Friday, December 4, 2009

“Gabriel’s Message”…Preparing in this Advent Season

This utterly captivated me. Such a gentle but powerful rendition of the theme of this season, by Sting. So different, yet so familiar and comforting. How unique to use a muted trumpet (among other things), though we associate the angel Gabriel as the bringer of great announcements and with a trumpet.

Enjoy and be blessed.



Friday, November 13, 2009

Coffee as Meditation – A New Concept for Thanksgiving

"What are these things?" I asked, looking at a small pile of different capsules and tablets next to my plate. I'd just come into the kitchen for breakfast with friends where I'd stayed overnight after working late at the University library, and they'd graciously suggested I stay at their home rather than make the long drive back to the city where my apartment was. "Oh, just supplements", they answered. Another friend who also was there said that with my hit-or-miss style of grabbing meals, this would be the best way of survival and they all heartily endorsed them. A blend of natural Vitamin C and a few other basics were in the mix….and to this day they're still part of my breakfast routine. Just before swallowing them down with my orange drink each morning, holding them in my hand I give a quick prayer of thanksgiving for these friends, hoping they are well.

If I've ever made coffee for you, you've heard the whir of the grinder and seen me pour powdered beans into what might look like an odd contraption. Years ago friends in New York taught me to make coffee by boiling water and pouring it over ground coffee in a Melita coffee maker – a manual filter system with a plastic cone shaped thing holding a filter with coffee into which the water is poured and then drips down into a glass carafe. Back then it was Melita coffee from the can, but other friends later introduced me to the delicious wonder of keeping whole beans in the freezer until you're ready to freshly grind them for each batch of coffee you make.

Comparable to my routine of a quick prayer of warm and grateful remembrance and good thoughts when I take my vitamins, I do a similar thing when I'm by myself in the quiet of the kitchen making coffee. See, the manual Melita system means taking time to gradually pour the hot water in stages over the ground coffee while it drips down into the carafe below. It's actually a gently meditative ritual involving all your senses. The sound of the beans being ground, the fabulous aroma of the coffee in the filter as the hot water works its magic in making something deliciously reviving of both body and spirit, and the lyrical sound of the water as it makes its way through the filter into the carafe. Additionally it requires watching to make sure you don't either under or over fill the carafe for the perfect strength of coffee you desire. While I'm making coffee I use some of this time to not only observe the morning's beauty through the kitchen window and think about my day ahead, but to also offer a quick prayer for the friends who taught me this wonderful method of making the coffee itself.

These are just two stories about how so many of the little things, as well as very large and significant ones, learned from people who've been in our lives are the things which shape who and how we are. Over time, hopefully we've weeded out the things which haven't been helpful and cherish the ones which have literally become part of us and even how we live and think. Perhaps because I'm looking at a "significant" birthday quite soon, I've been recently giving more thought to the compendium of people who've had a large role in the design of who and how I am and think, my habits and so many things I value. I'm glad I haven't waited until now to "give thanks" for them and that it's been a longtime habit to quickly include them among my daily prayerful thoughts.

And friends, while each day is a gift and each birthday is significant, I now have a better understanding of the concept invented by the late Jack Benny of "turning 39" each year. It's not that I don't want to age (the alternative is far less attractive), but I believe there is tremendous value in being "ageless". As a counselor I marveled that clients both much younger as well as those much older than I was related with me almost as peers. Not as "pals" as the whole purpose was objectivity and counseling skills. But "agelessness" to me means not clinging to some caricature of early youth or staying frozen in time. Far from it! It means embracing a larger view which is enriched by wisdom, and values continual self-evolution, learning, and deepening growth into the future.

As we move toward the holiday of Thanksgiving, why not consider this concept of incorporating a daily active attitude of *thanksgiving* and ask God to bring to your mind the people for whom you are grateful for the elements of your life you've kept as parts of who you are and how you think, values you have, and healthy habits you've learned. If this is a new idea to you, it would be a happy exercise to write down the names of those as you recall them and the things they passed on to you. Certain teachers and mentors, friends and family members who've enhanced who you are, and even those with whom you didn't have but a passing acquaintance if what they shared made a meaningful mark on your life. You'll also think of small things which make you smile yet are still habits which are part of your life. For me, for instance, the person from whom I learned to wrap the "string" of my tea bag around my spoon to gracefully squeeze the last drops into the cup without making a mess or using my fingers.

In addition to developing an attitude of thanksgiving, wouldn't it be a marvelous thing to share this concept with your family and have them list people for whom they are thankful and why. Blessings to you all who continue to shape my life!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Another Quiz….going to give it my best shot, you give it a try, too!

1. Do you like blue cheese? Is there a word stronger than NO?

2. Have you ever been drunk? Once. I did not know there was vodka in the Hawaiian punch at the fraternity party. For me, more than a little alcohol = dizzy = sick. Not my idea of fun. A little alcohol if it's tastey is OK, too much -- no way.

3. Do you own a gun? Yes. No further comment.

4. What flavor of Kool Aid is your favorite? The one that tastes like Hawaiian Punch (sweetened with Splenda)

5. Do you get nervous before doctor appointments? Not consciously. Too busy trying to get everything important ready to talk about in the 4 ½ minutes I might have with the doc. But still my BP is elevated at the visit. Probably due to the pressure of getting ready to launch into what's important to cover at the visit!

6. What do you think of hot dogs? Oh man. I'm glad I never went to the places where they're made! Unless it's turkey or chicken hot dogs, I don't eat them. Used to only eat Hebrew National with hope. Since I don't eat beef, no more.

7. Favorite Christmas movie? Although it's not totally a "Christmas movie", I always like to watch "Auntie Mame" when writing Christmas cards or decorating the house (the song "We Need a Little Christmas" is from this movie)…enjoy the story and the Auntie Mame character.

8. What do you prefer to drink in the morning? It has to be coffee…black, no sweetener. And some more coffee.

9. Can you do push ups? In theory, yes. Used to definitely. And when I give it a shot, always still can…a few.

10. What's your favorite piece of jewelry? My wedding ring, especially remembering what's engraved inside it. Never leaves my hand.

11. Favorite hobby? Music.

12. Do you have A.D.D. ? No. Other things, yes, but not A.D.D.

13. What's your favorite shoes? For a woman this is a REALLY hard question to narrow down. Though I don't get to wear them often, they'd be a pair of black heels I have with bows on them and pink lining. Love those shoes.

14. Middle name? Corser. It's my mother's maiden name. It was the one "mystery" I kept from my high school students when I was teaching. Since I wouldn't disclose it, drove them nuts. But everybody needs a LITTLE mystery!

15. Name 3 thoughts at this exact moment? This is a hard quiz, it's late and we haven't had dinner yet, and too many more to name. I'm a woman. We think a ton of things at the same time. Think of a 32 staff orchestral score and you'd be close. They're not necessarily profound thoughts of course, but still…lots.

16. Name 3 drinks you regularly drink? Coffee, Espresso Coffee (also black/no sweetener), Diet Ginger Ale

17. Current worry? I try not to worry. If/when I do, too many to list.

18. Current hate right now? None. Challenges, yes, hates….nope.

20. How did you bring in the New Year? At home with my husband, champagne, watched the NY New Year's Eve thing. Some might think boring, but it was nice.

21. Where would you like to go? Wow…that should be more like where would I NOT like to go (and there would be some places on that list). But within reason, the ocean and I do love Bermuda.

22. Name three people who will complete this? No idea. I got this from Walt.

23. an unusual food you tried? Escargot (enjoy but pretty rich with all that butter) Caviar….really like this on a slice of French bread, little cream cheese, the caviar and squeeze of lemon juice….oh yum! Needn't be Beluga, the black Icelandic Lump Fish caviar is fine with me. Don't care for the large red caviar though.

