The Other Side of Storm Concert

I had the honor of attending a very special concert this evening. While I am not musically gifted, I nonetheless have a deep appreciation for music. It moves me, stirs my soul and speaks to my heart, using the language of melodious sound. The revised version of The Other Side of Storm, written by Dr. Hubert Bird, made its world debut here last night and tonight, performed appropriately in the new Joplin High School Performing Arts Center. 

Dr. Bird was born in Joplin. He is an award winning, nationally and internationally known composer and conductor. He now resides in nearby Baxter Springs, KS. Visiting Joplin shortly after the May 22, 2011 tornado, he stood on the corner of 26th Street and Maiden Lane, and wept. There was devastation, as far as he could see. His doctor’s and dentist’s offices were gone. Behind him, St. John’s hospital lay in ruins. 

Knowing he wanted to offer to the community of Joplin, from his heart, Dr. Bird realized he could best express his sorrow through music. He wrote the original composition, which was performed in Joplin in 2012. Performers included Joplin’s All City Singers, a chorus of more than 100 high school students, a forty five-piece orchestra with members from across the country, and Bird’s daughter and son-in law, Jennifer and Bjoern Arvidsson as soloists.

Since that first performance, Dr. Bird has continued to develop the composition, adding narratives, read this evening by Gwen Hunt, and visual components by Danny Craven. Both Joplin concerts featured the return of the soloists, the All City Singers with children from local elementary schools, conducted by Kathy deMint, Cindy Oster and Autumn Shurley, and the MSSU Singers, prepared by conductor Dr. David Sharlow. The orchestra was comprised of musicians from across the US, and was conducted by Col. L. Bryan Shelburne Jr. Orchestra soloists were Harold Easley, clarinet, and Dr. Raul Munguia, violin. 

As the lights dimmed, I settled into my seat, open and ready to receive this musical interpretation of the devastating storm that tore through Joplin, and the light and hope that returned afterward. 

The All City Singers began the program with two songs. I was struck by their beautifully clear voices and the poignancy of the song titles. The Journey and Song of the River seemed to tell my story too, using words and symbols from my last two years. 

The Other Side of Storm began with a low, percussive rumbling, reminiscent of thunder, and tears slowly filled my eyes. How stirring this performance would prove to be, and how freeing to my emotions. 

Part I told of the build up to the storm. Throughout the piece, Dr. Bird used, with permission, sections of poetry that he composed music for, to capture the essence of the powerful storm and the aftermath. The poetic words appeared on a large screen as they were sung. Images and videos, the visual component, appeared on the screen as well, creating a rich multi-leveled telling of this story of darkness and light. 

Image is my own. The visual components of the performance are protected, and rightfully so. 

Part II began with the storm, the narrative and images on the screen portraying the formation of the tornado west of Joplin and the warnings issued. My heart raced during this segment, especially when the narrator cried out, “Take cover now!”. The orchestra created with their music the power of that storm…the booming thunder, the building intensity, the raging winds. And then the fury subsided…the music slowing and softening, accompanied by images of Joplin’s massive, cataclysmic destruction. 

My heart rate slowed as well, my breathing deepened as the musical tale continued. There was sorrow, in me and in the music. “I Cannot Find My Way” the singers sang softly, reminding us that we can’t always find our way home, when there is no home left to return to. The lines from Beyond the Sundown impacted me so much that I memorized them. 

“Beyond the sundown is tomorrow’s wisdom; today is going to be long, long ago.” Thomas Hornsby Ferril

Five years later, that fateful day is long ago. The memories remain. However, my perspective is shifting, allowing me to let go. 

Part III of the composition brought the return of peace, of hope. The tone changed. Although I’m not sure if it literally happened, as we were still swaddled in darkness, the light seemed to brighten around the orchestra. I could feel a surge of hope, of peace, of love, within me, as I listened. The concert ended with the singers declaring, as the orchestra played in triumph, “We are the Music-Makers, We are the Dreamers of Dreams”.

We were all on our feet, applauding. What an incredibly powerful and moving performance. As the lights came up, the conductor led us in showing appreciation for those who made this concert possible. And finally, from the back of the room, Dr. Hubert Bird slowly stood, to fresh and sincere applause. 

I may be speaking incorrectly, as he has had many award winning works recognized, but for us, this is Dr. Bird’s magnum opus. This is his heart-felt gift to the people of Joplin. I am so deeply grateful to have received such a precious offering.  

