Monday, September 29, 2008

Must be Autumn

Top 10 reasons I know it is Autumn:
10. Apples are getting cheaper at the market
9. Roses and other flowers are blooming again in Texas
8. Butterflies are growing more numerous as they migrate through Texas on their way to Mexico
7. Early mornings are cooler
6. I got my flu shot last Saturday
5. Ragweed is blooming and making everyone sneeze and sniffle
4. Football--on TV, radio, intramural fields--is all around me
3. My favorite fruits--blueberries, apricots, and nectarines--are no longer available or not as sweet as they were in spring and summer
2. Musically, all organizations are preparing for Christmas. We rehearse through the Fall so the sounds of Christmas will be sweeter.
1. It's that week again! Five concerts and six rehearsals for student concerts and classical performance on Saturday night.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

What a Week!

Sunday, September 21 the W's arrived from AZ/Lubbock about 3 p.m. and Kaki, CB and twins arrived around 4:45. JB had no vacation days and stayed behind, thinking he would be home all week. (He had to fly to WV Wednesday). Muffin took a day of personal family sickness to compensate for having Nannie in the hospital Thursday and Friday til 3 p.m. I taught every one of my 30+ students. It was crazy and loud, and funny and tiring.

On Monday the girls and Jonah went to Nannie’s house and she came over here as well. There was much screaming, giggling, dancing, playing sand castles, and saying “no” to Jonah. Gracie was adorable and spent time in the music room with me while Muffin played with Jonah outdoors. The movies that I ordered didn’t arrive until Wednesday, but we had DVR’d some of their favorite shows. Roo ran about spelling and Em covered her eyes when it was all too much for her, then arrived in the music room and "performed" by signing the alphabet.

Tuesday the girls took the children to the Zoo while I taught from 10:45 til 7 p.m. They tried to wear them out, and they did take long naps, waking late in the afternoon to take photos on the porch and make short visits to the music room to see me. Gracie kicked and smiled at the students and parents from the floor or from the sling that Boo “wore” her in. At 7:15 that evening CB, Kaki and twins left for home because Kak had to work the following morning. Roo had fallen asleep while drinking her smoothie, sitting in Nannie’s lap, and snored loudly with her blanket on her head until CB woke her to take her upstairs about 1 p.m. that day. Arriving in her pea pod (sleeping tent), she convinced herself that she had already had a nap, and tried to wake darling Em for an hour and a half. So, their trip home was wild—Em trying to go to sleep, Roo snatching blankets and shrieking, both of them being cute and spelling and talking and singing, both of them watching DVd’s intermittently. They finally slept 45 minutes and 20 minutes from the house.

Wednesday Boo, Gracie, Jonah and I stayed in to keep things a bit quieter. I did not attend Bible study and loved my morning with Jonah and Gracie and having coffee or "coppee”, as Jonah titles it, with Boo. Gracie let me bathe her 2-3 nights and just laughed and kicked water all over the bathroom. She did her first real belly laugh at our house! I think she gained a pound and grew 2 inches too. The headbands, bows and beanie hat with gerbera daisy arrived on Tuesday and Roo was so proud of her “hat”—a crocheted elastic headband with a peony with Swarowski crystal in the center. She also tried to make my red Theraband her “hat”. Em kept her bow in her hair for quite awhile. Gracie looks quite fabulous in her accessories. We want to teach her early that the “only thing that separates us from the animals is our ability to accessorize.”

Thursday we took Jonah to Fort Imagination at 9:45 and he played like a wild banshee until 11:30. There were 4 boys, ages 2-4 there beginning around 10:30 and they played so hard and ran for so long that you could actually smell them. One of the 4 year olds took his pants and underpants off and tried to go down a slide on his sweaty, bare behind. He finally made some incoherent noise and Boo and I suggested to his mom that he might want his pants back—she hadn’t even noticed. Jonah was grubby and worn out and had 4 cups of water, but he was starving. We fed him a quesadilla, which he can pronounce very well, and 2 more cups of juice, then found him drinking part of Boo’s Dr. Pepper. He was so tired, but kept having to go potty. Later that afternoon, he went to sleep and Boo and Gracie went to visit an old friend and her new baby while I listened to my concert music for next weekend and Jonah snoozed hard. Not too long after he woke, Grandpa was home from his work week. Although Jonah had begun to sorely test Boo and any rules she made, he changed into a different boy when Grandpa came in the door. Later than evening after some sand castles and dinner, and stories and Gracie cuddle time and some DVD time, he told Monte “Grandpa, you’re my best friend”. Muffin will live on that one for a long, long time.

