Thursday, October 26, 2006

Talking to a Smart Feller

My Grandpa W. was a handsome man. He was born in 1900 in Chidister, Arkansas. His father was a circuit riding Methodist minister. Grandpa was a lay minister in the United Methodist Church. He knew the Bible better than any person I have ever met. He could quote entire chapters and many of the Psalms. He taught an adult Sunday School class for years and years and preached from the pulpit in the ordained minister's absence. Grandpa also had a beautiful bass singing voice. He, Mom and I used to sing "Just a Closer Walk With Thee" and "Take My Hand Precious Lord" at church. Grandpa was a carpenter by trade, but he also worked in a grocery store, picked cotton during the Depression years and worked for the Forestry Service until he was well into his 80's.

Grandpa was also a gardener. He and Grandma planted, raised and harvested huge amounts of all sorts of vegetables. They raised the best corn I have ever tasted and Grandpa was always quite proud of his watermelon harvest. Grandpa rigged up his own irrigation system from his pond to the garden. It was quite an enterprise. Once when I was a little girl, Grandma sent me to the garden to check on Grandpa. Looking back on this as an adult, I figure Grandma really just needed to get me out of her hair for awhile, but as a child I thought I was really helping her keep an eye on Grandpa. When I arrived at the garden, I could hear Grandpa talking. He was standing in his open sided garden shed smoking a cigarette and talking.....but there was no one else there. I asked Grandpa who he was talking to and he replied, "I'm talking to a smart feller." When I finally made it back to the house, Grandma asked me what Grandpa was doing. I told her that he was smoking and talking to a smart feller. Granny shook her head and said, "That man sure thinks a lot of himself." I really didn't understand the humor until I was older, but I sure remember Grandpa talking to that smart feller alot!

Grandpa rolled his own cigarettes. He used Prince Albert tobacco which came in thin red cans. He also saved watermelon seeds from year to year and stored the seeds in empty Prince Albert cans. One year when he was older and his eyesight wasn't as good as in his younger days, he grabbed the wrong can and rolled a cigarette using watermelon seeds. He didn't notice what he had done until he tried to light up. He was probably too busy talking to that smart feller to notice the difference in texture between tobacco and watermelon seeds. I can still hear him telling that story on himself. He had a big, booming laugh that encompassed his whole body.

Grandma died in 1987. She and Grandpa had been married over 60 years. In February of 1988, on Grandpa's 88th birthday, he decided he wanted to fly out to visit with me in Salisbury, Maryland. He had never been on a plane before!! Mom and Grandpa arrived in Salisbury with the remnants of a large birthday cake. The flight crew had surprised Grandpa with a little birthday celebration on the plane. Grandpa was also proudly sporting Captain's wings pinned to his lapel. During their visit, I took Mom and Grandpa to Chincoteague which is where the picture above was taken. That was Grandpa's first and only view of the ocean.

Grandpa could be stern and bit gruff. Some of my cousins were afraid of him, but I never was. Underneath the bluster he was Grandpa. He told great stories, bought me Pepsi's and Moon Pie's and helped me break up the ground and plant my first garden when he was ninety-one years old. He led a rich and full life and he really was a very smart feller.


Monday, October 23, 2006

Those of you who read my previous post saw the links to Homecoming 2006 at the school where I teach. I had to dig, but I finally found one of my homecoming pictures.

In 1974-75, I was a junior maid on the homecoming court. We didn't have football at the small town school that I attended so our homecoming was generally held in early November and it was all about basketball. My mother made my dress and, believe it or not, the dress raised quite a few eyebrows. It was the only dress on the homecoming court that didn't have sleeves. The homecoming ceremonies took place before the basketball games so that our escorts could wear their best polyester suits to parade us girls around the gym floor.

My escort was one of my dearest friends. He matured into a quite handsome man who currently wears his hair very short and wouldn't be caught dead in a suit like he has on in this picture. I have his daughter in one of my music classes.

I was a senior maid at homecoming the next year, but I couldn't find that picture. Always a maid, never the Queen.


Saturday, October 21, 2006

Odds And Ends

The leaves are slowly turning. This shot reminds me of "The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost. There really aren't two roads diverging, but this woodland scene is definitely bathed in a golden yellow hue.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as far that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

The golden hue of the day stretched to the river near my home. This shot was taken from the center of the bridge. The leaves will be even more beautiful in another week or so.