Five Nights at Freddy’s Cupcakes with Jonathan

My grandson Jonathan has his own YouTube channel, under the name Classyguy 2005. This talented boy loves creating fun videos on a variety of topics. When I had lunch with Jonathan recently he invited me to join him in creating a video featuring a cupcake from the video game, Five Nights at Freddy’s. I agreed! After we scheduled a time to meet, I did my research. 

The cupcake that Jonathan wanted to create for his viewers is named Carl. He is carried by the character Chica in the video game. With the above photo on my phone, I purchased the ingredients to make and decorate cupcakes. 

Jonathan was sitting on the front porch, watching for me when I arrived. He was excited to begin. His dad Josh had helped him set up the kitchen and a camera to record the video. We were ready to record! 

This boy impresses me so much. He brainstorms an idea and runs with it. We set out all of the ingredients and discussed the procedure, before hitting record. Jonathan wisely decided to break the process into two videos, one showcasing the prep stage, while the second video gave instructions on decorating the baked cupcake to get the Carl look. 

Although I was present, I allowed Jonathan to do each step in the creation process. 

Using a white cake mix, Jonathan divided the batter between cupcake papers in a muffin tin, narrating as he worked. That video completed, we ceased filming and popped the cupcakes into the oven to bake. 

While the cupcakes baked and cooled, I prepped for phase two while Jonathan edited and loaded the first video. 

View FNaFs Cupcake Video I HERE

During the next segment, Jonathan created the Five Nights at Freddy’s look for the cupcake, using icing and decorations we put together. 

Jonathan added six drops of magenta gel food coloring to a tub of vanilla icing, stirring to blend and achieve a bright pink color. 

We created Carl’s eyes by using a dab of white icing, from a squeeze pouch, to attach a candy eye to one half of a mini Oreo. Jonathan found this fun to do and loved the results. After frosting the cupcake with the pink icing, the eyes were added, pressing them lightly into place. 

The final touch was a single yellow and white candle. I lit this for Jonathan, as he continued his narration on video, and voilà, he had a very good replication of Carl. It touched my heart to watch Jonathan film this whole process and excitedly present his finished product. 

Of course, there had to be a taste test, which Jonathan did in front of the camera. He declared the cupcake to be delicious. From start to finish, our project lasted about an hour. I was so proud of Jonathan for creating and implementing his idea. And I had great fun being part of a video by Classyguy 2005. 

Special thank you’s to Elissa and Josh for allowing Jonathan and me to take over the kitchen and for trusting us with this project. And to Josh for helping us get set up. And to Dayan for assisting off camera, taking still photos for me and for making an emergency run to The Dollar Store to procure a lighter for the candle. 

Thank you also to Jonathan, for inviting me to share in his creativity and making the process smooth and entertaining. I continually learn from my grandkids. Today, I learned to make Carl the cupcake…while the camera rolled. Keep up the great flow of ideas Jonathan! I mean…Classyguy 2005. You rock! 

View FNaFs Cupcake Video II HERE

Surrender 140: Happy Birthday Dayan

My oldest grandchild has a birthday today. Dayan’s last day of school yesterday was also his last day being 16. It seems fitting that he embarks on summer vacation as both a high school senior and a 17 year old. He has quite a year ahead. But the past year has been pretty amazing too. 

Dayan accomplished much during his 16th year. As a high school junior with a busy schedule, he devoted his time to the activities that he most enjoyed. He continued in band, as a Section Leader, performing in marching band, Honor Band and the Wind Ensemble. I am always inspired after attending Dayan’s concerts. 

Dayan and the Academic Bowl Team took their school to the state competition, for the first time ever. He also competed with the Debate Team. While these are fun extracurricular events for my intelligent grandson, they are also preparing him for the future, teaching him to think quickly, present an idea and speak well.  Dayan completed his junior year with an induction into National Honor Society, as an officer. 

The Academic Bowl Team

As soon as he got his drivers permit, Dayan became my chauffeur. Anytime we were together and needed to go somewhere, I handed over my keys. It was great practice for him, and he passed his driving test with ease, receiving his driver’s license. For me, I not only appreciated being a passenger, I valued the conversations we had as he confidently drove us around. Dayan is a great conversationalist and deeply insightful. So often he knows just what to say to me or how to offer a fresh perspective. 

He passed the driving exam! 