24. What color shirt are you wearing right now? Sort of lavender.

25. Do you like sleeping on Satin sheets? Yes. First had them when we had a water bed. Hooked. Very nice. Even the dog and cats like them.

26. Can you whistle? A little, but pretty lame at it.

27. Favorite color? Blue.

28. Would you be a pirate? No…not so much.

29. What songs do you sing in the shower? Nothing regular…often a gospel tune or a spiritual…or whatever I've been working on recently.

30. Favorite Girl's Name? Oh this is just too hard! I have no idea! The names which come to mind are the names of my women friends!

31. Favorite boy's name? That would be the same as my answer for #30…except names of my male friends.

32. What's in your pocket right now? Hm…a Kleenex and prayer beads.

33. Last thing that made you laugh? One of our cats deliriously happy lying in the sun in our bedroom window. She turned her head and blinked at me looking really loopy with joy.

34. Best memories as a child? Not such a terrific question. I think it would be practicing the wonderful pipe organ by myself in the church where I regularly practiced and played. Started piano and organ really quite young, so it would qualify as childhood memory.

35. Worst injury you've ever had as a child? Lost both "little" toenails from injury sustained riding my bike barefoot. They never grew back.

36. Do you love where you live? I like it. I don't think I've ever "loved" the place where I lived. Always liked things about those places, but love? Except I did love living in New York City. Idyllic time with no responsibilities in a beautiful place and oh the music, musicians, art and learning….and the FOOD. And I do LOVE the monastery where I've gone on many retreats…need to schedule one soon. Been too long!

38. Who is your loudest friend? This made me laugh! I don't believe I have any really "loud" friends at this time.

39. How many dogs do you have? One…West Highland Terrier…female, named Daisy.

40. Does someone have a crush on you? Other than my husband? I'm thinking no.

41. What is your favorite book? Usually one I'm reading at the moment! Right now it's "A Heart Like Jesus" by Max Lucado. I did love the "Mitford" series by Jan Karon. And I've been thinking of re-reading "The Name of the Rose" by Umberto Ecco on our vacation, in addition to a pile of other books I'm bringing.

42. What is your favorite candy? Marzipan….definitely. I mean chocolate is a given, but marzipan….divine.

43. Favorite Sports Team? Not such a big watcher of sports. When any of the Boston teams are winning at the end of their series, I do keenly watch then (Red Socks, Celtics, Patriots and Bruins). The UNH Hockey team has a special place in my heart, though. Went to lots of games when I was a student. Still follow their scores.

44. What is your favorite food at your favorite restaurant? I don't have an actual favorite. There are many I really enjoy with foods from many cultures. But I have to say, it truly pained me when they closed the Russian Tea Room in New York City. Oh the food….and the violinist…he could play anything. But oh the food. EVERYTHING on their menu.

45. What song do you want played at your funeral? I have no idea. I won't "be" there…have played so many funerals, I don't know. But if there was a ton of money to pay for a marvelous choir, it would be Gregorio Allegri's "Miserere mei, Deus". Simply amazing. Like angels singing. Whew! Done! Now, it's your turn! It really was kinda fun :-)

Go With the “Flow!”

A framed cartoon of two angels looking quizzically at one another has one asking, "Well, Bonnie, what do you think the next crisis will be?" and the other responds, "Gee, Karen, I don't know. But if we wait 5 minutes, I'm sure we'll find out!" Does this feel just too similar to your life? Are questions like this one asked often at your home or office? Most Americans these days answer a vehement "YES!"

Terms such as "crisis management", "triage" and "911" used to refer to the exception rather than the rule, the emergencies and the imminent threat to life being separated from the usual and customary of day-to-day living. Are those words part of your everyday lifestyle vocabulary? Perhaps not the exact words, but the feeling?

For some time now, psychologists have been studying something called "flow". You know, as in "go with the flow". This term describes the feeling of being one with something going well or times of feeling both in control and relaxed simultaneously. Stop for a moment and think about when you feel this way, or when the last time was when you felt like this.

People who are able to identify this sensation recall they come the closest to it in moments while driving on a highway in smoothly paced traffic without delays. Other times of feeling "flow" are experienced by people singing in a choir or swiftly and easily doing something mundane like stuffing envelopes. Despite the seeming disparity of these things, they all have the same thing in common: the awareness of what it feels like to do something with ease.

The keyword here is not so much "ease", but "awareness". This is good news due to the demands on our time which require us to manage several things at once, making the concept of "ease" seem insurmountable.

When do people least feel "flow"? If you guessed it's during their vacation, you were correct. In addition to awareness, the other necessary component here is something which is learned. Although it seems odd, we just don't learn how to relax!

At this time of year when the back-to-school commercials prompt us that summer is coming to a close, we often feel wistful and sad that another golden season has passed us by. Once again it feels too late to capture a little something for ourselves. If we had the time, how would we learn that awareness of being in the moment? How could we then know when we have that "ease"?

This peaceful quality can be learned by making small but decisive changes one little bit at a time. Here are some ideas to consider in making this happen for yourself:

1.)Choose a verse or inspiring phrase that sets the tone for the changes you want to implement and start every day with it. An example might be, "This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it." (Psalm 118:24)
2.)When the telephone rings, let it be a signal for you to stop and take a breath instead of instantly lunging to grab the receiver. Remind yourself of the verse you've chosen.
3.)Make a commitment to take an amount of time every day in which you will be peaceful. Really. If this is only three minutes to start, be diligent in taking the full three minutes each and every day. Think of something that you enjoy. Read that scripture you've been saying you want to start. Remember: just small pieces of time to begin with instead of trying to do too much and being overwhelmed or sabotaging your intentions before you really get into it.
4.)Take a "prayer break". Stand up and walk a bit, (even if it's just to the rest room or to get a drink of water) while lifting your mind for a few moments from the tedium of whatever you're working on.
5.)Instead of becoming tense when the light ahead of you turns red, use this as an unexpected moment to take a slow deep breath and roll your shoulders to UN-tense.
6.)If you usually have the radio on at work, home, or when you drive, try turning it off once and a while and become re-acquainted with the relief and beauty of silence.

 Remember that your life didn't become as hectic as it feels in one fast leap, and that the pathway toward calmness and peace is made of many little steps toward that goal. Instead of bracing yourself for the crises which will inevitably occur, why not enjoy the time in between them! That old phrase, "Go with the flow" can be achieved by looking for the pleasant surprises that are there… just waiting to be noticed. This September, why not learn to Go with the Flow! Not only will you actually become more productive, but you'll have the awareness to discover more of the happiness and fulfillment the Lord intended for you and has planted in your heart.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

It’s Not About Us

My Administrative Assistant quickly grew to be far more than that. Soon, because of her talent, experience, all around fabulousness and positive attitude, her responsibilities grew until she basically ran our "front office". Scheduling appointments, talking encouragingly with people experiencing every kind of "disorder" you can imagine, doing all the Accounts Payable and Receivable, working with health insurance companies in billing and claim follow-up, payroll, transcribing notes she'd take at our weekly staff meetings and working closely with me, the Director, Bonnie was a wonder. She even bought the coffee (from the agency's funds for this) and kept the waiting room and everyone on staff supplied with hard candies in our offices which reflected the seasons and holidays! It wasn't long before we became good friends, too.

Bonnie's talents and experience encompassed far more than many kinds of office/secretarial/accounting skills. She had also worked as a courier who routinely carried hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of diamonds and other precious gems to and from the jewelry district in Boston, worked with retail jewelers and was very involved in the world of wholesale jewelry to being in a partnership herself in this work. I learned many things from Bonnie!

Here's something perhaps a few women reading this may already know, but if you don't, it may well come in handy one day. Have you ever had a necklace chain so tangled with itself or other chains in your jewelry box that it seemed almost impossible to straighten out? This is the jeweler's solution. Place the tangled chain(s) on a flat surface and pick up two pins…one for each hand. Slowly work with the pins in the links of the knots in the chain(s) and before you know it…presto! No more knots, and what had been tangled and impossible is now usable again! I wouldn't have believed it unless I'd seen it, and now periodically repeat this maneuver myself.

