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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.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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So perfect for Wordless Wednesday. The Lady needs few words.

She. Is. Awesome.

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This is an odd little song to find on my iPod. It’s indicative of so many tunes on there: at one point in time, it must have meant something to me because I downloaded it. But as time has passed, I’ve lost connection with it. So, today I sat really still and listened to it. These lyrics spoke to me:

So quiet but I finally woke up. If you’re sad, then it’s time you spoke up, too.

I have a tendency to internalize everything: sadness, anger, doubt, fear. I don’t like confrontation. I don’t like rocking the boat. I especially don’t like disappointing people. I want to make sure that everything I say and do pleases as many people as possible. There’s a fine line between being tactful and diplomatic and hamstringing yourself with second guessing. I’m constantly walking that line.

I try not to be a flag waving feminist (all the time!), but I wonder if this is a “woman thing.” I don’t see a lot of men who hold back feelings of anger and frustration. What’s in our nature as women — or rather, what’s in my nature — that makes us think we have to protect those around us from bad news and bad moods?

If I disagree with you, I need to tell you. If you’ve made me angry, don’t I owe it to you to share that with you? If I’m afraid, I need to share that with someone. If I’m sad, then it’s time I spoke up, too.

(horrible quality on this, but it’s the only video I could find)

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Raising a Hoarder

Note: I wrote this in January 2010, and I’m ashamed to say Emily’s habits haven’t changed. I still have to plow through her room every two weeks or so to clear the clutter and restore order. Yes, I know I should teach her to do it. I’d rather outsource that. Any takers?

Two weeks ago we received an e-mail from a long distance family member: “Coming for Emily’s birthday. See you on January 28.” We really are excited about the visit, but it’s thrown us into Super Cleaning Mode.

First plan of attack: Emily’s room. It’s not the room of a normal 7-year old. She spends hours playing there every day after school and on weekends. She creates elaborate pretend games: school, office, concert; you name it. And I love that, because I remember fondly the hours I spent engaged in my own imaginative games when I was that age.

But boy, can she make a mess.

Have you seen “Hoarders” on A&E?  This room qualifies. And I realize it’s mostly my fault. I’ve tried to teach her “a place for all things and all things in their proper place,” but mostly I just heap clothes, toys, books, etc., on the guest bed in order to create a pathway from the door to the bed and from the bed to the closet. And I hope that I’ll find the energy to put it all away … some day.

Some day was Saturday morning. It took me TWO HOURS to clean her room. With trash bag in one hand and vacuum cleaner in the other, I entered at my own risk. I was merciless. Any piece of paper, any junky trinket, all dried-up markers and broken crayons were trashed. Paper and cardboard “houses” for stuffed animals came crashing down. The tea party setting that had been occupying the middle of the floor for weeks was scooped up.

Emily sat on her bed watching apprehensively, nodding yes or no when I asked her whether or not larger items could go in the trash. “What about these?” I asked her, brandishing two pieces of wood that she’d chopped in half at a karate demonstration almost a year ago. She pondered them for a moment. “Put them my closet. Because one day brother might need wood to build a birdhouse.”

Of course.

As I finished up the last of the tidying, I began to wonder if other parents have this issue. Are most kids’ rooms messy beyond belief? Do other kids hoarde bizarre objects for no rational reason? What could I do differently to show her how to clean up after herself? If anyone has tips and suggestions, I’m open. Because otherwise, the production crew from “Hoarders” will be at my house one of these days to film their next episode, and Emily will no doubt give an award-winning performance.

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