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I hear two-parent families talk about their busy schedules, juggling the load of taking their children to and from various events, often invoking the assistance from grandparents or other family members. Tonight, one mother sat on the sofa across from me, as the next student had not arrived, and was going through her schedule for today and tomorrow. Her husband, a major in the air force, is TDY and she is responsible for getting her two children to their various places – their saxophone and piano lessons, their tutoring and then home for supper and homework. The mother, who does not work outside the home suddenly stopped, was embarrassed and then began apologizing and howling with laughter. “I am so sorry! Here you have two children, work during the day and then teach in the evenings – and there is only one of you!”

And how right she is.

I did not tell her that I was up at 6:00 AM to do a load of laundry, cleaned my study, pressed some clothes, showered and slightly shaved, ate a banana, folded my laundry, packed my lunch, got the boys up, fed the dog, walked the dog and was out the door by 7:30 AM, and sitting at my desk at 7:54 AM.

By 8:00 AM I was swamped – and discovered a ton of mistakes scheduled last summer that almost reeked more havoc than I probably could have handled. Without lunch, I fixed every problem thrown my way. Then I hurried to the garage (where I have valet parking – it is still very sweet!) at 1:00 PM, went to the money machine, got a haircut (after waiting on four ahead of me), ran into Aldi’s to get three gallons of milk, hurried through Sears Hardware to get a stronger tape for the radiator hose – listening to one older employee’s litany of how he got a trucker home on duct tape around his radiator hose, rushed home to straighten the house, repaired the hose, walked the dog around the block, folded more laundry, made some coffee, prepared the spaghetti sauce, did the boys’ point sheet, and welcomed my first at 3:00 PM.

This is the way my day generally goes now. I could do a ton more on the weekends, but I refuse to. That is my time with the boys (and my newest son, Adam Stevens-Haas – this is how he signs the attendance pew pad at church) and my time to unwind. I cannot write any more – but this will come, and my love for research has come to a screaching halt…

And it is all still very, very good!

Friday evening, Monte and a van full of teenagers trapsed into the house to pick up Matt for a weekend youth retreat. I was in between the Salchak lessons and Sue Branson, and I forgot to hand over Matt’s registration form. After a round of hugs and filling the van back up with the teenagers, they headed southeast towards the Roberts Center near Wilmington, Ohio.

At 6:30 PM I received a call from Monte – “Do you have Matt’s registration form?” Yes, it was still on my desk. We went through the options and finally, I felt, since it was my error, that I should drive it there rather than Monte doing all the leg work on his end. Before taking off, I repaired a nick in the radiator hose, swung through Wendy’s to feed the youngster, and we were soon on our way towards Wilmington. On I-71 I realized something was wrong, and then the Hot Engine light came on. I pulled over to the side and opened the hood. The hose had slid off. That fixed, we sat a few minutes waiting for the car to cool down. We started back up and within a few miles the needle began moving back to the right. Grrr…. The Hot Engine light came on, again. I realized that the fluids had all run out. So, I added more (which I always carry in the trunk during the winter) and added several bottles of water to the radiator. After turning over the paper – finally – Jose and I made sure there was more water in the radiator. It worked. At 10:00 PM we were heading 48 miles back to Dayton. Now, how butch is that?

On the way home, Jose slept and I chatted with Jeff Carter who was in an Indianapolis hotel the night before an ISSMA vocal competition he was judging. We seemed to focus on the theme of “reinventing” ourselves – career, family, etc. Jeff is assuming a new position at Ball State, and will still – THANK HEAVENS – be directing the Ball State Singers. He has been to China twice this past year, brought the Singers up to a level, musically, they have never been, and adopted a new son. I now have two sons, am in the process of getting one or two more, and am beginning an entirely new life in the arts/education with the Muse Machine. I feel like several new chapters are opening, or have already opened, and it will be interesting to see where this all shall lead.

Saturday morning we woke early to work with the ladies from ACTION Adoption at the Miami Valley Adoption Fair held each winter at Fairhaven Church. It is always a big turn out, and well worth it as the agency always tends to get several new families through this fair. Several other families showed up and I got to spend some time with them in between talking with those who were investigating adoption. Jose was great with the children who came with other ACTION families – what a cheerful little babysitter.

At 3:00 PM we swung by Chris & Monte’s to retrieve Adam for the night. Chris was excited that her sister, Brenda, was coming from Columbus to spend the night since all her menfolk were away. Chris and I were chatting and she asked how I met my friend, Rick, and when I said, “At drum-major camp…” she saluted me as only a fellow field-commander could, and whisked me away to the guest bedroom where she kept photo albums. We checked out drum-major and band photos, and then she showed me photos of their wedding and the boys. She kept apologizing, but I do love looking at photographs! I think my home and blog site are proof enough.

The boys and I went to see Cheaper By The Dozen 2, and it was so well done! Steve Martin is the ultimate screen dad. I use to think that title belonged to Fred MacMurray, but Steve Martin is one of a kind. It was a delightful movie – hilarious in place – but it was also a very tender production for parents. At the end, when Steve Martin cried, I cried. I urge everyone to go see this movie, and then buy it when it comes out on DVD.

We hit the mall so Jose could get a memory card for their Play Station 2. I purchased a travel camera kit – which I later discovered does not work with my camera – though I was assured by the young sales associate it would! We left the hustle and bustle of the mall and ate at Olive Garden – a slow evening on their end. Fortunately, Adam brought a little technical contraption, much like a Game Boy, which played movies – at least the boys were entertained.

En route home, we began playing the alphabet game that does not seem to get old with my sons. Since each of us were only around the letter “I” I drove down to an area near Dorothy Lane and Wilmington Pike so we could get more letters. Determined to finish the game, we ended up several miles south in the Centerville-Bellbrook area near Wal-mart. I accomplished the letter “Q” as I drove through the McDonald’s drive-thru – “Quart Pounder.” Of course, to a 12 and 14 year old, that is just not fair. Well I showed them what “that is not fair” is. I drove to the Game Stop store to get my letter “X” on XBox! Haha! Take that, you prepubescents!

At home the boys immediately headed downstairs to the play station arena, while I tidied up the study and went to bed at 11:30 PM.

The next morning, we arrived at church while I was still chatting with Mother on the phone – a Sunday morning ritual while driving to church. Adam, who normally arrived with his mother, was not use to the Jolliffe-Haas arrival time – early. “I have never been to church this early in my life!” chuckled Adam. However, in my defense, it was only 8:57 AM and Sunday school begins at 9:15 AM. My grandfather was notorious for always arriving early – everywhere. So often we got to head on other excursions due to the fact we were ahead of schedule. Well, life is no different with his eldest grandson who follows the philosophy, “To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late.” I can remember how often we entered church on Sundays to turn on the lights, or on Saturday morning men’s breakfasts we would be there freezing until the fellowship hall and kitchen warmed up. Ugh!

Sisters, Brenda & Chris

Sunday school, as always, was fun. Brenda came with Chris and the class seemed to carry on as usual – tons of laughter and great conversation.

Since Monte was with the youth, Kristen Zimmann, a parishioner, gave a wonderful message about “influence” and the entire service flowed just as smoothly as though Monte was there. For some ministers, this would be uncomfortable, but I firmly believe that it is a sign of great leadership when the church can function normally when the minister is away. Kudos!

I did something I have never done before – I slipped out of church early. I learned that the youth would be returning to Monte and Chris’ home around noon, and Jose had made a special request to eat at Golden Corral (ugh). So we hurried to a Golden Corral near by and enjoyed the “culture” surrounding us at near by tables while chuckling at the bitchiness of our waitress. We retrieved Matthew and headed home. I slept for two hours and woke at 4:00 PM to run some errands, rake the back yard, sweep the first floor, dust, fold my laundry, cut Matthew’s hair and complete some Emails – all before 6:30 PM. Zinnnnngggggg!

Now, it is 11:25 PM and I am feeling tired… Sleep for six hours and then up for another day at the Muse and teaching – and it all starts over!

Chris Hetzer
Last night we had dinner with the Hetzers – Bill & Kay, and their two sons, Joey and Chris, to celebrate Chris’ (and Bill’s birthday). As always, it was a wonderful time with one of my favorite families. Kay fixed baked chicken breasts with a delicious sauce, baked potatoes, green beans with chopped almonds on top (which I really like!), cranberry sauce and rolls. Wow! It doesn’t get much better than that.

After dinner, the boys went out to play basketball while the three adults chatted for an hour or so. Then we had home made birthday cake and more fun.
We always hope to get together more often, but it seems as though our schedules raising our sons always hampers us.

Tuesday afternoon I learned that Pat Hill’s father had passed away. Pat is the executive director of ACTION Adoption where I adopted my sons. Pat had been very close to her father and I knew that she had spent a good deal of time with him since he entered Heartland of Kettering last fall. I asked about funeral arrangements and then asked if she had any one to play organ/keyboard for the funeral service, scheduled for Thursday afternoon at 1:00 PM.

Wednesday afternoon, Pat sent me a few songs requested by the family. One in particular I did not know, “If I Had My Way.” Apparently, it was a song they kept singing to their father the last month or so he was alive, but the family could only remember one verse, and did not know the title. Right after work at the Muse, I attempted a quick internet search but it yielded nothing. I sent out an APB to all my music friends. The first responses were empty – and when I received a reply from the music guru of Dayton, Raymonde Rougier, saying she had never heard of it, I figured this song was not to be included.

Around 7:00 PM I received an Email from my former organist at Faith In Christ Lutheran Church. Beth is also a library specialist and found two sites which included the recording – one by the Mills Brothers and one by Willie Nelson. By 10:00 PM Wednesday evening, I had responses from about 14 friends across the nation who had located the lyrics – but no sheet music. I also learned it had been recorded by Frank Sinatra.

I arrived at the funeral home at 12:30 PM and the first thing Pat asked was about the song. Before I knew it, Pat had acquired a computer with internet access in one of the mortuary offices, and I was sitting in front of it listening to the link I had sent her the previous evening. She asked, “Is there any way you could sing at least the first two verse?” I explained that I had not done this in years, and that this was really a lot of pressure to accomplish – as it was now 12:40 PM. Pat leaned forward, placed her hand on my arm and said, “Oh, Darin, I know if anyone can do it, you can.”

That faith was so blind. Pat and I have discussed my career a good deal over the past four years, but she has never seen any of my work. Pat left the little office, and I began listening to the music on the link. The melody was simple enough, as was the harmonic structure. Although I was growing terribly nervous, I remained calmed and utilized 35 years of music training… I figured that I should stick with C Major as it would cause me the least grief. The only thing that concerned me was the fact there were a few secondary dominants sandwiched with in the harmonic progressions, and I could not determine if I had an E7 or D7.

After playing an opener, then “Amazing Grace,” it was time for “If I Had My Way.” I braced myself, still trying to figure out the secondary dominant question. All I had was a copy of the lyrics – the rest was memory and musicianship. I began an introduction – of what I sort of remembered, and then suddenly, the nervousness ended. I remembered what I always tell my students. “Very few people will know if you mess up. Hardly ever does any one sit in the audience or congregation with a script or score.” Well, if the family could not remember the song, I figured I was capable of pulling something off.

It is funny how the brain works, and how old techniques never leave you. Getting back on a bicycle came to mind as “the old touch” seemed to return. All those years of lifting songs off of recordings or the radio for the Ball State Singers, Kings Island, show choirs, bands… it all came back. A skill I had not used in years was suddenly resounding through my system, carrying me with confidence. The melody and words became one:

If I had my way, Dear
Forever there’d be
A garden of roses
For you and for me
A thousand and one things
Dear, I would do
Just for you,
Just for you.

If I had my way
We would never grow old
And sunshine I’d bring every day
You would reign all alone
Like a queen on a throne
If I had my way.

I felt great for two reasons:
As I have grown older and adjusted the career, especially the merger into family life, I figured the former musician in me would simply slip away. It has not. I may not be the fit, trim young man who bounced across the stage as the Prince of Egypt, Jacob’s favored son, but I am still have what it takes. The other thing was that I felt wonderful that I could bring this moment to Pat’s family. Pat has helped me acquire two sons, and is in the process of working on one or two more at the moment. This was the least I could do for her.

To hear Willie Nelson’s version: And I know this will make my friend, Debbie Allen, happy! She is the world’s biggest fan of Willie Nelson – and I would have never guessed such a classy lady would appreciate Nelson’s music as she does!

Tuesday evening, I taught late and was too tired to cook. I took Jose to La Rosa’s Pizza and we enjoyed personal pan pizzas which were delicious. At the end of the meal, my cell phone rang and it was Matthew calling.

