Sunday, August 31, 2008

Early Party & Audio Adrenaline

Backtracking through the day—

  • Writing an article for the local newspaper as part of my publicity chair duties for a music organization
  • Watching on video cam as Em and Roo ate their cheese sandwiches, spelled their words, and blew kisses at us. Way cute!
  • Reading about Gracie and Jbear going to church today. Makes my heart sing!
  • Grilling hatch chile cheese sandwiches for supper
  • Taking a wee nap. Ahhhhhh.
  • Saturday shopping at SAM’s on Sunday. Not my favorite thing to do.
  • Partying with GW & Abigail, Muffin and Nannie for her 87th birthday, which is Tuesday. We ate at Rosa’s, then adjourned to Nannie’s for gifts and Chocolate Mint Cake. Gave her a certificate for a massage and a pink embroidered apron, “The First Lady”, from my favorite store at national airport, Washington, DC.
  • Playing “Wonderful, Merciful Saviour” for church service at 11:00 and for a Sunday School class at 9:30. Only I was late because Muffin had some important conversation in the car as we arrived, and I didn’t want to interrupt, and I knew that the pianist was waiting for me in the fellowship hall, and that the SS class was waiting for me upstairs, and they were—actually sitting and waiting, just for me. How embarrassing and so obvious that I hadn’t tuned well and was rushing to play. Oh well. Better next time.
  • Getting a phone call from Kak just after I played for SS that she was feeling really terrible and asking advice
  • Leaving church to go home and fetch the gifts, originally planned as a trip home to leave my violin in a cool place for the morning, but then learning I would be playing for the church service
  • Cleaning all the glass on two cars in the garage as I waited for Muffin to rescue me
  • Locking myself out of the house when I retrieved the gifts. No problem. Have a spare car key in my purse, which is in the car (keys in the house). Only…the spare key only unlocks the car door and has a chip which will not allow starting the car.
  • Calling Muffin to catch a ride to the house for a rescue so I would not miss the offertory at church, for which I was to be providing music.
  • Waking up in a stupor because our very old telephone with our land line started ringing on its own at 3 a.m. Muffin thought he shut it down. But actually he temporarily discouraged it, then he shut down. I kept hearing screaming noises from 4-8 a.m., but it all mixed with dreams and consequently, I really didn’t sleep. Audio Adrenaline!

Quiet weekend

No weddings, funerals, shopping, out of town trips—didn’t even make it to the gym today. Here’s what we did do:

  • Scoped out puppy pictures online
  • Cleaned the music room, purging old sticker sheets, old festival brochures, old coloring books, old violins. NO! Wait. We love old violins.
  • Read blogs, and more blogs
  • Watched our new 37” Toshiba HDTV
  • Worked in the yard (just Muffin, not I)
  • Watched a rain storm make its way into town and rain on the newly cleaned yard
  • Bought a few groceries, including ice for a 40th birthday party
  • Attended aforementionted birthday party
  • I talked to Nannie while Muffin bought brackets to secure the new TV
  • Made a Mint Chocolate Cake filled and covered in Chocolate Ganache for Nannie’s birthday lunch tomorrow. Recipe in this book (minus the mint and Ganache) if you can find it.

It was a very quiet Saturday for us

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Nannie: Medical update

Today Nannie’s appointment with Dr. Munton was at 4:30, but she wanted to be there at 4:00. I pulled into the drive at 3:58 and she arrived about 4:10. They called her in right at 4:30. He had read her chart before entering the room and asked how she felt today. Answer, “Hurting”. It was 5:20 when we left and she did most of the talking about matters unrelated to health, but it makes her feel better to talk, which I hope this office understands by now. They had clearly had a long, perhaps difficult day, and were very tired, but listened to her until she really got off the subject. Dr. Munton reins her back in very nicely and helps her focus on the subject at hand. I’m so grateful to him for that.

His consensus is that the injections are only giving her short term relief now and are causing more side effects than long term benefits. The spine is such a mess, but from the previous success of the injections they know for sure that it is the L2 nerve that is causing her the most unbearable, burning pain down her right leg. He asked her which surgeons she had seen in town and completed paperwork to send to a new one, faxing records and test results. It may take up to 2 weeks to get the appointment when the Labor Day holiday is factored. The surgeon is Talmadge Trammell, a former violin student of mine, who is a neurosurgeon. Dr. Munton’s theory is that now that he knows the L2 nerve is the pain center, perhaps a disc can be removed that will alleviate the pressure on the nerve and the resulting pain.

