Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Hills Aren't Alive with the Sound of Music, or are they?

It's Christmas time and the sounds of holiday music fill the air. Our choir is practicing Christmas hymns for our church celebration in a few weeks. There is a tradition in our stake at this time of year. It's called The Festival of Choirs - each of the wards in our stake perform 1-2 songs at the stake center on the first Sunday evening in December and immediately following the end of this performance, the First Presidency Christmas Devotional is shown on satellite TV at the stake center. We starting practicing for this several weeks ago.

I can carry a tune and have an adequate voice to hold my own in a choir setting. We recently had our stake conference and were able to share two hymns with the congregation. It was then that I started thinking about how important music is in my life. Several years ago I was fortunate enough to be a member of the Washington Family Singers (WFS). This group was formed from people from most of the wards in our stake who had a love of music. We had a very talented director, Sheena Joyce, and three amazing pianists - her husband Peter, their daughter Petra Collins, and Tim Willis. It was such a joy to sing with this group. We were able to perform at our temple visitor's center quarterly, and the concerts we performed during the Christmas season were almost always standing room only. We had such a personal investment to the choir, and the director and pianists. It was an extended family and something I looked forward to each week. Sheena always told us that is wasn't necessary to be musically perfect - the most important thing was that we sing with the spirit of the music and the meaning of the words we were sharing and hopefully that would touch the hearts of those who saw us perform. Sometimes during a performance, I would look at Sheena and could tell she felt the spirit so strongly that tears would well up in her eyes. All of us would have to turn our eyes away from her, or we would have teared up as well.

We were together as a choir for three years and then Peter and Sheena were called to the mission field in UT and departed from the choir. Their daughter Carole Santizo and Katie Curtis shared director duties, and Petra and Tim continued to play for us. Then Petra and her family moved to UT, followed shortly by Carole and her family. Katie tried her best to keep us together, and we had another wonderful pianist, Kurt Creel to help us out, but the decision was made to disband the choir. It has now been a couple of years since that happened. How I miss that choir and the wonderful experiences we had together. Sadly, Kurt died this past spring, far too young to have left this earthly world.

Flash forward to 2010 - Katie (who is our stake music director) selected a couple of pieces for us to perform at our stake conference. Katie completed her Masters music degree last year and is a talented soprano. But since she graduated, she had a different countenance about her and her directing is so fun to watch - she is so enthusiastic about leading our stake choir. As I previously mentioned, we have been preparing Christmas music for our Festival of Choirs - once again, Katie is our director and I love watching her as she leads us during practice. She has a love of music and shares her joy with those of us in the choir. So, the sound of music is ringing again with our stake choir and I am so grateful for this experience again.

One of the things that Sheena did for us was to record an Easter concert we did at the temple visitor's center, and gave every member of the choir a copy of the concert on CD. The hymns and anthems we sang for that concert were so moving and spiritual. One in particular, Scenes from Gethesemane, continues to haunt me everytime I hear it. The words are so moving and the music still gives me goosebumps, even after singing this for the better part of the past 12 years. Our stake center is about 30 minutes away from my house, and as I drive to rehearsal, I will sing along with the CD as a warm up. The CD isn't performance quality (and my youngest daughter Kim can be heard coughing throughout the CD during several of the songs). But it's a tangible reminder of the WFS and our love of singing.

Hopefully we will continue to perform songs as a stake choir on a more regular basis. And hopefully, Katie continues to serve as in her role as stake music director. I'm so glad music is back in my life again.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Politics, Politics, Politics

May I just say that I can't wait for the mid-term elections to be over. When November 2nd comes, I'll be celebrating. I am so sick and tired of all the campaign ads (negative as usual). Living in the DC area, you have to listen very carefully to what is being said in order to try to figure out the message. Details on the former governor of MD about what happened during the time he's been away from office (of course, the details don't tell you everything so one could assume all the negative items being thrown at him are true). The former governor doesn't respond to the accusations but has his own negative ads for the current governor (although not nearly as negative as his opponent). During the morning, between 7:00-8:00 a.m., you can see a constant barrage of ads on TV from both candidates. Then we see the ads from other areas of the country - just as bad and negative as you would suspect. Wouldn't it be nice to see a campaign that emphasizes the positive things a candidate has done and let the public decide for themselves?

And I will get political myself - as President Obama flies across the country to campaign for fellow Democrats who are in danger of losing their seats in the Congress, it seems that his message is that only Democrats are concerned about the nation in general. I'm quite sure that there are fellow Republicans and Independents who are concerned about the nation as well. These democratic candidates wouldn't need to be so concerned for their jobs if they had listened to their constituents and voted differently on certain key pieces of legislation. It seems to be that the country as a whole is sick and tired of what's happening and has decided to be more vocal about it. Although not an official political party - the Tea Party is making an impact across the land (and I don't believe this is a group of radical citizens who are voicing their opinions - it seems to me that they are average Americans who want their voices heard and are willing to congregate together to make those voices heard).

