Singing at the Winspear

Rehearsal with The Gettys at the Winspear

Rehearsal at the Winspear

What an adventure I had the other day! Our church choir was one of several invited to sing carols and background vocals for a group from Northern Ireland called The Gettys, performing at the Winspear Opera House located in the arts district of downtown Dallas.

We were given the opportunity to attend one of two mandatory rehearsals if we intended to join the performance. The first was so fast paced it made our heads spin, doubly so for me since we were 15 minutes late, having had trouble finding our building on the campus. This put me behind in the ladies’ rehearsal which was scheduled first that day. Added to that was that everyone seemed to know about changes to the music that we’d never heard of. You know that dream where you end up in class in your pajamas or worse? That’s sure how I felt when the director started rattling off updates that were a total surprise, but everyone else already had them marked in their music. The lady next to me took mercy on me and attempted to indicate the updates as quickly and quietly as possible so I wouldn’t feel so lost.   It seemed like she and I were the only second sopranos at this first rehearsal so I was very grateful for the help.

When our time ended and the men’s rehearsal began, I discovered my kind section buddy arrived with the only two women I knew there.   During our break I also found that there was a mailing list whereby the director sent us modifications to the music or program, so I signed up and the amount of material they sent us was mind-boggling. Never having performed in such a venue, I didn’t realize all the details that went into making all this go well, and never before had I felt so out of my depth.

Deciding we both needed the extra rehearsal, my new friend and I braved it together the following Saturday. Thankfully, I was better prepared for the fast pace and ever-changing updates in what we would and would not sing, as well as all the updates to the arrangements. It was a fluid thing, a work in progress, at all times. Reminded me a bit of working at the bank for so many years, where you never knew when your job duties or managers would change, you just kind of went with the flow.

By this time, my better half decided the pressure of learning all this music without having any buddies in the bass section was too much for him and opted to stay home and watch the Mavericks play on TV. After the second rehearsal, my friend Linda forwarded me the latest changes (yes, more changes) since some of us were left off the email. At this point, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed myself and was seriously considering dropping out as well.   Folks who know me know I tend to be a Type A personality and since I’m taking a class this week that takes up a lot of my energy, I was wondering if this was going to be worth all the trouble. By Sunday night, I made my decision and told my friend I was not going to join them.

Two things changed my mind. My friend Linda came back with the response that they’d give me a ride (a very big incentive) and said those golden encouraging words “Oh come on, it’ll be fun.” When I mentioned all the modifications I hadn’t even looked at yet, she, with her wonderfully Type B personality, said, “I’m not even going to look at those until we get ready for the final rehearsal the day of the performance.”   Wow, that was a freeing thought. Could I really give myself permission not to go over those every day and obsess over them to make sure I got them right?   Yeah, I could do that. Nice. So I told her I’d reconsider and let her know.   It was two days prior to the performance, but of course I was already pretty convinced by this new thought process. The second thing that convinced me was something my new friend Melinda said after the previous rehearsal and that I totally stole later. She said “Now I can cross this off my bucket list.”   Okay, so maybe I wanted to be convinced.   I really wanted to do this but needed that nudge, that bit of encouragement that says “Hey, we are all in the same boat; we may be lost, but we’ll be lost together and have fun doing it.”

We met for our dress rehearsal at 4:30 pm at the Winspear and that place is just awesome. Luckily we were there early enough to take loads of pictures before going in.   The rehearsal was handled expertly by our rehearsing director and by the choir director that tours as a part of the Gettys’ band. Even at the rehearsal, all the band members and director were full of enthusiasm and put so much fun into their performance, while remaining totally professional at all times. It took me a while to realize that Keith Getty was playing the piano for us the whole time, until he stopped a moment to change something in our performance. During our break, we all by tacit agreement met in small groups to go over trouble spots as well as our memorization numbers.   Everyone worked so well together. Keith Getty came in just before we were to take the stage to give us a pep talk. Very thoughtful.

