Last year for Veterans Day I posted the honor roll of all those—thus far documented—in our direct lineage who have served in the military, from the Pequot War to World War II. (We don't go any further than that directly, though I'll tip my hat as well to some current family who married in.) Today I invite you to remember your favorite veterans and enjoy some selections from our church service yesterday, November 10, 2013. In the Episcopal Church, at least in my experience, no secular occasion (e.g Mothers Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day) is ever the focus of the service, but we do allow ourselves a little time to remember what the rest of the country is celebrating. After having the veterans of various branches of the service stand, we sang the part everyone knows of God Bless America, which I don't need to include here. Below are the anthems we sang.
A Prayer for Our Time (Joseph and Pamela Martin, Harold Flammer A7600). It took me a while to warm up to this anthem, written in response to the events of September 11, 2001, because my favorite of that genre has always been our own Robert Kerr's Prayer for Peace. But it has definitely grown on me, and singing it yesterday was spectacular. It's been a long time since I've been in a choir where the singing gave me goose bumps! It's not that our choir is so spectacular, but it's good enough that sometimes everything comes together just right. (Again, remember, that the videos below are not us.)
They Shall Soar Like Eagles (Laura Manzo, Fred Bock/Hal Leonard BG2078)
In Remembrance (Ragan Courtney and Buryl Red, Genevox 0-76-731560-5)
Happy 20th anniversary to two of our favorite people! Belated, that is; I blinked and the week was gone.
Our family is infinitely better off because of your wise decision those many years ago.
We have a bunch of folks from the Caribbean in our church, including several friends from choir. Every year they put on a Caribbean Festival, and it is tonight. Porter is still there, earning his Honorary Jamaican badge for another year: set up, tear down, and manning the drinks table in between. The food and the company are always great, and the music would be too (I love steel drums) if the volume weren't so painfully loud. I only lasted two hours, and gave my earplugs to Porter when I left.
We were driven out of our previous church by music so loud I had to wear earplugs during both choir rehearsal and Sunday services. Let's just say that our former music director would have loved the volume tonight. But here it's only one night a year, and I enjoy the food and fun. I would have enjoyed the conversation if I could have heard the person next to me....
We like snakes. Snakes eat bugs and rats and other not-so-pleasant would-be inhabitants of our yard. For the past several years, however, we haven't seen many. There haven't been that many hawks, though I have been hearing more owls than usual. Most likely the cause of drop in the snake population is that some of our neighbors don't feel about snakes the way we do. Our most common snake, the black racer, also has the unfortunately habit of hanging out just where the garage door hits the ground....
So we were glad to see one the other day, though less than happy that he zipped into the garage. Whence comes this snake suicide wish?
Then today Porter called me to the back porch to see another one. It was a snake I'd never seen before in all our 30 years in Florida. I took some pictures, and then Porter nudged it out the door with a broomstick. (Of course we had a broomstick handy. Isn't it two days before Hallowe'en?)
I transferred the pictures to my computer and started my identification quest. With a little trepidation, I began with the venomous snakes, because our snake (click to enlarge)
reminded us of nothing more than a pygmy rattler.
We could see no rattles, but they are very small, and this looked to be a pretty young snake. I began my search with the thought that shooing him out into the backyard—over which we expect our grandchildren to roam freely this summer—might not have been the smartest of ideas. True, we'd never had a pygmy rattlesnake in our yard (that I know of), and had only once ever seen one in the wild (on a campout), but there's always a first time.
It didn't take long, however, to discover that even after 30 years we still had something to learn about the black racer. The juveniles look nothing like the adults, which are sleek and a solid grey-black. The young are blotched, and are often mistaken for pygmy rattlers. You can see images of both the young and the adult here.
Whew. We're glad we let him live to grow up and patrol our yard. If only he'll stay clear of the garage door.
I went to Amazon.com this morning, and learned that they have raised the minimum purchase for free shipping from $25 to $35. And many people still think inflation isn't a problem!
