Back Hoe Disconnect

I drive a lot more than used to.  I have three part-time jobs in various locations around Milwaukee, so I sometimes spend more than an hour a day in my car.

It is easy to get impatient especially with people who insist on running red lights (well, they SAW the yellow so that means they should go through the light even if it turns red before they get to the intersection, right?).  Sigh.  I also see too many people still talking on their phones (Please, people — hands free is at least a LITTLE safer than holding that blasted phone to your ear while you turn left in front of me crossing multiple lanes of traffic).  Don’t get me started on all the people one can see clearly TEXTING while driving!  Please all of you agree on the roads you want to use and the rest of us will stay off those roads. Seriously.

I grew up in a small town.  I used to describe it as 699 people and one stoplight (which was quite accurate at the time, I might add).  Now I drive past way more than 699 folks and several stoplights before I even get to the interstate!

Somedays traffic is flowing well, and the other drivers seem reasonably rational and semi-intelligent. As I cruise by all those cars, people, houses, businesses, companies — I sometimes feel disconnected and isolated.  I’m in my own little world inside my vehicle and everyone else on the busy highway is in theirs, too.

Angel of Grief imagy by Michael Schaffner via Flickr CC
Angel of Grief imagy by Michael Schaffner via Flickr CC

As I was driving one day recently through the city — I pondered the number of very large cemeteries that I pass going from one of my jobs to another.  I catch glimpses of intricately sculpted stones — angels, obelisks, crosses.  Row upon row upon row.  There is even a quite large pyramid in one of the graveyards I pass.  If I go a certain way, the interstate cuts through a military cemetery. There are rows and rows of solemn white crosses on gently flowing hills on both sides of of the highway.  At sunset the light is beautiful against the stones.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gnas/4650799888/in/set-72157607972404806
image by Just Add Light via Flickr CC

My most common thought about these cemeteries is that I wish I had time (or tell myself I should MAKE time) to go walk around in them on a nice day so I could look more closely at the interesting monuments and possibly take photos of them.

One day last week, I was driving along beside one of these huge graveyards and I caught sight of a cluster of cars and a back hoe out of the corner of my eye.  My heart lurched.  I felt sorrow for those people gathered there on the cold grey winter day to honor and mourn their loved one.  I wondered if the person was young or old, if the death was from illness or some tragedy, and even what kind of life they had led..  The back hoe was not very far away from the clump of cars and people.  It sat with the bucket facing the grave as if it was anxious to dig in immediately after the last prayer was uttered.

I felt like I was intruding on the privacy of the deceased and of the mourners.  What a very personal moment to be unintentionally sharing with all the people who happen to be driving by the cemetery at that exact moment. But I felt oddly connected to their sorrow.  I had sudden flashes of the many cold, grey funerals I have attended — too many.  I mulled those memories over as I drove on, away from the sad tableau.

public domain image:  "JCB 3CX Backhoe loader" by S. Lampkin, U.S. Air Force -
public domain image: “JCB 3CX Backhoe loader” by S. Lampkin, U.S. Air Force –

As several days passed, I wondered why this image (of the backhoe and the gravesite and the mourners) was sticking with me.  Why is it still there in my mind?  What am I supposed to make of this?

Obviously, we are mortal beings.  We live, we die.  It’s the circle of life (cue the musical production number).

hah!  Sorry.  I just saw Lion King (Broadway touring company) and it is still fresh in my music memory.

It doesn’t matter how big or fancy the tombstone might be — we all end up the same way.  Dust to dust.

Image by Lynn Friedman via Flickr CC license
Image by Lynn Friedman via Flickr CC license

But instead of feeling nihilistic about that fact, I feel a reverence for the fragility of our lives.  I want to be remembered for the good things I said and did, not for the way I let small irritations (or big ones) get to me.  I want to be kind and loving.  I want to be salt and light to the world. I want to spend more time with my family and friends and make more time for the things I enjoy doing, whether by myself or with others.  I want to keep my word, do my best at my work, and waste less time in general (FACEBOOK can be a time-wasting vortex).

The back hoe might be revving its engine, but I’m not going to keep looking at it or listen for the sound of its motor.
I’m going to keep looking for the beauty in each person, each minute, each day — and keep looking for that beauty in myself, and in the world around me, too.

Gifts that Give Back

At this time of year, I’m always on the lookout for gifts that are more than just gifts.  If I can give something beautiful, handmade, or artisan made that gives back to either the artist or the community where it originated — then I’m more willing to purchase that item.  

From Ten Thousand Villages:

Silk Market Round Pillow

From Ten Thousand Villages: Silk Market Round Pillow. Made by Mai Vietnamese Handicrafts

During recent years, Mai Handicrafts has established itself as the primary marketing agent for artisans from neglected families and women. It practices a model of social development in which social service cannot be separated from economic self-reliance. Mai Handicrafts sales fund various community development activities, including clean water projects, vocational training equipment purchase and teacher wage subsidies.

Another site with lovely gifts:

from Krochet Kids intl. 

Our goal is to holistically equip people living in poverty with the skills, education, and resources to change their circumstances forever. Work provides worth. Education breeds innovation. Mentorship nourishes relationships. Through this multifaceted and measured approach we work with each beneficiary to create a path toward independence.

The Envelope Clutch:  (just one example — there are many, many more)

The envelop clutch. Also available in a red pattern.

Next we have —

Accompany, a site that features products that are fair trade, philanthropic and artisan made.  I chose just one example to share here.  There are lots of very interesting and lovely choices.

Introducing global curation at its finest. We scour the globe for the coolest, most beautiful and one-of-a-kind finds, and filter them through a range of style lenses— to create unique boutiques that contain both an eclectic mix of cultures and a well-edited point of view. Each and every piece we pick has a story behind it, and embodies exemplary design. Handmade pieces and ethically sourced items, that bring human impact and fashion impact together to create feel-good goods through a look-good lens.

