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We’ve all had days when even those folks with a positive spirit just feel overloaded. Normally, anything tossed directly into the path can easily be gotten around. However, there are those days when you look ahead to see piles of debris every few feet…

And then comes that God wink… something, or someone, reminding you that all is well with the world, and that most things are not permanent. What is most special is when those reminders/winks come from someone whose recent path was somewhat destroyed by tragedy. Yet, they rose up with miraculous courage, strength, and spirit to reexamine, readjust, rebuild, and reenter their path.

When I returned home from grocery shopping, feeling like a whupped pup, I found this beautiful planter on my front porch, accompanied by a card that readjusted my own vision of my path.  For a moment, I felt humbled.  Yet, I quickly realized there was no reason to slip into a guilty state – after all, I AM HUMAN!

And I love being human because I can grow!

With renewed spirit, and a readjusted vision for the day, I set out with a newly purchased bag of grass seed, and spread hand fulls in the bare areas of my front lawn.   The tempo of my day took an abrupt turn for refocusing on the positives in life, and returning to my normal pace of growing as a human.

As I watered the newly distributed grass seed, hostas, and other beauties of nature sprouting in this very early Spring, a familiar hymn haunted my mind…

Soft as the voice of an angel, breathing a lesson unheard,
Hope with a gentle persuasion whispers her comforting word:
Wait till the darkness is over, wait till the tempest is done,
Hope for the sunshine tomorrow, after the shower is gone

Whispering hope, oh, how welcome thy voice, making my heart in its sorrow rejoice.

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Friday afternoon, I ventured to over to the middle school down the street to watch Fairmont’s PM-Concert Band in the OMEA (Ohio Music Educators Association) perform their contest literature.  They received a II-Division rating.  Quintin worked as a judge’s assistant later in the evening.

Saturday, Quintin worked in the main office from 8:30am-Noon.  I was mentally, and physically, exhausted from a very long week, and remained in my bed/sitting room the remainder of the day, reading, napping and watching some movies.

Saturday night, after a quick bite to eat at Panera, we attended the production, CHILDREN OF EDEN, written by Stephen Schwartz. The production was beautifully sung – when you could hear it. The orchestra, which was very good, over-powered the entire production.  The only time I could hear the lush beauty of the music was during the few moments when the cast sang a capella. Even the dialogue underscoring was drowned.

Sunday morning was a flurry of activity: Quintin was up showered, fed, and at the high school for a 7:00am rehearsal call, preparing for their 11:38am performance at the MEPA contest in Centerville. I rose after Quint was gone – having slept three hours – and hurried to the National Museum of the United States Air Force to secure three tickets for the Presidential Gallery. Unfortunately, all parties needed to be present to present their identification.

At 10:15am, our dear family friend, and member of the god-parent team, Jeffrey Carter, arrived. Jeff, currently a resident of St. Louis, Missouri, judged a show choir competition in Fort Wayne on Saturday, and stopped by for a visit prior to heading on down to Cincinnati to see MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG.

After chatting, and playing with the fury trio, we moved on to Centerville High School to watch Fairmont perform at MEPA. Uncle Jeff finally got to meet Quintin, following the contest, and they hit it off beautifully. We left CHS, and headed immediately to the Air Force Museum where we spent several hours.

Following dinner at Milano’s, we spent some time chatting at The Haasienda before Jeff traveled on to Cincy. It was such a nice visit, and we both look forward to seeing Jeff again this summer.

It was a busy, yet, very relaxing weekend!

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[Hit the play button on HOUNDS OF SPRING; listen as you read, and then, sit back and enjoy this fantastic piece of band literature by Alfred Reed.]

A beautiful day it is!  It is only 50-degrees this tenth day of March, but you could not ask for a more glorious day of sunshine, and Spring in the air. And tomorrow, those of us who get to set our clocks forward one hour will get to enjoy even more lovely days such as this.

Quintin was out the door to work in the office for the OMEA site until Noon. I satisfied any cravings shared by the office workers with a box of Bill’s Donuts.

I returned home to work in the front yard with the weed trimmer, and the leaf blower! Their electrifying sounds were music to my ears. How I love time to work in the yard, and that season is rapidly moving upon us.

I relaxed the afternoon away, watching some television, reading, and napping. I will now do some house work, and then get ready to go see CHILDREN OF EDEN with Quintin at the very close Playhouse South.

Tomorrow is percussion with MEPA at Centerville High School, and the arrival of Jeffrey Carter, friend/godfather, who will pass through Dayton for a few hours before heading to Cincinnati to see MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG, starring Daniel Jenkins.

This morning, my brother, Destin, and I received an email from Mother: As of February 3rd, I am retired from the Elwood Police Department.

Despite the fact Mother had expressed some consideration along this topic, we were not aware that she was actually setting the process into motion, and so abruptly.  The new administrative changes throughout the city’s leadership were becoming quite stressful, and the air of low-morale, and consistent uncertainty were affecting Mother’s health.  When she initially broached the subject over Christmas, I thought it a bit premature since the elected-changes had not yet occurred.  However, as she began experiencing the health issues, I was somewhat relieved, yet still surprised, by her announcement.

I was sixteen, and a sophomore in high school, when we became a part of the police family.  I suddenly had about 15 police-uncles, several police-aunts, and a ton of police-cousins.  I knew that I always had folks looking after my family.  This was especially comforting when I left for college.

The police department was like any other family – the good times, the not-so-good times, celebrations of weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, births, graduations, and successes.  The family came together at those less celebratory moments, especially when death shrouded a family unit.  The worst was the loss of officers’ children who were teenagers with me.

For the past thirty-one years, I’ve seen Mother joyfully embrace her work with the Band of Blue, and even during the more stressful moments, I never knew her to waiver in her dedication.  Mother was often a big sister, a confidant, a friend, and whether appreciated, or not, always honest with requested advice.  One of her most incredible talents is her ability to organize, and produce.  I am so grateful I received this genetic component from Mother!

I am proud to be the son of this woman who gave so much of her self to her career.  I am relieved that her retirement from the police department is not a retirement from being Mother/Mama to my self, and Destin. The retirement from the EPD will allow her more time for her Grandma-responsibilities!

My grandfather, Leroy ‘Red’ Barmes, joined the department in 1952.  Sixty years later, our immediate family’s connection to the Elwood Police Department has finally come to a close.  I must admit, it is a tad bittersweet.

Mother: Congratulations on 31 years of such fine service to the department, and the community; and, congratulations on your well-deserved retirement.  I am so grateful for, and proud of your career, and so happy (and a little tearful) to know this chapter has now moved on to the next.

Know you are loved…

“The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather a lack of will.” – Vince Lombardi

Well, in 45 minutes the curtain will come down on 2011 and promptly raise on 2012.

2011 was an interesting year. I read so many Facebook posts stating, “I’m so glad 2011 is almost over” or “2011 was such a bad year.” And on they go.

I honestly cannot say one year is any worse than another. It is what it is. It’s a year. It’s all about living, all about attitude, all about choices, and all about loving. I don’t see 2011 with any regrets. There were choices made based on facts presented, and actions taken. Life moved on through various scenarios, and the results were pretty much as calculated.

I kept busy as a dad, as a teacher, as a pet-dad, as a band parent, as a gardener and landscaper, as a musician, and as a person. It was a full year, and one on which I can look back upon with pride.

Several family members and friends passed on, and though saddened by their passing, I celebrate the time spent with them during my life’s journey. One particular departure saddened me greatly… my darling little Logan, my cat of 17.5 years. I miscalculated how deeply I would feel her passing, and miss her greatly.

Some new folks merged onto the Haasienda Highway this year, and I have thoroughly enjoyed their presence. Primarily, Navi and Chief, who joined us February 20th. Though exasperating as they travel merrily through puppyhood, they have already proved to be devoted, fun companions, as Flyer continues to remain.

Some folks elected to move on to other paths which I believe to be standard patterns in life… not everyone is meant to remain with us.  A few left prematurely, perhaps, but I respect their choices. And then there were some I disconnected their journey from mine, and I have no regrets. Some folks just need to be on a different path, just as I need to be on my own path. The ones I removed I celebrate as a blessing upon my path as I discovered they were poison leaking onto my path, just as they poisoned the journey of others.  I made the correct choice.

“We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

All in all, life is beautiful. The journey continues in this, my 48th year, and I am making plans for new ways to make the coming year(s) more exciting, turning the journey into an even more thrilling course.

Fifteen minutes remain of 2011. I am grateful for this past year of learning, living, and loving, and for all the many blessings rolled into many facts of life.

It was a very good year.

“With the new day comes new strength and new thoughts.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

What an unusual, yet exciting year!

I have received so many blessings this year, and I hope, as an individual, and fellow traveler on Planet Earth, that I have been able to be a blessing to others, as well.

My  blessings do not come in the way of material things, but through individuals who have touched my life, and the life of my family.

First, and foremost, there will always be my mother, Diana, who is counted as one of my best blessings in this life.

Right alongside Mother, is my son, Jose, almost 19 years, and a senior in high school. Last week, Jose became Private Jolliffe-Haas with the Ohio National Guard. The past six years since Jose came to live with me, I have watched him grow, mature, and become an incredible young man.

Next week, I shall meet, for the first time, my newest son, Quintin, 15, currently living in New Mexico. By December 20th, he will be a full-time resident in the Haasienda.

Another blessing is my brother, Destin, my sister-in-law, Stacia, and their three beautiful children, Parker, 5, Freddie, 3, and Carolyne, 2 months. I am also grateful for the many blessings Destin has received this year with the birth of Carolyne, and his new position as superintendent of schools. Of course, he is blessed daily with Stacia, as well as Parker and Freddie.

Our home in Kettering is doubly blessed with two fuzzy-faced family members – Flyer, 9, and Logan 16.

I am also blessed for my many uncles and aunts, cousins, and extended family.

Throughout my life, I have been so fortunate to have many wonderful neighbors and friends. From my roots in Elwood, Indiana to my current home in Kettering, Ohio, THANK YOU to all my neighbors, and friends for your constant love and support.

For twenty-six years I have been blessed with many, many fantastic students, parents, and colleagues… bless you!

Improved health, and so many other things, often taken for granted, have encouraged me to realize even more, just how blessed I am this day.

Thank you, to so many of you, family/friends, near and far, or even on Facebook, for being such a blessing in my life.

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I think I passed three of the most enjoyable days of my summer!

Thursday morning, I had a two hour lesson with one of my graduated seniors, Ryan Crouch, and as always, it was a great time – and tons of laughter.

Shortly after Ryan departed, Mother arrived from Indiana. She took two days off work from the police department to come see Jose’s band show a the end of band camp. She and I went to Mongolian Grill, and after a brief rest at home, we headed out to Wright State University where the Fairmont marching band has practiced all week.

We enjoyed the pre-game presentation, and especially the first completed movement of the 2010 competition. The percussion ensemble also played their feature which was already sounding great.

At the end of camp, two of my former students, Torrey Cowan and Chris Taylor, arrived. Chris’ apartment is just across from where our band practiced. Torrey was one of my field commanders, and served Springboro High School’s marching band last year, and did a superb job. I met the Taylor family in 1999 when Chris was eight years old. His older brother, Joe, and his older sister, Rebecca, were also piano students. Joe went on to play trumpet for SHS, and Rebecca began on flute, and switched to French horn her junior year – doing a remarkable job. Chris started on piano, and in fifth grade, at age 10, started saxophone lessons. By the end of his freshman year we were working hard on field commander preparations. Chris served as the saxophone section leader, and as field commander throughout his high school career. So, I had the Taylor family for ten years in lessons. Rebecca is working on her masters at WSU, Joe just graduated from WSU, and Chris will be a sophomore this fall at WSU.

It was so great to see these two former students.

After leaving camp, we had a traditional post-camp supper, this year at Steak N Shake.

Friday morning I prepared an egg casserole, and pancakes, and we enjoyed a great breakfast out on the deck where, for the first time in weeks, it was actually comfortable!

At 2:00pm Jose had his upper wisdom teeth removed. He was a brave little soldier, and handled it just fine. In fact, he is still doing fine, having bounced back with no problems.

We got Jose’s prescription for his pain medication (he has only taken one pill as of Saturday morning), and returned home where I prepared a spaghetti & meat balls dinner in the crock pot.

Mother and I drove to the beautiful Smith Gardens of Oakwood. We met my wonderful neighbor lady, Kay, who walked with us through the very beautiful grounds. While we were chatting, we saw a judge enter the garden, followed by a bride and groom, and two witnesses. At first I thought they were looking for a location to shoot some photos, however, I learned that they were actually performing the very private ceremony there. I offered to take photos for them throughout the ceremony, and several after. It was really great to be a part of their cherished moments, even if they were complete strangers.

We left the gardens, and bid farewell to Kay who was off to a birthday party.

Mother and I drove through Oakwood, down past Carillon Park and Old River Park – I even drove her to the former NCR headquarters so she could see the lagoon where Jose and I often canoe. We then headed to Big Lots for some odds and ends. While there, the executive director from ACTION Adoption Services contacted me to see if I could come in to teach the pre-adoptive class since the scheduled trainer was held up at work. I agreed to do it, and Mother went with me.

It was fun having Mother in on this class, which was about “Discipline,” as Mother participated, and shared some of her own parenting experiences, especially supplementing the fact that each child is very different, and not every child can be parented the same, exact way. It was a fun evening.

We arrived home, and had a bowl of spaghetti out on the deck.

This morning it was English muffins, cereal, sugar-free angel food cake with strawberries (what we would have eaten for desert had I not taught class), and coffee.

Sophie Lockhart arrived for her saxophone and voice lesson, and Mother really enjoyed getting to hear Sophie play. We also got to chat with Mike Lockhart for a few minutes.

After the Lockharts left, Mother returned to Indiana. Jose and I are now plotting the rest of our day.

This was just a super, super few days, and what a way to springboard into Beavercreek High School’s show choir for which I will be teaching this week.

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It is Monday, 1:00pm. The end of the restful, and enjoyable holiday weekend is creeping upon us.  Wednesday, Thursday and Friday were the most perfect days we’ve had in weeks. Saturday was a bit steamy, but not too hateful. Sunday, however, returned with the higher temperatures, and humidity. Today is becoming its evil twin with highs expected to be in the lower 90’s. Tuesday through Thursday we are supposed to be in the mid-90’s.

Friday and Saturday were somewhat peaceful, and relaxing. Jose and I went to see ROBIN HOOD – quite good, and Saturday, Kelley, our delightful neighbor boy next door, joined us for the downtown Dayton fireworks. Several years ago we took a city bus down to watch the fireworks – and it was so simple! We walked out our front door, hopped on the bus, got off the bus downtown, walked several blocks to the river, watched fireworks, walked back to the bus, got off the bus right in front of our house. No traffic. No parking issues.

In 2001, I found a nifty parking place behind the United Methodist headquarters (commonly known as The God Box) next to the Masonic Temple. We were the only ones to park there! I could not believe it. Most years we have been on vacation over this holiday, and I figured our secret parking area would have been discovered by countless others. Nope! We arrived around 9:30pm, parked, walked a few hundred yards to the Masonic Temple’s hill (I always feel as though I am at the Custis-Lee Mansion at Arlington Cemetery), and watched a splended firework display over the river.

Sunday morning, Jose was out the door for work until 3:00pm. I made a cake, and chatted with Mother on the phone.

Cake: yellow cake mix with some lemon extract. Poured some of the batter into the pan and then scattered thinly sliced strawberries; added the remainder of the batter; backed; more strawberry slices, a packet of white icing mix with some almond extract added, along with some liquefied strawberry jam.

At 2:00pm, the cake and I headed next door for a cookout.

As always, the hours escaped me, and it was nearly 6:00pm when I returned home. I love spending time with my neighbors, who have become more like family. Since the crowd was not as large this time, I actually got to spend time chatting with Don who is usually kept busy at the grill, non-stop.

I came home, and began watching some television programs. At 9:00pm, The American Experience on PBS aired the conclusion of HARRY TRUMAN.

Ahhh…. what a unique politician, a giant of a man, and an incredible American was Harry S. Truman. He, along with President Lincoln, is one of my heroes.

This morning I was wide awake, as usual, around 4:00am. By 6:00am, I was retreating back to some sort of sleep, and lingered in bed to watch a great movie, WHITE SQUALL, based on a true story. Great movie!

Now, I am settled on the deck with my laptop. Flyer rests under my chair, and Logan is stretched out under another table across the deck. Jose is swimming with Brandon Tener.

What a great weekend….

The deck, at 1:15pm this Thursday afternoon, is cool, breezy, and filled with the irregular musical tones of the wind chimes. My lunch is finished, and I am now set to blogging, and working on other projects.

This has been a rather ordinary week here at the Haasienda del Shroyer. Not much to report. Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday was filled with lessons, thunderstorms, and various mundane tasks.

Yesterday’s heat and humidity made the day most uncomfortable. By 2:00pm, I had the air conditioning on, and due to the sun’s placement, my study was an oven the entire afternoon. Fans did nothing to alleviate the discomfort.

Most of my spare time has either been napping, from continuous fatigue, to watching a neat series of on-going documentaries, DIGGING FOR THE TRUTH. I love archeology, and any book or documentary that searches all types of history. This show is absolutely fascinating, and I have learned an incredible amount of history that has escaped me, especially the Lost Tribes of Israel! I do not know how I missed this topic all these years. So far I have watched, and enjoyed:

  1. Who Built Egypt’s Pyramids?
  2. Hunt for the Lost Ark
  3. The Iceman Cometh
  4. The Lost Tribe of Israel
  5. Secrets of the Nazca Lines
  6. Mystery of the Anasazi

Here is a video of the episode about The Lost Ark of the Covenant:

Other interests this week have been listening reports, and reading about the controversy between President Obama and General McChrystral. It is difficult to know which news program to watch as I am never certain as to certain affiliations. Oh, how the days of Walter Cronkite and Dan Rather are so far removed from us!

My friend, Bill Hetzer, a retired army brass, did introduce me to war correspondent, Michael Yon, and I am truly enjoying his perspective – non-political!

