Monday, December 29, 2008

McFamily Christmas: Part 3, Customs and Peculiarities

Every family has their traditions and memory making moments and ours is no exception. Usually we decorate for Christmas at Thanksgiving, but November 2008 found us very crowded with 13 of us staying in the same house, and three of us were having symptoms of upper respiratory illness, so I decided to postpone the fun. Problem is that Muffin had to work late and later for the following two weeks, so he helped with the Christmas tree and I left all the boxes of decorations in the garage and every evening after teaching would sort of run to the garage, gather an armful of decorations, run back inside and put those up. This continued for about two weeks. By the time the McGirls, husband, and Grandtwins arrived, I had decorated fully. For this year, anyway.

Since this would be our first Christmas without Dubbie, I was concerned about Nannie, my Mom, and her emotional well-being. December is their wedding anniversary, his birthday, and of course, Christmas Day. When Papaw, Muffin’s Dad, passed away, Christmas Day was difficult because that was their wedding anniversary also. It is still difficult. But, one of my dear music teacher friends whose husband died several years ago made a wonderful suggestion. Her daughter had sent her a little gift each day for 12 days before Christmas. It was something to anticipate joyfully=HOPE. I began the series of gifts with some baked goodies, and an electric throw. She was so excited about the throw that she cried. A bitter cold front arrived that morning and the temperature plunged about 50 degrees overnight. Her bones ached and she was depressed and cold, but when she opened the gift, everything brightened, and remained brighter for the following 12 days.

Muffin bought apricot-white chocolate bread at a bakery for Nannie. CB brought a very cute retro toilet brush cleaner, some homemade shortbread, and photos of the RG’s. Boo sent an order of photos of Jbear and Gracie to the local Walgreen’s and I picked it up and dropped it in her mailbox, also leaving a gift sack with hand cream inside the storm door. Aunt Kaki brought teas and honey, and Muffin also bought a new reusable grocery bag for her. Joy sent a pillow for her back, just pre-heat in the microwave for hours of pain relief. I think we will do these “12 days gifts” again next year, making a new tradition.

Our family is a cookie family. We love to bake, decorate, and eat cookies. I’ve already mentioned the shortbread, which we cut into Christmas bells, angels, balls, and holly leaves and dipped in white chocolate. I made a new recipe from Paula Deen’s cookie swap. They are peppermint pinwheel cookies—essentially a peppermint flavored dough divided in half, rolled into a red and a white rectangle, then chilled, rolled together into a log, chilled again, and cut into one inch cookies. I placed little skewer into them, then cooled them and tied them up with bows and placed them in a vase. Lots of work, but very cute and verrrrrrry tasty. Yummy tradition!

CB whipped up a batch of gingerbread and chilled it overnight. On Christmas Eve she, Kaki and I rolled it out and cut out men, boys, trees, stars, angels, and morphs. Morphs would be what you get when you have an art major in the family. We had a couple of kangaroo/holly leaf morphs. A Christmas tree with a pumpkin on top. A few men with slightly altered appendages—leaves for legs or arms, very creative hair, and tree limbs hanging about them. There were a couple of men with boys baked together into a sort of “stand in front of me for the photo” pose. Anyway, we dipped some of them in white chocolate and left some of them plain and both are tasty. I think we’ve made G men for Christmas every year for about 30 years now. Definitely a tradition.

Most Christmas Eves we eat a big breakfast—quite late. Muffin is usually finishing the selection of photos for the McFamily calendar which is printed and given to Nana and Nannie. The Photo Calendar is definitely a tradition! Then we scurry around wrapping the last of the gifts, cooking what can be pre-made for Christmas Day, and get ready for the early evening service at our church. For the past 24 years we have attended the Christmas Eve Candlelight Service. This year our pastor read the Christmas story from the Bible, or told it, from a rocking chair, while holding a three year old in his lap and speaking to ten year old twins on the floor in front of him. The story was “interrupted” by songs and hymns illustrating the various events of Jesus’ birth. When he was finished our pastor said “That’s the entire story, but…” and before he could continue, little Roo pronounced with enough volume for several pews full of people to hear, “THE END”.

After the service one or more cars full of our family members tours around our small city to view Christmas light displays in window and yards. Some have continued traditions of animated exhibits and others are brand new, but all are delightful. (That was a pun. Christmas lights. Think about it.)

When we arrive at home we get the tamales, Spanish rice, guacamole, salsa and chips out on the table and eat. And eat. And….. eat. Then, some years, this one included, some of us are part of the music in late services in our city or others. So, we (I) drink Diet Coke to stay awake and be alert to play music for an 11:00 p.m. service. The foods are tradition. The music gigs, a peculiarity.

I would love for our family to have a new tradition of acting out the Christmas story while it is being read. As a child we did that very thing in drama and song every year before Christmas in our small church, and those “plays” are indelible memories. At first I was a small angel with coat hanger wings. Gradually I grew to be one of the choir angels, singing all the hymns with my Daddy who was also in the choir. “Away in a Manger”, “The First Noel”, “O Little Town of Bethlehem”, “O Come All Ye Faithful” and “We Three Kings” were regular hymns in the line-up. The lyrics of those hymns are so special to me. The theology in them is solid too. Teaching our grandchildren about God’s love is one of my greatest joys. As we held our candles above our heads and sang “Silent Night” I prayed that Em and Roo would understand the love poured out for them by Jesus, the gift of love from God, the continuous love we know from the Holy Spirit. That is not tradition or peculiarity, it is fact.

McFamily Christmas: Part 2, Gifting

Here’s the way it goes—Muffin and I shop and gift everyone. I also do a major amount of Nannie’s stocking gift shopping for all who are with us on Christmas morning.

The McGirls/husbands pick a name and shop for that one person, or two people if that sister is married.

Everyone shops for the Jbear/Gracie/Rowdy Girls. It’s just too much fun to limit this option.

