Monday, September 23, 2013

A Time For Everything

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time to war, and a time for peace. 
-Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

This is the time of year that change seems everywhere. The beginning of a new school year; church activities begin anew; meetings which were idled during the summer are held again. The warmth of summer lingers, and yet there is a chill to the breeze, even in sunshine.

Earlier this month, there seemed to be a swirl of news, both personal and public and both good and bad, that all seemed to be happening at once. I finished editing my book, and sent it to a friend to critique (three years' work, moving forward); A friend of a friend suffered a miscarriage; a coworker's daughter, diagnosed with cancer two years ago, went to the doctor and found her scans were clear; war/not war/diplomatic confusion regarding Syria; my mother had surgery (she's doing well, for those of you who wonder); CJ and I continue to wait for the safe arrival of Nephew #3; Miley Cyrus and the seemingly never-ending downward scraping of the barrel that is our popular culture; and the expected, but still sad death of an old friend from Ohio - she really was old, in human years - 105.

Change is coming.

We don't always know, or are prepared for it, when it does come. Sometimes it is welcome and sometimes it is resented with such ferocity, more damage is done than if the person (or group, etc.) had simply moved with it, as with a tide. This is not to say that all change is good. But overall, as human beings living in a fallen world, we must accept that change will happen.

"A window down the street flew open.
'We've surrendered!"
The procession in the street stopped short. Each told his neighbor what we had all heard for ourselves. A boy of maybe fifteen turned to us with tears rolling down his cheeks. 'I would have fought! I wouldn't ever have given up!' Father stooped down to pick up a small bruised petal from the brick pavement; tenderly he inserted it in his buttonhole.
'That is good, my son,' he told the youngster. 'For Holland's battle has just begun.'"
-The Hiding Place, page 64

May the changes of this world neither overwhelm you nor slip by you unnoticed.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Music Monday - This One's For Aunt Becky!

And for the rest of our church choir, that is. We're singing a John Rutter piece next month so this song has been on my mind.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Music Monday

For those of you who watched the Video Music Awards last night, a palate cleanser. I'd rather hear Edith singing any day over Miley.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Miss this blog post? Are you kidding?

CJ and I have had an eventful few weeks - a memorable trip to a minor league game on the Glorious Fourth; a road trip to North Carolina to visit my family; celebrating our youngest niece's first birthday (We love you, little lady A! Missing you, your smile and your enjoyment of the cupcake terribly...); CJ teaching us all a game that ended with my brother Bud being The Head Honcho-no, The Big Cheese-no, that's my brother-in-law, sorry- oh wait! He's....THE GREAT DELMUTI!!; enjoying time with our nephews P and S and watching them grow more loveable (they were good MOST of the time :)); our other niece C "talking", singing and melting our hearts with her smile and breaking our eardrums with her shrieks (sorry, Sis, I couldn't resist...she's adorable but you have to admit your little girl has BIG lungs :)); visiting with Mom and Dad on the upper porch of their new, beautiful home, and just enjoying much needed time off. (Me mostly. CJ will begin school meetings next week.)

Just blogging about the family makes me miss them. :(

Last Thursday, it wasn't fun. And it definitely wasn't relaxing. CJ's car died while he was driving home from the local grocery store. He called me at work, I drove over there to jump his car, and...well, my husband was hot (it was extremely hot that day) and impatient to get home so he could make lunch, and crossed the wires when he was connecting the cables from my car to his. I started my car, and smoke and sparks erupted. I immediately turned off the car, and the real fun began. We watched the smoking-hot plastic melt onto the pavement and over one of my headlights. It was so hot it actually burned through the cover over my headlight. It looked like a dragon eye - red and black around it, with a gash through the middle.

Long story short (too late), we called AAA, the guy came and towed away both of our cars, and CJ used language that sounded remarkably similar to when my dad spilled paint onto brand-new carpet.

I really could not be mad at him. We got my car back Friday afternoon, none the worse for wear. We're still waiting on the verdict for his car. We're hoping for an acquittal.

To make the weekend much better, we met M, the newest daughter of our good friends, on Sunday. She was born July 13th (A's birthday!) and is settling into life with her mom, dad, and big sister J. No doubt she will have many adventures come her way in the years ahead. She looks a lot like her sister. It will be fun to watch the two of them grow up. :)

Speaking of watching children grow up, a boy was born today. Whereas M has the whole world to choose from in terms of what she wants to be, this young man has no choice. Unless his country decides monarchy is outdated, or he dies before his father (God forbid), he will be King of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Duke of Cornwall, etc., etc. etc. For now, until his name is known, he is HRH Prince of Cambridge. The whole world will watch him grow up. I hope he gets the space to grow, and learn.