My gut reaction to this entire affair: the general was wrong. I know it is not a written rule, but militarily, it is the unspoken golden rule involving the chain of command… “thou shalt not publicly speak out against thy commanders.”

Some of the succeeding commentaries from “locals” on DAYTON DAILY NEWS are absurd, and sometimes offensive. I cannot believe the lack of intelligence, and sheer stupidity displayed by some of the readers! It is one thing to be uninformed. It is another to be just downright stupid. Some of the comments are so far-fetched, and it is often tasteless to know some of these people are permitted a driver’s license, and the freedom to walk amongst other human beings.

Quite often, however, I believe some prefer to stir up an excessive amount of drama while hiding behind the fake names.

A growing number of posters are claiming this is the first time in US history where a commander has been relieved of his responsibilities during a time of war… ummm…. wrong…

A number of presidents have traded, or dismissed commanding officers. Lincoln did it a number of times during the Civil War, even dismissing the ever popular George McClellan. President Truman fired another popular general, Douglas MacArthur. President Bush, I believe, changed military leadership once or twice (however, I am not as knowledgeable on this).

If you want a good laugh, an opportunity to groan, or attempting to relieve constipation, scan through some of the comments… they will either leave you howling, scowling or boweling!

4:00am found me wide awake this morning, but I managed to return to two more hours of sleep.

After feeding Logan and Flyer, I settled down to write the morning’s entry on this blog site, and by 9:30am I was finally preparing my presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln for the Lincoln Society of Dayton. For several weeks I had been storing away items in my brain but had not committed any notes to paper. Everything flowed easily, and within an hour I had the entire presentation completed.

I was amazed at how easy it all fell together, but then, I have been studying the Lincoln family for nearly forty years.

At 1:00pm Bob & Sarah Koogler arrived, and after a few minutes of conversation in the house, we set out for the Patterson Family Homestead near the University of Dayton.

I was excited to spend time with Bob & Sarah, and was equally surprised to see Bill & Kay Hetzer, and Geary & Jennifer Biggs.

The crowd was very kind, enthusiastic, and surprisingly eager to learn about Robert Todd Lincoln! The presentation went smoothly, even when I said “Robert Lincoln became a captain in the army under General Lee” – instead of General Grant! The audience roared even more when I tossed the comment off with “I guess I am rewriting history.”

The question/answer segment was filled with some great questions and comments.

After the presentation, the Kooglers, Hetzers, Biggs and I drove over to Ben & Jerry’s for some ice cream, and had the best time laughing.

The Kooglers dropped me off, and I hurried over to pick up Sophie Lockhart for her lesson. I spent a good hour talking to Valerie and Sophie before heading back home for Soph’s lesson.

Jose and I grabbed Subway for dinner (I deserved to have someone else prepare food today), and ate dinner. I settled down in my bedroom to type, and watch The Tony Awards. Slightly uneventful… and disappointing with some of the performances.

The evening is slowing down nicely, and with some relaxation after the whirlwind weekend.

In 1986, while a student at Ball State University, I began writing a choral project on President Lincoln. Having been a fan of the 16th president since first grade this was a project I thoroughly enjoyed. For some reason, I had not read much on his wife, Mary Todd Lincoln. The precious little information I had obtained led me to follow the belief that she was a hysterical shrew, and hell-cat as described by some of her less flattering contemporaries.

One movement in this proposed choral piece was entitled, “Love Is Eternal,” based on the inscription on Mrs. Lincoln’s Etruscan gold wedding band given to her on the day she married Mr. Lincoln, November 4, 1842. This movement was more a sarcastic treatment rather than one about true love. I began this portion thinking, “Oh, poor Mr. Lincoln, married to Mary Todd… how sad.”

My MTL Research Journey journey began with Ruth Painter Randall’s 1953 biography, Mary Lincoln: Biography of a Marriage. I was soon scratching my head, and wondering why so many from her generation thought of her with such acidity. I began believing, “Oh, poor Mary Todd, married to Mr. Lincoln!”

A friend introduced me to Irving Stone’s, Love Is Eternal: Mary Todd Lincoln. Although I had some minor issues with Mr. Stone’s research, I enjoyed a year of correspondence between the famed historical fiction author, and his lovely wife, Jean. Mr. Stone’s sympathetic portrayal of Mary Todd Lincoln was, to me, quite enchanting, and terribly romantic.

Weighed with the enormous works of Ms. Randall and Mr. Stone, I soon began scouring Springfield, Illinois, and Lexington, Kentucky where Mrs. Lincoln was born, and lived the first score of her life.

In Springfield, I became friends with a darling lady, Charlotte Oglesby, the grand-daughter of former Governor Richard Oglesby, a friend of President Lincoln, and one of the two gentlemen to see him into the carriage as he and Mrs. Lincoln drove away to Ford’s Theatre, April 14, 1865.

I was also fortunate to meet Lou Holden, the director of The Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington, Kentucky – the first home preserved to honor a first lady. I was delighted to get to know Ms. Holden, and the other staff members of the MTLH, and to further my research.

I also became acquainted with Carol Massey of Lexington – but this story shall wait for another time! It is quite interesting, and very…. well, we shall leave it at “interesting.”

I also became a frequent telephone pal with Samuel A. Schreiner, Jr., author of the 1987 non-fictional, The Trials Of Mrs. Lincoln, a thorough account of the insanity trial, and the former first lady’s clever plot to legally restore her sanity.

Throughout those four years, I became obsessed with MTL’s story, and even worked with a BSU professor who was experienced in Victorian prose, and a local OBGyn who assisted me with the Nineteenth Century’s knowledge of gynecology, uncovering some of the claims made against Mrs. Lincoln.

Around 1988, I met, and fell in love with the phenomenal actress/vocalist, Kathleen “Katie” Pfister-Musick (photo at right). I knew immediately Katie was the right one to portray Mrs. Lincoln on stage, and after 24 years, I still believe she is perfect for the role.

When I moved to Dayton, Ohio the summer of 1990, I put aside my script and score on Love Is Eternal, and absorbed myself in teaching, directing, conducting, traveling back and forth between Dayton and New York with various projects, and by 2000, adopting sons.

Now that life has slowed down a tad (no pun intended, of course), I began looking over the Lincoln musical, again.

Ironically, via Google Alerts, and Facebook, I became E-cquainted with a Mary Lincoln scholar, and actress, Donna D. McCreary, from Indiana. I was quick to learn she is also friends with a dear college friend, and exceptionally talented actor, J.R. Stuart.

The past few days, my new Mary Todd Lincoln E-friend and I have shared several interesting, amusing letters, and my laid-aside interest in Mrs. Lincoln is resurfacing.

1986-1990 took me on a fascinating journey with Mrs. Lincoln, and this coming Sunday I shall re-enter the ring as I present to the Dayton Lincoln Historical Society, a presentation on Robert Todd Lincoln, and his relationship with his mother.

It is 8:40 on the last evening of May, and the long, extraordinarily fun-filled weekend has come to a close.

From last Friday evening until an hour ago, Jose and I have been non-stop, and how wonderful it has been! Though I am short on sleep, I feel refreshed, not drained.

I had anticipated making this day one of absolute quiet, and not leaving the house; however, we received an invitation to the Lockhart home for a 4:00pm cookout. With schedules running crazy, I have not seen Valerie for several months, and Mike has been only a few “hello’s” when he has arrived to pick up Sophie from a lesson. Jackson picked up Sophie this past Friday so I was finally able to see him.

We had the best time, as always, and after a delicious dinner, we sat on the patio chatting. Eventually, a water-fight broke out with the teenagers, and the three adults survived with nary a drop!

We returned home, and I decided to water the plants since the skies were clear, and beautiful. We had threats of thunderstorms for this day, but the skies indicated nothing. Not more than fifteen minutes of watering the plants, the wind picked up and the skies clouded over… and the deluge began.

Jose was in the basement and called down to see if he would like to walk to Speedway for a slushie. He bounded up the stairs, and saw the heavy shower.

He laughingly turned to me, saying, “You’re such a dick!”

Thus ends the weekend, and begins the first official day of summer!

I now have red impatiens in pots on the front porch, back deck, and scattered in places around the front corner fence. I am behind in getting flowers out, and felt bad since my neighbors next door have this beautiful setting!

I finished up around 3:00pm, showered, ate a salad for my late lunch, and then took a nap for 45 minutes. I taught a lesson, drove Jose to youth group, ran to Meijer for lettuce, bananas, and Wild Berry Aloe Vera Juice.

Finally, I got to catch up with my dear friend, Jeffrey Carter. Jeff is one of my favorite people in the world, and we tend to play hit-and-miss or telephone tag. He has an exciting, full-filling, often crazy schedule, and I am always hesitant to call him for fear I am interrupting a lesson, meeting, or rehearsal. So, I generally send an email, and he lets me know when his open times are.

Tonight was perfect because he was returning to St. Louis via Amtrak from the Conductor’s Guild board meeting held in Chicago. We spent a good hour catching up. He will be out of town the next four weekends – Kansas City, Philadelphia and New York (he will get to see Angela Lansbury in A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC), and I have promptly forgotten the other two locations (argh!).

Now it is time to go pick up Jose, and return home to settle in for the fourth installment of AMERICA: THE STORY OF US.

This morning was a tiring, but invigorating walk!

At 9:50am, I set out with Flyer while chatting with Mother on my headset.

For those who live in Kettering, I walked:

  • through the athletic fields to Far Hills
  • crossed over to Windingway
  • turned south on Ridgeway
  • then took Stonehaven to West Stroop
  • followed West Stroop
  • headed back North on Lenox
  • took east path on Windingway

In an hour, I took 10,499 steps and traveled 4.47 miles – up hills, down hills, and through some of the most beautiful scenery in Kettering. I had been down parts of Ridgeway, but never through the portion that made me believe I was walking in the foothills of the Smokies! It was absolutely gorgeous! If any of my neighbors in the area are looking for a GREAT hike/walking route, Ridgeway is the route!

I was huffing and puffing in a few places, but it was all well worth it. Poor Flyer, however, was dragging! I should have taken a water bottle, but my intent was to only go about a mile or two, not much more than 5,000 steps.

At one point, I was somewhat confused being so unfamiliar with this part of the neighborhood. I knew I was not completely lost, but I was not certain of my exact location. It was strange to be in one’s own neck of the woods and to feel so foreign… but exciting, too. And the homes, and scenery were gorgeous!

I think I am going to run out to get some potting soil, and some new pots for the impatiens I bought from a Centerville band student. I will put them in some pots and set them on the deck and front porch.

After that, I hope to relax on the deck with my laptop. However, I would really like to return to Old River Park for a another canoe trip!

I will teach a few lessons tonight, take Jose to SIGNS youth group, grab some groceries while hopefully connecting with Jeffrey Carter as he returns to St. Louis from Chicago on AmTrak.

Wishing everyone a wonderful Sunday!

There must have been some rain showers throughout the night as the streets and walks were wet. I only woke between 4:30am and 5:30am, but don’t recall hearing any rain.

By 7:30am, the sun was shining, and the birds warbling merrily. I took Flyer out for a brief walk, tried to call my friend, Jeff, who was en route to Chicago on the train, and busied myself with all sorts of tasks this morning.

I researched a little on adoption issues, and then hurried in to take a quick nap before showering, and preparing to teach my first lesson.

I will teach until 6:00pm, then hurry up to ACTION for on-going training. That will finish up around 10:00pm.

There is absolutely nothing hectic on the family docket this weekend. Saturday shows no sign of rain – whereas earlier in the week it did – so we may finally reach Old River Park!

Today is the final day for seniors next door at Fairmont. I wrote my annual last-day note to some seniors. Jose’s digital design class is having a party with the seniors – a three hour party. He was all excited for the party and made several pans of brownies last night.

Other than that, there is so little to report. Just an ordinary day in the Miami Valley at the Haasienda on Shroyer!

Yesterday afternoon, I took Jose out to the front yard to help me measure the length in front of the shrubs where I want to put a little stone wall just a foot or so off the ground. I handed Jose the end of the tape measure, and walked to the opposite side. I then asked Jose what the measurement was.

He looked down, searchingly, looked up at me questioningly, and re-examined his end, and realized, I had the measurement on my end. I was howling to see his expression!

Last night I finished teaching around 8:00pm, and Jose and I went to Hothead Burrito for supper.  Ahh… I love their burritos. They are not that different from the famed Chipotle – but the prices, and discounted coupons are certainly different! We returned home, and I settled down with what I had taped of THE MIDDLE and MODERN FAMILY – they are two of my new favorite shows.

This morning, after another three hours of being wide awake from 4:00am-7:00am, I met my friend, Bill Hetzer, for breakfast at First Watch behind Towne & Country Shopping Plaza. From 8:30am until 11:15am, Bill and I, discussed politics, religion, family life, military life, our sons, house projects, music (current and past), musical theatre, and anything else that seemed of interest. This is my best therapy – meeting Bill for breakfast! Now, I just need to figure in a time to meet Kay, as her laughter and smile are both infectious, and I do tend to behave myself much better when I am with this Hetzer family member. With Bill, all behavioral bets are off.

We finished inside First Watch, and then moved outside to finish our conversation in the parking lot by Bill’s car. Grant it, lunch time at the feeding trough was upon us, but some of the incoming diners were quite rude as they prepared to park. Some would drive up, put their car into neutral, grip the steering wheel and lean forward as though to urge us on our merry way. Bill, or I, would wave them on, or indicate we were still chatting.

One gal drove up in her maroon limousine-esque vehicle, and was quite disgusted that Bill and I were talking. For some reason, she was intent on parking where Bill’s car was currently resting. Several times she even nudged us with a toot of her horn to which we waved her on. Had it been winter, or raining, we would have quickly ended the conversation for those more advanced in years, or mommies with children. However, it is the most gorgeous day – and it was already nearing 70-degrees. This lady drove around several more times, and would pull up behind where we stood. Finally, she decided that a parking space, directly opposite, and slightly closer to the door, would suffice. I began to wonder if for some reason she had scattered a late husband’s ashes where we were standing. Eventually, the aggravated lady un-wedged her supple girth from the driver’s side (without the “pop” sound trapped air makes upon release), and moved toward the door, calling to her waiting friend that “those two guys…” I had to chuckle… I am sure her frame had been the model for the 1939 World’s Fair sphere that served as the exposition’s centerpiece, later the seed for Disney’s EPCOT symbol for the world.

Bill and I, while inside, had just been talking about the things in life that matter to us, as well as the minute items that simply waste too much time on our individual journey. I told Bill that the offended/offensive woman would probably be exasperated the remainder of her day, and complaining about “those two guys who…” to any one who wished to share in her misery.

After departing from one of my favorite souls on this earth, I ventured on to CVS to pick up my prescription. As I entered the pharmacy section, there sat a lady who I guessed to be in her late seventies, or early eighties. By seeing her walker, and the way she was seated in the chair, I could see she was not in the best of physical health – but her spiritual health, and attitude toward life appeared to be Olympian! I smiled, and was greeted by the most generous, welcoming smile that could make a bishop forget his prayers. Several times our eyes met, and I attempted to match the warmth in her smile.

Some day, in forty years, I hope I am just like that darling soul in CVS – not an old lady on a walker – but an older gentleman with a healthy attitude, and healthy spirit – and hopefully, a healthy body and system. As I was leaving Kroger next door to CVS, I saw the lady scooting across the parking lot on her walker. Her car was not parked in the handicap space in front of CVS, the pet store, or Kroger – but out in the middle of that huge parking lot. As she maneuvered her walker, taking careful steps, she smiled at people passing by her – some not even noticing – as well as the air around her… her life’s composition was sung silently, but the depth of her joyful melody thundered for all who could feel the vibrations.

This CVS lady made my day!

Last night sleep was not easy to come by last night. Prom nights always seem to keep me awake since I heard those hideous sirens in May 1998. I always have my worry-scope up and running during this time of year with great concern for our young folk.

I woke often throughout the night but was lulled back to sleep with the gentle music of the wind chimes above the deck outside my bedroom window.

This morning at 7:30am I rallied from bed to accomplish some items around the house. By 10:00am, I heard my neighbor, Don, outside mowing, and hopped into a higher gear. I hate to begin any loud yard work until I know the neighbors next door are up, and moving (at least the adults). I am always certain that my neighbor, Bob, who lives directly behind me is always up before the sun rises, waiting to pounce on the first blade of wayward grass that is courageous enough to rise above other blades nearby. Bob The Lawn Guy (his own company) is my inspiration in lawn care. I do not posses the talent, nor degree of passion as Bob, but I have grown through the years. Now that no privacy fences separates our yards, I find myself struggling to keep the yard even in better condition, and I still fall short.

I trimmed areas of the front yard with the weed eater, edged the sidewalk, and then used the blower to clean up. That took a good hour or so. Jose will hopefully get the yard mowed before the rains hit.

The day is dull, slightly chilly, and rain looks as though it could begin dropping at any moment.

I have laundry and sweeping to do on my list, as well as some writing and gym time pushed into into what I am still attempting to maintain as a relaxing day. I am certain Flyer would love to take a jaunt around the neighborhood so that she can take in some of the recently sprayed shrubs, light/telephone poles, fire hydrants, etc.. She wears herself out just in the first quarter of our walks as she dodges from scent to scent, and before long her enthusiasm and energy have both waned; her tongue drags on the ground, and her ears seldom pop up with each unfamiliar sound.

The wind has increased, and the wind chimes are now sounding an impromptu score.

Jose has ventured out to the yard to start the mower, and hopefully the clouds will hold on a little tighter to the impending droplets.

This evening I arrived at the Carter home around 4:45pm so I could take some photos of Amanda & Vanessa before their dates, Patrick & Kevin, arrived. The girls were absolutely beautiful in their dresses!

After a round of various poses, we all headed to The Greene where the quarter met up with some other show choir students, including one of my private students, Zach Pollock. They gathered on the grand staircase of Books & Co. for group and couple shots. The customers were also enjoying themselves as several stood off to the sides watching the photo op!