Michael drove in from the DFW area and entertaining clients for 2 days, as well as seeing his sister for a few hours, and that got Jonah really revved up. Plus, he sneaked part of Michael’s 44 ounce Dr. Pepper and once again had to stay up to go potty about 70 times. After he went to sleep Muffin and I got some Gracie time and it was so, so sweet. I spent most of the late afternoon cooking—2 hash brown quiches (Melissa Moore), a chocolate sheath cake (Pioneer Woman Cooks), and as per request of my darling Becky, 4 dozen Snickerdoodles.

On Friday morning it was time for our precious daughter, son, and grands to return to AZ, this time by way of El Paso and Las Cruses. They arrived at 4:00 CDT today. It will be Thanksgiving, God willing, when we see them again and Gracie will be four months old. Jonah will be taller, more verbal, singing more songs, remembering far more details, and as God gives grace, will have grown even more in His favor and richer in wisdom. May we all grow in those paths.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

They're Here!

Am I in heaven, or what? Three of the daughters, one of the sons, and ALL of the GRANDS are at my house. And Muffin is taking a day off to catch up from the days (and nights) we stayed awake with Nannie in the hospital. Yea!

So I've been having a nice conversation with Gracie and teaching her how to do a Beauty Queen wave, because she is definitely destined to be a BQ. We had some time with the "taggie" ball, kicking and listening to the chime inside it. She has a great two month old giggle and chatter.

Spent some quality time giving Big Boy Jonah a bath and singing "Five Little Ducks" while he splashed and I poured water on him. He took a walk to the lake with his Daddy, played in the sand box with Grandpa--who is a really fun guy, and played with Aunt Kaki. Then he danced with Roo, even though she negotiated to quit--"Bye bye" "Night Night, Jonah". Em was loving "Baby Signing Times", which I recorded specially for her, and she let me hold her and read part of her ABC book. Speaking of ABC's, Roo spelled "Happy", sang the Sesame Street "A, OK" song, while Em signs parts of it. All three of them love to sing! Jonah sings all his pre-school songs and Em and Roo fill in the blanks.

It makes my music-teacher-heart very happy.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Two long days

Last February, I was diagnosed with a slipped disc in my lower back and three herniated discs in my neck. After lots of therapy and lots of prayer, the discomfort is mostly under control and frequently absent all together. However, after a weekend of rehearsals, a week of teaching and practicing, and another three days of teaching, I decided Wednesday evening to take one, not two, muscle relaxers after lying in bed for 45 minutes and not finding a comfortable position. The drug did its stuff and I was sleeping like a baby, planning to do so until late Thursday morning, the first day I had the chance to sleep a little later and not be at an early event.

One hour after I took the muscle relaxer, the phone rang. I don't remember much, but found myself sitting up in the bed, trying to find the source of the music (ring tone is set to Vivaldi) and had the light turned on. I intercepted the call during the message phase and it was a friend of my Mom's, who had driven Mom to the ER. She told me that she had severe stomach cramps and they were already in the exam room, seeing a doctor and an IV was inserted with something for pain. I remember saying that I was afraid to drive at that moment and would be there as soon as I could. After about 45 minutes (normally a 10-15 minute trip) I arrived in a sorry mental state to find Mother groaning in pain with a great nurse who informed me that the IV had pain killer, anti nausea, GI cocktail, and saline. Mother's friend left when the blood work labs returned and nothing showed up.

After forcing her to drink dye for a CT scan, which revealed a badly distended bladder and led to testing for a urinary tract infection, she was catheterized and in about 2 minutes 1600 cc's of urine flowed freely, which the nurse and the doctor thought would eliminate the pain. It didn't. She was released with a prescription for an antibiotic and orders to follow up with Dr. Will, given one Levaquin, and after 5 hours we came to my house. She slept for two hours, woke hurting again, and the pain was worse this time. I tried to call Dr. Will off and on for 2 hours, reaching the answering service too many times and leaving too many messages. I could not leave her alone long enough to get the medication at the pharmacy.