Dayan has been wonderful to accompany me on many of my adventures this past year, a willing companion for fun and experiencing new things. He introduced me to the British TV series, Doctor Who, and we spent many a pleasant afternoon getting me caught up through eight seasons of past episodes. I came to love this show about a Timelord and his companions. Even more, I enjoyed discussing the episodes with Dayan afterwards. 

Together, we set the intention of meeting actors David Tennant or Matt Smith, who played the Tenth and Eleventh Doctors, respectively, should they ever attend a Comic Con in our area. In early April that intention became a reality, after an extraordinary series of synchronicities brought BOTH actors to Wizard Comic Con in St Louis, MO. What an amazing day, walking the convention floor, listening to panel discussions, getting photos and autographs, and meeting these two charming and gracious men. I will never forget that day or seeing the grin on Dayan’s face as he stood between the Doctors. 

As much fun as I’ve had with my grandson, as much as I cherish our heart-felt discussions, the thing I have marveled at the most this past year with Dayan, is how much he has grown, in all areas of his life. I’ve watched the boy become a young man. He has learned so much about himself…who he is, what his gifts are and what paths into the world are open to him. Always drawn to geography, world history and world cultures, Dayan has turned his focus toward a career in politics, political analysis or being an ambassador. I fully anticipate that Dayan A. Reynolds will be a US or world leader. I look forward to visiting him in Washington DC someday, or further abroad.

Dayan is an awesome son and brother, grandson and cousin. 

I looked up Dayan’s name, as I’ve been doing for other family members on their birthdays. I was astounded. 

Dayan, you are strong in material matters, determined and stubborn. You have good business abilities. You are a good worker, steady and practical, a builder who takes responsibility well. These qualities may bring you a position of authority and power. You are a doer, down-to-earth, serious-minded, reliable, and self-disciplined and have good powers of concentration. You are bold, independent, inquisitive and interested in research. You know what you want and why you want it.

You desire to inspire and lead, to control other’s affairs. You are giving, courageous and bold, action oriented, energetic and strong willed. You want to make a difference in the world, and this attitude often attracts you to cultural interests, politics, social issues, and the cultivation of your creative talents.

These words SO capture who my grandson is. He does know what he wants and what his why is. He does desire to inspire and lead. He definitely will make a difference in the world, governed by courage and compassion, boldness and conviction. 

He’s made a difference already, just by being his unique and authentic self. He makes a difference in my life and the lives of others. Happy birthday Dayan! I love you!

Surrender 139: Joplin’s Butterfly Sculptures 

I’ve been aware, this past month, of the large sculptures that have been quietly appearing around Joplin. There are 22 of them. Area businesses, including Missouri Southern State University, Mercy Hospital, The Joplin Globe, The Joplin Chamber of Commerce and Mason Woodard Mortuary have these uniquely beautiful butterflies mounted on their lawns. 

This week marks a big anniversary in the Joplin and Duquesne areas. Five years ago, on Sunday May 22, one of history’s biggest and most destructive tornadoes tore through both communities, leaving devastation in its wake. Thousands of homes and businesses and vehicles were destroyed. Trees were uprooted or, left standing, stripped of leaves, twigs and bark. In places even the grass was ripped from the ground and the earth gouged. One hundred and sixty one people lost their lives…men, women and children. 

It’s not an anniversary to celebrate, per se, but a time of remembrance…a time of appreciating a community that has rebuilt and grown strong…a time of recognizing the tremendous efforts of more than a hundred thousand volunteers. There are many activities connected to the 5th anniversary this week, grouped under the banner of Joplin Proud. I’ll be mindfully attending several of those events. 

In the aftermath of the EF5 tornado, the butterfly became an important symbol in Joplin, for two reasons:

As stories were told by survivors, one story in particular was repeated over and over, especially by children. As the deadly storm approached, many kids, and some adults, reported seeing large “butterfly people” appear above them, their wings spread as a protective covering over them and their families. These protectors disappeared as the tornado passed by, leaving people shaken but safe. 

There has been a great deal of speculation about who the butterfly people were, however the most accepted theory is that these were angels. Many other people reported being helped by tall men in bright, white clothing…men who later vanished. But the children saw huge butterflies. Perhaps because butterflies are not scary, perhaps to reassure the kids, these youngest storm victims saw something marvelous and beautiful. Whatever extraordinary beings people saw, the ultimate result was the same…protection and assistance. 

And the butterfly is a symbol of change, of transformation through the process of metamorphosis. The caterpillar uses massive amounts of energy to literally change form, to emerge as a beautiful and wondrous new creature. Imagine life changing to such an extreme that you are unrecognizable at the end of the transformation. 

