Category Archives: Uncategorized

Through The Mist

Standard

Things unseen…

Now and then a conversation or a circumstance reminds me that I can’t see everything.  Whether physical or metaphorical, my world is sometimes shrouded in a thick fog, a mist that obscures details from view.  My perspective can be limited.

F2D0D71F-FC08-4C8D-B718-5DFFEF3A89BC

Once more I find myself needing to clarify, not what I have seen so much as what I have said.  I need to apologize.  I need to try to make amends.

Sometimes I speak from a place of irritation, even of anger, saying hurtful words that I don’t really mean and quickly wish I could take back.  Apologies for such moments usually come fast, and without too much difficulty.  A simple declaration…“I’m sorry I said that.  I was mad. I didn’t mean it and I hope you can forgive me.”

It’s a lot harder when I realize that I have inadvertently hurt someone by speaking from a place of ignorance or a lack of understanding.  When I have spewed opinions based on judgment or dogma without taking into account that those opinions affect real-life, concrete people…people I love and value and appreciate, regardless of whether I understand their viewpoints, orientations, challenges, spiritual upbringing or lack thereof…

Before I spew, I need to clear the fog and educate myself about the lives and struggles of the people I profess to love.  I know what it is like to have some well-meaning but oh-so-judgy “loved one” preach at me about how wrong I am in some area of my life that should be easy to fix…an area about which they possess no understanding.  Lord, help me see past the fog, through the mist of the lives that touch mine.  Help me to see, and to say, with clarity, only what is true, helpful, inspiring, necessary and kind.  #think

92E72324-C1A8-4482-B21C-D2498A0BF36D

 

Dog Days

Standard

Love beyond understanding…

There is a commercial for Subaru that makes me weepy almost every time I see it.  Willie Nelson sings “You’re my buddy, my pal, my friend…”, as a man prepares for a road trip with his dog, with a close-up shot of a bone-shaped birthday cake decorated with the number 14.  The spot goes on to show the man and his dog marking activities off what looks to be the dog’s bucket list.  The tag line is, “Love—it’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru”.

Now, I realize that that ultimate goal of the commercial is to sell cars.  However, there is a category of advertising known as “image-building”, into which this particular spot falls.  Instead of listing specifications about safety ratings, gas mileage and dealer incentives, spots like this instead help the viewer (or listener in the case of radio advertising) build an emotional connection with the product.  I can imagine the pitch meeting for this particular commercial, with creative service professionals discussing how they could target pet owners as potential buyers for this car.  That’s their job, and in this case, they performed it extremely well.

When I see this commercial, I can’t help remembering our first dog, Ernie The Wonder Beagle.  He was actually a Beagle-Basset mix, adopted from the local shelter and estimated to be 1.5 to 2 years of age when we took him home.  We enjoyed nearly 11 years of unconditional love with him, even as we became acquainted with his emotional issues.

It was pretty clear that at some point he had suffered abuse, and possibly starvation.  He was skittish around people he didn’t know, especially men, for a long time.  But with time and love, he learned that he could trust us, and could trust the people we trusted.  He especially seemed to enjoy it when he had a chance to see The Aunts at Dad’s for Christmas Eve and he was quite affectionate with them.

He was both extremely sensitive and ridiculously funny.  Countless times he emerged from our bedroom with a cotton swab he’d swiped from a wastebasket hanging out of his mouth like a cigar.  He “stalked” his stuffed toys by circling around them on the floor before grabbing and shaking them with all his might, eventually throwing the offending toy down and descending on it in a growling, playful frenzy.  He listened to 11 years of tears, joys, secrets and meltdowns from me, served as a heating pad when I was cold or had backaches or cramps, showered me with kisses and snuggles every day when I came home from work.  He loved me when it felt like no one else in the world did, or could.