Allure earrings from the Faire Collection; upcycled horn

 

I learned about this next site through a comment made on last December’s post featuring gifts that give back.

Napada Thailand:

Napada handicrafts employs women from this low-income community enabling them to better the lives of their families while forming community with Christians and learning the truths of God. Some of the women had low paying jobs and some had no work opportunities whatsoever prior to becoming a part of Napada. Napada provides a creative outlet for these women while seeing them come to know and love how they are a part of God’s great creation and plan.

Image (and more info about Napada) from/at Little by Little blog.

Global Goods:  Gifts that Give Back

As professionals in the international development field, Catherine Lieber Shimony and Joan Shifrin traveled to impoverished areas around the globe to support community-based economic initiatives. Time and time again, they met dynamic women that were producing beautiful, handmade goods, yet lacked access to sustainable markets in which to sell their products. Catherine and Joan saw first-hand how women in marginalized communities throughout Asia, Africa, and the Americas were able to advance their families’ well-being only after their income was stabilized. In 2005, Catherine and Joan were inspired to found Global Goods Partners to create effective income-generation opportunities for women and their communities through access to the consumer market for handmade, fair trade products.
peacemaker bracelet from Global Goods Partners, $15

 

Lydali:  Gorgeous jewelry, bags and scarves.  SO many cool and beautiful items here!!

The richly hued Tribal Wool Clutches are handwoven from naturally dyed wool using traditional weaving patterns. Handcrafted by Josefina and her husband Paco in Teotitlán, Mexico, the manufacture of these clutches is both ethical and eco-friendly, making it a great bag from start to finish.
Tribal wool clutch from Lydali, $36

FEED:  Creating good products that help feed the world.  Wonderful bags, totes, bracelets, messengers, backpacks — LOTS of cool stuff.  Many items under $40.

image from FEED website
image from FEED website

Far and Wide Collective:

At Far & Wide Collective we have a passion for discovering the beautifully unique and carefully made things one can only stumble upon in the tucked-away workshops and rural village markets on exotic travels. We have found these products – and the people who make them – and we are bringing them to you. We know that if we do, we are helping to build a more sustainable infrastructure in many of these communities and countries for the future.

Gone Rural:  Swaziland

The GR Collection weaves together tradition with innovation. Proving that contemporary design and environmental sensitivity go hand-in-hand, our mainline collection of baskets and tableware is crafted entirely from locally-sourced, natural fibres and recycled materials.

Nest:

Nest is partnering with the world’s most promising artisans to build sustainable businesses within the competitive landscape of today’s global economy. Simultaneously, Nest is helping artisans to transform their communities through the alleviation of poverty, empowerment of women and promotion of peace.

Shake the Dust:

Our products are created through collaborations between carefully selected emerging British designers and ethical producers in developing countries. In addition, Shake the Dust also works with all producer and designer partners to select and create products for individual signature collections.

Hand-made products bring a rare element of soul and craftsmanship into our homes and it is in this spirit that Shake the Dust connects you to beautiful products and their creators. Shake the Dust stands for ethical transparency without compromising style.

The brand is founded on the belief that good design, ethical production and profitability are not mutually exclusive. In this respect, Shake the Dust promotes development and sustainability for both designers, producers and the industry and offers a unique blend of good design with a conscience.

I would love to hear of other sites you enjoy that fit this realm of gift giving.  Keep it simple.  Focus on the LOVE.

Other blog posts featuring gifts that give back ideas:

Mine from last year:  https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/radical-gift-giving/

One I found just recently:  http://www.pbfingers.com/2014/11/25/pbf-2014-gift-guide-gifts-that-give-back/

Exit the Vortex

vortex
Image from page 173 of “The electro-therapeutic guide, or, A thousand questions asked and answered” (1907)

Just when you think everything is settled and sailing along fairly smoothly, opportunities and options may appear that send it all back into the blender.

I sometimes use the phrase “I got caught in a vortex” to excuse my (occasional) lateness or my (frequent) disheveled appearance.

My life seems to have gotten caught in a vortex again this last month or so.  I admit it freely; I could have avoided getting caught in this vortex.  I actually sought it out this time, though.

Sometimes you’ve got to toss the question out there.  If I’m not happy, what can I change?  What can I do to make change happen?

If you can’t make external changes, the changes must come from inside — change your expectations, change your attitude, change what is in your control, explore options that seem “impossible.”  In my case, exploring the options made the changes happen — both externally and internally.

Image from page 27 of "Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation" (1920)
Image from page 27 of “Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation” (1920)

I’ve been having knee problems since sometime last spring.  I am not sure if it was walking miles and miles for several days on the concrete sidewalks of NYC, having my knee crammed into the back of a seat at the Broadway show we saw, twisting it as I got off the bus one time (when it wasn’t lowered and I thought it was).  Or if it is an accumulation of too many years of standing, dancing (yes!), hiking and too many years of carrying too many pounds.  At any rate, this summer I went through several doctor appointments, a little physical therapy and finally an X-ray.  The reading of the X-ray determined I needed an MRI on my knee to clarify or pinpoint the issue(s).  I decided to take a whole day of sick leave to take care of this appointment (plus the wonderful mammogram that also needed done).  The day chosen for these appointments was Tuesday, September 23.

Going back a couple of weeks — I had tentatively decided to look for a different part-time teaching job.  After school started this fall, I had several surprises of a negative sort pertaining to various aspects of my current job.  I was unhappy and frustrated, and decided it would not hurt to see if there might be anything more reasonable for me t0 do.  I applied for, and interviewed for a job at a school closer to my home (meaning less time driving) and with a much more reasonable work/time load to pay ratio.  I was able to do the interview after school one day so I didn’t need to cause any undue drama or alarm at my current job.