At 11:30 a.m. Dr. Will's office asked to have her admitted to the hospital and managed to reserve a room. We were at the hospital 20 minutes after receiving the call, but the admissions office was backed up terribly and working short handed. An hour and a half later, while waiting in the car with a simple grain bag I had heated in the microwave at my house, the pain stopped. Then admissions called my cell phone to say they were ready for her.

It was 9:30 p.m. when I finally left the hospital to come home. My almost-brother, GW, was with Mother for hours and stayed with her while I taught a group lesson without my violin. The labs, scans, and tests showed nothing unusual and she was given a ham sandwich to eat at about 7 p.m. , which she tolerated very well. Nothing unusual happened this morning after she ate breakfast, which was delivered very late. Lunch was on time, but she wasn't hungry yet. Dr. Will visited after 1 p.m. and she was released, which took over 2 hours to accomplish.

Late today at her home, Mother received a call from her friend who drove her to the ER. The friend's daughter commented that the pain Mother experienced seemed much like hers when she had a blockage due to adhesions. It was a light bulb moment. Mother had very serious surgery removing 18 inches of colon six months following a ruptured appendix about 23 years ago. She also had a complicated removal of her gall bladder resulting in an 18 inch incision, and that was 12 years ago. We never thought about adhesions. I don't intend to think about them much--just pray that they dissolve and break down.

About 30 minutes after driving Mother to her house, Muffin and I were overwhelmed with fatigue. That two hour nap was the best medicine dispersed in two days.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hope after Ike

Harvest Moon seen last night

Our weather, since Hurricane Ike passed, has been absolutely beautiful with mild, intensely sunny days and nights that are quite cool. The moon was ginormous last night--just lit the room after the lights were turned out, with a lovely orange, then silvery glow. Uncharacteristically for Texas, there is very little wind. But, I'm noticing some odd things for September. The mosquitoes are thick and very attracted to me. The hummingbirds are already gone. There are hundreds of butterflies of varieties which are unfamiliar to me. And on a recent trip we saw many small white birds in fields--perhaps coastal birds. I suppose that a hurricane of that size totally disturbs natural elements for months afterward.

My aunt and cousins returned to the Houston area today and found their houses intact, and unharmed, but very stinky with rotten food. There is no electrical power and very little gasoline in most of the towns. No promises of power soon. Viewing news reports and video footage of the Gulf coast areas, I know that we have much for which to thank God. Many, many people will be cleaning and searching and rebuilding for a very long time.

May the gracious and loving Father God bless, protect and provide for everyone who is in need, who has unanswered questions, and may all of us trust Him for our future, which is always full of hope in Him. The moon is reflected light of the sun and has no ability to produce light of itself. May I reflect the light of the Son of God as well.


Happy Birthday (yesterday) to the incomparable JB, father of the Rowdy Girls, and our First Son-in-love! When we first heard your name, it rolled off the lips of CB with love, although she tried to be subtle. We knew she was smitten.

You were both 19, just before your 20th birthday. Just a few months later you were at our house, and we knew you were a keeper when you hit it off with Kak right away. Not to mention Boo and Joy. The icing on the birthday cake was final approval of Nana and Papaw, who saw you often, and Nannie and Dubbie who have always loved you.

Thank you for being a wonderful husband to CB, for spoiling her, and letting her think she's the boss lady.

Thanks for being a great Daddy to Em and Roo--we knew you were smitten with them about 1 minute after their births.

Thanks for being a fabulous brother, brother in law, uncle and son in law with a servant's heart and hands, a perpetual sense of humor,

and an endless capacity for assisting in moving the McGirls into and out of dorms, apartments, and storage facilities. God bless you with many more healthy and gloriously happy birthdays in His watchful care and love. We love you!

Sunday, September 14, 2008


I played lots of notes this week. (I missed quite a few, too) The Symphony No. 2 by Dvorak is a very powerful piece of music, a composition which, in all my years (48 in orchestra) I have never performed until tonight. Compositions like this are why we practice scales and arpeggios. Problem with this music is that it doesn’t lay well under the fingers of the left hand, even after practicing it for hours. We were all hacking at the same passages over and over backstage and it still felt like a panic attack when we saw them coming at us in the performance. The audience loved it, however, so we must have done enough of it well to be pleasing to the ears.