Are there parts of your life which seem tangled in knots or as complicated as fine chains woven together so you can't tell one part from the other? Do you find yourself frustrated more easily, smiling less often, and your thoughts focused more on the things or people you have difficulty with? This is not the way God meant us to live and gets in the way of the purpose He created each of us for. And August is a perfect time to do something about it.

Even if you have no vacation time in August, everyone can still intentionally set aside even as little as a few minutes every day (hopefully a few times a day) to step outside yourself, to breathe deeply and refresh yourself to prepare and receive a new perspective. Now, you may be asking, WHEN??? Be creative with what you do. Un-multi task as many things as you can. Do one thing at a time, purposely, and enjoy the process. Look out the window at the changes in the sky, even if it's raining. Clear your head whenever you find yourself snarling up in critical, frustrated, negative thinking by picking a word that will help you stop. Sometimes people find the word *stop* a good place to begin with this. Remember that old saying you most likely learned at one time about "slowly count to ten instead of getting angry"? Well my friends, this works because it puts you back in control of your thoughts. You get to decide where to place your attention. Choose something you like, that brings you peace, that puts a smile on your face and warmth in your heart, and place your focus there. Take this time to pray a short prayer, to "have a little talk with Jesus" J

Learning to step outside ourselves helps us to become more clearly focused on the things which are most important. When we recognize that in life, "it's not about us", that our purpose here is for more than just an "I" centered life, or life focused on "me" or even "us" when that *us* is only a very few, we find life to be more deeply satisfying. We are able to extend to ourselves more grace even as we do so with others. Forgiveness and freedom for ourselves becomes more easy for us as we extend it more generously to others. This is a recipe for peace and happiness no matter your circumstances. It can be the beginning of a better quality of health as well as a better way of living.

In the blog of a Paramedic (Peter Canning) I recently read, I find this quote summarizes it well: "Any time you step out of your own life and get to see the world in a new way, it can't help but make you a better person ". This was written after volunteering 8 days in Gulfport, Mississippi immediately after Hurricane Katrina. Working in 100 degree weather, in the worst conditions imaginable and 12 hour shifts, he wrote a post entitled, "What's Important" and it was about the lives surrounding him during that time. What he could do, how much he could give, the amazing things he could share which he didn't even know mattered to others, all resulted in huge blessings to him.

August is a great time to prepare for the coming months ahead, when things ramp up everywhere and school begins again. Why not take this time to think about how you can "step out of your own life", in what ways you can offer your gifts and talents to bless others and discover new and deeper blessings in your own life as a result.

This month, let's get outside of ourselves remembering in life, "it's not about us" in order to be a blessing and as a result, to find more joy!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Every Moment Offers Us a Choice

Ok I'll confess. I'm procrastinating. Sort of. If you're a writer, you'll likely understand. See, there's an article that's due and has been percolating in my mind for several weeks now that needs to be written and it's challenging. Not just the writing of it, or the starting of it, but the article itself. It's about challenging ourselves to be responsible instead of looking the other way; about living within the better part of who we are instead of just letting things slide which are wrong, and no longer continuing to do nothing, allowing situations to degrade. To no longer live less than who we are and forget our purpose as people. To cease the abdication of our responsibility by either sitting idly by or perhaps worse, by taking the *easy* route of just stepping away to avoid it altogether. As civil adults in a civil organization, which also models behavior for children, to no longer allow others to be hurt (including ourselves) by a culture of bullying. See what I mean? This is not an easy subject, but is one that's been crying out to be addressed for some time. My sense of urgency about this has been fermenting by observing more and more people hurt by others as well as by those who do not say "no"…."this is wrong". I KNOW this is a hard thing to do in the face of people who have been bullied for a long time into complacency or even worse, into leaving. We need to regain our inner sense of our own power of what we will and will not accept both for ourselves as well as other adults and children. For too long there have been too many excuses to let things slide. Yet it is so destructive to our very spirit. Other eyes are watching not only those being hurtful but also those who are seeing/learning that perhaps this is the way adults should treat one another…and young people. God is watching, too. And those of us who sit idly by suffer doubly: by wincing at what we see and hear and in also knowing we haven't said or done something about it for ourselves or others.

So I needed some inspiration and turned to, you guessed it, YouTube to find a video for a song I really like. It's more like the anthem which is bolstering me to find the words to write the article which is due. The song is called "What Have You Done Today to Make You Feel Proud?" by Heather Small. And I got way more than just inspiration as I was doubly blessed by not only hearing the song again but additionally by the particular video I found which goes with it. This is a video which reminded me so much of my younger sister (by 4 years) and only sibling, Marcia who died tragically many years ago. At only 20 she was already a very accomplished and determined young woman. Marcia was majoring in Special Education in college and was an incredible horsewoman. She and her Morgan horse, Proctor's Royal Duke, attained considerable fame together throughout New England. There is still an annual state trophy sponsored in her name for the rider who has achieved the highest points in a year. A grand champion trophy.

As I watched the video, tears of jubilant remembrance came to my eyes. Although the young woman in the video is riding a pony and is a "jumper", there are so many similarities. The pony she started with was almost impossible, yet with much time and practice, you'll see there's been an extraordinary transformation. Oh I saw the flaws, I heard my inner mind's voice saying what Marcia would be saying, "Feet IN…sit UP…hands STILL" etc. Riding is exhilarating, but it is demanding and hard work. But the results are, well, they are more than marvelous. My sister, like the girl in the video, also rode "English" (instead of with a Western saddle, dress and style) but "Saddle Seat" instead of all the jumping you'll see in the video. Even at her young age she had mastered the amazing art of Dressage…which is like ballet with your horse performing amazing feats while the rider is very still in the saddle, seeming to give no visible commands at all. Leaping, cantering, trotting, flying "lead" changes (which hoof the horse *leads* with while running), sudden stops and twirls and movements with ballet names such as "Arabesque". Breathtaking to watch.

Although in many ways we were very different, in some very important things, we had strong similarities. She stood up for the "underdog" and was dedicating her life to something I have been doing all of mine: empowering others to find their best selves and living in the joy of found purpose, healing wounds, mediating conflict with gentleness and resolution, and finding peace and dignity in how they treat themselves and others. The title of this post comes from some remarkable words I read online written by the major of Newark, NJ. The mayor's name was not listed, and as I don't even know when this person was mayor, unfortunately I cannot give proper credit. They deserve to be put in their entire context. I was stronger and more determined from reading them, and I hope you will feel the same way, too.

"We are living in a poverty of compassion, action and moral imagination. Too many people care too little about change and being a catalyst for change. We can't let our inability to do everything undermine our determination to do something. Even the smallest act will undermine the largest obstacle. Every moment offers us a choice – accept conditions as they are or take responsibility for changing them." These words were followed by two powerful quotes: "All humanity is one individual family. Each of us is responsible for the misdeeds of the others" – M. Ghandi And finally, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere" – Martin Luther King, Jr. Most importantly, the words of Matthew 7:12 "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets."

So, my friends, what have you done today to make you feel proud? I so hope you enjoy the video and the song.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Peace, Perfect Peace

Some of the choir members where I’m Director of Music know that we enjoy the rather irreverent BBC program, “The Vicar of Dibly”. But most especially, I enjoy the theme song! I thought for sure it was written by John Rutter until I located a lovely performance of it on YouTube together with a slide show of scenes from the rural English countryside.

It’s a lovely, crystal clear setting of “The 23rd Psalm”, and even the arrangement of the notes in the song is as absolutely reassuring and comforting as the words themselves. It all flows like a gentle stream, unhurried and never perplexed. Now those are two qualities I’d like to embrace within my life on a daily basis! *unhurried and never perplexed*. Yet as foreign although much longed for notion this may be, it is precisely how Jesus would have us live.