For about the last 11 months of his life, Ernie lived with cancer, and we lived with it as well.  We and our veterinarians exercised our best judgement regarding how to give Ernie his best chances for both survival and a decent quality of life.  There were several surgeries to remove tumors, multiple rounds of steroids and other medications trying to keep his cancer at bay.  He was a brave little fighter, much more so than I was during his illness.

In the end, though, the cancer took him from us.  Ten years have passed since he died.  A couple of months after he died, we adopted Our Boy Roy, who came home with us on the same day that Ernie had, September 4…Ernie in 1996 and Roy in 2007. Roy’s adoption is a story for another blog post, one I will get around to writing, eventually.

As wonderful as Roy is and as much as I love him, I still miss Ernie every single day.  Our pets provide us with a kind of love that is beyond understanding or explanation.  We humans would do well to emulate the kind of simple love our pets give us and share that love with other humans.

image

Above, me with Ernie shortly after adopting him, September 1996, and on his last night at home, July 4, 2007, before he went to the hospital for the last time.  He died one week later.

image

One of the best friends of my life, Ernie The Wonder Beagle.  God rest his little Beagle-y soul.

R.I.P DivaMobile

Standard

She was more than just a car…

Most people have probably seen the insurance commercial in which a cute girl speaks to the camera, saying “You owned your car for 4 years.  You named it Brad.  You LOVED Brad.  And then you totaled him…”  The script goes on to describe the relationship between the car and its owner.  I can relate to this scenario more strongly since, after nearly 12 years of driving her, I wrecked my beloved DivaMobile.

The sadness of watching her getting towed away was overwhelming.  I cried and then I threw up.  No kidding.  (I think the throwing up had to do partly with my taking antibiotics at the time…but only partly.)

In order to explain my attachment to her, I need to give a bit of backstory.  I found myself in February 2004 needing a replacement for my previous car, which had been rear-ended and totaled in that wreck (which was not nearly as traumatic as this one). Jeff and I looked around and test drove a few, and decided that it made the most sense for us to go ahead and purchase something brand new.  So we bought a new 2004 Honda C-RV.  I named her Veronica, nicknamed The DivaMobile.  She had 153 miles on February 20, 2004 when I took delivery, and the only reason those miles were on her was because the dealership did not have a stick shift in my desired color on the lot.  So mine was driven over from North Carolina.  She was not fancy, but she was silver, shiny, new and all mine, and I loved her from the start.

The DivaMobile carried us on many vacation adventures, including, I believe, our first trip to St. Simons Island.  We took her on several trips there and to Destin, our other favorite vacation spot.  She was my companion on my work commute, to music and volunteer activities, taking our dogs to the vet, and she always had more than enough room for all the gear I carried around with me.  (It is difficult for me to travel light, whether literally or metaphorically.)  She saw the transition when Ernie The Wonder Beagle died and then Our Boy Roy became part of our family, hauling them both when they needed to go to the vet or anywhere else.  Roy always gets excited when I ask, “Do you want to go for a ride?”

image

From February 20, 2004 until January 20, 2016, The DivaMobile carried me safely everyplace I needed to go. I spent all of my 40’s with her, and then some.  And with God’s help, she kept me safe in the worst wreck I’ve ever been involved in as either a passenger or a driver.  I walked away from this nightmare with only some bumps, bruises and scratches.  Physically, I am OK.  And I am grateful.

For years  I had a tiny angel on a leather cord hanging from my rear view mirror.  I liked the thought of an angel riding along with me.  I still do.

image

Jeff and I don’t trade cars often.  We tend to make long-term commitments, driving them until they die…or in this case, until they are killed.  The DivaMobile and I traveled 154,408 miles together…minus her first 153, that is.  I’m praying my next car relationship is as long and satisfying, just with a happier ending.

image

image

 

Fragile

Standard

When normal stops…

Last Wednesday, January 20, 2016, Knoxville experienced the first real snow of the season.  The prospect of snowfall still brings excitement to the childlike part of me.  The white blanket that shrouds everything, the quiet, the glory of winter’s beauty fills my heart with wonder.