At Thanksgiving since the entire family was at our house, we also had gifts ready to send with the W’s and Joy & Mike. They brought gifts here as well. We all tried to be good and save the opening ceremonies for Christmas morning, but, opening ceremony is for the Olympics. So Jonah found his Texas Tech T shirt early and proclaimed loudly that “It fits!” And I burned a lovely vanilla soy candle, beginning on Thanksgiving night. One night when I had body aches and my head felt three sizes too big and I was coughing non-stop, I also stewed in the bath tub with a bath bomb, gifted to me by Joy. And, my main gift from the girls, a big ITunes gift card, arrived in the mail with no warning to delay opening a couple of days before Christmas. My ears are twitching in anticipation of new music on my iPod!

Many toys and hair jewelry and movies and guitar accessories and toddler clothing and geek toys and books were ordered. All arrived at their proper destinations in a reasonable shipping time and were wrapped in shiny or printed paper, topped with bows. Or, my favorite, presents bagged in a pretty gift sack and stuffed with printed tissue for really speedy opening on Christmas morning. As always our stocking were too full and were laid on the stairway with contents spilling onto the stairs. The twins were beside themselves with joy just with the stocking gifts, so the adults in the family took a break and had breakfast—sausage balls and blueberry oatmeal bread with coffee—while they played.

Then we got serious. Boxes, sacks, gift wrap and envelopes were all over the house, which delighted the twins and frightened and confused Maggie, the Border collie, and Scooter, the Sheltie. Both Maggie and Scooter received treats and new throw toys, so don’t feel sorry for them. Everyone was surprised, excited, pleased, touched, loved and happy. The surprise was a gift from Dubby. Nannie had an inspiration this Fall while going through his things, and decided to give each of us some of the treasures he kept in his old barber shop safe. It has been in their house since he closed the historic barber shop in what was once the Drake Hotel, and he was the last barber in that shop. Between the Coffee Shop and the Western Union, the Barber Shop was located downtown, just one block from the T& P train depot. Daddy spent most of my childhood working there and his last few years in that shop was its owner. The safe was inherited from the previous owner, who inherited it when he bought the shop, etc. As far as I know the shop was opened with the hotel in 1919, the year Daddy was born. Perhaps the safe was placed there that year. I know that two of the captain’s chairs in my house were bought second hand for the shop in 1919 and my violin students and their parents still sit in them. They are solid oak and creaky, but functional. The safe has a small chunk missing where someone attempted a robbery many years ago. Even an axe failed to break the lock. My Mom feels like her money and goods are secure there.

When she opened the safe after Dubbie died and found a bit of money in the form of silver dollars and old quarters, she decided to split it up among “the kids”. Imagine opening these packages of coins, some in mint condition, from the 1940’s, ‘50’s and 60’s. There were a few Sacajawea gold pieces as well. It was as if we had just opened the fish’s mouth and found coins, just as Jesus instructed his disciples to do. Each of us had yet another legacy from Dubbie, this one saved for Christmas Day. I was again reminded of what Muffin said at Dubbie's memorial service, "If you think you knew Dubbie, just wait a few minutes and you will learn something new about him."

Saturday, December 27, 2008

McFamily Christmas: Part 1, Traveling

For Christmas 2008 with the McFamily, travel played a major role. The W’s could not travel since Michael had shoulder surgery on December 3 and Becky had many gigs during the month, including midnight mass on Christmas Eve in AZ. Joy & Mike had an appointment with his family in the Midwest for the week, so they left home the 23rd. After more than 9 hours in a plane that was forbidden to land in Chicago, they finally landed in St. Louis, their ultimate Christmas Eve destination, but were not allowed to deplane. Instead, all on board were sent back to Chicago, many, many, many hours late.

On December 21st the Rowdy Girls and their parents arrived from the Hill Country, where the girls settled in, but their Daddy had to keep working until after 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. That included many hours at the computer from the house, a trip to far West Texas to see some wind turbines up close and personal, and many hours reading contracts and talking on the phone. He was tired. In Texas, we call that “whupped”.

December 21st Muffin had to return to his apartment in the DFW area, work 20 hours in two days, and make the round trip home. He obediently and dutifully made a stop at our favorite market, buying tamales, quiche, and delicious chicken dinners so we at home could continue to bake cookies—delicious and nutritious and much more fun than making “real food” for dinner. About thirty minutes before he arrived, Fabulous Aunt Kaki got away from her job in the Hill Country, made a few shopping stops and arrived here for the week. Following them 30 minutes later, RG’s Dad drove in. While they were all driving to our home, we received text messages and phone calls updating us on the progress, or lack of it, on Joy and Mike’s flight.

So, many, many hours, and many hundreds of miles after the day began, everyone who traveled was exactly where they belonged. A very good reason to give thanks to God! His faithfulness is great, and His mercies are new every morning.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Jesus

Historians tell us that Jesus was likely born in the Spring--March or April. He came to earth as a fulfillment of prophecy: For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given. And His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." What a lengthy and lofty name for a baby!

When our first baby was expected, we tossed around names that reflected our family, our deep belief that our children were gifts from God, and a name that would be compatible with a nice Scottish surname. At about my sixth month of pregnancy we visited our hometowns and met with a group who prayed for me and prophesied that this baby would be God's anointed child. We knew immediately that this was a girl (no sonograms in 1975 unless extreme dangerous circumstances warranted the order) and her name would be the English/Scottish equivalent of House of the Anointed One.

Mary was told by the angel to name her child "Jesus", because He would save His people. "Saviour" is a lofty and mighty name for a tiny baby. But, just as I saw the future of my babies and named them more for their future than for their baby years, Mary was obedient to the Word of God and to the ancient prophecies.

Jesus. What a lovely name. As I rocked my firstborn child I often whispered and sang His name to her, as I did to my three daughters who were born after her. My first Christmas as a new Mommy, my darling, beautiful, first born child had an ear infection, which broke my heart and made me cry more than she did. I would rock her and sing to her for hours on end. One afternoon sitting in the nursery rocking, crying and singing, the Holy Spirit whispered to me. "This is how I humbled myself. This is how difficult it is to be a baby. This is how I became dependent on a mother of my own. I showed you how much I love you just by becoming a baby." Imagine! The Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Saviour, the Counselor of all mankind gave up His right to communicate, gave up His majesty and birthright as God's Son to become dependent on one like me--a woman.