So for the sweet coolness, some unhurried and un-perplexed moments of perfect peace, I’ve embedded the music video of “The Lord is My Shepherd” (Psalm 23) b y Howard Goodall. I wish I knew who is performing this piece, but that’s the way it goes in this case.
Do enjoy and come back and play this again, especially when you need a little refresher of some peace, perfect peace.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sometimes You just Have to Lean

Well, it's been three nights in a row of not getting to sleep before 4:00 a.m. and I'm in a funny mood. Not "ha ha" funny, just thoughtful and looking for things which gladden my heart. For those of you who know me, and many who've come to become acquainted with me through this blog as well, have probably already figured out this will have something to do with music. And, you'd be right!

I'll 'fess up about something else, though. I am a "House" junkie. I so enjoy that program. We didn't discover it until just this year, so watching all the re-runs on USA has been a total pleasure as they're all new to us! Many nights I'm just blissful as that network will run several episodes in a row. USA has even had "House" marathons!

I can't explain why I like this program so much, the main character, Dr. Gregory House, is an irascible character who is not easy to love. He's a brilliant diagnostician, though in the real world, the way he calls for oodles of very pricey tests, I can't imagine patients who'd get out of "Princeton General" for less than a million dollars…and that's before they start TREATING the patient for the condition/disease House and his team have diagnosed.

It's got to be something about the relationships, the strange but strong friendship between House and Wilson, the compassionate oncologist buddy of his and the love/hate relationship House has with his team. This is not real life medicine (as far as some of the reckless, risky, incredibly pricey tests and procedures by the tens or twenties) in practice…doctors also do not order their colleagues to break into patient's homes to look for clues to causes for the mysterious combinations of symptoms the patients present with. But the diseases, disorders etc. ARE real. Most of them are very rare, some are extremely unusual and unique but common sense, but all are REALLY interesting. Nothing will make my week more glorious for the moment than those episodes when I "get" the diagnosis before House or his team does. It's positively exhilarating.

House is a miserable guy, in constant pain, self medicating continually but manages to keep his edge and amazing insight. His fund of information (actually that of all his team) is extraordinary. He also has a baby grand piano and a collection of guitars in his apartment and several episodes will end with him playing something…for real. He actually plays regularly in a band called, "The Band From TV". All the musicians are actors and they're a committed group who's been playing together for more than 3 years. I was so enamored by a debut TV performance of this group with House (played by British actor Hugh Laurie) playing the piano and doing some of the singing, we even got a DVD of them in concert. You'll notice actors you've long known from police shows, all kinds of dramas, and more.

I just plain like it. Below is a video from YouTube with The Band from TV playing one of my favorite Bill Withers songs, "Lean on Me". It doesn't really display the excellent musical talent these actors have, but I really like the song. The lyrics have always been significant to me and the simplicity of the tune and harmony has its own special sweetness. I hope you enjoy it, too.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Just for fun…

This "quiz" was on my friend Walt's blog, which he got from a friend of his, "Epijunky" on that blog. I read it and thought it be fun to have at it myself. Wouldn't it be nifty if this quiz caught on and other bloggers went through the questions on their own, too? Anyway, just for fun, here goes. Thanks Walt….a little fun late on a Saturday afternoon.

1. Cigarettes: Expensive sticks of poison…too pricey in every way…pocketbook, health, ultimately your life.
2. Sex: A lady never tells
3. Relationships: Important even, for your health! Grateful for my wonderful husband, family and good friends.
4. Your Last Ex:  Cannot comment.
5. Power Rangers: Heard of them, but….say wha???? They come in primary colors?
6. Crack: Evil…will steal your brain and wreck your life.
7. Food: One of the great joys! Oh, the varieties! You can travel the world at your dinner table
8. The President: Hm…..I had such hopes.
9. Cars: Freedom! A friend of mine calls my car my "office". Sometimes it's my chapel, depending on the music or silence.
10. Gas Prices: I agree with Walt -- Better than last year but still too high
11. Halloween: Severe badness, with seduction by candy. Stay away. You'll lose more than your teeth and your figure.
12. Bon Jovi: Many women wish they had that hair.
13. Religion: Faith is central to my life. "I am not ashamed to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ" from Romans 1:16
14. Myspace: Again, I agree with Walt. Facebook is better. Fun way to stay in touch with far away friends I rarely see.
15. Worst Fear:  Something awful happening to my husband or a calamity happening to me which would leave me helpless.
16. Marriage: My husband is a precious gift.
17. Paris Hilton: I cannot understand why people pay any attention to her…??? Shallowness personified.
18. Brunettes: Long ago, in a galaxy far away….
19. Redheads: My favorite is our dear neighbor, Betty Carey.
20: Politics: Are everywhere…there is little escape no matter your work, unless perhaps one is a hermit.
21: Pass the time: Time? My *spare* time is between 2 and 4 a.m.

22. One night stands: Never did this…never will.
23: Cell phone: Indispensible! Do you s'pose they could improve Blue Tooth so it won't fall out of your ear?
24: Pixie Stix: Ick. Not for me.
25: Vanilla Ice cream: Too blah…love different flavors, depending on my mood!
26: High school: Nose to grindstone, attended 2 at the same time, zero social life…..survived the craziness.
27. Pajamas: Nope. Nightgown or lightweight caftan or abaya.
28. Wood: It's almost a sin to paint it. Why do people do that? (interior and/or furniture)
29. Wet Socks: I confess. I hate even dry socks and hardly ever wear them, the standard sock type thing, that is.
30. Alcohol: I now know the delight every once and a while of a Hendricks (type of gin made in Scotland) and tonic…VERY cold.
31. The word HATE: One of the 4-letter words which divide people, unless it's about injustice. Then it should unify against it!
32. Your best friend: My husband John. I'm thankful too, for close women friends I've known for many years. Been through much.

33. Money: Believe it or not, the reason I wish we had more is because we could do more for more people than we already do.
34. Heartache: Part of life, a dance I too often know. I wish I could detach more easily from things which I cannot change.
35. Love: Is what makes my heart continue to beat…love for God, my husband, family and friends…for life itself…for music.
36. Time: Goes faster every year….I have a theory about this along with a statistical explanation…too long to write here for this quiz.

There! That really was fun. I hope it catches on! Thanks to the originator!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Just let it rain on down…

Many have very much enjoyed the post "Liquid Silver, Crystal Voices" which featured a video of the amazing choral group "Conspirare" singing "Light of a Clear Blue Morning". This has been especially popular among those of you who, like me, have great difficulty sleeping at night.

There is another piece which was originally written for string orchestra by the late Samuel Barber entitled "Adagio for Strings" and the first time I heard it I was captivated, hanging on every note, my heart rising and falling with each languid beat. The sound is divine. But to hear it in an arrangement for voices was like the extraordinary discovery of a rare shimmering diamond. If you have found the CD the Conspirare vocal group issued, "In the Company of Voices", you already know they sing it with the same exquisite quality of "Clear Blue Morning". More of that wondrous, cool liquid crystal.

I wanted to bring this piece to you, especially those who are members of the Insomniac Club, however I could not find a video of Conspirare singing it which I could embed on my blog. HOWEVER, I did find on YouTube a performance of this incredible music by the Choir of Trinity College in Cambridge, England. Those of you who are musicians may know the phenomenon of English interpretation of much choral music being performed at a slower pace than many other fine choral groups throughout the world. This is also true for many British performances of orchestral music as well. The Trinity College recording is no exception, with it being almost a full minute longer than other but less exceptional recordings I could locate.

