Love Songs

Not everyone is going to understand this post … but those of us who have gone through the loss of a long-term partner, it is all too real.

You never know when the ache returns. Sometimes it is shortly after the loss. Other times it is around a special event or anniversary. You sort of expect those. But when you get hit right between the eyes out of the blue … well, that can be disconcerting. Even after eight and a half years.

Today has been one of those days. It was a little gray, drizzly and dismal. Although I slept well, I woke up about two hours earlier than normal and couldn’t get back to sleep. I didn’t have a lot on my agenda for the day.

As I often do, I keep myself company by listening to music — contemporary Christian, easy listening, 60s and country mostly. I try to rotate the playlists from Pandora, I Heart Radio and You Tube. Today was an easy listening type of day, using the I Heart Radio platform tuned into WCHI Easy 1350 out of Chillicothe, OH.

As a disclosure, I do have to be careful about what I listen to. Some formats naturally tug at the heart strings, even on good days. On those vulnerable days, they can rip open the scars.

Today was one of those days. There wasn’t the subtle reminder of memories gone by. It was a constant avalanche spanning five decades of melodic memories. Just about every song resonated, bringing special thoughts of what was and is no more. In fact there was a span of about an hour where I felt they borrowed a mix tape {literally a tape} I made for Karen to be played during our romantic Saturday night dinners. {We alternated cooking a special meal at least once a month. I always got the better of that deal.}

There was Phil Collins (Against All Odds), Peter Cetera with Amy Grant (The Next Time I Fall), Art Garfunkel (I Only Have Eyes For You), James Taylor (Up  On The Roof), England Dan & John Ford Coley (I’d Really Love To See You Tonight),  Gloria Estefan (Can’t Stay Away From You), The Association (Cherish), Kenny Rogers (Lady), Noel Paul Stookey (The Wedding Song), Anne Murray (A Love Song), Barry Manilow (This One’s For You), Rod Stewart (Have I Told You Lately), Chicago (You’re the Inspiration), Bette Midler (Wind Beneath My Wings), Rita Coolidge (Higher and Higher), Orleans (Dance With Me), Air Supply (Two Less Lonely People In The World), The Carpenters (We’ve Only Just Begun), Dan Hill (Sometimes When We Touch), Celine Dion (When I Fall In Love), Frankie Valli (Can’t Take My Eyes Off You), Debby Boone (You Light Up My Life), Chris DeBurgh (The Lady In Red), Neil Diamond (Hello Again and September Morn), Diana Ross & The Supremes (Someday We’ll Be Together), Captain & Tennille (Love Will Keep Us Together), Louis Armstrong (What A Wonderful World), Linda Ronstadt with Aaron Neville (Don’t Know Much) … and the list goes on, Paul Young, The Spinners, Carly Simon, The Eagles, Al Green, David Foster, John Lennon, Atlantic Starr, Spandau Ballet, Sheena Easton, Seals & Crofts, Genesis, Samantha Sang, Alabama, Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway, Michael Bolton, Simply Red, Sting, The Pointer Sisters, Joe Cocker, Eric Carmen, Bread, Juice Newton, Little River Band, Toto, Lionel Ritchey, The Beach Boys, Mary MacGregor, Eddie Rabbitt, Elton John, Dionne Warwick, Dan Fogelberg, Clima-X, Laura Branigan, Bill Joel, Sade, Bee Gees, Kenny Loggins, Gordon Lightfoot, Natalie Cole, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Poco, Billy Ocean, Al Jarreau, Barbra Streisand, Roberta Flack, Matthew Wilder, Dobie Gray, Don Williams, Gary Wright, Anita Baker, The Beatles, America, Michael Jackson and Siedah Garrett, Jim Croce, Charlene, Firefall, The Jets, Gino Vannilli, Player, Whitney Houston, Climax Blues Band, Fleetwood Mac, Joni Mitchell, Ambrosia, Heatwave, Janis Ian, Grover Washington Jr., Glenn Medeiros, Kenny Nolan, Bobby Hebb, Stephen Bishop, Robert John, Glenn Frey, Peaches & Herb, Quincy Jones, Bertie Higgins, Harry Chapin, Klymaxx, Al Stewart, Carole King, Love Unlimited Orchestra, Marvin Gaye … even Herb Alpert and Sergio Mendez.

It was a million dollar memory day. None of them brought tears to my eyes, just quiet reflection as I rocked and rested in my recliner with the volume up and the soft roar of the water as it rolled over the dam a complementary background… except for Best Thing That Ever Happened To Me — Gladys Knight & The Pips version — my anthem for our 40-plus years together.

