Archive for the ‘Friends & Fun’ Category

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“You rock.”

March 21, 2010

You know how there are those moments in your life… certain times when someone says or does something, or perhaps when some event happens, and it has an impact on you such that you always remember it? Like people who remember exactly what they were doing when they found out Kennedy was shot. Or when they heard about September 11. Or maybe you carry around a memory of a first date or a birth or a death or a big win in overtime. Whatever it is.

As we are in the process of saying goodbye to some very dear friends — our worship minister (Sean Rittenberry) and his family are leaving to take another ministry up in Indiana — in the midst of all the emotion and tears, a certain memory comes to the forefront for me. It’s one of those little moments that I cherish, that I pull out and recall from time to time when I am feeling a little down.

People who see me sing in church nowadays may not realize that I am a complete nervous wreck whenever I pick up a microphone. I’ve always had a self-confidence issue… meaning that I have none. I love to sing and always have, but I still have something like a panic attack every time I am supposed to do a solo or anything like that. I hyperventilate and my hands shake and my voice quivers and the whole bit. It’s always an adventure!

So why do I do it?

That’s a good question.

First of all, there’s the whole love of singing thing that I just mentioned. I have always loved to sing, especially to harmonize. As a little girl I would sing with Franki Valli and the Four Seasons on the record player in the family room. [I thought it was funny that a man could sing so high!] When I got older I would sing in my car, or in my room, or in the shower… basically anyplace that I was pretty sure no one could hear me. I sang all the parts and pretended I was famous. A legend in my own mind.

But the more compelling reason… the thing that got me to take my love of singing and be willing to go out on a limb and pick up a microphone and sing in front of actual people who might hear me… is Sean.

Sean has always been an encourager to me. But one evening about 4 or 5 years ago was the moment in my memory when things really “clicked” for the first time with me and the singing.

We were at praise band practice. Normally I didn’t go to band practice, but for some reason that particular week, I was supposed to be there helping out with a vocal team that Sean had put together. (This was before the use of praise teams at our church became a regular thing). I don’t remember all the details, but I do remember that there were supposed to be other vocalists besides me, but I was the only one who could make it to practice that night.

I hadn’t ever been on a praise team before. I was a bit nervous, because we were going to be practicing the songs for Sunday, but I was the only one there singing along with Sean and the band playing. So any mistakes I made would be right out there in the open for all to hear…

The band tuned up and started playing the first song in the lineup. Sean started singing.

I joined in. I didn’t really know anything else to do except sing harmony. That’s usually what I hear the best.

I remember thinking that it didn’t sound too bad. I thought that my voice blended in pretty well with Sean’s. I thought things sounded fairly smooth. I wondered if I was the only one who thought that. It might have been all in my head.

The band stopped playing after a minute. I thought maybe I was doing something wrong. Turns out they just needed to tweak something with the music… but before he gave them any further instruction, Sean quickly turned to me. First things first. He smiled and said

“You rock!”

And it was one of those moments. A moment of genuine, unsolicited, positive reinforcement about something I was doing.

It made me happy.

It made me grin.

It made me sing a little bit louder the next time.

Since that evening, I’ve gradually done more and more singing at church, especially helping to lead worship. I’ve enjoyed singing with Sean on praise team and I’ve really enjoyed the few times (not nearly enough) when we sang together as special music during the service.

I still have my panic attacks. I still have my doubts and my overly critical assessments of how I sound when I do a solo. I still wonder whether the audience can see me shaking up there.

But in the midst of it all, I also still have this moment in my memory… when I was trying something new, and a good friend turned to me and smiled and gave me all kinds of affirmation in just two words.

Thanks, Sean. Thanks for the years of service at our church, and for the years of friendship we’ve enjoyed with you and your family. Thanks for coming to our lame New Year’s Eve get-togethers. Thanks for playing “Open Arms” on the keyboard and letting me pretend to be Steve Perry (yeah, right!). Thanks for having confidence in me and pushing me to do more than just sit around.