This is how Dr. Munton narrowed the options:

  1. No longer having good long term results from injections, plus reacting to the cortisone
  2. Reactions to medications are unsatisfactory and complicated (Lyrica and Cymbalta did not work, causing some side effects. Pain patches unsuccessful and are very powerful medications which require careful withdrawal. Only med that gets results is hydrochodone, which is causing side effects such as loss of appetite, weight loss, sleeplessness. Keep taking the antidepressant.)
  3. Back brace may help by compressing the nerve into a comfortable position. He wrote a prescription for that.

Nannie really balked at the idea of surgery and began to voice many objections. He stopped her and asked first, if she objected to pain and suffering, then asked what she feared most about surgery. She began to cry and told him she feared losing her independence if surgery resulted in paralysis or further injury. He told her those are valid fears, but that her quality of life is pretty low now. He also told her he wished he had a magic pill, injection, or procedure that would take away all the pain and leave her happy, but he does not. I so appreciate his honesty and compassion toward her, and his willingness to continue trying to find a solution. He told her that when her body protests and she can’t move her body to help her get past the pain of missing Daddy, that she needs to use her mind. She cried more and explains that when she hurts really badly she can’t concentrate to crochet or remember what she reads.

Please pray for Dr. Trammell, for Nannie, and for pain free days and nights. She is very tired, and some of her strong will is broken. We’re giving thanks for Dr. Munton tonight.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Did I really see that?

Backtracking to our trip to Washington, DC I will play tour guide for this post. Imagine that you have checked off all the tasks necessary to apply for a tour to the White House.

  1. Contact your congressperson with date of requested tour
  2. Collect full names, birth dates, social security numbers, height, weight, true hair color, well maybe not precisely all of that, but most of it—for each person going on the tour
  3. Receive confirmation of tour about five months later, complete with instructions and confirmation number.
  4. Let reality sink in—there are no bathrooms available to the public tours. You may not take any bags of any kinds, no cameras, no hand held devices, nothing that won’t fit in a pocket, around your neck or waist and come off easily for security scrutiny. You MUST have a photo ID, and you MAY have a cell phone or umbrella.
  5. Arrive at the Visitor’s Center about half an hour early—last chance for a potty.
  6. Walk to the gate and show your confirmation number, with all names of those touring.
  7. Walk to next checkpoint where a guard with a clipboard checks all the information against your ID, which, of course, cannot be in a bag of any kind.
  8. Thinking you are inside, you walk several yards before realizing you are walking the opposite direction from the entrance. In fact you are headed to yet another checkpoint. This is the serious one. It is inside a temporary facility where powerful metal detectors look at any information you may still have on your person, then you step through the detector and “redress” yourself. Now that I think of it, it’s pretty amazing that my credit card and Metro fare card were not demagnetized at that point.

At last! We walk in the direction of the House. Enter the East Wing, and view poster sized photos of the Bush family at the Olympics. Then there are the historic photos of administrations past, drawings, the view of the gardens from the East Wing. Under renovation, presumably for the next resident, the East Room is spectacular, even without it’s draperies and it’s carpet partially rolled back. Oh the history!

Next we see the rooms of color—Red, Green, and Blue. Yes, they are beautifully decorated and much of the credit to their historically accurate design goes to Jacqueline Kennedy (do you remember that elegant voice, guiding us through the televised tour of the renovated White House?) But, my lasting impression of each of those rooms will always be the art. My goodness! The paintings, sculptures, architecture are breathtaking and representative of great artists throughout history, including the 20th century. The Green Room is a virtual gallery, probably more works of art there than in some of the rooms in the American Art Museum.

Walking westward, the dining room holds the famous painting of Abraham Lincoln (The East Room has the famous portrait of George Washington that Dolly Madison saved from the fire when the British burned the White House in 1814.), and the dining room, although large by normal home standards, is still small enough to feel intimate, with say, 20 -24 people seated around the table and the fireplace blazing, snow out the south window toward the Washington Monument. Sigh.

On our way out met one of the guards, who is from Forth Worth, TX, bless his heart. He graduated from GWU and has been in the current job, uniformed White House guard, for four years. Now, that’s public service!

That afternoon Muffin and I walked to the National Gallery of Art for two current exhibits, which I mentioned in another post. The CBS Sunday Morning News did an excellent piece on the Afghanistan exhibit, almost as good as being there. However, as I watched the recording of it, I was still asking myself, “Did I really see that?” And the White House? And the Martin Puryear art? And the moirĂ© silk on the walls in the Green Room? For real? Hard to believe today, here on my sofa in my own living room.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Seeing and Running—Reflections on a two year journey

For most of the last two years I left town only to see my children and grandchildren, and even then, waited until it was almost to the point of necessity—a birth, celebration, graduation, babysitting opportunity or several events combined. They were precious years in the life of our family, the final two years of my Daddy’s well-lived life.