Southern Joplin was unrecognizable after the initial, negative transformation, brought about by a massive force of nature. My first thought as I emerged from my battered house was that a bomb had been dropped on us. My neighborhood was gone. Houses, or pieces of them, blocked the streets. Explosions erupted from busted gas pipes. Trees lay broken in yards, cars were twisted or flattened hunks of metal. Debris was everywhere. I stood in the silence, eerie after the roar of the tornado and the unforgettable sounds of the world shuddering apart, more shocked than I have ever been in my life. 

My community immediately sprang into action, even as rain continued to fall, clearing roads for emergency vehicles, boarding up broken windows, searching through piles of lumber where houses once stood, hoping to find survivors. Volunteers poured into Joplin and Duquense from around the world. For days sirens never ceased to wail as rescue operations continued. And for months and months, the hopeful sound of saws and hammers filled the air as rebuilding began. 

Five years later, we are a community transformed by the power of love. We have emerged, a new creation. There is still building going on. We have more work to do. And we have things yet to repair, in a physical sense and in deeply emotional ways. But our spirit is strong. 

The butterfly is our symbol. Like that amazing creature’s transformation, it has taken massive amounts of energy to bring Joplin through her metamorphosis. And like the butterfly who has just emerged from her cocoon, we are flexing our wings, preparing to soar, rising with those very winds of change. 

We are Joplin Proud, indeed. 

Surrender 138: Movie Review – Captain America Civil War

I had the opportunity to see this recent release tonight, with my sister Linda. Civil War continues the Avengers saga, with a return of familiar characters and the introduction of a couple of new ones. This film has a long run time. We settled in to enjoy the action packed story. 

Captain America: Civil War stars Robert Downey Jr, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan, Anthony Mackie, Don Cheadle,  Jeremy Renner, Chadwick Boseman, Paul Bettany, Elizabeth Olsen, Paul Rudd, Tom Holland, Daniel Brühl, William Hurt and John Kani. This action/adventure/sci-fi was directed by Anthony and Joe Russo and has a run time of 2 hours and 27 minutes. It is rated PG-13, for extended scenes of violence and intense action. 

After another altercation between the Avengers and a former nemesis results in the death of civilians, Secretary of State Ross (Hurt) informs the team that regulations must be put into place. The proposed Sovokia Accords, ratified by 117 countries, states that the Avengers will be under the supervision of a panel, acting only when the panel finds it necessary. Each member of the Avengers is asked to sign the document, or retire. The Accords will go into affect in three days. 

The Avengers immediately divide over their decisions to sign the Accords, or not. Tony Stark (Downey Jr), aka Ironman, agrees that the group of superheroes needs to be overseen. The deaths of innocent civilians is weighing heavily on him. Siding with him are Natasha/Black Widow (Johansson), Vision (Bettany), and Lt. James Rhodes/War Macine (Cheadle). 

Opposing the Accords, on the grounds that the world might need the Avengers’ help and they will not be allowed to go, are Steve Rogers/Captain America (Evans), Sam Wilson/Falcon (Mackie), and Wanda/Scarlet Witch (Olsen). 

As dissent is dividing the Avengers, an explosion in Vienna halts the proceedings concerning the Accords, while killing King T’Chaka (Kani) of  Wakanda. His father’s death enrages the son, Prince T’Challa (Boseman), who vows to kill the man responsible for the bombing. That man appears to be Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier (Stan), friend of Captain American. Cap realizes he needs to get to Bucky before T’Challa does, and goes rogue, violating the Accords. Ironman and his team arrive to apprehend Cap and Bucky, saving them from newly introduced Black Panther, who unmasked, is revealed to be Prince T’Challa. 

Into this volatile situation, Col Zemo (Brühl) infiltrates the compound where Bucky is being held prisoner, using a spoken code to activate the Winter Soldier’s aggressive programming. Zemo appears to have a mysterious agenda of his own. Captain Ametican escapes with his old friend, reminding him that he is Bucky Barnes, and believing that he was not responsible for the explosion in Vienna. Ironman and his team are sent to bring Captain America and his group in. 

Both groups beef up their teams. Ironman recruits Black Panther and brings in the teen from Queens with unique abilities, Spider-Man (Holland). Captain America adds Hawkeye (Renner) and Ant-Man (Rudd) to his team. The line is drawn. It’s Civil War. 