Every Christmas since then the scriptures and songs have had new and deeper meaning for me. "What can I give Him? Give Him my heart." "O come let us adore Him." "O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel." "Hark, the herald angels sing glory to the newborn King." "Mary had a baby, yes Lord. What did she name him? Named him Jesus. Laid him in a manger." "Some children see him lily white the baby Jesus born this night. Some children see him lily white with tresses long and fair. Oh lay aside each earthly thing and with thy heart as offering, come worship now the infant king, 'tis love that's born tonight." "Mary did you know that when you kissed your little baby, you kissed the face of God?"

Indeed, "to worship" has many meanings, but one of them is "to kiss". Mary was the first to worship Jesus, as she kissed her little baby. As I thought about our two precious grandchildren who were far away today, and as I kissed the two who were with us, I thought "Happy Birthday, Jesus." May You feel kissed today by all who worship You.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Great Gobs of Glue


Every Monday at noon for the past 11 1/2 years I eat lunch with these ladies. Once or twice a year we bring dishes of food and share pot luck and or planned menu together. Most Mondays we bring our own lunch and sit at the generous dining table, always set by our hostess, Precious Peggy, with real (not paper) plates and flatware on place mats purchased as souvenirs from places where she has traveled. I often enjoy my plate of food on Alaska, Washington D.C., or an exotic island. Monday lunch is always an event, and never has a dull moment.

Our purpose for meeting is not a social motive. Each of us has in common our Walk to Emmaus, and this is the oldest reunion group in our city. Two or three of our group have been meeting continuously since Big Country Emmaus began. A Walk to Emmaus is three and a half days of love poured out on the "pilgrims", those who are sponsored on the Walk, by hundreds of God's people. After the closing meeting and ceremony pilgrims are encouraged to become involved with a reunion group to maintain a connection to the Emmaus community and to grow in relation to God. Most of the women in the Monday group, called Acts 29:1 (look it up!), are members at the same church--my church. But we also have representatives from four other churches.

It is a fact that what happens at PP's house, stays at her house from those Monday meetings. After thanking God for our food and asking the Holy Spirit to come be with us, we share our very deepest needs, joys, feelings, and longings with one another. During the first months of Muffin's job 200 miles from our home, this group of ladies prayed for our adjustment to the circumstance. In the years with three of our daughters in college simultaneously, they prayed for direction, peace, safety in travel, good health, good roommates, godly spouses for our girls, financial blessings, and more. During the years when I was the "home parent" for our youngest while Muffin was away during the work week, they prayed for wisdom, grace, steadfastness, wise counsel, revelation in parenting, and more good health and safety. When I was hit by a run away driver on my way to the Monday meeting in my brand new car, they prayed, called, wrote, and held my hand. When our youngest went away to college--far away--and faced very trying circumstances academically and socially, they prayed more and held both my hands. When my Daddy began to decline and subsequently was hospitalized, then placed in the nursing home and died one year later, just last summer, they were right there with me. They prayed, they brought food, they wrote notes and made calls that will forever be etched in my mind and heart.

The photo may appear to be a bunch of ladies having Christmas fun, but this is a photo of Glue. Great Gobs of Glue, which is the love of the Father, expressed through 12 women--the glue that holds me together when life would pull me apart. The glue that mends my brokenness when the tyrannies of time and people shatter me. The glue that sticks to me when I begin to unravel and fall off the page where my life is written by God. The glue that stiffens my backbone when it is eroded by illness or pressure or false responsibility.

Acts 29:1--the story of the Church that is the foundation on which the Bride is being built for our Bridegroom.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Extreme Makeover Wishes

Enter to win a blog makeover here at Fabulous K. She does fabulous blogs!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Wall

Every year late Fall brings an onslaught of rehearsals, programs, recitals, concerts, weddings, and extra lessons for students who are also involved in their own rehearsals, programs, recitals, and concerts. It is a fact that Christmas music sets a mood. So those of us who call ourselves musicians begin rehearsing in October for the December Mood. So, after the last program, the final reception, and the last minute of the last lesson is finished, I hit THE WALL. It’s the inevitable adrenaline dropout following the frenzy.

If you have followed the blog since Thanksgiving you know that the family had a fabulous, crazy time together over a period of eight days, followed by the incubation of a cold virus that keeps on giving for about two weeks. We’ve coughed, sneezed, wheezed, snorted, gagged, cried—most everything except sleeping—since Thanksgiving Day. Combine the GERM with the FRENZY and the result is FATIGUE.

Yesterday the final program involved arranging three songs for two clarinets, one violin, and one French horn (totally 7 ½ hours), rehearsing one morning, baking goodies for the reception (white chocolate fudge arranged in a wreath with live holly and berries, cranberry almond bread arranged on a platter with the same). It also included writing a descriptive piece for three student violinists and one four year old student, their baby sister, who played four percussion instruments. Add another 5 hours or so. And we rehearsed at three of their lessons—total of three hours. They drove an hour into town at 9:30 a.m. to perform. I hauled stuff to the car for about 15 minutes. Add another 15 to drive across town and an additional 15 hauling same stuff inside and returning. There were about 60 people attending the program, and truthfully, the music was mediocre, but the results were…..priceless. Everyone is in a good mood, is ready for Christmas, and full of joy after being entertained by old and young alike, eating beautiful goodies, singing “Peace on Earth”. Emotionally, I was also drained from watching my Mother attend this program alone, without my Daddy. It was always one of the celebrations for their anniversary to attend this program each year. One year I played “I’ll be Home for Christmas” for them as a surprise gift. They were married December 5, 1942, and Daddy shipped out with the Army one week later. It was almost three years before they were reunited. This year, their 67th anniversary, he is truly Home with the Father.