I wish you weren’t going. I really do. Tears are coming as I type this. But I know you are going where God is leading you, and who can argue with that?

So good luck and God bless, and don’t ever forget how much we will all miss you.

And just so you know… the feeling is likewise:

YOU ROCK.

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… I’d like to thank the Academy…

March 9, 2010

Well, looky here.

A little while ago I received a comment on a recent blog post. It arrived in my email box, all wrapped up in brown paper and clearly marked FRAJEELAY.  Someone had sent me a Major Award!

Oh, look at it. Isn’t it beautiful? I’m running my hands lovingly up and down the edges and I’m setting it in my window for all to see.:)

No really. My good friend, fellow tall girl, Milligan alum, and Feb. 7 birthday sharer, Sylvie bestowed this great honor upon me and my little blog today. Thanks, Sylvie! Sylvie (whose name for some reason is hard for me to type correctly) is an artist of a different kind… she makes fabulous glass beads and sells them online, you can view her bead website here or look for more photos of some of her work in some facebook photo albums, here and here

So, apparently with this great honor comes great responsibility. I now have to pass the award on to other blog friends. The official rules say 12 friends, but I don’t have that many friends. What??!?! I’ll just do the best I can with the friends I have.

The rules for accepting the Sunshine Award are: (if you are a recipient, take note)

  • Put the logo on your blog or within your post.
  • Pass the award onto 12 bloggers. [I’m making an executive decision here and saying, pass it on to as many friends as you like.]
  • Link the nominees within your post.
  • Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
  • Share the love and link to the person from whom you received this award.
  • Oh, and also post these rules, so people know what to do.
Without any further ado, the winners (from me) of the Sunshine Award are:
  1. SmallWorld at Home A blog about family, daily life, memories, etc. by another college friend, Sarah. Sarah is a great writer… don’t miss it when she posts a memory or a poem!
  2. This is My “Real” Blog written by Angie, yet another college friend (I loved college). She writes about cooking, crafts, NASCAR, and the joys and challenges of raising her children. Since I can’t have a cup of tea with Angie on a regular basis, I like to sit down and read her blog. It’s like having a nice chat.
  3. Clan McIntire is a blog by Chris, another friend from Milligan (hey! What’s up with all these college friends! Enough already!) He has some family stuff on there but the biggest thing that I enjoy following are his running endeavors. I am a novice jogger myself and it’s good to read from the annals of a more experienced runner on his crazy workouts with his friends in Oklahoma.
  4. 900 miles is written by Randy, the husband of Sarah (from #1) and also my most competitive Word Twist opponent on facebook. His blog recounts his journey toward hiking all 900 miles of trails in Smoky Mountain National Park. Oh and guess what? I met Randy at Milligan, too. 🙂

That’s all for now. I could come up with a few more, but I have acceptance speeches to give and awards night parties to attend…

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Friday Feature: In Which I Give My Blog Friends Some Link Love :)

January 9, 2009

I know that my sidebar has a nice list of links to some blogs and other sites that I read regularly… but I thought I would take a moment and give a little more publicity to some of my friends whose blogs I enjoy reading regularly. I encourage everyone to check some of these sites out, there is some good stuff out there!

Small World is a great blog written by a college friend, Sarah Small. Sarah was a year ahead of me at Milligan… and truthfully? We didn’t know each other very well. Just acquaintances, really. But through the magic of Facebook we have connected in the past several months and are now enjoying daily battles of “Word Twist” together. Sarah and her husband Randy (who also went to Milligan) live in Tennessee where he is a professor at UT and she is a mother, homeschooler, and champion blogger. You will find excellent writing here: everything from touching “Monday Memories” to fun accounts of daily life. I highly recommend checking it out sometime… poke around in some of her archives and have a good laugh or a good cry. And be sure to leave a comment somewhere… Sarah loves those!