The performance itself was wonderful. I really love Irish music and this Irish Christmas performance was no exception. The band and dancers were flawless, our choir director was fantastic and we had absolutely no trouble following him. Kristyn Getty’s voice was just lovely, and it was a pretty magical evening.   No regrets, just wonderful memories.

On a side note, as we traveled home, I wasn’t paying attention to where we went, until I realized we found ourselves in the West End. My friend’s friend was driving and as he turned left to get us back on track, we suddenly found ourselves heading into oncoming traffic with four lanes of headlights coming straight for us.   Okay, not his fault, since the road we came off of gave us no warning.   Also, no judgment here since this was not my first oncoming-traffic-wrong-way-rodeo.  And as my cousins well know, at this point, had I been driving, I would have said “I’m so sorry and I’ll never do it again!”   (They won’t let me forget this.)   Luckily our driver had quick reactions and infinite patience with all our back seat and side seat “helpful” directions at this point and had us quickly out of danger’s path.

All in all, it was an evening to remember. And to borrow and tweak a phrase, I can now say “Perform on stage at the Winspear….check. On to the next item on my bucket list.”

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My Selfie with Keith Getty backstage after the performance.

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5 Things I’m Thankful for this Thanksgiving

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From Saying Grace by Norman Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post 1951

  1. My family and friends. I am thankful I have a hubby (aka Hunka Burnin’ Love), three great kids, a host of aunts, cousins, nieces, nephews, and bunches of friends, who are all pretty much loving and supportive.
  1. A roof over my head. Sometimes I see folks living on the street or under bridges and my heart goes out to them. I am thankful I get to live in a house in a decent neighborhood.
  1. Working vehicles. With all the problems we’ve experienced this past year, I am really thankful for our solid working cars.
  1. My faith. Without my faith I would be lost. I am thankful to God every day for giving me the strength I need to meet the challenges before me.
  1. My health. I am thankful I do not have to take radiation treatments. With the exception of just a few folks, most of my loved ones don’t know that hubby and I have been dealing with concerns about my health these past 4 weeks. My surgery was only supposed to alleviate neck and shoulder pain, but a week later we were told pathology found something called a DCIS or pre-cancer. We were sent to an Oncologist and told our possible options, then more tests were ordered, and we were sent to a Radiology Oncologist. Fortunately, he did not recommend radiation, and we were very thankful.   The hidden blessing in all this was that it was removed.

These days, sometimes it’s difficult to find anything to be thankful for, but I remain optimistic.   Someone once told me, if “God brings you to it, he’ll pull you through it.”   I’m hanging on to that.

Here’s hoping you remember all the good in your life, not only this Thanksgiving but every day.

Peace out.

 

 

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Seeing the Forest for the Trees

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Driving home from our trip to The Woodlands brought some introspection.   For one thing, there was plenty of nothing to do and plenty of time to do it. Also, we were traveling home from a memorial service that celebrated the life of someone that meant something in my life.

For our trip home, we were given a beautifully detailed, color-coded detour by our hostess and a somewhat different detour hastily sketched on a paper napkin by one of our table-mates. This was due to the fact that I45 had some intense construction going on, causing traffic congestion all around that area. Since we’d parked in a free covered garage down the block that no one else seemed aware of, neither of these maps gave us the right starting point. Added to all this was an unfortunate coincidence that there was some sort of children’s carnival going on adjacent to our parking garage and so the city forced us to take their own mandatory detour.   On the way in and on the way out, I kept saying to my hubby “Don’t hit a kid; don’t hit a kid,” like a mantra. But I’m getting to the end prematurely, let me go back a bit.

The morning of the service, the carnival was just opening and a man and woman were standing near our garage entrance/exit with bins full of plastic bags filled with who knows what to give out to parents as they entered. Just as we were leaving the garage to head out to the church, the woman suddenly dropped her arm full of plastic goody bags all across our exit path. My spouse slammed on his breaks just in time as she bent over to pick these up, one at a time, slowly, dropping a few more, and then picking those up.   Ever been someplace unfamiliar and worried you won’t be on time? To say we were a little frustrated is an understatement. Just as we were considering getting out to help, even with a line forming behind us, her partner turned and helped her out. I think sometimes God tests our patience with these little exercises, just to keep us sharp, you know?