For about two hours after this final program of the season I am ready to bake, wrap, shop, mail, and decorate. So I shopped and wrapped, finally cried a little while I was alone, and then went to my massage therapist for my pre-scheduled appointment. And then it happened: THE WALL. About 30 minutes into the appointment I felt completely drained of all ambition, energy and intelligence. I managed to drive myself home, drank the prescribed water after massage, and then decided I must have a nap. Three and a half hours later I woke up. It was dark. I was completely disoriented. Scooter the Sheltie was hungry. Body Flow was finished. I was totally toast—no adrenaline left. I had no problem going to sleep last night either. This morning I almost felt rested, but THE WALL is still there. Perhaps it is physical and my body is just tired. Perhaps it is spiritual and I need time to soak in His presence. Perhaps it is emotional and I am grieving more than I realize. Perhaps it is a triple whammy?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tis the Season

The McFamily had a wonderful, blessed, loud Thanksgiving. We were Rowdy and Cheesy, and puzzling, and musical, and just plain hilarious. Then we got sick. This is a total bummer. I'm not sure which of us started the scratchy throat business first, but it is still making its way through the family as sinus infections, eye infection, ear infections, and pneumonia. So, while it is not true that the McFamily makes each other sick, speaking of personalities and character, since we basically all get along nicely and love one another. It is, however, true that we made one another sick, speaking of germs.

I, as the Matriarch of said McFamily, (McMatriarch?), did not see a doctor. Instead, I coughed all night three nights in a row while wearing half a jar of Vicks on the soles of my feet, covered by white socks. And took Mucinex. Just the name of that stuff makes me cough. And used a humidifier, which decided to clog its own filter. (I know how it feels. I've been pretty clogged.) And drank lots of water and warm tea with honey and juice and took vitamins and worked out at the gym to release toxins and played rehearsals with the help of Hall's cough drops and finally resorted to the last few ounces of presciption cough medicine with codeine. It works! Now I can truly say "Glory to God in the Highest, and peace on earth" as the music I'm playing is titled.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Long Time, No Post

No time to post! Fam has been here. Is still partially here. And I'm teaching the fiddlin students once again. Since the last post I have cleaned out (with Muffin) two rooms, made five beds more than once, baked two King Ranch Chicken casseroles, roasted a turkey, baked a three layer chocolate mint cake for Kaki's birthday, cooked homemade cranberry sauce, mixed and baked a double recipe of dressing, chopped up turkey salad with grapes/celery/pecans, made this pumpkin caramel pecan gingersnap cheesecake...and French toast. You can read about the entertaining Jbear here. Wish I could cheese his head right now!

More about how Thankful I am later.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

No Rusting

It is almost 9 p.m. and since 9 a.m. today I have been to Bible study, had lunch with two friends, shopped for, and mailed a birthday card to my darling Baby Girl, shopped for a special "before Christmas gift" for Gracie, bought senior dog food for the one and only Scooter, checked out knit pants in 4 colors yet all in the wrong sizes, stopped in for a Vanilla Diet Fountain Coke at 7-11, taught seven violin students and wondered for half an hour where another one was, and been to the gym for a Body Flow class.

And now...the details, or some of them. At the Bible study I learned that I am published! Yes, I was totally disgusted that there was no review of the Barrage! concert I attended on November 8, so I decided to write an article and see if it would be published. And it is! With a by-line! Here.

Bible study...totally awesome, informative, and juicy. I mean, Beth Moore can really teach about sex in marriage and make you glad you were there to hear it! Wising Up is just a fabulous study of Proverbs.

Lunch...love those friends. We learn so much from each other and they support me and pray for me. I regret so much that being in the work force has compromised female friendships in many cases. When our great-grandmothers got together to can food and to quilt, they bonded in friendships that were cherished for decades. Our mobile society has weakened those bonds, but Bible studies, email, Skype, and, of course, lunch do help preserve them.

Errands...I don't mind this kind. The first card I read was perfect for Baby Girl, and I'll see her and bake a cake next week. She will be 24 on Friday. And Scooter is nearly the perfect dog, so of course I want to keep him fed. He thinks I don't notice, but he sleeps on the red sofa at night. And leaves tiny patches of white fur behind. Or lets the magazines slip into the floor. I'll bet he hates that, since he has no hands to pick them up and cover his trail. He's really sneaky. The vanilla diet coke was pleasant, and the gift for Gracie is perfect, but the frustration level rose considerably when the pants were too baggy and there were no other sizes--even in their on-line store.

Teaching...I think my students are really ready for the Saturday morning ensemble recital and will entertain to the fullest measure (that's a music pun). Very noteworthy. And some of them may have learned something this week after all!

Body Flow...I hot pedaled it home and took Advil and hit the heating pad while eating a bowl of soup. This was a tough one.

Time to hit the computer/keyboard for some more composing/arranging of Christmas music. Or sew a stocking. Or wrap some packages. Or something. Can't just sit here! I might rust.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Confessions of a Marmee

While Pioneer Woman is confessing her true feelings about the Dominican Republic trip, I should probably confess my true feelings too. When the Rowdy Girls mom, my beautiful oldest daughter, first mentioned the plight of the Ike folks in Austin, I was horrified. But I didn't do anything. My own cousin, her husband, and my Aunt were here, taking refuge from the storm. They didn't have electricity for about 2 weeks, and on the TX coast, that's very uncomfortable. But over time, as my family recovered and found most of their property intact, I began to pray for those in Austin. Thinking about these little babies and young families, who could be my own grandchildren or children, just broke my heart. Finally, on Nov. 1 I knew God was telling me to get involved personally. I'm a little slow sometimes. But my biggest problems are too much--eat too much, work too much, too many clothes, too much stuff. How could I sit here and think about those who have no job, are living on food stamps and FEMA extensions in hotels, are in Austin in November and own no winter clothing?

So, last week after emailing people from ten different churches, I collected funds and gift cards and we were able to make a difference. Two of my daughters are involved now. "L" still does all the leg work for the evacuees, and she succeeded in getting FEMA to extend through Thanksgiving. Two families have returned to Galveston. Two families intend to remain in Austin and are actively looking for jobs. We are now looking for a donated computer set up so one of the moms of a medcially fragile baby can work from home.