The "Adagio for Strings" arranged for voices is set to something called the "Agnus Dei" which is Latin for "Lamb of God" and is part of the Catholic Mass both in church as well as in large works of music, such as the Bach B Minor Mass or Masses by other composers. The prayer is also part of other denominational traditions. The words refer to Jesus as the Lamb of God, and translated they mean:

"Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world, have mercy upon us. Lamb of God who takest away the sins of the world, grant us peace."

The video is very simple as it features only a still picture of Samuel Barber in black and white, so you will NOT miss anything if you close your eyes as you listen J It is an incredible meditation. A complete prayer in itself. If you are weary, trying to find sleep, or need a gentle embrace of peace, sit back and listen. Try not to push the music along any faster as one might feel like trying to do if they are tense. Just let it rain on down…note by note. And breathe, friends, breathe as you listen. Long slow deep breaths into the heart of the meaning of the music. I pray that soon you'll find tensions ease, worries cease, and discover yourself in a place of gentle grace, on the threshold of sleep.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Liquid silver, crystal voices

For those of us who cannot sleep, the night is very long, isn't it? There is a quietness to it when we learn to surrender and realize that worrying about "if I fall asleep now, I'll have gotten X hours sleep when the alarm goes off" is a lose-lose game, only adding anxiety to an already too wide-awakeness. For me reading doesn't help because I'll become engrossed in what I'm reading and before long I hear the early morning birds begin. Or even praying can sometimes get my mind going about possible solutions for people's various problems…and then before long the light is on again and I'm writing. Television can sometimes help if I can find a movie with the right equation of boring, quiet or gentle enough not to become consumed in the story line.

Once I'd thought foreign films would do the trick, but nope. Even worse. I find myself listening and straining to pull up languages learned years ago to understand what's being said behind my closed eyelids. One thing, though, I've gotten my understanding of French, Spanish and Italian back in fairly good shape! And I cannot fall asleep to German. Too harsh sounding. (sigh)

It really is about surrender. Sink into the mattress. Don't worry about what time it's getting to be. For me, anyway, all those "sleep hygiene" things do not work. The advice about, "if you're not sleeping, get up and do something until you feel tired enough to sleep" wrecks worse havoc for me, personally. I'd be up all night cleaning or active at some other pursuit and get ZERO sleep and no rest on top of it. See, for me it's not about not being tired enough. It's some weirdness about just plain not being able to get to sleep. It's part of a constellation of issues I have which I won't go into here as they're really not relavant to this post. Because it's not about whatever it is behind it, it's just the not sleeping part.

A few months ago I heard the four-time Grammy award nominated choral group "Conspirare" sing an acapella piece which sounded like pure, liquid silver. Together their sound was like the most crystalline cool water being poured gently on the warm and welcoming weariness of sleepless skin. "Conspirare" is Latin for "to breathe together". They are simply amazing. The song I heard was the most serene arrangement, with a smidge of Celtic influence (mainly the presence of a delicate Irish penny whistle quietly in part of the refrain) of a Dolly Parton song I'd ever heard, or could even imagine! What a remedy it might be for someone searching for sleep.

It's only fitting that as I write, it's 3:40 a.m. and will try to embed a video of the group "Conspirare" singing "Light of a Clear Blue Morning". You may have to click on it a few times to get it to play but be patient. It really is worth it. Drink it in. And if you're a member of the Insomniac Club, I hope it may help to lull you to that magic place where sleep begins.

"Light of a Clear Blue Morning" by Conspirare from KLRU / Conspirare on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

And Now for a Little Levity

Billy Connolly was first introduced to this country on an HBO special presented by Whoopi Goldberg in 1990 (?). It was the funniest hour of so I have ever spent in my life. The name of the special was "Pale Blue Scotsman" and I thought, "Well, this should be interesting". But pretty soon, I was laughing so hard that my face hurt. I was wet from the tears running down my cheeks and when he got to this part, the part from YouTube which I've included below, the part about what proper planes should be like, I had fully slid off from the sofa and was on the floor. I laughed until my sides ached.

First, though, you may need to suspend your thoughts about a certain word or two which many in the British Isles from the, with all due respect, the less educated working class use almost like punctuation. It's not terribly unlike many people in this country, actually. Think of it as similar to what it's like when you watch a Shakespearean play. For the first while, you notice every archaic old English word which seems to stand out from the theme of the actual story. Then, suddenly, it's as if those words are not there and you can completely enjoy and understand the rest of the production.

This is my way of warning any unsuspecting people that while being hysterically funny, Billy Connolly uses the "f" word a lot. BUT it does not get in the way of the utter hilarity of the story he is telling. I used to have this comedy special on VHS tape and whenever I was terribly blue, utterly sad and nothing else would cheer me up, I knew if I put this tape in the VCR, pretty soon I'd once again be on the floor, utterly dissolved in laughter.

The following segment is only one section of the special, but I'm glad that I was able to locate it and I think it's among the funniest parts of the entire video. Billy Connolly has gone on to become a well seasoned comedian (having previously been well known throughout Europe before coming to the States) and is also a respected serious actor as well.

For those of you needing a good laugh, sit down in a secure place. Make sure your coffee table isn't too close to the sofa so you will avoid injury should you also find yourself falling or sliding to the floor. If anyone is shocked that I enjoy this segment, please realize three things: 1. he does not take the Lord's name in vain (that would get in the way of it being funny for me), 2. I am a real person, and rarely can you get through a day or most movies without hearing this word at least once. 3. It's not part of my speech, and I'm not advocating that people use this word, but this does not prevent me from seeing and enjoying this man as the cultural, hilarious phenomenon that he is. I hope you will enjoy it, too. If the idea this has the "f" word peppered lightly through this is offensive to you, why not take this moment to navigate away from this page and turn to something else which will bring you a big laugh. Everyone should laugh SEVERAL times a day. As adults this happens altogether too seldom but we need it, actually, for our very health. So, if not this video, find something funny and laugh a LOT. Whatever it is, enjoy! Come back to this blog soon, as there'll be something else posted here. It won't be more Billy Connolly as this is the funniest thing from him that I know.

Exquisite Prayer from “Les Miserables”

Just for a different, quieter but such an ardent few minutes, this is among my most favorite pieces from the musical "Les Miserables". While Colm Wilkinson has been considered the consummate performer in the role of Jean ValJean for the last several years of the run of this incredibly inventively staged musical, still, my favorite was the original Mandy Pantinkin in this part. I could not find a video but if you ever have the chance to hear it…do! The clarity, the absolute crystalline perfection in the pitch is only rivaled by the astonishing breath support and control. You find yourself just hanging on, lifting yourself out of your chair with the impossibility of how long Mandy Patinkin holds the final note. It is as if he could keep that final note going long enough, it would travel the entire way from here to heaven and truly, in the words of our Jewish brothers and sisters, be literally from "our lips to God's ears".

But Colm Wilkinson is marvelous, too. This is something which will resonate not only with every parent, but everyone praying for someone they love.