Angie Aubrey is another Milligan alumni who blogs regularly here. Angie was a senior when I was a freshman… but her father was in my graduating class (yes, you read that right) and was also the dorm dad in Sutton Hall, where I lived for four years. So I’ve always been at least a little bit aware of what Angie’s been up to, from staying in touch with my fellow classmate (Hi, Pop!). Again through Facebook, I recently got reconnected with Angie and discovered that she blogs regularly. Her two children are the inspiration for a lot of great entries, and she even shares some good recipes from time to time!

Heather Chapman is a friend from church and a copy editor for the Lexington Herald-Leader. She blogs hilariously on all sorts of topics at Mother Tongue.  She likes to knit and in her spare time she appears on the TV game show, “Jeopardy” just one month after delivering her second child. Start by reading her account of that experience here and here and here.

Todd and Guinever Van Campen are great friends of our family, and both of them are bloggers. If you like riding bikes, you may enjoy Todd’s blog about his adventures commuting to and from work on a bicycle every day, year-round. Guinever blogs about daily life as a homeschooler and mother of four here. She also has a very touching and insightful blog about dealing with the loss of a loved one, (in her case, a child).

I hope everyone might take a look at some of these blogs by friends of mine. And if you find one you like, be sure to tell them I sent you. 🙂

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Dear Ray and Janice,

December 10, 2008

lyons2

I thought of you today, as I do often. This letter is long overdue. 🙂

Thank you.

Thank you for reaching out to me and a bunch of other college kids twenty-some odd years ago. I enjoyed meeting in that little Sunday School class in the basement of Oak Grove Christian Church. I loved it when Janice would bring in breakfast treats and “russian tea” for us to sip on some cold Sunday  mornings. I loved having a place that felt like home while I was hundreds of miles away from my own home. I loved having people that cared for me like family.

Thank you for opening up your home… perhaps against your better judgment… so that a group of us could come out and do our laundry now and then. I know that there were some nights when you probably regretted that decision, as we banged around downstairs according to our own crazy schedules while you were trying to wind down for the night. For what it’s worth, we really enjoyed lying around on the floor of your downstairs family room, studying (or not) while the clothes got clean. I hope we didn’t seem ungrateful.

Thank you for hosting Sunday School parties at your house. One of my fondest memories is of having a big group of us college kids coercing you and/or another adult couple who was involved with the class to join us in a game of “Ha-Ha.”  [Remember that game, where everyone lies down in a long chain on the ground, each person resting his head on the next person’s stomach? Then one person says “ha” and the next person has to say “ha, ha” and then the next person says it three times and so on… but if anyone cracks up and actually laughs, you have to start all over again.] I guess it doesn’t take much to entertain a bunch of kids from the Christian college down the road…  I remember laughing hysterically while lying on your  lawn for a long time that evening.

Thank you for being there all these years since I graduated. Thanks for keeping “my room” ready for me in the basement whenever I come to visit.

Ray, thanks for the wonderful conversation we always enjoy when we are together. I love how you have us join hands at the table to say grace together before every meal. Thanks for greeting me each morning with a hug. Thanks for moving the mirror up higher on the wall in the guest bathroom downstairs… I like to think that you did that just for me 🙂

Janice, thanks for the friendship and the fabulous cooking. I can’t tell you how special it is to pull into your driveway on a Friday afternoon in October, to be greeted at the door by your sunny smile, usually with a dog or cat scampering around your feet, and some wonderful aroma coming from your kitchen. Thanks for knowing that I don’t like mushrooms. Thanks for staying up late to chat even when I know you are exhausted and sleep deprived.

I am thankful for friends – for family – like you guys. Sometimes I don’t do as well keeping in touch as I should. Thanks for loving me anyway. Your generosity, kindness, and integrity have been an example to me for many years.

I am glad our paths crossed all those years ago, and I look forward to keeping in step with you for many years to come.

