I feel like I need to be here today:

Chapel of the Transfiguration at Camp Mitchell

Cliff view at Camp Mitchell ... one of the most peaceful places on Earth.

 And he will lift you up on eagle’s wings,
Bear you on the breath of dawn,
Make you to shine like the sun,
And hold you in the palm of his hand.

Peace Be With You

And Also With You


Emily and her BFF Lily at last year's Cathedral School Christmas pageant.

I attended the winter program at Emily’s school this morning. She has been so excited, singing all the songs and reciting her lines for weeks.

I have to admit that my husband and I have been giggling about it because it’s one of those holiday programs that tries to be all things to all people. Hannukah, Kwanza, Baby Jesus, Santa – it’s all in there. We even joked that the costumes were going to be gray unitards ala the South Park episode where the Christmas pageant ends up being about a dolphin because they have to take out any references to anything that will offend anyone (I tried to find it on You Tube. Alas, I was unsuccessful).

Please don’t get me wrong. I’m all about diversity. I’m truly pleased she’s learning more about world cultures and religions. It’s just that all of this is very, very different from where we were a year ago, when my son was playing the Archangel Gabriel and Emily was flying down the aisles to “Angels We Have Heard on High” in the Cathedral School Christmas pageant.

Emily and her classmates did very well this morning. It’s a darling little play with cute songs. Most of the students have lines, and they all delivered them well. It was fine. But it wasn’t 100 voices reciting the Christmas story according to the Gospel of Matthew in perfect unison. It wasn’t the choristers singing “O Holy Night” in two-part harmony and nailing it.

I got in my car afterwards and broke down crying.

Most every day, I walk forward without looking back at what we lost when the school closed after 54 years. My children are thriving in their new school environments, so I know I should be thankful. But today, I’m pissed off, and I’m going to wallow in it, thank you very much.

My family has 19 pageant performances between us – nine for me, four extras for my brother, and six for my children. It just isn’t Christmas to me without dancing angels, flying angels and curtain angels. Just one more time I’d love to hear “Once in Royal David’s City” and “Lo! How a Rose ‘ere Blooming.”

I need my fix! Or, rather, something inside me needs fixing. Same difference here.

This isn’t a Christmas song, but it’s my go-to song when my heart hurts. I’ve listened to it over and over in the last few months. There’s something about it that soothes me, and it fits perfect for today.

I learned a few good lessons during my 30 Days on Shuffle project.

1. Like exercise, I can rarely motivate myself to write a post every day. At best, I can expect to carve out an hour or so once a week, write a bunch of posts, and then schedule them to make it appear that I’m posting every day. So, the goal to give myself time to write everyday? Still a work in progress.

2. I care way too much about my “traffic.” I’m swearing off checking my stats from now on. If I’m going to write, then I’m going to write. Hey, at least my parents are reading, right?

3. I do better if I have a theme or a project.

With that last one in mind, I’m embarking upon a new project for December: The Peace Project. My life feels very chaotic right now. Add the rush of the holidays to that and it’s down right overwhelming. So every day (or at least a few times a week), I pledge to post a memory, song, quote or thought that brings a moment of peace to my heart, mind and soul.

Today’s quote comes from my dear friend Joanna Seibert. I’ve known her since I was very young. I grew up with her children at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. She’s a pediatric radiologist at Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a deacon in the Episcopal church. She’s always been a calming influence, being a very wise, soft-spoken woman.

A few years ago, Emily fell at school and hit her million dollar head (it may actually be worth more or less, depending on the cost of brain surgery and hardware at any given moment). We ended up at the ER at Children’s.  I was standing over Emily in the CT Scan when I felt a hand on my back and a voice said, “Bless you. Are you okay?” It was Joanna. And suddenly, yes, I was okay. That’s the effect she has on everyone around her.

Every day since May 24, when The Cathedral School closed so suddenly and our hearts were broken, Joanna has sent an email with a prayer to a small group of parents, supporters and friends. It’s an amazing ministry she’s doing, as it connects us and restores us when we feel fragile. This morning, she sent this:

“Prayer sent  from God to each of us today: Good Morning! I will be handling ALL your problems today. I will NOT need your help. So, have a good day. Amen”

I can’t think of a more peaceful message. It’s hard for me to give up control of  my spiritual “to-do list.” This is a wonderful reminder that I don’t have to worry so much all the time. I just have to do the hard work of letting go. It makes me want to sigh and smile in relief.

Peace be with you.

Another concert memory … and the perfect way to wrap up 30 Days on Shuffle.

About four years ago, I got a text from my brother: Foxboro Hot Tubs aka Green Day playing Juanitas on Monday. Want on the list?

Umm. What?

Turns out, Billy Joe Armstrong and the gang got tired of being big shots and formed a garage band called Foxboro Hot Tubs. One of Graham’s best friends from junior high and high school is Jason White, the guitarist and unofficial fourth member of Green Day. He had convinced the garage band to make a stop in Little Rock as they took their show on a short road trip.