WAGXERS MANUSCRIPT OF A PART OF THE SCORE OF DIE MEISTERSINGER 294 RICHARD WAGNER hauser.
Image from page 322 of “Modern music and musicians : [Encyclopedic]” (1918)
Also, several week ago — I applied for a free-lance choral editing job at a well-known music publishing company with headquarters here in Milwaukee.  I just happened to see a request for applicants from one of the senior editors at this company (who also is a well-known composer/conductor).  The request was posted on a Facebook page for Wisconsin Choral Directors.  It sounded like an interesting opportunity and a great place to get a foot in the door so I sent my cover letter and resume immediately.   I assumed there would be many, many applicants and had no great expectation that I might ever hear anything more about it — but I thought it was worth a try.

Both of these opportunities were “Blown’ in the Wind.”  (That song kept running through my mind during the day all this came together.  You’ll see why.)

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

On that Monday, September 21, I had pretty much decided I would not be hearing an offer from the interview the previous week.

Twenty-four hours later I had two job offers and the opportunity to completely rearrange my work life.  I took the chances.  I seized the day.

I didn’t have much time to consider but the options fit so perfectly together.  Everything seemed to align all at once.

The answers were not blowin’ in the wind, they were etched in the sand under my feet.

Since I already had the whole day off on that Tuesday, I was able to visit the new school to meet with the principal, see the school and visit the music room (which I hadn’t been able to do the night I interviewed).  I also had time that afternoon to meet with the choral editors at the publishing company to discuss what they needed me to do.

Image from page 134 of "Religious emblems and allegories : a series of engravings, with suitable letter-press, designed to illustrate divine truth" (1868)
Image from page 134 of “Religious emblems and allegories : a series of engravings, with suitable letter-press, designed to illustrate divine truth” (1868)

Long story short, I resigned from my current job that night.  I taught just three more days, finishing out the week and saying many tearful goodbyes to the wonderful students and teachers there.

I started teaching at my new school the very next Monday, and started training at the editing job the next afternoon.

I’m feeling refreshed and challenged in many new directions.  I’m incredibly thankful for these opportunities and have had a very strong sense of peace about the whole thing (even while I was in the vortex of it all!)

 

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind

 

 

 

Back-to-School Soul Food

image by The Tromp Queen, CC license; sunrise over Lake Webster
image by The Tromp Queen, CC license; sunrise over Lake Webster

Matins

I cannot ope mine eyes,
But thou art ready there to catch
My morning-soul and sacrifice:
Then we must needs for that day make a match.

image via Flickr CC by Marc Crumpler "early morning rainbow"
image via Flickr CC by Marc Crumpler “early morning rainbow”

My God, what is a heart?
Silver, or gold, or precious stone,
Or star, or rainbow, or a part
Of all these things, or all of them in one?

My God, what is a heart,
That thou shouldst it so eye, and woo,
Pouring upon it all thy art,
As if that thou hadst nothing else to do?

Lotus flower

Indeed man’s whole estate
Amounts (and richly) to serve thee:
He did not heav’n and earth create,
Yet studies them, not him by whom they be.

Teach me thy love to know;
That this new light, which now I see,
May both the work and workman show:
Then by a sunbeam I will climb to thee.

image by Cindy Cornett Seigle via Flickr CC: Some really pretty sunbeams. Sullivan County, Indiana.
image by Cindy Cornett Seigle via Flickr CC: Some really pretty sunbeams. Sullivan County, Indiana.

poem by George Herbert 1633

 

 

 

The Colorful Clouds of Rho Ophiuchi Credit & Copyright: Jim Misti and Steve Mazlin, (acquisition), Robert Gendler (processing)

Ineffable Creator,
Who, from the treasures of Your wisdom,
has established three hierarchies of angels,
has arrayed them in marvelous order
above the fiery heavens,
and has marshaled the regions
of the universe with such artful skill,
You are proclaimed
the true font of light and wisdom,
and the primal origin
raised high beyond all things.

 

M.Giuliana D.M.  ray of light, via Flickr CC license
M.Giuliana D.M.
ray of light, via Flickr CC license

Pour forth a ray of Your brightness
into the darkened places of my mind;
disperse from my soul
the twofold darkness
into which I was born:
sin and ignorance.

image by Brian Wolfe "good teacher" via Flickr CC license
image by Brian Wolfe “good teacher” via Flickr CC license

You make eloquent the tongues of infants.
Refine my speech
and pour forth upon my lips
the goodness of Your blessing.

image by jane Hewitt "good teacher" via Flickr CC
image by jane Hewitt “good teacher” via Flickr CC

Grant to me
keenness of mind,
capacity to remember,
skill in learning,
subtlety to interpret,
and eloquence in speech.

Image by Manuel, via Flickr CC
Image by Manuel, via Flickr CC

May You
Guide the beginning of my work,
direct its progress,
and bring it to completion.
You Who are true God and true Man,
Who live and reign, world without end.
Amen.

image via Flickr CC license 2.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike by Trey Ratcliff "Islamic Peace"
image via Flickr CC license 2.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike by Trey Ratcliff “Islamic Peace”


–St. Thomas Aquinas

These beautiful prayers were posted on a friend’s Facebook wall recently.

The words have stayed with me.

I decided to add a few photos and share them here.

I hope you find a spark of inspiration.

 

ALSO — I recently discovered these great poetry books.  Great stuff for those who ASPIRE to INSPIRE!

Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach, edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner
Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach, edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner
Leading from Within: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Lead, edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner

 

Photo credits:

lotus flower image:  via Flickr CC by Richard IJzermans: A beautiful lotus flower in the forbidden city, Beijing China.