This was a fun, action-packed film. As superhero movies go, this one has to rank near the top, with a great cast and an interesting storyline. There were humorous moments interspersed throughout the movie, to break up the intensity of the action. 

I was struck with the thought that although they were divided by opinions and beliefs, neither side was entirely right…or entirely wrong. Both teams operated out of the knowledge that they had, which was incomplete for all. And although they disagreed over outcomes and courses of action, each person lived from a code of behavior that was larger than the individual. They each knew there was a bigger story going on, and an enemy outside of themselves, which enabled them to still respect each other in spite of the very physical battles that they engaged in. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this latest chapter in the Avengers. This obviously was not the end of the story, and I’m very glad about that. I’m not ready to say goodbye to this group of superheroes. 

Surrender 137: Happy Birthday Bryan

In my family, May is a big month for birthdays, providing ample opportunities for celebrations. Today the person I’m happy to honor is my brother, Bryan. When my dad and stepmom announced they were expecting, I fervently hoped for a baby brother. I had two wonderful sisters. It was time to have a boy in the family. I held my breath, listening to my dad on the phone after the baby’s birth. The announcement came…it’s a boy! Curtis Bryan Lauderdale had arrived. 

I am 14 years older than my brother. My sisters are 12 and 8 years older than Bryan, respectively. Born into a family of girls, this boy never lacked for arms to carry him and cuddle him, or for someone to “play me toys” in his room. We doted on him, and happily so. He was adorable and good natured, then and now. 

I have never lived with my brother, except for the long lazy summers while on school break. Until I married, I spent at least a part of each summer with my dad. And even after I had children of my own, my kids and I would spend a week with Dad and my stepmom Jerri, and Bryan. Those summers were when I made up for the time we spent apart, and got to know my brother. As he grew into a young man, I had the opportunity to see his strengths.  He’s smart and funny, a great communicator, affectionate, with a bright, optimistic outlook on life. He still calls me Sister, which I love. I don’t know if I’ve ever heard him call me by my name. 

Participating in the Color Run, with son Fox. 

Looking up Bryan’s name I found this: 

Bryan, you can go to great heights and equally great depths. You can be emotional, yet solid in your opinions. You are hospitable, sentimental, often psychic, sometimes moody. You are ruled by love or the lack of it, and feel a need to be encouraged and appreciated. You are inventive, intuitive and methodical. Since your will is so strong, you can be hard to convince. You also dislike advice. You love beauty and philosophy, and you desire achievement. You have a strong need for freedom – physical, mental and spiritual.

You find the best contentment in life when you own your own home and provide well for your family and loved ones. You have a great sense of responsibility and duty. You are comforting, appreciative and affectionate.

Those words describe well the man that my brother has become. He is hospitable, which to me means more than welcoming someone into his home. He’s open, welcoming others into his presence, into his life. He’s like my dad that way. Bryan does appreciate beauty and the arts, frequenting plays, musicals, movies and the ballet with his lovely wife, Christel. He runs in races with his sons and Christel and his mom joins in often too. 

Bryan provides well for his family, in all ways. He loves his wife and enjoys being with her. They share many common interests. And he’s a great dad, fathering his sons with grace and love, leading by example, showing and receiving affection. I’m so proud of the man this baby brother has become. 

Our dad passed away six years ago, journeying down a path we could not yet follow, after a courageous battle with pancreatic cancer. I look at my brother now, and I see my dad in his kind brown eyes, with the spark of mischief, and in the beautiful smile. I know Dad is proud of his boy too, and rightfully so. 

I see the strong family resemblance to my son Nate as well, who looks so much like my dad and brother. When Bryan’s first born, Cade, was a toddler, he often held his arms up to my son at family gatherings, thinking Nate was his dad. I love that not only do these three men share physical characteristics, they also have the same great hearts and share a strong sense of justice and fairness. 

My dad, my brother, my son. 

I’m grateful for Bryan, and this opportunity to celebrate his life and who he is. May we journey together for years yet to come, so that I may continue to discover more and more about him. Happy birthday, Brother! I love you! 

Surrender 136: Emma’s Merry Birthday Party

I’ve participated in a Christmas in July celebration, where a traditional Christmas dinner is served and the atmosphere is festive, despite the sizzling summer temps. However, today was my first time to experience a Christmas themed birthday party, in May. I had the pleasure of accompanying Aubrey to this fun and unique party, the creative idea of Emma Reynolds, age seven. 