Summertime Island Music Memories

This soft June air today, a certain *something* on the breeze, and the brilliant blue sky brings my mind back to some wonderful summers I spent years ago on an Island off the coast of Maine, out of Southwest Harbor (off from Mt. Dessert Island). Idyllic times when the ocean mixed with the seagulls, lobster boat sounds, sun and sky, and LOTS of music with a revolving door including professional musical guests who stayed in the house with us. Oh the spontaneous evening singing and playing. Seems like everyone knew all the words and the harmonies to classic songs, the guitar and other instrumental music was fabulous and these were the kinds of nights you just didn't want to end. After dinner, sitting in this huge living room in an amazingly vast house built in the time before there was an income tax. An immense, comfortable house with many bathrooms which had marble sinks and claw footed tubs, but we had no electricity! It originally had gas lights, and so our stove, fridge, hot water heater(s), and freezer were all powered by gas. There could be 22 people staying at this house (it was fun cooking for all these folks), eat at the same table altogether for dinner, and not have to run into one another throughout the day unless we wanted to. Simply amazing. This kind of house could not be replicated today. Many bedrooms had fire places. One wing was what used to be "the servant's quarters" and laundry in years gone by. Yes. It was that kind of grand house.
After long days spent in such joyful pursuits as sailing or other boating on the ocean, even courageous rowing of a dory around the island, the nights were especially sweet as we were filled with salt air and recharged by all that sun…and great food with of course much after-dinner coffee. The music was acoustic and we sang and played by those terrific (but tricky) kerosene Alladin lights which were actually not only table lamps, but also elegant floor lamps!
As I'm writing I'm listening to lots of different songs to find a few which represent the luscious rich sounds which filled the air long into the night. We had famous classical musicians there as well and that music was especially elegant. But today, my thoughts are traveling back to more of the music of other genres.
Though Crosby, Stills, Nash or Young never came to stay with us (actually, that's a good thing...we didn't really need the kind of issues or substance abuse baggage they might have brought with them), lots of their music rang through the house…but I must say it thankfully didn't have the nasal quality some of their performances do.
I could not find performances of "Suite for Judy Blue Eyes" which astoundingly enough, we all seemed to know straight through from beginning to end, but here's one which, although so beautifully situated high in the Northern Hemisphere that on cold August nights we saw the miracles of the astonishingly colored curtains of the phenomenon of the "Northern Lights", still this song resounds with the feeling of this place. Plus it was one we enjoyed singing all the harmonies and solos to. "Teach Your Children", "Train to Marrakesh", "Helplessly hoping" and a few more were lots of fun to sing together, too. And who knows. Perhaps I may find acceptable videos of these pieces for another post.

But for now, here's a YouTube performance (not the best, but the best I could find) of Crosby, Stills and Nash and "The Southern Cross"

Monday, June 1, 2009

End of another (small) Era

Well, it had to happen sometime. Though we were not ardent fans of the Jay Leno "Tonight" Show, it was always nice to have it to turn to on a quiet weekday night if some late night chuckles were needed and a peek in at some current music. I cannot believe it has been 17 years since he took over that show from Johnny Carson! Anyway, last Friday night was the end of the Jay Leno "Tonight Show" era on NBC from 11:35 – 12:35. It will be interesting to see what happens come September and his new show debuts at 10:00 p.m. Will we watch and then go to bed early? What about the competing 10:00 shows on other networks? The CSI's etc. and those shows we seem to find ourselves letting down to at the end of a long day? I guess as in many things, time will tell.

On the other hand, tonight is when Conan O'Brian begins where Jay left off. Hm……we've never been "Conan" people. Couldn't really get into him. Couldn't see what all the hype was about. And we didn't fit in with the Dave Letterman show either. Now when the Leno show was still on, if I was having trouble sleeping, afterwards I could change channels and really get into the Craig Ferguson show! Still do. I like this Scotsman who's become an American citizen this past year.

To commemorate the ending of Jay Leno, I was glad to find a live James Taylor performance of "Sweet Baby James" (though it's not my favorite JT song) as he moved his touring schedule around to be able to appear on Leno's last show. This video is from the DVD of his "One Man Band" concert and begins with him explaining how the song came to be.

I hope you enjoy it!

Friday, May 29, 2009

For Susie and Hamada

How wonderful it is to find new friends across the world but all of us connected via this marvelous technology! In actuality, the technology is just a tool to putting faces, words and thoughts and more to spirits who are already connected as all of us are in the spiritual realm. But with the amazingness of Blogs and email, Facebook and Twitter we can share things in the immediacy of the moment. Who would have thought it possible to pass on to one another in such a vibrant way things which can deeply enrich our lives, lift our spirits, share laughter and good wishes, and encourage our hearts?

This post includes a song/video from YouTube called "Whisper of Angels" performed by The Opera Band from their "Amici" CD. What wonderful voices blended together impeccably with silken steel to strengthen and soothe at the same time. If the song sounds/feels familiar to you, it is taken from a piece by Faure ("Pavane") but given words by Canadian song writer Amy Sky who also added a chorus/refrain which beautifully compliments Faure's original melody of the verses.

While I hope everyone who happens upon this post will be blessed by this music and beautiful images, it's put together and uploaded especially for Susie and Hamada with love and prayers for their upcoming special day…for all the days ahead as well.

Drink deeply, my friends, and may your spirits be refreshed, empowered and renewed.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Sometimes You just gotta have a little Gospel Music

You know what I mean? Sometimes you just gotta have it, have to have it, your spirit is thirsty for it --- some good gospel music. One of my favorite gospel choirs is the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir. They started as a group of 9 singers and the founding director, a blonde lady named Carol Cymbala is still the director. They are just amazing. Not professional singers but SO disciplined in their rehearsals. And filled with joy that's just plain contagious! In a choir (as in most things in life) discipline = freedom. Discipline gives you the foundation from which you can then take off and soar. I looked on YouTube for a performance of theirs of a different song (I have several "favorite" songs done by this group) and the performance I found of "This is How it Feels to be Free" was filmed from a gospel concert they gave at the Angola State Penitentiary in Louisiana. Talk about some dynamic meanings….true freedom which can be found in a prison like that. It's too late in the night (or early in the morning…whichever way you look at it) for me to go on about how totally Biblical this concept is, about the Apostle Paul, for example, and the freedom he found despite being in prison, how many of his most encouraging, inspiring Epistles (letters to churches) were written either from prison or from living in an enforced house arrest situation.

But friends, from time to time, we're all in our own prisons, many of which are formed by our own hands. Or we allow our spirits to be "imprisoned" by the actions, words and attitudes of others. We need a boost, a reminder. We need to reclaim our joy, no matter the circumstances, and our inner freedom. So, sit back, turn up the volume on your speakers and drink it in. Enjoy!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

“Do the Next Right Thing…”


"At the turn from our bedroom into the hallway, there is an old full-length mirror in a wooden frame. I can't help but catch a glimpse of myself as I pass. Turning fully toward the glass, I consider what I see. This reflected version of myself, wet, shaking, rumpled, pinched, and slightly stooped, would be alarming if not for the self-satisfied expression pasted across my face. I would ask the obvious question, 'What are you smiling about?' but I already know the answer: It just gets better from here." --- from Always Looking Up by Michael J. Fox.

Did you happen to watch the television special on "Optimism" hosted by and featuring Michael J. Fox? It was really quite amazing. Here is a man who has had Parkinson's Disease for the past 19 years and fully exhibits all its life-limiting and altering symptoms despite medication, yet by his own definition and obvious outward fruit he is an "incurable optimist". He fully participates in life and continues to learn from and teach others about the deep happiness which can be found from living with the kind of optimism which brings him peace and joy. Regardless of his limitations, this man's value is immeasurable. And his joy is utterly contagious!

The TV program documented visits to people of all ages throughout our country and the world, interviewing them about what makes them happy, and the importance of happiness to them. Most significant was his visit among the people of Bhutan, a small country the size of Switzerland in South Asia in the Himalayan Mountains, bordered by India and China. In addition to and more significant than their GNP (Gross National Product) is their GNH (Gross National Happiness). Really! They have a "Minister of Happiness" in charge of measuring this and working to expand and guard it. These are not financially wealthy people at all, but will lovingly give deeply to everyone from the generosity of their heart. Gross National Happiness is the "guiding philosophy of Bhutan's development process" in their country. They believe happiness is vital and firmly dependent upon good relationships and strong connections with family, friends and faith community. While not a "Christian" nation, this sure sounds familiar, doesn't it?

Being part of the global community, connected and interacting with the outside world, they know "one way or another, change is coming," King Wangchuck told correspondent Barbara Crossette. "Being a small country, we do not have economic power. We do not have military muscle. We cannot play a dominant international role, because of our small size and population and because we are a landlocked country. The only factor we can fall back on . . . which can strengthen Bhutan's sovereignty and our different identity is the unique culture we have." And that is their culture of happiness. Not a "la la la, zippity-do-dah" superficial frivolity happy thing, but a deeper genuine joy and contentment in life, despite all its travails. But do not underestimate the power of happiness! Tourism to Bhutan has grown tremendously as more people long to bask in this kind of love in action, people living out what they believe and sharing themselves and their joyful hospitality with everyone they meet.