Speaking of goody bags, did you know the family created goody bags for all of us staying at the hotel? I’ve never heard of that for a memorial service before, but I guess it makes as much sense as some of the laminated bookmark type souvenirs I’ve seen at other services – including my own sister’s. It was incredibly generous and creative. It’s easy to see these kids grew up as kind and inventive as their parents.   The bags contained a sampling of many of their father’s favorite things, special pens, spices, a book, etc. as well as bottles of water – all fun and thoughtful gifts.

We had to get to the church early since we were singing with their choir for the service and a rehearsal was called for 10:30. We were late of course.   Some folks say you should plan for the unexpected. I don’t think our family ever got that memo. We rushed in, gathered up our music and slipped into our places as the choir director continued his practice.   In between songs, everyone took the opportunity to look around and visit with folks we hadn’t seen in years, except on Facebook. As a choir we were a little chaotic at times with all our chatter, but that choir director had the patience of Job, so he thankfully ignored us during those times and kept us moving through each piece at an easy pace. Bless him.   And still we worried. Some of us worried our voices weren’t going to make it to the heights necessary for these familiar old songs. Some of us worried we wouldn’t be able to sight read the music on the songs we didn’t know. Some of us worried about losing her voice and had to be fed a steady supply of Cherry Honey throat lozenges (you know who you are).

The service itself was very moving.   Why is it that at these events you always find out things you never knew before about someone? Like I had no idea Jerry was into creating stained glass art and made several stained glass windows for a local church.   This was my youth choir director, and a teacher. Who knew? Not me, that’s for sure.   But it seems like every service I’ve ever attended, I learn something about that person I didn’t know before.   Even at my own sister’s service I learned more about her youth than I remembered.   It seems like we are made up of pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. We share a few little pieces with each person we know, but only a select few get to see the whole picture – the one with all the pieces. In that way, I suppose a memorial service is kind of magical, at least for me.   I am always amazed by what I learn, and unfailingly in awe of the person whose life we are celebrating.

Once it was all over, we were on our way home. After a 35 minute detour, we finally made it to the highway, and after a bit I looked out at all the lovely tall trees surrounding us on both sides of the road on such a pretty day and asked my hubby “Aren’t these beautiful?”   “Hmm,” was his reply.   It seems he was getting a little claustrophobic after a while and felt the trees were falling in on him. There were tons of pine trees and a bunch of others I couldn’t recognize. Turns out we were driving through the Sam Houston National Forest. Suddenly, after a turn in the road, we see this big honkin’ statue, taller than the trees. It was a statue of Sam Houston himself. Awesome to see, and I had to wonder how it was transported there. I was able to snap a few pictures (please pardon the window glare), and this break in the trees caused my hubby to feel a little less closed in.

That was a little like the whole trip. Funny how we sometimes get so bogged down in all the details, we forget to just sit back and enjoy the ride. The purpose of this trip was to celebrate the life of a man who made an important mark in all our lives. Despite all the details we all worried over, once the service began, we each relaxed into our roles and accomplished just that. And, as a result, we got to honor the memory of an old friend and mentor, honor his family, and reconnect with old friends.

Here’s hoping today you take some time to relax, enjoy, and reconnect.

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Fun Friday Reads: Sunrise, Sunset: 52 Weeks of Awe & Gratitude, Photography by Kim Weiss

These photos are, in a word, Wow. Sunrise, Sunset is filled with cherished memories, reflections, and poems by various authors, spiritual leaders, educators, and radio talk show hosts. The photographs are simply amazing. Some of us will, on occasion, take the time to watch a really beautiful sunset; but for those of us too busy or stressed to do so, the images Kim Weiss has captured really do justice to the awe-inspiring brushstrokes across the sky for both sunrise and sunset. She accompanies these with a wonderfully well-chosen assortment of reflections that match the imagery perfectly, designed to de-stress and relax the reader and inspire guess what? Awe and gratitude. 🙂

The book can be read straight through, but is probably best read as a daily thought or meditation.