As an adult, however, my excitement is tempered by the fact that, snow or not, I still have to get to work.  Most of us do.  It is a reality I have dealt with for a long time working in the media.  Our world doesn’t stop for snow or for anything else.

I have also long prided myself on being a careful, and fairly competent, snow driver, preaching the principles of safe speeds, proper following distances and plenty of extra time to get where we need to go.  I still believe in all those principles.  Being careful is just common sense.

But despite my best efforts, last Wednesday, I wrecked my beloved DivaMobile anyway.

image

image

It seemed to happen both in accelerated time and in slow motion, all at once.  I was driving through downtown. The interstate did not look like it had been treated with either sand or brine, and lane lines were not clearly visible.  A small pickup truck veered in front of me, too close for my comfort, and in trying to avoid crashing into it, I applied my brakes, slid, spun several times and crashed into a guardrail.  I came to rest on an interstate on-ramp facing the wrong direction.  Had the guardrail not been there to stop me, I would have most likely gone down an embankment and landed on 5th Avenue.

image

image

image

I am OK, physically.  A few scratches, bumps and bruises, but I’m OK.  And by some miracle, in all this madness, no other vehicles were involved.  I didn’t hit anybody, and nobody hit me, and I never lost consciousness.  After I realized what had actually happened, I found my phone, called 911, then called work and Jeff to tell them I’d had an accident.

Here’s the thing.  Seeing the damage that happened to my car, I realized once more just how fragile life is, how quickly an event can change everything.  I took the day of the wreck and the day after off from work, and on Friday I returned.  In more snow.  And yes, I drove myself, although I had to drive the SweetPeaMobile.  Was I scared?  Absolutely.  Will I be scared for a while?  Most likely.  But for all the fragility of life and how scary things can be, I can’t let fear keep me from doing what I need to do.  I’ll just have to do it afraid for a while, praying and trusting God to protect me and those I love, being as safe as I know how to be and getting on with the business of living and working, finding a new car to try to replace my beloved DivaMobile and looking forward to feeling, eventually, a little less Fragile.

image

The Year Of The Soul Date

Standard

My one resolution for 2016…

I am one of those fossils who still uses a paper calendar/planner in my attempts to keep track of my life.  Years ago I developed a primitive yet effective system of color-coding my calendar in order to see at a glance what events are coming up.  Pink is for family and friend birthdays and anniversaries, orange for appointments like haircuts, doctor visits and the like, yellow for musical events such as concerts with my chorus and chorale, as well as events my college students are presenting.  And I chose purple for vacations and time off…things that feed my soul.

This year I was a few days late in purchasing my calendar, and while filling in my dates and color coding them, I had to backtrack a few days to a dinner date I had with my friend Marc earlier in the week.  I don’t know why I never color coded things like this, impromptu or planned-in-advance get-togethers with friends and kinfolks, but I have decided to make a more deliberate effort this year to document these moments as well, in purple, because they feed my soul as much as vacations do.  I have decided that 2016 is going to be The Year Of The Soul Date.

My Soul Date with Marc consisted of dinner at a local Asian restaurant, and wonderful conversation.  The dinner we enjoyed was delicious and healthy…and then, dessert happened!  We thought we would be sharing a simple piece of chocolate cake…and then this behemoth slab of fudge-rich decadence as big as a human head appeared at our table.

image

We were unable to finish it, and neither of us dared take it home for fear of the damage it might do if we ate more!  This cake is big enough for several people to share…as a meal!

What was my point…?  Oh yeah, The Soul Date.  My hope/goal/resolution for this year is to have a weekly Soul Date.  I need time and space to connect with the people in my life who matter…as well as time to be alone and replenish my emotional and spiritual resources.  My lifelong friend Mary K went on a retreat at a convent this past week, and I am eager to find out what benefits that time will have for her.  I was a little envious of the quiet I knew she would experience there!