This is more than ironic, isn't it? People don't NEED to go half-way around the world to enjoy the comfort, love, hope and happiness of being connected and involved with a family and faith community…specifically OUR church family and faith community. Somehow more people are learning about what can be found in Bhutan, and more people need to know what can also be found inside the doors of the United Church of Penacook.

Once again we find ourselves on the doorstep of summer with its endless possibilities stretching before us. It's not only a time of refreshment, but I always think of it as a time to learn something new, to develop something better about myself and stretch to grow more spiritually deep. This year I've bought a copy of a book I've always meant to read and study but never have. This is my summer to start My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. It's a devotional book with real meat and potatoes readings for each day of the year which has been revered by Christians as a tool for growth since its first publication in 1935. Let's see what the reading for today's date is. Oh my…it's titled "Out of the Wreck I Rise" taking from the text of Romans 8:35 "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?" For those of you who own this book, it's for the date of May 19. It's very relevant to what I've been writing about here. These are the last lines of the reading: "Either Jesus Christ is a deceiver and Paul is deluded, or some extraordinary thing happens to a man who holds on to the love of God when the odds are against God's character. Logic is silenced in the face of every one of these things. Only one thing can account for it --- the love of God in Christ. 'Out of the wreck I rise' every time." Wow.

Now comes the question of how do we move forward, upward and outward in the love of Christ in the character of God to live in the peace, love and joy He has for us? And to become contagious Christians in sharing this with everyone we meet? This is one good answer: "Do the next right thing." Here it's well put by author Anne Lamott:



Monday, May 18, 2009

This is Where I Am Right Now

Friends, thanks to the kindness of a friend (thank you Walt --- you are a GEM!), I now know how to imbed a YouTube performance in a blog post! WOW this is huge stuff for me :-) This is a wonderful performance of an extraordinary song. Please take a few minutes for yourself, turn up your speakers and click on the video link, sit back watch and listen. Not just because of the title of this post, but because…well watch,listen and see. The song is sung by Charice and is called "If I Wrote a Note to God". In this clip, the lyrics appear on the screen as well. You may have seen this performed on Oprah Winfrey's show. She is very young, from an impoverished background and already has been on an astonishing journey. She is simply amazing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Story which Should Not Have Happened, but Thankfully Had a Good Ending

As this is a true story, I'll be changing the names of the people involved and not mentioning the name of the hospital.


When Carol was a toddler, born to a neighbor nearby, we knew something wasn't *right* with her. Couldn't put my finger on it and these are the times when I try to turn off my counselor/medical brain and try NOT to diagnose people. But still. It wasn't autism, asperger syndrome, cerebral palsy….but something. Carol was a happy child, eager to interact and smiled up at you with huge brown eyes. But when she walked or ran, her gait was odd and her hands tended to flap. I kept hoping the doctors her mother, Justine, took her to would figure it out and that as she grew, she'd be fine. This was my hope, it was my prayer, but it was not to be.

As time passed Carol developed seemingly normally and was a very creative, happy child. But still there was…something. She was imaginative and enjoyed engaging with me for tea parties, reading from her books, and playing with her dolls. She was not developmentally disabled, made friends easily, and enjoyed school. One Christmas she was so fascinated with our nativity set that I loaned it to her family so she could enjoy it through the season. She liked making up stories about Mary and Joseph, the Kings and shepherds and moving the characters around near Jesus in the manger.

When Carol was about 8 she began having petit mal seizures which were generally preceded by her saying she saw characters from her story books. Immediately before a seizure she'd usually say, "I see Pinnocchio….." and then it began. As these were petit mal seizures, they did not include more than her standing still, seeming to stare off in the distance and lose touch with her surroundings for a few moments. Sometimes there was also a bit of the hand flapping. Her mother Justine added a pediatric neurologist to Carol's list of doctors. After batteries of tests and a regimen of medications, Carol's seizures were controlled for quite a while. She went to school, made friends, played imaginatively, loved to learn new things and was a happy little girl. Still….there was something I could not put my finger on. When she ran, her gait was strange with her legs overly wide apart and she swayed from side to side. From time to time, the hand flapping also accompanied the running or would happen when she was happily excited about something. I wasn't asked for an opinion, and I knew she was under the care of at least 3 physicians, so I didn't comment. I mean, it was all pretty obvious. What was I going to say…do you notice the odd gait and flapping movements? Have you brought these to the attention of the physicians, particularly the neurologist? Justine and her husband Steve were well educated people with much concern for Carol. I wasn't going to sound like a jerk and bring up this stuff without it being mentioned first by them. Personally, I had concerns that she should have been seen by a pediatric neurologist who sees more complex cases like this on a regular basis (like at Boston Children's) but I didn't feel it was for me to say.

Time passed and Carol's seizures were no longer being well controlled by her medications. Different meds were tried with varying results, but still the seizures not only continued, but they worsened. There was no predicting them and they grew more severe. From petit mal seizures, they became a more worrisome kind referred to as status seizures. More trips to the pediatric neurologist, more meds. More prayers from me.

Suddenly in the middle of the night our phone rang and it was Justine calling me in a panic. She'd already called the hospital. "Come quick! Carol's having continuous seizures and I don't know what to do!" I set a record for throwing on a sweater and jeans, grabbed purse and car keys and with my car running at her house, yelled for Justine who was holding Carol, to get in. We were going to a hospital in a nearby city, it was 3:15 AM with zero traffic, and this was much faster than waiting for the ambulance service in our area. It was a straight shot. I knew I could get us there in a flash. Carol continued to seize off and on and in minutes we were at the Emergency Room entrance, just as Carol went into respiratory arrest.

I parked the car while Justine raced Carol into the ER where they were ready for her. She was there for a while being stabilized. I got to sit down and be thankful. Although it wasn't a holiday or a weekend, the hospital was busy, and the pediatric ICU where Carol was soon admitted was understaffed for the number of patients they were caring for. I accompanied Justine and the staff with Carol in the elevator as we went up to pediatric ICU. Carol's seizures were still not under control. I asked, "Has her pediatric neurologist seen her yet?" No "Has she been called?" Yes "When is she anticipated?" Anytime now (said with irritation by the staff member on one end of the gurney).

Soon Carol was settled into a *room* in pediatric ICU and Justine and the two staff (I was unclear if either were nurses) were on their way out, leaving me there alone with Carol who was still having seizure after seizure. "WAIT!!!!" I said. "Who's going to be caring for Carol?" I sort of barked. The two staff looked at one another, we all looked at the two ICU nurses who were flying around from crisis to crisis in the beds around us, and then their eyes settled on me. "Justine said you used to be a paramedic. That true? You drive like one". I said yes…..but my license has been expired for a long time. They inquired, "You still know how to suction a patient and take vitals, though, don't you?" I couldn't believe what was happening. I'm this woman in jeans and a sweater, they've seen no ID, no credentials, I could be Jaqueline the Ripper for all they knew….did they know how to spell "l-i-a-b-i-l-i-t-y"? And mom (Justine)? She said "I need to go have a cigarette. I'll be outside".

I said certainly, I know how to suction a patient but I'll be expecting one of those nurses in here every few minutes and…PLEASE call the neurologist and tell them Dr. Brook says this is an EMERGENCY and she needs to be here NOW. Carol was having status seizures and those are very dangerous and can cause brain damage.

All night long, I comforted and cared for Carol and every few minutes she'd seize and I'd suction. But I wasn't recording any vitals. Nah-uh. If the nurses weren't in there in a timely fashion, I'd call them and one would come in and take care of those details. I was committed to doing my absolute best for this little girl, but I wasn't putting my name on anything. This was just too surreal and bizarre.