We walked the young folks to Brio’s where they were to dine, and the adults walked on over to Mimis Cafe. I had never been to Mimi’s, and it was a great meal at a very reasonable price.

I had the best evening with all the parents – even though my child was not amongst the prombies.

Here are some photos of the kids preparing for the big event!

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Yes! The weekend is almost here!

I have a few lessons to teach this afternoon, and then on-going training at ACTION Adoption from 7:00-10:00pm.

Saturday will be a day or writing, and maybe some yard work as long as I don’t over do it. I trimmed shrubs out front Thursday evening, and then raked the cuttings. I was ready for a nap after 30 minutes of fairly easy work. I will hopefully chat with my dear friend, Jeffrey Carter, in St. Louis during the morning.

I plan to get some walking time in providing there is no rain. As always, Flyer will love this. If not, I may head over to the indoor walking track at Trent Arena.

Will take prom photos of the Carter twins Saturday evening, and then enjoy a nice dinner with some wonderful friends. Jose has percussion from 9:00am until 9:00pm Saturday, so I will have time for writing, and spending time with friends.

Wishing everyone a fantastic weekend!

My dear friend in St. Louis, Jeffrey Carter, is always a few steps ahead of me with technology (and a score of other things that raises my admiration and respect for him), and I figured out how I can write a blog post on my Word Press account and get it to post simultaneously on my Facebook and Twitter sites!

So much easier!

The lilac bush, which offered more than 140 large bouquets given away, was still full. The lovely blooms have finally died off. However, the clematis is blooming around the front yard corner-fence.

I am hoping to paint the front yard corner-gate, wagon wheel, bench, and mailbox. We have some nasty weather approaching, so this paint session will have to wait.

This has been a particularly long week. Not a bad week, mind you, but one that just felt terribly long – one that dragged.

The doctor suggested I split my medication in half as I have been battling extreme fatigue. Hopefully the half dose will help me maintain the usual amount of energy that carries my full day.

I have done little this week that amounts to what I would call a successful week, but I do feel rested. I have walked nearly two miles each day, and am hopefully with renewed energy, I can at least accomplish 10,000+ steps each day, or 5 miles. My waist does seem to be reducing, and I am wearing shorts I have not worn in several years… progress. The medication does seem to reduce my appetite which is a blessing. My meal portions are much smaller, yet I do feel full!

Tonight, after teaching private lessons I will teach a pre-adoptive course at ACTION Adoption.

Saturday I will hopefully accomplish some work, and attend one of the two productions of [title of show], produced by some students at Wright State University. If the weather permits, I would like to hit Old River Park’s canoes with Jose.

May 8th would have been my grandmother’s 86th birthday, and each Mother’s Day I always remember her fondly by playing, “Red River Valley,” one of her personal favorites.

I have no idea what Sunday holds beyond a Mother’s Day call to Mother.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, and please don’t forget to wish all the mothers you know a “happy Mother’s Day.”

(Written in September 2002)

Thursday evening I was in the middle of teaching private voice, piano and saxophone lessons when I received Emails from my mother and sister telling me that Mr. Brugger had passed away.  Though not terribly surprised by the news, I was still quite sad. As my student continued playing through her lesson, a kaleidoscope of memories began turning.

My first memory of Mr. Brugger was at the T-Way parking lot as a very small child. My grandmother, Donna, Barmes, use to ride me on her bicycle a good deal, and one of our favorite jaunts in the summer was to watch the Panter Band practice.  The early images must have had a strong impact on me as I later served as the Panther Band Drum-major throughout my high school career.  It was during those years in the late 1960’s that I first heard Mr. Brugger sing “Old Man River.”

In 1975, two phenomenal teachers entered my life – Garnetta and Clifford Brugger.  Mrs. Brugger was my fifth grade teacher, and Mr. Brugger, having retired from the high school, came into our music class each week to teach songs and tell stories.  He would lead us in several favorite American folk songs, and then stop to tell us a joke or a story, complete with various voices and theatrics.  One day, someone asked why we sang “those old songs.”  With a reassuring smile, Mr. Brugger explained that in other countries around the world, folks songs were vital to the people’s history because they told stories of the people of their land.  He felt, that as an American, we should all value our own musical heritage.   To this day, American folk songs are a part of my teaching repertoire.

Toward the end of the year, I wrote a note to Mr. Brugger with a special request, and sent it home via his wife.  His last day he was with us at Washington Elementary School, he honored my request.  I can remember the school secretary, Jan Helpling, slipping in through the coat hall… Diana Lane, the fourth grade teacher (and also one of my favorites), joined her… Mrs. Brugger, holding a cup of coffee slipped in beside them… Mr. Brugger’s voice filled the entire building with the rich strains of “Old Man River.”

Throughout my junior high and senior high years, Mr. Brugger was one of my biggest supporters.  Whether attending an Elwood HS Variety Show – his own legacy and gift to our community – or giving me a nod along the parade route, he always made sure I knew how proud he was of my work.  The crowning moment came when he saw me after a performance of OKALHOMA! and compared my performance to that of Gordon MacRae who portrayed “Curly” in the motion picture.

Upon my return visits to my family over the years, I knew that if we went to Jim Dandy for breakfast, I would get to see Mr. Brugger.  He never failed to recognize me, and always insisted I tell him everything I was doing with my own music career as a band & choir director, and performer.

My last student this evening came into my studio and announced that he had decided to go to Ball State University next fall to major in music education. Although he is not my first student to go into music, his timing was perfect.  As Brian warmed up on his saxophone, I was so happy Clifford Brugger made such an impression me twenty-eight years ago.  I was even more appreciative that he also had an impact on his own student, Paula Simmons, who was my junior high and high school band and choir director.

When my student left, I sent my newly adopted thirteen year old son outside to walk our dog.  I sat down at my piano and began playing and singing.  It was a tender moment without great emotion.  It was a moment of thanksgiving, and celebration.  The lyrics flowed easily…

“Ol’ man river, that ol’ man river,

He mus’ know sumpin’ but don’t say nuthin’

He jes’ keeps rollin’, he keeps on rollin’ along.

He don’t plant taters, he don’t plant cotton

An’ dem dat plants ‘em is soon forgotten,

But ol’ man river, he jes’ keeps rollin’ along.

I git weary an’ sick of tryin’

I’m tired of livin’ an’ skeered of dyin’

But ol’ man river, he jes’ keeps rollin’ along.

Our beloved maestro has laid down his baton at last, yet his music “keeps on rollin’” within our memories, and our hearts.  Where ever you are, Mr. Brugger, thank you, and God bless.

[April 2003, Paula Simmons invited me back to Elwood Community High School to perform, “Old Man River,” in honor of Mr. Brugger.  This was, and will always be, one of my greatest honors.]

Darin as Panther Band drum-major

Darin performing "Old Man River" - 2003

Originally posted: http://www.examiner.com/x-27336-Dayton-High-School-Theater-Examiner~y2009m10d26-Fairmont-grad-Phil-Drennen-launches-new-writing-career-following-Altar-Boyz-tour

PhilThis 2002 Fairmont graduate, now a performer living in New York City, was known in the Miami Valley for cow roping, singin’ and dancin’ in the rain, gambling, and dancing in pajamas. Now, having completed a national tour of Altar Boyz, Philip Drennen is settling into a new phase of his youthful career. However, he still credits his theatrical experiences as a high school student in the Miami Valley as the foundation of his success and still new horizons.

“Literally all my best memories from high school, in general, are from doing shows and playing in the band,” said Philip. “All of my best friends from that time, who still are my best friends, I met in a performance group.”

When not playing flute in a Kettering concert band, or serving as the marching band’s field commander, Phil, was on Fairmont’s stage, performing the lead roles in Oklahoma!, Guys & Dolls and Singin’ In The Rain. Away from the Fairmont stage, he was a familiar favorite on the Muse stage in My Fair Lady and The Pajama Game.

His favorite high school role is, perhaps, the most memorable to many as he sang and danced his way through a rain shower in Singin’ In The Rain, a production that packed Fairmont’s auditorium each night.

“Of all the shows I did I’ll always talk about how it rained on stage during Singin’ in the Rain. The audience gave the rain wagon a standing ovation. Legendary!”

While a student at Cincinnati’s Conservatory of Music, where he received his BFA (bachelor of fine arts) in musical theatre, Philip performed in William Finn’s Elegies, Crazy For You and Working. From CCM it was on to the professional world of musical theatre where Mr. Drennen glided right into his professional life.

“I have many interesting stories from the last few years. I’m so, so grateful I was encouraged to go into theater. And to be honest, I wasn’t encouraged by everyone. I’ve gotten to see shows in London’s West End, climb the Great Wall of China, and even recently got to perform with Mickey Rooney! All from doing theater.

Aside from performing with 1940’s teen star, Mickey Rooney, Phil landed roles in a world premiere, For The Glory, which debuted in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and starred in the national tour of Altar Boyz.

Soon after arriving in New York, Phil learned that performing on Broadway is a great goal to pursue, but it should not be the only goal guiding young performers. There are natural facets of growth in the performing arena – something that many professionals refer to as, “process.”

“Many people get really down on themselves when they don’t get a huge show right out of school. But some people don’t peak until later. I’d always been told that I was a ‘leading man’ who hadn’t grown into himself and that I’d have to wait until I’m 30 to really break through. Instead of waiting, I’m taking things into my own hands and anyone can.”

And taking a pen and musical score paper into his own hands is exactly what Philip has done.

While on the road touring with Altar Boyz, Phil, and fellow performer, Dan Scott, who played “Mark”, began writing songs to pass the time. As soon as they returned to New York, the former Boyz were immediately at work co-writing songs. Within a few months, they recorded their first EP, One Of These Days.

This November, the newly formed duo, now popularly known as Astoria Boulevard, will throw their first CD-release party at Santos Party House in NYC.

Despite branching out in a slightly different direction in his still young career, Phil believes that he would not have discovered his voice for writing music had it not been for his years involved with high school theatre at Fairmont High School, and with the Muse Machine productions.

“There are many, many facets of performing that aren’t singing on Broadway.”

This grateful thespian that began his performing career here in the Miami Valley is eager to see other young performers reach for their own futures.

“If you’re goal is only to sing on Broadway, then tell yourself you WILL do it. If you’re a young person who wants to do this for a living and you can’t see yourself doing anything else, try it!”

To learn more about Astoria Boulevard with Philip Drennen and Dan Scott’s, please visit their website: http://www.astoria-boulevard.com

God, how many times have I written that title over the past few years I have blogged. My cousin, Dana, and my friend, Jeff, are tremendous, faithful bloggers. I always try to use these two as role models with cooking, household items, and other creative things, but manage to fall short. I have concluded I am just not a cook, nor do I enjoy it. I have also concluded that home decor, and even gardening is not my arena, either.

Therefore, blogging shall be mine!

So, for starters…

SOUTH PACIFIC, the little show that had so many derailments from outside sources, and even school administration, bounded into the auditorium with success, and much cheering from the audiences. The cast was just right, and the orchestra was wonderful. The technical component was saved by two brilliant Centerville students, Jack Gallagher and Ryan Grant, and my former student, Andrew Stroud, took over the sound board. And I had three of the most wonderful ladies as producers: Sandy Focht, Suzanne Grote, and Joyce Carter. Joshua Logan’s son, Tom, and his granddaughter, Kate Harrigan, offered wonderful, touching telephone calls to the cast, as well as voice overs prior to curtain. It has been nearly a month since the show and the magic of its journey still lingers.

In some ways, it was a very fun summer, and in others, it was not. Due to the grueling episodes from some outside individuals who wished to work against the productions, it made for a very trying summer. Still there were many pleasant events with visits with the family, a three-day trip to Indiana Beach, Kings Island, and a ton of gatherings at the Carter home in Beavercreek. Jose was present for almost all the SOUTH PACIFIC cast adventures, and seemed to make some good friends.

Today is August 25th, 2009. In one month I turn 45 years old. This is kind of strange as I remember when my grandmother, who was only 40 at my birth, turned 45.

Next door at Fairmont, the freshmen and sophomores are in class – the juniors and seniors join them tomorrow. In some ways I am glad school is starting back up, and again, it heralds the end of summer. I will be directing the Beavecreek Show Choir Band this year, and doing several other things at BHS which I cannot disclose at present.

This summer has been interesting in other ways… people entering my life, people exiting my life… some with whom I care to share a life-long friendship, and others I know are only momentary.

Now, it is on with my day. Teaching, some writing, and then a band booster meeting. Jose begins the evening marching band rehearsals tonight – Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00-9:00pm. So, I will have free time to write, walk, and do whatever needs my attention.

It is May 10th, 2009…

Mother’s Day – a day, in our family when we planted flowers. Mother’s Day – a day, in our family when we planted flowers. It is a day we celebrate our mothers, grandmothers, and all the women in our lives. While I am thrilled I got to spend some time with my own mother this day, I know several friends are mourning the loss of their own mothers, and grandmothers.

This year, May 10th, though joyous for the celebration of my wonderful mother, and remembering many friends and family on this day, it feels heavy.

A former student’s grandmother passed away last month. Mimi was a delightful lady who was always there to cheer on her grandchildren, Jeff and Danielle, at all the Kettering Fairmont music events, as well as their post college careers. Today, Candy, Jeff and Danielle’s mother, is celebrating her first Mother’s Day without her mother…

Last summer, the mother of my dear friend, Duneen DeVore passed away suddenly, and this past Friday, the angels sang Grandma Dora to her rest. Grandma Dora was a member of Normandy United Methodist Church where I was director of music, and I cannot imagine a more beautiful lady. Today, Duneen, Erick and Nick have a double emptiness this Mother’s Day…

An all-time favorite of mine was Peggy Straughen, a choir member of Normandy. I wrote an earlier post on Peggy when she died unexpectedly last summer. Today, I also think of her daughter, Heidi (my all time favorite costumer in the whole world), and her children, and family…

One of the most incredible actresses I know, Katie Pfister Musick, lost both her mother, and her father within six months. Last July her mother died suddenly, and on Christmas Eve, her father slipped away to join his wife.

Last summer, Duneen, Heidi and Katie all lost their mother’s within four days of one another…

Many other friends, and family, also spend this day celebrating mothers and grandmothers who have been sung to their rest by the angels.

For my family, it is no different.

In 1992, my own beloved grandmother departed this world. Grandma Donna, the most beautiful of ladies, is still with me, but oh how I wish she could have enjoyed the great-grandchildren.

I got to spend the weekend with my own mother, for whom I owe so much. Therefore, I am so much more grateful for time spent with my mother knowing that a number of friends are experiencing their first Mother’s Day without their own beloved mothers…

And for my dear friend, Kay Hetzer, this is the eleventhanniversary of her son’s death. At about this time, 11 years ago, I learned that Bill & Kay’s son, Andy, had died in a tragic car accident. Their hearts are even heavier this year due to the loss of a second son…

Today, while celebrating our mothers, let’s all remember those who no longer have their mothers to share this day, and to those mother’s who have lost children…

And on a wonderful note, this arrived from my friend, Debbie Allen:

Darin, thank you. And back to you. Because gender has nothing to do with mothering. You play both parts well.
 Love,
Debbie

I feel as though I am finally catching my breath for the first time in a month.

Where do I begin?

Well, I am vocal director for Beavercreek High School’s production, The Pajama Game. The director and I are up against a few “waves” to pull this production off. Due to some items beyond our control, the students’ morale was been sinking. Finally, two weeks ago, I began vocal rehearsals, and I managed to bring the cast up in spirits, as well as song.

I have also been working WGI (Winter Guard Internationals) and MEPA (Mid-Eastern Performance Association) competitions. For the hours we work, money is applied to our child’s band fees. By the time I have finished with this season, I believe I shall be slightly over what I owe.

Last summer, Jose was not planning on doing marching band, and therefore, I did not attend the processing day. A bill was never sent to me, and it was not until Rita was doing my taxes that she inquired about last year’s marching band fees. There was a balance of $397, and then I knew I would have $415 for this coming season’s fees.

I have actually had a blast working with the different band parents. For three different MEPA competitions I worked at Centerville High School selling T-shirts and raffles for a Yamaha marching snare. I took my lap top, and plenty to work on, and actually accomplished a good bit of writing and editing. These were fun events.

On top of this, I have been working on the Wright Brothers’ musical, and after sending it off to a local director who expressed interest in reading it for a possible production, I pulled out the musical I began writing in 1986, Love Is Eternal – Mary Todd & Abraham Lincoln.

I have truly enjoyed working on these two musicals. I have always loved the musical on Mrs. Lincoln, and am enjoying bringing it back to life.

This past Sunday, after leaving Centerville High School, I hurried to Yellow Springs to meet the Lockharts and their family at Young’s Dairy to celebrate Mike and Valerie’s 25th anniversary. It was such a wonderful time with my adoptive Ohio family.

So, today was actually the first day of spring break. I fell asleep last night by 11:30pm, and was wide awake at 4:00am. I watched an episode of Little House on the Prairie, and then fell back asleep until 7:00am. I fed the pets, took my sugar, ate breakfast, swept the first floor, did a load of laundry, cleaned the kitchen and my desk tops – and was settled at my desk by 9:00am to write on the Lincoln musical.

By 1:30pm I was drained. I thought I’d take a quick power nap so I could watch Bewitchedat 2:00pm. However, I slept until 4:00pm. Jose went to work, and I worked. Flyer and I walked over to One Lincoln Park and walked home with Jose where the neighbor boy was waiting on Jose. Since they were playing XBox, I worked some more.

Tomorrow, I shall teach for four hours, and plan on taking Jose and his friend, Michael, to see a movie at Danburry.

Wednesday I have the entire day off but Jose works – so that shot any chance of us going out of town.

Thursday and Friday I will work at Trent Arena from 6:45am – 11:00pm for the WGI contest. Ugh! But it is a ton of money towards Jose’s band fees.

Saturday morning we will drive to Indiana to meet up with other family for Mother’s birthday dinner. We will spend the night at Mother’s and return home so Jose can work.

