Monday, December 23, 2013

Grown-up Christmas List

Oh yes, the perfect family portrait. What you don't see is the back story of not being able to find Charlie ANYWHERE, finding him in the front closet and being late for dinner and the blood dripping from my hand where he bit me and you can't see how hard I'm holding him by the scruff of the neck to keep him from completely scratching the daylights out of me. . . and you can't hear us nagging at the kids to keep their hands to themselves and just sit there nice. . . could they just sit there for five minutes? Is that such a cruel burden?  Call child protective services, we made them sit for a photo. Next year I'm getting a photographer. We actually had the perfect shot early in the session but Bill cut himself off. Flopsy, ironically, was the calmest subject.

There was a little joke-ful dialog on Facebook about my Christmas spreadsheet. Yes, I have a Christmas spreadsheet and it goes back at least twelve years and has all the gifts and food and all the holiday hoopla. I can tell you what we got for my brother-in-law in 2006 and which year the toffee turned out the best and what temp we boiled it to. With full disclosure that it is my habit to overdo the season. . . we have a playmobil nation and legos to the moon and back. . . I still enjoy my list and felt slightly injured that the true meaning of my list could be misunderstood. Is it a materialistic OCD data base? Or a family history.

There are people on my list, and I keep their little boxes and columns sacred, who are no longer at the table with us. I thought about those people and started to think about their gifts this year. Thursday was the anniversary of my grandma Hope's death three years ago. An enormous eagle flew--wings outstretched--a full circle around my yard and showed his full and fierce grace ten feet from my kitchen window.  He was so close that you could have touched him, and then he was gone. I'm not sure if that was my gift to Hope, or perhaps her gift to me--Merry Christmas Mama.

Sunday morning I woke early and headed to church alone to accompany the choir. No one from my family came to watch, Bill and my mom were home getting the kids ready for their own song at the next service. Sometimes the simplest anthem cuts through the static.  Mary, Mary, whacha gonna name that baby?  Whatcha gonna call that holy child. . . Every phrase was clear and shaped and the simple piano counter melody haunted me. I was pleased.  My dad would have been pleased with me. Driving home with the light snow falling it came to me that it was his favorite and I suspect it was this exact simple arrangement that the Park View Lutheran Church sang, with my sister taking the solo, 35 years ago, Daddy gently quieting the accompanist and the tenors at the candlelight service while I drifted away on my mom's lap. So, that simple accompaniment is my gift to my dad. Merry Christmas Daddy.

The grown-up Christmas list isn't just a mail-order record. It's a Christmas journal. Yes, Santa brings a few too many playmobil fairies, but it won't be long until toy-land is over and the toys are passed on to charity and all we have are photographs and memories. The gift of our time together is the one that will last. I feel blessed to have so many memories of Christmas past--sleigh rides with my dad and snowy walks to the grocery with my grandma. My Christmas journal is a crazy attempt, admittedly Microsoft and OCD, to chronical every last moment of these sacred times.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Music, Hope, God and War

I have this woman's book on my wish list--hopefully my hubby is after that. . .
This short video says everything--about music and faith and hope. I'm so moved I just want to share it with everybody.

Link to interview with Alice Herz, Holocaust survivor.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Wisdom and Beauty

Our church is posting a daily devotional on youtube.  Yesterday was our organist rehearsing Bach's Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, which I'm almost certain is a set up as I doubt she needs much practice on that. Everybody is familiar with it, but even though it played at my own wedding, I never knew the words. It really made me stop and reflect. I love these words. I wonder what the truth unknown is?  I wonder what the joys are? Well, it's a busy day and for this moment the peaceful music ringing is enough.  I hope you enjoy the words and check out the link.  Link to Easter's organ practice devotion

Jesu, joy of man's desiring
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.

Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.

Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs.

Theirs is beauty's fairest pleasure;
Theirs is wisdom's holiest treasure.
Thou dost ever lead Thine own
In the love of joys unknown.

Monday, December 16, 2013

I Hate to Brag. . . but. . .

