More Summer Fun

May 25, 2010

Day two brought kayaking, a boat ride, tubing and a trip to Sonic!

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School’s Out – Time for Fun!

May 24, 2010

One kid is out of school, the other still has four days. So I grabbed the one kid and his friend and headed to visit my folks for a few days of R&R for me and hopefully fun for them.

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Not again …

January 18, 2010

 Everyone is wise until he speaks. ~ Irish Proverb

I have been been, as many have been, heartbroken for the country of Haiti since this horrible earthquake.  I have seen the disturbing images on television, I have received word via Facebook and other internet posts regarding Americans from the relief agency UMCOR (United Methodist Committee on Relief) who lost their lives, plus the reports of the thousands of killed and missing … it is almost overwhelming. And then, it happened.

Now, I am a Christian and my current work is with the United Methodist Church in music ministry. I went to school — seminary — to prepare and to get a grasp on my own beliefs. And as I’ve grown older I find that my beliefs are ever-evolving. To quote the cliche, “it’s a journey, not a destination.” Along the way, there have been those who challenged my beliefs and made me pause to ponder — and for them I am grateful. Because of these challenges, I had to wrestle and come to grips with the realities of life and the world. Very little is black and white. The varying shades of gray for why people are who they are and do what they do are evident. And as I grow older and continue pondering my faith and beliefs, I find that I am horrified at some of the things I used to hold so true. Again, I am grateful for the journey.

To the point. Pat Robertson. 700 Club. I have never been a fan of the theology of Pat Robertson. However, I do believe that God can handle all of our points of view (limited as they may be), so I never gave him much thought. Right Reverend Robertson has had much to say about a myriad of topics through the years: the role of women in marriage, feminism, gay days at DisneyWorld, liberals (see http://politicalhumor.about.com/od/funnyquotes/a/patrobertson.htm). But his comments about the earthquake in Haiti sent me over the top, and I just can’t keep quiet.

How in the world can a person who considers themself to be a spokesperson for God say that basically this country, these people, brought this horrible calamity upon themselves because of a “pact with the devil”??  It upsets me so much that I can hardly speak. And you know the point that upsets me the most is that many people believe he speaks on behalf of Christians. I can assure you, this man does NOT speak for me, nor many of those who call themselves Christians. The best response to this inane postulation I can find that articulates how I feel was from Jim Walls (author of God’s Politics):

I also want to say a word about God and evil. Pat Robertson said that Haiti’s earthquake was caused because of the country’s “pact with the devil.” I don’t even know what he means, nor do I care. But I want to say this: My God does not cause evil. God is not a vengeful and retributive being, waiting to strike us down; instead, God is in the very midst of this tragedy, suffering with those who are suffering. When evil strikes, it’s easy to ask, where is God? The answer is simple: God is suffering with those who are suffering.

I was very happy when our Associate Pastor spoke boldly yesterday saying that we do not ascribe to Pat Robertson’s assumptions on this situation. And I am heartened by the efforts of our entire country — government to private individuals to children — who are rallying to help this poor country that needs to know they are not alone and abandoned. St. Augustine said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” I think Pat Robertson should follow these sage words and shut up.

Private School vs. Public School Music Education

January 15, 2010

Music may achieve the highest of all mission: she may be a bond between nations, races, and states, who are strangers in many ways; she may unite what is disunited and bring peace to what is hostile.  ~ Dr. Max Bendiner

But can music bridge the chasm of snobbery between private uppity schools and poor ‘ole public schools?  My friend had a post on her blog that got my blood boiling … on several accounts.  Her very talented teenager auditioned for All-State Band this weekend.  To get to this point, you have to audition and qualify for District Honor Band, and based on your audition score, you may qualify for All State.  I know several young people who auditioned this weekend for All State, three of whom honored me by playing in the orchestra for my Christmas concert. They are incredibly talented and dedicated to their art.  You have to be quite accomplished at a young age to qualify, and if you make All State … that’s a whole new realm.

The other part to this is that Honor Band and All State Band is sponsored by the Georgia Music Educators Association, and these teachers volunteer their time to organize these opportunities for these young people. The majority of educators involved teach or have taught in the public school system.