Cushions: Gorgeous photography, cool inspirational messages to start or end your day.

Cautions: If you order the actual book, the photos beautifully spread across both pages; however, the ebook version is formatted a little differently so that the image is on one page and the sentiment on another.

Well done, Ms. Weiss.

If you’d like to purchase a copy, you can click on the image above and be taken directly to the book in Amazon. An excerpt is provided below.

Excerpt from Sunrise Sunset

Excerpt from Sunrise Sunset

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Secrets

Secrets

Secrets. We all have them. Little secrets, big ones, and vast in-between ones. Some are family secrets, skeletons hidden in the closet, or maybe only whispered during family reunions or get-togethers. Some are secrets about our past exploits that we feel our loved ones would lose respect for us should they learn of them. Some are secrets we hold in trust for others, the ones we listen to with compassion, with empathy, and with infinite tenderness. Then there are the fun secrets – the ones that hold good news, like what I got you for Christmas, or a particular question we know our friend is about to pop to his gal, or that someone is expecting a special delivery – in about nine months.

The trouble with secrets is they are hard to hold onto. Most of us can usually carry them for a good long time if we have to, especially if someone else entrusted you with it. But if it’s our own secret, we eventually feel we have to share it with someone or bust – or maybe that’s just me.   Because secrets can become a really heavy burden. If you are lucky enough, you have someone in your life that you can spill the beans to who’s a better secret keeper than you.   Then your load becomes a little lighter and sometimes a little healing can begin if it’s that kind of a secret.   Or if it’s good news, like telling what Christmas presents you bought for the family, you just feel better, and still know the secret is safe because you just told your hubby and he couldn’t care less.

If you have a good support system in place, you are golden, because there’s always a friend, loved one, or even a pastor there for you when you need them.   If you don’t have that in your life, you need one, so get out there and start building one. It’s really not as hard as you think. Make a friend or reconnect with old friends, and talk regularly. Volunteer at someplace you care about. Join a support group, or join a group where you can practice your favorite hobby. Join a friendly church, where you’ll meet a lot of caring folks.   There are so many ways to build your support system. Everyone needs one, and building one for yourself can be as easy as putting one foot in front of the other.

Feeling blessed today for my support system.

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Fun Friday Reads: Mr. Miracle by Debbie Macomber

My Rating: 5 Stars
My Review Summary: A Heartwarming Holiday Read
Genre: Holiday Contemporary Romance

Similar to Debbie Macomber’s wonderful novel Mrs. Miracle, her newest Christmas novel Mr. Miracle is about an angel sent to Earth to help some folks in need. I thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Macomber’s latest offering. Unlike the previous novel, you know from the first pages that this is Harry Mills’ first earthly assignment – one he’s been long awaiting, and one he hopes will lead to many more such assignments.   He has plenty of motivation to do a great job but has a little trouble adjusting to being human and being among humans, causing quite a few misadventures along the way.   His first assignment is helping Addie, who has mixed feelings about her old next door neighbor Erich when she’s suddenly forced to spend time with him around Christmas. Throw in Harry’s quirky celestial supervisor and a few other colorful characters and you have the makings of a fun holiday read.

If you aren’t a big book reader, the Hallmark Channel already has the movie version of this new novel set to premiere on Saturday, December 6, at 8 pm ET/7 pm CT, and scheduled to air multiple times until the end of December. However, the book would make a nice gift for all the Macomber fans on your holiday shopping list. Just click on the image above for a direct link to the book on Amazon.

Cushions: Funny, heartwarming, no explicit sex, no profanity, no violence, holiday/Christmas fun – what can I say – I’m a sucker for a sweet sentimental holiday book (or movie).

Cautions: A little shorter than your normal novel – 274 pages in my Kindle version, and a sometimes predictable plot.