“Dad, the policeman wants to talk to you.”

“The policeman? What policeman?” I begged.

“He wants to talk to you about the fence,” Matthew said, nonchalantly.

“What about the fence? What is going on?” I cried.

“Some teenagers drove their van through the fence. It was only the high school fence – not ours.”

The other got on the telephone, standing on our back deck, asking where our property line started and ended. He assured me that the metal chain link fence was the only one disturbed, and that the students were uinjured.

Jose and I arrived home to see the destruction of the fence that borders our house. I am still amazed that there were no injuries or fatalities. Apparently, the driver lost control and rammed through the fence, turning it enough to keep from running right through my study! The van tore through the grassy area between our property and the high school fence which borders the parking lot, exited onto the sidewalk, continued across the street and came to rest at the curb where the tire broke from the axil. Wow!

Several students called to see if we were OK,and the neighbor lady was curious. Matt had been in the house and heard the commotion but thought we had come home and I was moving something in the kitchen. He said the driver was standing out on the grass holding his head in frustration, probably saying to himself, “My parents will be so pissed.” Jose grabbed his head, immitating the driver and said, “I should have gone with GEICO.”

And that’s the way it was!

A parishioner from North Riverdale Lutheran read my blog entry on our adventures at First Lutheran feeding the hungry this past Saturday, and responded with some of his own memories of growing up at First Lutheran. A few more Emails passed between us discussing memories of church, especially where music was involved. As a music teacher and performer, I have always understood the power of music. Music can be so healing and fulfilling, but it can also wield a remarkable blow when it reminds us of certain moments of sadness or loss.
A few Sundays ago, the organist played a gorgeous prelude, a fine arrangement of “Holy, Holy, Holy” which happened to be my grandfather’s favorite song. For me, starting service was a slight struggle, emotionally. This past Sunday, the choir’s anthem was a medley of the wonderful old tunes that contained so many of the songs with which I grew up. However, one particular song, “May The Circle Be Unbroken” seemed to momentarily shatter the enjoyment of the choir’s anthem. It is such a beautiful song, but I can never hear it without recalling its agonizing strains at my uncle’s funeral.
Tonight, one of my dearest friends in the world, Bill Hetzer, came in to pick up his son, Chris, from his piano lesson. Today was Bill’s 56th birthday, and I could tell he was not in a celebratory mood – something just seemed a little off. We stood talking about family and other items, and then he mentioned his son, Andy, and the tears began. Andy was 16 years old when his life ended on Mother’s Day, 1998. That following summer, Bill and I sat in many restaurants at lunch, crying, discussing Andy, our own mortality and the desire to adopt. He and Kay were not finished being parents, and I was wanting to build my own family. A part of me was hesitant as I watched Bill and Kay struggle with the loss of their own child, but the need to be a father was far greater. Today, Bill was listening to music as he was cleaning some rugs and the lyrics brought back thoughts of Andy. I had been discussing Andy earlier today at the office, as there is a family, Muse Machine board members, who are interested in adopting and will be contacting me this Thursday. Another ironic thing occurred today when my student, Zach, pulled a song from the Methodist hymnal for his sight-reading piece. It was “Come, Christians, Join To Sing” which is a very family tune to Ohio State Buckeyes. Andy was destined to play football for OSU, and this song is a Hetzer family favorite since its melody doubles as “Carmen Ohio” and the lovely hymn. The hymn, sadly enough, was what I led the congregation in singing at Andy’s funeral.
Music has triggered a lot of emotions this week, either at church, in Email conversations, or songs my students have sung in lessons. Today, while Katie O’Neill was singing a lovely musical theatre piece, “Love Changes Everything” and I realized I was choking up. Powerful and moving!
I love the power of music. Once I heard someone say that music is the language of God, or the angels. As a conductor, composer, musical theatre director and teacher, I love utilizing the powerful range of music to reach the cast, crew and eventually, our audience.
In January, 1957, my great-grandmother, Thelma Daugherty Barmes, a splendid pianist and well known as an outstanding soprano, was killed in an automobile-train collision. When the train conductor found her lying in the field where the train had drug her several hundred yards, she was lying there singing “The Old Rugged Cross.” When this story was told to her daughter-in-law, my grandmother, the haunting melody with rich text soon became anathema to my grandmother. I can still remember as a man in my twenties, my grandmother gripping the back of the pew as it was sung in church. Grandpa and Grandma could not bring themselves to open the hymnal when it was sung, and would stare straight ahead as if trying to push out the painful memories that haunted them. Although I was born seven years after Grandma Thelma’s tragic death, “The Old Rugged Cross” is often a sad reminder in some ways. When my cousin Tanya died three years ago, it was sung at her funeral and I saw the effect it still had on my family 45 years later.
Another song that makes me swallow hard is “Anchors, Aweigh” the Navy’s signature song. When I began piano lessons, my Uncle Ron was in the Navy. He bought me the sheet music “Anchors, Aweigh” which I eagerly practiced before his next visit from Virginia. Since his death in 1987, “Anchors, Aweigh” has become a joyful reminder of the wonderful uncle I had, but also a sad one since he is no longer with us.
There are many, many songs which do not haunt, but send chills up my spine. Of course, those are usually from musical theatre repertoire, but I do have songs which delight and lift me. One of my favorites is “Any Dream Will Do” from Joseph & The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. Each time I portrayed ‘Joseph’ or directed the show, it was always the song that seemed to empower me. I might be shedding tears as I sang this brilliant finale piece, but they were always happy tears. Classical music seems to lift me as much as my favorite musical theatre selections, and even the very heavy Mozart Requiem is uplifting. Although some Christmas and holiday music can move me to a higher level, there is nothing like patriotic music around the Fourth of July. “The Stars & Stripes, Forever” or Carmen Dragon’s stirring arrangement of “America, the Beautiful” are moments that send chills over me. Of course, my friend, Brody McDonald, my sons’ choir director, introduced me to the world of men’s chorus, a terribly powerful genre of music. There is nothing any greater than hearing a men’s chorus! Women’s choruses are lovely, but they just cannot seem to manage that rich sonority that men can.
When I was writing every morning from home I always had music playing. I might not be listening to it, but it was always on. Now that I work in the mornings at the Muse Machine, there is no music. Life has become exceedingly dull in this area, and I sorely miss the music in my day.

Not much here tonight…

Sunday is always a blast! I cannot believe that at age 41 I am like a little kid going to an amusement park. Chris Stevens leads the class and she has become one of my all-time favorite people in such a short time. The others in the class are quickly becoming the immediate relatives in my church family, and I am so excited to see them each week. But still, Chris is one of the reasons I enjoy the class as much as I do. This week was really grueling as I began my new position with the Muse Machine, and the minute Chris walked into the room I could feel the stress begin to disappear. She has such a calming effect, and I always leave her presence with tons more energy and tons more joy! Everyone should have a Chris Stevens in their life!

Chris Stevens
I hope none of my pre-teen Sunday school teachers never scour this blog as they will be disappointed to not see their photograph here.

This morning I rose a little earlier than usual to fix a recipe by Katharine Wright, the younger sister of Wilbur and Orville for a dinner after church. This has become a favorite recipe for get-to-gethers as the Wright’s ‘macaroni with cheese’ has a different taste than to what we are accustomed from Kraft.

Boil macaroni for 15 minutes in water,
Drain water,
Boil in milk until milk is absorbed (or burnt),
Add a layer of macaroni to the bottom of a buttered baking dish,
Add pepper, a little mustard and grated cheddar cheese,
Repeat until filled,
Add a layer of bread crust to the top,
Bake until crust is browned.

After the lunch at church, the congregation had its annual meeting with a semi-state of the union address.

Before heading to Kettering, I traveled through the neighborhood to which I moved in 1990 and took some photos, and then some photos of where I work, and the Wright gravesite at Woodland Cemetery. We arrived home and I immediately downloaded all the photos off my camera, took a two hour nap and then worked a little from the desk. The boys were engrossed in video games, and though the dad side of me wanted to be down there – even reading a book while they played games – the other side of me was reminded that I needed some down time.

Now, I am off to bed to read for 30 minutes. I checked out Grapes of Wrath from the library, as well as the 1939 DVD starring Henry Fonda and Jane Darwell. I also have a book to read, If Grace Be True, loaded to me from a lady in my Sunday school class. I should probably start with her book so that I can return it to her next week. The other novel looks like a long process!

To see more photos of today’s dinner and congregational meeting at church, please visit:

In the stage play & motion picture, the character ‘Ethel Thayer’ says, “Sometimes you have to look at a person and believe they are trying the very best they can.”

This was on my mind as I watched the hungry, the homeless eating meals at First Lutheran Church in downtown Dayton. This was truly an enjoyable and fulfilling day, but also a one of reflection. Aside from those on the streets in New York City, the only exposure I had personally had with those in dire need was the nameless person I saw going through my trash can when I lived just across the river in downtown Dayton. After this discovery, I began wrapping up food and setting it on top of the trash to keep it from the raccoon family that shared our neighborhood. As a single person, I can imagine it would be bad enough to be in complete want, but as a parent with children it would have to be horrendous! This afternoon, I was even more thankful that I can provide a decent life for my family in comforts that may not seem much to my sons at times, but is far more than what most of these folks have.

Jose’s confirmation class at North Riverdale Lutheran Church, and several other Lutheran churches in the Dayton area, were the groups brought together for this very worthwhile community service. We arrived at First Lutheran Church on First Street and the students received their assignments. The first step was to make up sandwiches to place in paper bags along with chips so there would be something to take with them for dinner or the next day’s meal. The confirmands got busy making the sandwiches and doing a variety of other tasks. They quickly finished preparing the paper bag meals and were invited to make a sandwich for themselves. After eating, they realized they had quite a bit of time on their hands so the host pastor took the students on a tour.

First Lutheran Church was built in 1906, seven years before the Great Dayton Flood that devastated area in 1913. The church is built rather high above the ground, yet the water still rose 3/4 up the pews in the sanctuary. The minister pointed out the pipe organ which is approximately 153 pipes… wow! Monte and I hit the alter/choir area where we each took a turn. The confirmands took off on their own exploration as Monte and I opened up the pipes. What a beautiful sound!

The church is HUGE! Sadly, they are in a near non-existent state, worshiping 30-50 per week, and hanging by a few threads. In my opinion, several of the downtown churches in decline should band together and merge into First Lutheran. I am sure it must be dreadful to close one’s church, especially if it has held several generations of one’s family like ours at Trinity United Methodist in Elwood, Indiana; however, these people could do so much more as one united congregation, possibly saving the very beautiful, historic First Lutheran building.

After wandering through the chapel, which was just as gorgeous as the main sanctuary, Monte and I headed up to the second floor where there was a tiny piano keyboard of not more than 20 keys, located at the bottom of the stairs leading to the bell tower. I played the keys – silence. Monte played the keys just as I located the switch… BONG! BONG! BONG! The deafening noise startled us both and I know we both looked like 14 year olds (41 reversed) who had just touched something we should not have.

With that loud mischief accomplished, we headed up the steep stairs to a room about 30 X 30 feet. The first thing I noticed was a narrow, wooden stairs that wound up around the 40 feet high walls, leading to the top portion of the bell tower. Ropes from the carillons hung freely, and the former operating levers of the carillons stood there before us, echoing the advancement of the keyboard technology Monte had demonstrated a few minutes before. To the confirmand kids who passed by them, I am sure they were merely something to grab hold of, lifting the levers roughly hoping to create sound… but to me they were a part of a musical past that somehow connected me to my favorite Daytonians, Wilbur, Orville and Katharine Wright (Wilbur & Orville’s sister). I imagined that Katharine Wright, a Latin-Greek teacher at Steele High School which once stood a few blocks away, must have heard these bells time and again as she passed by First Lutheran on her two mile walk to the Wright family home at 7 Hawthorne Street, two miles away. When the Wright Brothers had their one bicycle shop two blocks south, they too must have heard these bells. In June 1909, when the Wrights returned from their European adventures, hailed as ‘kings of the air,’ the city of Dayton held one of its greatest celebrations. At 9:00am, June 9, 1909, the festivities commenced with whistles blowing and bells ringing for two minutes throughout the city of Dayton… I am sure the bells that hung some 80 feet above me were a part of that moment. In 1912, when the church bells rang to honor the life of Wilbur Wright who died from typhoid fever, I knew these bells contributed to the mournful orchestration as people filed into First Baptist Street a block away. Those levers, standing against the wall to gather dust, slipping further into a fading world of brilliant technology from its own time, were to me, a warm connection to the past of carillon musicians, the Wright family and a day when church bells were a common sound in most communities.