My whole family is arriving next week for Thanksgiving and I need to be purchasing and wrapping some Christmas gifts to return with them, but I'm having so much fun coordinating fund raisers and depositing money in a special account! This will be a holiday full of Thanks Giving.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Wonderful Wednesday

Today I got to do some of my favorite activities. I made bank deposits twice. Gave three sacks of canned food to the Food Pantry. Watched Beth Moore’s Wising Up: A study of Proverbs DVD with my Bible study ladies at my church. Today’s subject was for wives and it was excellent advice and insight. Afterward, I went to lunch with two dear friends and prayer buddies. I shopped for a toddler girl who I will never know, but who will receive a shoe box full of cute things, generously provided by Samaritan’s Purse. Every year since my daughters were little our family has participated in Operation Christmas Child, also known at our house as Operation Shoe Box. I love choosing a gender and age bracket each year and filling a box with essentials like soap, towels, washcloths, combs, toothpaste and toothbrush, flashlights and batteries. After the essentials are purchased I head for the goodies. I can usually fit in crayons, markers, pencils (colored ones), tablet, stuffed animal or doll, clothing (pants and hoodie, Dora Explorer panties), tiny purse with hair jewelry, and lots of hard candy. Ironically, there is no room left for shoes in a shoe box with all the other items carefully rolled, unpackaged, and fitted “just so” without a single space left over. We usually top it off with a family photo and a letter to our Christmas Child.

Please notice that I made two bank deposits. Through the Rowdy Girls Mommy, our oldest daughter, I have become involved with a woman in Austin, “L”, who is helping Hurricane Ike evacuees in that city. Their stories would break your heart, much like the stories of the Dominican Republic children in blogs by Pioneer Woman. Each family has its own plight, its own difficult situation with hurdles to clear before returning to Galveston. Most of them have medical needs and were evacuated from the hospital on the island to a high level care hospital in a major Texas city. Some of them have fallen through the cracks with FEMA and are either not receiving aid, have been placed on the back burner, or are not notified that their aid is being extended until well into the eleventh hour. They are stressed, living in a hotel of FEMA’s choice, at the mercy of private individuals because Texas agencies are not coming to their rescue, and being overlooked by our senatorial offices as well. “L” is undergoing cancer treatments herself, and yet she is tirelessly pursuing every path that opens for aid, for paying expenses, for caring for elderly couples, extremely young mothers with preemies, and for your regular everyday families as well.

Two families whose situations stuck in my heart are the “Grandmother family” and the “preemie family”. The first is a 60 year old grandmother with custody of 5 grandchildren and has had her elderly mom with her as well. These children are ages 8 months, 2,4,10, and 13 years. Grandmother is sincerely seeking employment.

The young preemie's mom cannot return to Galveston because the 32 week preemie is too fragile. There are no medical care facilities, no hospital, and no services in Galveston. The mold and infection risk are very high and the doctors believe that little preemie is too high risk to return. Therefore, she must look for an apartment on the mainland and has no money for deposits. Even with a medical letter of necessity from the doctors, FEMA is still dragging their feet. It was after 9 p.m. last night when extension was granted past Thanksgiving. They were prepared to be evicted at 11 a.m. today. That is just an example of the stressful circumstances.

With these and other facts gnawing at my spirit, I decided to DO SOMETHING. I know people here in my city and they are deeply loving and compassionate. I sent email to representatives of ten churches, and in due time, help arrived. I sent two Wal Mart gift cards in Monday’s mail and have another to send. By noon today over $600 in cash had been deposited in Aunt Kak’s account so she can convert it to cash for “L”. Late this afternoon I received a call from a friend whose brother lives in Austin and whose church wants to become involved directly with the evacuees. And I know this is not the end of the love pouring out. It was a wonderful Wednesday!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What Next?

Although I would have preferred that John McCain is now the president elect, because of his strong stand on defining life at the moment of conception and his defining marriage between a man and a woman, I am proud to live in America at this historic time. I remember when my high school class was integrated and one of my best friends was E, a highly intelligent black man who became the first member of the National Honor Society at our school. He was an honor graduate of the class of 1968, a particularly trouble filled year, speaking of civil rights. In that year his only ticket out of our small town was as an intellectual, since he was not a stellar athlete. He accepted an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy and served our country as a pilot, eventually retiring in New Jersey. I would be interested to know if he voted for Obama or McCain, being both an African American and a Navy man.

Anyway, I digress. Since McCain/Palin is not in our future, I could not express my feelings any better than this post at the LPM blog.

Yesterday was also a turning point for Nannie. We followed up with Dr. T, the neurosurgeon, who told her there are no major significant changes in her MRI since last year, and therefore, nothing he can do for her surgically. He referred her back to Dr. M, sports and pain medicine specialist, for a consultation about a nerve stimulator. Our next appointment is December 15--a long time when severe pain is an issue.

I woke this morning with a sense of newness and anticipation, but not quite knowing for what reason. I trust that God is steering this nation in His direction, and that He is giving our family wisdom for pain management as well.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Smiling

You can see the slide show designed by CB from photos of our trip to Sea World with the Rowdy Girls here. It makes me smile.

Here are a couple of other reasons why I smile.

Miss Gracie Flower



Jonah, a.k.a. Woody

The entire set of costume photos for Woody and Flower are here and here.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

GUNS UP!!


...now there is no joy in Austin,
mighty Bevo has struck out!!!

This definitely isn't baseball, but I couldn't resist the reference to "Casey at the Bat" in comparing my Alma Mater, dear old Texas Tech in their fabulous, awesome win over UT, the perpetually number 1 ranked University of Texas. I have sat in the stands in absolutely horrible weather and watched Tech win and lose. I walked to the stadium for the game against Texas my freshman year and the stands were so full I couldn't even get in, so I listened on the radio.