One Mom’s Advice for How to Succeed at College (and Life)

image by Kellan, via Flickr CC (Goodbye (redux))
image by Kellan, via Flickr CC (Goodbye (redux))

I posted this last year, but I updated it just a tiny bit.  REposting because this is still what I want him to hear as he goes out the door.

To my nearly 20-year-old son as he prepares to leave for college (again) this weekend:

Dear Ben,

You’ve seen these lists.
I’ve posted at least one list on your Facebook page.
I KNOW you read everything I post on your page, so maybe this is redundant.

Anyway.

via Flickr CC image by Rachel: Sunday Drive
via Flickr CC image by Rachel: Sunday Drive

It is amazing to me how fast these years have gone. You don’t realize yet how fast time truly does fly. Soon you will. It picks up speed during college and never slows down after that.

Remember Grandma always says, “It’s Monday; then it’s Friday. It’s Monday; then it’s Friday.” She’s right.

First of all, let me say that I’m incredibly proud of you and that I love you more than you can imagine.

I can’t resist the urge to impart some words of wisdom before you go, though. Brace yourself for the forthcoming flow of wisdom because here it comes!

image via Flickr CC by CameliaTWU Senescent maple leaf Herastrau Park, Bucharest, Romania
image via Flickr CC by CameliaTWU
Senescent maple leaf
Herastrau Park, Bucharest, Romania

1. LISTEN TO ADVICE, but find your own path. People will tell you which class to take, which Prof to avoid, which dorm is best. What is true for another person may not be true for you. Gather information, investigate and decide important questions for yourself. Don’t rely on what “everyone” tells you.

2. GO TO CLASS. This really should have been number 1, but I’m not that great at lists, following advice or thinking in a linear fashion. But you already know that and I digress. There is no way to succeed without BEING THERE. Yes, sleep is important. So is eating and socializing. But the main reason you are there is to LEARN stuff, to gain knowledge — and you can’t do that if you aren’t in class. Seriously. Don’t skip. Figure out how much each hour of class costs and imagine throwing that money away or burning it. That is what you are doing when you skip.

3. BUILD RELATIONSHIPS. I could have said “make friends” but I believe there is more to it than just making friends. You will find people who make you better at being you, who make you feel more alive and more interested in the world. Avoid the people who create turmoil; those who are more interested in what you can do for them than in who you are. Making friends is fairly easy, but keeping them isn’t as easy. Invest time in people wisely. Choose carefully. Some of the friends you make in college will be your friends decades from now. One of the best ways to do this is to be in and to stay involved in a music organization.

4. Find your PASSION. (I know — trite but true). In your baby book, there was a page for “Mother’s Wishes for Baby.” I couldn’t put into words what I wanted for you at that time, but this is what I wanted to say then and still want to say now:

I want to you be healthy. I want you to have enough challenges so that you grow in faith and courage but always enough tools, resources, and friends to meet those challenges. I want you to have a job that doesn’t feel like work; a job that you love so much that you are thankful each day you get to do what you do and get paid for it. I want you to have confidence, compassion, joy, respect, curiosity — LOVE. Aspire to inspire.  In short: Do what you love and love what you do.

5. TRAVEL. Save money and plan for trips. When opportunities to travel arise, turn over every rock to make it happen. Go, see and do.

6. THINK DEEP THOUGHTS. Let your imagination run. Dream. Set some incredible goals. Have great conversations. Have some adventures. Keep your sense of humor. (You’ve got this one down pat, already!)

7. BEWARE OF THE VORTEX. Don’t sit alone in your dorm room (unless you are studying or have homework!).
Please be aware of how much “screen time” you are spending. Don’t be that guy who sits there for five days playing video games and eating Cheetos. You are better than that.

8. REACH OUT. If you feel overwhelmed, depressed, out-of-sorts, unhappy or lonely — call someone. You can ALWAYS call home. 🙂 Also — If you are lost or confused in a class, go see the Prof. Just do it. It is the best way to get back on track.

9. While I’m on the home topic — FAMILY IS FOREVER. Hopefully you’ve already picked this tidbit up. Family will be there at the hospital, at your life events, at whatever. We’ve got your back. Through thick or thin you are stuck with us (in a good way).

10. KEEP YOUR WORD. Mean what you say and say what you mean. Don’t lie. You don’t have to say everything you think out loud, though. Be kind. Have integrity. Stand up for what is right, even when it is not the easy thing to do. Learn to say “no.”

11. Be a good neighbor. Always vote. (Sliger family rules!)

(and this addendum since last year — )

12. ANSWER YOUR PHONE when we call!  If you can’t talk right then, fine.  Text us and let us know when it would be a good time to talk.  We MISS you!  Have a little sympathy for the old parental units now and then.  It doesn’t matter what we talk about  — we mostly just want to hear your voice.

Love,

Mom

image by Martin LaBar Bradford pear leaf, sooc via Flickr CC
image by Martin LaBar Bradford pear leaf, sooc
via Flickr CC

The SCARED is scared of all the things you like.

I have faced many fears this past year.

I have a few more to face in the very near future.

I found this wonderful video in my inbox this morning.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/58659769″>the Scared is scared</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/biancagiaever”>Bianca Giaever</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

Here is some of the takeaway wisdom from the 6-year-old narrator, for when things get scary:

Hold your breath, and close your eyes.

Say “whee!”

Find some fur to hold onto.

There will always be another time together next spring.

If something feels like it’s closing, just say, “that’s fine!” And let it go. Think of something that you really like to do, until the nervous has gone out of you.

And always remember: when the scared feeling comes into you, the scared feeling is scared of all the things you like.

— quote from Feed Your Spirit, daily devotional.

This is my March Inspiration for today, Sunday, March 16.  Enjoy.