On March 3, 2006 I had a call from pregnant CB that she would be seeing a perinatologist the afternoon of March 9 because Roo was not growing as she should be. The plan was for Kak to fly home for Spring break (she was still in DC in college) on March 10, so the timing was perfect. Except that 45 minutes before I left town on March 9 Nannie called that she was on the way to the ER behind Dubbie, who had fallen down three steps and broken his hip and was sedated, lying on a board in an ambulance. A couple of hours later as I walked out of the ER into the parking lot where I could get better cell reception and speak privately, I got a “call” from Father God, who told me this would be the beginning of the ending. I experienced just about every emotion know to human flesh—fear, shock, despair, grief, longing, joy, sadness, love, hate, anger, loneliness, fatigue, and most of all the questioning.

Two weeks later Daddy was in a rehab wing, doing very well physically. Our relatively small family (four people in town including Kak) was exhausted, having sat with him day and night because of hospital psychosis which caused him to have hallucinations beginning at sundown every evening. His hip was repaired with a plate and screw, his balance was relatively good considering bad knees caused him to fall in the first place, and getting off all pain medication helped considerably with the psychosis. But we all knew that he just wasn’t the same as before. Statistics show that most elderly people do not survive complications of a broken hip. In fact most die within two years following a broken hip.

Daddy left the rehab wing with a walker and home healthcare and Nannie was under a tremendous weight of responsibility. As the only child, I was also feeling the squeeze. I pressed on toward the end of the semester thinking I could handle things so much better after my teaching schedule was relieved, the twins were born in late May or early June, and Daddy was more fully recovered. At that time Kak was back in DC at school, Muffin was working his usually 40 hours in 4 days so he could drive home for weekends on Thursday evening through Monday morning.

The next call from CB was in late March. Baby A was moving well, and growing, but way behind Baby B, Emme. Extreme measures were discussed. Things no parent should have to hear, and decisions no one should be presented. The choice was made to begin a series of cortisone injections, forcing Roo to grow rapidly and expand her lung capacity. CB could go into labor at any minute. The swelling she experienced was unmerciful, yet she taught school. A date was agreed upon, April 27, 2006, for a C section. I ran errands for my parents and did what I could do to help, taught my students, rearranged my recital to be in May from April 29 (scheduled early so I could be available for a May birth), and I prayed for excellent health and amazing strength for Miss Roo and Miss ME-Emme.

Muffin took a couple of days off, we booked a hotel near the hospital down south, and early on April 27 we were present for the birthing—a first for us. (Jbear was almost a year old, but we were in TX and he was born early in AZ. We saw him when he was one week old.) First premature births, first granddaughters, first twins, first babies under 7 pounds ( 2 lb. 8 oz and 3 lb. 5 oz.) first neonatal experience, first NICU vigil, first time to do all of this with my parents’ in such a fragile state. Every week from April 27 through August I was either on the road back and forth, or staying over and meeting Muffin down south, or going back and forth for someone’s doctor appointments, either pediatric or geriatric. Kak moved home for the summer and helped tremendously or none of that would have been humanly possible. Many all night vigils involving baby swings, ipod headphones, Boppy pillows, and Diet Coke ensued. At the end of August when Kak returned to school I rewarded myself with Lasik surgery for surviving. Then Muffin and I flew to Siesta Key for a few days.

The following months are a blur of teaching, travel to hospital/home/play weddings/hospital,etc, and Daddy's deteriorating health. The twins had an awesome birthday party at our house, I ended the year of teaching with a great recital, the symphony season was awesome, Joy and Mike’s wedding was beautiful and celebratory, but Daddy continued to have balance problems and forgot to use his walker to aid him. Nannie insisted that he showed signs of dementia, and although we could tell that he forgot some things, there was no consistent evidence. On June 13 I was teaching some students and received a call from Nannie that she had Dubbie at the doctor and shingles was the diagnosis. Only one day earlier the three of us visited the attorney who updated all legal documents and suggested some changes that would facilitate matters in the event of a medical crisis or death of one of my parents. Four days later, Father’s Day, we were back at the hospital with psychosis and broken bones. The shingles led to complications with the blood sugar, which fluctuated from 40-300 several times in 24 hours and he began to fall in disorientation. He fell five times in two days and sustained a broken pelvis. We would later find that he had several strokes as well. On June 20 he was moved into the nursing home and the roller coaster ride began, ending June 13, 2008.