Monte made it further up the steps than I did. When I reached the room’s height of approximately 40 feet, I stepped out on to the little deck that looked out on to other roofs of nearby buildings, but up to the tall towers that dominate the skyline of Dayton. Monte moved on up the even steeper set of steps to see the bells and offered to hold the camera, but as I looked down through the open rail I left the 14 year old mentality at the carillon keyboard and was startled back to age 41. The dizzying height, coupled with the open rail was a little too much. Give me a roller coaster any day, but this I could not handled.

Back down the steps, I watched the young boys grab hold of the ropes, tug them downward, and cheer as they were lifted off the floor by the clanging bells overheard. Oh, how I wanted to give those ropes a tug, but was fearful my weight would bring the bell crashing through the wooden floor forty feet above. We met a parishioner who was moving through the attic area, showing us the cat walks over the sanctuary lighting and other little items. He was skilled in wood working and was eager to show us the original altar, like the
ancient carillon levers, standing in semi-forgotten corner gathering layers of dust. The altar was beautiful and I captured a few shots of it with the top portion of the stained glass window as a gorgeous backdrop.

As we moved down the stairs to the second floor, I noticed graffiti on the walls of the stair well – but suddenly, one listing, staring at me directly ahead, read, “Jose Haas was here January 21, 2006.” I could not tell if the wave of nausea was left over from the steps leading to the bell tower or from seeing graffiti in my own son’s fresh handwriting! The guy who had led us through the attic assured me the children were always encouraged to sign their names on the stair well’s walls. Although I was assured, I was still slightly uncomfortable. One of those ‘pick your battle’ moments as a parent… ugh!

After wandering around the church some more, and speaking a few minutes with the host pastor in his study, Monte and I moved back to the basement where the feeding had begun. The pastors gathered in one corner, observing their young confirmands at work. I observed my own sons, uncertain as to how this moment of staring some of their own past in the face would affect them. Matthew was in top form as he served up hot food to each visitor, smiling and offering small talk; Jose, happy as ever, poured drinks as though he was at a middle school mixer (or happy hour ten years from now!). Both boys had experienced food lines and shelter houses in their past, yet it did not seem to haunt them in any visible way. I was proud of them mixing with the visitors the way they did. I also observed the young folks from the church in the very affluent Oakwood, wondering how they would react – of course, to the team of boys serving it was like a day at Disneyland to them as they made the most enjoyment out of the moment. Finally, the confirmands were herded into another chapel in the basement for a “debriefing” of what they had experienced. The leader of this mission program spoke, and although his heart was undoubtedly in the right place, his presentation for “you youngin’s” was tiresome and far too preachy. The mission leader and his wife did provide an activity where the “youngin’s” searched through bits of dirt and rock to find unpolished gems, illustrating the worth of each individual we meet… still, it was rather lengthy, and the ever dutiful Matthew, who seldom wavers in his pew manners, was becoming glassy-eyed. Jose? Well, let’s just say he was Jose, looking at the speaker but definitely engaged in some mental journey to Disney World.

Leaving the church, Monte and I took the boys to lunch at an eatery near the Fifth Third Baseball Field – the home of our very own, Dayton Dragons. After an entertaining and refreshing chat (while my sons ran up a tab on $2.50 rootbeers – knowing their limit per meals is one!), Monte and Adam escorted us to Mendelson’s Liquidation Outlet. I had seen the gigantic, towering, anciet warehouse before but had never ventured inside. Although I found something I needed for my desk at Muse Machine, the building itself was another cultural adventure.

A beautiful bell tower of the Catholic church next to Mendelson’s in downtown Dayton.

After downloading and fixing up photos of the youngin’s mission moment at First Lutheran, I took the boys to see a movie, recommended by Adam, who had not seen the movie. I pulled it up on the internet and saw that the actress who played “Marie” on Everybody Loves Raymond and Shirley Jones (Oklahoma!, The Music Man and The Partridge Family) were in this movie. Great! Once again, my parenting skills in this particular arena seemed to dip greatly. I handed over my ticket to see Grandma’s Boy to the attendant, and stepped into the hallway as several other audience members stood in front of Jose and Matthew. I heard the ticket attendant ask my sons, “May I see your ID please?” They immediately pointed me out and the guy let them pass. Once again, I had unknowlingly taken my sons to a rated R movie. How could Mrs. Partidge appear in anything but a G rating? It was the raunchiest movie I have ever seen! And once again, my sons handled themselves like gentlemen and not like giggling, immature teenagers… but afterall, they were sitting with their father!

To see more photographs of our day, please visit:

When I heard there was a movie to be released on the life of legendary country singer, Johnny Cash, I must admit a moaned a little. I just could not see why his life should be captured on film; however, I was ignorant about Mr. Cash’s life and was jumping to conclusions about the film’s success. At Christmas, one of my all time favorite people, my great aunt, Norma, said she and her son had gone to see the movie and told me just how wonderful it was. I knew that I should probably give the movie a chance. At some point, Monte mentioned he would like to see it, so we arranged to see it this evening. Monte’s son, Adam, was the only one of the four boys who was brave enough to see it. Jose called a friend and somehow got invited quickly to spend the night; Matthew politely begged off; and Nathaniel made other plans.

I am so glad I did not miss this movie! Wow! What a new-found respect I have for Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. I learned so much that Naturally, when I hopped on the Internet to research the Cashes. I became even more fascinated with June Carter Cash and what a loving individual she was. One daughter (Johnny’s from his previous marriage, but June refused to use the word ‘step’ with any of her children) said, “June was just as much herself with the person working the cash register at the local supermarket as she was with the President of the United States.”

Over and over, I read of her contributions as a devoted wife and mother, and how Johnny Cash never failed to publicly acknowledge his gratitude for his wife’s faith in him as a performer and as a husband. Everyone should have someone like June Carter Cash in their lives. I have truly come to admire this lady, and applaud her husband’s career.

Here is the article from June Carter Cash’s funeral in Hendersonville, Tennessee…

“How June Carter Cash’s faith in God impacted others was a common thread that ran through the funeral service in her honor at First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., May 18.

“A lot of great things will be said about June today, but the greatest thing that can be said about her and about anyone is that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ,” said Glenn Weekley, pastor of First Baptist Hendersonville, where Cash was a member.

“I’m so thrilled to be able to stand here today, knowing that June had that personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I think she would make sure all of us know that she is in glory today not because of any deeds she did but because of the deed Jesus Christ did 2,000 years ago when He laid down His life on Calvary.”

Cash, a member of the legendary Carter Family and wife of Johnny Cash, died May 15 at age 73 following complications from heart surgery. Among the nearly 2,000 people gathered for her funeral were musicians, actors and others Cash had reached in her lifetime.

Actor Robert Duvall, who Cash worked with in “The Apostle,” was in attendance as were singers such as Ricky Skaggs, Trisha Yearwood and Hank Williams Jr. Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers led the service, noting that Cash gave him his first chance at making it in the music industry. The Oak Ridge Boys sang “Loving God, Loving Each Other,” and Emmylou Harris and Sheryl Crow sang “Angel Band” and “On the Sea of Galilee” in tribute to Cash.
Rosanne Cash was a stepdaughter to June Carter Cash, but she said June banished the words “stepdaughter” and “stepmother” from her vocabulary and accepted all the children as her own.
In another testament of June’s character, Rosanne recalled how years ago she was sitting with June in the living room at home when the phone rang. June picked it up and started talking to someone, and after several minutes Rosanne wandered off to another room because it seemed she was deep in conversation. She went back 10 or 15 minutes later and June was still completely engrossed.

“I was sitting in the kitchen when she hung up a good 20 minutes later, and she had a big smile on her face, and she said, ‘I just had the nicest conversation,'” Rosanne said. “And she started telling me about this other woman’s life and her children and that she had just lost her father and where she lived and on and on. And I said, ‘Well, June, who was it?’ And she said, ‘Well, honey, it was a wrong number.’ That was June. In her eyes there were two kinds of people: those she knew and loved, and those she didn’t know and loved. She looked for the best in everyone. It was a way of life for her. … She was forever lifting people up.”

Rosanne Cash also said June’s great mission and passion in life were lifting up Johnny Cash. If being a wife were a corporation, she said, June would have been the CEO.

“It was her most treasured role. She began every day by saying, ‘What can I do for you, John?’ Her love filled up every room he was in, lit every path he walked, and her devotion created a sacred, exhilarating place for them to live out their married life,” Rosanne Cash said. “My dad has lost his dearest companion, his musical counterpart, his soul mate and his best friend.”
Weekley said that though the family and friends were captivated by such a great loss and overwhelmed by such great tragedy in June’s death, Christians need to be reminded of five specific truths. The first is God’s love.

“The Bible says nothing can separate us from the love of God,” Weekley said. “I want to remind Johnny and I want to remind this family God loves you today. And He loves June today in a very personal, face to face way. That’s something we can be thankful for and rejoice in today.”
The second truth is God’s grace, and those gathered could rejoice that God’s grace is sufficient to help them in their time of loss. They could also be assured of God’s presence and His promise throughout Scripture that He’ll comfort those in mourning.

Quoting Romans 8:28, Weekley reminded those gathered of God’s purpose. He said it doesn’t mean that everything in and of itself is good, but it means that if people love God, He’ll use circumstances like June’s death to bring about good. As examples, he said it could bind the Cash family closer together in love, and it could remind everyone that they’re going to die. For that, he said, everyone needs to be prepared.

“I don’t think there’s anything that would give June greater joy than to know that somebody, as a result of her leaving this world, took spiritual stock of their life and gave their heart to Christ,” Weekley said.

The fifth truth Weekley encouraged believers to hold on to is God’s promise of tomorrow. He said what excites him as a Christian is there’s another day coming, and he said for Johnny and the family there’s a great reunion day coming with June.

Courtney Wilson, former pastor of First Baptist Hendersonville, recalled how 36 years ago he met June and Johnny, and one Sunday while Johnny was recovering from a bout with drug abuse, June persuaded him to go to church with her. He didn’t want to get back into the public so soon, but she said they’d go late and sit in the back. They did, and Wilson preached a sermon about the Living Water of Christ. Johnny remembered that sermon and wrote about it in a book in later years, Wilson said.

Wilson summed up what he observed about June in one sentence: “June Carter Cash was a kind and thoughtful Christian lady who loved her God, loved her family and loved her friends.”
A representative brought a message from the prime minister of Jamaica, where June and Johnny spent some time in charitable work.

“A philanthropist extraordinaire, Mrs. Cash made Jamaica her second home and loved and cared deeply for the people of her adopted country,” the representative said. “A gifted and talented singer, she and her husband, Johnny Cash, used the very talents for the benefit of many charities in and around Montego Bay. … On behalf of all Jamaica and in particular the many individuals whose lives have been touched, I express condolences to her husband, family and friends.”
Actress Jane Seymour recalled her work with June on the television series “Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.”

“I had the privilege of working with June as an actress, and she taught me so much about acting, about God, about giving and about love,” Seymour said. “I remember giggling with her so bad that we thought we could never act together again because we just had giggle fits whenever we saw each other.”

In closing, Gatlin led those gathered in an a cappella version of “The Far Side Banks of Jordan,” which June and Johnny wrote and recorded in the 1970s: “She’ll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan. She’ll be sitting, drawing pictures in the sand. And when you go to meet her, she will rise up with a shout and come running through the shadow, reaching for your hand.”

The morning schedule went much smoother! The only snafu occurred as I was walking out the door – the front door knob pulled right off – and the door was still closed! Ugh! I managed to get it open and then assigned mechanically-savvy Matthew to handle the repair job – which he did.

I opened my desk drawers – woa! It was more like two junk drawers! I went in early so I could specifically re-set the desk and fix it up a bit. I also set my favorite photo of my sons and I on my desk – which seemed to capture the attention of the ladies. I had already made up a photo sheet with family photos on it since others seemed to be doing that. My sons and nephews are a hit with the ladies at the Muse. I spent a good five hours of getting the basic things completed, working with tech support so I could retrieve E-mail, wading through tons of papers, and trying to figure out more of the system. Ugh! Still a long road ahead in this arena.

I do love the folks who work at the Muse – really nice ladies. Doug Merk, the student programs director, has been ill, so I am the only man in the office at the moment. I am sure that once we are ready for a second career, Doug and I could easily host our own radio talk show discussing women’s issues! Of course, the one second-career employee informed me that it won’t be as interesting given three are “already post-menopausal.” Go figure.