Then, Monday, April 6th (Mother’s birthday), I will hit everything full speed – The Pajama Game vocals, writing and editing on Love Is Eternal, perhaps some work on The Bird Let Loose, teaching, and trying to find extra time to spend with Jose during this very busy period. I suppose my weekends will be taken up with rehearsals for Beavercreek’s musical, with the exception of mid-April when I will work one last WGI competition. The production goes up the first weekend of May, and then it is on to all the concerts and events that pile into the last four weeks of the school year.

Ahh… time to rest and enjoy some television…

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day – one of my favorite holidays (and I do not even drink).

050120a

Eleanor Roosevet on her wedding day.

Tomorrow is also the 105th anniversary of Eleanor & Franklin Roosevelt, the 25th Anniversary of my friends, Valerie & Mike Lockhart.

Tomorrow I will have mint green shakes for the students and parents (and siblings who tag along), and THE QUIET MAN will be on the television during the teaching hours.

thequietman

Here is a nice link about the movie: http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.users.qwest.net/~aknot/quiet3x.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.users.qwest.net/~aknot/quietman.htm&usg=__yHDvVgCnX9Q3P-89iWuQwxk8uIc=&h=262&w=350&sz=23&hl=en&start=10&um=1&tbnid=DdgLwqSkMMKTfM:&tbnh=90&tbnw=120&prev=/images%3Fq%3DThe%2BQuiet%2BMan%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26um%3D1%26newwindow%3D1

And here is one of the more beautiful scenes in the movie – featuring one of the most beautifully, haunting songs, “The Isles Of Innisfree.” This is, perhaps, my most favorite melody of all time.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jreYChl7k10&feature=PlayList&p=5ABA67393EE5BB3E&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=7

If you ever get a chance to watch this movie, please do… Barry Fitzgerald is hilarious, and one of the many reasons I love this film.

And to my Irish ancestry, I salute the Clarys, Daughertys, Bannons and Barnetts!

ORIGINAL LYRICS TO THE SONG:
(by Dick Farrelly)

I’ve met some folks who say that I’m a dreamer,
And I’ve no doubt there’s truth in what they say,
But sure a body’s bound to be a dreamer
When all the things he loves are far away.
And precious things are dreams unto an exile.
They take him o’er the land across the sea —
Especially when it happens he’s an exile
From that dear lovely Isle of Inisfree.

And when the moonlight peeps across the rooftops
Of this great city, wondrous though it be,
I scarcely feel its wonder or its laughter.
I’m once again back home in Inisfree.

I wander o’er green hills through dreamy valleys
And find a peace no other land could know.
I hear the birds make music fit for angels
And watch the rivers laughing as they flow.
And then into a humble shack I wander —
My dear old home — and tenderly behold
The folks I love around the turf fire gathered.
On bended knees ,their rosary is told.

But dreams don’t last —
Though dreams are not forgotten —
And soon I’m back to stern reality.
But though they pave the footways here with gold dust,
I still would choose the Isle of Inisfree.

* Gaelic words meaning “love of my heart”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xn7rjlOxfc

There is a fascinating young man in college. I never had him as a student, but saw a good deal of his set designs while he was still a high school student. They were incredible.

He posted something in his Face Book status that indicated he is terribly frustrated. I Googled a poem I was given in 7th grade by my band director, and found this inspirational video.

Enjoy!

http://www.thedontquitpoem.com/

Who are they, and where are they today? Some current photos of a wonderful group of performers from Theatre Under The Stars 1995 production, WEST SIDE STORY.

andy1   ann-marie   beth-raey

betsy   carla   ernani

jason-ruckman   kevan   jeff-ryan

michael   ryan   tom-lehman 

torie   weldon   mike-n   doc-becky

 

Another busy week behind us…

Beginning last Monday I was not feeling well, and my temperature hovered around 100-101 degrees. My sister-in-law, Stacia, had been taken ill with strep last weekend, and then my brother, Destin, got it this week. Their boys, Parker and Fred, have been up and down with this winter’s crud.

Some of my activities:

  1. finishing touches on ACTION Adoption’s display board for adoption fair
  2. taught lessons
  3. helped Jose with homework (he particularly asks me to help him study for history because, “Dad gives me a ton more information and makes it fun.”)
  4. helped Beavercreek show choir on Tuesday
  5. got cable installed Thursday (ugh… I hate addictions)

bewitched

Friday morning, I woke to discover the television still on The History Channel. So, at 6:00am, I watched MARRIED WITH CHILDREN, followed by a great History Channel documentary on The Declaration of Independence. I ran a few errands and got my hair cut, returning to my desk by 10:00am where I worked on the Wright Brothers’ musical for five hours while watching THE BEVERLY HILLBILLIES, BEWITCHED, and THE WEST WING.

westwing-cast-2001-2002

Ahhh….  

Friday night, after I taught lessons, we drove to ACTION where Jose gave a remarkable presentation about his birth family’s experiences, foster care life, and being adopted. I am so proud of my son, and especially, his public speaking skills. Although it was somewhat informal, he was stellar! One family had been in a private meeting and entered about five minutes late; Jose paused while they got situated, smiling at the family the entire time. Then, he briefly introduced himself, and explained his topic. Brilliant, and so very considerate.

Upon our return, Jose hit his XBox, and I hit The History Channel for “The Assassination of Abraham Lincoln” and “Stealing Lincoln’s Body.” By 3:00am, I was asleep.

At 6:30am Saturday I was wide awake watching CNN… yes!

8:30am I was at the adoption fair setting up the display.

percussion

At 10:30am I left the adoption fair and hurried to Fairmont’s Trent Arena where I worked the admission’s table for the WGI percussion competition. I got to work with Steve & Lorie Lamb, again, and a new couple that I also a new couple whose daughter will be a freshman next year. That certainly made my scheduled time of 11:00am- 7:00pm o fast.

While the contest was starting, bad weather had begun moving in from the north. Many parents from Toledo and Michigan had rough drives down to Kettering. When I left at 7:00pm, the driveway was iced, as were my car’s windows.

Jose and I went to supper at a Chinese buffet. I was still feeling uncomfortable, still. I returned to my bedroom with NOW, VOYAGER (1942) with Bette Davis. My grandmother always loved Bette Davis, and I remembered her telling me this was one of her favorite movies. It was very good, and of course, it was scored by one of my two favorite film composers, Max Steiner, who scored GONE WITH THE WIND (my other favorite is John Williams).

This morning I woke with CNN, and waited for a telephone call to see if I would be needed for the finals round of the percussion competition. While fixing an egg white omelet, Jose came downstairs, feeling miserable. I took his temperature and he had a 102 fever. He retreated to the basement with a half gallon of orange juice, after taking some meds. I had him call his manager at One Lincoln Park, and instructed him to drink the OJ and tons of water.

My head is congested, but the Mucinex is keeping it flowing… yuk!

I am propped up in bed, listening to Robert Schuller, ready to work on the Wright Brothers’ musical. Flyer is snuggled next to me (she pulls down the sham and pillows on the passenger side, and props her head up to watch television), and Logan is on my lap, curled up under the hospital table on which my laptop is situated… this hospital table was one of my best purchases – allowing me to work from my bed late at night or early in the morning – or on lazy Sunday mornings.

 I have three students this afternoon beginning at 4:00pm. And I hope to spend the evening resting with… well, cable.

 

Last night I told my son that I was officially a part of the Twentieth Century.

“But, Dad, this is the Twenty-first Century.”

Yes. That is true. But, I finally did a very Twentieth Century thing – I finally got cable television.

With the digital transition, I figured this was the time to investigate. I could have gone with just the converter boxes, but decided to give cable a shot. So, I set up Dish with AT&T. I paid them $99 for set-up and they sent the worker out. When he saw the line of trees bordering the easement between my yard and the high school’s property, he quickly assessed there was no way we could do satellite. The worker made a call into the company, and assured me there would be a supervisor coming shortly to validate this worker’s assessment. Three days later, there was still no visit from a supervisor.

On top of this, $40 was reapplied to my banking account. $59 was not returned from AT&T. This only tops the list of numerous grievances I have with this company.

So, I contacted Time-Warner. My God! Sales people can be vultures!

This cable – dish – anything fairly technical stuff – is very foreign to me. In fact, when I was investigating it a month ago, I sent a note to four different friends (and my brother) because I knew they would address my questions in layman’s terms, and in a manner I could comprehend. The vultures at Time-Warner, though not outwardly pushy, just could not seem to hone in on my needs, and could not assist me thinking through the process. It was always, “With what you described, you should probably go with this….” – always something that I knew was not what I wanted as I had the information pulled up in front of me on the computer screen.

My neighbor lady’s niece is in the customer service department at Time-Warner, and we set it up so she could contact me. Trying to get to Joyce through Time-Warner was more difficult than walking into the White House from off the street with no appointment. Finally, it was accomplished, and Joyce was wonderful.

So, last night, my home entered the Twentieth Century.

I never felt the need for cable, especially since I work so much from home. I did not want to become addicted to television. Now that WEST WING is no longer a weekly ritual, I stick mostly to TWO AND A HALF MEN, FAMILY GUY, and documentaries on PBS. That is pretty much my television line-up, aside from my Netflix documentaries and biographies. When I visit Mother in Indiana, I will stay up most of the night watching The History Channel – always returning to Ohio exhausted.

The cable guy had an easy installment since the house was already set up for cable, and the lines ran to every room but the kitchen.
 
After he left, I realized there was no menu indicating the new channels/stations. I heard Jose in the basement playing XBox, so I knew that he would not know the channels. I searched on line, and could find nothing. About 20 minutes into my search, Jose comes upstairs and says, “I bet you are loving channel 52.”  I asked what was on 52… “The History Channel.”  He then proceeded to identify me about 15-20 channels from memory! I asked how he knew them considering he was on XBox, and he said he just ran through the channels and memorized them.
 
Now, if he could only memorize his German, items from English and biology….
I decided I needed to get some work accomplished and I turned back to my monitor… within a few minutes I was channel surfing. Ugh… too many sports channels and why in the heck are there shopping channels?
I decided to delete some of unnecessary channels. It was rather easy to navigate. The televisions in my study and bedroom (from where I often work, as well) are identical, so they were simply. The living room’s television had the cable entering into the television; however, I placed it into the DVD/video machine so that the entire stereo system would also be connected. Wonderful!
I returned to my study, pleased with myself.
At age 44, I had adjusted the cable channels on three televisions, reattached the living room cable into the DVD/video machine… all without the assistance of my teenage son!

Hmmm… interesting.

I just finished watching the movie, THE FIVE PEOPLE WE MEET IN HEAVEN. I have always believed we each have a place in one another’s lives – affecting one another in ways beyond our awareness, even beyond our grasp.

“The world is full of stories, but the stories are all one.”

Incredible.

I thought I would be more moved as the credits rolled up, but I just feel satisfied. There are days when I feel as Eddie did in the movie – “a non-contributor to life, and those around me.” Some days, I feel as though the purpose to my existence has somehow been a joke. However, I know, deep down, that I have contributed much to life, and those who have been in my life, or crossed paths, even for a moment.

The concept seems to mirror, in some ways, the movie IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE. I always hope that I have touched lives, just as lives have touched mine.

I agree with the author of the book, I just don’t believe life is without a purpose, and that we merely become “worm food.” I like the concept that death is not the end of all things, but the beginning of all things. There must be so much more to what we endure in this life, and I don’t technically buy into the “mansion on the hilltop with streets paved in gold.”

The main germ of this movie is that we are all somebody… no one is a nobody. The main character, Eddie, feels insignificant, but he learns he has touched many lives throughout his earthly journey.

“No man is a failure who has friends.” IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

I BELIEVE from ALTAR BOYZ

One beam of light, is enough to see where you’re going
One wrong turn, is enough to loose your way
One choice, is all you have to make
One ounce of faith could save the day
I believe, that I came to know you for a reason
I believe, that the things that you say will come true
I believe that with you in my life I’ll make it
I believe in you .stlyrics

One Mistake, doesn’t have to mean that it’s over
One bad day, only means there’s work to do
One night, is sometimes all it takes

To realize one thing is true
I believe, that I came to know you for a reason
I believe, that the things that you say will come true
I believe that with you in my life I’ll make it
I believe in you

Take a picture of me now, take a look at who I am
Yesterday I wasn’t half as strong
Take a picture of us all, what we’ve been and what we are
Look at that, and tell me I’m wrong

I BELIEVE!

That I came to know you for a reason
I believe, that the things that you say will come true
I believe that with you in my life I’ll make it
I believe in you
I believe in You

The long week is over, and the weekend is upon us.

Most of the week was spent in writing on the Wright Brothers’ musical, teaching, helping Jose with homework, prepping students for college auditions, cleaning the kitchen, doing laundry, building a display unit for ACTION Adoption, and assisting Sharon Busch with the Beavercreek High School show choir.

It was a good week, and one that was very productive and energized.

Thursday, the 200th birthday of President Abraham Lincoln, I received many “birthday wishes” on behalf of the president. One student’s family even called to see if there would be birthday cake… of course!

Thursday night Jose and I watched SCHINDLER’S LIST since he is studying WWII in history. Beautifully written, directed, acted and filmed… but man, so depressing. But, it made me appreciate so many things I have in my life, and raised my awareness of the atrocities endured by millions just 65 years ago.

At 1:00am Jose went to the basement with his XBox360, and I crawled into bed, tired from the week. I began watching the DVD, THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN, and fell asleep. Right now, I am watching the rest of it this morning, sitting up in bed at my laptop with Flyer snuggled beside me.

It is an interesting, and deep movie. The description of the book reads:

The Five People You Meet in Heaven is a novel by Mitch Albom. It recounts the life and death of a simple yet dignified old man, Eddie. After dying in a freak accident, Eddie finds himself in heaven where he encounters five people who have significantly affected his life, whether he realized it at the time or not. Each imparts a divine piece of wisdom unto him, instilling a deeper comprehension regarding the most intimate facets of life. In the beginning he dedicates the book to his uncleEdward Beitchman. He says that he wants people like his uncle who felt unimportant here on earth to realize, finally, how much they mattered and how they were loved.

Albom’s first novel, The Five People You Meet in Heaven was published in 2003 by Hyperion, and remained on the New York Times Best Seller list for 95 weeks. It was the bestselling first time novel ever written.

For lunch, Jose and I will head to our favorite Chinese buffet downtown, and run some errands. I will write until it is time to head to ACTION Adoption.

The weekend? Well, I will finish the display frame for ACTION, write, grab some movies with Jose, and maybe doing something fun. I am sure Jose will want to spend as much time with his XBox. Since he has displayed so much effort, and hard work towards his grades, he deserves a relaxing weekend.

 

The long, long weekend is over…

If parents work shifts at the Winter Guard International (WGI) or percussion contests, money will be applied towards your child’s marching band account. So, I volunteered for Saturday. Kathy Symes, the parent coordinator, and one of my favorite band moms (I haven’t forgotten you, Jill Chabut!) asked me earlier in the week if I could work all day Saturday, and all day Sunday.

Sure!

Saturday morning  I left the Haasienda at 8:30am to walk to Trent Arena on the other side of the high school, while chatting with Mother briefly on the telephone.

trent-arena-ext

Trent Arena on the Kettering Fairmont High School campus.

Saturday, from 9:00am until 7:00pm I worked the admissions table. The couple who assisted me on the first shift, Steve and Lorie, were an absolute blast. They both grew up in Fairborn. Steve was in the military, and they lived in multiple locations before moving to Kettering.  Their daughter is a trombone player, and a sophomore. Steve and Lorie could not be more adorable!

The afternoon shift flew by – though, my partners at the admission table were not as exciting. However, I got to see several friends from Ball State, and by the day’s end my stomach muscles were sore from holding them in every time I ran into someone from college!

I joked around with the guests coming in for the day – putting on their paper bracelets – alot more fun than handling money which I hate (instant math!). I got tons of laughs from the people as I explained the paper wrist wraps were compliments of James Free Jewelers, and that everyone from a one hundred mile radius was flocking in to buy one. The winter guard students assured us that you could wear the bracelets in the shower for three months before they rotted off.

Now, if you have never been to a WGI event, you are missing some fun experiences. They are so different than show choir contests. Winter guard and percussion ensembles seem, to me, to be completely made up of a different type of teenager. Many guards have teen boys in them, and the open or world class guards have a number of guys in them. There were a ton of male choreographers in attendance, both as staff, and in the audience. And perhaps 90% of the men in attendance for these events are gay, or heterosexually challenged.

Now – having set up the flavor of the event…

This one lady entered the lobby, and she was dressed To The Nines! Sharp. She unbuttoned her coat, revealing an ample bosom. However, the ample bosom was quite exposed as the neckline descended in a long “V” ending just above her navel. As she paid her money I could not stop staring at how freely they seemed to dangle, apparently unaccompanied by a sturdy undergarment. After paying for her entry fee, she moved to my end of the table, offering her wrist for me to wrap the paper bracelet. Upon closer inspection it was terribly obvious that she was not wearing a bra, as “Twirly and Whirly” were about to Samba right on out of her sheer, black blouse (which, come on… not appropriate for this type of event!).

The mother sitting next to me waited politely until the woman had left the table, and then grabbed my arm with the most astonished look on her face. Thank heavens I was not the only one to have witnessed “the twins.”

“Why would she wear such a top to a high school function?” my admission table partner asked.

“Well, if you ask me,” I replied, “if she is here to pick up a man, this is the WRONG place to find one in this crowd!”

Botticelli or da Vinci could have taken their easels and made a day out of it with some angel or Madonna painting!

Jose worked from 2:00pm-7:00pm, and by the time I arrived home Saturday night I was dead to the world – but could not rest. I remember TWO AND A HALF MEN coming on at 11:30pm, but I don’t recall anything after that until I woke up at 4:30am. I coaxed my self back to sleep until 6:30am.

