Ethan’s Winter Concert

What an honor and a treat this evening, to be in the audience during my great nephew’s first concert. Ethan began playing the violin four months ago. Tonight he joined 100 other sixth graders as the Union School Orchestra took the stage. 

My mom, my sister Linda, Greg and I traveled from Joplin to join Ethan’s family…his mom and dad, little brother Kaleb, and his Meem, who is my sister Debbie…for what will surely be the first of many such performances. Looking confident and handsome in his dress shirt and slacks, Ethan sat relaxed with his violin, ready to play. 

Kaleb showing brotherly support by sporting a Union wrist bracelet that lit up. 

The orchestra, composed of violins and violas, cellos and basses, performed seven selections. Included in the mix were familiar Christmas tunes and classics by musical greats such as Mozart. I was impressed with the obvious hard work and dedication that went into tonight’s concert. Four months is a very short amount of time, to go from learning how to sit and hold a violin or cello, to playing before a large audience. 

And I was inspired as I sat, captivated. There are life lessons to be learned, in listening to and observing a group of musicians as they play. Each person focuses on his music, plays her notes to the best of her ability, allowing the other musicians the freedom to do the same. The individuals become the whole, together creating something bigger, something beyond their solitary notes.

I was struck this evening by the thought that I have been listening to my grandson, Dayan, as he has performed with his school’s marching band and orchestra for the past seven years. I have loved attending those events and concerts. Dayan is a senior in high school. And I have already felt sad that those times of sitting in a hushed audience as the musicians play were drawing to a close.

Tonight it feels like the baton is passing, from my grandson, who is college bound, to my great nephew, who has years yet ahead of him to play and create and perform. What a joy to realize that the music does go on. I will be there in the audience for Ethan, an appreciative fan, with a full and grateful heart. 

Listen to the Union Orchestra perform Jingle Bells HERE

Happy Birthday Ethan

My great nephew, Ethan Barnes, turned 11 years old today. I didn’t get to see him on his special day, however we exchanged text messages and my thoughts have been on this bright young man as I prepared to write his birthday blog post. 

Ethan after a big birthday dinner tonight with his family. 

The grandson of my sister Debbie, Ethan lives with his family in Oklahoma. He is the older son of Ashley and Jon, and a wonderful big brother to Kaleb. Smart, inventive and creative, Ethan excels in academics and he is well on his way to becoming an Eagle Scout. He’s already earned many merit badges and just returned from his first out of state Boy Scout camp. 

Halloween is a big deal at the Barnes’ house. I loved Ethan’s costume from Doctor Who. 

I looked up Ethan’s name:

Ethan, you do well when you are in harmony however you are changeable when in discord, because many of your best qualities are then reversed. You are entertaining and may be impulsive. Freedom is a necessity, and you find it difficult to settle on one thing, creating restlessness. Your versatility may bring many changes and opportunities to travel. Your fine intellect is capable of high honors if applied seriously. You are capable of inspired thinking.

Creative and outgoing, you are always looking for an opportunity to showcase your abilities, especially before an audience. You like to feel appreciated. You are looking for ways to communicate your ideas. You like to talk and can easily relate to different cultures and concepts. The biggest challenge for you may be that you are easily bored, causing you to move from one job or project to another. Your high creativity can lead you to happiness. If you pursue your goals, you can make major decisions in life without worry and uncertainty, and achieve great heights.

Those are very powerful words for an 11 year old boy. And yet, I see Ethan growing into them already. He has a rich vocabulary, loves to sing and entertain his family, and already has a vast knowledge of the sciences and technology. I love to sit beside him, watching as he creates his own video games on his iPad. He’s a master at games like Minecraft. Like several in our family, this young man is very aware of energy and spirit, and shows strong intuitive abilities. 

While Ethan has always been a great conversationalist, this past year we’ve had some deeper conversations about life and the journey, and about being our own wonderfully unique selves and being okay with who we are. Ethan became a Doctor Who fan recently and I’ve enjoyed discussing this amazing British series with him and hearing his insights. 

Ethan’s creativity extends in many directions. He creates cool memes such as the one pictured above, designs games, plays with technology, surprises me with music that he just casually pulls together on his iPad. He likes to read, watch movies, and play trivia games. 

He’s a deep thinker. And he’s an outside of the box thinker. His intellect, versatility and keen insight will indeed take him far in life and abroad in the world. And perhaps this amazing boy with his big ideas will go way, way beyond this world and explore among the stars, literally seeking out new life and new civilizations, going where few have gone before. 

He can do whatever he wants to do. No matter what career or path he chooses, I’ll be here cheering him on. Happy birthday Ethan! I love you!