I think a Soul Date can happen anywhere…over dinner, in a bookstore, with friends or in solitude.  While my primary focus is to spend time with people who bring me joy, I also hope to do some solitary activities that will recharge my batteries.  Maybe a spa visit, or an afternoon in a park listening to my favorite music, or walking a labyrinth (I’ve never done that before but I’ve always been intrigued by the idea).  A lot of my friends are enjoying the new “adult coloring books”, either the paper kind or the online variety.  Jeff and I have not taken a weekend cabin trip in a long time, and we should make an escape sooner rather than later!

Here’s the thing.  I figure that if I take the time to recharge my emotional batteries and feed my soul, I will have more to offer to the world around me.  And my prayer for these Soul Dates is that, as I get my own soul fed, I am also able to feed the souls of the people with whom I share the time.

 

Closing Time

Standard

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…(and yes, I stole that line from a song)…

There have been too many goodbyes for me in 2015, too many moments when a door I took for granted slammed shut with no warning.  For that reason, I am sort of glad to see the year come to a close, and I pray that 2016 will be, Lord willing and knock wood, a healthy, happy and peaceful year for me and for all the people I love.  I pray for this…but only God knows what’s coming.

With each friend I’ve had to say goodbye to, a relationship has ended on Earth…but a place is being held for me in Heaven as they await my arrival.  I can see myself, once I’ve settled into Heaven for a bit, sitting with my friend Dave on his front porch, talking about our shared friends in the world of radio and television.  He will have birds as pets there too, creatures he loved so much while he was here.  From there I might stroll over to see Bill, and we’ll sit at his piano,singing together once more, his voice strong and clear, his body healthy and whole in a way we can’t begin to imagine down here.  And sweet Ron, who I knew the longest of the three, will  greet me with a big cup of coffee in his hand, open arms and a smile.  He is the Scarecrow to my Dorothy, sharing with me the most years of my journey here before he left to start his journey There.

Because, as I’ve stated before, just because someone dies, doesn’t mean the love stops, or the relationship ends.  It changes by necessity, but it’s not over.  The ones I have loved are just in a place where I can’t see them right now.

So I bid farewell to 2015, grateful that it is Closing Time. A new year, a few frontier, begins, swinging open a portal of fresh starts. Gracious God, grant peace, good health and happiness to everyone I love.  Draw us closer to each other and closer to You. Amen.

image

Unnoticed

Standard

What am I missing?…

I like to think of myself as a fairly observant person, most of the time anyway.  Photography is a hobby of mine, and I write this blog in part as a way to share what I observe about the world around me.  But today I was startled—and delighted—by a tiny fragment in a picture that had, until now, gone unnoticed.

I was scrolling through all the photos stored on this little computer (technology continues to amaze me as I can not only take pictures with this device, but also store, organize and edit them!) and I came upon the collection from my nephew Aaron’s wedding in November.  There was a tiny piece of a rainbow visible before the ceremony that I captured (although their professional photographer caught a much more beautiful shot of it).  Among the many pictures I took of the glorious flower arrangements, I took several shots of some floating arrangements in a reflecting pool.

Obviously, when I took the picture I was focusing on the flowers.  Looking at the image today, I realized that that tiny piece of rainbow was reflected in the corner of the pool…until now, unnoticed.  It made me wonder about all the other beautiful things in my life that escape my attention while I’m focusing on one particular thing.

The weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day bring so much activity, busy-ness and even stress sometimes.  In focusing on those things, what beautiful gifts am I missing?  The names of the holidays themselves should remind me what really matters.  Giving Thanks.  Christ.  A New Year.

Lord, thank You for letting me finally see that tiny reflected rainbow.  Thank You for the beauty of my life.  Help me never to let Your gifts go Unnoticed.image

(See it?  It’s in the very tippy-top left hand corner.  No wonder I missed it for so long!)