Tonight at the Chinese restaurant we were seated across from this elderly woman who was in her 80’s. She was darling. We knew several of the same folks from the Kettering School District, and she is a big supporter of the arts in Kettering. She had lost her husband last May, and is restructuring her life. Afterwards, Jose and I went to the church where his confirmation class was held and I took some photographs of a planning meeting for the Katrina Missions trip. What a neat group of people gathered for this effort. We finished up the evening by hitting Wal-Mart so I could purcahse some items for my desk at the Muse Machine… then on home for peach pie and a scoop of ice cream, some television and bed at 10:30pm!

Tuesday was my last free day before re-entering the work force outside the home. Of course, teaching at Kettering Middle School did not seem like ‘the workforce’ but this is so different from the course of my life’s career the past four years. I quickly realized this afternoon when I returned home that life was definitely going to be different on my end.

Tuesday I spent the morning researching a special project on which I am working. After 12:00pm, Monte called to tell me he was in the neighborhood and he stopped by for a while. He had me help him set up a blog site for the church and for a mission trip he and several other area pastors will be taking in February to assist with the victims of Hurricane Katrina. It is amazing to me that while my life has continued with little interruption, thousands of others are still struggling with the devastation of last September.

The boys and I sat down to a late dinner and then watched a little of American Idol – ugh! What an incredibly horrible show! I would rather endure festering hemorrhoids than to watch another episode of that show!

This morning I woke and noticed a layer of snow on the back deck. I went out to sweep the snow off the car – which was even more deep than the deck. I ignored the television announcements of school cancellations as I got ready for my first morning at the Muse Machine. Just as I stepped into the shower, Matt returned home at 7:50am because Kettering school’s were on a two-hour delay. I believe that was the first time I have experienced a delay as a parent – good thing my sons are older. I left the house at 8:30am and easily made it to the First Street Parking Garage – with valet service – by 8:45am and was stepping into my little corner of the Muse world at 8:55am. I do have a window that looks down three flights out on to Main Street, and I cannot wait until the sunnier days.

The staff is absolutely wonderful – of course, I am sure they were on their best behavior since I am a newbie. I spent a good deal of time with Carolyn Wheeler and Betsy Clapp who described all the facets of the educational programs – which are far more extensive than what I realized. Later, Gail Whipple appeared on the scene so she could go over all she has done to update the systems, etc. It seems as though the biggest bulk of my work will entail bringing the format and office up to the 21st century with the technological advancements, as well as develop certain aspects of the various areas. There were times when I just wanted to allow my self to feel slightly overwhelmed due to the many things I discovered needing to be completed; however, this is the kind of stuff I like – organizing, building, creating, implementing and working with others.

I arrived home at 2:30pm (after retrieving my valet parked car) and Matt was already home since he was out at 1:00pm due to final semester exams. I called Mother to report on my first day, began teaching at 3:45pm and by 5:30pm I was yawning – no nap! Ugh! The battle scars are showing as I begin this new life – NO NAP!!!

I finished teaching at 7:15pm, ran errands with Jose – who loves these moments with Dad – although they are not the most fun things to be doing. I will do a few odds and ends this evening, and then hit the bed early tonight. I can see now that I should probably miss out on Letterman’s monologue so I can get up at 5:30am in order to get some writing accomplished. There will be no time in the evenings!

This is an adjustment, but a welcome adjustment. I was in an atmosphere surrounded by former teachers and principals, and artistic sorts popping in and out all day. What a perfect place to spend my time!

“There are two ways to make music. One is to make it yourself, and the other is to create an environment that allows others to make it.”

~ Steve Smith ~

Well, the five long days of constant running and attending events has finally come to an end. It was so hectic and so busy – but so enjoyable in many ways. In five days, I was fortunate to spend time with: Mother; my sister Dena; my nephews, Jonathan & Andrew; friends Jeff, AJ, Joshua, the Ball State Singers; friends from high school Anne Morgan, Angie Knotts, Mark Morgan, Stephanie Grimes, Susan Fettig, Cathy Fettig, Jeff Hughes, Todd McGuire; family friends here in Dayton Adam, Cathy Leininger (student’s mother), the fun people in my Sunday school class and the darling people of North Riverdale Lutheran Church; former students; current students; fellow choral boosters and got to meet a number of new folks this weekend at church, at Ball State and at the show choir contest. It was also wonderful to see current students performing in Beauty & The Beast and at the Beavercreek Show Choir Invitational. I feel so fulfilled at the moment.

Friday morning I woke promptly at 6:00am and began cleaning, doing laundry and getting the house ready for company. I also got Saturday morning’s breakfast prepped so I would not need to get up so early. I finished teaching at 6:30pm and hurried into the shower. Dena and the boys arrived in downtown Dayton at 7:15pm and we went on to the Victoria Theatre where we saw an excellent production of Beauty & The Beast produced by the MUSE Machine. After greeting my students in the cast, as well as former students, we all went to Denny’s where more former students and current students poured in. Finally, at 1:30am we arrived home. Dena got her sons off to bed and then we settled down to relax with some of my weekly taped shows. Finally, the last time I remember seeing on the clock was 3:22am.

Saturday, I was up up at 6:00am and got breakfast going – my typical scrambled eggs, pancakes and potato casserole. Matthew hurried to get ready to leave with the show choir busses and Dena and I took Jose birthday shopping. We returned home around 2:15pm and Dena and the boys returned to Indiana while Jose and I headed east to Beavercreek to catch both of Fairmont’s show choirs in the day competition.Of course, I ran into a bunch of directors, parents, students, etc. and that is always fun. After I saw a former student’s show choir perform, Jose and I hurried to Friendly’s for a birthday dinner, and then back to the high school for the evening competition. Neither of the Fairmont choirs made it into the night finals, so I grabbed Matthew off the bus so he could join Jose and me in the auditorium. The contest ran behind and we arrived home by midnight. As we pulled into the driveway, three students, Dan Moore, Brittany and Thomas Ross were walking up to the driveway. They came in and chatted until 1:30am – and yes, I had them call their parents! At 3:45am, I finally finished some work at my desk and headed to bed.

Sunday morning I woke at 6:15am and by 7:30am I had the boys hustled through the showers and dressed for church. Sunday school, again, was an absolute blast. The people are fun, but I dearly love the great conversation on the topic in class. After church, we chatted with folks and then left with Adam Stevens in tow. He had signed his name on the pew pad as “Adam Haas,” and after church was heading back to Kettering with us to eat Chinese and then play with Jose until confirmation class at 5:00pm. The class was held at a Lutheran church in Oakwood, so en route, we stopped at Orville Wright’s home, Hawthorne Hill, and Smith Gardens. I worked on a special project while the group watched a really neat movie on miracles. Afterwards, I made supper and we had settled down for a few hours of quiet time. The remainder of the evening and early morning was spent catching up on some work.

Monday was another early morning, despite the fact there was no school. Jose and I left for the dentist at 9:15am. He was in the chair at 10:00am for his root canal. His dentist, Dr. Bob Muster, is the neatest guy and he was so good at putting Jose at ease. Jose was a trooper! After we left the dentist we got his prescriptions filled and then went to lunch. Jose was still numb and was always asking me if he had any food on the area of his mouth he could not feel! We got home and he immediately went to lay down for a few hours. I started teaching at 2:00pm and finished at 8:45pm. After making Jose some mac & cheese, I settled down to relax and write some on my blog.

I am exhausted, but what a wonderful weekend it was! Five days of constant running and filling mine and my family’s life with more wonderful people. It is now 10:55pm and I am finally off to bed after seventeen hours of sleep since Wednesday morning!

You can see more photos from this weekend on my Yahoo website:

I have always loved Andy Rooney and this transcription from a recent 60 Minutes episode seems to sum up some of my own thoughts on certain issues. I applaud CBS for allowing Mr. Rooney to speak so loudly, boldly and honestly…

Andy Rooney: “I don’t think being a minority makes you a victim of anything except numbers. The only things I can think of that are truly discriminatory are things like the United Negro College Fund, Jet Magazine, Black Entertainment Television, and Miss Black America. Try to have things like the United Caucasian College Fund, Cloud Magazine, White Entertainment Television, or Miss White America; and see what happens…Jesse Jackson will be knocking down your door.

Guns do not make you a killer. I think killing makes you a killer. You can kill someone with a baseball bat or a car, but no one is trying to ban you from driving to the ball game.

I believe they are called the Boy Scouts for a reason, that is why there are no girls allowed. Girls belong in the Girl Scouts! ARE YOU LISTENING MARTHA BURKE?!

I think that if you feel homosexuality is wrong, it is not a phobia, it is an opinion. I have the right “NOT” to be tolerant of others because they are different, weird, or tick me off.

When 70% of the people who get arrested are black, in cities where 70% of the population is black, that is not racial profiling, it is the Law of Probability.

I believe that if you are selling me a milkshake, a pack of cigarettes, a newspaper or a hotel room, you must do it in English! As a matter of fact, if you want to be an American citizen, you should have to speak English!

My father and grandfather didn’t die in vain so you can leave the countries you were born in to come over and disrespect ours.

I think the police should have every right to shoot your sorry ass if you threaten them after they tell you to stop. If you can’t understand the word “freeze” or “stop” in English, see the above lines.

I don’t think just because you were not born in this country, you are qualified for any special loan programs, government sponsored bank loans or tax breaks, etc., so you can open a hotel, coffee shop, trinket store, or any other business.

We did not go to the aid of certain foreign countries and risk our lives in wars to defend their freedoms, so that decades later they could come over here and tell us our constitution is a living document and open to their interpretations.

I don’t hat e the rich. I don’t pity the poor. I know pro wrestling is fake, but so are movies and television. That doesn’t stop you from watching them.

I think Bill Gates has every right to keep every penny he made and continue to make more. If it ticks you off, go and invent the next operating system that’s better, and put your name on the building.

It doesn’t take a whole village to raise a child right, but it does take a parent to stand up to the kid; and smack their little behinds when necessary, and say “NO!”

I think tattoos and piercing are fine if you want them, but please don’t pretend they are a political statement. And, please, stay home until that new lip ring heals. I don’t want to look at your ugly infected mouth as you serve me French fries!

I am sick of “Political Correctness.” I know a lot of black people, and not a single one of them was born in Africa; so how can they be “African-Americans”? Besides, Africa is a continent. I don’t go around saying I am a European-American because my great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather was from Europe. I am proud to be from America and nowhere else.

And if you don’t like my point of view, tough!”

Photographs are fromt eh Ball State University Singers’ rehearsal, Thursday, January 10, 2006.

Friday morning, I was officially up at 5:45am – having gone to bed at 1:30am (with a few unscheduled wake-ups). Jose and I left for the dentist at 7:10am knowing we would be dealing with morning commuters – well, there seemed to be no one else out at that time of the morning. We arrived at the dentist by 7:25am for his 8:00am appointment. We drove around the National Cemetery at the Veteran’s Association – a miniature Arlington Cemetery, which was absolutely beautiful as the sun was rising. We were perched high on the upper west side of the valley and could see downtown Dayton and its suburbs waking.

We arrived at the dentist at 7:50am only to be told the dentist was ill. We rescheduled for Monday morning.

By 10:00am Jose and I were on the road to Indiana. Since I will give the boys a free day each semester, providing they have worked hard at school, this was Jose’s free day. We stopped by the library to get some DVD’s for him to watch to and from Indiana, and by 11:45am we had reached our destination of Elwood, Indiana. We first went to the high school to see Paula Simmons, my junior high and high school band and choral director. We agreed to meet at Dunnichay Funeral Home at 3:45pm. I also had a chance to catch up with one of my favorite secretaries at the high school, Kandie Courtney.

We picked Mother up from the police department and went to Wolff’s Restaurant for lunch. I had not been there in years. The neighbors directly behind us on Main Street were the owners of the restaurant, and although the establishment has changed hands a number of times, the food is still as I remember it – breaded tenderloins which hang off the side of the plate, the best roast beef Manhattan in the state (some how this has been documented). We drove Mother back to the police department and went to visit my sister, Dena, at the Chamber of Commerce. Before heading to Mother’s to change clothes we stopped by Edgewood Elementary School to visit my fourth grade teacher, Diana Lane, who has been a family friend for years.Mrs. Lane was, without a doubt, one of the key people who instilled in me a love for literature. I can remember her reading to us Old Yeller, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Mystery of Assateague and The Mystery of Chincoteague. I can still remember her vocal inflections as she read dialogue from the younger brother, Arliss, who adopted the mangy mongrul, Old Yeller. In 1999, when I took my three week adventure down the east coast, I made a special little jaunt to visit the island of Assateague. Mrs. Lane is still a wonderful lady with tons of energy and dedication to her work.