And Justine? Never saw her again all night long. Apparently she had lots of cigarettes to smoke outside. I do know this is REALLY hard on parents, but come ON. She never even came up once to check on her daughter. And the pediatric neurologist? Shortly after 8:00 AM she rolled in. I could not freakin' believe it. I gave her an overview of how the night had progressed while she read the chart and then I left. I called a nearby friend and she came and gave me a ride home. I had nothing to say to Justine beyond the fact her doctor was with her daughter now, receive her "thanks" and say goodbye. A story which should not have happened, but thankfully had a good ending.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

NOW what do we do???



You won't believe this. A friend introduced me to "Facebook" as an online way to connect with friends and re-connect with people you haven't seen in years. It's been kind of fun! The other evening, I did a search for people from a high school where I'd very much enjoyed the students in my chorus. Presto – there was the name of a girl who'd been a rather brilliant accompanist for me. Anything I put before her, she could play. Angie got so she could almost read my mind during warm-ups. We made a wonderful team, and here she was on Facebook! I sent her a quick note with a friend invitation and was a bit stunned by her reply. Clearly she had been shocked as her response read, "I don't want to seem rude, but is this a joke? I had been told that you had…passed away some years ago." WOW. How often do you get a note like that? Quickly I wrote back to let Angie know that I am fine and dandy and was sorry to stun her. She was so apologetic because especially at a class reunion she had shared with others this news she'd heard about me and she wanted to find a way to rectify the situation. Soon she'd posted this note on Facebook about me: "…just wanted to let you know the story that Karen Brook Westhaver had passed away is totally false! She is very alive and well and also here on Facebook…". Soon emails and Facebook friend invitations from other former chorus students began pouring in and I was inundated with lovely notes and fond memories and stories from our time together in chorus. In a way, it was kind of like my own personal little Easter! True, thankfully no crucifixion had been involved, but after lots of people had thought I'd died and existed only in their memory, suddenly here I am alive in their present!

Are you a bit in the doldrums after Lent is over and Easter is past? Although Easter is officially 50 days long until we get to the celebration of Pentecost, still…it sure feels "in between". If we have that "what do we do now?" kind of feeling, can you imagine how the disciples must have felt right at this time? Think about it. Jesus had been crucified, they'd learned about His resurrection but…what now? What were they to do now?

If we are honest about it, this is pretty much where we live a lot of the time. What are we supposed to do now? Does what we do have any meaning, purpose or benefit? How can God use us? And, with our very human times of doubting, does He even WANT us? What are we good for, anyway? Isn't it much better all the way around if we just sleep in on Sundays, keep our eyes on our work and entertainment the rest of the time, and forget about finding ways to participate in church, let alone sharing with others the benefit of belonging to a church family? Ah, my friends, this is where I get to share with you one of my favorite stories in the Bible.

In John 20: 19-29 We learn that the disciples had been gathered behind locked doors (in fear). "Jesus came in and stood among them. He said, "May peace be with you!" 20 Then he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were very happy when they saw the Lord.  21 Again Jesus said, "May peace be with you! The Father has sent me. So now I am sending you. [emphasis mine]" 22 He then breathed on them. He said, "Receive the Holy Spirit." Can you even begin to imagine their relief at having actually seen Jesus in such a personal way? But did you also notice that Jesus had a purpose larger than to reassure them: He came to commission them, to "send them out". It was now time for them to do the work of spreading the gospel and growing the church. Them. The *regular* people in their own way, empowered by the Holy Spirit, yes, but now they were to do the sharing without being in the background while Jesus taught. But the story gets even better. Here's where it REALLY relates to you and me and where we so often are.

In the encounter above, the disciple Thomas was not with the group. The following week, though, he was there when Jesus next came to be with them. Again, everyone was gathered with the door locked but still Jesus entered, passing through the door. He said, "May peace be with you!" 27 Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here. See my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe. 28 Thomas said to him, "My Lord and my God!" 29 Then Jesus told him, "Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen me but still have believed."

Although Thomas had been told by the disciples of Jesus' earlier visit with them, still he was unconvinced. And Jesus' response to him? No lecturing, no punishing, no turning away, but He gave Thomas the most intimate invitation of all. BECAUSE of Thomas' doubt, Jesus invited him to put his hand into His side and the nail marks in His hands. So, friends, here's the deal. Jesus gives us ALL the same invitation. He yearns for us to become so close to Him that we become part of His body. And, being equipped with the Holy Spirit, our part of the bargain is the same as the disciples: we are now sent out. Throughout the Bible, the meekest, the weakest, the youngest and the oldest were among those who made the biggest difference in the growth and nurture of the church. Think of Abraham and Sarah who at 90+ became the parents of all the tribes of Israel. Considering of all this, who are any of us NOT to step up and step out? NOW what do we do? We roll up our sleeves, step out and in doing so, we receive the greatest blessing of all. Happy Easter-living all year long!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

It’s just my opinion, and I could be wrong, but Word 2007 is DIABOLICAL – a rant



Not that I was crazy about it, but I could make Word 2003 work for me. But THIS! Whoever invented Word 2007 must truly be sadistic. Unbelievable!

So, can I just get it out of the way and say how much I HATE Word 2007??? GRRRRR!!!!!!!! WHY oh WHY did they have to make it so darned illogically different from Word 2003?????


Whatever ever happened to "auto save" when you messed up and stupidly forgot to save a document even though you were only a third done????? Whatever happened to that delightful function when you opened a new document it would show you the last one you were working on as another "fail safe" if you'd *lost* it????? Okay, okay. I finally figured out how to practically do an archeological dig to locate the auto-save function and how to adjust it. And did so. But, it happened, AGAIN!!!


GONE. My carefully crafted document with lists of music and composers which I've been plugging away at, my list of ALL the music (more than 29 pieces) I played on Good Friday which was recorded by some hoop-di-doo (I shouldn't joke....I'm extremely flattered they sent this very gifted, talented sound engineer who knows how to professionally and gorgeously do microphone placement especially for Steinways --- I'm just VERY frustrated, if you couldn't already tell) to record this whole event for later play-back(s) on WKXL. See, I hadn't made an actual list of all this music. For smoothness in turning to each piece seamlessly and as quietly as possible, I'd just chosen my order and numbered/placed a bunch of post-it notes throughout my whole stack of music.


Jack (at WKXL, the guy who'll be doing the playback for his programs.....will likely do this more than once....heck, it's almost 3 hours of music so who knows how many programs it will turn out to be) wanted me to make a list for him all of all the pieces/composers so he could announce them all. I never thought he'd do that. Yikes. So, already, LOTS of pressure long before this word processing program began to torture me. I practiced my brains out for this. Somebody should have just shot me…it's been years since I've played at a sustained concert level like this, and then never this long! See, it wasn't an ego thing. I just thought it would be great free publicity for our church as well as some nice music for the listeners.


AAAACK!!! Can you believe it? It happened yet again! I'd set the "auto-save" function to do its thing every 5 minutes, but I must type way faster than I thought. Zappo. Somehow it all vanished again but I could only locate 1/3 of it! Back I went and re-adjusted this to auto-save my document literally once every minute, in addition to constantly "saving" it manually myself.


Well, the third time must have been, as they say, "the charm", either that or God mercifully took pity on my frazzled brain and intervened. FINALLY the list is intact. I wasn't taking any chances. Not only did I copy/paste it into the body of an email, but I also sent it as an attachment as well. Now we'll see what happened to it when it hit cyberspace!


Rant rant rant. I try to persuade myself that learning new things is a good thing. But deep down I ask myself, just why do they have to go and change something just for the sake of making something *new*????? In this case, in my opinion, "new" is most definitely NOT better. Grrrrrr.