Happy Birthday, Dear Sweet Pea

Standard

How I won the Husband Jackpot…

It all started in the summer of 1982. I had just graduated from high school and was looking forward to new adventures in the college world in a few months. I had been seeing someone most of my senior year of high school, and we were still dating, although no longer exclusively. He was a nice guy, but we were not well suited for one another. A longtime friend of mine from elementary school, Gary, was working with Jeff, aka Sweet Pea, at Winn-Dixie and suggested to Jeff that he might ask me out. And he did. And the rest is history.

Well, sort of.

I should give a bit of background at this point. Jeff and I were 2 years apart in high school and, while we didn’t really know each other, we knew each other’s faces and were aware of each other’s existence. I actually worked up the courage to ask him to the Y-Teen Formal (Y-Teens was an all-girl club at school and the formal was a girl-ask-guy affair, like Sadie Hawkins dances. He already had a date. I was mortified. I never spoke to him again until he called to ask me out on our first date.) For this reason I call Gary’s fix-up of us not a blind date, but a “nearsighted” one.

I remember our first date vividly. He took me to see “Tron” at the theater and when he took me home, I invited him in for a glass of tea so we could talk some more. He stayed a long time…a REALLY long time. We talked and drank tea and he kissed me goodnight and it was a perfectly lovely evening, one that I hoped would repeat itself many, many times. And it did.

Our courtship was not without its rough patches, and our marriage has had a few of those as well.  Relationships involve flawed people and, as such, are subject to those people’s foibles and mistakes.  I will admit in writing, for all the world to see, that most of the foibles in our relationship have been mine.  He knew I was crazy going into this shootin’ match.

He was born on December 5, 1961.  Mom Cutshaw always said that it took her 16 years of marriage to have 3 children, and it did.  Mom and Pop Cutshaw were married in November, 1945, eloping when he came back from the war.  In June 1950, Jeff’s brother Howard was born, followed by Bridget in January 1955.  Mom Cutshaw joked that she “watched 1960 really close!” , but alas, Jeff came along in December of 1961.  (He graduated from kindergarten as Howard was graduating from high school.)  Mom Cutshaw told me that she knew the morning after they conceived him that they’d made a baby.  I for one am eternally grateful that they did!

Image

Among all the other reasons that Sweet Pea is special, the most important to me is that after all these years together, he can still make me laugh.  He is, in fact, the funniest person I’ve ever known in my life.  And considering some of the characters in my family, that is indeed saying something!

Image

Image

He is also generous and tenderhearted.  I’ll never forget the times he has come home after a holiday shopping trip with misty eyes because of some child’s heartbreaking Angel Tree request for warm socks or a winter coat.  I have never been more proud of him than when he learned how to give injections to Mom Cutshaw as she battled cancer.  He is a sweet, decent, caring man, one who married into my family and loved them like his own.  And they loved him just as much, Mama most of all.  It was Mama, in fact, who gently pointed out to me that with Jeff, I seemed to laugh a lot.  I think she knew I would marry him long before I knew it.

Image

We’ve had a wonderful life together so far, with the good times more than balancing the bad ones.  And now with his birthday once again approaching, I just wanted to take a moment to share why he is so wonderful, why I love him so much, and to say that I am forever grateful for having won the Husband Jackpot when I married him.

Image

Image

And as I have shared in other places, I have to share my favorite picture of us together, lovingly captured by Howard a number of years ago.  The looks on both of our faces pretty much express the totality of our life together.

Image

Happiest of Happy Birthdays, my precious Sweet Pea!  It may be your birthday, but I am the one who receives the gift.  Thank you for giving me a life I could never have imagined without you.  I love you with all my heart, for all my life.  ❤

Creature Comforts

Standard

Why I need a dog in my life…

My days off this past weekend were wasted, and wonderful! I didn’t accomplish anything except sing in church and get a lot of rest, which I sorely needed after the prior weekend’s concerts and church solos in an unheated sanctuary. I didn’t even do any reading, which is unusual for me on my days off from work. I just rested.