At 3:45pm, Jose and I arrived at Dunnichay Funeral Home and met up with Paula. In the door walked one of my best friends from high school, Anne Morgan, and her younger brother, Mark, who still lives in the area. Anne has not changed much at all, and her quick wit has not been lost. Another friend and neighbor from all my school years, Angie Knotts Phenis, was also there, and before leaving at 6:00pm, Stehpanie Grimes Hoel arrived. As we all stood there chatting with Paula, it amazed me how the years of 1977-1983 had really not been all that long ago. Although we had each embarked down a variety of wonderful paths, we all seemed to return to the core of what made us such good friends for many years. I had known Angie and her brother,Brad, since 1970, Stephanie since 1974, Susan and Cathy Fettig since 1977, and most of the others since junior high. Despite the fact we we there to be with Susan, whose son, Adam, died from leukemia a week shy of his 13th birthday, it was a very nice moment to reconnect with many old friends from my years as in Elwood.

Jose and I hurried to Ball State in time for the rehearsal, and had a blast. Jeff Carter introduced me to the cast, many of whom I had already met, as “one of our key alumni.” I guess I never considered myself in that role, but I am still quite dedicated to the ensemble which shaped me even more after my years in Elwood. I was so fortunate to have such a fantastic education, surrounded by some of the very best teachers any child could have!

I took a number of photographs of the rehearsal; met a colleague, Jim Helton (piano); chatted with some of the singers and staff; walked around the school of music (I have yet to visit the new building across the street); and then went to a late dinner at Applebees with Jeff, AJ, and the Singers’ accompanist, Josh Stierling. Again, we had a great time chatting and laughing until it was time to return to Dayton. We arrived in Kettering at midnight. Jose hurried off to bed and I downloaded all my photos, labeled them and arranged them so they are now ready for viewing.

Despite the trip to visit a former friend who had lost a son, the day was rich with friends, and remembering a ton of wonderful things that have shaped me into the person I am today.

I love this photo – Jeff’s son, AJ, in his dad’s rehearsal! Hmmm…

For more photographs of this rehearsal, please visit my Yahoo webpage and go to photos.

This morning got off to a delightful start with my eldest having a meltdown because his laundry was still not completed – since Sunday. There had been daily reminders since last Friday to complete it since this coming weekend will be swamped. Finally, with one basket to be folded and put away, he had the option of finishing it before school this morning or not going on a field trip tomorrow.

Today was just a bundle of errands, finishing up and outline on a new writing project I am pursuing, cleaning, starting my laundry (finally) and getting some other business attended to. At 1:00pm, Brody called me to tell me the shelving finally arrived for the choir robe room and the show choir storage room – so I hurried over to the high school to check it out. One student volunteered her father for assembling the units. The band director, Mike Berning, and I chatted for a while – which is always fun! Mike and I share a similar wicked sense of humor, and Mike has a talent for saying things in the funniest way. I hurried home to start teaching at 2:15pm and lasting until 7:15pm. At 7:30pm I was back at the high school to meet with the dad assembling the storage units, snap a few photos of the show choir rehearsing and to attend a choral boosters meeting at 8:00pm. At 9:21pm, the boys and I were finally walking home after I met with a few parents and chatted with Brody.

I corralled the boys to set tomorrow morning’s schedule in place – Jose must be at the dentist tomorrow morning at 8:00am for three root canals – so, I will shower at 6:00am, get Jose up at 6:30am to get ready, and Matt at 7:00am. Jose and I will take off for the dentist and then return home to change clothes to return to Indiana. A friend from high school, Susan Fettig Abner, lost her son to leukemia – something that hit our own family with my beloved grandmother. My good friend from high school, Stephanie Grimes Hoel, wrote that several of our good friends, whom we have not seen since graduating in 1983, are flying in for the funeral. I am hoping to see them. Jose and I will travel together since Matthew has a show choir performance at 5:00pm for the retiring mayor of Kettering. We will probably swing in to say “hello” to Mother at the police department and Dena at the chamber of commerce, but will not stay for dinner since we will be seeing them this weekend. I am hoping we might be able to catch a Ball State Singer’s rehearsal or at least catch up with Jeff and AJ for a spell.

I will do last minute things around the house, order Jose’s birthday cake and run a number of errands. Dena, Mother, Jonathan and Andrew will arrive in Dayton around 7:00pm or so, and we will go to the Victoria Theatre to see the MUSE Machine production of Beauty & The Beast, in which a number of my students are performing.

Jose’s 14th birthday. Matthew and the high school show choirs will compete at the nearby Beavercreek Show Choir Invitational – so I am not truly certain how we will celebrate Jose’s birthday and get to see the show choirs compete. We may try to see the afternoon competition since it is a night mare to get seats for the evening show.

Sunday school and church, and then return for lunch with the family, unless they join us for church services. At 3:00pm, I am running through a line of seniors who are going over last minute prep for a full week of college auditions (and semester finals, as well). Afterwards, I intend on a quiet dinner and a quiet evening to get the boys prepped for the long week of finals.

So, the remainder of this week, with a trip to Indiana, is already piled high. I am ready!

This afternoon, I accepted a position with The MUSE Machine of the Miami Valley, working with the education department…

About the MUSE Machine

The Muse Machine was established on the belief that the arts can make a profound contribution to every aspect of human life. Founded in 1982 by Suzy Bassani with twenty-two charter teachers from twenty area schools, The Muse Machine now involves 160 schools in twelve counties, serving combined student audiences of more than 70,000 through professional performances and workshops. Approximately 650 teachers across many academic disciplines receive training in the performing and visual arts annually. Cited as a model arts in education program in The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts publication Community Arts: Partnerships in Education, we continue to set the standard for the best in arts education.

At its essence, The Muse Machine is a comprehensive performing and visual arts education delivery system for secondary students. But The Muse Machine is much more – it helps students express their creativity and get excited about learning; it inspires and rewards teachers; it builds enthusiastic and knowledgeable arts audiences for the future; and it helps build vibrant and cohesive communities. The “core” of The Muse Machine is three programs that, working together, create a vital link between the community’s arts organizations and educational system:

1) Teacher Training – Through challenging, hands-on arts workshops and seminars with professional artists, teachers in all disciplines acquire tools that help them motivate and connect with students in exciting new ways. The joy that the teachers receive through their professional development is immediately conveyed to the students in their classrooms. The Muse Machine recognizes that, for every teacher who understands the significance of the arts in our lives, hundreds of students will benefit from a more holistic education.

2) In-School Programs – The Muse Machine helps arts organizations and artists reach into the schools with high-quality arts programs tied directly to curriculum objectives. Early and frequent exposure to the arts helps students develop a lifelong interest in them, even as it makes learning and teaching in all subject areas more effective and fun.

3) Muse Machine Clubs – Teachers and students collaborate with arts organizations to market the arts in their schools. In-school box offices sell discounted tickets to mainstage performances and exhibits, giving students vastly increased contact with different art forms, while helping arts organizations build loyal future audiences. Muse Machine Clubs help young people develop leadership skills, make new friends, and excel through fun activities that enrich their lives.

The Muse Machine also undertakes special projects that involve teachers, students, parents, and communities directly in the arts. Playwriting competitions, professional quality musical theater productions, and juried arts exhibitions are just some of the special projects that have given The Muse Machine tremendous visibility in Dayton, and made it a treasured part of that community.
Most importantly, the flexibility of The Muse Machine’s model means it can be adapted to the needs of different communities. It can be operated by an arts center, arts council, arts fund, foundation, or as a separate non-profit organization.

The structure of the elementary school, and the number of arts-in-education programs offered nationally, allows elementary students the opportunity to experience and enjoy the performing and visual arts. As these students enter secondary school and develop more sophisticated intellectual capabilities, however, they have fewer opportunities for curricular and extracurricular exposure to performing and visual arts education. As a result, only a select few secondary students are served.

The Muse Machine targets secondary school students. The Muse Machine gives them frequent and rich experiences with the performing and visual arts through in-school programs and after-school activities, at a time when young people are developing attitudes and habits they will carry with them throughout their lives. The Muse Machine helps these students channel their emotions into fun, constructive activities and relationships that will reward them – and their communities – well into the future.

I first became acquainted with the MUSE Machine in 1991 when I accompanied the auditions of several students who were cast in the winter production which collected students from all over the Miami Valley. The following year, I received a telephone call from Scott Rogers, asking if I would please consider accompanying the four days of auditions, as well as the several days of call back auditions. I agreed, and for the next three years, had a great time.It was during the auditions for 1992’s production that I first met Susan Pringle, the stage manager who later worked her way up to executive director. I thoroughly enjoyed Susan’s personality and always looked forward to my time spent at the MUSE auditions. Of course, throughout the years, I have had a number of students appearing in the productions in lead roles, and I am always the “proud papa!”

Next Wednesday, I will drive up to downtown Dayton, about a four mile drive, to the building right next door to the Victoria Theatre and begin this new position – which is still under construction.One of the coolest things is that I will not have to battle finding a place to park and pay a typical $5 each day – I will have VALLET PARKING! Jed, Granny, Jethro and Ellie Mae – we be joinin’ Weezy and George and “We are movin’ on up!” Woo hoo! Vallet parking! I never even had that in New York when I was there for projects! Hot damn!

For more information on this outstanding organization, please visit: or

Yesterday, the boys and I attended Sunday school for the first time at North Riverdale Lutheran Church, another step in the progress of settling in a home church. The boys were skeptical about Sunday school in two previous churches we shopped, and I did not immediately guide them into Sunday school at NRLC – even though I was certain by Thanksgiving the church search was completed. Friday at lunch, Pastor Monte told me he was currently teaching the youth class and when I shared this with the boys they were eager to spend even more time with Pastor Monte. To me, this spoke volumes – my children adore, respect and genuinely like our minister – another adult who is part of their village. My class was with Chris Stevens and the people in the class are wonderful. The class is studying Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Driven Life, which I have read before at the suggestion of Mother. Warren’s work is good, despite the fact that is filled with pop-psychology rhetoric, but the people, especially Chris, make it worth getting up a few hours earlier to head ten miles north each Sunday morning.

Friday, Monte asked where I would like to “plug in” to the church, if it was to, indeed, become our home church. Without thinking, I replied, “Do with me what you wish. If you need something done, just tell me to do it and it will be done.”

I was not shocked by my own response – although others who know me, are surprised. However, if they knew how committed I was to Pastor Mike Johnson in Springfield, they would understand completely.

My favorite quote is something John Adams wrote in 1774 to his wife, Abigail, a tremendous lady and patriot of her time. When Adams was fighting desperately for the ratification of the document we now know as the Declaration of Independence, he shared his frustrations with his wife, ready to throw in the towel and return to Braintree, Massachusetts. Abigail, in a letter dated June 27, 1776, reminded of what he wrote two years earlier:

“Commitment. Commitment. There are only two creatures of any value on this earth. Those with a commitment, and those who require a commitment from others.”

I have always been the creature who required the commitment of others through my directing, my teaching, my church work, and my volunteer efforts. However, I have always been committed in striving for quality. Only once have I been one whose commitment was required by another – and that was when I worked with Pastor Johnson. Although we were certainly working in tandem, and for the most part on equal footing, it was still his ministry at Faith In Christ Lutheran Church. I believed in Mike Johnson as a leader, and in his vision.

I was born into a family that was heavily involved in church life – a family that was committed to family, church, community and career. My life is really not much different in that respect. I grew up with an understanding of church politics and business, due largely in part to my grandfather’s dedication to his church. Although I was an exceptionally good child I seemed to irritate several of my Sunday school teachers because I always challenged their thinking. These were tiresome individuals who could not readily answer:

  1. if there were alternate routes for Moses and the Israelites to take at the Red Sea;
  2. if Joseph’s coat was not many colors but actually long sleeved which meant he would do no physical labor (I actually insisted at age 8 the translation could have been incorrect); or
  3. if Jesus had siblings (I had the answer – chapter/verse – with the names, handy because I was certain she would not know).

One teacher, Ron Howell, was the exception to the long line of apathetic Sunday school teachers who drilled us memorizing Bible verses and all sorts of other grunt work.

One Sunday morning, three weeks before we completed confirmation class, the entire congregation arrived for worship, rankled by a ridiculous segment on the Carol Burnett variety show the previous evening. Apparently, the same segment my grandparents and I watched with the character Eunice was quite offensive to a good portion of our congregation who believed she was poking fun at religion. This seemed to consume the pews up to the prelude. I can remember Mr. Tarvin, who generally sat in front of us, saying to my grandfather, “My family will never watch Carol Burnett again.”