Two years ago in August I had Lasik, which resulted in 20/15 vision. I can see much more clearly now. God has opened my eyes to His Kingdom in many ways. I see that over the past two years I traveled on the thin edge of the kingdom of this earth and the kingdom of heaven. Many days and nights in hospital rooms and cars and nursing homes and living rooms, late at night or very early in the morning I would sense that the kingdom of heaven had come to earth. Or that they were the same. Or that I, not others, had crossed over from one to another. I could hear the music, and it is beautiful in both places, but in the kingdom of heaven it always glorifies God and celebrates Him. Those kingdoms house a great cloud of witnesses!

Hebrews 12:1

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Happy Birthay, Muffin Dearest

Yesterday was my Muffin's birthday, the number of which shall not be mentioned out of respect for the elderly. He is now as old as I am, however. And we had a fun weekend with the Rowdy Girls, their parents, and the Fabulous Aunt Kaki, our youngest daughter. Work was done on Nannie's house. Food was cooked. Lots of food. Oven fried chicken coated in hatch chile chips and covered in Absolutely Picante sauce. Black beans and Himalayan red rice with Mexican cheese, cilantro, garlic and onion. Oatmeal chocolate chip brownies. Deaux hashbrown quiche. Grilled hamburgers with grilled hatch chiles. Macaroni and cheese with ham. Mac and cheese alone. Fresh green beans. Fresh cantaloupe. Fresh raspberries. Barbecue brisket, smoky flavor. Mashed potatoes. Nannie bread (whole wheat and bran bread of the softest order). And, drum roll please......Two layer chocolate velvet cake filled and covered in chocolate ganache.
The above mentioned cake was the birthday boy's request. He says it is better left over and chilled.

He spent much of the weekend twin wrangling while I cooked, did laundry, and played for a wedding. That's one of the things I love most about him--the way he plays with children. Our girls loved playing with him when they were little and their children are big Grandpa fans as well. He erected a tent and tunnel inside the house because the mosquitoes were pretty bad outside and this is what happened.

One day he went outside with the RG's and wrote words on the sidewalk in chalk. Roo enjoyed shouting out the words and Em enjoyed writing her own words in her own language.
Chalk: $1.00 a bucket. Photos: priceless.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Beth Moore is praying this for the San Antonio meetings:
Eph. 2:21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Excellent prayer! That is the spirit in which we prayed last Saturday in Washington, DC.

In small groups.

In the congregation.

As individuals. May we pray As One, in Jesus' name.

More about The Call

The man on the right is Dr. Nigel Bigpond, whose ministry and prayer at The Call, DC 2008 was very powerful. He prayed for all Native Americans and for repentance for the sins of our nation against them. He broke bondages off the tribes, naming them by name, and praying for each one. After his prayers, other ministers prayed for him, for our nation, for forgiveness.
And then, on his knees before thousands of people on the Mall near the Capitol of the United States, Dr. Bigpond let his hair down and freed it from his braid, signifying that "it is finished". This work is done. Just as the sacrifices in the temple are finished. Just as the shedding of blood to cover sin is finished. Just as Jesus finished His work.

It is a moment I will not forget.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Travels with Marmee; or What I did last Week

Immediately after arriving four hours later than our original flight was scheduled, we checked into our amazing hotel in Pentagon City, the Marriott Residence Inn. Love this hotel.

It is family friendly, has a delicious hearty breakfast included in the price, and the rooms have a beautiful view of the Air Force Memorial. Many military families choose this hotel and it just simply makes you proud that these wonderful people are defending our nation.

In the absence of lunch, Muffin and I downed a Cliff bar and met our church friends in the lobby, walked to the Metro station and bought fare cards for the duration of our stay. Our group rode to Gallery Place and spent two hours at the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum in its recently renovated building. Fabulous! There is a portrait of a mother and child there that I always return to see. Love the stained glass windows on display. Got lost and amused in the Folk Art section.

Completely enjoyed the O’Keefes and Hoppers, too. Here is an artist rendition of the Lincoln Inaugural Ball, a lovely exhibit that is currently showing.

The museum stays open late in the summer and we were famished by 7 p.m. Joybear met us at Jaleo’s, where we ordered tapas and shared with one another, laughing and talking about health care and the elderly, Joy’s job. Take a virtual tour here. We ate delicious flatbread with tomatoes, fish, and herbs. Spinach with raisins and nuts. Spanish tortilla with eggs and potatoes and herbs. Skewered chicken, cooked to perfection. Chorizo and little beans. And perfectly rounded chocolate mousse with Spanish coffee for dessert. Go. Eat at Jaleo’s by Gallery Place, in Crystal City, or in Bethesda, MD.

Excuse me, I'm making myself very hungry.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Small town Marmee in Big City

Our last big trip/fling/get-away for the summer has been a combination trip to Washington, DC for The Call DC and a visit with our Joybear and Mike.