The Torch has Been Passed

The New Students Pass the Baking Audition.  That is a joke. . . 

Each Link of the Chain is a Perfect Repetition--All the Children's Work Shows
I've seen so much good music in the last weeks, I'm just overflowing with admiration for all these young people.  I know it's not the Lutheran way to brag, but if we don't give these kids some credit someone else will!  Studios, churches and schools all over town are brimming with great performances this season--but I'm partial to the ones in my circle!  Here is a short list of the great things I've seen and heard about!

Sami accompanied a small group vocal ensemble at the Eagan High Encore show! Bravo, Sami, you looked lovely and played beautifully and I was super proud of you! I know it feels weird to be on the jumbo-tron but you never flinched!

Mary sang in the Da Capo concert at Deerwood Elementary!  Congrats again to Lisa Schoen and Roxane Sipe! I know the miracle it takes to get 100 children focused and singing so beautiful and in harmony with expression!  Thanks also to Principal Haugen for joining in as guest soloist.  I hope you know the message you are sending to these kids!  Music is for everyone and incidentally it's also really cool.

Aidan got to play drum set at the Luther College Christmas music festival--with the top jazz ensemble there. . . as a freshman I might add.  Congrats Aidan!

Annika, Calvin, and Mary and Amelia entertained the Lutheran ladies at the Christmas Tea--beautiful singing and playing!  Calvin has already made over $250 for Feed My Starving Children with the sales of his Christmas CD "Christmas Magic." Calvin and Annika will be performing at the Christmas Eve service at the Lake.

Solomon has also been invited to sing a solo at his church on Christmas Eve.  No more hiding your voice from me at group lessons, Solomon. . .

Cassy is learning the ropes as a piano major/Gator girl down in Florida. Congrats on your first semester!

Calvin performed his Book Six graduation program for an audience of over thirty.  Thank you to the friends, colleagues, teachers and relatives who came out to support him.  I'm the mother. . . but I loved it.  I was so proud.  He was really comfortable and musical on the entire 56 minute program. . . which I might add was longer and more difficult than my junior college recital. Yeah. Congrats Calvin.

Twenty-two kids from the studio played here on Saturday for a record audience of 64. I just have to say that every child did such a lovely job. It's really the highlight of my whole year. Everyone plays a classical piece and a Christmas or other piece of their choice. The four new four-year-olds were just about too cute to listen to and they were a good audience too. Was I surprised that Cassy, Grace, and Aidan came back from college to crash the party? With cookies this good who can stay away. It was good to see them.

It isn't our goal to raise professional musicians.  It is our goal to raise kids who love music and play at a very high level.  This is one of the reasons I have a Christmas recital--to give kids a chance to pick non-classical music that they love.  I wonder if, in twenty years, Mary will be taking out Clementi Op. 36, No. 1 or Do You Hear What I Hear?  I think I can guess. Here is a link to her first song with pedal. Disclaimer: this may only interest you if you are the grandparent, aunt or God-mother of the girl: Link

I invited Stefanie to come back and sing with Kathryn, her sister who is a senior, and Mary. Annika was going to sing too but was at the funeral of a family friend.  I like to put something different at the end of a recital sometimes--like some vocal music. Very few of us will go forth as concert pianists, but many will have the opportunity to accompany or sing in community and church ensembles. This gives us a taste of that and plus I just really like it.  Here is a link to Night of Silence: Link 

And. . . Blackhawk Middle School Jazz Ensemble. . . who played. . . you guessed it. . . at the Mall of America over lunchtime 10 days before Christmas.  I sold my soul to gain a parking spot and actually enjoyed the three-quarters of a mile jog around the cloverleaf shaped metropolis arriving just in time to see the number that Calvin played drum set on. Note exaggeration and meager attempt to hide sarcasm. I pouted a little at first, but once I got there it was really cool to see the kids to play between the giant three story Christmas trees (note that they are still called Christmas Trees here in Minnesota).  These are the moments we prove our love to our children.