I wouldn’t want to re-live my life, but I would give anything to share those moments again. For now, they are locked forever in the recesses of mind. For today, WCHI Easy 1350 out of Chillicothe, OH, held the key.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If you find yourself still chasing your dreams — run faster.

Posted in entertainment, Music, radio, relationships, songs | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Five Minute Friday — Sing

On a drab, dismal Friday, it was refreshing to plug into Kate’s Heading Home page and discovered the word for the week was SING! Just thinking about it brought sunshine to the day.

You know the drill. It’s Friday, we have a prompt, we write, we post, we share. And it all comes down at Kate’s place (http://katemotaung.com/2017/04/20/five-minute-friday-sing/). I’ve told you before … you should check it out. Better yet, you should join in.

For another take, Gayl contributes from Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat, “My very first blog post was for FMF. It really helped me move forward with my blog. It was fun, inspiring and a challenge to write for five minutes on a topic.

There you have it. Listen to Gayl.

I guess it’s time to get started. The timer has been set so we’ll sing out way through the next five minutes. GO…

Sing. Sing a song. Make it simple, To last your whole life long… {apologies to The Carpenters}

That’s the first ditty that swirled in my head when I heard the this week’s word challenge, although you’re lucky you didn’t hear me singing it. I sort of sound like a caged canary … caged in a enclosure with chalkboards as the walls.

I can’t read music.  I can’t carry a tune. And I definitely do not put out anything that resembles music.

Still, I sing. Our Lord doesn’t care. He must be tone deaf.

I love music, though. I love listening to those more accomplished than I, belting out a tune or two. I always have, even as a kid. Karen introduced me to contemporary Christian music — which has become an important part of my repertoire. My New York pastor is an accomplished lyricist and musician. My Maine pastor incorporates song into Sunday services and on the fifth Sunday, we have what is called Singing Sunday — the entire service in song — often including the sermon.

One of my favorite songs is the Gaithers’ (Bill and Gloria) Then He Said, Sing! It … STOP

… just gets you to your feet with raised arms {I don’t do that very often, but can’t help myself when I hear the song}. “Then He said, Sing! … from a laughing heart … Just sing when the night is darkest … Sing, let your joy explode … Let music fill the air … You can sing when there’s nothing else to do  … Sing when something deep inside of you … tells you that life is still a wonder … Just throw back you head and sing…”

Amen.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: You can turn the wheel all you want, but if you don’t step on the gas, you ain’t goin’ nowhere.

 

Posted in blessings, Dover-Foxcroft UMC, ecumenism, encouragement, Faith, Five Minute Friday, God, Humor, joy, Life, love, Music, relationships, songs, West Fayette Presbyterian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Empty Tomb

I don’t usually re-post, but I’ve decided for this Easter season, it would be appropriate to continue this as a tradition for the extra followers than a year ago. So, for my new-found friends, this is for you. And for my regular readers, this is a reminder.

There are two “major” celebrations on the church calendar – Christmas and Easter. One we celebrate with joy and festivity. The other we generally celebrate quietly, with a little more reserve and certainly a lot more reverence and solemnity.

easterThe latter, of course, is Easter – actually a compilation of the days that begin on Palm Sunday and end with Christ’s resurrection, encompassing His passion and His reprehensible death along the way.

But to look at the Easter season with sadness, I feel, is missing the whole point. These few days are the foundation of our entire faith. Without the pain, suffering, death – and most important – resurrection, Jesus was just another kind-hearted man with a vision.

Certainly, the agony is worth remembering. In fact, the agony is worth feeling. But it is the resurrection we should focus on … and that should give us reason to celebrate – really celebrate.

When I was growing up – as, probably, most of us can remember – the emphasis of Lent was denial. And being just average kids, we looked forward to Sundays because we could “forget” the denials – candy, ice cream or whatever. It was a “day off.”

Then came Holy Week. The palms were nice, but again, the focus shifted immediately into the passion and for the next few days, Jesus’ suffering was drummed into our heads. Good Friday was a day of quiet, reflecting on Jesus’ death.

Somehow, that was almost the end of the message. Easter Sunday was anti-climactic. We spent so much time dwelling on the death of Jesus, His resurrection almost got lost.

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. Despite the commercialism that has grown, as a faith community we can sense the joy of the season. It is truly a celebration.

What about Easter? Is that same joy present? Is there any joy present?