Emma and Aubrey share more than the same number of years. These little sweethearts are connected by a common family member, Dayan. He is Emma’s older half-brother, and Aubrey’s cousin. The girls have had opportunities over the years to play together and attend the same events. What fun to receive an invitation to a birthday party that not only had a jolly theme, but specifically, focused on a holiday favorite, the Christmas Elf. 

After all the attendees arrived and had a time of free play, the fun activities began. Emma’s mom, Kim, is wonderfully creative, and took great care in manifesting her daughter’s birthday wish. With the help of Emma’s dad Kevin, and big brother Dayan, the living room was transformed into an elf workshop. Each child received build-an-elf materials, so that he or she could create a keepsake to take home. 

Emma, the birthday girl. 

With a little help from Kevin and Kim, the kids had fun stuffing their elves. Christmas is a magical time. Each elf received a golden star to tuck inside and a sprinkling of magic dust. Bright green coats completed the elves attire, and then each child received an adoption certificate with his or her name on it and the name selected for the elf. I believe Emma named hers Chippie, while Aubrey selected the name Blue. This was a great activity that the children enjoyed immensely. 

The group gathered for a photo in front of the Ho, Ho, Ho backdrop…using cardboard props…

…and then it was time for sweet treats. Kim is not only an incredible party planner, she is a great cook too! Desserts included homemade cupcakes, “reindeer” chow and sugar cookies, plus tiny M&Ms and store bought Elf sandwich cookies. From the North Pole came a special delivery of Frosty root beers.  

The kids and adults sang Happy Birthday as Emma blew out a candle shaped like the number 7, perched atop her cupcake. 

In front of the fireplace, two small chairs awaited. Emma sat in one to open presents, inviting each child to join her by sitting in the second chair while she unwrapped her gift. What a great way to keep straight who gave which gift, and to honor both the giver and the receiver. Emma was enthusiastic in her response as each present was revealed, and gracious in her thanks. 

The party concluded with an interesting twist on a familiar game. As Christmas music played, the kids passed around a wrapped package. When the music stopped, whoever was holding the gift tore away a layer of paper. Amid much giggling and squeals, layer after layer was removed from the box. And inside the first box, was another wrapped box! The kids loved this game and it was entertaining to watch. At last the smaller box was opened to reveal Elf party bags to take home. 

Merry Birthday parties featuring the Christmas Elf are fun, I discovered today! Emma is an imaginative little girl to have dreamed up such a unique theme. And her parents did a wonderful job creating the decorations and activities. She is blessed with parents and an older and younger brother who adore her. 

Emma is a bright and beautiful girl, full of life and charm, with a healthy sprinkling of feisty independence. I look forward to watching her journey as she grows up! Merry Birthday, Emma! 

Surrender 135: Happy Birthday Debbie

Today is my younger sister’s birthday. Debbie lives in Oklahoma, and while we see each other frequently, I’m rarely with her to celebrate on this special day. I’m grateful for the inspiration I had to do a blog post for each member of my immediate family, so that for the first time, I can share more about this beautiful soul. 

I was six years old when Deborah Jean Lauderdale was born, and I was literally pacing back and forth in the neighbor’s yard as I awaited news of her birth. Judy was watching me and my other sister, Linda, while my parents were at the hospital, and when she came to the front door, to announce Debbie had been born, the nervousness I felt was replaced with a strong sense of responsibility. I wanted to help watch over this tiny girl, and protect her. I’ve been doing that ever since. 

Apparently I also felt it was sometimes my duty to keep her humble. The youngest, at that time, of three girls, Debbie was an adorable child, and she knew it. She was told so frequently. She learned at an early age that to get what she wanted, she merely had to bat her big brown eyes. She would cuddle up next to my mother, flash her eyes, and say, “Aren’t you glad you’ve got pretty little ole me?” 

Debbie, who once cut her own bangs, always enjoyed a good peanut butter & jelly sandwich! 

Even though Linda and I managed to convince Debbie for a time that she was retarded (I cringe at that now), and my sense of responsibility failed completely, along with my words, when a stunt I convinced my little sister to try resulted in a broken arm (it was years before the full story was told), I had to agree. I was glad we had pretty little Debbie. I still am! 

I looked up the name Deborah on the name site I like. 

Deborah you are strong in material matters, determined and stubborn. You have good business abilities. You are a good worker, steady and practical, a builder who takes responsibility well. These qualities may bring you a position of authority and power. You are a doer, down-to-earth, serious-minded, reliable, and self-disciplined. You have good powers of concentration. You are versatile and have the ability to learn easily.