Watching Tech's lead dwindle from 10 points to nothing, to going behind by a point with 1:29 left in the game was a heart stopping experience. Tech scoring that last touchdown and the extra point with :01 left was enough to raise my normally low blood pressure to above average. Go Raiders! The class of '72 loves you!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Jingle Cycles

If I had a floppy eared Bassett like Pioneer Woman’s Charlie, I could take photos and post them. If I had just written a new book like Beth Moore’s newly published “Esther, I would definitely post about that. If I had just spent ten days in Italy like my lovely daughter and her husband (who is also lovely), I would most certainly write post after post about that, complete with photographs.

Alas. Since my last post I have cleaned the house. Attended the homecoming musical, All Shook Up. Assisted in testing about 40 students on their knowledge of music theory. And played Jingle Bells approximately 21 times.

Why Jingle Bells in October, you ask? Because students must practice Jingle Bells in October to be able to perform it in December. Or November, as the case may be. The Junior League fundraiser is November 8 and about 25 of my students will be performing a 20 minute program. Since Christmas music is not lengthy unless you are singing seventy eleven verses of each song, that means the students need to learn about 15 songs. I’ve heard Silent Night about 6 times in two days. O Come Little Children is another continuous feed. Two fiddle tunes from Appalachia, Christmas Eve, and Snowflake Reel are dancing through my head tonight too. We Three Kings, Mary Had a Baby, O Come All Ye Faithful, Up on the Housetop, and Jolly Old Saint Nicholas are repeat Offend—excuse me!—Performers.

Tis the season to be Jolly, Old three kings up on the housetop. I prefer a silent night with a snowflake on Christmas eve when Mary had a baby, all ye faithful song lovers. Help! Somebody put me out of my song cycle!

Friday, October 24, 2008

My Dream

I woke this morning at 5:26 a.m. from a dream. It was very violent. A beautiful woman was being held hostage and was terrorized and abused by two totally unfeeling men. They were violent, totally disregarded life in all forms, and had taped a gun inside her mouth while interrogating her. She was hidden away during the interrogation in a public building that was an obvious place, but the room in which she was held was hidden away inside the building at the top of a flight of stairs which was not obvious. No elevator accessed the floor where the room was located.
I had a terrible sense of urgency. This woman's life would be over soon unless...? Somehow one other person and I were called to this place and given directions to find the room and were admitted and allowed to see the violence. We were questioned. I don't remember any of the questions or the nature of them. I knew that I had to use my wits and wisdom to escape this situation alive, and to save the other two people. Again, the urgency. Somehow I was released to the hall outside the door and I was talking on a cell phone, my own cell phone that I own now, and talking in riddles to a network of people, trying to send coded messages to reveal the situation, the urgent need to preserve two or three lives, and the location. That is when I woke.

For almost an hour I asked God what this dream meant, and finally I felt a strong urge to pray for the upcoming election--presidential, judicial, education, and senatorial races in particular. After another half hour I sensed the Lord revealing that the beautiful woman in the dream was Truth, Wisdom, Freedom. This made sense to me because our current women's Bible study is on Proverbs, and Wisdom is personified as a woman. I believe the Lord is saying that the network I was trying to reach is unaware of the urgency of preserving all that is Wise and True. I had to talk in riddles to preserve my own life. I began to pray that Wisdom and Truth will be set free and Life will be honored, protected, and revealed in a way that will not need to be "coded". Again, the sense of urgency was so very strong. Please, as part of my "network", join me in praying.

For several weeks Muffin and I have been compelled to pray that the people of this nation will receive truth regarding this election and will act upon it. We have prayed that every indiscretion or area of falseness in every candidate will be revealed. We need to know the whole truth about candidates and they need to enter office in humility--not humiliated, but in a spirit of service to the people who elected them.

Father, we release Wisdom and Truth in our nation in the name of your precious Son, Jesus. We know that You are the Way, the Truth and the Life. Please set Truth and Wisdom and Life free before this election. We release Truth and Wisdom from hiding and from oppression in our culture. We look to You to give abundant life. In Jesus' name.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Piano Rehearsal


Back from rehearsal for piano ensemble performance on November 6th. I don't see how Sherry stands us! We're really bad on the more rhythmically difficult pieces because most of these people don't have to count anymore to stay with anyone in an orchestra or doing accompanying. Plus, we're not exactly young anymore. J, who I thought was my age or slightly younger, was 64 today and wears 2 hearing aids! She's secretary/assistant for an attorney, and said if you have to have hearing aids to do your job, that there is a disability resource that will pay for them . Anyway, she didn't pay a penny for hers and they seem to work well for her. But, EJL, that's another story! She is the funniest thing alive and no one wants to boot her out, but she is banging with her left hand on the secundo parts and missing most of the rhythms unless Sherry counts out loud... really, really, loud just over her shoulder into her ear. And she talks while she plays and says things, really really loud, like "This doesn't make any sense at all. I don't know why he wrote it like this." But it doesn't make any sense because she can't hear the other parts. And Sherry is over there playing both the primo and secundo parts on her piano just laughing like a hyena. And JE, who is 75 but still works in day care programs because she is a pianist/organist/child care specialist, is playing all the notes, sitting beside EJL, blocking her out, saying, "Sometimes it's a blessing to not hear so well--especially when you work with children".

Now, my own confession. I turned a page and was utterly lost. None of the notes made any sense. Apparently I hadn't enough sense to hole punch my page correctly and it was placed in the folder backwards. Ahemmm.


Sherry, borrowing Dr. Suzuki's quote, told us we "only need to practice on the days we eat". So, Carol, a former teacher to my children in public school, told her she would be fasting many days. We' re performing four hand arrangements of Morning Trumpet, Amazing Grace, Wondrous Love, Shall we Gather at the River, and Simple Gifts. The first three are easy peasy lemon squeezy. The River is the rhythmic disaster and Simple Gifts is an oxymoron. The secundo part is way high into the primo range and we, not being "real" pianists, are knocking each other off the benches trying to play all the notes. Some sort of negotiation, compromise, treaty, or peaceful agreement must be reached or this piece will NOT glorify God!