I turned to my grandmother and asked, “Can we?”

Mr. Tarvin immediately turned and said, “You’d better not!”

Grandma leaned forward and quietly said, “Lee, what we watch in our home is our business and not yours.”

There had been a string of similar episodes at church in which the members of the congregation adopted a “holier-than-Thou” over the to which I had gained knowledge, and I had already begun to question whether or not I would be confirmed as a Methodist. That morning, I made a decision: I would never join a church. I always believed in the concept of church and the values it established, but I did not wish to be “one of them.” When it came time to go to confirmation class that evening, I said I did not want to continue with classes nor become a member of the church. My grandfather, who I believed would be aggravated by my decision, listened attentively to my reasons and supported my decision and after thinking a few seconds, said, “Honey, I don’t blame you. Sometimes I am disgusted myself and wish I had never become involved with the work of the church. But I am and I will continue to fight.” Then, he made me promise one thing, “Always walk with God, no matter what. If you choose to never join a church, just promise you will always believe in and trust God.” And, I have. Despite the fact that I am not a technical Christian, fully buying into Christian doctrine, I do apply the basic principles of Christ’s teaching: “Love God with all your mind, heart, soul and strength, and love my fellow man.” To me, that is the bottom line. Everything else falls into place.

Throughout junior high, high school and most of college, I attended a variety of different churches, exploring all the various religions and appreciating the people with whom I came in contact. I developed an understanding for the history of the different religions, their doctrine and a desire to learn more alternate theories and studies of the Christian religion. As I grew more politically aware, I became enamored with the comparison of how our federal and Christian leaders seemed to claim superiority over others. “We are right, others are wrong” seemed to be a familiar theme. I never understood, and often, still do not understand how some can make such claims. As an American citizen, I struggle to find comfort in the fact that our country’s leadership believes it should enter another country and completely turn around its government into a democracy. Why should our political beliefs be forced upon nations whose governments have existed long before ours? With our current efforts in Iraq – I do not support our administration’s reasons for invading and remaining in Iraq; however, I do support the men and women who have been sent there to fulfill their duty to our nation.

In college when I took on my assignment as a director of music for a Lutheran church, I seemed to amaze everyone with my knowledge and different perspective on the Bible and other religious topics. The minister invited me to co-teach, with him, the introductory classes for church membership, and I began teaching the 8th grade confirmation classes – one of my best experiences. Although I could not buy entirely into the Christian doctrine, it was never difficult to be a leader in this capacity. Like my grandfather, I was always careful never to insert my own views. I can remember Grandpa teaching youth church and he began with, “Now, if I say to do one thing or that I believe something is wrong, I am saying ‘it is wrong for me, Leroy, to do that’ – I am not saying it is wrong for you. You have choices to make in life and ultimately the decisions are yours and God’s, and not mine.” That made quite an impact on me as a young ten year old because – although he could often be critical, especially in his later years when health was quietly bringing him down, he could be decidedly non-judgmental in certain areas – especially with me, his eldest grandson. Later, when my first class of 8th grade confirmation students were juniors and seniors, they asked the minister to assign me to their high school class – which he did. What a wonderful experience it was to be with these students again – Tim Henriksen, John Millspaugh, Nathaniel Stahlke… what great kids! I was not the youth leader, but seemed to do more with these students than the actual youth director.

As an adult I have served as a director of music for three different parishes – two Lutheran and one Methodist. Although I was always associated myself as a Methodist, I fell in love with the Lutheran liturgy. With a United Brethren link since the 1850’s, my grandfather and great-grandfather had strongly supported the 1947 merger to the Evangelical United Brethren Church, and again in 1968 with the final merger into the United Methodist Church. Grandpa even attended a UB affiliated college in Huntington, Indiana. In some ways, after Grandpa died in 2004, I felt as though I had to carry on this legacy with my own sons, believing the traditional Lutheran service would be undesirable for them.

In many ways, I am my grandfather all over again when it comes to the various intricacies of church life. I think he did just about everything one could do in church life, and more. He could lead COM (Council On Ministries) one moment, preach a sermon in the absence of our ministers, plunge a toilet, cook breakfast for the United Methodist Men’s monthly breakfast, stay up all night with Castle Rich and David Bodenhorn roasting the hogs for the annual pig-roast/bazaar, or dedicate himself in leading a major missions program for nearly twenty years. Grandpa also had a deep respect for his ministers and whether he agreed with them or not, he stood by them. When Dr. Wayne Anderson was assigned to our church, the congregation was in an uproar because Wayne was divorced. Some fragments of the church were handling petitions and attempting to topple the bishop’s candidate, but Grandpa – who had divorced my grandma in 1969 only to remarry her in 1973 (another great blog story!) – stood firmly by the bishop and district superintendent’s selection. That first morning, as Dr. Anderson stood greeting the congregation as they entered the narthex, Grandpa stood right next to him. Grandma and I manned the sanctuary, prepared to put down any insurgents who entertained disrupting the “welcome celebration.” Grandpa had carefully coached us on how to respond to any comments, and we were armed and ready.

Wayne’s first sermon, like so many others to follow, was outstanding. He opened his Bible, stepped away from the pulpit and the words flowed effortlessly and beautifully – one of his many gifts. “Yes, it is true that I am divorced. I still honor and respect my ex-wife, and cherish the fact she is the mother of our son. I know some of you may not agree with my choice, but my wife and I made an adult decision. I know divorce has touched many of your own lives, and I know you understand the pain associated with such separations. Therefore, I hope you will support me, and pray for my ex-wife, my son and my self as we continue to live with this reality of life, of being human.”

At the end of his sermon, those who seemed most critical of Dr. Anderson, were the first on their feet to applaud him. That battle was over, and Grandpa was relieved.

Whether he personally liked a minister or not, or thought him great, was not an issue for Grandpa. One minister always seemed to founder in his sermons and his verbal communication, yet Grandpa was truly supportive, and ignored my critical comments from others; however, he never failed to chuckle at my bona fide impersonation of the preacher’s peculiar sermon delivery. Unlike my grandfather, I am less tolerant of most ministers. In fact, there have been very few ministers who have impressed me or won me over.

“There are just some ministers who are in the wrong profession, but for some reason, cannot figure it out. They just do not get it.” Mike Johnson, the former pastor of Faith In Christ Lutheran Church in Springfield, Ohio, use to say.My three years as Mike’s director of worship & music and the church’s administrative director, were certainly memorable and defining years. The remarkable part is that two very strong visionaries/leaders were so symbiotic – moving in effortless unison as the bows of a fine string section, yet maintaining recognizable individuality. The energy was incredible.

I truly believed in this man’s ministry. Mike left a lucrative position with Procter & Gamble to enter the ministry – quite a risk and sacrifice for one with three young children and a wife who was finishing up her undergraduate degree in elementary education. Although I did not buy completely into the doctrine that compelled him, I did buy into the man – his ambition and dedication to his parish, his desire to move beyond the tried & true, and his inner truth. I loved, and still do, discussing the mechanics of church business, and all the aspects of worship, and these were items that drove the two of us to bringing some of the most memorable moments to the folks at Faith In Christ . On top of Michael’s brilliance in managing the church, he was (is) a phenomenal speaker. His sermons were thought provoking, entertaining and creative – one Sunday the praise team sang, “Feeling Groovy” as an intro to his message. Mike was the first minister from whom I took communion – and the only one until this past November when I took communion from Monte Stevens. These two men are quite similar, and they are probably the only two individuals (not including family) who have truly impressed me to the point of believing in them enough that I would do almost anything to see them succeed or continue to succeed.

Normandy United Methodist Church was an experience in and of itself. The district had a history of placing the not-so-strong ministers into the parish that was considered “the loose cannon church” in the district. A few years before I arrived there was one brilliant minister who was really building an effective ministry until it was discovered she was Lesbian. Her replacement was a gentleman whose ministry had been salvaged (numerous affairs with female parishioners) several times by his older brothers who were district superintendents. His ineffective management and long, dull sermons drove the staff and congregation nuts. Then, there was the associate pastor who manipulated, lied and created social chasms within the church family and spent three years trying to undermine my music program which grew despite her sinister attempts. When I reported to Grandpa that I was considering taking the Normandy position, he asked, “Have you done your research?” He already knew of the church’s seeming erratic history, especially where the ministers were concerned. Once I provided him the information I had gathered, he gave the nod and insisted I proceed with determination, but with caution.

A few weeks after my arrival, I was working in the music office and the minister entered. It was actually my first meeting with him, and I already had him pretty well sized up. There were several in the church with whom I had established an immediate trusting rapport, and they confirmed my assessment. The minister said, “You know we have gone through five music directors in the past two years?” I nodded. He continued, “What can I do to make your stay here worthwhile?” I looked him straight in the eye and said, “Stay out of my way. Give me elbow room to do my job. If you let me do my job, you will have a music program of which you never believed possible in your own church. It might even polish some of the tarnish from your reputation.” I knew it was bold, and somewhat risky, but he knew I meant business. I was not like many of my spineless colleagues who preceded me. The senior pastor fully comprehended that his secrets of his shady behavior for which other staff-parish relations had dismissed him, were safe with me. I insisted that I was not intending to threaten him or hold his past over his head, but I was intent on doing my job – and he was not going to interfere. The senior minister never interfered – but his associate did.

When I arrived at Normandy in 1996, there were 22 in the chancel choir, a bell choir and a children’s choir of about a dozen bodies. When I left three years later, there were two chancel choirs (Voices of Normandy – a combined total of 68 members), a bell choir (Bells of Normandy – with a new director, new members and an extra octave and a half), a women’s chorus, a men’s chorus, a teen chorus, two children’s choirs (directed by the associate pastor), a youth orchestra and a special group of outstanding youth vocalists, the Normandy Classics – which sang much more difficult repertoire than the children’s choirs. Each ensemble was expected to sing at least once a month – except the Voices of Normandy which sang every service. This made each ensemble accountable for working towards a regular monthly goal. We re-developed the committees, formerly known as music and worship committees to Music Design Team and Worship Design Team, and I incorporated monthly meetings. Weekly attendance rose from an average of 160 to 280. On top of all this, we hosted three church choral festivals, developed a performing arts season, and delivered sell-out productions of Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Godspell and The Sound Of Music, as well as two major Easter cantatas with full orchestras. Our productions attracted the finest performers in the Miami Valley, as well as a tremendous plethora of talent from Normandy. The von Trapp family was complimented with 50 singing nuns – a fun-loving group of women who were far more entertaining back-stage than on-stage. At one point I threatened to take away their weekend nun’s passes to the Friar’s club! It was a thrilling experience to bring so many individual talents together each week for worship or for major productions. And so many have remained devoted and cherished friends.

Unfortunately, the senior pastor would not harness his associate minister. She had his number and he had hers, and it was the Cold War revisited. Each brought with them a shady past which, had the information surfaced with this particular congregation, would have led to immediate grounds of dismissal for both. I documented 78 individual pages of harassment from the associate pastor over three years, but seemed to get no where with the first Staff Parish leadership. In fact, it was even implied that I was imaging everything – and the 49 witnesses too, who had signed their signatures on the pages vouching these episodes had occurred. The summer of 1999, Grandpa wrote me: “Stay at Normandy and fight for what is right! Never let a small group or one person be the reason you leave.” The congregation, however, had tired of what they were witnessing with the surface perfidy of their pastors and were becoming restless. The new Staff parish president, a manager with Reynolds & Reynolds, was ready to go to battle. The early fall of 1999, secret staff parish meetings were held to plan the termination of the associate pastor – but they continued to run into various snags along the way. By October, while I was finishing up directing the 40th anniversary production of The Sound Of Music – which Normandy was proud to produce – the battle lines were clearly being drawn. The associate pastor and her small army moved into place, ready to conquer staff parish and 95% of the congregation – with me as their chosen staff leader.

Before Christmas, there were some major, but pretty lame attempts to uproot my leadership, but I stood firm, gaining even more support from the congregation and staff parish. Against the advice of my grandfather, I went to my attorney. Had it been sexual harassment or threats of physical harm, I would have had a case. I discussed the scenario with my grandfather and admitted that their most recent attempts had been exhausting and unnerving. Grandpa encouraged me to go to the minister one last time. I did. I expressed to the senior pastor, who was nearing retirement and all its benefits, that if he did not step to the plate and fix the problem with the associate pastor, my resignation would invariably bring his ministry crashing down around him. He understood, but still deemed himself powerless with all the crud she knew from his past. I even pledged to support him and stand by him if she should reveal any of his past – but, he shook his head, said nothing, and refused to act.