Endeavors for the New Year

English: Endeavor
English: Endeavor (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I don’t like the idea of “resolutions” (resolving to do something).

I’m going with ENDEAVOR.

Endeavor can be either a verb (try hard to do or achieve something) or a noun (an attempt to achieve a goal).

freedictionary.com gives the definition of endeavor as —
1. A conscientious or concerted effort toward an end; an earnest attempt. 2. Purposeful or industrious activity; enterprise.

What will I endeavor to do this next year?

Gratitude changes everything
Gratitude changes everything (Photo credit: symphony of love)

1.  I really love the idea of doing a “Thankfulness: 365” type of project.  I’m not sure I am diligent enough to take a photo every day, but Apple Hill Cottage’s posts inspired me to give it a try!  http://applehillcottage.org/thankfulness-360/  I might work this in with #3.

5. Friends!
5. Friends! (Photo credit: motagirl2)

2.  I will be a better friend.  I realize that I’ve been more self-centered than usual this year.  I need to make amends with some friends who were going through difficult times.  I wish I had been more supportive and present for them.  I also need to invest time and effort in making new connections.  I’ve taken quite a while to mourn the loss of all I left behind, and I realize I need to focus on the here and now.

Mini Art Quilt
Mini Art Quilt (Photo credit: cathredfern)

3.  I will make more time for creative projects.  One of the few TV show I enjoy watching is Quilting Arts on PBS.  Several of the programs I saw recently — (who knows when they aired?  I love our DVR!) — were full of ideas for making time daily for being creative.  With so many hobbies and supplies and my new “Creativity Room,” I need to be more intentional about using time for things I enjoy doing creatively.

We Can Do It! Poster
We Can Do It! Poster (Photo credit: DonkeyHotey)

4. I will pursue better health.  This covers a wide range of issues.  I’m not looking forward to this one, but I can no longer pretend I’m 24 and thin.  (I’m definitely neither of those things now!)

5. I will get our household unpacked and better organized.  (groan!)  After living in one place for 17 years and then moving across the state this summer, we are still looking for many items that seem to have disappeared during the move.

A grand piano with music
A grand piano with music (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

6.  I will learn some new piano music just for ME.  For several years, I’ve played mostly music that was chosen by others.  This is one endeavor I’m pretty such I can manage!  Again, making time for doing things for personal growth and enjoyment should be a priority for most everyone.  Why is it so difficult to do?

7.  I will get more involved in our new community.  I have several ideas and possible directions — too many, in fact.  I need to choose a few and go. Getting an opportunity for a fresh start is a wonderful gift in many ways.  Where should I spend my time, talent and attention?

Queen Rd. sign

8.  I will continue to write this blog.  Thank you for reading, following and/or commenting!  This whole “blogging” process has been an interesting journey so far.  I’m secretly hoping I can either finish and post all my drafts and/or decide they are unworthy and delete them.  (I guess it is a not-so-secret-hope now!)

English: Stack of books in Gould's Book Arcade...

9.  I will continue to make time to read —  not only books of all kinds but also poetry.

stained glass from the National Cathedral in DC
stained glass from the National Cathedral in DC

10. This is by no means last on my endeavor list.  In fact, this endeavor has always been and will continue to be integral to every part of my life.  I will endeavor to continue growing in faith and in spirit.  I saw this tweet today:  “Thanksgiving makes time. Give thanks, slow time down w/ all your attention, & time multiplies. #1000gifts”

There seems to be a theme here:  T H A N K F U L N E S S.

Another theme is: T I M E

Nearly every endeavor on my list will be achieved or not in relation to the T I M E given to that endeavor.

God of all time, all seasons of our living,
source of our spark, protector of our flame,
blazing before our birth, beyond our dying–
God of all time, we come to sing your name.

Spirit, who draws our fragile selves together;
Spirit, who turns a stranger to a friend:
be at the table where we greet each other;
be in the peace we pass from hand to hand.

words by Shirley Erena Murray 

Blessing of Solitude

I found this lovely blessing by John O’Donohue on Soul Gatherings.

I asked if I could re-blog it, but I decided I’m going to borrow the words and find some photos to possibly enhance them just to put my spin on things.  Thanks for the inspiration, Theresa!

I think these words are very good for me to hear now.  I have several friends who have just sent children off to college.  I have just sent my son out the door to finish his senior year in the town we moved away from (after nearly 18 years — now we are nearly 3 hours away from him). Whether you are off on your own or the person left behind, hopefully these words will be a blessing to you!

A Blessing of Solitude
by John O’Donohue

photo by quirkyjazz aka Jill

May you recognize in your life the presence,
power and light of your soul.

photo by quirkyjazz aka Jill

May you realize that you are never alone,
that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you
intimately with the rhythm of the universe.
Ilica Beach (paradise!)

May you have respect for your own individuality and difference.

IMG_9195

May you realize that the shape of your soul is unique,
that you have a special destiny here,
that behind the facade of your life there is something
beautiful, good, and eternal happening.

IMG_4050

May you learn to see yourself with the same delight, pride,
and expectation with which God sees you in every moment.

all photos above by quirkyjazz aka Jill; see creative commons notice

By candlelight

 

http://soulgatherings.wordpress.com/2013/04/27/a-blessing-of-solitude/

Waiting for the Music

separated sky IMG_4778-001 I wandered lonely as a cloud Yellow arches Under the Interstate

at Summerfest
at Summerfest
Along the canal
Along the canal

Images made while waiting under I794 by the lake for my son’s band to get organized, shuttled, set-up to play at Milwaukee’s Summerfest.  It was an absolutely gorgeous day.

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Pine Sol: The Wonder Drug

Pine Sol:  The Wonder Drug!