Journey 181: Geek Day

Today isn’t a national holiday, even on the unique holiday sites that I check out occasionally. However, my journey on this day definitely had a theme that coursed through it. It was a walk on the geeky side, so I dubbed this day Geek Day.

geek day im still a geek

The term “geek” has changed considerably over the past 10 years. At one time, a geek was considered an intellectual person who was somewhat socially inept. The popularity of the long running TV series, The Big Bang Theory, plays up that aspect of geekiness, while at the same time, making socially awkward funny and okay. Today’s definition of geek is more broad. Urban Dictionary defines the word as an outwardly normal person who has taken time to learn technical or specialized skills, either around computer or gaming technology or a particular hobby or passion.

I can’t deny that I have been considered a geek since childhood. I loved science and math, along with literature and art. Zoology, botany, astronomy, chemistry, earth science….were all favorite topics of  mine. Algebra, geometry, calculus, trigonometry…I took all the math classes available in high school. Band, Star Trek and later Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit all further revealed my geeky side. I didn’t mind at all! It was part of who I was and still am.

geek day doctor who voyage of the damned

Today was a fun reminder of the joys of geekdom, beginning with a couple of Doctor Who episodes with grandson Dayan. We love this British TV series which highlights the adventures of The Doctor and his companions through Time and Space. We watched The Voyage of the Damned, which put a clever spin on the tale of the Titanic, followed by Partners in Crime. This episode featured little pudgy creatures made up of adipose, the layer of fat beneath the skin…and they were cute, rather than menacing! I recalled a remark my biology teacher made back in high school. He suggested Adipose would be a great name for a baby girl! My daughters are grateful, I’m sure, that I didn’t agree.

geek day doctor who adipose

Before I headed home, Dayan showed me a great T-shirt that his stepdad Josh bought for him. It proudly states the benefit of coming to the geek side. I love it! And I love this grandson who is every bit as geeky as his Yaya is.

geek day dayans t shirt

As darkness fell this evening, I had the opportunity to see a phenomenon in the western sky that was perfect for Geek Day. The planets Venus and Jupiter have been engaged in a dance during the month of June, day by day drawing closer…and closer…together. This evening they are the closest they will get, within a third of a degree. Some have compared the conjunction of these two bright night sky objects to the Bethlehem Star, which according to the Bible, appeared in the sky to announce the birth of Jesus. Whether it is the same occurrence, or not, and whether it happens rarely or more often, it was a spectacular sight to see. As one who has studied the heavens since childhood, it was beautiful to witness. The binoculars sharpened the view, but the pair was easily visible with the naked eye, both shining brightly opposite a nearly full moon.

geek day jupiter and venus close up

And lastly this evening, I had the opportunity to make use of technology to talk to my great-nephew Ethan on his birthday. We used FaceTime and I enjoyed getting to look at some of Ethan’s birthday presents and see a demonstration of how his new computer monitor works.

Ethan is a brilliant child, full of delightful geekiness, like so many in my family. This intelligent, funny, sweet natured boy turned 10 years old today. He excels at using the computer and at playing and creating computer games. Ethan loves to sing, watch movies, and learn interesting facts and trivia about a broad range of topics. He is an excellent big brother to Kaleb and protective toward his younger cousins. He also loves astronomy. What a happy occurrence that the conjunction of Venus and Jupiter happened on his birthday. I am excited to see what opportunities present themselves to this remarkable boy as he journeys through life.

geek day ethans birthday

It’s been an interesting journey today, and one that reminded me of some of my favorite things in life. My early interests transformed into lifelong loves and hobbies…botany became a passion for gardening, Star Trek led me to the works of JRR Tolkien and CS Lewis and now into the Doctor Who universe…band brought me a deeper appreciation of music and musical arrangements…and I still use math and science daily. I am glad that being a geek is no longer seen as socially unacceptable. After all, it is just another facet of personality that makes up part of a larger whole…in me, in Dayan, in Ethan…in other family members. We all belong to our own little geek club. And that is just fine with me.

geek day being a geek

Journey 24: Fancy Flamingo Flea Market Frolic


A few days ago at a local craft store, as I wandered the aisles, I searched for a representation of my symbol for 2015…an open door or at least an interesting door! I found pictures of doors and small doors that could hang on the wall. About the time I discovered full sized artistic doors (insert fake doors here), for $150.00, I decided that instead of looking for something that represented a door, I’d look for an actual door, preferably a vintage screen door.

Today I got to hang out with my mom, both sisters and my niece and two great nephews. This afternoon we enjoyed browsing at The Fancy Flamingo Flea Market, located at 5171 N Main, Joplin, with its many unique and fun booths. Greg met us there and strolled along with us.

I love this flea market. I entered through the doors with openness and curiosity, and the intention of having fun and seeing if anything grabbed my interest. If I found a screen door, perfect. If I didn’t I knew it would appear at the right time.