I'm glad Amazon.de is smarter and still has free shipping for books to Switzerland, but this sure puts a crimp in my U.S. purchases.
Until inflation catches up, anyway.
Jonathan, in his dinnertime prayer, described it with many more superlatives and much more enthusiasm, but it was, indeed a fun day. It began, as usual, with Jonathan and Noah coming to my room at 7:00. They said they'd actually been here earlier but had retreated because they could tell by looking under the door that my light was not on, but I did not hear them, possibly because I'd been up past midnight writing yesterday's update.
We had fun with craft projects, reading books, and talking with Dad-o over the computer, but the main event of the day was a Harvest Festival in Londonderry, New Hampshire, where Jon was playing trombone in a jazz band concert. It was the best kind of concert to attend with five young children: Although the musicians were sheltered in a barn, the door was wide open and the volume sufficient that it was best heard from outside, where there were set up all sorts of booths with informative exhibits and games for kids. Jonathan roamed freely and garnered all sorts of candy and prizes, including one for first place in a doughnut-eating contest. Not an all-you-can-eat kind, but one where the doughut is suspended from a string and you must eat it without using your hands. I didn't get a picture of the winner, but Faith came in second when it was her turn:
After the concert was over and the kids had exhausted the games, if not quite themselves, we walked to a nearby church and picked apples, having first received permission, of course. It's an untended orchard, so the apples had not been sprayed, making them (1) safe to eat, right off the tree, (2) not pretty like grocery store apples, and (3) very nostalgic for me, as I grew up delighting in apples from such trees.
Finally, it was time to go home ... or so we thought. But on the way home we passed a fire department open house, and how could a firefighter's family resist? Big trucks to climb in, ladders to watch in action (but alas, not to climb), hoses to spray, uniforms to don, and plastic helmets to bring home. Joy, who wears her "fire shirt" as often as she can, and is frequently heard to say, "Bye! I going on a fire call!" loved this part of the show:
Jeremiah enjoyed himself, too, except for the beginning and the end: in his car seat on the rides there and back he pretty much either screamed or slept, with far too little of the latter. So we were all glad to get home, enjoy a take-out Chinese dinner, and take advantage of an early bedtime. Except, of course, that it's already late and I'm still writing this ... but it won't be midnight this time!
It's not quite Heather's birthday, but it looked like a good, (relatively) quiet day to celebrate, so that's what we did. It started out normally, with Jonathan knocking on my door right at 7:00, and Noah following not long after. Soon the day took an unexpected twist, however, when we went downstairs and discovered that Jon was not just up, but hadn't been to bed at all last night, thanks to a particularly problematic server crisis. We kept expecting him to take a nap, but he never did, for after he solved the server problem, several customers wanted his attention for one thing or another.
What made the situation particularly interesting was that during our early-morning time together, Jonathan, Noah, and I had been talking about the difference between doctors and nurses, and that led to a discussion of how difficult it is to do a good job when you don't have enough time to do it right, which led to the example of a certain plumber taking on more jobs than he could handle and therefore getting a reputation for being unreliable, because he promised more than he could deliver.
From there we talked about the importance of both (1) doing good work (getting the plumbing job right) and (2) being a good worker (showing up when you say you will), and about how a self-employed worker's greatest asset is his reputation. So I gave as an example Lime Daley, which is not the cheapest web host around, but is prized for delivering on its promises—unlike some, who count on you not really needing the capacity they've supposedly sold you—as well as for its prompt and friendly customer service. Even Lime Daley, I said, will occasionally have a day when customers A, B, C, D, E, and F all need attention at the same time and therefore can't get the normal prompt responses. In such a case, having a good reputation means that most customers respond well to an apology and an explanation—because they know it's a rare occurrence. I saw that in my school days, too: students who were known to be diligent were given more grace over an aberrant missed assignment than those with a reputation as slackers.