Sunday, I walked back to the high school at 8:15am (while chatting again with Mother) and was in an entirely different position. Instead of sitting and enjoying people, I was inside Trent Arena at the very top, coordinating all the judges’ score sheets and the hand-held digital recorders. I had two students to work the balcony and floor, but I still managed to climb up and down the bleacher steps a good 60 times. There were a few times I just did not know if the heart was going to keep up with me… but with some encouragement, and some medication, we made those steps look carefree.

trent-arean-int

The shows were interesting, and incredibly delightful. I managed to squeeze in one restroom break between 9:30am-3:30pm. I know, from years of experience, to pack items on which I can work when board, and snacks. I was a good little boyscout. And I ripped through some chunks of the Wright Brothers’ musical.

Towards the end, an elderly couple entered – he looked every  bit the grandfather, and she was dazzling. The WGI staff was making quite a stir about them, reminding me of Len Thomas and Brian Breed tripping over themselves to get to Virginia Waring – the wife of Fred Waring – when we were having a cocktail party at Penn State in 1984 prior to the television taping of Fred Waring’s America. Eventually, the couple moved near me, taking seats set up on the indoor track around the arena balcony.

The lady turned, looked at me… smiled. I returned the smile. She looked familiar but I was so tired that I could not place where I knew her.

During a break between guards, she smiled again, and then I recognized her!

Marlene Miller.

Fred J. Miller, and his beautiful wife, Marlene, have one of the number one band clinic organizations, and band uniform/equipment companies in the nation, and headquartered right here in South Dayton. They are co-presidents of their family run business, and their three children are the vice-presidents. The Fred J. Miller drum-major clinics are fantastic, and they also provide many of the same clinics as Smith-Wallbridge Clinics with which I was associated in high school and college.

millers

Fred & Marlene Miller, and their three children.

As Mr. & Mrs. Miller and I chatted, I discovered they were good friends with one of Elwood’s most prominent choreographers, Tudy Smith. Tudy was one of the nation’s foremost baton twirlers, and her daughter, Selita, was Purdue’s Golden Girl. For many years, the Elwood Variety Shows sparkled under the brilliant designs of Mrs. Smith, and her musical companions, Clifford Brugger and Rex Jenkins, band legends in Indiana. Tudy was also the choreographer for the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City for many years. A sweet, beautiful and wonderfully classy lady!

tudy_smith

Tudy Smith

Fred J. Miller, and Tudy had also served as presidents of the United States Twirling Association (USTA) throughout the years. Mrs. Miller told me that Tudy had just been inducted to the Twirling Hall of Fame.

I had the best chat with the Millers, who delighted in sharing that they were celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, and that they had met, and fell in love at Smith-Wallbridge Drum-major Camp in Syracuse, Indiana. We discussed all the familiar names of Dr. Charles Henzie, Merl Smith, Margaret Smith, Gary Smith… great teachers in my drum-major days!

By 3:00pm the contest was completed, and the awards were given.

I stayed to help with tear down, and clean up, and then dragged my very tired, aching body home.

However, by 6:30pm I was sweeping the house in preparation for the teaching week, folding laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and prepping my weekly calendar. I received a note from Valerie Lockhart – Mike’s father passed away this morning. Just after reading her email at 7:30pm, Jose called from work so I could pick him up and drive him to SIGNS youth group.

While he was at SIGNS, I ran to Dollar General to get paper items, and then to Meijers to get groceries. By 8:30pm I was back at the YMCA (where SIGNS is held), and home by 9:00pm. We unloaded groceries, and I baked a cake for my neighbor lady’s birthday, some brownies for the Lockharts, and prepped some food for this week since it will be a BUSY week.

Monday thru Thursdays are my busiest days as I have 12-14 students each day, and only 8 on Fridays. My Friday students have been squeezed into the other four days this week since we have school off this Friday for the long Presidents’ Day weekend. Tuesday night I will cut out slightly earlier than normal to work with Beavercreek High School’s show choir.

And on top of all this… a theatre director has indicated interest in the Wright Brothers’ musical to see if it might be something a local, and reputable theatre company could produce. So… while it is so nice to have this nibble, there is certainly no assurance of a production. But, I am hopeful, and working like the Devil to tie up some loose ends.

Hopefully, Friday Jose and I will be able to fully celebrate his birthday which was January 14th. With show choir contests, youth group events, WGI contest, and other items, we have not been able to celebrate his 17th birthday.

This week our weather is expected to be in the 40’s and 50’s… beautiful! I am hoping to squeeze in some walking time… just where is yet to be determined. I do some of my best writing while walking!

It is now 11:18pm and I am signing off and heading to bed… I WANT MY BED!!!

Much love to all!

PS. Just as I was ready to sign off, Jose came in to show me he had been upstairs working on homework. He realized that he had forgotten a biology assignment of 69 questions. He said, “I was so exhausted and was wanting to go to bed, but I knew the right thing was to get the assignment done.”

YES!

So, for nearly 45 minutes, we talked about academics, life, adoption, and how far he has come these past five years. My son is finally kicking in to the academics, and realizing his great potential!

And though I am still terribly tired, I have an energy surging through me that is nothing more than the knowledge of the blessings I feel at this moment…

Last night I saw the stage musical, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and began wondering if the Sherman Brothers had penned some of the new songs. Yes, indeed! They are still living, and still writing music!

Sherman Brothers are Academy Award-winning American songwriters who specialize in musical films. They are Robert B. Sherman (born December 19, 1925) and Richard M. Sherman (born June 12, 1928).

sherman_brothers_the_1_500

The Sherman Brothers wrote more motion-picture musical song scores than any other songwriting team in film history,[1] working for Walt Disney during the last six years of his life. Film scores of the Sherman Brothers include Mary Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Jungle Book and The Aristocats.

Robert and Richard Sherman began writing songs together in 1951 on a challenge from their father, Tin Pan Alley songwriter Al Sherman. The brothers wrote together and with different songwriting partners throughout the rest of the decade.

In 1958, Robert founded the music publishing company Music World Corporation, which later enjoyed a landmark relationship with Disney’s BMI-affiliated publishing arm, Wonderland Music Company. That same year, the Sherman Brothers had their first top-ten hit with “Tall Paul,” sung by Mouseketeer Judy Harriet on the Surf Records label and then covered by Mouseketeer Annette Funicello. The success of this song yielded the attention of Walt Disney, who eventually hired the Sherman Brothers as Staff Songwriters for Walt Disney Studios. The first song they wrote on personal assignment by Walt Disney was “Strummin’ Song” in 1961. It was used in the Annette Funicello made-for-television movie called The Horsemasters.

While at Disney, the Sherman Brothers wrote more motion-picture musical scores than any other songwriters in the history of film. They also wrote what is perhaps their best-known song, “It’s a Small World (after all)” for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Since then, some have claimed that this has become the most translated and performed song on Earth, although this is largely justified by the fact that it is played continuously at Disney’s leisure park rides of the same name.[2]

poppins4-715158

In 1965, the Sherman Brothers won two Academy Awards for Mary Poppins, which includes the songs “Feed The Birds,” “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,” and the Oscar-winning “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” Since Mary Poppins’ premiere, the Shermans have subsequently earned nine Academy Award nominations, two Grammy Awards, four Grammy Award nominations, and an incredible 23 gold- and platinum-certified albums.

Robert and Richard Sherman worked directly for Walt Disney, completing the scores for the live-action musical films The Happiest Millionaire and The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band until Disney’s death in 1966. Since leaving the company, the brothers have worked freelance as songwriters on scores of motion pictures, television shows, theme-park exhibits, and stage musicals.

Their first non-Disney assignment came with Albert R. Broccoli‘s motion picture production Chitty Chitty Bang Bang in 1968, which garnered the brothers their third Academy Award Nomination.

In 1970, the Shermans returned to Disney for a brief stint where they completed work on The Aristocats and Bedknobs & Broomsticks. The latter film garnered the brothers their fourth and fifth Oscar Nominations, respectively. 1972 saw the release of Snoopy Come Home, for which the brothers received a Grammy nomination.

In 1973, the Sherman Brothers also made history by becoming the only Americans ever to win First Prize at the Moscow Film Festival for Tom Sawyer, for which they also authored the screenplay.

In 1976, “The Slipper and the Rose” was picked to be the Royal Command Performance of the year. The performance was attended by Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. A modern musical adaptation of the classic Cinderella story, “Slipper”, also featured songs, score, and screenplay by the Sherman Brothers. Two further Academy Award nominations were garnered by the brothers for the film. That same year the Sherman Brothers received their star on the Hollywood “Walk of Fame” directly across from Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

chitty_beach

The Sherman Brothers’ numerous other Disney and non-Disney top box office film credits include The Jungle Book (1967), The Aristocats (1970), The Parent Trap (1961), The Parent Trap (1998), Charlotte’s Web (1973) , The Many Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (1977), Snoopy, Come Home (1972), Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971), and Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1992).

Outside the motion-picture realm, their Tony Award-nominated smash hit Over Here! (1974) was the biggest-grossing original Broadway musical of that year. The Sherman Brothers have also written numerous top selling songs including “You’re Sixteen,” which holds the distinction of reaching Billboard’s #1 spot twice: first with Johnny Burnette in 1960 and then with Ringo Starr fourteen years later. Other top-ten hits include “Pineapple Princess,” “Let’s Get Together,” and more.

In 2000, the Sherman Brothers wrote the song score for the Disney film The Tigger Movie. This film marked the brothers’ first major motion picture for the Disney company in over 28t years.

In 2002, Chitty hit the London stage, receiving rave revues. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is currently the most successful stage show ever produced at the London Palladium, boasting the longest run in that century-old theater’s history. On April 28, 2005, a second Chitty company premiered on Broadway (New York City) at the Hilton Theatre. The Sherman Brothers wrote an additional six songs specifically for the new stage productions. A successful third company of Chitty is currently touring throughout the United Kingdom.

In 2003, four Sherman Brothers’ musicals ranked in the Top 10 Favorite Children’s Films of All Time in a British nationwide poll reported by the BBC. The Jungle Book (1967) ranked at #7, Mary Poppins (1964) ranked at #8, The Aristocats (1970) ranked at #9, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) topped the list at #1.

In recent years, with Robert’s move to London, England, United Kingdom, the brothers have written many new songs for the stage musical presentations of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins, produced collaboratively by Disney and Cameron Mackintosh.

For their contributions to the motion picture industry, the Sherman brothers have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6918 Hollywood Blvd. and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame on June 9, 2005. On November 16, 2006, Mary Poppins premiered at the New Amsterdam Theatre on Broadway.

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On Saturday, October 4, 2008, Richard Sherman appeared as a surprise guest on stage at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles during The Swell Season‘s’ sold-out concert and performed “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” with the band.

The Sherman Brothers receive the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor bestowed upon artists from the United States Government. (left to right Robert B. Sherman, Richard M. Sherman and U.S. President George W. Bush at The White House, November 17, 2008.

  • In 2000, the Sherman Brothers wrote the award winning score to The Tigger Movie which achieved number-one status in both theatrical box office and video sales.
  • The Sherman Brothers’ classic motion picture Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was adapted into a London West End Musical in 2002 and premiered at the London Palladium on April 16, 2002, featuring many new songs and a reworked score by both Sherman Brothers. It was nominated for a 2003 Laurence Olivier Theatre Award for Best New Musical. The Sherman Brothers each received the Musical Theatre Award from the Variety Club of Great Britain that year as well for Chitty, which finished a record breaking three-and-a-half-year run at the Palladium, becoming the longest running show in the theater’s century long history. In 2004, the premiere of Mary Poppins arrived on the stage. In 2005, Poppins was nominated for nine Olivier Awards. In 2005, Chitty went to Broadway and was nominated for nine Tonys and also began its nationwide (UK) tour.

Since 2002, Robert Sherman has lived in London, England. He moved from Beverly Hills, while Richard Sherman remained in California. Surprisingly, however, the separation did not impede the brothers’ collaborative process; they have credited this to the technological advents of fax machines, e-mail and low-cost international telephone service. Also, both brothers travel between Los Angeles, New York, and London frequently, which also facilitates their work. Since Robert’s move, the brothers have continued to collaborate on various musical plays as well as a feature-length animated film musical that incorporates an original story, song score and screenplay[4].

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IT WAS TRULY SCRUMPTIOUS!

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“It was more than spectacular – to use the vernacular – it’s wizard, it’s smashing, it’s keen.”

Forty years ago, I opened a Christmas present, and to my delight was a cast iron model of the car from the newest musical motion picture, CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG starring Dick Van Dyke.

Tonight, my dear friends, Bill & Ann Impson, and I went to see the musical stage version of CHITTY CHITTY BANG BANG at Dayton’s Schuster Center of the Performing Arts. This production was “phantasmagorical!” The new songs were blended well, and though the story’s plot was slightly different than the beloved movie, it was still “uncategorical.”

It was fun!

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It was not a heady, deep thinking show – but one that returned me to the age of four or five, when life was so innocent and splendid. Though the car was barely warmed up by the time I returned home from the seven minute drive, it made no difference because my mind and mouth were focused on the music of the title song – not the temperature of 14 degrees!

The songs are still whirling through my head. 

And the car lifted into the air, turned, tilted toward the audience, and landed… although I figured out the mechanics of the hydraulic wench, it was still magical.

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I had the best time with Bill & Ann, and am so glad I could share a moment of one of my favorite musicals, and cherished childhood memories.

“You’re sleek as a thoroughbred.
Your seats are a feather bed.
You’ll turn everybody’s head today.
We’ll glide on our motor trip
With pride in our ownership
The envy of all we survey.

It’s uncategorical,

A fuel burning oracle,

A phantasmagorical machine.

It’s more than spectacular,

To use the vernacular,

It’s wizard, it’s smashing, it’s keen.”

 

I heard the recording of the Bush twins reading their letter on The Today Show… it was beautiful. What great young women these lovely gals have turned out to be.

CNN) — Jenna and Barbara Bush know a lot about growing up in the White House.

The Bush twins told Sasha and Malia Obama to “remember who your dad really is.”

The Bush twins told Sasha and Malia Obama to "remember who your dad really is."

The twin daughters of former President Bush were 7 when their grandfather, former President George H.W. Bush, was inaugurated, and 20 when their father became president.

Like their dad, who left a note for President Barack Obama, Jenna and Barbara Bush wrote Tuesday to Obama’s daughters about what to expect in the weeks and months ahead.

“We also first saw the White House through the innocent, optimistic eyes of children,” the twins wrote in an open letter published in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal.

The twins reminisce in the letter about important events and historic moments they were able to be part of in a presidential family.

But the Bushes also tried to prepare Sasha and Malia for some sobering truths.

“Although it’s an honor and full of so many extraordinary opportunities, it isn’t always easy being a member of the club you are about to join,” they said. “Our dad, like yours, is a man of great integrity and love; a man who always put us first. We still see him now as we did when we were 7: as our loving daddy.”

But as their father was increasingly criticized in the media and mocked by late night comedians, the twins said they learned a lesson.

“He is our father, not the sketch in a paper or part of a skit on TV,” they wrote. “Many people will think they know him, but they have no idea how he felt the day you were born, the pride he felt on your first day of school, or how much you both love being his daughters. So here is our most important piece of advice: Remember who your dad really is.”

It helps, wrote the Bushes, to surround yourself with loyal friends.

The rest of the letter was more lighthearted, with the twins sharing some of their favorite memories of living in the White House, including playing house and hide-and-seek in what many children would consider to be the ultimate playground.

“When we played house, we sat behind the East Sitting Room’s massive curtains as the light poured in illuminating her yellow walls,” the girls said. “Our 7-year-old imaginations soared as we played in the enormous, beautiful rooms; our dreams, our games, as romantic as her surroundings. At night, the house sang us quiet songs through the chimneys as we fell asleep.”

They also told the Obama girls to embrace any opportunity they had: “When your dad throws out the first pitch for the Yankees, go to the game.”

“In fact, go to anything and everything you possibly can: the Kennedy Center for theater, state dinners, Christmas parties (the White House staff party is our favorite!), museum openings, arrival ceremonies, and walks around the monuments.”

“Just go,” they wrote.

The twins also reminded Sasha and Malia to be themselves — kids — saying even if they travel over holidays like Halloween, the girls should dress up and trick-or-treat down a plane aisle.

“Slide down the banister of the solarium, go to T-ball games, have swimming parties, and play Sardines on the White House lawn,” the Bush girls said. “Have fun and enjoy your childhood in such a magical place to live and play.”

Jenna and Barbara Bush told the girls to cherish the pet that their father so publicly promised them.

“Sometimes you’ll need the quiet comfort that only animals can provide,” they said.

“Four years goes by so fast,” they wrote. “So absorb it all, enjoy it all!”

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I have been blessed with numerous cousins on both sides of my family. Due to where I was born in the mix, most of my cousins are either older or younger, and growing up, I never felt as though I had cousins who were considered playmates. My great-grandparents, grandparents and parents were mostly elder children, and their siblings seemed to trail behind them. Therefore, my parents’ first cousins were mostly a little older than myself. Those 2nd and 3rd cousins who were my age always seemed to live far away.

Now, at 44, I have begun to know a number of my cousins, and communicate with them fairly regularly. One cousin, in particular, is Dana Barmes Kleumke. Dana’s father, Uncle Danny, is my great-uncle – the younger brother of my grandfather. Uncle Danny andmy mother are nine months apart in age; therefore, he was more like a brother to my mother. Dana is about four years behind me in age, and seems to me, one of the most remarkable individuals. Her blog wears me out as she escorts us on her journey each day as a stay-at-home mom who home-schools her two sons, Mat and Joey. I know Dana’s mother, my Aunt Bonnie, has always been resourceful, but Dana make’s Martha Stewart and all the great names of resourcefulness appear shabby and lazy. I am busy in my own way, and I can appreciate the differences of our lives – but there are some mornings when I shake my head at all she has accomplished by the time I have taken my sugar, used the bathroom, fed the dog and cat, and prepared my cup of tea. Her blog is definitely worth reading.