I'm sure I have forgotten some kudos--the Easter Lutheran Choir and Handbells Ensemble--wow! I feel totally blessed to get to play with the choir and the orchestra in those performances.  It was very special.

There was a devotion about letting our lives be a mirror of Christ's light.  These kids and choirs and teachers are shining like the Christmas star.  Congrats to everyone and I'll say it again, Merry Christmas.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Santa's Little Helpers

I hope this finds you all on your own personal holiday train ride.  Our train has definitely left the station.  Best wishes on all your activities and may you arrive at the station in good spirits.  I'm feeling so much love for my family, and friends and students! Yes, I swore yesterday when I cut my foot on a stray playmobil washing machine in a Burgermeister Meisterburger moment.  But, for the most part in spite of a few stress injuries--like poking under my thumbnail with a fork while unloading the dishwasher and burning the piano pad of my pinky on a cookie sheet. . . we are doing good!  I'm looking forward to the tea tonight and the recital and choral services this weekend.  After that?  I'll be curling up in a basket like my cats.  Hope to see you soon, in person or in a Christmas card. . . which I haven't even thought about yet. . . . . and while the sentiment might not be arriving in your mail box. . . it is in my heart.  Merry Christmas!  

Minnesota Sub-zero Sundog

Mama, I want that basket. 

Alpha Cat Wins the Battle of the Basket

Monday, December 2, 2013

Joy Starts With a Moment of Solitude

If I had an hour, I would go back and read my 2011, and 2012 advent blog entries. But this is the only hour I have.

I already know the advent patterns. The pendulum of peace and panic. The joys and frustrations. It's the most wonderful time of the year. It's the materialistic got all my priorities wrong time of year. It's the quiet family moments reading Christmas books around the tree.  It's nagging the kids about one more mess. It's three pageants in a row how the heck are we gonna get lunch before The Christmas Carol?  It's the late night early morning sleep deprived fog. It's the midnight Christmas Eve service with just me and Bill, kids home asleep, everything is done and I'm finally thinking about Jesus. Christmas present.

Maybe that's a little too late.

I found a little painted stone my cousin Robin sent us last year. It was in the junk drawer and as I was rummaging around, looking for a bandaid because I cut the Dickens out of my thumb serving the pumpkin pie, I spied it.

It is one of those you put in your pocket and it's painted white with red letters and green holly. It says JOY.

After this year we only have five "normal" Christmases with Calvin home.  We don't know what Christmas future will bring. Maybe it's time to stop sweating the small stuff.


Could all the words that come out of my mouth in the next three weeks be filled with JOY?  All my secret attitudes? JOY. The JOY that I do truly feel, on account of the liaison between us and God in the birth of a little baby who can't possibly be symbolized or contained in a little playmobil manger, or just the right decorations.  Who--I might add--really doesn't give a hoot if the cookies are a little brown around the edges or if Mary snags her tights before the program.

If we really could hear those angels singing --the multitude--praising God in the form of that little baby--would the small stuff matter?  Would the table manners matter? The faint odor of cat litter? The missing bow out on the front greenery?

The lesson from the ghost of Christmas past? It always gets done. Everything that matters gets done. So, why not attempt it with the complete JOY that I do truly feel toward it. I love every single thing that has to do with Christmas. It's completely true. I love every moment. When I'm there.

JOY. I've taken my moment. I'm here, writing this. I'm all alone for the first time in a week. Maybe two weeks. I needed that--to kindle the spark. To secure my own oxygen mask. Breath in the JOY. Breath out everything else.  

I'm heading down to the basement for the first box of decorations. I only have an hour before I shower and pick up the kids. Only two weeks before the Christmas recital here and the Choral Service. Three weeks till Christmas. It's enough. For this moment. One moment at a time. One joyful breath at a time.

To my whole circle of friends and family and teachers and students--I wish you JOY!  We're all busy and each of us has our own--but with every advent breath I'm trying for this. JOY is my mantra these next weeks of Christmastime.