Random Blog Clay Feet: 2011
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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Temporary Beach Bums

Leaving behind the sweltering heat of the midwest, wifey and I flew out to chilly Northwest Washington last Monday to visit with our daughter for a few weeks and see some of the beauties of this region. Knowing how little pictures really convey what needs to be seen and smelled and experienced firsthand, I sometimes fail to take enough pictures. Yet they can serve as reminders of the fuller memories of cherished experiences for those who participated in what the pictures represent.

Today we went out to the 'ocean' such as it is in the straits of the sound. I can see how I could very quickly get addicted to just spending weeks strolling the beaches exploring the millions of kinds of life in the tidepools available here, smelling the scent of the sea and soaking up the peace inherent in nature as God designed it. I missed seeing the Bale Eagle on the branch that my daughter caught with her camera, but we did finally come across some amazingly beautiful creatures in the tidepools before retreating ahead of the returning tide.
Sea Anemone

Sunflower Starfish
At the risk of boring those who find this commonplace, I will share a few pictures of how our morning transpired today. It sure beat the baking sun of Illinois but did require that I wear a few more layers of clothes than I am used to having this time of year.

Multiple Starfish of bright colors

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Upcoming Director

A week ago my wife and I went to the last practice of the Barbershop Chorus I am a part of before their annual show last weekend. Since I was not singing in the show we decided to sit in on the dress rehearsal which would be the next best thing to attending. At the end of each rehearsal every week it is a tradition worldwide for Barbershop choruses to sing the anthem of the society, “Keep the Whole World Singing”. Our director usually selects someone from the group to direct it and the chorus usually pays close attention to that director to follow whatever they might do in their leading of the song.

In the past when I have been chosen I have usually made the song rather unexpected which requires the men to watch quite closely to my directing. Since I have not been to practice much over the past couple months I suspected in my mind that he might select me to direct the song. I said to myself that if he chose me to do it I would get my wife to do it in my place.

Sure enough, the director asked me to lead the song so I turned to my wife and invited her to lead it in my place. She was extremely reluctant and embarrassed to be so assertive in front of so many people, but upon a little physical coaxing and encouragement from the men she finally stood up to direct.

Since she has never done anything like this before and had no idea of what is involved in directing a chorus and didn't even know the song, she asked me what she should do. I told her to just wave her arms around and see what might happen.

Sure enough, as soon as she began moving her arms the men began singing the song according to her gestures. She seemed rather shocked and sometimes just stood there while they were stuck holding a note. I had to encourage her to keep moving her hands so they could finish the song. It was all very interesting and after the song we all gave her a standing ovation. (Well, they were all standing anyway)

If any of you like to sing I would encourage you to check into finding a Barbershop or Sweet Adelines (the female counterpart) chorus in your area and at least listen to a practice or concert. These societies are open, relaxed and have a lot of fun together. Its also a great place to make friends and improve your musical abilities. You don't have to feel obligated to be a professional but if you want to learn they are always teaching skills that can help you learn how to be a better singer.

For more information or to find a chorus in your area you can visit their worldwide web site at Barbershop.org.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

On That Note

We are blessed to be able to live out in the country. Because of that we are much more aware of the rhythms of nature, and this year is one of those rare moments that only happens every seven years. This is the year we get to enjoy the serenade of the cicadas.

It began with many small holes suddenly appearing in the ground around our yard. It almost looks like someone fired at the ground with a large caliber machine gun in places. The cicadas emerge from their underground hiding places once every seven years to take over the surroundings by storm. I have recently heard stories about campers being overwhelmed with cicadas covering their food within minutes after placing it on the picnic table. We have not seen near that many here, but our dog has enjoyed a few as tasty morsels on his daily walks occasionally.
The other morning as I listened to the constant singing of these cicadas I decided to guess what note they were singing, what pitch they were using as they all sang in close unison all through the surrounding woods. I guessed that it might be the note A, but after checking it on the piano I discovered it to be E instead. So much for perfect pitch on my part, huh.

Today we noticed in the times we spent outside (though it was a very hot day) that there is another competing, or complimentary, chorus in concert with the cicadas. The tree frogs have their own symphony going on that is different than the constant note of the cicadas. Their song intensifies and diminishes in a cycle with no distinct note like the other background song of the cicadas.

It reminds me of the truth that “all nature sings and around me rings the music of the spheres. This is my Father's world...” I am gladdened by the songs of the birds that arrange their wake-up chorus of intense praise early in the morning, though we don't hear it too well with the windows closed. The cheerful expressions and colors of the Oriels when they come to the hummingbird feeder brighten our day on occasion and the buzzing and chirping of the many cute hummingbirds and their occasional dive-bombing over our heads when we walk by are reminders of a Father's love for beauty and variety.

Of course there are uncomfortable things in nature that remind us that sin has marred many things. The deer flies that attack us when we walk the dog present daily challenges to keep our head covered while still having to flap our arms around gracelessly as we walk down the road. But it is still better to be close to nature and away from the many distractions and isolation from much in nature that those living in town experience.