Saturday, August 16 was an amazing day of prayer and fasting for our nation and specifically for its Capitol. Only one day before, our group (Muffin and me, Pastor David and wifey and her mom, Precious Peggy, friends Eddie and Marisa) visited this lovely home where my favorite piece of furniture is the 1938 Roosevelt Steinway piano. Sadly (for me) I was not invited to play it.

After visiting the White House, touring the rooms open to guests and perusing the halls with historic photographs and the latests photo shots of President and Mrs. Bush at the Olympics--opening ceremonies, high fives with athletes, hugs with medalists, profile shots with daughter Barbara, we walked past Lafayette Park (What a debt of gratitude we Americans owe that fabulous Frenchman!) to the Old Ebbit Grill for lunch.

We personally recommend the crab cakes and the summer vegetable plate serve with polenta. Yum!

Following lunch most of the group walked to the Reagan Building and viewed and photographed the chunk of the Berlin Wall. If you are my age or older you vividly remember President Reagan's speech with the famous exhortation, " Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"

Muffin and I left the group at that time and strolled over to the National Gallery of Art to view a couple of current exhibits. Special exhibits do not allow photography, so it is illegal for me to show you what I saw. However if you check you can get photos, podcasts, virtual tours of the Afghanistan treasures and the Martin Puryear exhibit. I was so blown away by the gold, the history, the fact that the treasures just survived, that I'm still slapping myself as a reality check on the Afghanistan exhibit. May I just insert a "WOW!". And M. Puryear is a genius with wood, fiber, and other natural materials. A Genius, I tell you. And I never, ever lie about a genius. Reserve a flight to DC, take the Metro to Federal Triangle and walk straight to the National Gallery right now. You will not regret it.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Tuesday Trouble

All began well. View this, and this. Made me smile. Two siestas came over for our final Bible study of the summer. We studied, prayed, and ate well, avoiding the Three Dreaded H’s of summer. But I had an outstanding internet order with guaranteed delivery today and the tracking indicated delivery at any moment. I waited. I ran errands and got a lovely pedicure. I made schedules, phone calls, wrote policy and calendars for the studio. I watched a recorded episode of Burn Notice, eliminating all commercials. I nursed a headache. No delivery. I work more on the schedule as the evening wore on. No delivery. I took leftover goodies to Nannie and great books for her to read if she cannot sleep, which has been too often since Dubbie died.

On the way out the driveway the garage door bounced up, which it sometimes does, but this time it would not stay down. On the way home I called Muffin who gave me instructions on using the ladder and a screwdriver to make adjustments, except it didn’t work. About 5 trips up and down the ladder, many turns of the screw and many lift/lower bounces later, a terrible clattering noise occurred and no movement at all on the next trial lift/lower. So, down the ladder, and a trial to manually lower the door and SNAP! The chain broke. So, with many errands to run and a trip planned I will be manually operating the garage door until, oh, say 10 days from now, when we can get parts replaced. This is not the sort of uplifting experience for which I pray. Oh, and while the door was halfway up/down and I was gone for 45 minutes delivering goodies, UPS delivered. The scan indicated it was out for delivery at 6:30 a.m. and the delivery was about 8:30 p.m., but still within the 3 day limit, so Yea. I think I’m experiencing two of the three dreaded H’s now—hungry and hormonal, so be warned to BOB! Back Off Buddy!

Sunday, August 10, 2008

That your joy may be made full

The RG’s love sandbox time with Aunt Kaki and bubbles tickling their tummies.

We danced.

We went out for breakfast (ending in a melt down for the girls and carry out boxes for the adults).

And, speaking of Aunt Kaki, she and RG’s Mommy, CB, are visiting Gracie, Jbear and family. (Marmee is jealous!)

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Another Loss

Buddy was JB and CB’s first “child”. I really knew that JB loved CB when they bought Buddy at a pet store before they were married. JB kept him at the house where he lived with too many roommates. CB smuggled him into her rent house on occasions when JB was working long hours, holding down three jobs as a student. Buddy was half Aussie and half chow, with a perpetual growl that expressed all his feelings of love and anger and everything inbetween. He looked much like crumbled Oreos in a glass of milk that had sprouted lots of thick fur and had two shiny button eyes. His cute furry head was often tilted to one side, with a puzzled look on his face, as if he was saying “What’s it all about, Alfie?”

Buddy and his litter mates all had parvo virus, or distemper, or some dreadful and potentially fatal disease. At least the pet store paid for the veterinarian bills for Buddy, for as college students JB and CB would not have been able to afford the expense of the treatment. We prayed lots and CB cried lots and in the end, he had some seizures, along with plenty of I.V.’s and survived with some serious blood sugar problems and brain damage. Not too long after that, he randomly jumped out of a car window and broke his leg. More prayer, and a great recovery. Then he was the victim of a roommate who stepped on his head. He almost did not survive that. Lots of tears and lots of prayer and many more treatments at enormous expense later, he became the Buddy we knew and loved. Although he wasn’t the brightest bulb on the Christmas tree, he was the family dog that all kids gravitated toward—just plain cute and irresistible. He would growl his pleasure or displeasure, finally learned to use the pet doors at his home and at ours, and never, never, got past his extreme terror of veterinary offices.