I have a number of cousins who are Mother’s age who were/are teachers. Judy Smith-Hallett, her husband, Jerry Hallett, and Stan Daugherty were always so appealing to me because they were teachers. I was always interested in Judy, but we only managed to see one another at weddings and funerals where lengthy conversations were difficult, at best. After my grandfather died in June 2004, I have gotten to know Judy more, and love how she always has a seeming calmness about her.

Stan Daugherty was a well-known basketball coach in Central Indiana, and was at Elwood Community High School for several years. Fortunately, he was there my last three years of high school and was my Algebra teacher. Stan was later to become an invaluable role model as he was great at providing 2-3 different options to approach problem solving so that each student would understand. Today, as a teacher, I will keep finding the right path for each student until the mission is accomplished.

My other cousins – Janice Smith-Kleyla and Susan Hughes-Cleaver, from Mother’s side, were my bubbly cousins. Though I do not see them often, I always feel as though no time has elapsed.

My grandmother, Donna Clary-Barmes, had a much younger sister, Joyce Clary-Riser. Aunt Joyce, who lives in Alexandria, Indiana, has two daughters, Kim, 42 (lives in Florida), and Debbie, who will be 39 this June. Since Kim lives in Florida there is no contact, but I do have email contact with Debbie. Although they are my mother’s first cousins, they always seemed like my first cousins, and I always enjoy any time with them, as well as Aunt Joyce.

The sad part is – all of us are busy with our families – children, and for a good number, grandchildren. Debbie has children a little younger than mine, and Dana, as well as her two siblings, Daniel and Dama, are busy with their little ones. I wish we would all make a pact that at least one day each summer we could all come together for a picnic. I did have a Barmes Family reunion several years ago, and due to the  hecticness of some trying family issues, I was forced to abandon the planning of a second reunion. Hopefully this can be done, soon.

When Mother was born, one of the first relatives to see her was Uncle Raymond andAunt Betty (Church) Daugherty. Uncle Raymond was actually my Grandpa Leroy’s uncle, despite the fact Raymond was four months older than Grandpa. Grandma Donna and Aunt Betty had grown up together near Summitville, Indiana. Two best friends married an uncle and nephew. When I was born, according to my baby book, one of my first visits was from my great-great uncle andaunt, Raymond and Betty, andtheir sixteen year old son, Steve. When I adopted my first son, who was from Texas, I called Uncle Raymond and arranged to visit them in Spring, Texas, where they were living – and still are – with Steve. So, they had the honor of welcoming a third generation of our family’s line.

When I was little, Steve was at Ball State, along with Letterman, Jane Pauley, and Joyce DeWitt. He moved on to radio and television, popularly known in Indiana as Steve Michaels. Whenever we would see him at community events I was always so excited, and proud, that the well-known radio and television personality was my cousin. At one point, Steve had his own television show that aired early every morning. I rose, a good 45 minutes before I had to get up for school, and eat my breakfast while watching Steve on television. I know the content of the interviews was beyond my understanding, but all that mattered was the fact my cousin was on television.

As I grew older, I realized that Steve’s accomplishments were well within my grasp, and it hit home when I was hired to appear in a television special, FRED WARING’S AMERICA. I had no idea who Fred Waring was, and could not understand why my grandparents were so thrilled. They had always rejoiced in my accomplishments, but the idea of their grandson appearing on a Fred Waring program was monumental. One comment stuck with me. Grandma was telling one of her friends about the impending program, and said, “Oh, he’s just like our cousin, Steve Daugherty, who was on television.”

The fact I was going to be on television in a Fred Waring special did not mean nearly as much as being compared to my cousin, Steve.

Since visiting Steve, andhis parents, I have been in weekly, almost daily contact with Steve – personal emails, family history, fond remembrances, and always, a healthy plethora of (naughty) jokes! Thank God my sense of humor matches Steve’s.

I had received several emails these past few months regarding the health of Uncle Raymond and Aunt Betty, and it is sad to learn that, Aunt Betty espepcially, are not in the best of shape. While tending to his parents, Steve was also battling health issues.

Earlier this week, Steve wrote and shared he has pancreatic cancer.

Upon receiving the news, I pushed it to the back of my mind. While working through my health issues with heart-related items, it just seemed impossible that this sentence would be given to Steve. This morning, during our weekly Sunday chat, I could tell Mother is quite upset, though, as always, she maintains her typical calmness. She knew more about Steve’s condition, and began sharing the details. I was all too familiar with the life expectancy of those who battle pancreatic cancer, but in my mind these past few days, I could not connect it with Steve. Mother said Steve reported to her that it would be six months to a year.

It was a struggle for me to continue the remainder of our conversation because my mind descended into a fog. After hanging up, I sat at my desk and sobbed. After a few minutes, I decided to write Steve, reminding him to be courageous, and strong, for at the age of 44, I still looked to him as a hero, and a role model. Steve responded with a grateful note, and some words I shall always cherish. I do fear that this will bring down the already deteriorating health of Uncle Raymond and Aunt Betty.

As children, our heroes are unconquerable in life, and it is a struggle when we realize they are human. Despite the fact I have rejoiced in Steve’s human qualities, it is still agonizing for me to be reminded of the body’s finite, and sometimes, frail nature. Even knowing the unconquerable power of the spirit, I still wish pain and discomfort could be avoided for Steve. I am certain that this new chapter, this new journey – though wholly unexpected and undesired – will be one of growth, and appreciation, serving as a purpose for more than what any of us can immediately fathom… one of the beautiful, and great mysteries of life.

 

The evening of New Year’s Eve, I received an email from a friend I’ve never met in person. We actually met on-line in an Internet group to which we both belong. This particular email resounded with me, as it seemed to justify some of my thoughts, and release some of my angst.

“There comes a point in your life when you realize
who matters…
who never did…
who won’t anymore…
and who always will…
So, don’t worry about people from your past, there’s a reason why they didn’t make it to your future.”

There are times when others slip out of your life for various reasons. There were fellow parents I knew from the middle school years when our sons were in the same activities, and once our sons arrived at the high school we parents moved in different directions with our sons. Of course, I began meeting new parents, especially those associated with marching band.

And then there are people in your life who really should not be there, for whatever reason. There have been times I have unconsciously moved away from someone, later realizing the positive impact. And, there have been those times when I decidedly moved away from individuals, or even groups, because I realized their attitudes, or behaviors, were unhealthy to my mind, my spirit, and a few times, my reputation (personal and professional).

In 2008, I found myself faced with the realization I had to move away from several individuals as I was discovering unhealthy characteristics, or actions, that were draining, or affecting me. At first, when I met certain people, I had no idea how gently around me their web of deception, or masked behaviors, were capturing me. One individual happens to be related to me, but due to choices made which greatly affect the well being of others, I decided I was not going to involve, nor support these behaviors.

This past year, my son, Jose, also had to move away from several good friends who were involving themselves in various negative behaviors. It was difficult for him to do, but he knew he was making the healthiest choices when he took a new path for himself.

Until I reread the above quote earlier this week, I did not realize just how freeing several of my decisions were. One or two individuals I miss, only because they were connected to those who were more infectious, but on the whole, life has moved on in a more positive direction. I always find it amazing how we meet some individuals and later discover how we were sucked into a vacuum of their attempts to dominate, or their masked negativity.

I have always held dear, a comment made by a dear friend, Valerie Lockhart. I knew her sister’s family long before I knew Valerie, having met them in 1991. Her sister’s children always referred to me as “Uncle Darin.” After the Lockharts came into my life around 2001, Sophie and Jackson began calling me, “Uncle Darin,” too. Valerie and I were talking about this one day, and she said, “I totally believe families are made and you don’t have to be blood related to be considered family.”

As an adoptive parent, this is so true. And in other areas of my life, close friends have become as dear as family. And some family have diminished in their relationship to me – and that is fine. I do strongly believe in family ties, and bonds, but not if they are unhealthy, or damaging to others. Valerie has, somehow, become more like an older sister to me, as has Christi Salchak. Jeff Carter, who is a godfather to my sons, is definitely my older brother. I find my self going to these three for advice, so much like a younger sibling, and I value, and respect these three, greatly.

There are always reasons for making healthy choices, and moving on, but bless those who remain with us!

Wednesday morning I drove to Columbus to attend the funeral mass of a friend’s father. I met Katie Pfister-Musick in the late 1980’s and absolutely fell in love with this incredible actress. Despite the various moves between the two of us, and me losing my address book, I managed to reconnect with Katie, and her husband, Mike, via Internet research. I found them living in the Kansas City, Kansas area, and have enjoyed communicating with them the past several years – and that includes a hiatus where my email addresses were wiped out.

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Last summer, I received a note that Katie’s mother had suddenly passed away. Katie had been sharing with me that her father was seriously ill with cancer and was not expected to live much longer. Her mother’s death was quite a surprise.

I attended her mother’s funeral and was overjoyed to see Katie and Mike, again. She is still just as beautiful as she was when she was a girl (and you know what, Lincoln said that about his wife when they were living in the White House! “My wife is just as lovely as she was when she was young. I fell in love with her then, and what is more, I have never fallen out.”)

Christmas night, I received message from Mike that Katie’s father had left in time to spend Christmas with his wife. 

Wednesday morning, December 31st., the last day of 2008, I drove to Columbus to share in the fond farewell with Katie and her family. I arrived at St. Christopher’s and was struck by the beauty and warmth of the church, decorated for the Christmas season. The candles, the nativity, the poinsettias and greenery was absolutely beautiful. As I was washing my hands in the rest room, I stopped… my chest began swelling with excitement.

I could hear Katie singing!

I walked back into the sanctuary, and immediately teared up… Katie was singing a responsive psalmody.  Her voice is still as beautiful as I remember it from when I heard her in the role of Anna Leonowens in THE KING & I.

I found a seat, and just absorbed the beauty, and the passion of each note she offered up – a musician offering up glorious beauty, a daughter bidding farewell to her father in song.

The service was beautiful. The violinist provided a beautiful prelude with “Amazing Grace,” and it set the mood – touching, but with great rejoicing for a life lived fully by this particular Irishman. The description of Don’s life, by both the priest and family, made me proud of my Clary & Daugherty clans! What truly touched me was that his children each offered something, and I can think of no greater tribute than to hear words and music from one’s own children at their funeral.

The closing hymn that accompanied the pall covered casket down the aisle was “Silent Night.” When I read prepped my hymnal before the service (that’s my German-Irish grandfather in me!), I first thought the final hymn to be too mild to send off this larger than life Irishman that I had never actually met. However, by the time the gentle strains of the introduction began, I knew just how fitting this tune was. It seemed to pull together not only the love for Don from his  family and friends, but it reminded me how much I missed, and still loved so many of my own family members who are no longer with us – especially my grandparents.

As the casket was wheeled past me, an elderly gentleman across the aisle saluted, the tears streaming down his face. I don’t know the relationship this gentleman had to Don, but for me, it was one of the most touching moments from the service. A tribute. A farewell. A salute. Only a soldier and a former drum-major can know the sanctity of a salute.

As the second verse of “Silent Night” began, the church bells began pealing. And throughout the song, they continued.

Bells have always held a special place for me. IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE has one of the most tender scenes when the bell on the tree rings at the end – an angel received its wings. Also, my grandmother collected bells, and I now possess all the bells I gave her, some from Greece, Cyprus, Crete, Germany, Austria, and of course, New York City. And the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem, “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day,” also one of my favorite carols, has always been a favorite.

And here, on the last day of 2008, while singing “Silent Night,” the world resonated with the ringing of bells.

I bid farewell to Katie and Mike, and walked outside into the brisk December morning. The bells were much louder outside. One elderly lady covered her ears and looked up towards the sound of the bells. I stood for a moment, watching my breath swirl away from me, and hearing the bells.

Don had probably just received his wings…

My grandmother told me that she was still with me…

And the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow reminded me that “God is not dead, nor doth He sleep…”

I got into my car. I could still hear the muffled bells. I rolled down the window and listened, thinking they would not ring much longer. As I drove away, I could still hear the bells. I turned on to Grandview Avenue, moving away from the church. Finally, around 3rd Street, the bells began to fade – but only in sound.

Those bells were not pealing “farewell.”

The ringing of the bells were an announcement, and reminder of God’s love.

The ringing of the bells were a fanfare of the blessings to come for 2009.

The ringing of the bells were a reminder that it is, indeed, a most wonderful life!

What a wonderful Christmas this was!

Wednesday morning Jose and I left for Elwood at 9:30am. We had planned leaving Tuesday night, but due to the ice storm Mother encouraged us not to risk it. The drive to Elwood was simple and uneventful, but right at 2.5 hours.

After getting settled in, Jose and I went to get him a haircut, and run errands. Later that evening, Mother took Jose shopping so he could pick out some Christmas clothes himself. And on to the Chinese restaurant for our annual Christmas Eve dinner. This tradition began in 2000, the first year in 16 that I was not directing a church music program. Mother and I found ourselves sitting at home on Christmas Eve and decided to go out for dinner. Nothing in Elwood was open (and Jim Dandy was still alive and kicking/cooking!), so we ventured on to Noblesville where we found a Chinese buffet. We have continued to do so every year, only the past few years we have ventured to Muncie.

Thursday morning we were on the road at 6:00am for Fowler, Indiana, where my brother’s family lives. We made a quick stop at Village Pantry to buy donuts for Parker (my nephew), and I grabbed some coffee. Northern Indiana was hit with ice the night before, and we were wondering if the emergency level ban would be lifted – and it was. No ice en route, except a nasty patch on the road leading to the Haasienda of Fowler.

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(L/R) Stacia & Fred; Jose & Parker; Parker & Mother

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Fred, my youngest nephew and godson.

Stacia’s mother, Norma, arrived with a breakfast casserole, and we had a great breakfast. I was seated between my adorable nephews, Parker, 3.5, and Fred, 1. After breakfast, we opened gifts. My gift to my nephews each year is a basket/crate of books. This year, I added more classics of Tom Sawyer, Swiss Family Robinson, etc., and began their collection of the Hardy Boys series. For Fred, my godson, I added to special gifts – one book belonging to Ronald Monroe Clary, the brother of my grandmother, and a book belonging to Harry Jones, the brother of my great-grandmother.

After visiting a while, Mother, Jose and I headed back to Elwood where we enjoyed a delicious turkey dinner. Mother made macaroni and cheese like my great-grandmother, Mary Belle Jones, and though she will be gone forty years this January 28, I am very sentimental over those little touches.

Friday, we dawdled around the house a bit, took Mother’s decorations and tree down, and then went to lunch. We stopped in the public library to visit our dear friend, Nancy Sumner, and she gave us a personal tour of the Indiana Room which houses some of the Wendell Willkie collection on which I worked when I was in high school.

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The Carnegie Library where I worked in high school. Mother & our family friend, Nancy Sumner.

The remainder of the day was spent visiting, and enjoying time together.

Saturday morning we packed, showered, and then spent a delight three hours with my Aunt Joyce. Joyce is the younger sister of my grandmother, Donna Clary-Barmes. We had the best time laughing, and reminiscing. There were a few times when I had to fight back the tears, especially when discussing my grandmother.

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Mother & Aunt Joyce.

Jose and I were on the road at 5:00pm, and arrived in Dayton at 7:35pm after one pit stop for all three of the car’s occupants.

Jose and I went to Wal-Mart and I used my Christmas gift card to purchase paint for my kitchen. Thank you, Mother!

Tomorrow I will take down decorations, prep the kitchen, and begin painting.

Monday morning I will go to the doctor for my blood sugar, return home and finish the kitchen. Later that night is a birthday party for Sophie Lockhart, and my goal is to be finished painting by Monday afternoon.

Wednesday is the funeral for the father of my dear friend, Katie Pfister-Musick. Katie’s father passed away Christmas night after a long battle with cancer. Sadly, I attended the funeral of her mother this past summer.

So ends a wonderful Christmas holiday spent with family, and friends. A great Christmas, indeed!

I had hoped to be home with Mother tonight in Elwood, but the ice storm as prevented us from heading out until tomorrow morning. I called Mother around 3:00pm, and we both agreed we should not chance it.

Jose and I ran to the mall and the main roads were fine… the side-roads were nasty. There is a side street near us, Rockhill Avenue, and I turned on to it and did not press the speedometer much, keeping it between 0-5 mph. I was still sliding into the curb, and angling in the middle of the road. 

Right now, it is sleeting and raining.

I believe the weather kept many inside this evening as the roads around the mall were not lined with traffic, and the stores we visited we not busy. Of course, the sad state of the economy may also be a culprit.

Today, some whack-job who belongs to the same on-line group pestered me with a number of private comments. Seems she disagrees with President-elect Obama, and takes it out on me. I have shared her messages with others, including Mother, and we have gotten great laughs from them. While they are hilarious in their content, and their self-righteous attitude, they are also sad as demonstrate the uglier side of Christianity.

My nephews, Parker and Fred, will be receiving a TON of books. Some books are for when they are older – starting their collection of The Hardy Boys series, and some classics like Tom Sawyer, Swiss Family Robinson, and others. I also found two heirlooms to give to my godson, Fred. The one book belonged to an uncle, Harry Jones, and was a gift from his aunt around 1907 – one hundred years before Fred’s birth. Harry would have been Fred’s third great-uncle. Another book was a gift to another uncle, Ronald Monroe Clary, brother of my grandmother. The book was a gift from Ronald’s great-grandmother, Grandma Greenlee (Prudence Ball Greenlee) who died in 1929. Since Ronald was born in 1921, it centers around the time of 1921-1929 when the book would have been a gift. Grandma Greenlee would have been Fred’s 4th great-grandmother.

I got Jose several Fairmont Firebird shirts, as well as a navy blue hoodie. I am also giving him a certificate for martial arts lessons at the rec center.

I need to pack, but have no energy.

What a past few weeks – confined mostly to bed for rest, and battling a nasty sinus infection. My asthma kicked in and since it settles in my throat, I have been robbed of my voice. Finally, the end of this week I could talk for more than ten minutes without the hoarseness coming on. The voice tires quickly, tiring me in the process.