You have the power and ability to chose your own destiny and achieve anything you want in life. You can expand in any direction according to your will and your set of values. You have a passion for justice and belong in a position of authority. You have an inherent courage and the endurance to accomplish “The Impossible Dream”. With power comes responsibility. You hold keys to the material world, but with this gift comes high spiritual responsibility to be fair and true to others. You are philosophical and mature, determined and intense with a desire to endure. 

Debbie’s daughter, son-in-law and two grandsons. 

I can see my sister’s characteristics in those words. She is reliable and self-disciplined, a hard worker with the ability to learn and retain that knowledge. I’ve never met anyone, except her daughter Ashley, who can recite movie quotes for all occasions like she can. She’s creative. She draws and creates wonderful framed quotes and artwork. And at Halloween time, she and Ashley transform the house they all share into an insane asylum or a haunted hotel. Truly, their themed decorations are incredible works of art. 

The second paragraph connected to Debbie’s name is especially significant. I’ve seen my sister live those words. A few years ago she went back to school, to pursue her dream of working as a legal assistant. She had a perfectly fine job, but her heart wasn’t engaged there. After finishing her courses and receiving her certifications, she found the ideal law office to work for, achieving her dream. I am so proud of her. She never gave up, never wavered in taking the next step. Her “passion for justice” has a place to serve. 

Debbie is fun and playful, with a wicked sense of humor. She loves roller coasters and amusement parks, crime dramas and live musicals, children and animals. She wants to visit Scotland someday. I want to go with her. She’s compassionate and puts actions behind her desire to help others. She joined me this year in Joplin’s Chase the Chill event, hanging scarves in trees for anyone who needed one. She jokes that Eeyore is her spirit animal. Debbie relishes her quirks. 

I treasure my sister. I knew something amazing was happening the day she was born. And honestly, she’s watched over me as much as I have her. She has journeyed along side me, encouraged me, been there at my lowest moments and celebrated my greatest ones with me. I can’t imagine my life without her in it.

Eeyore said, “A little consideration, a little thought for others, makes all the difference.”

That’s my sister, making all the difference, in the lives of so many people. Happy birthday Debbie! I love you! 

Surrender 134: Nachos for Joey, Cheeseburger for Oliver

Today I finished up lunch time with the grandkids at their schools, with a double treat. Grandsons Joey and Oliver attend the same school. This year, their lunch times are back to back. I showed up with the boys’ orders: Nachos Bellegrande from Taco Bell for Joey and a cheeseburger meal from McDonalds for Oliver. Dr. Peppers and chocolate chip cookies completed their meals. 

Oliver, who is finishing up second grade, had lunch first. His class was entering the cafeteria as I was and he called out to me. As soon as his teacher gave him permission, he joined me and selected a place to sit. 

We had fun catching up. I asked him all about his recent activities and he asked me about mine. As school is ending, I asked him what he had most enjoyed about the past school year. He was quick to tell me about the fun classes he goes to that change with the days of the week: PE, art, music and computer lab. He’s especially enjoying computer classes, now that they are allowed to play games. As he ate, Oliver, who likes to try unusual food combinations, created the chocolate chip cheeseburger! He assured me it was delicious. I’d like to let him sample a donut hamburger, made with a beef patty between two glazed donuts. 

Our conversation turned to sports. Oliver will be playing football for the first time this summer, as a Tiger. We discussed sportsmanship, after Ollie told me about a classmate who displays anger when he loses, arguing about the rules or the call, and ultimately stomping away to seethe. Oliver’s eyes softened as he told me it’s not about winning or losing. The fun is in getting to play. Just play. I’m so proud of his attitude. I’m looking forward to watching this bright and wise boy play.

Oliver was the last child to leave the lunchroom, before the next group arrived. His amazing principle chatted with us, took a picture of us for me, and let Oliver stay a little longer. Inquisitive and charming, Oliver lingered to talk and hug on each other until the fourth graders filed in. After a final embrace and a non-embarrassing kiss on the side of his head, he tossed his trash and trotted away, just as Joey arrived at the table. 

Joey, completing fourth grade, is looking more and more like a young man. As he started on his plate of nachos he began our conversation with questions about how I was, how was my day going, what all had I been doing. He got the jump on me, this sweet, creative and thoughtful boy! 

