Thursday, November 22, 2007

All Praise Stuffing

There is much to appreciate this Thanksgiving. This past Spring two of my four parents were seriously ill and are now recovered. I have not one but two congregations to serve. My daughter has lowered her standards enough to urinate in a few potties instead of her diaper. I live in a beautiful part of the country and am not a victim of mortgage fraud. My son's eccentricities and gifts are appreciated by his kindergarten teacher. My husband and I still have our own teeth...

See? Lots to be thankful for. Then there's the stuffing!

My father-in-law is a computer whiz, a crafts king, a cancer survivor, and the only person who makes stuffing I adore year after year. I had six helpings this year. Yes, six. But we did two dinners so that makes up for it, right?

There's a lot to be upset about in this world of ours. So many errors, so much to repair, so much work to do. But today isn't the day of repentance.

Today is ours to say thanks.

For the times we didn't say the wrong thing.
For the ones who won't leave you.
For the loyal pets.
For the good enough jobs.
For the courage to get up and try again.
For the heart to give and give some more.
For the beauty of the weeds who always find a way.
For the potential in each of us.
For all who forgive.
For those who know the right thing AND manage to do it.
For faithful cooks of good recipes.
For all this and more, today we give thanks.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Best 4 Gigs

I've been saving up my music reviews of the past few months. I have re-entered a cycle in which I can go out and hear live music every couple of weeks. I've been fortunate and daring enough to hear some really great stuff, with considerable variety. Here's the best.

#1 Richmond Symphony Pops & Out of the Blue Radio Revue - This was one heck of a show with the symphony conducted by Mark Russell Smith and the Out of the Blue Radio show hosted by Page Wilson linked. Smith "brought it" with the symphony sounding particularly rich and Wilson "brought it" in the form of the Piedmont Souprize and the Showdogs, along with Wilson's own Reckless Abandon.

I am not an unbiased reviewer since I knew at least 15 of the musicians onstage. For those who tuned in on radio, I could be heard shrieking my support most loudly during the Showdogs set since, unbeknownst to me, I was very close to a live mic. Ooops. But I loved the arrangements with the symphony composed by Doug Richards. I loved the symphony. I loved my bands. Fun night.

#2 The Virginia Opera's production of Tales of Hoffmann was spectacular. One of the greatest shows they've put up in the years we've had season tix. (This is our 13th, I think.) Great stage direction, powerhouse voices, good acting, nice costumes, great cast, coolest set in years.

In our seating area the average age was 55 and that's with my bringing it down about a decade with my presence. Please, people my age: I know how much you spend on eating out. Get a decent seat at the opera so I can talk about the show with you later.

#3 Lucero at Alley Katz. I had waited MONTHS for this show. Wore my boots, stood in the pit, did a little gentle thrashing with the crowd, had a blast and was home by 11. My favorite part of the show was singing along with the crowd who were at times as loud as the band. My least favorite part was the exclusion of 3 or 4 of my fave songs because the set was only 90 minutes.

In my thrashing area the average age was 21 and that's with my bringing it up a few years with my presence. Please, people my age: Buy some boots and earplugs and meet me on the floor of Alley Katz. Lucero is worth it and the beer that appears to rain from the sky in there does wash out.

#4 Hank Williams III and Reverend Horton Heat at Toad's Place. I can't print the name of the opening band here, but they did not thrill me. I had a blast otherwise. I was just trying something new by going to this show. I only have one Hank III CD of his country variety, and knew Reverend Horton Heat only by reputation. The antics of the bass players of both bands was worth the price of admission.

There was one teenage moment of the evening. At the end of their encore, the Reverend Horton Heat himself zinged his guitar pick into the balcony at me. It scratched my arm but I didn't catch it. However, I choose to believe he knew that I was his only colleague in ministry in the house and was giving me props.

THE ONE I MISSED After all my big talk about my friend Rex Richardson in a recent post, I missed his faculty recital due to a church meeting. I sent my mother. She said it was AMAZING. If you haven't seen Rex Richardson live yet, the time is now. I can't imagine he'll stay in our fair river city forever, and I can only coax him into a church gig once every 2 years.

