Saturday, September 27, 2008


Wednesday morning, my 7 year old daughter walked nonchalantly into my bedroom. When I saw that her bangs had been cut to about one-half inch, my response was anything but. however, I managed to stay cool, knowing that getting angry wasn't going to grow those bangs out in time for the big family wedding we're going to next week... a few deep breaths and go to neutral.

Emily is strong-willed, independent, and its really pretty much all about her, like a lot of 7 year old girls. Those traits will serve her well, I remind myself, when she's an adult. With a healthy dose of maturity and experience in her court, that tenacity and spirit will pay off in spades for her when she can temper it and use it to her advantage. Girls are so quickly shushed and their free spirits become inhibited in our culture.

But for now, she's having an effect on my hair too. I think every gray hair on my head has her name on it. Another great girl to raise to be a great woman. Thank you God for the responsibility you have placed in my hands.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

525,600 minutes

I attended Larry's memorial service last week. Only one of two I've attended that have been truly spiritual experiences. Larry and my late best friend Ron would have had a lot to talk about. Their love of theater as their calling in life.

The opening music at Larry's memorial was a beautiful, legato rendition of "Comedy Tonight." Yes, the same one you've heard Zero Mostel bellowing in "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum." This was poigant and very touching. "Tragedy tomorrow, a comedy tonight." And it was. Theater people who can pull off comedy are a special breed. It was "Larry's Open Mic Night" and for 90 minutes, we heard some of the most amazing stories that made us all laugh and touched us to tears.

It's not that I knew Larry well. But I felt like I did. He reminded me of many of my friends from college and my early adulthood. It brought back memories of my college days, and I got melancholy thinking of people who were so important to me at a critical time in my life who are on the periphery of my life today or only in my memory.

Ron died at age 35 of cancer. I'd been with him for it all. When he discovered the first lump and was too scared to tell his parents because his sister had only died two years before from cancer. I was there when he was "cured" and then when he found another lump, and then the last that eight years after the initial diagnosis would take his life.

Ron knew he was dying so his funeral could be the theatrical masterpiece of his career. And it was. It was like every heart-wrenching, half-a-box of Kleenex movies, you've ever seen. It was "Terms of Endearment" and "Field of Dreams" and any other movie that stays with you for years. Those who spoke, the entire wall of floral tributes, the poster-sized professional portrait taken when he was healthy and well seemed to be something so well orchestrated that there was nothing but joy left by the time we had cried out every ounce of pain.

He asked us to play, "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" at his graveside, because "nothing will keep me, keep me from you."

But the song that changed my future outlook was "Seasons of Love" from the Broadway musical, "Rent."
"How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets,
in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife?
In five-hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes?
How do you measure, a year in the life?"

Ron lived the belief that life was precious. His younger sister died at 19 from cancer and since that time, he lived every day as fully as he possibly could. His message was to live as if every day were your last and live with no regrets.

When we remember those who die before their time, it is hard to consider that maybe they lived the life they were meant to live. How do you measure a year in the life? Could it be about how much you have loved others and told them so? Ron's message and the lesson from Larry's sudden passing is to not take anyone you love for granted. Tell those people who are important to you that they matter and that your life has been richer for them. And then live that way. It's the very best tribute you can give.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

When it really matters

Living in a small town means that it is nearly impossible to go to the Fareway grocery store without running into at least one person you could have a conversation with. Even if it is a total stranger. Small-town folks are like that.

One of the downsides is that it is nearly impossible to go to the grocery store and not see someone you know. There's no anonymity in a small-town. If you get picked up for running a red light, your name will be published in the police blotter in the newspaper. People know your business in ways that it isn't true in larger communities. To those who aren't used to that, it's like living in a fishbowl.

This is exactly the kind of thing that makes small towns like a soap opera. Everyone knows everyone else's details of their lives. But when a tragedy happens, that's when our fishbowl-life is a good life to have.

This week, members of the community have rallied around the family that reports, edits, and publishes our town's twice-weekly newspaper. It is an independent, family-run business and Mom and Dad in their mid-to-upper 80's are at work everyday. Two of their adult children manage the day-to-day business operation of this twice-weekly paper.

Late Wednesday afternoon, everyone was working toward the Thursday 9 a.m. deadline for the paper when Larry fell to the floor in the grip of a seizure. The ambulance was called and from our hospital, he was taken by air ambulance to a Des Moines hospital. He was gone within four hours of that initial 911 call at the age of 50.

When the news of Larry's death began making its way from one stunned friend to another the next morning, many realized that it was now Thursday and what did his family want to do about the paper? The family did what they do every Thursday morning, get the paper ready to go out that afternoon.

Friends of the family from across the community jumped in to help. One friend had worked for a daily newspaper in her career and she stepped in to edit and another other covered a community event. Larry covered the local sports beat and another friend drove more than 100 miles to follow the high school football team, just as Larry would have been doing on a Friday night.

I've lived in communities where I knew no one every time I went to the grocery store and I did not know the names of the people who lived around me. They didn't care if I lived there or not. And I guess I didn't either or I may have reached out to know them. You build your network and "neighborhood" in those communities, even if your "neighbors" live a mile away.

In a small-town, there's just too much we share in common to be anonymous.
And sometimes that's a curse, and sometimes, that's a blessing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Just put your lips together and blow

Our son and I just came home from a band meeting. We signed our life away for the chance to play the french horn. He's excited. And I guess I am too. The horn is like the Pips for Gladys, the rich alto/tenor of the mid register. The best-supporting actor in a musical. Not everyone can play the sax, trumpet, or drums. It's a good lesson. We all have to do our part and do it well for the group to be successful. We all have different ways of getting the end result. We all have to realize that we have been given unique gifts and whether we are the trumpet or the tuba, we all play a role in our community to give it our best for the greater good.

And he thinks he's just learning to play the horn....