This is a fast read, but kept moving at a good pace and kept me smiling most of those pages.   It’s a real feel-good story that stands alone, but leaves an opening for Harry to have more opportunities for new assignments and adventures – if only he can stay out of trouble.

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Cowboy Boots

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From time to time, I have to get my cowboy fix. Sometimes it’s just watching Big Jake starring John Wayne, or even 3:10 to Yuma with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale. Or maybe it’s re-reading a favorite Louis L’Amour or Zane Grey novel like Sackett or Riders of the Purple Sage. Growing up with a Dad who fed us a steady diet of Gunsmoke, Rawhide, and Bonanza, as well as any movie with John Wayne or Clint Eastwood, or as Dad liked to put it “Any movie that had a horse in it,” gave me a connection to all things western. That, and growing up on a small farm in Melissa, Texas during my formative years. I still have one of my first cowboy boots I wore as a child.

Working in a bank in Oak Cliff many moons ago, our CEO liked to hire retired and off-season Cowboys – Dallas Cowboys that is. He also hired retired Generals, but that’s a whole other story. Anyhow, one day this long tall drink of water comes up to my desk and I found myself in love…with his boots. Now, during this time, I had my own tall hunk of burnin’ love at home, but being the cowgirl at heart that I am, I definitely fell for the boots. Ron Widby was a punter for the Dallas Cowboys back in the late 60’s – early 70’s (two Super Bowls). Both he and my hubby played for our bank’s softball team, so we got to know him a little. Although a bit shy, he was always such a nice guy, so I had no qualms whatsoever in asking him about all the different boots he wore to work each day. Each pair, in my estimation, was a thing of beauty. At the time, I had my own love affair going on with different high heeled girly shoes, but these were for work or church, and it wasn’t practical for me to purchase a pair of cowgirl boots, so I lived out my boot-love vicariously through Ron’s. Since he frequently worked with my manager, sometimes we would chat while he waited at my desk. There were ostrich, snake-skinned, alligator, and others, all custom made, all artistic, all gorgeous. I finally got up the nerve one day to ask how many pairs of these he owned. With only a small seemingly self-conscience hesitation, he replied “Seventeen.” I was stunned. Of course, now it all makes sense.

Some women collect shoes, some men collect Civil War memorabilia, some folks collect books, music, comics, paintings or other objects of art, even tools, and the list goes on. We are all by nature collectors, even if it’s only collecting friendships. Lately, I’ve been reconnecting with old friends and enjoying catching up to their lives. For the most part, it doesn’t really matter what you collect, so long as it brings you joy.

Enjoy your day.

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Walking Around in Pointy-toed Shoes

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Recently, I read a novel entitled Dream A Little Dream by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Yes, I read romance novels, in addition to other genres, but the romance novel guarantees a happy ending, which is something I am in desperate need of right now. In Dream A Little Dream, it seemed like so many things hit home with me – either with what I’m going through now or where I’ve been.   In the beginning of the story, the main character Rachel is without a job, with a young son to support – she is the sole support of her little family. While I am thankfully not the sole support of my family, this also gave me a connection with this character. Then there were the shoes. Rachel finally finds a minimum wage job, and after providing food for her son, buys him some clothing and shoes but nothing for herself. Her only shoes, repaired sandals, break, and she is forced to wear an old pair of men’s oxfords that someone gave her. She doggedly wears these despite odd looks and her own personal feelings about them. She has a family to support and shoes are way down the bottom of the list of their needs.

Growing up as the youngest of five children, the “ours” in a “Yours Mine and Ours” family, gave me a sense of what’s important, how financial priorities trump wants and desires, and how to keep my parents from worrying too much about me. Yes, I was the pleaser child, at least until those sad rebellious teenage/boyfriend years, and even then I tried my darndest. This story reminded me of a couple of shoe stories of my own during those years.