I guess that's my general message. Get out there and hear some music. The seats aren't always great. Sometimes it rains beer and you have to wear earplugs. Other times it seems that no one around has anything in common with you. Who cares? Live music is full of amazing surprises and connection with strangers in a unique way. It is entertaining, instructive, and if you're lucky, inspirational.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Big Kids Do Cry

I've always been a bit tender-hearted. I blame my grandfather. After multiple children, grandchildren, and decades of marriage, he still teared up EVERY time he told the story of meeting my grandmother. My dad can be rather sentimental, too, but he usually deflects it with a well-placed obscenity and people forget the soft heart.

My husband was playing Sara Arthur's Talk of the Town in the car this weekend. I warned him weeks ago that Stephen McCarthy's stunner of a song "When You Get Back Home" makes me cry EVERY time. We've been together almost 20 years, why does he doubt me?

He played it.

I boo-hooed.

He looked at me amazed and asked, "EVERY time?!?!"

I answered with my father's deflection trick.

The next night I was reading Berke Breathed's "Mars Needs Moms" for my son's bedtime story. There is a tough passage and I could not make it through. My son laughed gently and gave me a big hug. (He's 5! This is getting ridiculous.) In the end, I laughed and made it through, but in an effort to regain the adult role - the truth came bubbling out.

"Sweetie, mama isn't sad. I work with a lot of people and they tell me their stories. And sometimes some story reminds me of one of their stories and I cry. That's all."

That's all? I didn't even know that. But that IS it. At our best, isn't this why we cry?

At funerals we remember all the stories of the one who has died and sometimes cry. We cry for the stories we will no longer get to share with them. We cry for the ones they loved. We cry because this service reminds us of another service that we are not done dealing with.

In bittersweet moments that are not necessarily connected to death, we remember, too. Songs remind us, books remind us, smells and recipes and family gatherings remind us. We remember great trips, funny friends, fantastic nights, kind neighbors. I know that not everyone tears easily like I do but, if we are lucky, we still remember.

I just happen to have a memory accompanied by liquid. I try to think of it as my way of offering a toast. I try to think of it as family legacy. I try not to think about it because it makes me cry.

So today I was checking in at Cul de Sac Blues . I've mentioned this blog before. I think of this guy as the Franz Kafka of the blogosphere. (Day job of indistinct character, great writing on the side.) Check out the link. It made me cry. No real surprise there. But maybe it will remind you of something dear, too.


Sunday, November 04, 2007

November Parental Haiku

Had a minute for some brief blog browsing. Went over to the big daddy of UU bloggers to see what's up. Here is Philocrites on haiku. I love poetry but am a rotten poet. In the spirit of stretching boundaries and seasonal musings though...

November 1
Halloween candy.
Sweet bouncing kids, dogs, dada -
Mama loves Heath Bars.

November 2-4
M&Ms, Reese's
Raisinets and Junior Mints
Sugar high. Can't sleep.

Back to the gym
Personal trainer -
Buff, smiling until she says,
"BMI too high."

Circles are a-rollin!

This year we have worked very hard at FirstUU to get our small group ministries cranking. And it is a classic rabbit hutch scenario. People are jumping in right and left. Almost all of the groups are full and we are deciding when to start some more. I have been to the meetings of four groups and people are really enjoying this.
Feeling left out? Come on in. Small group ministries are a way for this growing church that has over 500 people actively involved to get small. The groups meet monthly and get to know each other through informal check-in and a more formal discussion on a pre-determined theme. Currently most of our groups are discussing the same themes. Believe it or not, that is it.

Or is it? Small group ministries allow for a depth of connection, discussion, introspection, and interaction that is difficult to find anywhere else. They are low pressure, high kindness. They are about time well-spent and people appreciated for their gifts and ideas. They are really quite amazing in their simplicity and their power.

And... to put on my other hat... we have them at the Unitarian Universalist Community Church in Glen Allen as well!!! How cool is that? Check us out. All of us.