The title of this post is a reference to two posts I wrote back in 2011 for the wedding of Baby Cambridge's parents. Although British royalty fascinates me, "all of the romance in the world, can't make up for the lack", as Marilla would say, of love. The love of family and friends.

Here's a song (it is, after all, a Monday) for the young folks. Take it away, Mr. Armstrong:

Monday, July 1, 2013

Music Monday - Mournful Friend at Gettysburg

Whether General Armistead actual said any of this is doubtful. What is true is that it was agony for him to face his old, dear friend Hancock at Gettysburg.

I could blog about this movie and the book where it came from, The Killer Angels, for weeks. Today is the 150th anniversary of the first day of the battle.

Here is a rendition of a true favorite tune from those days, "Kathleen Mavourneen".

Rest in peace, Richard Anderson, who played Armistead, and rest in peace to the boys in blue and gray. They all rest together as brothers and friends.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Music Monday - "Have you ever been to Indiana?..."

If a criss-crossing the state innumerable times in the car counts, then yes. But the lyrics to this song makes me think I had my eyes closed.

This country is so big, and has more places to visit than an average person could hope to see in a lifetime. Sometimes after I've been away somewhere, someplace more "exotic" (California, which has more temperate weather) or "foreign" (anyplace outside the borders), coming home to the "boring ol' Midwest just seems so...bleh.

Way back in the olden days (2000), my family took a weekend vacation to Cincinnati. We went to a water park, went on a dinner cruise on the Ohio River, saw a baseball game (the Cardinals weren't playing, so the quality was lower), and went to President Taft's house. We also saw the movie The Patriot. During the scene when Lord Cornwallis is telling Colonel Tavington about all the land he could get, a map is shown on the table. The Colonel looks at it, then says "Tell me about...Ohio."

What I remember is the entire audience in the theater roared with laughter. Including us.

Ha ha! Boring old Ohio (or the Midwest), with its wonderful allergies and mundane suburbia! Who would ever WANT to live here?! Ha ha ha!!

No one said this out loud, of course. But the gist is what we all were thinking. Why else would we laugh?

This is not to say that everyone in that theater hated Ohio, or the Midwest, and would argue against anyone moving there. I think it was more of a general "grass is greener" mentality, and the influence of our culture at large. Really - how often in popular culture is the midsection of this country portrayed in an inherently positive light? Rather, it is the cities, those cosmopolitan beacons, that are held up as the standard of living an "experienced" life. It leaves the assumption that to live in the vast swaths of map is somehow to be confined to a narrow, provincial existence.

I now live with my wonderful husband in a large (suburban) college town, close to a city. Culture and experience, as our general culture describe it, is at our fingertips. And yet, and yet, when I hear the plaintive voice of a country singer asking if I've "been to Indiana", I remember to thank God for this place where we live.

And it makes me want to take a ride.

Monday, June 3, 2013

You should see some of the trees on our street.

After the weekend we had, it doesn't feel like Monday. A bad storm roared through on Friday night and knocked out the power from around 8:30 until 6:30 pm...Sunday. To put it mildly, we are happy to have our electronic devices charged again. And for not showering in the dark. And for our next-door neighbors having no use for their generator.

And I'm watching the Cardinals while I blog, so yes, I'm happy right now. :)

This is not on our street, but it is in our town. No one was hurt, thankfully.


Monday, May 6, 2013

For Phrygians, Because They Get Left Out.

The name of the song is "Beneath A Phrygian Sky". I like to listen to it on an endless loop when I'm working on my book. It was an unintentional muse.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Sometimes it isn't just about having a bad week. It's just....blah. Last Thursday, the sky opened up and we had more rain in one day than Noah's forty days. CJ continued in his war of attrition with his class. I continued in my war with procrastination, and lost, and won, and lost.

I've had a sense recently that I'm not doing what I should be doing. The difference between this feeling now and three years ago (the last time it came) is that 1) I'm happily married; 2) I'm working with a group of people I genuinely like; and 3) I've finished the first draft of my book and am currently rewriting and editing. So to make a long story short (too late), on paper I am much further away from being in frustrating situations, and hopefully that much closer to the time in which I will be doing what I should be doing.

But I'm not there yet. And that little word "yet" makes me impatient. It is in human nature to want good things to happen NOW.

But sometimes the impatience is negated by cold reality.

Yesterday, I met T. She's a new coworker, and will be working in my department. She has two young daughters. One is four and the other is two years old.