I don’t think so.

Over the years I’ve theorized about why. Perhaps it is because there is no fixed date. Perhaps it is because we are, generally, still depressed from a long winter.

But perhaps it is also because we reduce the entire Lenten season – particularly Holy Week and Good Friday – to the suffering Jesus. As humans, we don’t like suffering … in ourselves or in others.

As a result, our minds and emotions shut down around Good Friday. It’s just too painful for us to watch this Jesus die this death. It becomes even more painful when we consider He died for us, our sins contributed to the weight of the cross, the sting of the nails, the labored breathing, the disgraceful death.

The focal point of the season should be 36 hours later … Easter, the empty tomb. We should have our eyes on that empty tomb at Easter – just as we have our eyes fixed on the crib at Christmas.

While sharing the Eucharistic meal, we should recognize the Jesus of the empty tomb. While recalling the passion of Jesus, we should be looking to that empty tomb. While reflecting on the crucifixion, we should contemplate its meaning as a necessary step from this world to the empty tomb. As we ponder the mystery of the risen Christ at Vigil, Sunrise or Easter services, we should see the mystery in light of that empty tomb.

A moved rock, nothing but a shroud, an empty tomb. That’s the foundation of our faith. Jesus’ resurrection makes it possible for us to be resurrected. And just as Jesus replaced His spot in the tomb for a place at His Father’s table, so, too, will our tomb be emptied and we will join Father, Son, Spirit and our fellow believers at that same table.

That’s cause for celebration.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Hope is found when we trust and depend on the One who gives it!

This originally was written while I was editor at the Catholic Standard, newspaper for the Archdiocese of Washington, DC, and re-published in my newspaper, Reveille/Between the Lakes. I thought I would share it with this audience as well.

Posted in celebration, Easter, encouragement, Faith, joy, relationships | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

April’s calf

I cannot explain it, but for a couple of hours this morning I was mesmerized by April the giraffe who finally gave birth to her calf. Apparently, I wasn’t alone. An estimated 1.2 million folks were tuned in to see April finally present her special package at Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, NY.

I wasn’t an April follower. I was aware of the hype surrounding April’s pending birthing which was streamed live for months. She was expected to birth between mid-January and mid-February, but the “no show” show continued until this morning.

My granddaughter posted this morning it was April’s time, so I decided to peek in at nature in action. When I tuned it there were two hoofs dangling out of April as she paced around her pen. Every once in a while she would stop, her abdomen would contract, and the hoofs slid out a little more. Figuring the birth would be at any moment, I keep the stream open, watching for about a half hour before setting up the phone next to the computer so I could do some work. About an hour or so later, it was show time. Out came the head, then shoulders and in a final push the rest of the calf — for want of a better word — plopped from mother to ground. I even found myself yelling words of encouragement at the screen and at the final push screamed, “Way to go April. You did it!”

At first, the calf just laid there motionless while mom started cleaning and stimulating the youngun. Finally, the long neck stretched upwards and for the next 20 minutes of so, the baby — as confused and overwhelmed as any newborn — tried to get the legs to work in sync. Eventually, instinct kicked in and the calf was on all fours looking for his/her first meal from mom.

Toys R Us, which features a giraffe as its mascot, was a sponsor of the live feed and it was cool to see the logo switch to Babies R Us after the birth. It was a nice touch.

There has been no determination whether the calf is male or female, but Animal Adventure Park has announced it will conduct a naming contest for the calf.

Now, I don’t usually get involved in these natural events, although a few weeks ago I was hooked at an Australian Facebook/FMF friend’s capture of the birth of a new lamb on the farm. I similarly followed the days leading up to the birth of the lamb, culminating with the big event.

In both cases, the actual birth was not pretty. They can be kind of messy and by human standards a bit gross. But they are still miracles. Mothering instincts are the same regardless of species. And new life is always precious … whether it’s a child, a lamb or a calf.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: It’s better to start slow and finish fast than to launch out of the gate and crawl across the finish line.

 

Posted in Babies, Life, nature, observations, parenting | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Five Minute Friday — Empty

Good Friday. A day of reflection … and a day to put those reflections down on paper {or in today’s environment, in a post}.

We’ll follow the typical Five Minute Friday format. We’ll let the neurons loose, record the results, link up at Kate’s place (http://katemotaung.com/2017/04/13/five-minute-friday-empty/) to share and visit with out link neighbors.

I’ve encouraged you to join in and have been including comments from fellow writers in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. Maybe these words might make the difference to get you involved.