So here’s the rub. As she and her son were waiting, a man with the name of a private denomination-affiliated school name across his shirt (that’s a whole ‘nother post) made a jerk of himself. (The following is a quote from her blog) … a few folks were asking questions about timing and this guy leans in with a knowing sneer and says, “What do you expect — it’s Georgia public schools!”  I can’t even begin to describe the thoughts I have for this type of attitude. But, I will say WHAT A JERK!!!!  My friend did not publicly respond to the man, and that was probably mature — but I think it bothered her that she didn’t.  She wanted to say (another quote from her blog)  “Thank goodness for Georgia public schools. They employ the music educators whose volunteer association has organized this day for the hardest working student musicians from all over the state to come together and compete for one top band. The ones who make it will get the fabulous experience of playing for an entire weekend with their peers, with great instructors. You should drop to your knees right now and give praise and thanks for the opportunity your kid is getting, for nothing but the price of the gas it took you to get here.

I have some good friends who are music teachers in public schools, and I stand in awe. They have such commitment to not only educating children/teenagers in fine, good music technique, theory, etc., they show such creativity and passion that many of these students  grab inspiration and begin to truly love music. These teachers mentor and train children/teenagers to practice and improve and grow in their knowledge and skill, so that their talent blossoms and music becomes a life-long enjoyment, whether listening or participating. Some even take it to the next level and make music their vocation.

The thing is, these teachers choose to teach in the public school system because of their passion and commitment to sharing their expertise with as many kids as they can. They work against unbelievable odds — budget shortfalls, non-support from administration and parents (sometimes), not to mention crazy school calendars — to weave an incredible amount of music education into the lives of the kids. And while there are concerts and performances, many of these programs are not performance-driven as a first priority. They teach the fundamentals of music, then allow the kids to make music — for themselves first. It’s an amazing process.

Now, I’m sure there are really great teachers in private school settings that offer amazing opportunities for kids, too. But the idea that private is better than public really rubs me the wrong way. Get over it guy! And as my friend said, ” drop to your knees right now and give praise and thanks for the opportunity your kid is getting.”

Amateurs

December 29, 2009

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer. It sings because it has a song.” Maya Angelou

I work with a bunch of amateurs … and I love it!  “Amateur”, from the original latin word amātor, means  “lover, devoted friend, devotee, enthusiastic pursuer of an objective.”  In my work world, it is music that evokes the love and enthusiastic pursuit.

Another definition of “amateur” is “a person who engages in an art, for example, as a pastime rather than as a profession”.  With the exception of my wonderful staff and an occasional guest musician or instrumentalist, the people with whom I am privileged to work are not paid for their services.  They sing or play for the love of singing or playing. And I have the amazing privilege and daunting responsibility of standing before them, guiding and shaping their pursuit of music into something for which they receive joy and fulfillment. In return, I gain joy and fulfillment. It’s a great gig! And I’m really looking forward to a New Year of it all!

Somebody needs to sing a Christmas carol …

December 24, 2009

The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear. ~ Buddy the Elf

So, it was Christmas Eve eve (or Adam, as someone told me, because Adam came before Eve).  Anyway, the day before Christmas Eve and I ventured to the grocery story. And we all know what the grocery store is like the week before Christmas — no parking spaces, no carts, etc., etc. Well, today was no exception, so I decided to just park where I could find a spot quickly (really far away) and make mood joyful. So I smiled and spoke to people all along my walk to the store.

Once inside, it was obvious that people were grumpy, which could have adversely affected my self-imposed joyful mood. But, I was determined. I wanted to feel Christmasy, and that’s joyful and charitable. So I continued smiling. And then I heard it. The sound system playing Christmas songs — really pretty good Christmas songs, not like the repeats you hear on the radio. And that made me smile more! As I walked along, I caught myself singing along — not too loud, but enough to embarrass my kids had they been with me. And it really did lighten my mood. I didn’t mind the grumpy goats and their “I’m-gonna-push-through-this-aisle-come-hell-or-high-water” attitudes. I helped several vertically challenged people reach things from the top shelf. But the best was being in the chip aisle, perusing the selections, singing “The Christmas Song” (you know, “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire …”) quietly but audibly, and then hearing the lady next to me start singing, too.  THAT made me smile even bigger.

So, Buddy the Elf had some great wisdom. When the stress and chaos of the season get to you or those around you, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing out loud and clear.  Merry Christmas, friends!

Creature Comforts

November 11, 2009
I haven’t posted anything since August … and it’s now November. Where did 1/4 of the year go?  Lately, it has been a difficult time. In an earlier post, I wrote about my dear friend Mary Anne. Mary Anne passed away one week before Halloween. We had been celebrating Trunk or Treat at the church and had begun packing up when we got the call. Two things:  (1) Mary Anne LOVED Halloween and LOVED Trunk or Treat. Fitting that she chose that time to leave. (2) As we were driving home, my youngest son reminded me how very gray and gloomy the sky had been all day. However, as we drove home, the clouds were parting, glimmers of blue sky and sunshine began peeking out. He attributed it to MA going to heaven. I had to smile.

