Monday, October 29, 2007

Ponder Life

Death is such a normal part of life. People die every day, and they are mourned. Grief runs its course.

This is coming home to me this week, as I attended my uncle's memorial service Thursday night, then traveled to Virginia Beach Sunday afternoon to play music at the funeral of my pastor's grandmother, and will play again this afternoon at a local funeral for the father of one of my friends at church. We also received word as we were setting up for church yesterday that the 40 year old sister of another friend from church died on the operating table during some basic surgical procedure. They travel to Florida for services today.

My 'normal' routine, as hectic and crazy as it is, has been interrupted.

Five days. Three funerals.

It will make you think.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007


And so it goes.

My uncle Billy died yesterday. My mother's little brother, the youngest of six North Carolina-born children. The second sibling to die.

Emphysema became his final partner; he welcomed her into his life along with his cigarettes, his comfortably unhealthy eating habits, his laborious struggle to breathe. She hobbled with him to the end of his life on earth.

Mom and Dad were in North Carolina. They headed to the beach as soon as the opthamologist released Dad to travel while he waited for his new 'fake eye' (so deliberately and delicately put by the doctors), never anticipating that it would be for a funeral. After talking with Billy Saturday, his siblings agreed that he needed to go to the hospital. He had trouble breathing. He was not well.

Mom went to see him Sunday. She called afterwards and said, "He keeps talking about dying. I just remember when Mama was sick and I didn't go to see her. I went to see him."

I know she's glad she did. He died last night.

A career Navy man, Billy wasn't married. He lived alone, surrounded by his sisters and brothers-in-law, nieces and nephews. He loved to fish and to walk the beach looking for treasure with his metal detector. He was a great cook; I have rich memories of our summer vacations when he would show up with piles of shrimp and crab, or spicy ribs, all for a familial feast.

I didn't know him well; I didn't know his heart, his soul, his deepest desires, his sorrows and joys. He was just my uncle, a constant presence in my life since my earliest memories of trips to North Carolina. He was my mom's little brother.

I will travel Thursday, taking appropriate clothes for the service to Mom and Dad, reuniting with my cousins to celebrate this life. It will serve as another marker to the fragility of life, to the solidity of family, to the imprint one soul has on the world he inhabits, however briefly.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Homecoming 2007

Saturday night was the homecoming dance for our school. Shannon went with friends, as did Sarah; though she has a boyfriend who she would have loved to go with, he was out of town on a marching band trip (along with Sydni). So both girls went off with different groups of friends for dinner and the dance. Shannon hit El Cerro Azul with her buds, and Sarah went to Outback.

It wasn't the best homecoming ever, particularly for Sarah (for several reasons). But just look at these girls; one day, years from now, they'll look back and remember the pink blush of youth. There's nothing that ever matches the look of 15 and 16-year old, happy girls.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Counting the Days

Sarah is such an amazing photographer; her instructor in Photography I says she has a great eye and great composition. I really love this leaf and the green around it.

And here's the photographer herself, fresh from an overnight event last weekend. The youth leaders from church invited the kids to a 'retreat' that turned out to be an adventure in homelessness; they had to scrounge and beg for bedding, go through trash bags for food (placed there by their leaders, albeit half-eaten or opened) and appeal for special treats like water and snacks with signs and pleas for aid. They slept outside. It was a great experience for them; it was a challenge for me. I worried in a new and different way. They returned fresh and focused and blessed.

Shannon went on the retreat, too. She made the best sign; stuffed her shirt with rags and held up a poster that said, "I've got ten kids and four on the way; give me some food and you'll make my day". She won. Food, that is.

I'm not exactly sure what was happening here, but this is David and Syd...

We got a trampoline a few weeks ago. It's been a huge hit for the entire neighborhood. Here, you see Elijah (Sarah's boyfriend), Austin (neighbor from up the street) and Lonnie (the kids' dad) jumping. Note the happy onlookers. They've made up some crazy game called "Jump King" that seems to have something to do with throwing an oversized football at people while they are jumping in an attempt to make them fall down...

David has always been a climber. Here he is, in his "climbing tree". Pretty cool.

And here's my boy, Daniel, after his first band concert. He's in the percussion line, which is the only part of band that requires an audition. When the select 12 get revved up playing, they have an attitude. He's getting there, with the attitude, and he's having fun. He played well and was extremely happy to be performing. He looks happy here, and it warms my heart; lately he's been moody. Part of approaching puberty, I think.

Happy, smiling children. It's not all roses - today was really, really stressful, just because everybody had to be somewhere, mostly at the same time. I arrived home around 3:00 and spent the next five hours just driving kids from place to place. Exhausting.

It's nice to look back and review the smiles.
Teach us to count the days
Teach us to make the days count
Lead us in better ways
That somehow our souls forgot
Life means so much
Life means so much
-Chris Rice

Friday, October 12, 2007

Friday Morning, No School. Yum!

I was able to sleep in until 8:00 a.m. this morning! What a blessed event! A full EIGHT HOURS SLEEP!! It's been a while...

The kids didn't stay up too late last night; I had to pick Shannon up from a birthday party at 11:00, and when I got back home (from the other side of the county), everybody was asleep. David had asked Sarah to read to him from his current favorite - The Hardy Boys, Number 6. I guess it went well; I arrived to find them together in her bed, sound asleep. A sixteen-year old girl and her eight-year old brother. Sweet. David was the first one awake, and since today the weather has finally accepted the fact that -HELLO - IT'S OCTOBER!!!!!! ENOUGH OF THE 90 DEGREE STUFF!!!! - we had ourselves some oatmeal. Yum. David was chilly, so you'll see him here bundled up in his warm-up jacket and a 'mitten'. He was the only one up, so we enjoyed a little private conversation.
The second course of breakfast was a nice cup of hot chocolate, loaded down with marshmallows. Yum! He wanted to sit on the deck and enjoy the morning air.

