Thursday, November 15, 2012

And This Year I am Thankful For....

So it's that time of year again. And just where did the year go? There's so much to be thankful for that I need to get these fingers moving before they move right on out of my brain! We serve a benevolent God who  blesses us over and above what we could ever hope or deserve.

The Summer of 2012 will ever be known as the time when Teller and El Paso Counties in Colorado were devastated by fires. Although Colorado Springs suffered the brunt of the damage, with close to 350 homes destroyed and two lives lost, I am thankful to see the people down there joining forces as a community and rebuilding their lives. I am thankful Woodland Park was spared. Every time Don and I drive  through the burn area my heart breaks all over again. It is then that I am reminded of God's mercy and all the first responders who worked tirelessly to protect us.

I am thankful for a community where people still recognize their neighbors and help one another out. Living in a smaller community once more reminds me of the little town in Arkansas where I grew up. Neighbor helping neighbor, people waving or speaking even though they may or may not know your name. I love the feeling of small town (and in our case, country) living.

I am thankful for my neighbors. I am thankful for doctors who take care of my autoimmune problems. I am thankful for a nice warm and comfortable home, for Facebook where I can connect with people I haven't seen in years, for email that enables me to connect in a moment's notice with my family during a time of trouble.

I am thankful for friends and family. I am doubly blessed and thankful for my wonderful husband, Don, who unselfishly takes care of me. I am thankful that I don't wear that boot anymore, even though I was thankful for it when I broke my foot.

I am thankful for God's love and mercy and how he loves a pathetic old creature like me.

I could go on and on, but you get it. I have a thankful heart this year. The heaviness of last year has passed; Don and I are picking up the pieces and moving on and we are thankful for the opportunity to do so.

Happy Thanksgiving,


P.S. I am also thankful for all my "deer" friends. They bring me many hours of pleasure as I talk to them and watch as they do whatever it is that deer do. Atlas, Molly, Not Molly, Bossie, John Jacob Astor, Spike, Jolene...these are just a few.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I'd Do It Again in a New York Minute, Part Deux

Here I am at 1 a.m. on Saturday morning...and I am WIDE awake. Oh, the life of an insomniac.

At any rate, now's as good a time as any to finish my blog about the trip Reflection took to Racine, Wisconsin. I must admit, when my husband, Don, got sick with the cold I passed on to him, and couldn't make the trip, I struggled with the reality I'd be making the trip without him. In all the years I've known him, we've only been separated three times: once when he went to a mens' retreat, once when I flew to Northern Virginia when my grandson, Marcus, was born, and the last time was for a business meeting I had in Dallas two summers ago. (A word to the wise: never, ever, ever plan a trip to the South in the dead of summer. You might just melt in the heat.)

On the way to Racine, I sat in the backseat of the vehicle I rode in and prayed for the couple who'd be stuck with me. I was very apprehensive about staying with people I didn't know because I present with a huge group of challenges all my own. With rheumatoid arthritis and interstitial lung disease anything can happen at any time and I was fearful I'd be a burden. But the minute I met them, all that abated.

John and Diana Wells, a lovely empty nest couple like us, were the perfect hosts. Diana shared with me that they'd never volunteered to host anyone before, but honestly, I was shocked! They definitely have the gift of hospitality. I have NEVER, in all the years I've traveled with singing groups and stayed in peoples' homes, felt so welcome and accepted.

Sunday morning, we arose early, before daylight, and drove to John and Diana's favorite local breakfast cafe. Every Sunday they eat breakfast there before going to church. I had a great time there. The minute we opened the door, I was flooded with bittersweet memories of my parents and their cafe, much like this one. But more than that, again, I felt welcome. It sort of reminded me of "Cheers" when Norm would come in and everyone would shout out his name. One of the elderly gentleman at one table asked Diana who her friend was. My heart was touched when Diana told him I was their friend from Colorado.  The man asked me "why in the world would you leave Colorado and come here?" I suppose I was seeing Racine from a visitor's eyes. It is beautiful there.

As we drove back to the Wells' lovely home, the sun was beginning its rise over Lake Michigan. I have never seen anything so breathtakingly beautiful. It took my breath away and I found it difficult to turn away. Pinks, purples, blues and grays filled the skies over the lake.

Later in the day we had lunch at the harbor and then I got a local's tour of the area. That night our group sang at their church, Calvary Memorial. One of the members of our group, John Friesma, grew up in that church and has many family members who still attend. John and Diana sat in the second pew and they beamed. I think Diana's sweet smile never left her lips.

When we left the following morning, I felt like I was leaving cherished friends; it was difficult to fathom that we'd known each other only a short 48 hours. Since then, I have plotted in my mind ways I can get them out to visit us in Colorado.

John and Diana, don't be a stranger. The porch light's on...just as yours was for me.

Until then, Godspeed, my friends.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

I Would Do It Again in a New York Minute

As promised, I am here to fill you in on my recent trip to Racine, Wisconsin. A week ago today, Reflection, a group of singers from Woodland Park, Colorado, departed despite snowy roads and cold temperatures at 5 a.m. for the great state of Wisconsin. One of our members hails from Racine and was kind enough to set up some concerts for us.

I had never been to Wisconsin before and looked forward to the visit. We also drove through Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois coming and going, depositing tolls to support their economies all along the way. One thing I was just a bit concerned about was whether I'd be able to find vegetarian options along the way. To my surprise, Nebraska was the easiest place for me to eat. I laughed about it because my husband had said, "Don't expect too much from Nebraska. Beef is a huge industry there and they'd laugh in your face if you told them you don't eat meat. Just order dessert. Thankfully, I was able to find more than a good piece of apple pie. In a truck stop in Hershey, NE, I found the best loaded baked potato EVER! And it was my birthday, so it was a double treat!

I wanted to share a little about one of the places we sang over the weekend. We were scheduled to sing in an assisted-living facility in Kenosha. The activities director, a lovely young woman named Heidi, was gifted in both patience and tact and took care of her residents with great precision and compassion. The residents were all in varying stages of dementia or Alzheimer's Disease and tended to wander about aimlessly, some telling and retelling stories to their Saturday evening visitors. One kind lady told us of being born in Racine, yet growing up in Germany during WWII. Once the war was over, she was allowed to return to the States as she was a US Citizen (Her parents were German). She had a thick accent and asked me repeatedly from where I hailed. And each time she learned I was from Colorado, she relived her earlier years of skiing the slopes of Aspen and Vail.

Another lady, wandered around looking for her purse. She grabbed our director's bag and off she went, followed in hot pursuit by Heidi.

Once our sound system was set up and the residents were calmed, we began our concert. I was singing lead in one of the songs when a little lady came in from behind and weaved in and out of the singers.  Diana, one of our sopranos, danced with her and kept her busy. She even took my microphone and told me it was her turn to sing. Only she didn't sing. She said in full voice, "HELLO". Then she walked away.

At the end of the concert, which Heidi seemed to enjoy despite her aerobic workout, we were given a package of gourmet cookies in thanks. But the pleasure was all ours. The residents were a joy to sing for and I'd do it again in a New York minute.

Next time, I'll write about my host family, John and Dianna Wells. They were like visiting long lost relatives and I can't wait to find a time to visit with them again.