I contacted Grandpa and told him I was resigning. He set down a time line of what to expect:

  1. I would resign
  2. staff parish would ask for an extension to work things out
  3. if I continued with the resignation, the associate pastor would be fired within a week
  4. and then bishop would terminate the senior pastor the following week.

Grandpa’s schedule was impeccable. Staff parish asked for a seven day extension, and when they missed their deadline, I stood firm on my resignation. That was Wednesday. The following Thursday, the associate pastor was terminated. The following week, the bishop arrived with an entourage to terminate the senior pastor. For the next six months, I worked behind the scenes, unbeknownst to most, healing, rebuilding and restructuring the battle weary church. At least the congregation was back on tract – they no longer had dysfunctional pastors, and they had regained control of their church once again. Unfortunately, after an interim period, they were rewarded with less controversial, but still, ineffective pastors.

That summer of 2000, I had healed enough to visit other churches. Some good friends invited me to a particular church which strongly accepted all kinds of people; however, I was just not comfortable with the social aspects of the church which, in my opinion, was much like a market for singles.

I spent the next few years visiting a variety of churches – a full spectrum of faiths and doctrines. Matthew arrived and I felt a desperate need to settle on one church, but nothing seemed to suit our family needs. I desperately missed Faith In Christ, but the drive was just too long to commit to regular attendance. In October 2003, I was a guest organist for a Methodist church on the other side of Dayton. It felt good to be back home in my Methodist roots, despite the fact the church was quite elderly and offered little in the way of youth ministry. Still, we continued worshiping until this past Spring when I realized the church leadership, while trying desperately to establish roots in a number of community programs, had lost its focus. Some friends invited us to their church and the three of us were quite comfortable there. In fact, we had no intention of looking any further. The church was only a mile or so away from home, had a great choir, a good size congregation and youth program, and the sermons were decent. I knew that my extra-curricular participation would be minimal at best, but as long as we had a church home, I could be satisfied. Why I did not continue searching for the “right” church, in hindsight, is somewhat baffling – especially to me. I have never settled for second best, yet, I knew deep down I was not entirely satisfied.

That summer, Mike Johnson, after fifteen years of a remarkable ministry, bid farewell to Faith In Christ, leaving for a parish in Wyoming. He invited me to sing at this farewell worship service, and I truly dreaded the day. I took, what I considered to be my last communion until a time when I hoped to visit Mike & Joy in Wyoming, and shared in the tearful farewell of a beloved pastor. I had visited FIC the previous March for the baptism of a family friend’s child, and had returned occasionally over the years since I left in 1993. I truly loved the people at Faith In Christ, and if not for the distance, we would be there every Sunday. Those are people I want to be in the village to help me raise my sons. In stead, we attended regular worship at the church in our community.

So, now, for reasons known and unknown to myself, I have pledged my self to the ministry of another. I have always believed that everything in life happens for a reason. Sometimes, we know the reason right away, and sometimes it takes years to learn why some things happen the way they do. I am not apprehensive, by any means, and look forward to this new venture. Naturally, it will not possess the exact components as my experiences with Mike Johnson, but I do anticipate a fantastic experience. For whatever reason, and there seem to be a good number of them at the moment, North Riverdale Lutheran Church, has become our family’s church. Our dear friend, Valerie Lockhart, a friend of Chris Stevens, was hopeful, and even somewhat persistent in maneuvering the crossing of paths – and she succeeded. Ironically, I met Valerie through her sister, a friend/member from Faith In Christ in Springfield.

And for what ever reason, I committed my self, for the second time in my life, to another individual’s ministry. God just had to set me straight when I believed there were no other ministers like Mike Johnson – and for my sake, and for the sake of my sons, I am so glad I was mistaken. The spiritual path and church experience from childhood through today has been a delightful rollercoaster ride of events – fun, scarey, thrilling, uncertain, quite certain, educational, and always blessed – even during those darker moments. And what is more, the ride seems to be at the top of another hill, ready to plunge forward into excitement and even more growth as we establish ourselves in the life of a wonderful church full of many wonderful people.

Saturday was quiet and peaceful. The boys went out to play basketball for a while and after trying a Mexican dish I created (fried rice, chicken, diced tomatoes, peppers, onions and cheese), we headed to see… ugh… The Wedding Crashers. Yes, it was rated R, and I took my two teenage sons to see it. Normally I do not, and we stick to movies PG-13 and under – depending on the content. Although I know I have done well providing them a moral foundation and a steady diet of family values, it is still not an excuse to take my sons to such a movie. A friend said it was receiving rave reviews and that it was something a 16 and 14 year old boy could handle… yes, they seemed to handle it well. I glanced their way while the one scene had boobage popping out all over and they were not reacting with typical teenage snickers and poking one another in the side. Good deal!

All that aside, the movie was pathetic. It had its funny moments in the first half, but for the most part, the last 45 minutes was too long, and quite dull. It seems as though every movie deals with someone falling in love with someone they cannot have due to the person being married, taken or not interested – but they always manage to get together in the end. Life does not always work out this way! I believe this is what I enjoyed most about Ladies In Lavender – there was no true happy ending, and there was a broken heart in the end. That’s life, and one I have known too well. It is OK to have some reality in movies/art.

The boys started back to school Wednesday, and it just seemed as though this past week dragged on. I just could not get into productive mode and feel as though all last week was wasted.

Friday, Pastor Monte and I had a lengthy lunch at Applebees to discuss just about every topic under the sun. The one particular topic I will need to save for a later time, but is one of incredible interest to me. Our lunch lasted from 11:45am to 4:10pm and I believe the rest of the world can rest easy knowing that we solved its problems.

I hurried home to teach three students and then our family friend, Phil Clary, arrived from Cincinnati. Phil rode to ACTION Adoption with Jose and I so he could meet Pat Hill, the executive director and get his information packet and first set of forms. After we chatted with Pat for a while we headed south for Kettering. Matt had arrived home from work so we all went to Friendly’s so Phil and I could eat a very late supper and the boys could have a sundae. We returned home and went to my study to burn a copy of Ray Steven’s 1974 hit, “The Streak,” which I will be arranging and staging for Phil’s men’s chorus. I took some photos and then we spent some time reviewing some of the jokes and videos I receive from family and friends on the computer. Afterwards, we went to the living room to watch Will & Grace and NBC’s newest comedy, Four Kings, that I had taped Thursday evening. If you ever get a chance to see this particular Will & Grace episode, it is well worth it. The episode centers around the group attending The Sound of Music movie-sing-along. It is hilarious! We ended up watching two complete episodes I had taped of Roseanne and at 3:00am, sleepy-eyed Phil left, knowing he had to be at his high school at 8:00am to preside over “Saturday school.” After he left I realized he should have just hit one of the extra beds.

I guess last night was to be our New Year’s Eve – staying up late and sleeping in. I instructed the boys that this was to be a low-key weekend since we have been going strong since the beginning of November with no breaks.

Before Christmas I would hear students or other children say, “I want this for Christmas…” After Christmas, especially the first day back to teaching I heard, “I got everything on my list.”

For some reason, this really bothered me. I wonder what we are teaching our children when “Santa Claus” brings them everything? It seems as though Santa, who boasts of maintaining a meticulous list of who is naughty and nice the whole year through, forgets that the young recipients probably were not completely “nice” the entire year, but they still receive everything on their request list. I now see Santa Claus as a great tool of leverage for parents as they near the holidays – “If you misbehave, Santa won’t bring you any presents.” Of course, this allows parents to swiftly shift the responsibility to Santa! Ah ha! What a safety net for parents to bide time until the holidays, bargaining for their children to behave. I doubt there is no parent in America who could not apply for a position in Homeland Security with hostage negotiations because they have been negotiating with their own little terrorists on the home front in Homeland Sanity.

I do not remember Mother ever cheating her role as a parent in this manner, either with me or the siblings. Naturally, my siblings would all agree that I never required these tactics because I was the “perfect child” – and with that, I will not argue. I remind them that I never got pulled over with beer in the car, never had parties while Mother and Dad were on vacation, etc.. With my own sons, they know the consequences are in black and white, and I do not negotiate.

Some where, some how the meaning of Christmas has deteriorated. I have yet to hear a student say, “I gave my parents (or siblings) a gift for Christmas.” It seems to be all about “I want” or “I got.”

When my sister, Dena, turned 18, I decided rather than buying her something I would take her to dinner and to see the musical, Cats. When she graduated from high school I took her to dinner and to see the musical, Les Miserables. I doubt that she can remember what I gave her for Christmas when she was 15 years old or even 25 years old. But I do know she remembers going to see the two musicals.

I decided to do this with my sons and nephews as well. Last year, their Christmas gift was a trip to Orlando, Florida over Spring Break. I also began last year, what I hope will be a tradition of returning to Ohio with my nephews after Christmas. We hit the Air Force Museum, the Newport Aquarium, a movie or two, and anything else we can find for their age level. Although we see them frequently on visits, this gives them time to spend solely with Uncle Darin and the cousins. In a few years I hope my brother’s son, Parker, will be joining us. When my sons and nephews are older, I want them to remember spending time and doing fun things with me rather than forgetting about a set of long lost or out grown toys or gifts. I would rather create moments for them to remember – especially when we shared those moments together.

I guess my Christmas list is to always be able to share time with those I love, creating wonderful memories.

I always am interested in lists that offer domestic suggestions (household hints), and I even have a few of my own that I found in a 1964 cookbook at my mothers. However, the best I acquired were from our neighbors, Ida & Luther Myrick. Ida & Luther lived across the street from where I grew up and were from the hills of Kentucky, in or near Barbourville. Luther, a retired coal miner, had been the “caller” for the Jellicoe, Tennessee hoedown which is still very popular these days. They were the neatest couple and always had a ton of humor and old stories to share with our family.

A former student whose children also studied piano with me, is a mystery writer with a twist – her investigator also solves “household mysteries” and the books are a hoot. Sharon has a ton of household hints on her website and she has shared a few with me:

Ida offered these – and I know that they DO work!!!

For an ear ache or infection, take a piece of cheesecloth and put ground pepper in it, twist it, dip the end in caster oil and then dip it into the ear.

For afresh cut – pour, dip or brush turpentine on the new/fresh cut. Do not put it on an old cut – in Ida’s words, “You will have to pee like a race horse.”

For bad chest colds – drink a shot of whiskey.

Some I learned through the cookbook:
Clean a microwave oven/oven – slice a lemon, place it in a bowl with water and boil it in the oven without covering the bowl. Immediately wipe down the oven. I twill also smell fresh. Then pour the lemons down the disposal.

Ice in the garbage disposal will sharpen the blades.

Use a can of Cocoa-Cola to clean your toilet stains.

Dilute hydrogen-peroxide with half water in a spray bottle. Spray the mixture on a stain and dab with a white cloth. This is great for furniture.

Baking soda on carpet will freshen the carpet. From Sharon Short.

Baking soda in the drains will freshen the drains.

For kidney or urinary tract infections: take a half-teaspoon of baking soda and stir into a tall glass of water. Drink. Repeat every 20 minutes for an hour.

Dab Milk Of Magnesia on your face and let it dry. Then wash. This is great for black heads and oily skin.

For ink on carpet or fabric – use hairspray. Flyer, as a puppy, chewed my favorite aqua blue pen right on the beige carpet. Mother said to use Aqua-net hairspray – wow!


Budweiser beer conditions the hair.

Pam cooking spray will dry finger nail polish.

Cool whip will condition your hair in 15 minutes.

Mayonnaise will KILL LICE, it will also condition your hair. (Hope I don’t need this!)

Elmer’s Glue – paint on your face, allow it to dry, peel off and see the dead skin and blackheads if any.

Shiny Hair – use brewed Lipton Tea.

Sunburn – empty a large jar of Nestea into your bath water. (That’s a lot of tea…isn’t it?)

Minor burn – Colgate or Crest toothpaste.

Burn your tongue? Put sugar on it!

Arthritis? WD-40 Spray and rub in, kill insect stings too.

Bee stings – meat tenderizer (Mix with water to make a paste…works! Have used this many times!)

Chigger bite – Preparation H

Puffy eyes – Preparation H

Paper cut – crazy glue or chap stick(glue is used instead of sutures at most hospitals).

Stinky feet – Jello!

Athletes feet – cornstarch

Fungus on toenails or fingernails – Vicks vapor rub

Kool aid to clean dishwasher pipes. Just put in the detergent section and run a cycle, it will also clean a toilet. (Wow, and we drink this stuff)

Kool Aid can be used as a dye in paint also Kool Aid in Dannon plain yogurt as a finger paint, your kids will love it and it won’t hurt them if they eat it!