We have two more weeks to pray and practice so that this performance will not sound like "Shall we sound the morning trumpet while praying for amazing grace before we toss the simple gifts into the river where we've gathered and beg for wondrous love."

All of this WHILE we're playing. It's a virtual nut house! It drove me to Starbucks for a cafe latte afterward. It may even drive me to practice on the days that I eat.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Dubbie too...

 
Today I received this message from our oldest, the Rowdy Girls Momma.
Every night, for the last several weeks, as we say prayers, Roo has done this sweet
thing. We ask the Lord to bless Nannie and then Nana and then move on to the grandparents. And she always interrupts to say,
"Dubbie, too."
She never forgets him.
I strongly suspect that Dubbie knows this and gets the biggest blessing from hearing it from his current vantage point.

I'm really missing him this week for some reason.
Maybe it's because Candy's 87 year old mom died last week and she has been talking about
her 92 year old Dad and that makes me miss Dubbie.
Maybe it's because Laura wanted to play all fiddle tunes at her lesson and one of them was
Rubber Dolly, which he used to play for me.
Maybe it's because I still feel quite pointless in the evenings after Body Flow class is finished and I'm not driving to the nursing home to see him.
Maybe it's because I got the tax bill in the mail for the property that I don't really own since
Daddy died, but now have 2% of instead of 1%.
Maybe it's because Lea had a stroke in September and she gets around just fine, coming to Wednesday morning Bible study, but when she talks, her speech patterns are much like Dubbie’s after the 2nd or 3rd stroke.

I read something this week. God puts heavenly deposits inside us for a time that we need them. We think they leave, as they are forgotten, or not necessary for the moment, but they are still there. Think about the things you wondered, thought about, realized, saw or heard as a child, or at church camp, or on a retreat. Things that seemed very real at the time, but faded away. They are still there. That is why we are admonished to
"stir up the gifts within us" (2 Tim. 1:6).
God wants to awaken these treasures that are in us all. I think Roo has a treasure, a memory
of Dubbie that is real, and the Holy Spirit stirs up that gift in her when praying at night.That's really special.


Just returned from Mulberry St. I took Nannie a CD, Music from God. Nannie
had a set back with her eye today. It started hurting at 2 a.m. and hurt for 2 hours. RN encouraged her to call the doctor. She was urged to come to the office at 10:30. He dilated
the eye and looked closely. The sensation she is having is caused by the new drops, the ones that replaced the steroids to which she had the violent reaction. He told her this medication is harsh and she needs to use more artificial tears with it and stop using it all together on Sunday. He will see her again next week to follow up on the healing process.



Sunday, October 19, 2008

PrairieHomeWeddingFlowingDay

Today began with lots of coffee, because I didn't sleep too well, because yesterday afternoon I slept too much, because I had migraine type symptoms with sensitivity to light and sounds. So I planned something like a program for the wedding reception our quartet was hired to play from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. It was a lovely brunch at a local country club following a wedding at dawn on a ranch about 60 miles southeast of here. The couple was a non-traditional couple, meaning older and perhaps married before. The groom planned most of the music, requesting Mozart, Handel, Vivaldi and "Wedding March" by Mendelssohn and "Ode to Joy" by Beethoven over Bach, who sounds like math to him. The setting overlooked the golf course in a room of mostly glass, with carpeted floor. But there is a small raised stage, hardwood floors, backed by mirrors where we played and the acoustics were perfect. It is so easy to play for two hours under such conditions. I could have played another hour, easily. Even my left arm, still in a bit of a twist since the last concert, would have tolerated another hour. The guests complimented us and stayed almost to the end of the second hour.

While I was "fiddling around" Muffin ran some errands for us, buying groceries and dropping by the local Best Buy to fetch a cell phone manual. We're shopping for a new phone, and if anyone reads this post and has a suggestion for a phone you absolutely love, please leave a comment!

We ate omelets, toast and spinach salad for lunch, then scurried off to the gym for Body Flow, which seemed way too hard to do after playing for two hours. The legs moved OK, but the arms didn't want to extend. Following the class we changed clothes, bought a smoothie from the juice bar, and headed out to Moody Coliseum for Prairie Home Companion.

I am blown away by how much of that show is unscripted. The jokes and stories were all tailored to fit our hometown and the show was live, via satellite, which Garrison Keillor said was unusual for them. There were cables outside to a truck and a dish and the lines to enter were very long. Finding seats corresponding to our tickets was approached with ushers and like threading through a maze of people, seats, cables, ramps, railings, and steps. Fortunately, we arrived almost 45 minutes early. The musicians warmed up the crowd and GH himself came onstage early and asked for volunteers to sing a song with him about Abilene, to be done later in the show. Then, three minutes before showtime he asked us to stand and sing the National Anthem. Now, this city has produced plenty of singers who have gone on to stellar careers in opera, music theater, choruses and choirs, and we have an excellent music education program in the public schools and universities for choral music. So, we sang--in parts--with gusto. And GH and the band seemed somewhat stunned. After that pre-show singing, he asked us to sing again and again on old hymns and songs about Texas.

My favorite stories and comments were about the liberals vs. conservatives and natives in our town killing him with kindness, and then Guy Noir was sent to Abilene to investigate the Abilene Secular Humanistic University to see if they would fund research on finding God. On that segment of the show, Mr. Newman, sound effects master, just left me laughing to tears. The Guy Noir segment is scripted, but Lake Woebegone is on the fly. Almost all the music is from ear or from memory and the dobro, guitar, fiddle, piano, and bass players are amazing. I hope you can hear the songs on the re-broadcast this weekend, or on podcast soon. Dusty and Lefty also made an appearance in Abilene and tried to find a saloon in a church town surrounded by wind turbines. Gotta love this place!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

And your point is….?

Upon waking today I was excited that it was Wednesday, Bible study morning. Our group is studying Wising Up, a study of Proverbs by Beth Moore and I have learned so much. Last night before turning out the light I read through Proverbs 22. There is such a rich diet, right in that chapter! It seems like the verses about economy, frugality, wisdom with money, are all highlighted by the Holy Spirit.