In my first year of middle school, called junior high back then, we were supposed to wear a gym suit with white tennis shoes, which we call tennie shoes here in Texas. Being vertically challenged, I grew slowly, so I was still wearing the same old little blue tennie shoes I’d worn for several years, with a few holes, because I also insisted in wearing them when we went swimming in the lake on vacations. To save money, my Mom was able to get an old suit that used to belong to my friend Gena’s cousin. In the days of mini-skirts, the legs of this suit reached well below my knees. Big bummer. So, I just rolled them up as high as possible, but still wore my little blue tennie shoes each gym day, never mentioning I needed new shoes because I didn’t want to be a burden. Being basically a straight “A” student with only an occasional “B” (my Dad was one of those who always said “You can do better than this.”), I brought home my first and only “D”…in gym class. The comment read something like “Does not suit out in uniform.” My folks were livid. They knew I had my suit and was wearing it, so they were also confused. When I mentioned that I was supposed to wear white tennie shoes, and only had the blue, they wanted to know why I never said anything. I shrugged. The next day, my Mom took me to a local discount store and bought me these boat-like tennie shoes that were an inch too long…so that I’d grow into them and they wouldn’t have to buy any more for a while.   Since my feet never grew, I was exceptionally happy the following year when it finally became officially permissible for me to wear my little blue shoes without reprisal.

In high school, when young ladies where flaunting Farrah Fawcett hairstyles and lots of curls and layers, I had long wavy hair – never guessing it had natural curl if it had been cut – because going to a beauty parlor to get a haircut and style was just not in the budget. I didn’t ask. I didn’t need to. As most of you youngest born know, while the youngest can be demanding for attention, they are usually the least demanding for “things.” A nephew came to live with us during these years, and while we loved him dearly, adding to the household also had its challenges, but my parents never complained, they just made it work.

Most of my clothing came to me in the form of hand-me-downs, so I came to appreciate it when my more stylish cousins sent me something. I even had to wear my youngest brother’s hand-me-down shirts for a while. He was four years older than I, and I tried to make those shirts look like some kind of fashion statement, but I’m sure they looked pretty odd on me. I remember “borrowing” one of his more stylish shirts one day and having him yell at me for stretching it out in odd places – I was well endowed. Anyway, during this time, since my little blue shoes had basically fallen apart, and I hated the too big shoes, Mom brought me pointy-toed tennie shoes. They looked like they came from the 1950’s and I don’t know where she got them, but that’s all I had to wear to school for a while, so I sucked it up and wore them. I held my head high and acted like these were just as cool looking as any of the new leather or foam-filled more sporty tennie shoes that the other girls were wearing. Pretty soon, I forgot to feel self-conscience about them and no longer noticed what anyone else wore or whether or not they looked at my shoes. Priorities. To this day, I don’t know whether anyone even noticed – I was actually pretty shy in school – or whether it was just my self-consciousness and pride, but I eventually came to be comfortable in my own shoes. And yes, I do mean that both figuratively and literally.

Right now, with no job, but hopeful prospects, I am once again walking around in pointy-toed shoes, feeling self-conscious and out of step with the rest of the world.   But I realize that it will take time and a few long walks before I begin to feel comfortable with myself again, and that with or without that job I long thought defined me, I am who I always was, and strong enough to meet the challenge.

Here’s hoping today that you, too, feel comfortable in your own shoes.

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Fun Friday Reads: Worth The Fall by Claudia Connor

My Rating: 5 Stars
My Review Summary: Favorite Debut Author – This One Stays On My Shelf

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Copy received from Random House Publishing Group – Loveswept via NetGalley

After reading Worth the Fall, Claudia Connor’s name will be on every reader’s lips, anxiously awaiting her next novel. This is a heart-warming love story, and an extraordinary debut by Ms. Connor; a must read for those who love contemporary romance.  This is the first book in Ms. Connor’s McKinney Brothers series, but it is a complete standalone story, and what a story. It was so good, I had to go back and re-read the last couple of chapters again, as well as the first chapter. This one stays on my shelf.