Remember My Exceptionally Beautiful Student ? She was a senior maid on this years' Homecoming Court. You can see her here and here. MEBS is in the white gown with the hoop skirt. There is a large frame shot on the right in both links and thumbnail shots on the left. MEBS was chosen to perform at the National FFA Convention in Indiana next week. She will be singing a 30-minute program of country music hits.
I spent my first Saturday in three weeks at home. It was a beautiful day and I worked outside getting my yard and garden beds ready for winter. I baked a fresh apple cake tonight. The recipe included a caramel sauce to drizzle over individual slices of cake. It is yummy!


Thursday, October 19, 2006

Alright, Tiggerlane, why would anyone just presume that I don't "often share your musical interests"? !!! Are you saying that our readers should presume that I am a more serious musician than you are? Are you telling our readers that I don't reach your musical standards because I don't listen to Panic At The Disco and the Gnarly Whatevers? Is this a round-a-bout way of making sure our readers remember that I am ten years older than you? ARE YOU ASKING OUR READERS TO PRESUME THAT I AM NOT COOL?!!!!

FYI, dear readers.....I am a classically trained pianist and a classically trained vocalist. I eat, sleep and breathe music because I teach music and because I absolutely adore music. And, yes, I take music very seriously. My dear friend, Tiggerlane , is the undisputed Queen of Pop Culture. I bow to her vast knowledge of all things current including pop music. But please don't presume that I am a narrow minded musical bigot!! As a matter of fact, as I type, I am listening to Frank Sinatra Reprise. Is that not cool?!!! Oh, he's crooning Fly Me To The Moon in my ears....."Fill my heart with song and let me sing forever more. You are all I long for, all I worship and adore. In other words, please be true. In other words, I love you....."

Now I don't have any fancy little clips for you to listen to or watch or whatever....sorry! But here are some other selections from my current listening list: Dixie Chicks Wide Open Spaces; Mozart Requiem; Guns 'n' Roses Greatest Hits; soundtrack from Collateral; Vivaldi The Four Seasons; Eagles Hell Freezes Over; The Cranberries No Need To Argue; 3 Doors Down Away From The Sun. Come on now, Tigger, there are couple of things on my list that are under ten years old....sigh....

"And now the end is near and so I face the final curtain. My friend, I'll say it clear. I'll state my case of which I'm certain. I've lived a life that's full. I've traveled each and every highway. And, more, much more than this, I did it My Way....." Love ya, Tigger!!


Monday, October 16, 2006

The Tale of the Missing Tonsil

Twenty-four years ago I married a man who was in the Navy. He was from the same town in Arkansas that I was from, but he was stationed in Virginia Beach, Virginia, so that is where we lived.

I was crazy in love. This man was everything I thought I wanted so I ignored important warning signs. I knew his dad had been physically abusive to my husband and to my mother-in-law, but I wanted to believe that my husband wouldn't be abusive toward me so that is what I believed. I was wrong. I don't want to go into the pain, fear and emotional turmoil of my marriage in this post. I tried to make our relationship last. I tried to help, I tried to understand, I tried to forgive, but I also wanted to survive. About fifteen months into the marriage, I left my husband.

I literally hid out at a friend's house for a week. My friend took pictures of me the night I arrived on her doorstep. She wanted to call the police, but I asked her not to. I didn't want to press charges, I just wanted out of the marriage. I contacted a lawyer and began divorce proceedings. At this time there was a six month waiting period in Virginia before a divorce became final.

The whole ordeal became very ugly. We weren't rich by any means, but we fought over every possession that we had. I had been living on my own for six years before we got married so I brought almost all of our furniture, appliances and household items to the marriage. We had traded in our older vehicles and purchased a new car. The car was the most expensive thing we owned. My lawyer and I made a list of all our possessions. I wanted to keep the car so I was willing to give up just about everything I had brought to the marriage so that the division of our assets would be equitable. My husband agreed to this property settlement and signed the appropriate papers. All of this squabbling lasted about three weeks.

During the entire three weeks, I was sick. I had a sore throat and an ear ache in my left ear. The symptoms were similar to a common cold, but I couldn't get well. I didn't go to a doctor. I kept using over-the-counter remedies, but I kept feeling worse instead of better. Finally, my friend pretty much forced me to visit a doctor. The doctor took my blood pressure and sent me to the hospital. My blood pressure was dangerously low. My blood was septic. I was one sick woman. I had an abscess in the left side of my throat.