Our Boy Roy, our little Terrier mix, rested with me, or more accurately, a lot of the time he rested ON me. Maybe it is the changing weather, or maybe he is just a little moody lately, but it seems like he has been wanting to snuggle closer in recent weeks. Not that I mind, of course. He is a sweet little companion, and a source of warmth for me in more ways than one.

Image

Physically, he puts off a lot of heat, which is so welcome when I plop on the couch or into bed at the end of a long day. At my age and with my hormones doing whatever it is they’re doing, I freeze all day and burn up all night. The cold actually seems to bother me more, and Roy is like a little furry space heater when I get home from work.

Then there is the warmth of companionship that he provides me, a relationship spoken in the language of scratches and belly rubs, snuggles and dog kisses.  He listens without interrupting, or judging, and he never tells my secrets.  He never cares if I haven’t had a bath (sometimes I think he prefers it that way!) and his idea of an excellent adventure is a ride with me to the pharmacy drive-through.

Image

 He seems to want to do whatever Jeff and I are doing, even if what we’re doing is nothing.  He seems content simply to be with us.  I have heard some people say that dogs don’t feel emotions, and that they are not capable of loving their people.  I can’t bring myself to believe that.  I have cried and had a dog put his head on my chest, sighing as I sobbed.  When I fell years ago walking Ernie The Wonder Beagle and broke my leg, I dropped his leash, but he never left my side as I crawled to get back into the house.  When I have been at my lowest, I have looked into the soulful eyes of a dog and felt the warm comfort of a creature looking back at me with nothing but love.

Image

Old Scores

Standard

Musicians’ tools of the trade…

This past weekend was a musical extravaganza for me, very busy and extremely rewarding.  Knoxville Choral Society and Chamber Chorale, accompanied by members of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra, performed our annual Fall Concert on Saturday evening at the historic Bijou Theatre downtown, and presented an encore performance Sunday afternoon at the Community Church in Tellico Village.  I was indeed blessed to take part in these concerts and to have been chosen as a soloist.  I no longer take these blessings for granted because I know my days as a soloist are limited. I’m getting older every second, after all, and nothing lasts forever. 

Image

 

Image

Between those performances I also had the communion solo for two church services.  So it was a very busy weekend, and I will admit that by the time it was all finished, I was pretty worn out.  Still, this kind of activity gives me much more than it takes out of me.

Part of the concert program was the Christmas portion of Handel’s “Messiah”, a familiar and beloved sacred choral and orchestral work, and a demanding one.  My “Messiah” score is the one I have used for every performance I have ever done since college.  It is 31 years old.  I purchased it as a college freshman because my voice teacher wanted me to learn some of the soprano solos in it, and even though we did not perform “Messiah” that year, he knew I’d need the score for the next year (and for the rest of my life!).  So he told me to go ahead and buy it.  It may be the single most-used piece of music I own to this day.

Even when I have sung portions of the work with church choirs that used a different edition, I have always used my own score.  It is old and worn, with some dog-eared page corners and rusty marks from paper clips of years gone by, like little scars on the page.  It contains markings from the conductors I’ve worked with and from the voice teachers who have coached me, as well as my own unique system of symbols and notes to remind myself to watch, to straighten my tone, to shape a phrase or to raise my eyebrows so I don’t go flat.  It’s a sort of shorthand developed over decades.  I have my own language of markings, and every other musician I know has theirs as well.  It’s as unique as a fingerprint, and just as personal.

As I have asserted before, I am a collector, of objects and of memories, and I am sentimental about all of them.  My “Messiah” score is much more to me than a piece of music.  It is Scripture set to music, the story of Jesus in types and shadows, and as substance and promise fulfilled.  It is also a sort of scrapbook, a memory album of the many times I have raised my voice to offer the gift God gave me back to Him, alone as a soloist and with a chorus of other musicians.  So much more than words and notes on paper, my ‘Messiah” score is a trusted friend, filled with my memories of musical offerings past and dreams of the ones yet to come. 

Image