Tag Archives: Music

Church Lady Complications

Image by Barbara Jackson from Pixabay.

Sunday, when I worship Christ with His family and grow in my faith, is my favorite day of the week. However, even a confirmed church lady occasionally experiences a Sunday that makes her wish it was Monday.

Those tough Sundays happened more frequently during my years as a church music director.

One unholy morning, my pastor met me at the door. He’d changed his sermon topic on the way to church. Would I please restructure the service in five minutes? Thank you.

Half the choir music had disappeared. Who steals church choir music?

The regular accompanist had left on vacation. Our substitute struggled, but she played loud to make up for it. During practice, I sneaked a signal to our young sound man, Dylan. Turn the piano down.

Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay.

I fastened a microphone to my lapel and hung its little black box on my waistband. Dylan usually did a good job, but this morning, the sound system hated us both. After squawking and squeaking sound checks, I quickly made a restroom stop before heading downstairs to warm up the choir. Without warning, the microphone leaped from my lapel and dove into the toilet, followed by the clunk of the little black box.

Image by Michal Jarmoluk from Pixabay.

I screamed, clearing the restroom of primping churchgoers.

Did I really have to fish the mic out of the toilet?

Ewww. …

Its green power light no longer shone. I wiped the microphone with a dampened paper towel, then tried to dry it. As I headed to the sound booth, I pasted on a toothpaste-ad smile and avoided shaking hands.

Dylan was also a church board member. What could I say?

In a microsecond, I evaluated my fib files. None came close to explaining this.

I held out the still-damp, $200 device. “Dylan, I dropped the mic in the toilet. I’m sorry.”

He stared, then whipped around to test a second mic. “Hurry! Service starts soon.”

No threats of dragging me before the Inquisition. Or the budget committee.

Image by Valerie from Pixabay.

The little green light on this second mic shone like a candle of compassion. I rewired myself, incredulous at his forbearance.

Decades later, I remember that complicated Sunday, when I wished with all my heart it was Monday.

Thanks to a fellow Christian’s maturity, not so unholy, after all.

Image by BenteBoe from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you ever experienced a complicated Sunday?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Wish I Hadn’t Quit!

O Lord, You recall how my mom begged me to practice piano, but finally gave up and allowed me to quit lessons. Thank You that my daughter didn’t cave — and, OMG, her boys make wonderful music!

Grandma’s Sweet Strawberry Story

Image by Alexa from Pixabay.

Once upon a time, a grandma pondered how to bond with her teen grandchildren. Neither she nor Grandpa were into Super Smash Bros.™ or Korean rap groups.

Then Grandma envisioned a blue-sky, summer day, when they would pick strawberries together. Afterward, she and Grandpa would reward their darlings with lunch out. Then Grandma would bake the perfect strawberry pie for dessert. The grateful grandchildren would visit every week forever.

Driving to their home on the blue-sky day, Grandpa said, “You think they’re awake?”

“Of course,” said Grandma. Privately, she wondered how many times they’d hit snooze.

Whoa! Their granddaughter immediately opened the door. Her brothers, also fully dressed, stood behind her. All were silent, eyes shut.

On the way, Grandpa whispered, “Is this the Morning of the Living Dead?”

In the enormous Yuppie U-Pick patch, berries looked as if they had been polished. Clumps of pickers in designer clothing dotted the pristine landscape.

A lifelong addiction to fresh fruit blinded Grandma to prices. Un-bedazzled Grandpa, however, emphasized picking limited amounts — unless they wanted to spend the grandkids’ college fund.

Image by Philipp Zurawski from Pixabay.

To the grandparents’ delight, the Living Dead picked like the hardworking kids they were. Despite steamy heat, boxes filled quickly. They talked and smiled. When Grandma was funny, they chuckled.

Eventually, though, Grandma heard subtle hints like: “Um, this box is full,” and “I’ve shriveled into jerky.”

Hadn’t they ever heard of strawberry fields forever?

Nevertheless, if she wanted a happy-ever-after, they’d have to quit.

Grandma helped organize the exit: “Kids, you carry the 70 pounds of strawberries. I’ll carry your water bottles.”

However, she forgot hers and searched the patch, “I think it was this row — the one with the strawberries.” Meanwhile, the teens suffered sunburn, and Grandpa forked over their college fund.

The reward lunch took place at a restaurant run by sloths.

Weary Grandma cheated by buying store-bought crusts, something no respectable storybook grandma would do. She found an easy recipe on whats-an-oven.com.

Image by Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay.

The pie’s juices overflowed, and clouds of smoke billowed throughout the house. Would the neighbors call the fire department?

Having thrown open windows to suck in oxygen, everyone sat down to soupy pie with crust hard as a sidewalk. Not a storybook ending.

Grandpa whispered, “Oh, well. If they visited every week, we’d have to clean the house and be good role models.”