I don't really believe that my making up a story about six customers all needing Jon's attention at the same time actually caused it to happen—but if it did, I apologize.
We didn't actually stay home all day, as we had errands to run to the post office, the bank, the town offices, and the library. This doesn't count as stressful, however, because we didn't drive to any of them: they were all within easy walking distance, and the weather was very pleasant: clear, cool, and sunny, a perfect October day.
That reminds me of another library story. On Thursday, Jonathan suddenly jumped up, announced, "I need to get to the library now!" and disappeared. He returned a few minutes later with a copy of The Return of the King. The library here is closed on Wednesdays, and that sometimes makes Jonathan as antsy as a drug addict whose supply has been temporarily cut off.
It was also a good day for communication: our most successful Skype session yet with all the Daley and Stücklin cousins together. Despite the chaos, the kids really enjoyed seeing each other and interacting as best they could under the circumstances. In addition, Noah discovered Instant Messaging with Dad-o, and they spent a good long time in several sessions talking back and forth.
Heather's special dinner was one of my favorites, too: Siamese Chicken Curry with Broccoli and Peanuts. (My apologies, Heather. Looking at the original recipe I see that I recalled incorrectly that the type of peanuts called for was honey-roasted. But I still think they're the best.) She had to make most of it herself, not atypical for a mother. But at least she didn't have to bake her own cake.
After dinner Heather opened her presents—and Noah even had one for me: a homemade, hand-woven potholder, my favorite kind. I appreciated both the potholder and the implicit acknowledgement that if it weren't for Grandma, Mommy wouldn't be celebrating her birthday.
Finally, we enjoyed our extra-fudgy Ghiradelli brownie "cake." Heather wanted it served warm, so we blatantly ignored the instructions to let the brownies cool completely. Note for the future: Be sure to let them cool, if not completely, at least long enough that the candles don't melt.
It was a busy day today so I'll try to make this quick. Jonathan, having been given permission to come visit me any time after 7 a.m., was at the door as expected, and Noah followed soon thereafter. The rest of the household isn't officially up until after 8:00, so this means giving up precious time by myself—time I only have first thing in the morning or last thing at night. But it is oh so worth it to have that time for uninterrupted conversation with my oldest grandchild(ren)!
After breakfast it was time for morning chores and preparation for the Bible study that meets here on a weekly basis. Noah made us tea (there was also coffee) and then while the meeting was going on, he and Faith beta-tested my newest educational PowerPoint shows. Suddenly it was lunchtime, then time for afternoon chores, and soon it was time for the boys' karate lessons. This is a new activity for the family, something Jonathan has been wanting for at least two years. He and Noah are in the same class, which I was able to observe. Noah does very well; Jonathan in amazing in his focus and the grace of his movements.
We didn't quite have time to get dinner cooked before it was time for Faith's karate lesson, so she and I went there together while the rest of the family ate. Hers is a "tots" class, so I wasn't expecting much, but she showed the same determined focus and grace that Jonathan has. When one of the other parents there commented that the "little blond girl" was blowing away the other, older children with her skills, I pointed out that she has the example of her two older brothers to follow. As I said yesterday, the educational value of older siblings is tremendous. Although Joy is not yet old enough for any class at the dojo, she insists that she is also learning karate, at home—and so she is, for her brothers and sister teach her.
Immediately after Faith's class we had handbell choir at church—which is fortunately just across the street from the dojo. They are always gracious and let me ring with them when I come to visit, and I have a great time.
Finally, we were back at home, where Faith and I had a late dinner, and everyone indulged in homemade coffee ice cream (made with coffee left over from the morning's Bible study) smothered in homemade "Magic Shell" chocolate topping.
And now it's late again—but if I'm going to enjoy the privilege of early morning conversations, I need to grab computer time at night. Tomorrow we will enjoy an early celebration of Heather's birthday; those of you who know us both will understand that part of the "celebration" will be staying home!