T was so matter of fact, telling me and my other coworkers about her kids, that there was no question of dramatics, or exaggeration.

Her younger daughter was born six weeks early, only hours after her older daughter was diagnosed.

T and her family are waiting for 2017. That year, God willing, her daughter will be declared cancer free.

A blah week, a rainy day, frustration over a status in limbo does not matter.

Many people have had much worse days.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Music Monday - Skyfall

I was going to post this song today anyway, and the events in Boston seem to echo the lyrics to a certain extent. "Let the sky fall" indeed. We don't know what is coming tomorrow, or the day after that, or the day following after. Let us remember in these days the oft-cited and misquoted British phrase: "Keep calm and carry on."

May the victims rest in peace, and the wounded find comfort.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Fridays, Furniture, and Stan

It's a quiet Friday evening here at our home. CJ is doing his thing (relaxing by watching several videos simultaneously on his TWO computer screens). It's been a long week for him. Last week was spring break at his school, and his students came back this, crazy.

It's been a hard year for my husband. He got one of "those" classes. Everything he knew about teaching for the previous decade went out the window with all the kids at his new school, and this particular sixth grade class. It's a difficult thing for him to go into work every day and not know if he's making any difference. We both pray for his students. Pray for them, will you? They need our prayers.

We did nothing last week on break. It was fantastic. The only work we did was a long-awaited change. We moved our bedroom into the old office, and the office into the old bedroom. Our new bedroom is much smaller and more cramped. However. It still has the bed, tremendously heavy dresser, and side tables in it - with room to move around!

I did not believe that the furniture would work in the new bedroom. But after we had crammed all the moving furniture into our already-small living room, CJ gave me a Look when I expressed skepticism. He said, "Trust me. This will work."

And ya know what? It did. The new office looks good too. CJ's big desk in one corner, the BIG beanbag chair next to it in the other (great for reading or even catching a nap), and my new desk under the window opposite the door. We'll be cleaning it up more tomorrow. Lots of laundry still on the floor. Oh well...

What have I been up to this evening? Nothing much. I worked on my book for awhile after Skyping with Mom this afternoon. I was in a zone until CJ got home. (Mom, I was five minutes off. He walked in at 4:25. When I told him I was expecting him between 4:30-4:45, he gave me that grin and said, "Do you want me to drive around the block for five minutes and come back?" I said no. :))

We went out to dinner, which has become our Friday evening ritual. We came back home, he relaxed in the office, and I've been watching the Cardinals game ever since. Shelby Miller!! Cardinals pitcher, retired his last 17 batters.

But the night belongs to the greatest Cardinal player ever, Stanley Frank Musial. He went home to his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in January this year. And he got to see his wife, Lil again. They were married for nearly 72 years. Yes. That is not a typo - they were married in 1940, and Lil passed away in 2012.

At the game tonight, there were lots of events honoring Stan. One of my favorites was when the crowd got up for the seventh inning stretch - during the sixth inning. Stan's number was #6. He was also a harmonica player. The crowd at Busch was given harmonicas. So during "Take Me Out To The Ballgame", thousands of fans attempted to play the song on their harmonicas. I'm sure Stan and Lil enjoyed that. :)

So that's our Friday. A good end to a long week.

Here's to you, Stan the Man. Aaaaaand....that's a Cardinals win! 2-0. Two runs and...six hits. :)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Because we got about half a foot of it yesterday. Spring? I think not!

It isn't Christmas, but today is the Annunciation, or in Latin, Annuntiatio nativitatis Christi. A blessed Holy Week to you all!


Monday, March 18, 2013

"...You and I will meet again..."

I was thinking of this blog post most of the afternoon (in between concentrating at work). This week's post was going to be something light, something akin to last week's video. (Hint: Gene Kelly!)

Then I checked my phone.

No, someone hadn't tried to call with dire news. My mom had sent a text. Since I talked to her this morning, I assumed it would be about our conversation. I was wrong. Instead, she had sent a picture of a group of people - her parents, her mother's parents, and her mother's brother, sister, and their spouses.

It was like looking through a window into the past.

Little details jumped out - how my grandma and her brother had similar eyebrows, while the two sisters' smiles mirrored each other; how my great-grandmother smiled despite her left eye being permanently shut (from everything Mom has told me, the eye shut after her youngest child was born and it never reopened - not that it daunted her!); my great-grandfather smiled despite also looking surprised.

How my grandfather was not looking at the photographer, but at the ground. I've seen few pictures of him, and  many that I have seen, he's not looking at the camera. Like he'd rather not be photographed.