So, we only have 10 more days to listen to the negativism of the campaigns. I will take advantage of the opportunity to vote early (as we have that option in our state now). And I will look forward to November 3rd and the sounds of holiday music for the upcoming Christmas season (I'm sure the decorations are already in place at the malls and the music is already playing).

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Change is Constant

For the past several weeks, at the end of Sacrament meeting, a letter has been read a letter from the Stake Presidency referencing a four ward Sacrament meeting to be held on September 26th at the Stake Center (note to those who are not members of the LDS church - each congregation is called a ward, and many wards make up a Stake, which is similar to a diocese in the Catholic church). Our Stake has seven units (wards and branches) in it. So the fact that we weren't meeting as an entire stake led to lots of speculation on what was to occur.

The announcement also indicated that there would be a special choir performance and asked that anyone who would like to sing with the choir meet at 8:00 a.m. for a quick rehearsal before the meeting at 9:00 a.m. The hymn was "I Know That My Redeemer Lives" - a favorite of mine (but a different version than the one in the hymn book) and a hymn our own choir had sung several weeks before in our ward Sacrament meeting.

On Sunday, I drove to the Stake Center, which is about 25 minutes from my home. The day before we held a community health fair at work and after a very intense 12 hour day, I could barely walk that evening so I was amazed I was able to get up and out of bed early on Sunday morning. When I arrived at the Stake Center, I was so excited to see the number of people who showed up for the rehearsal. The choir was so large. We had a 40 minute practice and were asked to sit in the choir loft until after we sang, and they we were to sit in the congregation.

Although four wards don't have as many people as a normal stake conference would, the building was filled with Saints from different wards, and there were chairs set up in the overflow section to accommodate the number of people who came.

After the opening prayer, we stood up to sing. There was a special spirit present at that moment, and once we began singing, you could feel that spirit so strongly - I had goosebumps while I was singing. It was such a spiritual experience and when the hymn was finished, the stake president turned around, with a big smile on his face, and gave us a "thumbs up" sign. For the rest of the meeting, I noticed the hymns we sang all had a purpose for this kind of meeting. Once again, the Spirit was guiding the person who selected those hymns.

The anticipated announcement was made - one of the wards was being dissolved, and the majority of those members would be going to our ward (historical note - 19 years ago, the dissolved ward was created from our ward). Our ward boundaries were changed slightly, and several of our members would be attending one of two other wards. When the counselor asked for a vote - everyhand went up. A friend and I looked at the stake president and he looked like he was going to cry but he also had a look of relief on his face as well. The vote was unanimous.

Because of these boundary changes, there were changes in the Bishoprics as well. Our bishop was released after five years, but keeping it in the family, his father-in-law was called as the bishop for our ward (he previously was the bishop in the ward that was dissolved). Our bishop was asked to speak as was his mother-in-law. His dear mother-in-law has attended two Sacrament meetings for the last five years - she was in our ward helping her daughter with their four children, and then she stayed for Sacrament in the ward her husband was bishop in. I commented to her after the meeting that she would now have some free time as she wouldn't have to spend 7 hours in our building each Sunday. Our outgoing bishop gave an emotional talk, yet it hardly seems possible it was five years since he was called as our bishop. Another note - when he was called, he didn't attend our ward - he was in the ward that was just dissolved. As he was called to be our bishop, very few of us knew him, but we came to love him for all he did for us. How fun is it that now we are combined as one ward and will still be able to see him and his family each week?

We got a little treat that day - we only had a two hour Sacrament meeting and then church meetings were over for the day. We had a chance to speak with the friends from the dissolved ward to say "Welcome Back" - although we lost some very strong members who were saddened by the thought they will be going to another ward. I know we will keep in touch with them as they are part of our ward family, wherever they may be.

So, a lot of changes occurred but in the end, the church is still the church, the mission of Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father continues and we will love getting to know our former ward members who now are home with us again. I'm sure there will be many leadership changes over the next few weeks and it will be interesting to see what joys that brings going forward. Don't you just love change?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Nine Years Later - An Event We Will Never Forget

September 11, 2001 - I remember how absolutely beautiful the sky was in the Washington, DC area - not a cloud in the sky, and the most vividly blue color I have ever seen. It was a beautiful September morning. At work, things were normal and our hospital administrators were gathered together in their weekly meeting. My husband called to tell me to turn on the TV. I raced into the board room at work and turned the TV on to see the horror unfolding right before our eyes. It was only a few minutes later, as we were watching in shocked awe, that the plane hit the second tower. My boss and I gasped and commented on how many people might lose their lives in that inferno - we knew there were upwards of 25,000 potential victims in those two buildings. Fortunately, the death toll was much lower.