Much love,
Laura

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Human Bowling

December 6, 2008

‘Twas some weeks before Christmas, and I rushed about
attempting to clean and put Christmas stuff out.
The laundry was churning, the house was a mess,
and I sorted papers while feeling distressed.
[The children were outside enjoying some snow —
not enough to make snowballs; just a dusting or so.]
And I, in my sock feet and wearing my sweats,
had just begun making a little progress…
when out on the lawn there arose such a noise
I ran down the stairs to go check on the boys!
To the utility room I flew like the wind,
threw open the back door, and looked out and grinned…
The driveway was slick with a thin layer of snow,
and the kids and their friends were all having a go
at riding their sleds down the hill to our lawn,
mowing down any obstacles they came upon.
My husband and son had set up a big wall
of plastic containers and buckets and all.
Then the neighborhood kids would fly down on their sleds
and blast through the buckets, and toss back their heads
with laughter and squealing so full of pure joy
you’d think they had all found the Ultimate Toy…
but ’twas only our driveway, and only some tubs,
and not even enough snow to sully their gloves.
So I snapped a few photos to try and recapture
a bit of the fun and the squealing and laughter.
These won’t do it justice, but maybe you’ll say,
“the Doolittles’ house was a funhouse today!”

[click for larger views]

bowling-before

bowling-after

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

November 1, 2008

Some photos and brief stories from Homecoming Weekend (last weekend)… click for a larger view of anything:

Seeger Memorial Chapel was the site of convocations, vespers services, concerts, graduations, and many games of “stalag” at night. It’s a beautiful building with lots of squeaky folding seats inside. The main focal point of the campus.

Buffalo Creek, which runs alongside the campus, was a popular spot for romantic couples. Also a great place for a good game of tug-o-war (loser goes in!).   Most students were “creeked” at some point during their college career. I managed to escape that distinction. 🙂

The campus is beautiful, but my friends are even more so. Rae (Schauer) Augenstein was a freshman when I was a senior… we enjoyed a lot of great times together. She and her husband, Craig, live just a few miles from campus today. It was really great to see them and get caught up.

David Powers was one of the “cool kids” with a fast yellow car. He was always a sweetheart and still is today. He is a minister at a church down in Atlanta, and I usually see him every year at Homecoming. This year I managed to snap a photo of the two of us.

I didn’t get as many photos of people as I would have liked… the weather at the beginning of the weekend was not great, and the first half of Saturday I was standing around outside shivering in the chill, not feeling like picking up the camera. By the time the sun came out late that day to brighten things up, a lot of people had moved on to other things. Still, spending the day on campus is always one of the highlights of my year.

Someone made a comment to me in the past week or so, about how when we were all back in college, “we didn’t know how good we had it.”   Well, I have to say that I did know. I knew how good I had it. I knew I was lucky to be there. I knew my time there was limited. I remember starting my junior year and thinking to myself, I only have two years left! I don’t want it to pass by too quickly! And so I return every year. I love to stay connected and I love to keep some of the great memories alive. I love to walk the campus and note things that have changed, as well as things that have remained the same.

Every year that I return, for several years straight now, I stay with a couple who live a few miles behind the campus. When I was a student, I went to a little church off in the hills back there, and Ray and Janice Lyons were very involved at the time with a Sunday School class for college students. I could write a whole separate post – and probably will – about all the great things the Lyons did for my rag-tag group of friends during our college years. But what has been so special to me over the past 20 years is the friendship that Ray and Janice and I have shared. I would always make an effort to swing by for a visit whenever I came back to town, and eventually I started lodging with them instead of finding a hotel in Johnson City for the weekend. We have come to treat each other very much like family, and it’s at the point now where Homecoming Weekend is as much about seeing Ray and Janice as it is about seeing my old professors and college buddies.

To top off the weekend each year, I linger on Sunday afternoon a bit and then leave so that I will arrive at the top of Clinch Mountain when the sun is setting, or at least low enough in the sky to be interesting. This year the timing was a little off due to the non-daylight savings time change, but I still think the view of the South Holston River is beautiful. (Photo here doesn’t seem to want to behave, but there should be something you can click to see a larger image)

Everyone should be so lucky.