Carb-cleanin' time
cleanin’ time (Photo credit: aperture_lag)

Yes.  My sister actually said this the other day while we were cleaning up the house (frantically) preparing for our realtor’s first Open House showing our home for sale.

There really IS something about the smell of Pine Sol.  Even if you only mop one room, the whole house smells fresh and clean.

Another funny quote from that day is from my husband.  He told my sister, “In the grand scheme of things you are a net gain.”  (Yes, this passes for a compliment in my husband’s mind.  He once told me I am a “moderately competent amateur photographer.”  Gee, thanks, honey.)

Just before hearing this statement of personal affirmation from my husband, she (my sister) had — in the line of duty helping us clean and prep the house — spilled coffee, accidentally broken the fireplace grate, put the hose on the shop vac backwards and sprayed dust around the room, then took the vac outside and got it clogged up somehow, had a cat go spelunking in the duct work when she took a grate off to clean it, had a light bulb break off in the socket, and sprayed herself with water while trying to get bird poop off a second floor window.  (It took some pretty fancy flying and precise timing for that bird to accomplish this feat of poop placement!)  But hey, she was working hard getting a lot done and we were very happy to have her help.

beautiful-bird

We had a huge belly laugh the night before the open house.  My mom told me where she hid some of the stuff before our realtor had come to take the interior photos of our home.

Logo of the National Association of Realtors.
Logo of the National Association of Realtors. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last hour or so before the realtor’s arrival was particularly frantic.  I had already announced that it was time to HIDE anything that remained unpacked and not needed immediately.  Time was ticking away at an extremely fast pace or so it seemed.  Fighting back panic, I handed my mom a bed pillow and said “hide this somewhere.”

Well, she did.
She told me later where she hid it and this is what gave us the huge belly laugh.  

She hid the pillow in an empty clothes basket outside in the back yard under a tree.  She very thoughtfully covered the pillow with a towel in case a bird happened to poop on the basket.  🙂  She also hid another basket of clean clothes out there!

I could not stop laughing.  I could barely breathe.  We all laughed and laughed as if this was the funniest thing we had ever heard.

Two laundry baskets, two cats.
Two laundry baskets, two cats. (Photo credit: oskay)

(It was difficult to find a photo with Zemanta of laundry baskets without either cats or small children!   No kidding.  I chose these two snuggly cats. )

What a day.  Who knew packing and cleaning could be so much fun?  HAH!  Good help is hard to find, but we had good help.

Maybe Pine Sol really is the Wonder Drug after all and that is what made us so silly-happy!?

Change

I experimented with changing the appearance of my blog. I thought it would be an easy thing to do! I was wrong. BEWARE! If you change, it is not easy to change back. I’m guessing I missed some magical step that would have resurrected my former settings, but I just spent quite a while trying to re-create the widget collection and various settings I had before the change.

change
change (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

I was enticed by the the idea of a fresh new theme.

I think I was lured because my whole home is in an uproar. My whole life is in an uproar. Actually it is all total chaos, which I believe is worse than a total uproar! EVERY room has boxes in various stages of fullness and emptiness. EVERY room has some “fix” that needs to be done or some furniture that needs to be taken out to be stored or some thing (more specifically: all things) that need to be cleaned!

I thought I could exert a little control over my blog world. Choose a new theme. It’ll be quick and easy and my, won’t it be nice to have something new to look at and work with?

Oh, well. Better luck next time, when every other thing in my life isn’t changing. I’ll try again someday. I promise!

I’m still smiling and taking lots of deep breaths, so no harm done.

This image shows a whole and a cut lemon.
This image shows a whole and a cut lemon. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

By the way — I learned something fantastic today:

Lemon oil ROCKS! Use it on woodwork or wooden furniture and the stuff just glows!

I grabbed the bottle on impulse during my last shopping spree to Farm and Fleet. (Yes, I’ve branched out from Menard’s!). I thought, “Lemon oil? Isn’t that the stuff they put in Pledge? Hmmm… if it is here at Farm and Fleet it must be what all those hard-working farm wives use. I’ll give it a try.” You pour a little onto a rag, wipe it on to the wood, then go back and wipe off the excess with another dry rag. Easy peasey. It smells great, too.

Hopefully THIS will be the secret thing that makes our house sell fast! The first open house is this coming Wednesday, the 19th!. YIKES.

I usually don’t do the stream consciousness type of blog post. Thank you for listening.

The connection between these things is wanting to make old things seem like something new. Lemon oil works. Changing blog themes, not so much. (At least for me today!)

Blessings!

After I published this post I got an email with this devototional message — about CHANGE!

It hurts because it matters

It hurts because it matters.

“So often we try to make other people feel better by minimizing their pain, by telling them that it will get better (which it will) or that there are worse things in the world (which there are).
But that’s not what I actually needed.

What I actually needed was for someone to tell me
that it hurt because it mattered. 

I have found this very useful to think about over the years, and I find that it is a lot easier and more bearable to be sad when you aren’t constantly berating yourself for being sad.”
– John Green

See 20 more John Green quotes here.  

It hurts because it matters.

We were in a small practice room on campus. If you’ve never been in a practice room it is a bit like a walk-in closet. There is a piano, a piano bench, maybe a chair and usually a music stand. Sometimes there is a mirror. The rooms are small and are supposedly soundproof. In reality they are stuffy, dusty, and sometimes smelly!

But back to my story . . . I was accompanying one of the amazing young singers here recently. She sang this fantastically difficult passage gloriously (as always) — from a Handel aria — it is fast, complicated and very high! She sings it with such a lovely ease (though it is not easy at all!) and the sound spins and shimmers.

I stopped and looked up at her with my eyes suddenly full of tears. She stopped and said, “What? What’s wrong?” I croaked, “I’m going to miss you so much.”