Then we heard about the Pentagon. We went into disaster mode, calling a meeting of all senior and middle level staff. We were aware that we might get some victims from the Pentagon, but in the end, that was not to be. These victims were burn victims and were transported to hospitals equipped to handle those kinds of injuries. We gathered the managers together several times throughout the day to update them on what had been happening in the DC area.

For the next several weeks, things were oddly strange in the DC area. Several days after the attack, I decided to cross the bridge to VA to see for myself (a good friend who worked in DC walked from his office to the Pentagon to "bear witness" to the events of the day). There was an Army tank stationed at one of the exit ramps leading toward the Pentagon. That tank was there for months following the attack. For many weeks fighter jets would circle around the DC area several times a day. I could see them from my office window. That was a very strange sight to behold. I bought a radio for work that had TV audio capability so I could listen throughout the days that followed for immediate updates.

As the skies across the nation were empty because of the ban on airline flights, I recall one of our vice presidents who was in Las Vegas on 9/11. Knowing he had to get back, he and his wife rented a car to make the trek back home. The patient representative was also on the West Coast and ended up using trains as her mode of transportation back to Maryland.

We saw the best of human kind and the worst of human kind during the weeks following this tragedy. Our emergency rooms were full of patients who had serious psychological issues to deal with following the events of 9/11. We saw unbelievable compassion from the hospital family during that time. We also saw how selfish and rude people could be under intense stress. But I choose to remember our caring staff who, despite their own personal situations, went out of their way to provide great patient care. One of our vice presidents was in the Army Reserves and had to work a full day at the hospital and then report to Bethesda Naval Hospital for another 8 hours for several months.

I remember at the time thinking that this was an event that would we would never forgot, and we would always remember where we were when it happened, much like when President Kennedy was assasinated, or with the space shuttle Challenger exploded.

On this day of rememberance, I thank God for the service men and women who work to protect us twenty-four hours a day and thank them for their service to our country. I pray that, as the years go by, the families of those who lost loved ones will find more peace in their lives. We certainly live in more dangerous times with many new threats to keep us vigilant (and I grew up during the Cold War with bomb shelters in our neighborhood-that doesn't seem as scary to me now). Time seems more unpredictable in this day and age.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Who says 60 is old?

I'm really going to try to make an effort to blog more, so I'm sitting in the computer room waiting for the satellite to come on (not sure why it's off this morning) and thought I would post a little something about our recent vacation.

We just returned from a 7-day cruise to the Western Carribbean - Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Costa Maya and Roatan in Honduras. We didn't have to adjust to the tropical weather as we had experienced that same weather through much of the summer at home this year. We were in 4 ports in 4 days and planned excursions for most of those ports. We decided to try snuba, which seems to be a cross between snorkeling and scuba diving - you are using a breathing hose, but can go under water to a depth of about 25 feet. We had to fill out a massive waiver form, which asked all sorts of questions, one of them being "have you had any recent surgery". Being raised to tell the truth, I noted that I had knee surgery in April (4 months ago). After consultation with 3 of the representatives from the tour company, they decided I couldn't participate because of the surgery - according to them they were concerned about the possibility of air bubbles in my leg and the development of a possible blood clot. Even though I work in a hospital, I'm not a medical person so what do I know?

The company was going to issue a credit for the tours and we needed to decide on something else to do that day. We were talking to one of the cruise staff who suggested we try another tour - a visit to an island with some reference to twister. We decided we would try that and off we went.

We boarded a speed boat with about 20 other people. The crew explained we would be traveling about 25 minutes to an island to spend several hours basking in the sun, enjoying the warm and very clear water of the Carribean and just relaxing. As were headed to the island, music was blaring and fortunately the songs were ones I was familiar with and even liked! Part of the tour included a buffet lunch and drinks (as if we needed more food since we were crusing). The crew explained that when we were getting close to the island, the captain would execute a move where the boat came to a halt and spin around 360 degrees and we would end up getting soaked from the water. Note - we were harnessed up very securely with a contraption that went over our shoulders, and then buckled down to the seat (and we had life preservers to contend with as well). They assured us that no one on the boat would escape the water.

Well, they were right. The first time the twister movement was made, we all got soaked. We were like little children - laughing and shouting for joy. They made this twister movement about 6 times before going to the island. What a riot - by the time we were finished, we were dripping wet and coulding stop laughing. One of the crew even lost his hat in the ocean on the way to the island.