Thursday night was a concert at Fairmont. Tuesday was scheduled for the choirs and orchestras, followed by the Rutter REQUIEM. However, the ice storm canceled that concert. So, Thursday, the bands performed, followed by the Rutter REQUIEM which was outstanding. 250 orchestra and choir students for this performance! Wonderful!

After the concert, the Lockhart and Haas families met at Friendlys and as always, it was the best time. I always enjoy my time with the Lockharts as they are as much family as my blood relations. Jackson and Jose are both sophomores, and Sophie is in 7th grade… so our days for after-concert celebrations are numbered. The kiddies are growing up fast!

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Jackson, Jose & Sophie

Friday I breakfasted with my neighbors, Kay Moore, and her daughter, Laura Parker. We try to work in a breakfast every month or so, and it seems we grab the Friday before winter break begins as our one set date. As always, it was a treat of complete laughter.

I went to The Bird’s Nest – the school operated store inside the Trent Arena next door – to buy some items for Jose. Five items and I only spent thirty dollars.

I taught a few lessons, and after Jose returned from work at 7:30pm, we ran to ACTION Adoption for a Christmas get-together with other adoptive families and the staff.

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My friend, Bill

This morning I busied myself with some projects, and then showered. Bill Impson arrived and we headed downtown to Uno’s for lunch, and then to the 2:00pm performance of RAIN at the Victoria Theatre.  http://www.raintribute.com/   It was a fantastic tribute to The Beatles! A friend gave me the tickets, and I cannot begin to tell how much I was delighted by this concert. The visuals on the screens were incredible, and you certainly relived history.

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After the show, Bill and I came back here and talked for about 90 minutes. Jose left for work, and I am trying to get some laundry completed.

Jose gets home around 7:45pm from work, and we will run a few errands, and then I will rest. I am hoping to catch Robert Schuller’s HOUR OF POWER this evening so I can sleep in, or rest more tomorrow.

Sunday, I will rest, teach a few lessons, take Jose to Youth Group for their annual scavenger hunt – which is a riot! Jose loves this event!

All I can say is, “WOW!”

In 1979, at Smith-Wallbridge Drum Major Camp, instructor Gary Smith, then the director of the Marching Illni of University of Illinois, showed us a film of The Ohio State Marching Band performing the legendary Script OHIO. I was enthralled! As I held the video camera watching the most phenomenal drum-major ever, leading these band through the flawless routine, I realized I had tears in my eyes. While most were clapping and cheering, I was moved.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rPNnIFH6_RU&feature=related

The best part is when the drum-major leads the sousaphone player across the field after finishing the last “o” – it is incredible! The drum-major struts to the “i” and smacks the end of his signal baton on the spot where the sousaphone player has the honor of “dotting the i.”

The Fairmont Firebirds has their own Script BIRDS, identical to Script OHIO, and it will mean even more to me after seeing the “real thing.”

Finally, 29 years later, I got to personally witness this spectacular event.

Saturday the Marching Firebirds competed with thirty-two other bands at the OSU football stadium. Impressive!

While the tabulation was finishing up, the Marching Buckeyes took the field for one of the most exciting moments in marching band enthusiasm I have ever known.

This past week, my dear friend, Bill Hetzer, who, with his wife, Kay, is experiencing a difficult family crises, wrote to me the words from the OSU alma mater, “Carmen Ohio” – “The seasons pass the years will roll
Time and change will surely truly show, how firm thy friendship … OHIO!” This touched a little deeper as “Carmen Ohio” shares the same melody as a popular Methodist hymn, “Come, Christians, Join To Sing” – the opening song for their 16yo son’s funeral in 1997.

As I walked from the stadium, talking to Bill on the telephone, I stopped to look down at the field and in my mind played the arrangement that can be heard on this clip:

http://www.scarletandgray.info/osu/songs/carmen_ohio.html

Carmen Ohio

Oh come let’s sing Ohio’s praise
And songs to Alma Mater raise
While our hearts rebounding thrill
With joy which death alone can still
Summer’s heat or winter’s cold
The seasons pass the years will roll
Time and change will surely (truly) show
How firm thy friendship … OHIO!

Though age may dim our mem’ry’s store
We’ll think of happy days of yore
True to friend and frank to foe
As sturdy sons of Ohio
If on seas of care we roll
Neath blackened sky or barren shoal
Thoughts of thee bid darkness go
Dear Alma Mater…OHIO!

http://www.scarletandgray.info/osu/songs/carmen_ohio.html

 

When you finish reading this, you must read my friend’s blog… Jeff Carter had a fun time at his own license branch.

Saturday I searched in vain on the internet to find the DMV’s hours. I could not even locate a telephone number for the Centerville branch. I arrived at 2:01pm – they closed at 2:00pm.

This morning, I left the house after Jose headed off to school, arriving at 7:53am. I sat in the parking lot and at 7:58am seven cars zoomed in – and I mean ZOOMED. The parking spaces around me filled up and immediately, people were out of their cars. I brought the average age in the parking lot down to 80 years. I am certain a few actually remembered starting the car with the crank! These people were in the building before I even got out of my car, and one lady was on a walker.

Inside, everything moved fast and by 8:04am I was having my photo taken. I asked the lady if the DMV had a special where you could have Christmas card photos made from your license photo… no.

I sat down to wait with four others who just had their photos taken. The lady on the walker was complaining because they were taking so long! The two men on either side of her agreed. I sat there smiling to myself. The gentleman next to me began chatting and I learned he grew up in Alexandria, Indiana which is about seven miles from where I grew up.

In less than a minute they called my name. The three complainers were aggrevated that I already had mine. As the lady handed me mine I heard her say, “Oh, no! A malfunction.”

The walker lady bellowed, “Why did he get his before we got ours?”

The lady tried to explain, and then apologized for the malfunction. I started past the lady and she asked, “Why did you get yours first?”

I smiled and said, “There’s not as many wrinkles to touch on my photo.”

All four were slapping their legs and howling.

I pulled out of the DMV and headed to the National City Bank. I had lived in this particular Centerville neighborhood for eight years and could not believe how much it had grown with all the new businesses. It was mostly open fields from 1995-2002. I waited in line, looking for the ATM. I decided I would just do the window.

I pulled up to the window, noticing there were no machines to suck the money into the bank. The window opened and the lady, dressed in a cute shirt and sun viser asked, “How may I help you?”

I said I wanted to make a deposit… her face contorted, and then she began howling.

“This is Starbucks, now.”

I drove off without getting an order…

At 9:00am my neighbor lady, Kay, took me to breakfast to celebrate my birthday at First Watch. We had a delightful time and then walked over to Tuesday Morning.

Tonight, I will head up to Wayne High School to join Loretta Henderson and her daughter, Mara, for the Wayne vs. Fairmont game. Her oldest daughter, Kayla, is the team manager, but I am sure I will see her. Uncle Darin always seems to be a hit with these two darlings. Loretta and I were at KMS together, and she is now a principal in Tipp City.

Saturday is a tailgate picnic for the band, and then a contest at the OSU stadium in Columbus. I have never been to this sacred site, and am excited to do so.

Another enjoyable week.

Monday I reunited with a former student with whom I lost contact 20 years ago. His family was wonderful to me during my Muncie days, and Nathan was always one of my favorite former students. In short, his mother has been the Lutheran pastor in my hometown (which I did not know), and Nathan has lived around the corner from me for eight years.

Friday night, Nathan joined me for the Fairmont vs. Beavercreek game, and we had a great time catching up. We actually started with the wonderful Fairmont Firebird tradition of STEP OFF. The band lines up in front of the school’s performing arts department, marching around the school, and through the neighborhood to the stadium. Once at the stadium they march under the stadium, pounding the drums and chanting. It is a thrill to watch. The game was actually kind of fun – but I was also seated behind Jill & John Chabut. The bands were wonderful.

After the game, Nathan joined Jose and me as we drove Jose’s friend, Matt, back to his house to pack some clothes for over night. The band was to leave at 6:30am for contest in Massillon, Ohio which is approximately three hours from Dayton, and I told Matt he was welcome to stay so his parents would not have to get up so early. Once back home, Nathan and I sat up until 5:30am chatting – and I think there was some dozing.

Jose’s friend, Matt

Saturday I taught two Beavercreek students until 12:30am, enjoyed a brief visit from Christi and Carrie Salchak, and then ran some errands. I took a nap, and then showered and dressed. Nathan came over and we watched the delightful Disney movie, ENCHANTED.

Jose and Matt burst through the door at 3:30am, tired, but thrilled from the long adventure. The band made it into the night finals and placed 9th.

Sunday, I chatted with Mother, learning that my younger sister was to be married this evening. Not surprising, but events leading up to this evening’s nuptials have me concerned for my nephews – their future, as well as their safety. Life and choices… but not my problem, nor will I allow it to concern me.

Jose and I went to a Mexican lunch after Matt left with his mother, and then we grabbed a few items from Meijers. I worked on the musical while Jose watched movies before he headed to work. Jeff Carter and I chatted on the telephone, and I resumed work on The Wright Brothers project.

Despite the heaviness of knowing many of our dear friends and neighbors, literally several houses away, are without power, I am going to continue celebrating the day. It is a beautiful day here in Kettering, Ohio, and the schools are closed again. For lunch, I am taking Jose to eat downtown to celebrate GOTCHA DAY. Four years ago today, Jose, then 12 years old, arrived from Oregon to live with us.

Jose is an amazing young man with great potential for a fantastic future. I am really proud of all he has accomplished, and for maintaining such a gratfeful attitude about life. Unlike other children who endured birth family horrors and the foster care system, Jose is still positive and joyful on the inside.

Here are a few photographs, beginning with the day he arrived.

Ironically, in the first photo of the day Jose arrived, behind Jose and myself is a portrait of my own birth father who abandoned my family when I was about Jose’s age… I just noticed this today…

 

What a busy, and then exciting weekend…
 
FRIDAY
Jose was with the marching band for the game against Lebanon, and we won. He got home around 11:30pm. I ran some errands and worked on writing for a few hours.
 
SATURDAY
I kept busy with errands around the house, and some writing. Worried about my family in the Houston area but have since learned they are doing just fine.
 
Jose left for band practice at 12:30pm, and I ran some errands for groceries, and got sandwiches from Subway. Came home and finished some more chores, made 36 cupcakes, and packed up for the tailgate party back behind the house on the baseball diamond where the band rehearses. Had so much fun with the parents, and watched the band show. Ate lunch with the kids, and headed home.
 
Band contest was in Tipp City. I got to see four of my drum-major students on the field, and was proud of all my kids. Fairmont has a great show, and I thought they did better than where they placed. I took a number of photos but my night time photos for band just do not turn out.
 
I drove home, arriving about 30 minutes prior to the band buses and trailer.
SUNDAY
I thought I slept pretty good but kept waking up throughout the night. Finally at 8:00am, I finally gave up trying to wrestle time for more sleep. I got up and piddled around the house a bit. Worked at my desk for a while as Jose played the piano. Around 10:30am I mowed the yard and used the leaf blower, taking advantage of the semi- strong winds.
 
Jose and I ran to the mall after showering, and on the way, the wind advisory of which we had been warned, came true. We went to Game Stop so Jose could exchange a game, ate Chinese, and walked out to winds so strong we could barely make it back to the car. En route back to Kettering, we saw trees down and tons of branches and limbs.
 
At home, we walked into a house with cabinet doors open, items blown around, and pictures hanging crooked. The dark clouds began taunting us, but no solid rain…
 
And then the winds hit HARD AND FURIOUS. The power went out around 1:30pm.
 
The winds reportedly got up to 75mph. I walked next door to see the HUGE limbs that fell between the Moore-Parker and Stephenson houses. Fortunately, both families had moved their vehicles just moments before the limbs fell. The streets looked like a war zone.
 
Neighbors began reporting trees down on the next street over… wow! It was incredible.
 
I spent a lot of time talking to the Moore-Parker and Stephenson families as we watched nature lash out around us. At 4:45pm I got ready to drive Jose to work as I was afraid of limbs falling on him – and I heard a loud crack and thud. A tree in the easement between our fence and the high school broke in half – a HUGE tree. Fortunately it missed the fence, falling directly in the easement. Had it fallen the other way it would have crashed through our privacy fence, and maybe on to the deck. As we drove around the corner to work, one of the huge trees in front of the high school was broken at the base.
 
After dropping Jose off at One Lincoln Park, I drove on down Shroyer, over to Stroop, across Far Hills and back in that neighborhood… WOW! I stopped counting at 38 trees completely broken at the base, and hundreds more split in two… snow plows were pushing debris through the streets just to clear a path. It looked like a war zone or a tornado’s path.
 
I took a nap and by 6:00pm, the winds had calmed down.
 
I went out back and raked the deck and back yard, and then the front. The Stephensons were in their back yard using the twigs and branches for a fire.
 
The report is that over 200,000 customers are without power.
 
Kettering City Schools are closed for Monday.
 
What an eventful day… but, as always, it was so much fun to spend time with my neighbors who border my yard.
At 10:00pm….
Jose and I drove to Kroger so he could get a movie, and I a few groceries…. Kroger and all that area was black. We drove – cautiously down Stroop with trees still protruding onto the street and no lights anywhere. On Southern the hospital was lit up, but everything else dark.
 
At Wal-Mart on Dorothy Lane, there were the restaurants – packed! Wal-Mart was black and most of the area. Jose got  several  movies  from McDonalds, and the lines inside and in the drive-thru were endless. As I waited for Jose there was one family who pulled up in the business across the way, and there was a father and his teenage son who went into McD’s. The mother and the baby stayed in the car and we chatted. They had been without power since 1:00pm, and finally came out at 10:30pm to get some food.
 
I called the Lockharts and Jackson said they were still without power. I invited them to come to our house, and wish they were here. God knows there is plenty of sleeping space.
 
The fire crews are still running. They were busy putting out electrical fires and downed wires.
 
We drove through Kettering to the Kroger on the opposite end of town. There was a sign out front: No flashlights, no batteries, no ice. Bottled water was gone, as was gallons of water.
 
Some parts are also without water. Most of Wilmington Pike was black.
 
We have been asked to stay inside due to the downed lines and debris.
 
The big concern now is that the trees have been weakened and future winds, rain, snow and ice could still cause further problems.
 
200,000 homes are without power in the Dayton area. 628,000 homes in the Cincinnati area are without power.
 
The news has these hideous sites of trees crashing through roofs, roofs gone, awnings gone… one Shell Station overhead crashed to the ground. And I am sure there are more items.
 
It is sad.
 
And of course, Houston and other parts are dealing with flooding.

What a short, but long week.

Recovery from a three day weekend is always a little tough, but this year was a little easier. I set up a new system with my private teaching studio: if there are five Mondays and Tuesdays in the month, I only teach four. So, Monday and Tuesday were my days off for September. I did not accomplish as much as I hoped, but I did catch up on some much needed rest.

Wednesday and Thursday flew by, and though our schedules are packed in the evening, I did get to spend time with Jose, and worked with him on German and social studies. His teachers report a great deal of effort, so far.

Friday I hit the Wright Brothers’ musical pretty hard, trying to tackle one particular song that has been a struggle.

I taught for four hours, and then headed to ACTION Adoption since Jose was with the marching band at an away game at Lakota West High School, just north of Cincinnati.

I thought it would be a night in the big room with support group, but Cissie, one of the staff, asked if I would please teach an independent study to one of my favorite couples. I almost did not go to ACTION, but am so glad I did. Bill & Ann Impson are the neatest couple, and I love every minute I get to spend with these two. They are finishing up their home study, and I cannot wait until they are deeply involved in the search for children. These two just make my day.

Saturday, Jose will have band from 9:00am to 3:00pm, and I am hoping to write as much as I can. In the evening, I will take Jose to dinner, and then maybe grab a movie.

Sunday, nothing until the early evening when I teach two lessons.

Not much to report…

What a wonderful, wonderful weekend!

Saturday morning, the house was all cleaned, and smelling fresh, the yard looked great, and the fence was adorned with red, white and blue bunting banners – a gift from my darling neighbor, Kay. I began prepping food and preparing a fresh peach cobbler while Mother and I chatted.

Mother, Jose and I ate lunch on the deck, and then ran some errands. When we returned, Destin, Stacia, Parker and Fred were at the house.

We went to Indian Riffle Park off of Stroop Road where we chatted, ate peach cobbler, and watched Parker and Jose play.

Then, we journeyed on to Young’s Jersey Dairy outside Yellow Springs. We petted goats, took pictures and chatted more. Stacia, Parker, Jose and Fred road the tractor train.

While we waited to be seated, Destin and Jose went to the driving range, and I believe they hit the walls of the shelter more than the golf balls. There were hilarious tales of how they were also experiencing near misses from one another. I am filled with so much delight when I watch Jose with his Uncle Destin, and always recall the wonderful times spent with my own uncles.

We enjoyed a delicious meal at the main restaurant. Unfortunately, Parker became ill as we were preparing to leave, and the projectile vomit was Olympian in proportion, and distance. However, poor Stacia caught most of it down her front, her back… while Destin was gagging out in the parking lot from the stench, Stacia, bore it, and wore it with her typical good humor, and grace. In the car, poor, tired Fred began wailing. At one point, Stacia, who could have been overwhelming stressed, leaned up to Jose and said, “So have you had your fill of birth control this evening?”

We lost it!

After prepping the bedrooms, getting the boys to bed, we hit the deck with the tikki torches lit – what a beautiful site the yard was with the torches illuminating the yard. Destin and I were the last to close down the deck chat – and I believe we covered all the issues of education in an hour.

Sunday morning, I was up at 7:00am, and joined Mother on the deck for coffee before showering and making breakfast. We dined on the deck with eggs, pancakes (even chocolate chip), frappes, bagels, etc..

We spent more time on the deck while others were showering.

At 1:00pm, we all walked over to Lincoln Park for the Holiday At Home festival. What a neat thing to have in your own back yard! I love this weekend! We walked through the festival, grabbed some lemon shake-ups, and Mother purchased candles.

As we began our trek through the park, Jose asked if he could push Fred in the stroller. Stacia asked, “Jose, do you think the stroller is a chick-magnet?”