This year we will enjoy the cicada's songs for as long as they last. I'm not sure how long they sing for, but it is not very often that they come around so we will enjoy them and remember them after they are gone in anticipation for their next grand appearance in another seven years.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Fading Winter

Due to setting up my other blogs and mainly focusing on those topics I have not been very good about keeping this one up to date as far as my own activities. Some things happen that I intend to post about but by the time I get around to it it seems so far after the fact that I just don't bother. Like the singing Valentines event where I sang in a quartet all day to surprised women all over town. Of course there is also the fact that FaceBook has nearly taken over the role that blogs used to have for people's expression of their lives. But even there I almost never post anything because of the very public nature that intimidates me. Knowing that almost no one looks at this blog makes it a little easier to post things here than where I am guaranteed that hundreds of people will immediately see it.

Anyway, having rambled on about that too long, I thought I might post at little here both in review and in advance. The advance is that we have a concert coming up on March 20 with our Barbershop Chorus. It is our annual Lenten concert where we invite ladies to sing with us in the concert. This year it looks like we might even be outnumbered by the ladies which would be quite interesting. If any of you would like to attend this concert we would love to have you and I know you would enjoy it. I think my wife and my sister who recently moved in with us will both be singing in it this year.

As far as what has happened recently, my wife and I spent right at two months during the dead of winter in Michigan with our lovely (adopted) daughter refurbishing her house to ready it for rental. It had not been taken care of much for many years as far as painting and repairs so it took much longer than she had hoped to finish the job. But after spraying all the ceilings, fixing and painting the walls, replacing carpet with laminate floors and cleaning and painting the whole basement it looks better than it ever has since her original family moved in years ago.

But even more exciting was the deepening bonds that were experienced between all of us during this extended time we were able to spend together. We have taken her in as part of our intimate family for a number of years now since both of her own parents died less than a year apart, and at times it has been stressful for all of us. But over the past couple years she seems to have gone into a growth spurt as far as maturing emotionally and spiritually which has opened up our relationship dramatically. She is currently attending the seminary which is keeping her very busy and pressured, but then what's new – she is very smart and has always pushed herself very hard in school.

She also is keeping her eyes open to see if there is a man for her somewhere while training herself to rest in God's timing and guidance for her life. We are so proud of what she is becoming, the choices she is making to move into deeper intimacy with God and her willingness to take much bigger risks trusting others, especially in her relationship with us as her surrogate parents. She has chosen to be more affectionate, more trusting, more open and more patient which has allowed us in turn to be more open and vulnerable with her as well. What has come out of this while we spent this extended time with her is a much deeper bonding as she has allowed us to bring healing to some of the deep wounds from her past and damage from previous relationships that were less than healthy.

Like us, she is learning to trust God much more through this time and is learning how to distinguish His voice from other counterfeit communications which is something all of us need to learn too. Though she is often frustrated she is choosing to be patient, to open up to others and ask for help, for advice, for wisdom which is very brave of her given where she has come from emotionally. At the same time I feel suddenly overwhelmed with the realization that God is providing through her an opportunity for me to practice how to be a better father than how I performed when my children were younger. And though she is the same age as my other grown children now, she is still choosing to relate to us in a trusting way as a daughter which is allowing us to share our lives with her as caring parents and to have our hearts attached to her in a way that is uncommon today even within biological families.

Living in Michigan again during the middle of winter gave us time to enjoy more snow than we see back home in Illinois. While we were gone there was a very hard ice storm at home which we missed. Now the weather is finally starting to ease up and make us very hungry for warmer weather as it teases us in fits and spurts. But it was nice to drive in the snow again. I know, many might think I'm crazy that way, but I enjoy the challenge. It's like a game to use cars interactively with snow that can't be done under normal conditions.

While in Michigan we also had the wonderful privilege of connecting with some old friends and to tap into the many cultural and religious resources not available where we live. We had some wonderful times of refreshing in meetings, social gatherings and small groups that really enriched our lives and made us wish we could do something similar with people in our area. Maybe someday.

Toward the end of last year my sister and her husband moved in with us from Virginia. This means that our house is again overflowing with more stuff, more furniture and boxes and the garage is once again full to the brim challenging us to sort and shuck and make lots of hard decisions. We are remodeling one of the upstairs bedrooms into a kitchen which is nearly finished now. Another one is turned into an office with the intent of allowing them to have their apartment upstairs though they have not started staying there yet. The forth bedroom upstairs is still packed to the ceiling with storage which is not helped by the fact that both our child and their child have left some of their stuff at home for storage.

Since we now have found a way to deal with the Early Blight problem in the soil with products from the company I joined, we now plan to have a full-blown garden this year. It helps too that there are four people to help with it instead of just two. We are still trusting God to provide the income necessary to take care of our needs here, but He has been faithful to send us jobs and other things and we have all that we really need. We still are eating food canned by our parents years ago and have had some given to us from others on top of that. We live out in the country in the woods and have a creek running through the property. God has blessed us and we want to become better channels of blessing to others.