Sure enough, today’s study was Wising Up with Money. Beth shared some very personal experiences, including mistakes, with money. She taught ways to be foolish and ways to be wise with money. I was blessed. Then we had a discussion.

The discussion seemed to reflect great anxiety in the lives of members of the group who are old enough to remember the Great Depression, or the effects on their families. Nannie also displays great anxiety right now, as she reflects on the GD. After class, L and I went to lunch and concluded that we aren’t living any differently than we were last week, economically speaking. Actually, she paid 23 cents more for pasta this week, and I paid almost 50 cents less per gallon of gasoline, so all in all, we are living more abundantly than last week.

So why the fear, anger, frustration and anxiety? God is in control, and I pray daily that every indiscretion of every candidate running for elected office on November 4 will be exposed. We should know where their weaknesses are, right now. They should enter office in humility and a spirit of serving the people by whom they will be elected, right?

After lunch I began teaching and found only two students who had adequately prepared by practicing and listening to their CD’s this week. Many of them are too busy—over scheduled with extra activities. Most of them only practice three days a week. Many of them never listen at all. I consider it the parents’ responsibility to play the CD and to observe at least a portion of each practice session. Certainly the parents should be able to watch each child and to encourage good violin posture and excellent tone. There comes a point where students are responsible for their own technical maintenance, but the parents are paying for the lessons and should be interested in the product—good tone, progress in understanding theory, adding to the repertoire.

In my policy letter I explain parents’ responsibilities, along with the students’ and mine. Mine include providing performance opportunities. I have several to which I committed the studio, gave two months to six weeks notice of the dates and listed the repertoire to be performed. The snare is other activities and conflicting schedules. Several families cannot commit to the performances because of the Nutcracker and because of sports. The rehearsals and games are not scheduled in advance. These families will not know their availability until a few days before the performance because directors and coaches schedule the exact times at the last minute.

My point is that my commitment to the performances was made in August. I thought the students were committed then also. Now they aren’t, and it isn’t their choice, or fault. My real point is, what is the point? Of a committment? A performance without practice? Two weeks without listening to the CD’s, which is the performance standard? Earning a gold medal on a test or winning a certificate or gold cup from a judge if you do not share the music you have learned with an audience? Why play only for yourself, halfheartedly, when you can give a rich gift of beautiful music to an audience?

And why do we say we trust God with our lives when we don’t really trust Him with our elected and appointed officials and our own money? I think I have a point here, but if I comb my hair just the right way, maybe it won’t be obvious

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Neurology Report

Today’s visit with Dr. T, who is a former violin student of mine, was good. He let Nannie talk, checked her limbs—reflexes, strength, mobility and flexibility, and scheduled a new MRI. The last MRI is almost a year old, which is obsolete in neurological years. He is specifically looking for all the troublemakers in her spine, although the pain indicates that her spinal cord is not involved. The pain in her leg and also in her spine indicates that the problem is below the area of the spinal cord. Dr. T did not subscribed 100% to the idea that the L2 nerve is the sole culprit in producing pain. Rather, he wants the new MRI to look at all the evidence.

Dr. T’s position is that her spine is old and worn out. Not a very nice thing to say, but something that happens to most of us, because the alternative is, well, not being alive, if you know what I mean. So he used a model and explained vertebrae, discs, the cord and nerves, fluids, etc. He had studied her previous MRI’s and x-rays and was thoroughly informed through her records and visits with Dr. Will and Dr. M, who administered the injections that gave her some temporary relief. I was impressed. He was kind and respectful and totally changed the subject when she began to complain about two previous doctors, one of them a neurosurgeon. When she persisted he politely shut her queries off by saying that it was not in his job description to know another doctor’s reasons for his decisions. He made no offer of surgery, but on the contrary, suggested that depending on his discoveries in studying the MRI, an implanted nerve stimulator could be a good option. Dr. M would do a procedure that would allow her to "test drive" it. Dr. T would do the surgery to implant.

The MRI is scheduled at 7 a.m. Thursday. The follow-up visit with Dr. T is Election Day. The MRI is exactly where Nannie wanted to go and does not interfere with her shampoo and set appointment. YES!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Tomorrow

We are told in God's Word that tomorrow holds enough trouble of its own and that we should not worry about tomorrow.
Matthew, Chapter 6: 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Tomorrow is an important appointment for Nannie. She will see a neurosurgeon concerning her spine, which is causing her great pain. Several years ago she received a diagnosis of degenerative disc disease, untreated scoliosis, stenosis caused by arthritis and osteoporosis--all resulting in nerve compression. Last week she was walking through a store and felt a slight snap and felt almost debilitating pain immediately. Her prescription pain medication and a massage today helped her through the resulting week of pain.

Our prayer is that this new doctor will see some minimally invasive procedure as the answer to the nerve compression. She is still a very alert and relatively active 87 year old woman who drives, runs her own errands, and helps many people in need, as the pain allows.

Some of my friends had a precious Mom who died a couple of years ago from pneumonia. The pneumonia was a secondary problem beginning with spinal stenosis, arthritis and degenerative disc disease. Fractures appeared in her spine, resulting in horrible pain and nerve compression, and she was finally unable to move freely, spending her last years in a nursing home reading books. Sometimes just reaching for a book would cause a fracture. The pneumonia was a blessing.

But, tomorrow, having enough trouble of its own, also has victory of its own. It is that victory I am seeking for Nannie.


Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fireproof Date

Since this is a quiet weekend, no rehearsals or mandatory attendance at functions related to work today, Muffin, who brought me gorgeous pink and coral roses Thursday night, took me to dinner at our favorite Italian restaurant and to a movie. (We expertly ran two errands in between those events, but it was still a date.) The dinner was yummy. He had shrimp and pasta. I had the Sicilian grilled chicken salad. I love the exquisitely fresh greens, tomatoes, Mozzarella cheese, and herbs, not to mention the homemade dressing.

The real treat of the evening is this movie. See it!