sassy

Catherine had been Charles’ angel, but others saw her as someone difficult to work with. Before Catherine returned to Portugal, she stayed in England to pursue a lawsuit. She was determined to get money back from a former chamberlain who neglected her finances. She proved she hadn’t come all the way to a foreign country over two decades before just to be cheated on. She became very wealthy.

Catherine’s current chamberlain worked closely with the now dowager-queen. He took the blame for Catherine’s actions when Mary II found out that Catherine forbade the chapels at Somerset House to say prayers for King William. William once tried to get Catherine out of Somerset House, but Catherine reminded him she was protected with certain rights. It took Queen Mary to talk through things with Catherine.  Finally it was agreed upon that it would be best if she returned to Portugal.

She Rules!

Catherine was greeted like a hero when she returned to Portugal, She assisted her brother ruling as regent. Her rule included victories over invading threats. One of her greatest victories though, was acting as a mother figure to her motherless nephew. She lifted his spirits when his mother died. When Catherine died, he became depressed again. This shows what a positive influence she could have over people.

So, here’s a queen of two countries, who didn’t produce an heir, and surprisingly, didn’t get a divorce. She was accused of treason, but stayed alive well after her husband’s death and left with the wealth she deserved. Catherine, the queen of England and Portugal, proved to be a capable leader and mother figure. The odds were against her, but she came up on top.

The Catherine Club

Catherine of Braganza shared more than just her namesake with some of the Catherines that graced England’s royal scene. .


425px-CatherineAragon Catherine of Aragon. Aragon was 23 when she married Henry VIII. Braganza was also 23 when she married Charles. Both marriages lasted about 23 years. Aragon lost her husband through annulment and Braganza lost her husband through the king’s death.


Catherine_Parr_from_NPG_croppedCatherine Parr. Henry VIII’s sixth and final wife who’s also known as the one who survived. She and Braganza experienced rumors of divorce and accusations of treason. Despite threats, they both ended up finding favor and outlived their kings.


182px-Catherine,_Duchess_of_CambridgeKate Middleton.   Perhaps the Catherine that Braganza identifies with most. The now Duchess of Cambridge will be the first British queen to be named Catherine since Braganza. She is also married to the first direct descent of Charles II expected to inherit the throne.


CatherineofBraganza In Black (2)Though Charles II had many illegitimate children, they weren't entitled to the throne. It would be over three centuries before a direct descendant would be eligible to be king.













Image credits:
Queen Catherine of Braganza (featured image) by Peter Lely
Catherine of Braganza, Queen of England (pointing to crown) by Jean Baptiste Gaspars
Catherine of Aragon by Michel Sittow
Catherine Parr by William Scrots
Catherine,  Duchess of Cambridge
Catherine of Braganza (in black) by Peter Lely
Charles II in the robes of the Order of the Garter, by John Michael Wright
The Royal Family on the Balcony 

Further Credits:
Catherine of Braganza: Charles II’s Queen by Hebe Elsna

 Catherine of Braganca: Infanta of Portugal and Queen-Consort of England By Lillias Campbell Davidson

Lives of the Queens of England from the Norman Conquest By Agnes Strickland, Elizabeth Strickland

Catherine of Braganza by Thomas Fredrick Tout