So, riding my brother’s coat tails once again, I found myself shaking hands with Tre Cool on the patio at Juanitas at 11 p.m. on  school night. We packed into the small venue and enjoyed an incredible high-energy show with Billie Joe, Mike, Tre and Jason.

I’ve never seen Green Day in concert, despite how much I love their music. But I think this show would put the huge stadium show to shame. It was so pure. All of the guys had wide, open smiles. You could tell they loved seeing their fans up close as much as the fans loved seeing them up close. Billie Joe crowd surfed. There were hundreds of high fives. Fans jumped on stage and no security guards dragged them away.

I bought the CD for myself and a t-shirt for Charles Jr. as lasting reminders of the night. The music is driving Rock-n-Roll with a touch of garage band punk. Didn’t know they made a video for this song, but here ’tis. Enjoy.

When I was a senior in high school, my best friend Holly and I managed to talk my father into taking us on a “college visit” to TCU in Fort Worth. Our alterior motive? A huge end of summer concert at Texas Stadium, featuring Iggy Pop, Ziggy Marley, The Smithereens, Guns n Roses and INXS.

Looking back, the line up was perfect. At the time, we figured we’d skip Iggy Pop and suffer through Guns N Roses in order to fully enjoy the others. Ah, youth. What I wouldn’t give today to see Iggy and GNR in all their 80s glory! But Holly and I were focused on the “One Thing:” Michael Hutchence, the lead singer of INXS who we adored and worshipped. We. Could. Not. Wait.

Dad happily drove us to Dallas. He took us to dinner at Hard Rock Cafe (remember, this was 1988, when HRCs were not a dime a dozen and it still meant something to sport their famous t-shirts) and laughed while we danced to techno music on the dance floor. The next day, we made a cursory visit to TCU (I did apply and I got in early) before he dropped us off at the stadium at 4 p.m. In the days before cell phones, we agreed on a rendezvous point around 11 p.m., when we calculated the extravaganza would end. And then Holly and I happily traipsed off to enjoy a day of music … in a huge venue … with no parental supervision and no cell phones.

It was an amazing concert, despite and because of the light rain that poured the majority of the time through the roof of Texas Stadium, making the floor a huge slip-n-slide for the concert goers. We watched safely from our dry seats in the stands. We danced to “Tomorrow People” by Ziggy, rocked out to “Wall of Sleep” by The Smithereens, went to get snacks during Iggy Pop (sigh), and begrudgingly purchased a GnR t-shirt for my brother. Axl Rose was in typical form that day, cussing the crowd and expressing his disdain for the “shitty” sound system. He finally shouted, “Fine, we’re outta here. And you can enjoy INXS … the biggest group of fags I’ve ever met.” Class act, that one.

Then the moment we’d waited for: INXS took the stage amidst flashing lights and pyrotechnics. It was everything we hoped for and more. Michael was goregous. The band rocked. We screamed and sang and danced. When I hear “Kick” I can still see the flashing lights and the band strutting around the stage. Perfection.

Years later, when Michael Hutchence died, I sat on the floor in my apartment in Alabama talking on the phone with Holly in her apartment in Washington, D.C. The miles between us vanished and the years faded away as we remembered the incredible experience of the concert at Texas Stadium. It was simply unforgettable.

Okay, yeah. I like Simon & Garfunkel. So what? They peacefully co-exist with Usher, Kanye, Eminem and chat happily with Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, and Emmylou Harris at the hot pink iPod family dinners. So I keep them around.

I have a wonderful memory of my mother driving me to college and singing this song. It’s just a snapshot, but I remember she said, “Listen to the words on this. I just love it. ‘Let us be lovers we’ll marry our fortunes together.’ Isn’t that beautiful?” Did I mention she’s an English teacher?

I did inherit a love of 60s and 70s music from my parents. Hell, I was almost named Caroline for “Sweet Caroline” by Neil Diamond. Instead, my mother’s choice won, and I ended up getting my name from the Donovan song “Jennifer Juniper.” I kid you not.

My house was full of music growing up. Dad had a collection of LPs to die for back in the day: Eagles, Steve Miller Band, The Band, Emmylou Harris, John Denver and yes, Simon & Garfunkel. When we’d go on road trips, mom and dad would pack a basket of casette tapes. Mom would ride with the window down and her arm out, singing along to the radio. When she cooked, there was music playing. I have fuzzy memories of them dancing in the living room – the “Arkansas push.”

Dad learned to play the guitar, and he and I spent hours at the piano bench singing Peter, Paul & Mary and John Denver tunes. I think we even sang “Scarborough Fair.” Again with the Simon & Garfunkel!

Last year, I watched the 25th Anniversary of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame TV special. The S&G segment was wonderful, despite Paul Simon’s very large ego and Art Garfunkel’s bizarre appearance. They can still hit those magical harmonies and high notes. And their lyrics still touch me to the core. 

“Cathy, I’m lost, I said, though I knew she was sleeping. I’m wanting and aching and I don’t know why.” Heavy stuff.

(Note: I’m just going to pretend I didn’t miss 2 weeks of this project. More on that later!)