Did I mention we were definitely the oldest participants on the tour? There were two cruise staff on board (one of them who suggested we take the tour) and they were having a great time. Several other people had heard the drama of our first tour being cancelled and they kept asking if we were okay and having a good time, which, of course, we were. We spent several hours on the island and then headed back to the ship. We got to enjoy the twister movement several more times before arriving at the dock. It was such a great tour and we really enjoyed ourselves. The cruise staff asked us if we liked the the tour and we told them it was fantastic. The other participants asked us if we liked it and we said it was a lots of fun. So, the 60+ couple and all the 20 and 30 somethings on a tour together, laughing and having a wonderful time - who knew?

When we got back on board the ship, I read the description of the excursion and, of course, there was a warning - people with back problems shouldn't participate. Well, guess what? I have those back problems and didn't notice any issues with my back after the experience. Good thing I didn't read about it before we left or it might have stopped me from signing up.

Lessons learned - don't be afraid to try new things no matter how old you are. We had a blast and would do it again in a heart beat.

I'll upload some pictures with some more cruise stories in my next post.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Lights, Camera, Action

Just realizing how long it's been since I last posted. A couple of Saturdays ago I had a very unique experience. I work at a freestanding emergency department and ambulatory surgery center. A local producer contacted me to inquire about the possibility of using the surgery center for an independent film he is producing. I have worked with this producer before on a couple of projects celebrating the 25th and 30th anniversary of our center. I gave him permission to film on a Saturday and I asked the department manager of the surgery center to help out on the day of the shoot. Boy am I glad I did that. She was able to find things quickly that they asked for - I would never have known what some of the supplies were that they needed.

It was an interesting experience - I never realized how much stop and go there is to filmmaking. At some point the director asked my friend (who was dressed in her scrubs) to walk in the background while he was taping a shot. Next thing I knew, our security guard was walking in the background like he was doing his rounds. Finally, the producer asked me to sit at the front desk and greet the patient as she arrived for her procedure. Then he asked my friend to play the part of an anesthesiologist. Here we are - the nurse manager, security guard and myself all of a sudden being included in the filming. Of course, the professional actors were the ones used mainly, but we got a kick out of the whole process. It took all day to film (and from what I could tell there was additional filming in other parts of the city as well).

A couple of weeks later I received an email from the producer. He needed to return to do a couple of audio shots. Lo and behold he invites us all to his house for the premier of his film and it appears we didn't end up on the cutting room floor. It should be fun to see the final project and I hope it's successful for him. He has won a couple of Emmys from some of his other independent films but I can't wait to see how this film turns out.

I never thought I'd be in this situation and I have much more respect for all the actors and actresses out there (Kage among them) for their profession and what they have to do in order to make a living. Most of the cast were very down to earth, however there were a couple of people who really thought highly of themselves. It takes all kinds I guess. I wonder what my next adventure will be.....

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Death and Brownies

I recently attended the funeral of a kind and gentle man from our ward. He always had a smile on his face. His dear wife died about four years ago, and following her death and because of his declining health, he began living at the Veteran’s Housing Facility in DC. Practically every week, he was visited by members of our ward and given the Sacrament during these visits. Occasionally one of his children would bring him to our Sacrament service. He always came the Sunday before Memorial Day, as he was a WWII veteran and a very proud patriot. He was probably the most patriotic person I ever knew. He always wore an American flag pin on his lapel.

This year, one week before Memorial Day Sunday, a number of ward members were all thinking the same thing – that we would see Walter Johnson, Sr. the following week at church. Very late that evening, I was on Facebook and I saw a post from our bishop, indicating that Walter had died earlier that evening. He died on the anniversary of his dear wife’s birthday. How fitting that they would reunite on such a special day.

His children decided that it would be appropriate to hold his funeral service as close to Memorial Day as possible. Two days following Memorial Day his service was held. The service was a fitting tribute to this wonderful man. So many wonderful things were said about him and his family during the service.

Following the service, there was a reception in the Cultural Hall. The family provided food for the attendees, of which there was close to 100. Here’s where the brownies come in. I really don’t like brownies, but there was this particular dessert which looked like a brownie with a Hershey’s kiss on top. I tried one and was amazed at the taste. Remember, I don’t like brownies. I had to have another one. I asked one of Walter’s daughter-in-laws if she had made the dessert. She indicated she hadn’t, but pointed me in the direction of her sister-in-law who did make them. I told her how much I enjoyed the treats and she told me how to make them. One of Walter’s four sons, married to the woman who made this delicious treats, agreed with me about how great they tasted. He also said Walter really enjoyed them.

In honor of Walter and these delicious brownies, I’m sharing the recipe – hope you enjoy these.