Noah had yesterday's Quote of the Day; now it's Joy's turn: I love Grandma in our house!
I love being here, Joy! We all miss Dad-o, however.
The process whereby a child learns to read continues to fascinate me. Three months ago, Noah, who had just turned seven, demonstrated great progress in learning to read. But he was not yet a reader. Back then, he did a good job of making his way through his simplified, beginning readers. But just now he read to me Curious George Gets a Medal, with its much more advanced vocabulary and structure, and he read fluently, nearly effortlessly, and with great expression.
Similarly, in the time between two years, four months and two years, seven months, Joy's language abilities have exploded. In that time she has made the transition from two-word phrases to full, mostly clear communication, including correct use of pronouns. Amazing.
There are advantages and disadvantages to large families, but surely one of the greatest is the example of older siblings. I'm certain Joy has no idea that her youth should hinder her keeping up with her big brothers and sister. Her size, maybe: Jonathan executed a neat vault over the porch railing, and Joy announced that she was not going to follow suit because she would get hurt. Quite fearless, as a rule, she knows the difference between courage and foolishness.
Quote of the Day, from Noah: "Grandma, I think you're old enough to wear tie shoes now." To which I responded, "I'm old enough now to choose to wear Velcro shoes because I like them better."
Bedtime. It's been a long but fun day.
Congratulations to one of my most faithful readers, who turns 50 today. Mind you, it's a bit of a stretch to remember back that far myself, but I'm pretty sure the 50's is a great decade. (I'm not talking about the era of poodle skirts, Elvis, and air raid drills.)
Last night the youth choir at our church gave a concert. The theme was the history of Contemporary Christian Music, a genre rather low on my list of music that I can stomach appreciate. But with increasing familiarity—and (I cannot say this too often) the fact that I'm now in a church where we sing it at a volume that does not cause me to think more about the pain in my ears than anything else—I'm beginning to like more than a few of these songs. Besides, these are our kids, and deserve support. I'm continually amazed not only at how good their voices are, but at how many of them have the guts to stand up and sing solos. Our music director is amazing—the more I see, the less I can buy his argument that he just has great kids to work with.
Be that as it may, I can't say I enjoyed the selection of songs, even though a number were familiar, some from a long way back. A couple hit home, however. Blessed Be Your Name always does. And then there was Heaven Is in My Heart. My immediate reaction was that I'd never heard of it. Then again, it sounded so familiar. Just not quite right. Finally, it hit me: Der Himmel Erfüllt Mein Herz. I had sung it not much more than a month ago, but as far as I was concerned it was a German praise song. I had no idea there was an English version. My mind knows how interconnected the world now is; my heart does, too, since we have intimate connections across the ocean. But my gut is having trouble catching up, apparently: running unexpectedly into something from another part of my world always astonishes me.
It's funny how the language challenge adds a complexity that makes praise songs far more interesting, at least when you're singing them.
Voting closes in about an hour, I'm afraid, but it's worth a try. You can vote for them all; probably multiple times, but I don't like ballot-box stuffing.
Correction: Voting closes October 13; it was submitting the stories that had to be done by today. But vote now anyway; you'll be surprised how soon a week will pass!
Thank you for your votes in favor of getting the cousins together!
Seats for Switzerland is a contest run by Swiss Airlines for uniting separated loved ones. To win, you must tell a convincing story and be chosen by a combination of voter participation and judges' decision. You also have to be a resident of Switzerland, or you can bet we'd have written our own stories. Instead, we're publicizing those of the people we want to be reunited with. Here's is the link to Joseph's story, where you can cast your vote for him. (It's easy; you only need to provide your name, an e-mail address, and agree to some non-threatening "terms and conditions.")
Y'all know I generally don't like the "vote for me in this contest" idea—but this is for our grandkids!
I'll publish links for the rest of the family when they're up, so you can vote for them, too. :) Thank you, thank you.