Before they left, though, Grandma and Grandpa received over-the-top hugs.

Who could wish for a sweeter happy-ever-after than that?

Image by Karolina Grabowska from Pixabay.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have your storybook plans ever gone up in smoke?

Cruising

Image by Peter H from Pixabay.

Even before spring, desperate parents, after excessive winter togetherness, pay their teens to cruise. Their alien music blares through wide-open windows, loud enough for Martian counterparts to keep the beat.

But we did it, too, right? Although when I cruised, gas cost 30.9 cents per gallon.

In my hometown, puberty’s onset compelled us to cruise Jerry’s Drive-In. We parked outside, as only squares ate inside. My girlfriends and I feared if we darkened the restaurant’s door, Percy Faith and his orchestra (Jerry’s Muzak®) would scar us for life.

Image by Michael Kauer from Pixabay.

My cruel parents once dragged me inside and made me sit by the window. I slid down into the booth and covered my head with a menu. Finally, I escaped to the restroom, but Mom followed.

She even talked to me. “Are you sick?”

Didn’t she know a Popular Person might be concealed in a stall, listening?

Afterward, on Saturday nights, I retreated to the second-coolest A&W — which tied with Jerry’s if your steady worked there. Fortunately, I was dating a cook. Sometimes, he came outside in all his A&W glory (apron, little folded hat) to wow me and my friends.

When we split, though, my A&W status plummeted. I returned to Jerry’s.

I’d noticed a tall, shy guy in my biology class, so my friend, Celia, and I officially added his house to weekend cruises. I’d perfected my slink-down technique: I could ride on the car’s floor an entire evening, yet record my targets like a satellite camera. Golf-green grass surrounded my guy’s house. Symmetrical evergreens. It was located near the A&W, so we also could zoom past and spy on my ex.

Once, when I drove past my crush’s house in my parents’ uncool station wagon, Celia hung out the window and screamed, “Steeeeeevie, baby, we looooove you!”

I peeled out, chastising Celia for endangering my fragile status with my new Numero Uno and his parents, who probably had been waxing their driveway.

Image by eslfuntaiwan from Pixabay.

However, no damage was done to my relationship with the sweet guy who made biology lab fruit flies so fascinating. Soon, he and I did a little cruising too.

“Want to go to the A&W?” my future husband asked as we pulled out of his driveway.

“I’d love it.”

And I did.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Where did you cruise as a teen?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer: Band Versus Choir

O Lord, Thank You for these special band members who give time and talent to help make their group one of the best. OMG, You know their grandma, who was never so dedicated, stuck with choirs — who never had to march.     

Piano Magic

My five-year-old fingers stretched across the keys of our church sanctuary’s piano.

My mom, who’d never taken lessons, played for services. The keys sang lovely songs she’d absorbed after one hearing. Soon, she played them in any key.

The piano would do musical magic for me, too.

Our family, preparing for a mission trip, lived in our church’s two back rooms. We children were forbidden to touch the church’s unlocked instruments.

Right.

My brother Ned explored the organ’s mysterious tubes and wires.

The baby grand’s rich tones drew me. Besides, fooling with the organ warranted worse punishment.

But keys rarely cooperated when I played. Sometimes, a strand of melody escaped the chaos. But the piano did not love me.

Later, I realized that before confronting us, Mom listened. Her belief in our budding talent later led to Old Camo’s appearance in our sparsely furnished living room.

I’ve never seen such a piano before or since. Gray-and-white camo vinyl covered it. Metal studs outlined its silhouette. No wonder we could afford it. Still, I fell in love.

My fumblings drove my family to the same sentiment as George Bernard Shaw, music critic as well as playwright. He said, “Nothing soothes me more after a long and maddening course of pianoforte recitals than to sit and have my teeth drilled.”

Our daughter passed the music magic on to her children.

But I recognized more and more melodies. My excitement grew … until lessons sapped the magic.

Mom encouraged practice, then bribed, then chained me to the bench, hoping I would make friends with written notes. After four years, I continued to balk. She gave up.

Still, I played for church youth meetings. My peers dove for cover, but melodies and harmonies eventually found my hands. I even played the sanctuary piano (though neither Ned nor I crawled inside the organ anymore.)

Ned, also a piano practice delinquent, nevertheless worked for a piano craftsman. After Old Camo collapsed, teenaged Ned rebuilt a baby grand for Mom.

I missed it after I married. No money for pianos. Given our fabulous $97.50-per-month studio apartment, we’d have had to sleep on the bench.

We were skinny, but not that skinny.

After graduation, a new spinet graced our living room. Despite toddler abuse, teeth-gritting kids’ practices, and my thumping, it remains a monument to the magic.

As is our daughter. Like her mother and grandmother, she often ignores little black notes and discovers her own songs.

Mom was, too. Battling dementia, she played what Dad called his “dinner music” while he cooked.