Brownie Bites

1 – Duncan Hines Family Style Dark Chocolate Fudge Brownie Mix
3 eggs
¼ cup water
½ cup vegetable oil

Dark Chocolate Hershey Kisses (you only need one bag)
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Grease miniature cupcake pans with non stick cooking spray. Combine brownie mix, eggs, water and oil. Mix until well blended. Spoon mix into prepared pan (1/2 full). Bake for 10 minutes. Immediately upon removing from oven, place 1 Hershey’s Kiss on top of mini-cupcake. Remove cupcakes from pan and place on a wire rack until completely cooled.

Reunion and Remembering a Dear Friend

In 1997 a dear friend of mine died after a valiant 16 year fight against breast and ovarian cancer. Several months following her death, I was giving a talk in Relief Society entitled “Be of Good Cheer”. In preparation for the talk, I began to write down some of the adventures my girlfriends and I shared with Marcia. When I finished writing, I knew I had written the talk I would share on Sunday. Marcia must have been looking over my shoulder because so many memories came flooding back. I had lots of pictures to accompany the stories as well. We played lots of practical jokes on all the friends in our group – always in good fun, but always with the thought that one day, we’d be arrested for some of our antics (deeds we did in the middle of the night, fondly called “night raids”).

Fast forward to 2010 – I recently reconnected with one of Marcia’s daughters. She is the youngest of three girls – her older sisters are married and have children. She is single and still finding her way in this world. Many things have led to our reconnection and Facebook played a big part in our reunion. Although it took a few months, we recently met for dinner with another one of her mom’s close friends. After dinner we came back to my house, and I gave her a copy of the book I had created in memory of her mother. We sat together and laughed at the stories of the adventures we had in the past. I have made several copies of this book and plan to send her sisters their own copies. I’ve even made copies for the girlfriends who are part of these stories as well. I hope my friends will do something similar or add onto the book that’s already been created. I know her daughters love to hear about their mom’s adventures.

We always talk about keeping journals and sometimes that is hard for some of us. This book was a journal of our combined experiences. It really wasn’t that hard to do and it brought back so many great memories, and it certainly helped me pass the time while I was recuperating from my recent knee surgery.

So, if you’ve got some stories to tell, take the time to write them down. It’s easier to do this right after they happened instead of years later, when the memories begin to fade. What a great ride down memory lane.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Love a Parade

Today is the annual City of Hyattsville Parade. It's the 124th anniverary of the founding of our city. You never know what the weather will be and today the rain began the spit a little about the time the parade started. It's an election year and a lot of the politicians who are running for office in our county are in the parade, shaking hands with the city residents and passing out their flyers.

What is the coolest thing about this parade? It comes down the street, right in front of our house! Politicians, local city officials (the mayor and members of the city council), county officials (House of Delegate representatives, Maryland General Assembly members and Registrar of Wills [that's an interesting job]), civic groups and matching bands, just to name a few.

In honor of my children who were not able to attend this parade this year, I took quite a few pictures so they could get the flavor of the parade. In past years as they were growing up, some of them were in the parade at various times.
Mounted Police and the flags

Here's the Greenbelt Dog Training group who are regulars in the parade.
Waiting for the parade to start up again.
Check out the big dog on the roof of the car
Northwestern High School Marching Band - this band has grown into a very successful high school marching band (more polished than when my children were in high school and they are always fun to watch.

Here come the drummers!

Of course, we have our fire trucks and ambulances, police cars and garbage trucks represented. Our police force even has police personnel in the parade on their Segways! We always have a military presence and the Junior ROTC represented. McGruff the Dog is also a participant.

As you can see, we have a large group of classic cars every year. This year, some of the residents wanted to have a Prius car entry, but they apparently couldn't get their act together to get enough vehicles to participate - maybe next year.
This is our Mayor, Bill Gardiner.

A local Harley Davidson Motorcyle Group - this crew was really noisy.
Here's the Hyattsville Mount Rainier and Brentwood Boys and Girls Club.

This year there is a 3 day festival with a carnival at Magruder Park. Normally, I would walk down to the park and get my favorite funnel cake as a treat. Alas, that is not happening this year (but I will say there has been one benefit to the knee surgery - I've lost 8 lbs- so much for the funnel cake).

Of course, it is one week past my knee surgery so I was sitting on my front porch, not at the end of the walk where I normally sit (which means I didn't get any of the candy that is thrown out as the politicians walk by). But I was impressed that a number of them actually walked up to me on the stoop, shook hands and gave me their campaign materials - I guess the crutches had an effect on them.

Isn't it great to live in a small town?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Now That I Have Some Free Time, I Guess I'll Post Something.....

I recently turned 60 and things have gone downhill since that day. Just kidding - we had a birthday celebration with lots of close friends and it was catered by The Omelette Man who created made-to-order omelettes for the guests, and served up crepes for dessert. Everyone had a great time, and it was so nice not to have to worry about food preparation. It did this for my 50th birthday also. Now, I'm not promising the same thing for the big 70.

Yesterday (April 16) I celebrated the day after filing our 2009 tax return (of which we paid Uncle Sam a pretty penny) by having knee surgery. Alas, there appears to be more damage than we previously thought and that may necessitate further surgery down the road (but as far as I'm concerned it will be way down the road). Anyway, I'll discuss that with the doctor on my visit with him Thursday. I'll be home for a month and have plans to catch up on some projects - cleaning, jigsaw puzzles, sewing, reading, just to name a few. All in good time - I need to spend some time recovering and I plan on taking it easy before I tackle those lofty goals.

I had another goal, which I'm not sure I'll attempt right now, but maybe in the near future. I have two collections - penguins and cookbooks. I have over 125 cookbooks and find I'm always interested in perusing new ones at they are published. I recently bought The Pioneer Woman's Cookbook and Worldwide Ward Cookbook. And then I looked in my pantry, which is full of various food stuffs (cans, boxes, bottles, etc). Then I had this epihany. Using the vast number of cookbooks I have, I should be able to create some glorious recipes from the things already in my pantry. So, at some point, I'll be putting the cookbooks to the test. I'm not making promises on when this will happen, but just the idea of it is quite intriguing to me. We have far too much food in the pantry for a family of two. Maybe I can start in a few weeks when Kim and her family arrive from England for a visit. Kim, if you are reading this, make sure you let me know if there is something you don't like to eat (although you have always been the best eater of my three daughters - willing to try most things put in front of you.

Hope this post makes sense -these pain pills haven't helped me on my usually perfect spelling. So, forgive me readers if you catch a misspelling. Only one more day of heavy pain meds and then I'll be back to normal.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

On Turning 60

When I was a child I used to categorize decades by how the number of the decade sounded. Back then I thought 60 sounded terribly old for some reason, but 70, 80, and 90 didn't sound old to me. Well, I hit the big 60 on St. Patrick's Day and guess what? Sixty isn't old sounding anymore. Despite a few medical issues I deal with (sore knee and back), I feel pretty good, still have a lot of energy (confirmed by the fact that I am writing this at 1:10 a.m.), and still am excited about life in general. So, for those of you who may be approaching this decade, it really isn't so bad.

A couple of other observations. We had the adult session of our Stake Conference tonight. It was really uplifting. The talks were wonderful and there was a lovely musical number by a couple from one of the wards in our stake. The closing song was "Because I Have Been Given Much", which is one of my favorite hymns. I love the words to this hymn and how it touches my soul.

Because I have been given much, I too must give;
Because of thy great bounty, Lord, each day I live;
I shall divide my gifts from thee,
With every brother that I see
Who has a need of help from me.

Because I have been sheltered, fed by Thy good care,
I cannot see another lack and I not share.
My glowing fire, my loaf of bread,
My roof's safe shelter overhead,
That he too may be comforted.

Because I have been blessed by thy great love, dear Lord
I'll share thy love again, according to thy word.
I shall give love to those in need;
I'll show that love by word and deed;
Thus shall my thanks be thanks indeed.

These words from Grace Nowell Crowell are so meaningful and a philosophy for one's life.  We are all so busy that sometimes we forget to take time to see what's really important. The music to this hymn goes so perfectly with the message. It has always been a favorite of mine.

We have seen much tragedy in the world since the beginning of 2010, with earthquakes in Haiti and Chile. How many of us pondered the devastation in these two countries and thought, "how can I help"? How many of us went about our busy lives and continued to read about the suffering these people were going through? How many of us "divided our gifts from thee" and shared them with those who had "a need of help from me"? How many of us showed our "love by word and deed"? It's been weeks since these earthquakes hit, but the devastation and destruction continue. If you haven't already, contact the American Red Cross and see how what you can do to help.

I'm going to try to be more regular at posting on the blog. As I visit other blogs, I am sometimes amazed at how many times people post something. We are counseled to write a journal, and I'm thinking that blogging is another way to keep a journal. Some of my friends have compiled a book at the end of the year with all of their blog posts. Maybe this is a goal I'll try to attain this year. I'm also going to try to do some things which I enjoy but haven't done for a long time (sewing and quilting). There is such a sense of accomplishment when finishing a sewing project, and I find it very relaxing so I'm going to try to get back into the swing of things and become more creative this year. Now, a challenge to you all (well, those who happen to come across my blog) - try something you'd like to do and set a goal to try to accomplish that this year. Maybe we can report on these goals later in the year. The year of being creative - I think I like that challenge. How about you?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Bearing Witness to the Blizzard of 2010 - Part III

No, I'm not going to tell you we are getting more snow, although snow is in the forecast for early next week. Today I thought I'd share the aftermath of the historic snowstorms we've just experienced. Road crews have to truck the snow out of our area, especially in Washington, DC. There is just too much snow to plow to the side of the road and let it melt. It takes time for snow "removal", so the road crews have been doing a yeoman's job with plowing and trucking the snow out of town. That being said, picture this - at best there are 1 to 1-1/2 lanes of road to drive on and it is Friday and the federal government announces there will be a two hour delay in opening, but the government workers will report to work. Private industry workers are probably, in all likelihood, just returning to work as well. So, what happens with this combination of factors? MASSIVE RUSH HOURS in the morning and the evening and thousands of commuters who are very unhappy. Reports from commuters of 2-3 hour drives to/from work. If you don't have the normal lanes available to drive in, thousands of people need to merge into one lane. Then, there are those commuters who need to make a LEFT TURN when there is no turning lane. Consequently, morning rush hour lasts until 2:00 p.m. and evening rush hour went until almost 9:00 p.m.

Guess what? Saturday the 13th was no better and because Valentine's Day is February 14th, you know what that means - the malls were jammed with cars, with far fewer parking spaces to contend for because of the mountains of snow in the mall parking lots. So we now have experienced a rare Saturday rush hour. And it's musical as well, with the sounds of horns honking at every stoplight or as driver's try to merge into mall traffic lanes. And don't forget the conductors of this music - I've seen more than my share of a middle finger gesture today than I have in several decades put together.  Our news media is calling this "The Big Dig Out."

I know, people from other parts of the country who are used to getting mass quantities of snow are shaking their heads in amusement at how the people in the Mid-Atlantic states are coping (or not coping) with these weather anomalies. They wonder why our schools are shutdown for a week (although with the lack of sidewalk shoveling I've witnessed near our local elementary and middle schools, I wouldn't want my children walking in the streets to try to get to school). Now state school officials must decide what to do - do they extend the school year, add time at the end of the school day to try to make up for the days already lost, eliminate some school holidays already on the calendar, or declare a special dispensation from the 180 school day requirement? I'm glad I don't have to make that decision.

We will carry on to the best of our ability. In a few months we'll continue to relate our snow stories and maybe even get a chuckle out of this situation we find ourselves in, but we will never forget February 2010 and the power the weather has over each and everyone of us. Note: Someone needs to remind me of this post in the middle of the hot and humid summer we will have in a few short months.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Bearing Witness to the Blizzard of 2010-Part II

So early in the evening on February 9th, the snow began again and continued through much of the day on the 10th and then the winds arrived. We were in blizzard conditions and ended up with an additional 12" of snow on top of the 30" we had received five days earlier. This is a picture I took during the storm looking out of our front door.

This is a view of the driveway of my car and Jimmy's car during the storm (taken from of the den window). Note: we did not clear off Jimmy's car after the weekend storm, but we had cleaned off mine, so you can see how much snow we received on Wednesday. My car is on the left side of the picture. Once the snow started, it began sticking immediately and accumulated very quickly.

Thursday we awoke to a glorious sunny day, and I decided to brave the elements (the wind was still blowing a little) and take some pictures. This is our backyard. If you look on the snow slightly to the right of the tree on the right side of the picture, you can see a twig from the rose bush that is now buried in snow.

I went upstairs to get a sweater and noticed the snow accumulation in the alcove outside one of the windows in Kim's old room. Yes, we did get a lot of snow.

This has been an incredible year for snow, and we've heard a rumor that we might be getting more early next week (it's just a clipper, the weathermen are saying; it should only be a couple of inches). That's what they said about yesterday's storm. Schools have been closed all week, and there's a holiday on Monday in honor of Presidents Washington and Lincoln. At the rate we are going, the children may be going to school through most of June. I recall a similar storm in 1979, when I was pregnant with Kim and the kids missed two weeks of school. Keeping our fingers crossed that we've seen the last of winter's calling card for this year. Another note: with the help of a good friend, I was able to place these photos where I wanted them. Hey, this publishing thing isn't too complicated, now is it?

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Bearing Witness to the Blizzard of 2010

We'd been warned about the upcoming storm for almost a week, but living in the DC Metropolitan area, sometimes we get complacent about the snow predictions - not this time. The storm was coming from the south and we DC natives know what that means - we can really get slammed by a storm from the south and guess what? This storm was no different. The snow began to fall on Friday, February 5th about 2:00 p.m in Bowie, Maryland where I work. I finally left work around 6:30 and realized that the road conditions were such that I would have to drive a lot slower than usual (25 mph, if that). My normal 25 minutes drive home took more than an hour, and the only time I had a problem was when I turned onto the side street to get to my garage - a little slipping and sliding before safety arriving in my driveway.

Once inside, Peter and I hunkered down for the duration. The storm was predicted to last through 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, February 6th, and we were anticipating about 2 feet of snow. Around 10:30, Peter decided to rev up the snowblower for the first of what would be five or six times over the course of the next 24 hours. At this point, it looked as if at least 10" of snow had fallen. We had an earlier snowfall that week, and we got about 6", but the snow was light and easy to plow through. The snow was heavy and taxing on the snowblower. Our next door neighbor was out shoveling his sidewalk as well. Peter told him not to shovel in the morning and that he would use the snowblower on his sidewalk in the morning.

A little after 11:00 p.m. the satelite dish was covered with snow and we lost TV service. It wasn't restored until Sunday morning, February 7th, once the sun was out and melting the snow off the dish. We listened to the radio through the computer as well as the radio in our bedroom, to try to keep abreast of what the weather conditions were and if the forecast was changing. It wasn't, except that through all indications, we might be getting more snow than originally forecast. We ended up with 30" in our area.

Due to the impending snowstorm, we received notice that church was being canceled (the decision was made on Friday). Sunday, February 6th began as a beautiful day, with vivid blue skies, and we ventured out to document the effects of this storm. A beautiful crape myrtle, in the front of our house, was badly damaged by the weight of the snow. A magnolia tree in our back yard was lost as well. We began walking the streets and taking photographs of the snow and its impact on our neighborhood. As you can see, we did get a lot of snow.
I'm not going to jinx myself so I'm only posting 3 photos. Since this is the first time I've posted photos to my blog, I'll have to learn the ins and outs of photo positioning in feature posts. Despite the amount, it was a beautiful snowfall. Now, are we really getting another storm on Tuesday, February 9th?

Sunday, January 24, 2010


It's been awhile since I posted something, and I have a lot of things to say, but I'll focus on one topic today. I should be cooking something right now, but before I begin that process, I thought I'd post something about friendship.

I was out of the country for a couple of weeks at the beginning of January. No cell phones, no Internet (as the charge for using it on the ship was ridiculously high), very little news to speak of (this coming from someone who tries to stay on top of all the current events that are available); I was feeling a little out of touch with my world and the world around me. I did get to spend time with one of my daughters, her husband, our 18 month old granddaughter, and my son-in-law's parents. As we don't get to see this daughter very often, it was fun to see her everyday over the 12 days we were away. Getting reaquainted with Anna, our granddaughter, was fun as well. She is quite the little trooper, handling the various tours we were on at the different ports we visited with very little trauma. I was amazed at how well she did (especially since she wasn't on her normal schedule back at home).

Anyway, today a church, one of my friends gave a talk about charity and service. It was so well written and presented, and brought a lot of tears to those of us who listened to her heartfelt words. I have known this person since she was a child, and she has grown up into a fabulous young woman (mother of four), and I treasure our friendship. She has a wonderful sense of humor but, at the same time, is a very caring and compassionate person. It's fun to watch her raise her family and even though we don't get to see each other very often, she is a great role model for those around her.

Yesterday I attended a baby shower for a dear friend's daughter. She is expecting her first child in the next several weeks and I don't think I've ever been to a bigger baby shower in my life. She was showered with all sorts of baby gifts and will probably be writing thank you notes for the next six months. Again, I was able to spend time with some very dear friends. Even though we don't get together that often, when we are together, it's like we were just with one another yesterday. We can joke and laugh, be serious and circumspect, all in the same visit. These friends have been in my life for the past 32 years and I couldn't have raised my family without them around. These are truly wonderful relationships and ones I couldn't imagine not having in my life.

My last comment on friends is about a very dear friend at church. She is solid as a rock, willing to help anyone with anything that they need help with. She, too, has a wonderful sense of humor, and her powers of observation are amazing. She gave me a Christmas gift today and it means so much to me. Thirty-one years ago we were pregnant together and our friendship has grown over that time. She is someone I count on to be there, and I know she will be, no matter what happens. She, too, is a treasured friend.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that we shouldn't take our friends for granted, and we shouldn't be afraid to tell them what they mean in our lives. With all the tragedy and sorrow in the world today, these friendships are the ties that bind. It doesn't matter if you see your friends everyday or not; these relationships are what make us strong and capable of facing whatever life's journey might throw at us. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have these special people in my life. I am truly blessed.