Buddy was famous for the “lean”. He didn’t exactly have the coordination and stamina to run, but he would trot toward us in greeting and “lean” into my leg and growl his hellos. If I scratched his behind, he would “lean” into me and turn around a few times. He claimed our Mama Sheltie’s old bed in the sewing room downstairs after her death a year and a half ago, and would curl up and sleep there at night, leaving the stairway to the younger dogs. Scooter would always be a great host canine and give up his evening in our bedroom to spend the night with Buddy in the sewing room. I always wondered if they talked about us after the lights went out at night.

Scooter and his family miss you, Buddy. I’m so thankful that you didn’t have to make that last trip to the vet’s office, but that you died quietly with your family at home. I’m glad I was there and saw that you didn’t suffer, but chose to just quit eating and leave silently. You were a great little Buddy. See you at the Rainbow Bridge.

Just this side of heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Congratulations, Joshua Allen!

So You Think You Can Dance is over once again, boo hoo. I’m so excited that Joshua won it, mainly because he is a Texan and went to a public school. Good things come from Texas public schools! Actually, I could have just watched the Top 20 dance all summer, regardless of the contest, but the prize money and perks always rev up the entertainment factors. The finale shows this week were amazing. I’ve never danced. Never taken a class. Barely learned enough to participate in school dances. But, I’m a musician and a teacher and I know a great opportunity artistically when I see it.

The learning opportunities with SYTYCD are endless. Each week the dancers get the equivalent of a live master class, and by the way, it’s televised. They spend 5 hours with these amazing, famous choreographers, stretching themselves brain, body, and spirit, then perform for the public and a television audience. Afterward, the “critique” is live and in color, in front of a mere 10 million people or so. The critique is in the form of judging, but these judges make some very constructive comments. I personally think it’s too bad that the public votes, but that’s how they keep viewers. That tends to make a person thick-skinned or they get out of the arts, one or the other. Each week the choreography is more challenging, the routines more demanding and more numerous. As the competition shrinks in number, it increases in demand—pressure, new types of dances, physical fatigue.

But in the arts, that’s real life. On one show, Nigel Lithgowe, the producer and judge, commented that "it was tough this year. And too bad, because that’s a dancer’s life—tough. And the audience doesn’t really care. It’s never printed in the program that the dancers, choreographers, producers had a week of illness, or difficulty, and the audience wouldn’t care anyway. They want to see a peak performance. " Or something like that.

He speaks the truth. In over 40 years of performing, I’ve played concerts, rehearsals, and recitals characterized by trouble—illness (played with 102 fever and flu at one performance; eyes almost wouldn’t blink), injury (pinched nerves in neck or back, wearing a Tens to block pain from severely injured wrists, knee in immobilizer and walking onstage with crutches), pain (migraine, the aforementioned wrists, surgery only days before a performance, childbirth one week before a rehearsal and performance series, etc. etc.). And difficulty: well that’s a category in itself. Twice I played with guest artists who never rehearsed with the orchestra due to missed flights or inclement weather. We rehearsed with the director, who then rehearsed with the artist, and we prayed and watched without looking at the music, almost. The audience never knew.

The only excuse ever publicized to the audience was absolutely the worst concert of my life. Our orchestra is in a small town and we were then known as a “pick up” orchestra, playing with only a small core of local musicians and “picking up” players from other cities who drove in on Thursday evenings for 2 ½ days of rehearsal before a Saturday concert. It was in the winter and we had some bad weather, but not terrible. Three fine players, all graduate students on visas from other nations, were hit head on by a driver on the wrong side of the interstate. They died instantly on the way to rehearsal. One of them had a brother in another car and he saw it all. It was halfway into rehearsal when we learned the truth about why they were missing (one was a section leader), and that ended the rehearsal. The following three rehearsals were almost useless. The only thing we performed well was the Faure “Pavane”, which was done as a memorial to them. We cried silently as we played. I still cannot perform the Pavane, or even hear it, without profound sadness, and it was almost ten years ago. But, the point is that the orchestra performed. We performed the Saturday following September 11, 2001—without our conductor,at that time, because all planes were grounded and he lived in New York. A local conductor stepped in, picked up the slack and we helped several thousand audience members forget about the tragedy of five days earlier for just a few hours.