We discussed a broad range of topics, from school to summer vacation to movies to sports. I love these one on one times of talking with each of my five grandkids, watching their earnest, expressive faces, listening to their thoughts expressed. I value what they have to say. I marvel at their keen intellects and perspectives. I asked Joey what his favorite thing about the past school year was, and he shared about the fun day his class had yesterday at the 40 Mile Party. 

Intrigued, I wanted to hear more. Apparently each child in the class set a goal of running 40 miles this semester. Every day they ran a mile or two at recess or during PE. For completing their goals, the whole class had a day long field trip yesterday, that included time at the park, a pizza lunch and time at the Y. I was impressed! What a great way to encourage kids to set healthy goals and accomplish them in small, manageable steps. And how fun, the celebration.

In fact, today seemed to carry over that party atmosphere. Everyone was in high spirits and casual dress, students and teachers and the principal all, as the last days of the school year are winding down. I’ve never seen a school principal who engages so well with his students. He interacts with them, in fun and educational ways, as they eat lunch. He let the kids play a game called Pick a Door, in which 6-8 kids at a time leave the cafeteria and one by one, they re-enter from the hallway through one of four doors. The kids in the cafeteria hold up fingers to indicate which door they believe the child will enter through. They love it, laughing as they count up how many guesses were correct. I only guessed when Joey entered in, and I guessed correctly. He came back into the lunchroom through door number four. 

As lunch with Joey concluded, I hugged him and kissed the back of his head. He cleared away his trash as I gathered my things to leave. Suddenly he was behind me, slipping his arms around me for a last tight hug. I love how affectionate each of my grandchildren are. They freely give and receive love. Delighted, I turned to embrace Joey again. His face lit up with a beautiful smile. 

As I drove away after those fun lunches, with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes, I thought about all five of my grandchildren. These kids. These fun, smart, talented, loving kids. I believe I am at my most authentic self when I am with any of my grandkids. They allow me to be me, fully. They allow me to be my quirky, creative, loving self. I hope they know that with me, they can do the same, be exactly, and fully, who they are at this moment…and in every moment throughout their lives. I love each one dearly. I am loved in return. 

I am a blessed, and grateful, Yaya. 

Surrender 133: Pizza with Jonathan

Today I had the privilege of having lunch at school with grandson Jonathan. He requested a pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut and a root beer. I also included chocolate chips cookies. He was excited to see me. When I asked him if he wanted some of his friends to join us at a booth, he answered that he preferred Jonathan and Yaya time. I was happy to oblige. 

Although we started off seated with the other fourth graders, Jonathan received permission for us to move to a far booth in the empty adjoining room, where we could chat freely. I so enjoyed conversation with this intelligent and talented boy as he ate his pizza. 

Jonathan is fearless when it comes to trying new adventures. He participates in plays, and sings in talent shows, offering from his heart. And Jonathan is very tech savvy. One of this 10 year old boy’s dreams was to have a YouTube channel that he hosts and regularly posts to. He can cross that goal off his list. With the user name of Classyguy 2005, he currently has 105 subscribers and that number is growing daily. I’m happy to be one of those subscribers and I enjoy Jonathan’s fun videos. 

Check out Classyguy 2005 on YouTube HERE It would thrill him if you subscribed!

Jonathan and I chatted about his videos and ideas for upcoming projects. His ease in front of a camera makes recording videos an ideal outlet for his creativity. I’m very proud of him! 

The school year is winding down. Lunch time was too. Jonathan expressed sadness that next Friday was his last day of classes, which surprised me a bit. I asked him why. He earnestly shared that this year, he has had an exceptional teacher, Ms. Tims. Holding his hand at chest level, he explained, “I’ve had regular teachers. This year, I’ve had a GREAT teacher. (He raised his hand to forehead level) Yaya, I don’t know how I’m going to go back to having a regular teacher.” He dropped his hand back down to chest level. What a beautiful tribute to an extraordinary teacher. Jonathan is right. Ms. Tims is great. I’ve been present for a couple of the Coffeehouse Poetry Readings that she creates for her class. I’m so grateful Jonathan was her student this year.

I stood with Jonathan as his class lined up to leave. We whispered together. He invited me to join him in creating a video and we worked out the details. It’s going to be fun! I hugged him and as he filed out, he ran back for one more tight embrace. At the cafeteria door he turned to wave and shouted out, “Bye Yaya!”  

I sure love this boy. These grandkids, they have the ability to make me smile and teary-eyed at the same time. It’s their superpower.