“I am an alumni of Five Minute Friday but have always been a huge fan! I saw the post by Lisa Jo today and wanted to send in one of my favorites. I stumbled on Five Minute Friday, I don’t even know how, about three years ago. I had literally only written a handful of blog posts and was brand new to the blogging world. Five Minute Friday gave me the courage to pick up the pen and write when I felt so insignificant in the whole wide world. Now three years later I am writing compilations with other authors and working on my first book! But the friends I met in FMF … those are priceless and words can’t do the value of their encouragement any justice. I am one writer who’s been forever impacted by this community! (and hope to jump back in as I tackle a few other projects.)”

So there’s the pitch. It’s up to you now whether you wish to join this very special writing group. And it’s time for me to tackle this week’s prompt, EMPTY. the timer is set, so, let’s GO …

Good Friday … a good day to reflect on the empty tomb.

You can’t have one without the other. We need the horror of the events of the cross as a prelude to the empty tomb. Hallelujah!

But it goes a little deeper. Good Friday is a good time for us to reflect on our lives and empty of hearts of the evils that led to the cross. I struggle daily with keeping my heart empty of “self” thought. Although I always want to let go and let God … it’s awfully difficult as wander through the day. There’s that check that has to be written, maybe without the funds readily available. There’s the reaction in word and deed to people we encounter who may not live up to OUR standards. There’s our wants and needs without thought of the future.

Yes, it’s difficult to truly empty our heart and replace it with … STOP

… unconditional faith. So it’s a good time to examine our actions and motives and empty our hearts of “me” and “I” to allow the love of Jesus some room to grow. He paid the price so we can peek into the empty tomb and realize just how important His presence in our lives is, was and will be.

And that’s something to shout about. Hallelujah!

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: Nothing under God’s control is ever out of control.

Posted in Easter, encouragement, Faith, Five Minute Friday, Good Friday, Jesus, Life, love, relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Five Minute Friday — Enough

Okay. It’s Saturday. I guess my Friday writing run has ended.

In my defense, I just couldn’t function yesterday. From the time I opened my eyes in the morning — through two power naps (one lasting two hours) — until I settled in for the night at 9:30, it was a struggle to keep my eyes open. Meanwhile my brain was addled and my fingers went on strike … so I opted to write again another day. I’ll blame it on a dismal, drizzly, sunless day.

But, enough about me. You know how much I  value this Five Minute Friday exercise … and the feeling is shared my any comrades in the FMF community. Here’s what Christina has to say, taken from snippets in Five Minute Friday: A Collection of Stories Written in Five Minutes Flat. Don’t listen to me. Listen to her.

“Five Minute Friday helped me get over being a lone ranger writer. A consistent creative community with guts and heart.”

Amen, sister! I’ve asked you to join in [you really, really should]. It’s quick. It’s easy {okay, sometimes not always}. It’s challenging. And it’s oh so rewarding. Just visit Kate’s place (http://katemotaung.com/2017/04/06/five-minute-friday-enough-plus-a-giveaway/) for more details and/or to visit with members of this special writing confraternity.

The prompt for the week is, appropriately, ENOUGH {notice how I cleverly worked that into the intro?}. The timer has been set for five minutes, so I guess it’s time to let the neurons fire up and GO

I have enough … not too much … not too little … just enough.

I have enough material things to be comfortable yet not extravagant. Sure, like everyone else, I would love just one day where I could spend anything without looking at the pricetag or thinking about tomorrow. And there have been times when I scrimped and saved and was down, literally, to my last penny. But somehow, I managed to get by. I found leftovers to eat or “suddenly” discovered some cash in the pockets of pants I just decided to wear that day.

So I have enough. If I had more I would probably squander it. If I had less, I would find a way to make do.

I have enough faith to keep me going

Sure there are times that faith has been tested. Sure there are times when I feel inadequate in the faith department. I would love to evangelize better. I would love to share my faith story better. And I would like a boost of … STOP

… faith when I slip into the “doubting Thomas” days of my life. But, somehow, I manage to get by. I hear from a friend or relative or Facebook follower or blogging partner that a word or a phrase had lifted them up. Those are the faith boosters in my life, shining God’s light on an ordinary day or event for someone else.

So I have enough faith to keep me grounded. If I had more “I” might wander into the equation a lot more than “He”. If I had less, it would be pretty hard to face the “cold” days.