Both my husband and my mother-in-law dislike having their picture taken. Not everyone can look natural on camera. Like my grandmother, whose bright smile shines through the picture into the 21st century.
Exactly like I remember her. :)  In a sweet touch, my grandfather's hand is barely seen, tucked around his wife's waist.

All of this made me think of one song - a sad one, but a comforting one as well. The lyrics come from J. R. R. Tolkien's book, The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed on into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.

-Ballantine, 1983, p. 347

Monday, March 4, 2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

For My Dad, Of Course

Dad's birthday was yesterday. He taught me about the mercy of God, about salvation found only in Christ our Savior.
He taught me never to shake the liter of pop before it's opened.
He taught me to read, and read classic stories and poems out loud before bedtime.
He taught me what NOT to say when fresh paint is spilled on new carpet.
He taught me how to drive.
He taught the value of timing in humor. "King Tut" comes to mind. :)
He taught me the love of history.
I love you, Dad!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Music Monday

A favorite of mine. My church choir is singing the Hallelujah Chorus for Easter this year and I'm so "exciting"!!!!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Little Bits of Joy

Sometimes it's the small things that get me through long, bleak, dull days.

-Like the beautiful day yesterday. I love walking to work - no I don't love my job, but I like living close enough to be able to walk. Plus, walking back after lunch means the kids at St. Boniface are at recess outside. Hearing and watching kids play always brings a smile. As does the sight of the middle-grade girls clumped in a circle. They're practicing for when they get older, but they don't know that. :)

-Jamie, my two-and-a-half year old friend at church. I was late a couple of weeks ago getting to Bible Class. (For once I did not go to early service, and was thus late to BC.) I came in the door, sat down next to our seminarian, and was taking off my coat when I saw someone gesturing to me out of the corner of my eye. It was Jamie, beaming ear to ear and waving across the table at me. She is a delight! And yes, I waved back.

-My coworker's daughter called in a state of high excitement. She is almost guaranteed to get into a good law school in the area with significant financial aid. Good for her!

-CJ's smile when he's happy.

-Eating chocolate ice cream for dessert today - because, because...why not?

-Pictures of my cute nephews - the elder, busy at learning chess (CHESS, I tell you!), the younger, with his beloved monster trucks and sweet smile. The elder niece with her mouthful of teeth, and the younger niece, busy conquering the technological world at the age of six months, and coolly surveying the beach in South Carolina. Did I say that A is six months old? Yes, she's already cooler than me. They are all awesome kids, and they are terribly missed. Keep sending pictures, please!

-Hearing my mom's voice. Because she's one of a kind, and, well, she's my mother. What can be said? She is marvelous.

Monday, January 21, 2013

"I've never had a song that affected me like that one I didn't want to hear it again..."

This is a rather long post, and it tells a sad story. Also, the song below caused BR to cry. As in, tears running down her face. So ye be forewarned.


Where does a story begin? Where does it come from? Every Harry Potter that comes along can be traced back to an earlier story. Isn't it always a young person on a journey of self-discovery, with his or her destiny to bring down the evil of the world - like Katniss Everdeen or Luke Skywalker or innumerable heroes of fairy tales who rescued princesses and slayed dragons? Back and back and back.

All stories, even fairy tales, come from somewhere. Sometimes the stories that we thought were just that - stories - may have come from something true. A famous line spoken in the film The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring is: "History became legend. Legend became myth." This does not just happen in fantasy fiction.

A man, two of his sons, and their dog go for a walk in the woods. It is an unseasonably warm day - perhaps the father thinks they will return before the forecasted storm comes? Perhaps he thinks only that it is a nice day, and his boys love to go hiking in the woods.

The worst happens. The temperature drops dramatically. Heavy, chilling cold rain begins falling. The sky is dark gray, and in the lengthening afternoon, there is no hope of any sun. The light the father carries with him goes dark. Calling for help is futile. The rain continues to pour down.

The next day, the father is found dead. The boys are alive, but only just. They die a short time later. Only the dog survives. It is assumed by those who found them that they missed the path back home in the dark and the rain.

It is January 2013, in the middle of America.

Eastern Kentucky, 1989

They crowd close to each other on the carpeted floor. Their father sits before them, his voice low, mysterious.

"...And the three children were seen wandering in the woods, in the direction of the haunted house." He pauses, watching their faces. If they are too frightened, he will finish with something silly to make them laugh. But not tonight. They are watching him, tense with anticipation. His twins, eyes huge, lean closer. His little boy rocks back and forth, waiting for the end of the story. He finishes.
"No one ever saw them again."