We lost it again. Destin, of course, came up with several scenarios of what Jose could tell the ladies.

At 2:00pm we were back on my deck for taco salad, topped with Stacia’s home-made salsa which is the best I have ever eaten. I have tried her recipe and cannot hit it on the mark.

At 3:00pm, the cars were packed and this leg of the weekend had come to an end. Waving good bye from the porch, a family “must do,” was difficult. I was still sniffling a little as I put away the food from lunch.

I chatted with my neighbor lady, Kay, and invited her family over for supper since I had SO much left over for taco salad. We agreed on 7:00pm. Jose went to work and I took a 45 minute nap.

At 7:00pm, Kay and her daughter, Laura, were dining with me on taco salad. Laura’s husband, Don, was not feeling well, and the kids were off doing their own thing. Time spent with Kay and Laura are always a blast, and there is always tons of laughter. I was blessed with wonderful neighbors growing up in Elwood, wonderful neighbors during my college years in Muncie, and although I enjoyed my neighbors in Centerville, my Kettering neighbors have been an absolute blessing and delight. The Moore-Parker house next door, and the Stephenson house (Bob, Chris, Henry and Frank) behind us are the best neighbors one could possibly have.

Jose returned from work and joined us on the deck with his supper he brought home from One Lincoln Park.

At 9:00pm, all was quiet at the Haasienda.

Tomorrow morning at 10:00am, I will be on the other side of the high school’s campus to join thousands for the Holiday At Home parade, one of the largest in the state. Hopefully I will sit with the Lockharts.

I will also be the proud teacher as several students pass by, leading their bands as drum-major. And I will be the proud pappa as Jose marches by with the Marching Firebirds.

What a wonderful Labor Day weekend, and it isn’t over. I doubt that tomorrow will top the sheer joy I have experienced these past few days with family and neighbors/friends.

Sunday I delivered Jose to Wright State’s campus for marching band camp. He has a neat roommate, a sophomore who just moved her from Vandalia Butler High School. I spent a few minutes chatting with the chaperones – all friends of mine who wish I was there with them.

Monday through Wednesday was busy with teaching, and in the evenings I was tired, and basically did very little. I tried working outside but the mosquittos and other bugs were breaking through the barrier of deep woods spray, a bug zapper, and several citrinella candles… so I retreated indoors.

Wednesday night I talked with Jeff Carter on the telephone for a good hour… tons of catching up for the boys.

I literally did not leave the house all week. Once I returned from Wright State Sunday, I stayed home the rest of the week until I left to pick up Jose tonight.

This week we lost two dear people from my home town… Roger Meisner, a retired police officer who worked with both my grandfather and mother, passed away with cancer. Roger will have a full police ceremony this Saturday morning. Carol Courtney, a secretary at Elwood Community High School also passed away. Carol was a delightful lady, and the “school mom” to thousands of students and for several generations. In fact, I believe she was at the high school when Mother was a student.

Tomorrow will be writing for me, and plenty of rest for Jose who is already pooped. We may go to ACTION but since there is no training, and mine is completed, we may take in a movie.

Saturday and Sunday are not scheduled, and I am looking forward to this break. We are hoping to travel to Destin & Stacia’s the following weekend.

Everyone have a great weekend!

Much love to all…

This evening I journeyed out to Wright State University and met up with the Chabut and Karmele families. We watched the band’s 2008 pre-game show and the first two of four movements of their 2008 competition show which is called CLOUDBURST: The Skies Will Open. The first movement is based on Eric Whitacres’ composition of the same title.

Mike Berning… yes, he is teaches my son….

After the band was dismissed I slowly made my way over to the picnic shelter to wait on the percussion to load the trailer. I was nabbed by about four different groups of parents, and then the director, Mike Berning, stood and talked for a good twenty minutes. The camp was great and he is excited over the show… well, that’s what he reported over the microphone to all the parents. In the shelter, we were discussing more fun things – not work related.

The percussion pit practicing; Jose is in the orange shirt.

While I was waiting on Jose to retrieve his suitcase and laundry basket from his room, I got to chat with the chaperones – all neat people. They all told me how funny, but very polite and sweet my son is… and how happy they were he was no longer with the former girlfriend. They also shared that they were keeping an eye on him to make certain she was not causing any waves.

My kids tooting away…

We went for our traditional Mexican food before heading home and in Pepitos was one of our drum-majors and a former band student whose older brother was one of my favorite students. I was entertained with even more stories from the week.

Jose’s best friend, Michael, who is a regular fixture at the Haasienda.

So, I feel the season is officially off and running, despite two previous weeks of rehearsal prior to camp. In about two weeks, we have our first football game, then Kettering’s huge festival, Holiday At Home over Labor Day, and then all the competitions.

And as we walked through the door, Flyer nearly dashed into Jose’s arms. Even Logan joined in on the fesitive moment and meowed her greetings, followed by a body rub up against Jose’s legs.

Not Everybody Will Like You

It is not necessarily a pleasant experience, but there will be times in our lives when we come across people who do not like us. As we know, like attracts like, so usually when they don’t like us it is because they are not like us. Rather than taking it personally, we can let them be who they are, accepting that each of us is allowed to have different perspectives and opinions. When we give others that freedom, we claim it for ourselves as well, releasing ourselves from the need for their approval so we can devote our energy toward more rewarding pursuits.

While approval from others is a nice feeling, when we come to depend on it we may lose our way on our own path. There are those who will not like us no matter what we do, but that doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with us. Each of us has our own filters built from our experiences over time. They may see in us something that is merely a projection of their understanding, but we have no control over the interpretations of others. The best we can do is to hope that the role we play in the script of their lives is helpful to them, and follow our own inner guidance with integrity.

As we reap the benefits of walking our perfect paths, we grow to appreciate the feeling of fully being ourselves. The need to have everyone like us will be replaced by the exhilaration of discovering that we are attracting like-minded individuals into our lives—people who like us because they understand and appreciate the truth of who we are. We free ourselves from trying to twist into shapes that will fit the spaces provided by others’ limited understanding and gain a new sense of freedom, allowing us to expand into becoming exactly who we’re meant to be. And in doing what we know to be right for us, we show others that they can do it too. Cocreating our lives with the universe and its energy of pure potential, we transcend limitations and empower ourselves to shine our unique light, fully and freely.

Feeling Jealous

Jealousy is one of the toughest feelings we come up against in our lives. There is not much worse than this aching sense that somehow life has been unfair to us, while amply rewarding someone else. It’s even worse if that someone else is present in our daily lives, making it difficult for us to get the space we need to feel and heal our pain. We may be jealous of a sibling, a dear friend, or even famous personalities. We may even face the challenge of feeling jealous of our spouse, our child, or one of our parents. Whatever the case, we can normalize our experience by understanding that, as painful as it is, jealousy is a common human feeling.

Nevertheless, it is important that we not revel in our jealousy for too long, feeding it with inner talk or gossip with others. If we do, we run the risk of losing ourselves to its negative power. Jealousy has something good to offer us, though, and that is information about our own heart’s desire. When we are jealous of certain people, we want what they have, and if we are to be conscious, we must acknowledge that. In this way, we discover what we want for ourselves, which is the first step to getting it. It may be a certain kind of relationship or a career. Whatever it is, it is possible that we could create it for ourselves, in our own lives, if we are able to honor our own desires.

Of course, there are times when we cannot heal our jealousy in this way, and then the lesson may be about acceptance and the understanding that our path is different from the paths of those around us. It may be hard to see now, but perhaps it will eventually be clear why our life has taken its particular path. In the end, the best cure for jealousy is the recognition that the life we have is full of its own meaning and beauty, utterly unique to us—a gift that could never be found in the life of another.

People In Need

When we see a person in need, we may want to give them something as a way of helping them, but if we give without taking the time to see who they really are, honoring that most of all, our gift is nowhere near as powerful as it could be. We may want to give a homeless person a sandwich, for example, but if we give it without also taking a moment to look the person in the eye, making authentic contact, we rob them of the experience of being human.

Being in a position of need leaves a lot of people feeling vulnerable and full of self-doubt. The greatest gift we can give is to meet people in need without judgment and with the awareness that we are not superior to them simply because we are not currently in their position. If we take the long view, we can see that we all began life in need of a lot of care and attention, and many of us end life in the same way. Giving and receiving are companion energies that take turns throughout our lives, and we all get a chance to be on both sides of the exchange from time to time.

It’s important to be aware of our own tendency to give from a desire to feel good about ourselves, rather than from an acknowledgement of our connection to all people. Letting go of our self-importance allows us to see that, regardless of appearances, we are all givers and receivers. When we are in the position of the giver, we honor those we are helping when we remember the many people who have helped us. Then we can look the person we are helping in the eye, aware that we are making contact with a human being who is our equal.

Peggy Barbour Straughen (born Margaret Ann Barbour), 70, of Washington Township passed away unexpectedly at Miami Valley Hospital on Tuesday, July 22, 2008. Born in Chambersburg, PA on August 21, 1937, Peggy entered nursing school in Harrisburg where she met her husband, Bill (William Joseph) Straughen. Married in 1958, they had recently celebrated their 50th anniversary withtheir children and grandchildren. Peggy was active in many ways at Normandy United Methodist Church, where she was a member for 40 years. Over her life, she sang in the choir, taught Sunday school and was a lay leader. She had a deep and abiding faith. Peggy was very active right up until her death; quilting, genealogy and playing bridge were her favorite interests. Peggy loved her swim lunch bunch and enjoyed their company often. She enjoyed traveling to see family and friends, from a high-school friend in California to family in Pennsylvania and Florida.

 

Darin’s tribute….

This morning, many dear friends of mine, and parishioners of Normandy United Methodist Church bid farewell to an extraordinary lady, Peggy Straughen. I don’t believe I could say that Peggy was larger than life because she WAS life! She personified how I wish I could live my own life.

The service was absolutely beautiful. In the narthex were photographs of Peggy and her family, a slide show played on the large screen in the sanctuary, and the altar was adorned with quilts made by Peggy’s own hands.

The ministers, David & Elizabeth Brown, are still fairly new, and they are both remarkable, invigorating speakers. Despite the fact I have now witnessed them presiding over two funerals, I marvel at their spirit, their passion for their ministry at Normandy, and their love and devotion to this congregation. They are indeed, a true blessing for this congregation.

The music was beautiful, and the personal tributes delightful, insightful, and moving.

So… how do I say a few words about Peggy? Woa! Say a few words? Trying to say a few words about Peggy would be like trying to fill a bath tub with the ocean.

I sat in the Normandy sanctuary this morning, just like every one else sitting in the packed church…

shocked….

saddened…

and with a feeling there is now a hideous void in our world as we have known it.

While I describe this brilliant lady, it would be appropriate that my writing should take on a quality of haunting strings from something like Samuel Barber’s ADAGIO FOR STRINGS.

But come on… this is for Peggy…

She was not a symphony dripping with melancholy… Peggy’s life was more like a big marching band! Peggy emulated the liveliness, strength, excitement, bounce, thrill, passion, and drive of a John Phillip Sousa march!

For those who knew Peggy, answer the following statements with True or False…

  • Peggy had a big heart.
  • Peggy loved her family dearly and fiercely.
  • Peggy had a big, hearty laugh.
  • You always knew where you stood with Peggy.
  • When you asked Peggy, “How are you doing?” More often than not, she told you what neat things her children and grandchildren were doing.
  • Peggy had a hug that was the grip of a grisly.
  • Peggy loved all her friends.
  • Peggy loved her God, loved Normandy church and its people.

Do you notice all these statements were TRUE?

Well, so was Peggy.

It was 12 years ago I met Peggy when I first arrived at Normandy as the director of music. Following my first rehearsal, Peggy charged right up to me, passing the other choir members who were coming forward to welcome me.

Peggy wanted to let me know that she was the choir’s librarian and if I needed anything, please let her know. While I greeted other choir members, Peggy waited patiently, chatting, laughing, smiling… now, keep in mind – Peggy never did anything with half-hearted effort. Her laughter was big… her smiles were huge (but oh, so warm and inviting)… the sparkle in her eyes was tremendous…

Once the last choir member had left, Peggy walked me to the music office, and began my tutorial of how “her” music library worked. When Peggy was instructing, she was never demeaning, or bossy. As someone said this morning, Peggy had high expectations of her self, and encouraged others to be accountable for their own expectations. Although Peggy’s comments to me could have appeared critical, she was simply treating me like one of her own children – she wanted me to be the best I could, and should be.

Peggy gave me my marching orders for the music library, and I commented that once summer began I would take the time to go through the files – there was a ton of music to explore.

The following week I arrived for choir rehearsal and Peggy was waiting for me. She walked me to the music office and with words that were both business like, but with an air of girlish excitement, she pointed to two large storage tubs on my desk.

Peggy took the time to pull one copy of choir music from each file folder. Each copy was placed in the tub, in order of the file cabinets, and each drawer was labeled in the tubs so that I would know exactly where to search for the folders of music!

This was brilliant, and I hugged Peggy, thanking her for all her work.

Peggy told me, “There’s no sense in you wasting your time going through the drawers. You can take these tubs home and go through them at your leisure. Besides, we’ve run off a lot of choir directors and I can tell you’re a keeper.”

And with that, Peggy was out the door, greeting other choir members.

Later that fall, on a late stormy night, I was working in the music office. I heard the front door of the Grant House open, and slam shut. The footsteps came directly to my office. There stood Peggy, rain water dripping off her rain coat, her glasses speckled with water droplets, and her hair damp.

I saw your car in the circle and the light on.  Are you OK?”

I assured Peggy I was fine and that I was just finishing up some work.

Peggy quickly assessed the project at hand, and before I knew it, her coat was draped over the chair and without invitation, she was working along side me – chatting and laughing. But before leaving for home, she gave me a hug and said, “This was fun. Thank you for letting me join you.”

When I was preparing to travel with my brother and his students to Washington, DC, I was telling the choir at rehearsal that the year before our buses drove through this beautiful Pennsylvanian town enroute to Gettysburg just as the sun was rising over the hills.

Peggy leaned forward, grinning, and asked, “Do you remember the name of that town?”

“Yes,” I said. “Chambersburg.”

The rest of the choir must have already known what Peggy squealed out with pride, and excitement. “I’m from Chambersburg!”

After rehearsal, Peggy told me about the town, and I believe her mother was still living at that time. I know she loved visiting her beloved home town.

When I returned from the trip, I handed Peggy three or four photos I had taken of Chambersburg as we were passing through. Peggy was so touched that I would not only remember, but take photos for her.

This morning, my successor as music director told the gathered loved ones how Peggy never held back on “making corrections” in rehearsals. In one rehearsal, Peggy corrected me on something – politely, but with her, “Let’s get this correct” gaze.

When we agreed on the item, Ron Thie, one of the most hilarious, lovable men I have ever known, asked Peggy, “Is there anything you need to fix with the basses, Peggy?”

The room became silent, not knowing how Peggy would react. I think I was even standing a little taller. Peggy turned in her chair, looked directly at Ron and said, “Well, since you asked…”

Peggy led the choir in explosive laughter!

Another time I forgot to cue the altos on a cut-off. This cut-off had been one of my instructions, and we had even rehearsed it. Well, during this one rehearsal, I forgot that cut-off. When I stopped the choir for notes, Peggy’s hand shot into the air.

“Are you going to cue that cut-off or not? There’s no sense in us all looking up at that point if you aren’t going to give us that cut-off.”

Be assured, that cut-off was not forgotten!

One day, I decided to spruce up my office, and discovered an artificial floral arrangement across the hallway in a closet. I set it on the file cabinets in my office. Peggy saw it just before the choir’s next rehearsal, and asked, “Did you get permission to use that arrangement?”

I look dumbfounded.

Just be sure you check with someone before you use things. People here at Normandy are kind of funny about their areas in the church.”

I asked Peggy, “Who should I ask?”

She smiled, laughed, and said, “Me, of course.”

One parishioner this morning said she and Peggy would have contests on who knew their hymns. The lady said, “As I proudly started to sing the first verse to prove I knew a hymn, Peggy would start singing the second verse.”

One of my first Sundays at Normandy, I was seated on the angle of the first row, and I noticed Peggy kept looking at me during the hymns. After service she strolled up to me and said, “I am proud of you. You didn’t crack open your hymnal for any of the hymns.”

Truth be known, I often get the first verse of a hymn, but move my mouth throughout the remainder of the hymn.

Peggy gave hugs that could weaken a quarterback. I once joked that after my first Peggy-hug, I had to go to the ER with four cracked ribs, a collapsed lung, and smashed vertebrae. Peggy never squeezed the life out of you, she squeezed her love into you.

 

 

So here I am on a Saturday night, writing about a woman that obviously touched my life in a big way… in a great, and loving way.

I hope that each of us will continue to use many of Peggy’s wonderful attributes as a guide for our own lives.

Just like Peggy…

…keep working hard and with tremendous devotion and a big passion.

….keep serving others with deep love and a big passion.

…keep loving others with sincerity and a big passion.

….and when you see someone who needs a hug, give them a Peggy Straughen hug and let them know you truly love them.

God bless you, Peggy, and thank you for touching my life… for hugging my life in a big way!

 

Three friends of mine lost their mothers within this week… all three died suddenly.

Duneen DeVore lost her mother last Friday. Duneen sang in my church choir at Normandy United Methodist Church, and along with her son, Erick, now 21, was in THE SOUND OF MUSIC. Bonnie’s services are private.

Heidi Anderson, my all time favorite costumer for shows, lost her mother, Peggy Straughen. Peggy sang in my church choir at Normandy United Methodist Church, and was also my librarian. Peggy fell and was unresponsive. I will attend Peggy’s services Saturday morning.

Kathleen (Katie) Pfister-Musick, one of my favorite musical theatre stars from our NYC days, lost her mother. Sadly, the family has been most worried about her father who is battling an agressive cancer. Katie and her husband have been living in Kansas City, but will move shortly to Illinois where MIke will be teaching theatre.  I will drive to Columbus, Ohio for Mrs. Pfister’s mass/funeral Thursday morning.

 

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