As much as I love playing symphonic music, I’m having doubts about how long I will be able to play first violin parts. All the reaching for high notes and the shifting to high positions is aggravating my joints—especially the right hand, wrist, shoulder and both shoulder blades. I was feeling my age this afternoon after the 4 hours of rehearsal, morning and afternoon. I hit the sack with a hot pack on the shoulder, after spraying it with pain killer and taking more Advil. Muffin dragged me out of bed, cooked an omelet and poured a big Diet Coke to lure me into getting dressed and out the door.

Our first item of performance was the Bolero, by Ravel. Our conductor had “choreographed” the orchestra so that only a few musicians were on stage to begin—led by the snare drummer. Gradually, we added soloists and sections until shortly after the trombone solo, all personnel were onstage and playing. It was very effective in showcasing the soloists and drawing attention to each of them. We followed along backstage in the darkness on an orchestral score on a music stand with a light. Following the Ravel, we performed with a famous saxophonist, Dr. Eugene Rousseau, who played an incredibly difficult concerto by Tomasi. I can’t believe I heard such beautiful tone and interpretation, fully memorized.

I enjoy each week of teaching my students, and I always enjoy providing music for weddings, receptions, and other special events. But, symphonic music is what inspires me. The music of Beethoven, the sound of the orchestra, is what drew me as a very young child, to study violin. It is the overtures to opera, the driving rhythms of 20th century music, the dissonances that resolve to rich harmonies, the subtle timbres of rich symphonic works which drew me to choose to major in violin, rather than piano, which I began to study when I was four years old.

One of these days I will need to retire from playing with the orchestra and I will miss that fabulous sound, the experience of playing from the center of the sound on stage in a violin section and knowing that the audience is hearing it full on—impossible to experience any other way that LIVE in a concert hall.

But I will not miss the joint pain, the adrenaline drop-out, the soreness the following morning (moving into several days as I age), and the moments of terror, wondering if I have practiced enough to truly perform my best. Even the youngsters were complaining of aches and pains tonight. It was truly vindicating!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Age and Experience

This is my banner this week. So far I have dropped a jug of water I picked up by the unreliable handle. I knew that about the handle--just did it anyway. And I forgot to close off the doggie door after a rainstorm, even though we had just cleaned the carpets. I stayed up very late last night hand-cleaning off the mud. Then, there was the DVRecording I tried to drop to a DVD, although I should have known that the recording was bad, because I was there when the TV went to green screen because the local station lost its feed. One DVD wasted.

Yesterday I picked up a flower pot off the front porch so I could plant some recently rooted basil in it. It only had potting soil in it. Brought it inside, planted the rooted plants, poured a bit of water over it, and started outside with it. When I realized all the water was running straight through the drainage hole, I remembered why the plants originally planted in it wouldn't live. Plus I had to clean the tile where all the water leaked. I shoulda known better!

Tonight, tomorrow, and the next day I'll be reminded again and again that making mistakes is a way of life, until my fingers thoroughly learn all the notes and bowings for the Saturday night concert. Discipline. Wisdom. Practice. Knowledge. oops. Discipline. Pracitce, knowledge, wisdom. Oops. Discipline......

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Same Kind of Different as Me

Tonight I was greatly privileged to hear the authors of this book speak to incoming Abilene Christian University freshmen and other guests. About a year and a half ago I read their book and promptly bought two copies, which I still circulate to willing readers. I thought I could not be touched more deeply than when I read Ron and Denver’s book originally, but hearing them speak almost broke my heart with love.

Ron’s main message is that most of us want to make ourselves feel better when we help a homeless person. We do one thing—give money, or food, or donate clothing—and expect that to make a difference. But real love keeps giving until the homeless person is different, changed, improved, headed in a different direction to a different lifestyle.

Denver’s primary message is about Jesus. Jesus changed his life and showed him how to love and receive love. He still prefers to be introduced as “nobody who will tell anybody who will listen about the Somebody who changed me”. His heart cries out to preach the gospel. He reminded the audience that the only thing we own is what we give away.