SYTYCD is more than a TV show. It is a life lesson for 20 dancers, and all other artists who care to learn from watching.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008


I’m not the only one getting older. My microwave broke last night. It isn’t terminally broken, just blew a fuse, but it stopped in the middle of brewing tea. It’s so hot (over 100 most every day) that I dislike using the oven just for warming. I’m not crazy about warming 6 bites of food in individual pans on the range, either, so cold food will do til Muffin fixes a fuse.

My serger is now 20 years old too. Twenty years since my Pickle died. I bought the serger as sort of a memorial to her. She taught me lots of handwork and loved to see the things I sewed for the girls when they were little. Kak was only three when she died, but remembers her. When I was about three, I was in a bad mood at her house one day and she called me a Sour Puss. I replied that she was a Sour Pickle. The name stuck, but was abbreviated. Of her 14 grandchildren I was the only one who called her Pickle. As an adult I cross stitched and embroidered pickles on various items—book covers and pillows among them. All of those came back to me after she died. I guess these memories are tickling my brain tonight because I have been sewing for a couple of days and the serger is generally sewing well, but is terribly outdated and much more difficult to use than the newer ones.

Scooter is eleven now. His mother, Muzzy, died when she was 12, or just a few days before that. I still think of Scooter as a puppy. Muzzy’s first litter of Shelties was on May 1, 1996. One day later, I went on a Walk to Emmaus. Two days later was the high school prom. I essentially deserted my daughters on prom night at their insistence. I had no idea how much they loved me to allow me to spend such a frivolous weekend full of love poured out by the Body of Christ. It seems like yesterday that Scooter was a little puppy, Muzzy was a new mom, Boo was graduating, Joy was going off to cheerleading camp, and CB and JB were getting married, but all of those events were between eleven and twelve years ago. Scooter is on meds for arthritis and liver function and that breaks my heart.

Our house is the second newest house on our block. Muffin designed it on the computer-in 1986. We moved into it in 1988. All manner of gadgets and attachments are in need of replacement or repair. Muffin replaced most of the fence not long ago. The living room carpet, which seems dirty all the time, is the “new” one. It’s six years old.

I find comfort in knowing that things aren’t really made to last. Relationships are. God calls Himself the I AM. He IS, WAS, and ever SHALL BE. As I learned so aptly and is forever implanted in my brain in 7th grade English: am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been, have, has, had, do, does, did, shall, will, should, would, may, might, must, can, could. Yep, that pretty well covers God—in English, as least. He is timeless.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Taking a powder

Boo blogged about Jbear and his exploding baby powder this morning. Funny thing is that about 35 years ago, Muffin and I babysat with our pastor’s three boys for four days and three nights, and a similar incident occurred. The oldest of the boys, R, had lots of physical issues and at age nine, attended a special school and was just out of diapers. Breaking up his routine by introducing two people who had no children as his caretakers was really a big adjustment for him. He would tap me on the forehead and say “Where’s Mommy?” Repeatedly. Just hurt my heart. The two younger boys were two and three. They were full of it. Twenty four hours a day.

We had strict instructions to help them maintain a routine and I stayed home with them all day to be there to meet the bus when R came home from his school. B and S would wake in the pitch darkness before 6 a.m. Winter in Northern California is dark—daylight is from about 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. One of them would bang on the pillow when my head was enjoying sleep and say “I awake!” Muffin and I would roll ourselves out of bed, get him off to work, get breakfast for the boys, get R off to school, and then…let the games begin! No kidding. At two and three they were into everything. Even with me watching them.

The night we hosted Bible study at the house (planned by the pastor and wife so we would be able to stay there and get the boys to bed) we kept hearing them when they were supposed to be asleep. One of us would go it, explain that they must quiet down and go to sleep. B and S shared a room that was closest to the living room. I’m sure we were too noisy for them, and they tried to settle down. But, curiosity got the best of them and the last time we checked on them someone had emptied an entire container of baby powder into their beds and on the floor. They were wearing fuzzy red PJ’s before the “incident” and afterward, we just improvised. The entire room was a white cloud of powder. It was hard to breathe in there, so we stripped the beds, enlisted the airmen and wives from the Bible study to help, vacuumed, put things though the dryer so the lint catcher would filter out the powder, and nearly ruined the vacuum cleaner making the room safe for them to sleep. R slept though the whole incident. Needless to say, we stupidly asked “Who did this?” and S pointed to a small “puddle” on the carpet and said “R did that!” We all laughed hilariously about it for hours afterward. I think 2-3 year old boys are fascinated with baby powder. Thank you God, for my four girls.

Late night poems

I love my Muffin
Love my dog
Love my kidlings
Love my blog.