"Daddy, can you sing the song again? The one about the babes in the woods?"
She likes hearing him sing. Something in his quiet tenor voice soothes her, even when the song is sad. Like the song his grandmother - her great-grandmother - taught him.

"I'll tell you a story, of a long time ago
There were two little babes, their names I don't know
They went strolling away, on a bright summer's day
Got lost in the woods, I heard people say
Well, they sighed and they cried
And they bitterly cried
And the two little babes, they laid down and died
And when they were dead, a robin so red
Took strawberry leaves and over them spread
He sang them a song the whole summer long
Poor babes in the woods, poor babes in the woods." *

Where do stories come from? An old song, that seems to come from legend, may seem to have no foundation on which to stand. Except every old song based on a story has to come from somewhere. Right? There is probably little, if any connection, between an old family song and a provincial legend in Pennsylvania.

The song written by Julie Lee and John Pennell, "Jacob's Dream" is so hauntingly brought to life that the first time I listened to it, I agreed with Alison Krauss. I didn't want to hear it again. That I heard it  the same week David, Dominic and Grant Decareaux died only made its impact hurt worse. The thought of the same thing happening to my nephews was agony. Before Dominic and Grant, there were George and Joseph Cox. All lost babes in the woods.

What brought me back to the song was some of the lyrics, in particular one during the refrain. The children are crying for their parents, promising if they are found, that they will behave. "We promise not to stray again from our cabin door." It sounded eerily familiar.

"In the beginning..." Of course, it is where all stories come from. Some are heartbreaking. We don't want to hear them because we can't imagine the pain others are going through. We don't want to imagine what WE would do if children dear to us were lost in the woods. But perhaps we don't want to hear the sad story because in our heart of hearts, we know that we are the ones lost, trying to find the way home.

* These are the words that I remember. If any one of my relatives (Dad in particular) wants to chime in and correct me in the comments, please do. Oh, and Alison Krauss is a living legend and is Awesome.


Monday, January 14, 2013

Music Monday - A Family Tradition

Happy New Year, all!

CJ and I spent most of the week of Christmas in...very, very rainy California. My father-in-law kept saying "It's not usually like this!" and "If it keeps raining like this, you won't want to come back in December."

Meanwhile, we read innumerable books. CJ poked around on their laptop and I made friends with the cat while sitting in front of the gas fireplace. So, exactly like a Midwestern Christmas. Without the snow. Plenty of fog, though. That's the Bay area for you!

The cat was an inadvertent friend, I'll admit. I petted him once when he approached, and he kept coming back. Apparently he doesn't get much attention, so the first person to do so...I'm a sucker.

CJ's sister from New York (Twin #2) was in town, so we got to catch up with her a good deal. She's job-hunting, like so many are these days. Unlike some, she has a job offer. Whether or not she'll take it is the family gossip. Included in the gossip is her twin sister, who has a job and lives in California. The gossip on Twin #1 is when she'll get engaged. She and her boyfriend have been an item for about four years now. The sisters' 30th birthday is coming up in a month, so we'll see.

The day after Christmas (Boxing Day, to you Anglophiles), CJ's youngest sister and I went to a nail salon and got pedicures. It was my first time, and I enjoyed it. The color of my toes is now a dark wine color. I really picked the color because it matched my shirt that day. When I need to take the polish off, I'll call my sister. She's the expert on such things. :)

The trip to the salon is a tradition in CJ's family. His grandmother (Nana, for those that know) likes to give her granddaughters gift cards each year. She very sweetly included me.

What were some of the other traditions? Christmas Eve night at Nana and Bob's, then late church. Christmas morning at the house with just Mom and Dad L, the sisters, CJ and me to open presents. Then off to Grandma B (mom's mom)'s for brunch and opening more presents (but mostly watching the youngest cousins go crazy over theirs). Then home for a short break, then over to CJ's aunt (his dad's sister) and uncle's house for Christmas dinner. Oh. My. Goodnessgraciousdinnerwasdivine. Randy is an EXCELLENT cook. And because this is California, all these comings and goings involved a good amount of wine. And mimosa for breakfast, and etc.,etc., etc.

My favorite family tradition, though came on the way home from Christmas Eve service. CJ made a joke that he stayed in the Midwest partially out of embarrassment. My FIL agreed, and told me that he (CJ) used to hunch down in the car when they were leaving church. One of the girls had an old CD that a friend had made years ago. The sisters belted, and I mean BELTED out the song three or four times on the way home. Sissy, they reminded me of the two of us. I would have sung louder, only I don't know the words to the song, only to the chorus.

Whatever you strive for this year, give it your all. Belt it out! Sing it, or dance it, or paint it, or write it!