And guess who came to visit while we were there? I have no idea what kind of bird this is, other than hungry. He came back repeatedly while we watched and waited, whispering together so we wouldn't scare him away.

No 6:00 a.m. alarm? Wonderful.

A morning in which to work slowly and allow my physical body time to catch up to my brain and jump-start the creative process? Awesome.

Encouraging words from a co-worker to start the day? Energizing.

Time to enjoy quiet conversation with my ever-amazing eight-year old son? Priceless.

Monday, October 8, 2007

What A Sister Is Good For

Eric and Shannon, summer 2007

My brother is one of my heroes. He has walked through almost 40 years of life, navigating his own spiritual and emotional challenges, making difficult choices and following through, chasing his muse, and demonstrating a faith-filled, visceral love for his family. Following a trail to Tallahassee, Eric and Shana left their beloved Chicago and are making the most of a radically different culture.

He is a musician - an amazing guitarist. Eric has a raw talent that has skirted the edges of something holistically original for years now. Finally, he has landed; in the wake of a few good songs and a lot of great experience, notes and melodies left hanging on cds, in concerts and in worship, the dust has settled on what seems to be his true calling: songwriter.

Eric's resume is tasty. Lots of bar bands, a few production gigs. Time on a party boat on Lake Michigan. A tour with Matt Redman and Delirious. Worship leader at Willow Creek Community Church. A few songwriting credits on a few cds floating around the universe.

Now, though, he's arrived. The new band is called Maida Vale. You can see the beginnings of the website here. The first newspaper write-up is here. The music is on iTunes. It's very, very good.

Here's where the shameless begging comes. If you read my blog, do me a favor and be blessed by some good music. Go to iTunes, search the music store for 'Maida Vale', and buy the EP. Three songs, written by my little brother. $2.97. If you like it, write a review.

You're welcome to formulate your own opinions; but my desire is to get this music out there, to allow it to soar, and hopefully give it the audience it deserves. It's not just nepotism; it's an appreciation of creativity finally finding its voice.

You'll like it, too. If you don't, I'll refund your $2.97.

Meme? Me?

I usually don't do the meme thing (and can anybody tell me what the word actually MEANS?), but Patti tagged me with one that seems manageable. I'm trying to get my brain to disengage and reinvent itself after four days of navigating the hospital bureaucracy in getting my dad through emergency eye surgery and back home. So, I'll play this little game that's all about me. Feel free to move on if you wish.

Four Jobs I’ve Held:
Piano bar girl. It made the rent and car payment while I finished college, and was a great way to practice jazz classics while people around me quaffed their free cocktails.
K-12 music teacher, private and public schools
Preschool director
Worship leader

Four Films I Could Watch Over and Over:
The World According to Garp
Pieces of April
(seriously, though, I don't watch many movies. I usually fall asleep in the middle.)

Four TV Shows I Watch:
Law and Order: SVU
Brothers and Sisters
(not watching as much this year, has more to do with when I'm actually home, sitting still, as with what I really would like to watch.)

Four Places I’ve Lived:
Franklin, Pennsylvania
La Romana, Dominican Republic
Grand Prairie, Texas
Chagrin Falls, Ohio

Four Favorite Foods:
grilled chicken salad
anything from Chipotle
scrambled eggs and bacon
homemade quesadillas with homemade pico de gallo

Four Websites I Visit Daily:
Dooce I love how Heather writes about her world and her family.
Don't Eat Alone Milton's blog was one of the first I ever stumbled upon, right after Real Live Preacher. His writing is, at times, like water for the thirsty. Ironically, I remembered his name from 20 years ago, when he worked with Billy Crockett, whose music I adored. I found it fascinating to come round and experience Milton's creativity again through his blog. Next, I want to eat at his restaurant.
A Church For Starving Artists A daily reminder - a well-written one at that - of all the reasons why God has yanked me out of my comfort zone to something beyond myself. I love this site.
Yahoo News

Four Favorite Colors:
(I'm an earth-tone kinda girl...lately...)

Four Places I Would Love to be Right Now:
On the beach at Emerald Isle
On the beach at Emerald Isle
On the beach at Emerald Isle
Cleveland (to watch the changing leaves herald the arrival of fall and feel a bit of cold air; it's 90 degrees here, on the 8th day of October. Go figure.)

Four Names I Love, But Could/Would Not Use for My Children:

Four Reasons Why I Need To Turn Off The Computer:
six loads of laundry yet to be washed; three awaiting folding
three dirty bathrooms
we're out of milk again
the stairs need to be vacuumed

That last bit, I added myself. Just because. Now I get to tag somebody else, I guess. How about anybody who feels like it? Consider yourself tagged!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007


This girl was elected today as the president of the student council for her junior high school.

Syd is kind and conscientious, considerate and careful. She is enrolled in all honors classes. Her teachers are fond of her.

She's blessed with a lithe frame and good looks. Her smile will melt your heart.

She is a high-achieving kid with tremendous leadership qualities.

I adore her.

And now she's been elected by her peers as the president of the student body.

I try to stay relatively disengaged from my kids' accomplishments and failures. I am proud of them, for sure. I encourage them. I do the best that I can as their mother. I am devoted to their well-being and do everything I can to meet their needs - but I never want to submit to the lure of assigning myself value according to how well my children perform in their world. I heard a message in church some years ago that suggested that the worst a parent can do is base their success as parents (or as people) on the achievements of their children.

But today, for just a minute, I allowed myself this thought:

"I must be doing something right."

And it felt good.

Now back to your regulary scheduled program.