Abby Davis is a widow and mother of four, soon to be five little ones, and on vacation meets Matt McKinney, who is on a brief medical leave from his military work as a SEAL. Having been hurt and disappointed in so many ways, Abby’s wary to give away her heart to anyone but her children, but he sure is tempting.   Matt finds he’s not only attracted to Abby but to her children as well since he’s always wanted a family, but he has a promise to keep that holds him back.

Cushions: Well-developed primary and secondary characters, good solid love story plot with a few twists, some humor, large caring families, military-friendly, and more than a little sizzle.

Cautions: Some bad language, mild violence (war, child injury), includes a suicide theme in a sub-plot.

Buy it. Read it. You won’t be sorry.

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Are You A Good Friend?

WaterRipples_Blog_28_Oct_2014Recently, in the span of one week, we lost two friends. One lost after a long illness, the other from a rapidly progressing illness. Each, too young to be gone from us, in my humble opinion. One, a good friend, joined us in family celebrations and other events for the past four years. The other, was more of a teacher and mentor than friend, and we hadn’t seen him in a few years, but he was an important part of my life for at least eight very formative years. Each of these gentlemen made an impact on me that will last a lifetime. For me, the oddest thing about losing a friend or loved one is the immediate regrets I feel. Why didn’t I visit more often? Why didn’t I send encouraging cards? Why wasn’t I more caring, or kinder, or more eloquent in my final comments the last time we spoke?   Why wasn’t I a better friend?

Malcolm Perrault was a friend we met through our church choir. With a loud smiling friendly voice, he often asked a lot of questions during rehearsal. I only found out recently that many of those questions were ones my husband was too shy to ask and would get Malcolm to ask for him. 🙂   A Californian by birth, he’d only transplanted to Texas a few years ago, adapted like a native, and adopted each of us at church like we were family. Incredibly kind, he’d often allow different friends to share his home whenever they were in need of a temporary place to stay. He was generous, patient, and always had a smile on his face, even when things weren’t always going well. He was also a great conversationalist and could talk knowledgeably about practically anything. Many is the time, we (he and our family) were run off after choir practice because we stayed visiting later than we should – so, hey, we’d just move the conversation to the parking lot. Mostly it would be he and my hubby but I’d jump in whenever possible. How those two could go on. J

Jerry McKinney was my first true choir director in the church I was raised in. He could be so stern, then a beat later have us all in sidesplitting laughter. A shy kid back then, I didn’t sing to be heard; I just wanted to sing and improve, absorbing every lesson Jerry could teach us. My best, yet scariest moments were when we’d be singing and Jerry would look straight at me, point and say “Yes, Brenda! That’s exactly what I’m looking for!” I was so scared, I couldn’t sing a peep loud enough to be heard for the next few minutes, turning beet red, yet feeling like I’d just been handed a diamond tiara all at the same time. Directing both the youth and adult choirs, he was so great with us, that we all just loved him. He was a teacher, a motivator, charismatic, a fantastic story teller, and so much fun.   Every year, he would take us on choir tours across the nation, and sometimes to Canada or Mexico. And each time, to impress upon us how important it was to act respectfully and follow the rules, he would relate some story of how things went terribly wrong on some previous tour. However, the stories were always so hysterically funny, that it presented somewhat of a challenge for some of our more wily guys, tempting them to try something stupid and thus be added to these legendary cautionary tales for Jerry to tell other future generations.

Both of these fantastic guys leave behind very sweet, loving families, and countless friends who will miss them terribly.   These gentlemen left behind the kind of gifts that keep on giving – lessons we’ve learned from them, that we can pass on – in other words, they made an impact on many of us.   So I ask myself, what am I doing to make a positive impact on others? Am I sharing my gifts the way I should? Are you?   So, hey, hug your loved ones more often.   Make that call to that old friend you’ve been putting off.   Send that note, email, or letter to the friend or relative you’ve been meaning to send but haven’t. Smile and lift someone’s day. Give some encouragement to someone who seems a little down. Tell someone a funny story; sometimes laughter really can be the best medicine.

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