Peanut butter- will get scratches out of CD’s! Wipe off with a coffee filter paper.
Sticking bicycle chain – Pam no-stick cooking spray.

Pam will also remove paint, and grease from your hands! Keep a can in your garage for your hubby.

Peanut butter will remove ink from the face of dolls.

When the doll clothes are hard to put on, sprinkle with corn starch and watch them slide on.

Heavy dandruff – pour on the vinegar!

Body paint – Crisco mixed with food coloring. Heat the Crisco in the microwave, pour in to an empty film container and mix with the food color of your choice!

Tie Dye T-shirt – mix a solution of Kool Aid in a container, tie a rubber band around a section of the T-shirt and soak.

Preserving a newspaper clipping – large bottle of club soda and cup of milk of magnesia, soak for 20 min. and let dry, will last for many years!

A Slinky will hold toast and CD’s! (Will get right on the toast! Can you imagine when you take a piece of toast…brrrrrronnnnngggg!)

To keep goggles and glasses from fogging, coat with Colgate toothpaste. (Works, but leaves a film!)

Wine stains, pour on the Morton salt and watch it absorb into the salt.

To remove wax – Take a paper towel and iron it over the wax stain, it will absorb into the towel.

Remove labels off glassware etc. rub with Peanut butter!

Baked on food – fill container with water, get a Bounce paper softener and the static from the Bounce towel will cause the baked on food to adhere to it. Soak overnight. Also; you can use 2 Efferdent tablets, soak overnight!

Crayon on the wall – Colgate toothpaste and brush it! (Gets black marks off floor, also! Toothpaste & baking soda are good for cleaning…non-abrasive!)

Dirty grout – Listerine

Stains on clothes – Colgate

Grass stains -Karo Syrup

Grease Stains – Coca Cola, it will also remove grease stains from the driveway overnight. We know it will take corrosion from car batteries! (Works!)

Fleas in your carpet? 20 Mule Team Borax- sprinkle and let stand for 24 hours.
Maybe this will work if you get them back again. (Have ant problems…mix borax/sugar… put in shallow lid (from ice cream pail). Place where ants are a problem… works great! (Put down ant hills, also…they be gone! Had some big red ant hills last summer & this got rid of them! I use borax in laundry to whiten clothes!)

To keep FRESH FLOWERS longer Add a little Clorox, or 2 Bayer aspirin, or just use 7-up instead of water. (Never heard of Clorox…other 2…yes!)

When you go to buy bread in the grocery store, have you ever wondered which is the freshest, so you “squeeze” for freshness or softness? Did you know that bread is delivered fresh to the stores five days a week? Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
Each day has a different color twist tie. They are:
Monday = Blue
Tuesday = Green
Thursday = Red
Friday = White
Saturday = Yellow.

So if today was Thursday, you would want red twist tie; not white which is Friday’s (almost a week old)! The colors also go alphabetically by color Monday through Friday.

A drop of Visine will quickly take the red out of a pimple or mosquito bite.

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud-
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to the wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says, ‘I burn.’
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use Language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end
And steadfast as Keats’ here unto,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid.

~ Robert Frost

Finally, the long hail of the holidays is over.

Yesterday morning was a swirl of activity:

  • packing last minute things for the nephews
  • drying clothes for the nephews that were still damp
  • dealing with an upset son lost his portable DVD privileges to and from Indiana because he chose not to clean up share of the bedroom for three days
  • getting breakfast ready for 4
  • dealing with an upset Andrew because he chose to stay upstairs and play rather than eat his breakfast – which Jon heartily ate
  • herding four people through showers (Jon took his the previous evening)
  • loading the car
  • sending notes to students reminding them about lessons resuming Monday
  • leaving a note for Brody who would be retrieving his dog, Marcus, and taking Flyer out to potty
  • discovering my clothes were wrinkled just before I stepped into the shower

…and all this before we left at 9:45am for church!

The attendance was slim at church… to be expected the morning after New Year’s Eve. The service began with the organist playing a prelude, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” Though I can usually keep my emotions in check, this morning I could not. I had known that “Holy, Holy, Holy” was my grandfather’s favorite song and had played it at his funeral. Some of the familiar old hymns will strike an emotional chord with me, reminding me of those in our family who are no longer with us. This morning my mind began playing a slide show of those beloved faces: Grandma Donna, Grandpa Leroy, Uncle Ron, Rick, great-grandparents, other uncles and aunts, cousins, teachers, dear family friends… although it was only a brief moment, it seemed as though the angels were greeting me, reminding me that they still hover near, watching over us.

I was very apprehensive about Jonathan sitting through an entire service – but he mastered it well. The only time he was restless was during communion. I let Matthew and Jose go first while I sat with Andrew and Jonathan. Andrew was pissed because he could not go up with Jose and Adam, and then Jon saw Pastor Monte handing something to Matt and Jose to eat! Thursday following the movie, Monte, Adam, Jose, Jonathan, Andrew and I went to Burger King. While I was waiting on our order, Jonathan began plowing through Monte’s French fries. At communion, Jonathan became anxious and kept saying, “Monte – French fries! Monte – French fries!” Despite this hilarious moment, the service with the nephews went smoothly.

We left immediately after church and arrived in Elwood in two hours. Dena had prepared a wonderful dinner of pork, fried cabbage, sauerkraut, mashed potatoes and dinner rolls. Before dinner at 3:00pm, I took a brief 45 minute nap – much needed. After dinner we all sat and talked, and laughed, as always. We left for Mother’s to pick up the Christmas gifts we could not bring back with us since we had Jon and Andrew’s suitcases – and by 6:30pm we were on the road for Ohio, the last journey of the 2005 holiday season. It was, in many ways, a longer season for me as it seemed as though I had more “fun” things for myself this year, especially where friends were concerned.

The sermon yesterday was adjusted to incorporate the Epiphany – the visit of the wise men or kings. I have always enjoyed some of the undiscussed history or theory behind this particular story, and the sermon touched upon some of this, especially with the discussion of astrology. Some denominations discourage astrology, and I always found this peculiar for the men of old relied upon the heavens for information – and we still do, today.

My grandmother, every time she saw a bright red morning sky would repeat, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight; red sky at morning, sailors take warning.” My great-grandfathers and uncles, who were farmers, always relied on the sky to guide them, as well as Old Farmer’s Almanac. As a child I can remember watching Disney’s Pinocchio and hoping that each star I too could wish upon a star. The Greatest Story Ever Told and The Little Drummer Boy were movies that featured the Bethlehem star that always appealed to my imagination.

As I grew older, the thoughts of wishing on stars or paying attention to the moon were replaced with teenage logic until about 1986. A former professor left Ball State University for a position as music coordinator for the school district of Frederick, Maryland, and was recruiting band and choir directors from BSU. I was offered a choral position and was wrestling with the decision whether or not to leave Indiana. The director of the Ball State Singers, Fritz Mountford, sat me down and said, “When there is a full moon, go out to some dark area where there are no street lights and look up at the full moon. Then look down around you. If the moon’s light is shining all around you, you are where you are supposed to be. If there is no moon light, it is probably shining some where else – and you need to find it because that is where you are supposed to be. It may be shining on palm trees on a beach – if so, that’s where you need to be.”

I had stepped before the moon a number of times throughout the years.

In the late 1980’s I had the pleasure of meeting the famed Broadway and motion picture actress, Julie Harris, a four-time Tony Award winner. I was in the beginning stages of writing Love Is Eternal, a musical on Mary Todd Lincoln and had contacted a BSU grad, James Priddeaux who wrote the Tony Award winning play, The Last of Mrs. Lincoln. He wanted me to meet Julie Harris who had portrayed Mrs. Lincoln in his play on Broadway and set up a meeting with her in Indianapolis when she was traveling through in Driving Miss Daisy. Mr. Priddeaux had it set up for me to meet with Ms. Harris in her dressing room.

I stepped into her dressing room and she immediately rose, curtsied and offered her hand. Her voice was velvety, with a very gentle, refined Southern drawl – unlike her portrayal of Daisy Worthen a few minutes before. The entire interview was 20 minutes and quite enchanting. At one point she said, “The only thing I regret about portraying the widowed Mrs. Lincoln is that I could not play her opposite Hal Holbrook’s President Lincoln. That would have been the joy of my career!” In the early 1970’s there was a string of mini-series on Lincoln with Hal Holbrook doing a marvelous job as Lincoln, and the incredible Sada Thompson as Mary Lincoln. Ms. Thompson, a tremendous actress of stage and screen, was popularly known as “Kate,” the mother in the television series, Family.

The next fall, Hal Holbrook arrived at Ball State to perform An Evening With Mark Twain. I was requested to escort Mr. Holbrook around campus and to attend to anything he needed. After a performance, we went to Greek’s pizzeria in the Village. As we were eating, I told Mr. Holbrook what Ms. Harris had said about him. He laid down his slice of pizza and a tear trickled down his cheek, “But Julie Harris is a star!”

I could not even digest what he was saying! I was sitting across from a stage and screen star who was not even admitting he was one!

It was at this point in my life that I learned a valuable lesson. A true star never allows the spotlight to remain on them. Like a star in the heavens, a real star allows their own light to shine outward, illuminating the world around them. I realized that my own life’s mission would not be to follow stars, looking for life’s rewards; instead, I would be a star to let my own light shine as a teacher, a leader and a father.

As we were leaving, Pastor Monte hurried over to bid us a safe trip and said, “Don’t get distracted looking for stars.”

Sometimes, it is hard for each of us to not get distracted following stars – but I do try my best.

Well, it is now a brand new year! A few minutes ago, the fireworks began showering the sky, a neighbor boy’s trumpet was blasting away, people were cheering “happy new year” and horns were honking. It was quite a site in this relatively quiet, yet active neighborhood. A few minutes before midnight, my friend, Jason, called to say he was in my driveway and could he please come in so he would not be alone at midnight. We heard the first few strains of “Auld Lang Syne” and then hurried to the deck to watch the sky all lit up with flairs, rockets and Roman candles. The phone began ringing with greetings from my sister, my friend Frank who is in Seattle with his family, Phil from Cincinnati and several students.

Dick Clark, recovering from a stroke, was back in his seat hosting the musical celebration for the new year’s eve festivities in New York City. It is sad to see him struggle with his speech, but it is so good to have him with us yet another year.

Last night, a student IM’d me on AOL chat and as we discussed several items he mentioned how life has both a good deal of predicted and unexpected turns, as well as those moments when you ask, “What if this moment in my life would have happened this way?” I think we all ask “what if?” I know I have.

  • What if I had continued with the wish to go to Georgetown University near Washington, DC to study historical curation rather than Ball State University for music education…?
  • What if I had not auditioned for drum-major of our marching band as a freshman…?
  • What if I had not auditioned for the Ball State Singers…?
  • What if I had not taught at Northside…?
  • What if I had not moved to Dayton…?
  • What if I had decided to remain permanently in NYC…?
  • What if the secretary at Fairhaven Church had not dropped the message from my phone call accepting the music position there…?

At that point in my life, 1996, I can see where so many things began merging into a particular path. The secretary at Fairhave Church dropped the note from my telephone call accepting the music position. I had been contacted by Normandy United Methodist Church, several times within six months, and was holding off on responding until I heard from Fairhaven. After a week, I figured Fairhaven had made another decision and agreed to meet with the music committee at Normandy. A few weeks later, I was Normandy’s new music director and the following day, Tim called me from Fairhaven to apologize for finding my phone message behind a mailbox.

At Normandy I met, and became good friends with Bill & Kay Hetzer, and a number of other wonderful people. I became closer with the Hetzers, when in 1997, they lost their son, Andrew, 16, in a tragic automobile accident on Mother’s Day. That summer, Bill and I discussed adoption – I wanted to be a dad and he and Kay were not finished being parents.

We both began investigating the possibilities, and the Hetzers discovered ACTION Adoption Agency. In 2000, they adopted Joey, and in 2001, Christopher. In 2002, I got Matthew, and in 2003, another son – which, sadly, did not work out. Then, 2004, Jose arrived. I missed out in 2005, somehow, but am eager to continue my family growth in 2006.

So, had it not been for the move to Dayton, a church secretary losing a message, me going to Normandy, the Hetzers introducing me to ACTION…. well, I may have adopted, but I would not have the two sons I now have. As I wrote a friend earlier this evening, life has a way of working out the way it should, sometimes by our choice, and other times by Divine intervention. It is great to be in my forty-second year and able to look back with satisfaction on all the twists and turns of these past 41 years. I am ready for another 41.

Happy 2006!


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January 2006
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