We enjoyed looking in each booth. The adults reminisced about objects that harkened back to our past, stirring memories and sparking conversation. My nephew Ethan stayed with Papa Walter at my mom’s, but my other nephew, 3 year old Kaleb, is a pro at shopping the flea markets. I have as much fun watching Kaleb inspect items that catch his interest as I do shopping for myself. Today he was drawn to Mickey Mouse memorabilia, objects that were blue, a tiny wrench and rotary dial phones! His gracious mom allowed him to pick out several items and Greg gifted Kaleb with an old rotary phone from home.

At the end of our shopping adventure my mom found a couple of novels, my sister Linda picked up the LP of Gigi to use creatively as wall art in her home and my sister Debbie bought an assortment of items that will be transformed into Halloween decor this fall. Niece Ashley paid for Kaleb’s purchases.

I collected a metal bucket and a candle holder adorned with acorns, my sub-symbol representing this year’s journey. And to my delight, I found my screen door, waiting for me in a booth in one of the last aisles we wandered into. It’s wooden, painted gray, and nicely aged, with intact screens. All these items will most likely grace my backyard garden. I’ll let inspiration guide me on how best to display the door.

It was a great afternoon, looking, visiting, laughing with family. I never know what I will find in the flea market and that’s part of the appeal. Each visit becomes a treasure hunt, without a map. I’m simply guided by knowing what I like and an openness to being surprised by beauty or intrigued by using an interesting object in a new way. Visiting a flea market parallels the way I journey through life….open to everything, attached to nothing, inspired by joy.


Day 201: Plant Corn

farm planting corn e

Today my sisters and I, great niece London, niece Ashley, her husband Jon and their boys, Ethan and Kaleb, met at my Uncle Rex’s farm to help out cousin Mike with planting. Mike works so hard every day on the farm, after putting in long hours at his day job. For us city girls, it is not only fun to help out on the farm but beneficial to Mike, as it shortens the time he has to spend out working the ground or harvesting. Today, for my first, I helped to plant corn.

I’ve had small vegetable gardens before. I think once I even planted corn but it didn’t do well. I don’t think I harvested a single ear of corn. Today, I understood better why. There is a process to planting corn. Mike showed us the steps and then we got busy. The only step we did not try was tilling the rows for planting. Mike expertly guides the tiller along, making straight rows. He walks off to the side as he guides the churning machine and I feared I couldn’t maintain enough control as I lack the arm strength Mike has. However, we performed every other step and by the last row, we had a good working system.

farm Mike e

After the row is tilled, plant food is scattered over the freshly turned earth and two of us used rakes to work the food into the soil and smooth. Mike showed us how to attach each end of a long cord to short pieces of rebar that stand at either end of the row. Then a metal tape measure is also attached to one rebar and held in place at the other end by a bucket full of dirt…or something. I never actually looked in the bucket! We would move down the row then, poking a hole in the warm soil with our finger, up to the second knuckle, at one foot intervals, dropping a single corn kernel in each hole. After the next row was prepared and the string and tape measure moved, one of us would move down the planted row with a yard rake, shallowly covering the corn.

farm girls e

Planting corn is not hard, but it is wearing on the body. We stretched our backs often and we were very grateful for a large tree to the side of the field which graciously offered its shade. Although the day was the warmest of the past week, there was a good breeze to cool us. We drank ample amounts of water. Work shared goes faster and also gives opportunity for chatting and laughing. Mike supervised us patiently and couldn’t resist grabbing a handful of the precious kernels and helping to plant. I had a new appreciation for the word “cornhole” after poking holes in the earth today and dropping a kernel in! I recently played the lawn game by the same name and understood where the name is derived from.

After planting corn we moved to a long row of bushy green plants and grabbing buckets, picked green beans. The children, who had been splashing in a pool, and Jon, who had been watching them, joined us. Ethan made a game of picking, seeing who could pick the most. I think he won. Mike showed us the maturing eggplant, okra, squash and tomato plants. I can see that there is always planting, harvesting or preparing to do here.

farm picking green beans e

We also celebrated Uncle Rex today, as his birthday is the 22nd. He seemed to enjoy the company today, and the children made him laugh. We brought lunch in and Uncle Rex enjoyed the peach pie especially. He is a sweet and joyful man with a wonderful sense of humor. I look at his handsome face and I catch a glimpse of my dad as well, who was Uncle Rex’s younger brother. My dad has passed but being with my uncle is a bit like being with my dad. It is bittersweet, the familiarity and yet the missing of him.

Next weekend, my sisters and I will once again meet at the farm and assist Mike in planting watermelons and cantaloupe. It will be a plentiful harvest this fall.

farm uncle Rex e