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Somebody Sing Me a Gospel Song.

October 11, 2008

This is a favorite photo of mine. It was taken in 2005 when the group that I sang with, “Potter’s Clay,” won that year’s Gospel Group Talent Contest at Renfro Valley.  (For those unfamiliar… Renfro Valley is… well, it’s… it’s kind of like Kentucky’s version of The Grand Ole Opry, except on a reaaaallly small scale, in the middle of nowhere and with no good restaurants nearby). Here is a link to the Renfro Valley website if you want to get an idea of what goes on there.

The two ginormous trophies in front of us were what we won for placing first in our division, and for being named Grand Champion. It was a pretty cool day.

I sang with Potter’s Clay for about 4 years. It was a lot of fun, and it all started for me with a giant misunderstanding. Other than singing a little bit in the church choir, I hadn’t ever sung “in public.”  Never sang a solo, never held a microphone anywhere near my face.  Then one day one of the gals in the group came up to me at church. She said “Potter’s Clay is looking for a new alto.”  So I got out a paper and pencil to take some notes, because I knew she must have been asking me to put an announcement in the church newsletter (which I put together each month).  But she was actually asking if I would like to join the group!  I was completely shocked. I don’t know how anyone had heard me sing enough to have formed an opinion of my voice, let alone think that I was capable of singing in a “real” group… on stage… in front of people. I think my first reaction was to ask her, “have you heard me sing?”  But she persisted in asking me to come to a practice and check it out.  So I decided to try it.  Because I have always loved to sing… I just never imagined that I would ever sing outside the privacy of my car, or at least outside the protection of 30 other choir members.

Here’s more proof that the thought of me singing “for real” was a bit unheard of. I called my parents a week or so later once I had made my decision, and told them that I would be singing with this group from church that traveled around and did concerts and such. And my Mom’s reaction was “what??”    As if to say, “ummm… honey? Do you sing, really? Because I’m your mother and I didn’t know that you did.”

Well, to make a long story short, I loved it. Once I got used to the microphone thing… and hearing my own voice in a monitor on stage… and just the whole “hey, I’m up here on stage in front of you, but PLEASE DON’T LOOK AT ME” thing, it was a lot of fun. There were about a dozen people in the group when I first joined. We sang southern gospel, mostly. As an alto, I was right where I loved to be… singing low, and singing harmony. Harmony! It’s the best.

Here is another great photo that we had taken as a publicity-type shot. I like the casual nature of this one:

Alas, as time wore on, the group experienced a lot of ups and downs. Members came and went for different reasons. We always had a good time singing together, but in between concerts there always seemed to be some drama going on. Eventually some of the smaller dramas grew up to become full-scale Broadway productions, if you will… and not all of us wanted tickets to the show. The group began to dwindle as more members hit the road. In fact, right after the publicity shoot which gave us the above photo, I was called upon to do some creative editing to one of the shots so that we could still use it to promote the group without spending a bunch of money on a new set of photos. And now, in a display of my fantastic Photoshop editing skills, here is the “before” shot with everyone in it…

… and the “after” shot, once a couple people had moved on:

Eventually I, too, left the group… it’s been almost a year ago, now. There were no hard feelings or anything, my time had simply passed.

Singing with Potter’s Clay for those four years really did me a lot of good. I made some great friends, I learned a lot about singing, and I gained a little confidence about my ability to sing “for real.”  I still have no delusions about being the next American Idol or anything… but in recent years I have started to actually sing solos in church, which is another thing I never imagined I could ever do.

I’m not sure why I wanted to post this entry… I’ve been looking at the Renfro Valley photo hanging in my office for a long time, and I guess I just felt like remembering some good times. And it was also a chance to let some of the people who read this blog know about my “secret life” as a singer 🙂  I doubt I’ll ever have an opportunity to be a part of something quite like Potter’s Clay again… so here’s to the great memories!