Additionally, Jeff has had to travel more over the past few months. Those who know me well know that the whole single-parenting thing sends me into a tailspin. I feel like a duck — looking all calm, cool and easily skimming the water while just below the surface, where no one can see, kicking and paddling as fast as he can to stay afloat.  So on those weeks that Jeff is gone, please forgive me if I bite your head off. I will bake you a cheesecake to make up for it.

Now to the topic. Through all of these crazy, stressful times, I usually turn to reading and music as my comfort place. But in the insanely early hours of the morning when I’m awake, our cat Shadow has proven to be my familiar. Always he’s waiting for me outside the door. Then he disappears. And then I find him in the most unexpected places — in a bag, in my purse, lounging on the computer. When I get my first cup of coffee and sit to begin my day, he interrupts by nudging his way onto my lap, making sure I pet him properly, turns on the purring, then decides he’s had enough and is off to begin his day. I just have to smile. And that’s a great way to start the day.

ATT00015

Shadow in a bag.

Coexist … peacefully

August 23, 2009
     My friend Rev. John Thornburg just returned from a trip to Turkey. On his Facebook page, John wrote: “Back from a great adventure; two weeks in Turkey, hosted by a Turkish Muslim organization that promotes interfaith dialogue. What an amazing country!”
     I’ve been to Turkey, and absolutely loved it. It was 1995, and I was on a choir tour with West End United Methodist Church in Nashville. That trip covered Bulgaria, Turkey and Greece, with a final stopover in Vienna.  While I loved the entire trip, Turkey was a particular favorite. Istanbul was clean, the people all over were wonderfully hospitable. I was awed by the antiquity and beauty of the mosques and the country.
     Someone asked John if there was anything he learned on his trip and he replied:  “That the great majority of Muslims are eager for the same thing that the great majority of Christians are eager for; health and wholeness, justice and peace. We both have our radicals, but we mustn’t allow their voices to predominate.”

Mary Anne

August 13, 2009

“You can look at disease as a form of disharmony. And there’s no organ system in the body that’s not affected by sound and music and vibration.” Mitchell Gaynor, M.D., Sounds of Healing

I have a dear friend who is dealing with disharmony in her body. Not a tone cluster, disonant chord, or even a “pitchy” issue. My friend has cancer — ugly, invasive, aggressive, life-limiting cancer. She is dying. Disharmony. But in and around the disharmony, my friend is weaving an alternate harmony that is so entrancingly beautiful, she is touching and changing lives around her. She is stretching so far oustide herself, she has actually changed a small part of the world in a big way.

When Mary Anne received the initial diagnosis of cancer, she did not EVER retreat into herself. She continues facing it head-on with a determination you only see portrayed in movies and a faith that not only moves mountains, but oceans and stars, too.

I was privileged to have lunch with Mary Anne yesterday, and it was a delight! Four of us gathered at a restaurant and talked, and laughed, and shared, and laughed, and talked and laughed. It was great. And I cherish this time.

Another dear friend has described Mary Anne as “teaching all of us how to die.” Which just goes to show that even with disharmony, beautiful, soul-stirring harmonies can emerge.

Wait! Who deemed August as “Summer’s Over” month?

July 31, 2009

It has been a whirlwind of a summer, and the kids have been soaking it all up. And now, I’m realizing that school starts in at less than two weeks! What’s up with that? August 10th? Come on! I guess I’m showing my age by reminiscing about beginning school when the new programs and cartoons began their season … Labor Day! Yes, we went until the second week of June, but there was just something about all of the build-up and anticipation of beginning the school year after Labor Day Weekend. Oh well.

On another note, I posted some pics of Aubrey’s trip to the Florida Keys with SOAR on Facebook (Frieda Bedelle Brown). What a great experience it was for him, and what a great organization SOAR is. Just look at the expression on his face! His new friend Catherine (from California) walked in and said to me, “Aubrey had the most fun!” 

Mack has had a great summer, too.  He’s hit the creek with his friends, endured Music Camp with his cousin, hung out at St. Simon’s for awhile, family trips to the beach and Calaway, then a few days at Granddaddy’s Boot Camp. Not bad …