I will miss her talent, her humor, her quirkiness, her musicality, her dedication, her humility — her love of thrift shops, of purple and of God (not necessarily in that order!) — her glorious high B flats! All of that.

We hugged.

We shed a few tears.

My mom happened to be visiting that day, so she was also in that tiny dusty practice room and she said —

“The risk of loving is worth the pain.”

I’ve had a few more teary days since then. During the last voice lesson for each of my students I reflected about the journey I’ve been on with each of them, and on the journeys I’ve been on with other students before them.

I can’t yet put it all into words, but I have been hanging on to this idea to get me through —

The reason it hurts so much
to let go and say good bye
is that it matters.

A line of text from a Chanticleer CD came to mind as I was writing this post. The song I remembered is called “Wild Grass.” It is one of a set of Tang poems set to music by composer Chen Yi. The second is from the same set of texts, and I just discovered it tonight while I was searching for the wild grass text.

English: Wild Grass in India

Wild Grass

Wild grasses spreading o’er the plain
With every season come and go. 
Heath fire can’t burn them up, again
They rise when the vernal winds blow.
Their scent o’er runs the old pathway;
Their color covers the ruined town.
Seeing my friend going away,
My sorrow grows like wild grass o’er grown.
–Bai Ju-yi (772-846)

Sky and earth forever last,
Lonely, I felt sad with running tears.

–Chen Zi-ang (661-702)

English: Lonely Tree In the fields to the west...
English: Lonely Tree In the fields to the west of the A515 near Cubley. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Update on Blog-worthy

IMG_4050
photo by quirkyjazz

I was looking at the stats for blog visits to The Tromp Queen.  I noticed that a couple of people in the last few days read (at least looked at!) one of my early posts — the one where I was mulling over what could be or might be worthy of blogging.

https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/02/08/blog-worthy

I decided I should report what I did and/or didn’t do of the things I listed in that post.  (Maybe you don’t care, but possibly someone out there is intensely curious about it.)

I still promise to tell the tornado stories sometime in the future. 😉

Other things I’m thinking about are:  planning a possible major trip for our family this summer,

tickets purchased !!!  DONE

getting the oil changed in both of the newer cars,

I think this got done…

dealing with school registration for both our children,

DONE but a moot point
since we are moving to a new city

getting organized for solo/ensemble accompanying,

DONE but still ongoing because
State solo/ensemble is this Saturday

doing household stuff (the usual — laundry, groceries, cooking, cleaning),

N E V E R E N D I N G jobs…

possibly adopting a new kitten,

DONE!  She is adorable.
Her name is Zita.
She is gray and extremely curious.

Xena Luna.
Zita Luna Ombra Mai Fu

working through several major ongoing family events and issues.

some of this is DONE
(I was thinking of the new job and move mostly I think)

There is probably more, but I already feel like running upstairs to hide under the covers.

DONE!

The rest of the blog post:

1. Get orange quilt ready to hang (DONE)
and hang it. (not done)

orange batik background quilted with fuschia thread in fabulous feathers
orange batik quilt

2. Make room for new sewing table. (not done)

sewing table
sewing table

3. Urge to knit.  (Subsided, but I still have the supplies ready to go for when the urge hits again, though).

IMG_0405

4. Urge to bead.  (See #3 above).

These are not the beads I was talking about, but some I just got on Monday.  Another new project waiting to happen!

5. Make a CD of piano music.  (Stack of music is at the ready.  List of songs made. CD is not done).

Stack of music I've chosen for my piano CD.
Stack of music I’ve chosen for my piano CD.

6.  Quilts to bind.  (I still have three to do, and I have a quilting date for another one! Then I’ll have 4).

top and backing ready to go to the quilter!

7.  Church choir planning.  (This is done, believe it or not.  I gave up on the idea of a Cantata and the rest got much easier after that.)

8. Learn music for choir tour and concert: (DONE!)

I need to learn all this now!
Concert and tour completed!

I’m feeling a little better about what I’ve accomplished this spring.  Maybe this blog thing is going to work out for me after all.

Tears of Joy (Happy Happy Joy Joy Daily Prompt)

When was the last time you cried tears of joy?

The last time I remember crying tears of joy was not that long ago.  I recently took our 17-year-old son, a junior in HS, to his very first away from home campus visit.  The college we visited was my alma mater, Wheaton College in Wheaton , Illinois.  In fact, my husband, his father, and I all graduated from this college so our son would be a third generation student there.  It is a liberal arts Christian college that is highly selective and has an excellent reputation as not only an educational institution but also as a Conservatory of Music.

I dropped my son off with his campus host and then wandered off to stroll down memory lane.  I visited several buildings that held very dear memories — my first dorm room there (in Smith Hall), the main stairway of the oldest building on campus (Blanchard Hall) where I had my last class ever before graduation there as well as one of my very favorite classes ever, the Conservatory building where I spent many, many hours practicing/studying/going to classes, and finally Pierce Chapel  where the women’s choir rehearsed.

I was extremely surprised and excited to see my “old” choir director, Dr. Mary Hopper, there in the Pierce Chapel rehearsal space getting things set up to do a clinic with a visiting HS women’s choir.  She gave me a quick hug and a hello, and we shared a few speedy reminiscences.  I exclaimed over how much more beautiful the space is now than it was when I was a student there.  The stage had been refurbished with a new floor, new paint, new stage curtains, new risers, etc.  It looked fabulous.

In a few minutes a large group of young women arrived.  As they started to sing a round for their warmup (Jubilate Deo by Praetorius) tears started to fill my eyes.  Memories came flooding back of the hours I spent singing in that space with the wonderful women in Women’s Chorale with our very talented director.  My mind filled with memories of concerts, Christmas Festivals, of tours throughout many US states, one overseas tour in several European countries, memories of songs and emotions, and of the SOUND of women’s voices singing beautifully together.