I have enough grace, not from anything I have ever done, but because I have a God who loves me the way I am. Sure there are times when I feel I’ve fallen out of God’s grace, but that’s on me. The truth is I can never fall out of God’s grace. I can walk away from it. I can ignore it … but it is always there.

So I have just the right amount of grace — God’s grace — to keep me going. And the good news is He has enough grace to go around. He will gladly share it with you. All you have to do is ask.

Grace breathes life into faith which, in turn, breathes life in everyday life. And it’s all enough … not too much … not too little … just enough.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: God can take the worst we have and make something wonderful out of it.

 

Posted in ecumenism, encouragement, Faith, family, Five Minute Friday, Friends, God, grace, Life, love, reflect, relationships | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The Boss Baby

If you want to gauge the worth of a children’s animated movie, go to a matinee … then listen. You have to have a discerning ear. You have to be able to distinguish between children laughing for the sake of laughing or truly enjoying themselves for an hour and 37 minutes.

That what I did for The Boss Baby, the newest DreamWorks release. And I can report the younguns truly enjoyed themselves.

For adults, the premise is pretty silly, but for the – let’s say – seven to 12 year old set, the giggles started before the opening credits and continued throughout the show.

Our protagonist (voiced by Alec Baldwin) isn’t really a baby, but is on the middle management team at Baby Corp – where babies come from. His task is to prevent former Baby Corp exec Francis E. Francis (Steve Buscemi), now head of Puppy Co., from unveiling a new lovable forever puppy and siphoning off love of babies.

While Mom and Dad (Lisa Kudrow and Jimmy Kimmel), who happen to work for Puppy Co., accept this new suit-wearing baby, seven year old Tim (Miles Christopher Bakshi) sees right through the facade. And he feels the loss of affection as his family of three swelled to four.

The animated film is really seen through Tim’s overly-imaginative perspective, which just adds to the laugh track. Through the help of a just as imaginative narrator (Tobey Maguire), young Tim tries to convince Mom and Dad the baby is an imposter as the rigors of parenthood sap their strength and take time away from poor little Tim. As they snooze on the couch, Tim calls out for his nightly three stories, five hugs and favorite song and cries himself to sleep after unsuccessfully negotiating for just his favorite song.

Since he can’t really sleep, he “catches” Baby talking on phone to his superiors and plans his big reveal to Mom and Dad by recording the brusque Baby as he maps out strategy with fellow Baby Corp employees, Jimbo and the Triplets. Of course he gets caught and a wild chase scene through the backyard – again enhanced through a seven year old’s perspective. It probably was the highlight of the show for my younger fellow moviegoers.

The tape gets destroyed and poor Tim is sent to “solitary” to reflect on his non-acceptance of the Baby.

Eventually, the two figure it might be in their best interest to work together. Baby wants to complete his mission and return to a corner office at Baby Corp and, of course, Tim just wants him to leave.

They go to Puppy Co. with Mom and Dad as Francis E. Francis gets set to launch the new lovable puppy at a convention in Las Vegas. They uncover what they thought were the secret plans only to fall into a trap set by Francis E. Francis, who convinces Mom and Dad to let Eugene-ia (Conrad Vernon) babysit the two boys and whisks them off to Las Vegas for the launch.

Tim and Baby enlist the aid of the other pint sized crew to escape from Eugene-ia in another seven year old fantastic adventure and reach the airport just as Mom and Dad board the plane for Las Vegas. So they have to figure a way to get to Las Vegas by crashing an Elvis Impersonator charter.

The plane ride proves boooring until Tim unleashes his imagination –bringing Baby along –and the two take a pirate adventure to Vegas where they manage to stop the launch with seconds to go.

Of course, with the success of the mission, Baby heads back to Baby Corp and Tim realizes how much he missed his baby brother.

Oh, the quiet in the theater. You could hear the little minds of the moviegoers ticking as they pondered the values of sharing and working together and having adventures and – sure enough – Baby returns to his family and Tim welcomes him with open arms!

It was a fun, little movie. The jokes and pratfalls were tasteful and age appropriate.

I don’t know if it was the visuals – I mean, a baby in a suit with a backside flap and sock garters, what’s not to like? – or the sometimes nonsensical plot or the message of the value of bonding that captured the little ones’ attention. Just for a moment I wished I was in that seven to 12 year old range to understand the movie more fully.

Then it hit me. It was just plain fun.

THOUGHT TO REMEMBER: If you love something, set it free … If it returns, keep it and love it forever.

Posted in Babies, children, entertainment, family, Humor, Movies, relationships, teamwork, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments