Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bryce's Music Camp Awards

After missing Bryce more than I ever have before, I was finally able to go with the group from the Salvation Army corps to go pick him up on Saturday. The first event of the day was an awards concert for the campers. Last year, Bryce won the solo contest and thus, played his solo for everyone in the concert.

This year, he could not find a solo he wanted to use, so I suggested he write his own. I figured that way he could showcase his strengths. When he showed me his final product, I was absolutely blown away. It looks like a professionally notated piece of music:

I think one of his great strengths is that he recognizes the need for variations in volume. Last year, his solo revealed many dynamics changes. Of course, there is only so much one can showcase when limited to performing on a mere snare drum.

I could read the disappointment on his face when he discovered that he took second place in the solo competition. The winner played an outstanding cornet solo which displayed great skill.

Bryce was disappointed again when he took the second place spot in the over-all top band awards. I was very proud nonetheless. He managed to snag the same "Top Instrumentalist" for the whole camp award again this year (which comes with a full scholarship to CMI - Central Music Institute). Altogether, he certainly cannot complain about the awards he brought home:

The medal is for the solo competition. The smaller trophy is for 2nd place in the Brengle Band. The largest trophy is the Brigadier Richard Miller Band Award for Outstanding Instrumental Musicianship.

I am really urging Bryce to take advantage of the scholarship. He may never again get the opportunity to attend this camp (a camp that I attended as a youth). Our school district is considering moving to a year-round schedule and the proposed 2012-2013 calendar reveals that CMI would fall entirely during the school calendar. This year, he would only have to miss the first three days of school.

I think this is feasible and he would easily get caught up. However, he is planning on playing football this year. He will miss a large chunk of practice time while he is gone at CBLI and doesn't want to then add another chunk of absence for CMI. The special guest there at the camp repeatedly urged Bryce to go to CMI, stating that he will easily make the top band there. I agree with another camper who was standing nearby during our discussion. When Bryce said he didn't think he should miss so much football practice, he observed, "It's not like you're gonna make the NFL someday!" It will be his choice to make, but I will beam if he makes the decision I prefer.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Nature Camp

Last Saturday morning, Bryce left for The Salvation Army's Indiana Divisional Music Camp. It thrills me to no end that he has been able to attend this for the past three years. I have so many wonderful memories of my music camp years. It is intensely satisfying to see him long for camp like I did.

I have been surprised by how intensely I have missed him this week. The little boys say that they don't miss him, but sometime around Wednesday or Thursday, they began talking about a Nature Camp. Trevor asserted that they were going to have Nature Camp from 1 to 4 on Friday afternoon. He planned to teach Sean all about nature.

This morning, as they were bouncing on the trampoline, it began to rain. I allowed them to stay out, but grumbled loud and long when it was time for them to come in. They didn't grumble. It was me grumbling. I can't stand the mess of wet clothes and grass and mud.

So, after lunch, I really wanted to tell them that nature camp was cancelled due to bad weather in the morning. Alas, Dad told them they could go out. I was washing the lunch dishes when I looked out and saw the most adorable sight ever. Trevor and Sean were walking along, with walking sticks in hand and backpacks on their backs, searching for rocks and sticks and leaves.

Get a load of how they're dressed for their outing. Attractive, no?

Now, I have more dirty clothes to wash. I also have a garage utility counter covered with items from nature. Trevor explained how many points the different items were worth. To see the two of them enjoying each other and the great outdoors is worth a whole pile of laundry to me!

Besides, even more laundry will be arriving tomorrow when Bryce returns home from camp. With boys comes endless laundry!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Book Review: Same Kind of Different as Me

This is the true story of an unlikely friendship that developed between an international art dealer and a homeless man. It is told in alternating voices. Ron Hall tells of his humble background and his rise in fortune as he pursued his job as an art dealer. It is his wife who encourages him to meet and befriend, Denver Moore. She feels led of the Lord to begin ministering at the local homeless shelter and sees a clear vision of a man who will change the city. When Denver storms in, threatening to kill whoever stole his shoes, she nudges her husband to let him know that this is the man from her vision.

Although Ron is skeptical, his devotion to his wife propels him to pursue a friendship. However, Denver is not an easy mark. At first, he will not have anything to do with them. When the question of friendship is finally broached, Denver asserts that he must think about it a while. He agrees to be Ron's friend on the condition that Ron promise it will not be a "catch-and-release" deal, much like the crazy practice Denver says white men use when fishing.

This is an outstanding story. It is both humbling and inspiring. What I wouldn't give for a friendship as strong and true as the one Ron Hall and Denver Moore share! What I wouldn't give for the clear, life-fulfilling, vision Deborah Hall experienced!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Book Review: Monsters of Men

While waiting for our library to acquire this third installment, Monsters of Men, in Patrick Ness' Chaos Walking series, I almost forgot about it. The first two books pulled me in with a super magnetic pull. I was hooked from the very beginning by the intriguing idea that all of the men in this dystopia were unable to silence the audible noise of their inner-most thoughts.

Each book moves at an incredible pace. You feel propelled from beginning to end. However, I think the appeal, for me anyway, diminished with each book. I was most impressed by The Knife of Never Letting Go and when it ended, I was anxious to locate the second installment. The Ask and the Answer was equally riveting, but plot elements began to feel outlandish and drawn out. It began to feel unbelievable that so many difficulties would beset the main characters, Todd and Viola, as they attempted to evade the pursuing armies and bring peace to the chaotic world.

I won't say that I didn't enjoy Monsters of Men. I did enjoy it. I couldn't put it down, from beginning to end. But, again, I began to feel slight disappointment with the over-embellished plot elements. In this book, Patrick Ness, adds another narrator voice and I never really felt connected to that third primary character. This third narrator seems so much more highly evolved and his perspectives (and those of his kind) were loftier than the humans.

Although, I understood the point Ness was trying to hammer home, that war makes monsters of men, it seemed a bit too preachy and over the top with endless new wrinkles to the progress of the story. In addition, I felt hoodwinked by the ending (a confusing episode where a character dies, but then comes back to life). I suppose my final analysis is that it just required a bit too much "willful suspension of disbelief."

Still, I heartily recommend this series. It is fast-paced and thoroughly absorbing. I have encouraged my non-reading teen son to attempt it (if he is ever required to select something for a class - I'm not to the point of forced summer reading). The books are sure to appeal to both male and female teen readers. Due to the graphic descriptions of violence and the language, I would not recommend this series for middle grade readers. However, the books do clearly reflect the corrupting nature of power and the tenuous balance of information overload. They provide plenty of profitable things to think about and a romp of a ride.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Annual Fun at Indiana Beach

This year, we made our annual trek to Indiana Beach a bit earlier in the season (almost two weeks ago, in fact). We discovered that it was cheaper to purchase season passes than to pay for two days entrance. We were not disappointed. With each season pass purchase, they gave us a coupon booklet with a variety of valuable discounts off parking, food and games. This will enable me to spontaneously decide to make a day trip with the boys.

The younger boys were abuzz with excitement over all the rides they are now tall enough to ride. I was certain that Sean would chicken out when it came to riding the big roller coasters. Alas, I was wrong. I really wouldn't have minded if it had been the Corn Ball Express (it was closed both days), but he wanted to ride the Hoosier Hurricane (a large wooden roller coaster that shakes me up too much). Trevor rode several of the big rides all by himself (including the Steel Hawg, an upside down roller coaster).

Since temperatures were in the nineties, I even consented to riding the large log flume ride. We had a wonderful time on all the rides.

I can't say that my favorite part is the time at the beachfront, partly because I tend to fry in the sun, but the boys sure enjoy it. There is a splash zone, where they can run through the water.

Trevor, always one to pick up trash (treasures) from the ground, picked up a pair of stray glasses and posed for the camera. Nutball!

John is planning a trip to Holiday World in July (we've never been, despite many hearty recommendations), but I think Indiana Beach is just my speed. It is fairly quiet (during weekdays) and you can ride without spending too much time standing in line. The rides aren't too death-defying.

My only complaint would be that the park continues to grow more commercialized every year. I wish they would return to allowing picnic lunches to be brought into the park (especially in these times of economic decline) or providing more fruits and vegetables for purchase within the park (the boys end up eating fries, corn dogs and burgers). Still, they maintain that convenient option of merely walking through the park without riding or swimming (a real plus during the years when I was pregnant). All in all, our family loves a good trip to Indiana Beach!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

And the Winner Is ...

Today, we placed the Father's Day giveaway participant names in a bowl and my youngest son drew out the winning slip of paper.

And the winner is ... Shasta. Hope your husband enjoys his Father's Day read of Captain Dan Keating's fisherman's apologetic: Angling Life.

Thanks to everyone who took time to comment and enter the contest.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Perfect Gift for a Passionate Writer

I've been discontented. I've been frustrated. I've felt like a fish out of water. Despite a dedicated conviction that the very best thing for my boys is for me to be wholly available during their first five years of life, the actual living out of the 24/7 mothering role whoops my butt! I need more than conversations with preschoolers. I need stimulating, thought-provoking interaction (like the kind I treasured earlier this month when I went to my very first book club meeting). My mind craves far more and I find myself adrift.

Thus, for the past few weeks, I have been thinking long and hard about what kind of direction to steer my ship, now that I am approaching the end of this long care-giving stint. I need to determine a passion and follow it wholeheartedly. I am desperate to carve out space for pursuing my own goals and gifts.

In thinking of my giftedness, I remembered a gift that I received one Christmas that was perfect for me. The only problem was that I didn't consider it to be perfect at the time. Indeed, I sort of resented receiving it.

The Christmas of my 18th year, we met with my older brother who was living in Chicago (we had moved to South Dakota). David gave my sister, Dawn, (15 at the time) a beautiful, trendy outfit. She was thrilled. I opened my present and found a college edition boxed set dictionary and thesaurus. It was truly the perfect gift for a passionate writer.

But, I remember vividly the crushing disappointment that I had not also received a beautiful outfit. I remembered feeling put out that my brain was being recognized but not my beauty. It was as if I was hearing the endless message (probably one I internalized all through my growing up years) that my sister was the pretty, fashionable one and I was the intellectual.

Today, my sons once again dragged out my beloved dictionary. They love to heft it off the shelf and look up the last page. They are blown away that it contains 1692 pages of words. The only other book upstairs that comes close to that is our Dorling-Kindersley Complete Home Medical Guide. I yell at them to leave it alone because I am afraid they will push it into the book graveyard. It is already close to the edge. The binding barely holds together and many pages are creased and almost torn.

The set, over the past 28 years, has become vital. Time after time I have reached for both dictionary and thesaurus to hone a passage or word in my writing. I would be crushed if I had to replace those books. They support and nurture one of my clearest passions - writing.

I do not have a passion for fashion or a smile for style. Indeed, I've never been mad for a fad. I truly don't care. As long as it fits and compliments my shape, I'm good to go. Plus, the price usually trumps the trend, for me.

I took time to count my blessings for the dictionary and thesaurus this morning. I imagine whatever trendy outfit David might have given me would be long gone, certainly no longer gracing my wardrobe. Yet, I turn to these books over and over. He saw my passion and he gifted wisely. How wonderful that I learned to appreciate the gift!

Now, my goal - my focus, really - is to appreciate my giftedness and lay it before the Lord for His use. I am reminded of a song written by a wonderful Salvation Army composer, William Himes, during a time when his wife was dying of cancer. I pray these words today:

"All that I am,
All I can be,
All that I have,
All that is me ...
Accept and use, Lord,
As You would choose, Lord,
Right now today.
Take every passion,
Every skill,
Take all my dreams and
Bend them to Your will.
My all I give, Lord.
For you I'll live, Lord,
Come what may.

Often I come with my problems and cares,
Running to You when distressed,
But I must bring You the whole of my life.
Lord, I must give You my best.

Life has no purpose unless it is Yours.
Life without You has no goal.
All that fulfills me is doing your will,
Knowing that You're in control."

You can listen to the song at this You Tube link.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Longing for the Road Not Taken

There was a time when my musical instrument was my passion. And I mean PASSION! During the high school years, I practiced so many hours on my Alto Horn (a brass instrument slightly smaller than a baritone and in the key of E-flat) that my brothers began to call me "Metallic Lips." I had a clear goal and I would stop at nothing until I reached it. That goal was to make it into the very top band, Wonderland Band, at Central Music Institute (a famed Salvation Army band camp in the Central Territory).

Make it, I DID! I will never forget the first rehearsal. A friend of mine, Kevin, was also getting his first exposure to playing in a top-notch band like Wonderland Band. He and I exchanged glances that said, "Can you believe we're here? Can you believe we are living this incredible dream?" It was powerful. I wanted that moment to last forever. I wanted that music to last forever. I wanted those friendships, honed in part by the music, to last forever.

Forever DIDN'T happen. Life intervened. Shortly before my senior year in high school, I was approached by the bandmaster of the Chicago Staff Band with news of an opening in the horn section the following January. All I needed to do was graduate from high school one semester early. Sadly, my parents (S.A. officers) received moving orders and the South Dakota high school I moved to placed my three remaining courses in the second semester, ruining my one chance of joining that prestigious band.

I carried my passion overseas after college, when I worked at The Salvation Army's International College for Officers. I attended a large London corps where I was refused admittance to their senior band. Even though my abilities matched those in the horn section, they were not yet allowing women in the upper band. I was offered a spot in the junior band and time in their weekly rehearsals. I decided to make do with the rehearsal time and, again, thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity of playing with an outstanding Salvation Army band.

When I returned from London, I began graduate school at the University of Illinois and eventually met and married my non-Salvationist husband. I kept hoping, over the years, that somehow the Army would lure my husband in (since he has a masters degree in trumpet performance and is a far more gifted musician than I am). Alas, that hasn't happened. I haven't played regularly in a Salvation Army band since we married.

I have been able to get my Salvation Army fix from our annual attendance at our ten day Bible camp (CBLI) and sporadic corps attendance over the years. I am able to sing those great Salvation Army hymns and associate with Army friends. But my passion for Army banding has lain dormant, burning like an ember that refuses to be fully snuffed out.

This past week, I have found myself in full-blown homesickness ... homesick for those moments of belonging to an Army band ... moments of hearing the tones blend in such a way that an audience can be moved to a spiritual pitch of worship unlike any other. The Chicago Staff Band has been in London performing with various other Salvation Army staff bands. I have viewed the photos of old friends who are living my dormant dream. I have watched the videos of a magnificent march up the mall towards Buckingham Palace (the very Palace I was privileged to visit with my Upper Norwood friend, Ray). It makes me want to weep.

But, I am holding back my tears and clinging to the promise of God's wisdom for my life. A few weeks ago, I spent a few days with a faithful Army friend, Lisa (who also left the Army when life intervened). As we talked, she was marvelling at all the amazing opportunities God brought my way in my twenties. She married young and had children early (and is already enjoying the grandparent phase of life), while I travelled the world and had my children late (what feels like my geriatric years).

I regaled her with my tale of tea with Ray at the Palace. I told her about the awesome privilege of an invitation to tea with theologian John R. Stott, while at Wheaton College. She listened as I explained how I landed a job transcribing C.S. Lewis' personal letters for four years. Then, I told of the rare chance I had to travel with Dr. Lyle Dorsett and his wife to Scotland for an oral history interview with C.S. Lewis' first cousin, Ruth Parker. During my time at ICO (International College for Officers) I was able to return for an individual visit with Ruth Parker and bring her a Madeira cake (her favorite). I travelled with a missions group to the Philippines. The Lord blessed me with so many fantastic, enviable opportunities.

So, while I sit here in my little farmhouse, babbling with preschoolers all day every day, Lisa declared it "no small wonder" that I am casting backward glances to the many opportunities of days gone by. My heart is frantically searching for direction, some passion to move my life in a direction of purpose ... to regain an identity apart from my mothering role. It is too easy to look back and say, "Lord, why did you carry my feet on a different path than I expected?"

At this point, I have to continue looking to God and asking Him to guide my steps, even if they lead away from passions like Army banding. Perhaps I must carve out a new purpose and goal for my life. I truly pray that He has more amazing opportunities lying just ahead of me, waiting to be seized. And I'm also praying that He won't turn me to a pillar of salt (like Lot's wife, who, leaving family behind cast back a wistful glance) for my longing for the road not taken. It can't hurt to put a further Army banding opportunity on my bucket list, can it? Only God knows where my feet are headed. All I can do is lay my passions and my willingness at His feet.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Blogging Giveaway: Father's Day Fishing Book - Angling Life

If you are looking for a Father's Day gift for a father in your life who loves fishing, have I got a deal for you! Leave a comment at the end of this post, revealing who you would love to give this book to and you just might be the winner of Captain Dan Keating's book about fishing and discovering the ultimate catch.

Captain Keating is a professional angler who has been guiding charter tours for over 27 years on the waters of Lake Michigan. As the waters surrounding his boat have not always been calm, so the waters of his life have been rough a time or two as well. He provides an honest look at his life and the lessons fishing has taught him. Tales of his own world-wide fishing adventures combine with tales of his discovery of the fisher of men. Even a non-fishing enthusiast will enjoy the story and the message it carries.

Angling Life: A Fisherman Reflects on Success, Failure and the Ultimate Catch can be purchased at Amazon or from Dan Keating's own website, http://www.anglinglife.net/.

This blogging giveaway will close for entries on Saturday, June 11th.