I was given all sorts of medication and had IV's in both arms. The doctors were trying to get me well enough for surgery. I don't remember all the details, but after 24 hours it was decided that the abscess had to be taken care of. I went under the knife around 11:30PM my second night in the hospital. My throat was in sad shape. And my left tonsil became a casualty during surgery.

At some point during my fourth day in the hospital, my husband had a friend drive him to the hospital parking lot and that man, my now ex-husband, drove off in our car. Yep. I was flat on my back in the hospital and he took the car away from me. I couldn't even talk much less yell like I wanted to. I wrote a note to one of my friends when she was visiting me in the hospital and asked her if she could pick me up when I was released.

In the afternoon of day six, I was told I could leave the hospital. A nurse called my friend and she picked me up and took me to her house to recuperate. As soon as I could speak (about 36 hours later), I called my lawyer and told her what had happened with the car. My lawyer was furious! She made an appointment with my husband's commanding officer. She showed him my pictures from the night I left my husband. I don't know what all was said. I wish I could have been in the meeting. A courier brought a new property settlement to my friend's house for me to sign. I got everything except the car. Most of it was mine anyway, but it still felt so good to leave him with a car that we owed four years of payments on. (You may think I'm stupid, but I ended up giving my ex-husband some furniture and some items that his mother and grandmother had given us. I just couldn't see keeping a quilt his grandmother had made and some other things like that.)

So this is a small part of the story of my life. Don't feel sorry for me. I am a strong, independent, self-confident woman (with one tonsil). I am a survivor.


Sunday, October 15, 2006

Junior High All Region Choir Results

As mentioned by Tiggerlane, we journeyed to all region choir auditions with junior high students on Saturday, the 14th. I am happy (and relieved) to report that Tigger's daughter made the all region choir along with six of her fellow choir members!!

Saturday was another long and tiring day, but my students' success make these days worthwhile. We ended up with 19 students on the trip and I believe all of them had a good time even if they didn't make the all region choir. It was a first time audition for many of them so nerves were a big issue.

Even though it is only Sunday night, I am looking forward to next Saturday which I will spend at home! After three consecutive weekends of choir trips, I need a full weekend to catch up with myself.


Friday, October 13, 2006

Better Late Than Never

Finally, some time to fulfill my tagging by Marnie. It is very true that I am not as odd as my friend, Tiggerlane , but I have managed to come up with my Five Famous Oddities.

1. My first name and middle name are odd. I've lived in 5 different states, traveled extensively in the U.S. and vacationed twice in Canada and I've never met another woman with my first name. I've never met anyone, male or female, with my middle name.

2. My big toe nail on my left foot is odd. I injured my toe while in high school and when the nail grew back, it was quite funky. It is like five times thicker than my other toe nails and it is white. I keep polish on it when I wear sandals because it is so weird looking. Sort of like an albino toe nail!

3. I only have one tonsil thanks to an "accident" during throat surgery.

4. I was born with a blood vessel tumor on the right front side of my head just inside my hair line. It was removed when I was 11 months old. I have a scar and a dent in my head where the tumor used to be. It looks sort of like I was hit in the head with a hatchet.

5. I am severely allergic to grease in the air from frying foods and even from fat on a steak sizzling on a grill. If a food establishment doesn't have good venting, I can't stay in it. My face puffs up, I lose my sense of balance and then....well, let's just say it isn't pretty. I.get.sick.real.sick. When my family and I walk into a restaurant that smells the least bit greasy, they all look at me and ask "Can we eat here or do we need to leave?"


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

I Couldn't Wait!!

I want to get some pretty fall pictures posted, but the leaves aren't turning fast enough for me. These pictures were taken last year in the Ouachita Mountains which surround the area where I live.

Mom always takes her binoculars when we go exploring. She was watching a hawk in the shot above and didn't even realize that I had taken the picture.

This shot was taken at the same vista as above, but I am facing the opposite direction. The colors in the distance seem to lose some of their vibrancy in the scanning process.

This shot was taken at a different location than the two above. The colors scanned a bit better. You can see we have a lot of pine in Arkansas along with the hardwood.

This picture didn't scan well at all, but you can still see some color in the foliage.


Saturday, October 07, 2006

All Region Honors Choir

This is the time of year when I feel my rollercoaster ride of a life has inched up that giant "hill" and is now plummeting toward the "valley" at break neck speed. My calendar is filling up at an alarming pace and my things-to-list seems neverending. It is a thrilling ride full of ups and downs, loads of excitement and some unavoidable stress. And, as always, my ride is accompanied by beautiful music made by wonderful kids.