I listened and enjoyed the lovely music and memories.

More tears of joy flowed just a little later that day.

As a Christian college, Wheaton has always had required chapel attendance on certain days of the week.  The whole student body gathers in Edman Chapel.  On this campus connection day, we heard from a very special guest — the author of a new book about C.S. LewisAlister McGrathhttp://alistermcgrath.weebly.com/

As the students stood for the invocation (and again for the benediction) tears sprang to my eyes.  Again, I was reminded of many exceptional speakers, singing hymns (with a pipe organ and 2000 people who can sing!), and of many concerts sung in that lovely chapel.  I remembered the very first time I walked into Edman Chapel.  I had a very strong feeling that this was where I belonged.  I very strong sense of “home.”

This day happened to be the day my family had to make a huge decision about whether or not to accept a new job offer that would cause us to move across the state to a new city after living in the same place for 17 years.  I believe that being in this place on this day helped me immensely with this decision.  I felt the presence of God here as a student and I felt it again there this day as an adult, a mother, an alumnae.  I was reminded of the very strong foundation of faith, learning and personal growth I acquired not only at Wheaton but in every stage and in every major decision in my live.  I walked by faith then, and I still do.

The tears helped me remember that.

Jubilate deo.  Sing Joy to God!  Amen.

Aside:  Wheaton College is home to the Wade Collection.  http://www.wheaton.edu/wadecenter/Welcome/Museum  Permanent pieces on display in the museum include: a wardrobe owned by C.S. Lewis, desks and pens belonging to C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, bookshelves from Charles Williams, the eyeglasses of Dorothy L. Sayers, and Owen Barfield‘s chess set and pipe.

My son now thinks everyone at Wheaton is obsessed with C.S. Lewis because of the Wade Collection museum, the chapel speaker, and my fascination with Lewis’s writings.  Oh, well.

Writing this reminded me of a few other very memorable events with tears of joy.  I will write about those soon.

Daily Prompt Tears of Joy

Live in the layers

The Layers

by Stanley Kunitz

English: Rocky Layers The rock here is in laye...
English: Rocky Layers The rock here is in layers of varying thickness. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I have walked through many lives,
some of them my own,
and I am not who I was,
though some principle of being
abides, from which I struggle
not to stray.
When I look behind,
as I am compelled to look
before I can gather strength
to proceed on my journey,
I see the milestones dwindling
toward the horizon
and the slow fires trailing
from the abandoned camp-sites,

Slow Fire
Slow Fire (Photo credit: pepemczolz)

over which scavenger angels
wheel on heavy wings.
Oh, I have made myself a tribe
out of my true affections,
and my tribe is scattered!
How shall the heart be reconciled
to its feast of losses?

 

WALKERS IN DUST STORM - NARA - 544315
WALKERS IN DUST STORM – NARA – 544315 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a rising wind
the manic dust of my friends,
those who fell along the way,
bitterly stings my face. 

Yet I turn, I turn,
with my will intact to go
wherever I need to go,

Red Flowers on a Cobble Stone Road
Red Flowers on a Cobble Stone Road (Photo credit: Striking Photography by Bo Insogna)

and every stone on the road
precious to me.

Covered Moon
Covered Moon (Photo credit: jonesing1)

In my darkest night,
when the moon was covered
and I roamed through wreckage,

Sun and layered nimbus clouds at dusk from the air
Sun and layered nimbus clouds at dusk from the air (Photo credit: Bill Liao)

a nimbus-clouded voice
directed me:
“Live in the layers,
not on the litter.”
Though I lack the art
to decipher it,
no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.

“The Layers” by Stanley Kunitz from The Collected Poems.

Kunitz autograph
Kunitz autograph (Photo credit: milkfish)

I heard this poem a few years ago on Writer’s Almanac on NPR.  It means something different to me now than it did when I first heard it.  The images speak to me very clearly right now as I am contemplating the changes this coming year will bring (moving to a new city, see earlier blog post “Excited and Scared.”)

Our lives have layers.  We can’t just sit on top.  We need to be IN the layers of our lives, not just sift through the litter (the losses, the dust, the ashes).

I do feel compelled to look back so that I can gather strength for the journey ahead.  I found myself at a physical place from my past on the very day this big decision had to be made.  I drew immense comfort and courage from being there.  I was surprised by the feeling, in fact, when I realized what was happening.  I hadn’t realized that place was such a source for me.

My “principle of being abides” even though changes swirl around me like a coming dust storm.  I am turning “with my will intact to go wherever I need to go.

As Stanley so wisely said in this haunting poem,

“no doubt the next chapter
in my book of transformations
is already written.
I am not done with my changes.”

Excited and Scared.

I feel a little like Red Riding Hood in “Into the Woods” — excited and scared.

After living in one place, one town, one house for nearly 17 years my family will be moving to a new place, a new city, and a new (possibly new?) house.

We just announced our plans publicly today via email and Facebook.  Now everyone knows what has been percolating under the surface for a couple of months.

Saying goodbye is not an easy thing.  Change is not something most of us embrace without a struggle of some sort.  New beginnings usually (almost always, I think) mean the end of something else.

I feel happy and sad at the same time.  Hopeful and unsettled.  Eager and hesitant.  Joy and Sorrow.

I saw this quilt in my newsfeed today.

PersimonDreams Color Wheel Scrap Quilt

https://www.facebook.com/PersimonDreams

http://www.persimondreams.com

http://www.craftsy.com/project/view/color-wheel-scrap-quilt/58063

Though we can’t see the overall pattern of each choice and each decision we make in our lives — the way each color and texture and pattern will go together — in the end it will turn out to be breathtakingly beautiful if we follow our hearts, our passion and our love.  We walk by faith, not by sight.