Hi, I’m Jennifer. And I like pop music. This includes Miley Cyrus, but not her blonde alter ego Hannah Montana. There’s no difference, you say? You would be wrong.

Hannah Montana’s songs are Disney pop-ish. Very light and easily trimmed down to 45 seconds to be squeezed in between episodes of Suite Life with Zack & Cody and Wizards of Waverly Place. It’s clear that the Disney machine wrote every word and note of every song. At least with Miley, you get some of the teen angst without the bubble gum. Her songs are simply more tolerable, in my opinion. Like this one. If you didn’t know it was Miley Cyrus, you might think it was some rocker chick ala Avril Lavigne. And I don’t care what anyone says about “The Climb.” That song still brings tears to my eyes, despite the fact that I’m not sure she’s lived enough to fully understand what it means.

I took Charles Jr. to see the Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus “Best of Both Worlds” concert four years ago. Miley’s set was infinitely more entertaining than Hannah’s, despite the appearance of the Jonas Brothers (can you say ear-splitting screams?). Two years ago, my friends and I took our first graders to see Miley’s concert. You might remember the reviews of the show. The words “grind” and “pole dance” come to mind. Awkward. But the music was good.

I keep rooting for Miley, despite her recent rash of bad decisions. I hope she can overcome the “teen star” curse and make something decent of herself. I think there’s talent there, but it’s just caught up in the mix of tabloid gossip, teen rebellion and Tennessee twang.

So, here’s some bubblegum to start your Thanksgiving Day. The flavor only lasts about 3 minutes, but it’s pretty good while you’ve got it.

Okay, I’m cheating again. This song didn’t actually pop up on my iPod, but it’s the first song I wanted to hear this morning.

I watched “Less than Zero” last night after the kids went to bed. For those of you who aren’t children of the 80s, the movie that gets its name and main characters from Brett Easton Ellis’ novel. It stars dreamy Brat Packer Andrew McCarthy as Clay, who comes home to L.A. from an east coast college for Christmas; Brat Packer wannabe Jami Gertz as Blair his high school girlfriend; and a young Robert Downey Jr. as Julian, a drug addicted party boy whose storyline does not have a happy ending. He basically plays himself.

When Clay returns, he finds his best friend strung out on crack and in deep debt to a sleazy dealer, played expertly by James Spader. His ex-girlfriend is a cocaine sniffing model with serious codependency issues. As the trailer says, “Sometimes, you can have everything in the world you want, except the way it used to be.” The movie captures the decadence of the 80s well, I think, with lots of partying, lots of music, and lots of bad hair.

I LOVED the movie when it hit theaters in 1987. I was a sophomore in high school, and I went to see it with my boyfriend at the time. Afterwards, we stopped by Reservoir Park, which was the place to hang out on weekend nights if you went to Hall High School. I was so shocked by the movie (SPOILER ALERT! Julian sinks into the depths of addiction and dies of a drug overdose) that I was numb. I remember looking around at all my classmates and acquaintances stumbling around with beer cans and Solo cups full of Purple Passion and being sad. I asked to go home almost immediately.

Watching the movie last night, I vividly recalled what it felt like to come home from college on break and reunite with old friends. I have tons of old photos of Thanksgiving and Christmas break 1989. Those of us who’d gone away to college crash landed at the apartments of the few who stayed behind. The handful of us at small private colleges complained about the pressure cooker of studying and making good grades. The ones at big state schools were dealing with homesickness and trying to find their way in the midst of so many students. The few working and living in Little Rock were worried about paying rent. They looked at the rest of us as whiny college kids who weren’t living in the real world. In just six short months, we’d grown up and apart.

Thankfully, the majority of us emerged from the decadent 80s and 90s intact, and most of us have gravitated back to one another over the years. After the weddings and the children came along, we found we had more in common again. The girls make it a point to gather every Christmas for a night of wine and reminiscing. Maybe this Christmas we’ll build a fire in the pavilion at Reservoir, drink Purple Passion out of Solo cups, and play this song really loud.

Ah, yeah! What a perfect song for this day. Sometimes the ol’ iPod really knows what you need to hear.

My morning began with a 5 a.m. alarm. By 5:30, I was heading out for a half-mile warm-up run through Hillcrest with my partner in pain Dorothy. By 5:45, my fitness instructor Susan was putting us through the wringer, with shuffle drills, push ups/push offs, plank jacks and lots and lots of arm/shoulder strength training.

I’ve been working out with Susan in her Body Back class since February. During my first 8-week session, I blogged weekly about the pain and pleasure of the whole thing. You can read more about that here, here and here.

This morning, Susan pushed us really hard. At one point, as she was correcting my form on “preachers” (bicep curls done while holding your elbows very high), she said “You can do this. You’re sexy and you know it!” Which prompted me to sing-song, “If you’re sexy and you know it, clap your hands.” It’s now our Body Back theme song. JT’s not the only one bringing sexy back.

On another note: I truly do love this song. And I’m probably more obsessed with Justin than I should be. Throw Jimmy Fallon into the mix and I can’t be held responsible for my actions.