Denver is an artist represented by a Dallas gallery now. He gives his earnings to Debbie’s Chapel.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

First Date

Thirty-nine years ago tonight, Muffin and I had our first date. We met on the dorm lawn as I was moving in for my sophomore year at dear old Texas Tech. He was with two friends, one with whom I was supposed to have had a blind date. The blind date fell through, but he came to meet me just before he left town to return to Navy duty, bringing two of his childhood friends along. Enter Muffin, one of said friends. Half an hour after they left, Muffin called to ask me out. “Which one are you?” is what I was thinking. But I accepted and we agreed to go to a university dance the following weekend. The big band playing for the dance was, this is very painful to remember, Strawberry Alarm Clock. You must Google that one to believe it. Anyway, he remembers every little detail of the night and I confess that I do not. I was in my do-not-try-to get-near-to-me-I-have-been-greatly-wounded-by-a-guy mode for about, oh, three years.

We had a lovely time, and I do remember feeling safe with him and that the dance was really, really loud in the coliseum, so we mostly talked outside while walking around. We agreed to go out again, but he broke that date. So, before you form an opinion of that, I’ll say that he was sick. Sick and contagious. Contagious with the chicken pox. Yep. At age 19 he caught them from his then three year old sister, missed a week of the semester that cost him a grade point in one class, and broke our second date. I confess that I laughed quite a lot when I got off the phone, then got a blind date with someone who was a friend of someone, who lived on my hall, who I don’t remember—neither name nor face.

But, Muffin never forgets this date. September 7, 1969. He swears he was McSmitten. I just want to keep him that way for, oh, about another 50 years.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Alphabet Opera

Muffin and I traveled south today, down highways blocked by construction, cattle, and tractors outside little towns. The fields are green (Thank you, God, for the recent abundant rains.). The sunflowers, cows, horses and goats are very happy. It was a pleasant 3 ½ hours in the car visiting and listening to podcasts. When we arrived we had called ahead to let CB know that we were nearby so we wouldn’t startle anyone. Opening the front door we heard two little voices from the kitchen table singing the alphabet, counting to 10, and finally saying, “Grandpa, Marmee!” Very sweet sounds.

We played house, took photos, danced, watched Baby Signing Times, read books, made tents, ran and played on the slide and in the sand box outside, found a bunny rabbit in the yard, and ended the evening as we started the afternoon, with an Alphabet Opera, and of course, prayer. Best two year old sopranos in Texas! And I’m not biased in any way whatsoever.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Change in the Wind

Tonight there is a change in the wind. Yesterday the wind came from the East and was hot. Today it was from the South and was warmer still. Tonight we have a North wind and tomorrow the forecast is for gusts up to 40 mph and coolish temperatures--low 80's. In Texas this time of year we call that a cold front.

Today is Nannie's 87th birthday. I called her this morning and she had already had a visitor. By tonight just before 9 p.m. she had a steady stream of calls and visits with gifts, complete with flowers, offers for free lunches, and a massage. She also decided that she wasn't feeling so poorly after all the exercise last night and will meet me at the gym in the morning for the senior class. Like I said, there is a change in the wind.


Monday, September 1, 2008

Foiled Again

Age has its perks—senior discounts (not old enough yet), respect and reverence (waiting on that one, too), wisdom (put my order in a long time ago). But today was not one which offered the perks.

Felt every bone in the body early on today, probably because it’s been 3 days since I worked out. Would do that tomorrow but I begin teaching for the fall semester and that will be for 8 hours and 45 minutes, with a short break for lunch.

Age is not in my favor with Nannie. She had agreed to meet me at the gym and consider my advice to spend one, two, or three days a week with the trainers who teach Active Living for seniors. However today she overdid her time on the stationary bicycle at her home and has now decided that she will not try anything new that might cause her to hurt.

Scratch that idea. It was primarily to help her get involved with new people in a new place where she had not built an album of memories with Daddy. But, no deal now. It may hurt.

However, the day was not lost. Upstairs is ready for the next visit. Muffin made the yard look fabulous. Reunion group was great, with lots of good prayer taking place. The Cheesemyhead family is coming to visit later this month. Most of what I need is in place in the studio for tomorrow’s first Fall lessons. Downstairs carpets are cleaned with foil still under the table legs. Foiled again in more ways than one.