I'm Sore
Losing weight is such a tussle.
Fat is uglier than muscle.
Just don't eat what is a treat,
Mostly veggies, fruit and meat.

Wish we had an HDTV,
Plasma fifty inch LCD,
Searching sites, comparing info
Makes the formerly sane go loco.

Studio Schedule
Twenty four hours in a day
Twelve to teach, work out, and pray
Four to practice, study, plan,
Cook, read email, run and scan,
Two for phone calls, house upkeep,
Can I live with six to sleep?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Not my favorite day, Monday...Nannie update

Muffin drives back to his apartment and work 200 miles away, working hard for four days so he can return for a long weekend. The house is quiet and Scooter the Sheltie and I are disoriented for awhile. Coffee helps.

The phone rings more often on Monday. Why is that? All sorts of organizations think I must hear their recordings on Monday. And brides call or email on Monday, panicky that their wedding plans have slipped my mind or my calendar. Not so. I hired the quartet to play for the weddings long ago.

Yesterday was a family reunion—the first since Daddy died. It was a hard day for Nannie. We couldn’t stay with her very long, but at least when the minutes were read that last year was the first year he had ever missed a reunion, we were with her. And all those food choices were good for her. She said she ate well, so perhaps the 40 or more pounds she lost will begin to return now. She dropped in this morning with my leftover Key Lime Pound Cake, some Sugar Queen Cantaloupe, and Eggplant Dressing. Yum! Since she doesn’t have a computer I showed her the latest blog posts from the Rowdy Girls and Cheesemyhead. Got a little smile and chuckle from her. She was awake early to help the relatives get away. They wanted to drive back to the coast early today to get ahead of Tropical Storm Edouard, which is scheduled to strengthen and make landfall right over their towns. It is currently strengthening and 263 miles ESE of Galveston. Bummer for them, but perhaps rain for us! Rain would make steam of our 103 degree temps.

About one hour after leaving the family reunion I was here. Our quartet was invited to provide music for the new class of the pharmacy school at Texas Tech. It’s the second class for this branch and the White Coat Ceremony is very dignified and interesting with many speakers providing history and advice to the new students before presenting them with the White Coat and leading all pharmacists and the new class in the oath of their profession. Then we play as they recess, meet family and friends and professors for a reception, taking lots of photos. Since we are in the balcony of this lovely restored theater we never really know when it “over”. We just play until it’s very dark and we can’t hear anyone anymore, then run downstairs to see if there is anyone left who isn’t part of the packing crew. Our total time at the venue is about three hours, from set up to break down. (No, not a fiddle breakdown. I said it was very dignified!) We are honored to be invited to play.

Favorite part of Monday: Acts 29:1, which is the name of our Emmaus reunion group. Love those sisters! They are the most faithful prayer warriors ever, and the silliest sisters outside of my four daughters.

Next favorite: Monday night Body Flow. But I’m still sore from my workout on Saturday. Drat! Perils of age, I guess.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Pain, Grain, Ibuprofen train

August 1, 2008

Ugghhh! Perils of age and inactivity! Praise the Lord and pass the ibuprofen! The praise is that I accomplished three Body Flow classes this week, along with some cardio workout and resistance training. More praise for excellent teachers in the classes. Still more praise for working the total body rather than just the legs or the flexibility, since the new release of Body Flow made me sore from my toes to the backs of my arms and everywhere in between. I am confident that the two weeks we spend doing this release will make me stronger and longer, as promised in the advertising.

Popping the ibuprofen before class began would have been smarter than taking it afterward. The old bones are screaming from so many extensions with legs crossed and in triangle pose. The abdominal track is grueling—squeezing heels together, pulsing arms with head raised off the floor, and even the stretching at the ends, well, stretches. Even the young women in the class mentioned their sore muscles as a result of last night’s class.

The worst pain from gain is in my lower back, however, and after doing two months of therapy for a slipped disc, this was probably a bad idea. I actually stopped participating in that track both last night and today. It is a well known fact, (well, I know it well.) that Grandmothers and Marmees should not participate in activities which send us to therapy. We buy too much ibuprofen as a direct result of injury and therapy, cause everybody knows that therapy is more painful than the original surgery or injury. We also must have more frequent appointments with stylists and manicurist/pedicurists as a result of therapy. All that repetitive movement in water simply destroys the nail polish and hair styles.

I called to get an appointment for a hair cut and learned that my stylist is out with a broken wrist, two chipped teeth, and lacerations. These are a result of a bicycle accident, due to a malfunction with the bicycle. She’s a new Grandmother. I told you so! Don’t participate in that which results in physical therapy! Just don’t do it. I’ll pop the pills before BF class tomorrow—get ahead of the pain-gain train.