I left the high school Friday evening with 14 senior high choir students, a bus driver and a parent chaperone who is also a terrific friend. Our destination was 3.5 hours away and let me tell you, if you haven't ridden a school bus for 3.5 hours lately, you are missing out on a fun time! Another set of parents brought 4 more students to the motel where we all spent the night. Three of the four late arrivals are in band (and choir) and couldn't miss their half-time performance at a football game. The fourth late arrival, also a choir student, is the sister of one of the band members. So, all told, I had 18 choir students primed and ready to audition for all region honors choir on Saturday.

Saturday was a long day of nervous excitement. I spent most of the day judging in the second soprano audition room. My parent chaperones spent the day herding teenagers and the teenagers spent the day singing.

Around 4PM, the results were tallied and posted. Woo hoo!!! I have 10 singers in the senior high all region honors choir!! Fifty-six percent! Yahoo! These are the best results I've had in 15 years of teaching. Maybe I finally know what I'm doing. Seriously, I am just blessed with an awesome group of young people to work with. Out of the ten students who made all region, four scored in the top twelve of their voice classification which makes them eligible to audition for the Arkansas All State Choir in February. My four top scores are: First chair, tenor I; fourth chair, tenor I; fifth chair, soprano II; seventh chair, alto II.

I am so proud of all 18 of my students. They worked so hard and even though some of them were disappointed, I hope they realize singing that solo audition in front of three judges is a major accomplishment in and of itself. Unlike athletics, choir competition isn't limited to competing with schools of the same size classification. So my class 4A students were competing with students from class 5A, 6A and 7A schools. To give you some frame of reference, we have around 600 students total in grades 9-12.

Anyway, have I bragged on my kids enough? Never!! Next Saturday.....junior high all region auditions. I have 23 hopefuls. Wish them luck!!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

The Guardian

Africa: "I think I'll take a nap on the porch. I don't see that pesky pup. I'll slip right through the doggie door and have a nice siesta in my favorite chair. "

Jasper: "Ah ha!!! I was on the porch just waiting for you, you sneaky feline!"

Africa: "Aw, come on, buddy, friend, pal.....let me in, let me in....."

Jasper: "It's a doggie door. D.O.G.G.I.E. No cats allowed!"

Africa: "Oh, are so a-mew-sing. I'll just go to the back door and meow then I'll get in the house and sleep on your blanket. B.L.A.N.K.E.T
Hmph! Does he think I can't spell?"

Jasper: "Holey moley! Look at my tail. I shoulda put a splint on that thing! "

Monday, October 02, 2006

Mommy and Me

This has always been one of my favorite pictures of my mom and me. It was taken in December of 1975. Mom and Dad were the youth group sponsors at our church and every December we put up the manger scene and a huge cedar tree decorated with lights. These symbols of the season stood on the corner lot of our church next to the highway. We took everything down, packed it away and burned all the dried greenery and the tree in a huge bonfire at our annual church-sponsored New Year's Eve party.

My mom is a woman of strong faith. She is a living example of loving strength. Mom is a pragmatic woman and has self-discipline that puts me to shame. She has always been the anchor in my life. Mom is my best friend, my closest confidant and the person who can cut me the deepest with just a look. I love her with every fiber of my being.

I am Mom's oldest child. She tells me that she was just a child when she had me, that she had no idea what she was doing as a young mother and that she never ceases to be amazed at how well I've turned out. When I was barely a month old, my dad began to have horrible, terrifying seizures that only occurred when he was sleeping. He was eventually diagnosed with epilepsy. Mom says she spent the first year of my life praying that both her husband and her child would sleep peacefully through the night.

My mom was and still is a tom boy. For some reason, God blessed her with a little girl who refused to wear anything but a dress. Preferably a pink dress with ruffles and a bow tie in the back. Battles were fought over my clothing choices. Who won? Well, my mom has pictures of me taken on a hike to the creek on our farm. I am wearing a lovely striped, sleeveless dress with appropriate hiking shoes. While Mom loved baseball, basketball and camping, her daughter loved dolls, tea sets and her pink bedroom. To this day I am teased by my athletic Mom and siblings about my baseball throwing ability. I throw like a girl.....big time.

Though we have always had some major differences in our likes and dislikes, Mom did manage to leave her mark on me. I inherited her lovely singing voice, her independent spirit, her love of solitude, her love of nature and her frankness among many other things. And as we've both grown up together, our differences only serve to complement our relationship. Neither of us is perfect, but that just makes us love each other more.