“Beautiful,” Dad told her.

Though Mom didn’t remember repeating the same song seven times, her fingers and her spirit found their way to lovely music.

The magic triumphed again.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Is piano music magic for you?

Weird Things for Which I Am Thankful 2020

Anyone here like Christmas better than Thanksgiving?

With God’s incredible gift of His Son, family celebrations, music, decorations and food, it doesn’t get any better than that.

But families also express gratitude for each other at Thanksgiving, for freedom, health and — last, but not least — hope through Christ. Along with the food, it doesn’t get any better than that.

I’m forced to enjoy a draw, nixing healthy eating until a January Judgment Day.

I also want to express gratitude for little blessings — even weird ones — that seldom receive a nod or notice:

Fuzzy bathroom rugs. These don’t rank up there with world peace or an Indianapolis Colts victory, but on chilly mornings, they mean everything to wet, freezing toes.

Combines blocking the road. Already late, I forget these are a blessing. Other drivers’ gestures indicate they forget, too. But these bulky, balky monsters and hardworking farmers ensure food on our tables.

Bananas. With this nutritious, easy-open, eco-friendly fruit — no refrigeration necessary — our children thrived. True, bananas’ squishability, the babies’ sticky reaches and my long hair proved problematic. Still, they blessed lunch boxes and trips. When emergencies interrupted my skinny physician husband’s meals, I sent bananas with him to eat on the way.

Today, neither of us worry about weight loss. Still, we’re glad bananas will be around for our future, with or without teeth.

The color purple. What would we do without purple violets and irises, plums and eggplants? Without royal velvets and wild purple storm clouds — and essentials like Grape Slushies and Super Bubble Gum?

My 2010 car. New models map routes, parallel park and warm butts. Some drivers, though, given a Starship Enterprise dashboard, threaten the universe. Even driving my old Ford, I’ve occasionally popped the hood when I meant to open the trunk. If I tried to warm my posterior while driving 70 miles per hour, I’d hit the parallel parking mechanism.

I’m thankful for my simple, old car. You should be, too.

Ranch dressing, available only since the 1980s. How did we as a civilization survive without it?

Free parking lots. Metropolitan drivers spend hundreds to park in scary garages. I revel in nearly unlimited free parking, saving my neck, my bucks and my sanity.

Bankers without firearms. I’ve entered Honduran banks where guards accessorized with ammunition belts and machine guns. I’m thankful my bankers are armed only with smiles.

Gardeners who plant prairie grass. They validate those of us who grow it unintentionally.

Finally, I’m thankful I never played the turkey in a school production.

Still debating whether you like Thanksgiving or Christmas most? It’s a draw, right?

A draw for the turkey, too.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Can you list weird things for which you’re thankful?

A Plunker’s Piano Lessons

I started piano lessons at five. I stopped at the ripe old age of nine.

Statistics indicate I’m not alone; 6,761,141,370 of the world’s 6,761,141,379 people have taken — and quit — piano lessons.

My early days at the piano.

I blame my parents. Neither had musical training, yet Dad’s big hands overran the keyboard like a spring storm. Mom, though partially deaf, could listen to a song, then play a full-fledged accompaniment in any key.

At five, I, too, picked out tunes. Why bother with notes? Neither did I (shudder) count beats. Mixing music, God’s gift, with arithmetic (eww), appeared one more weird complication adults demanded. My brother also deemed piano lessons unnecessary.

Mom tried to explain. If only she could have taken lessons as a child!

I would have remained unconvinced — except for strong capitalistic instincts. Mom paid Mrs. Snyder 50 cents a lesson, but she always refunded a nickel to me. With yellowed books and sheet music piled everywhere, her musty house smelled mysterious and musical. Thousands of former students’ photos adorned her walls, as Mrs. Snyder had been teaching 200 years.

My grandson played piano at a holiday concert Christmas 2019.

I played my first piece using three keys, then colored the page’s fun pictures. I liked Mrs. Snyder, I liked nickels and I liked Mom’s shining eyes when I practiced.

Sadly, Mrs. Snyder passed away. My new teacher handed me practice sheets instead of nickels. No pictures. I played songs like “Gavotte in G” and “Requiem for a Student Who Didn’t Practice.” Mrs. Mozart made me (choke!) play duets with my brother. We bowed and curtsied at stiff, scary recitals. The longsuffering teacher assured our reluctant mother we weren’t destined to play at Carnegie Hall.

Mom finally let us quit. Free at last!

Not until I attended college did I realize my loss. There, I met people whose fingers blurred over the keyboard. One blind friend played as if a single organism — part instrument, part human. Her music rippled up and down my backbone, joy unleashed.

Why are mothers always right? Especially when they preach, “What goes around comes around.” My own children blossomed with initial interest, but only one persisted into high school. As they plinked and plunked their first practices, I wondered, for the first time, if Mom had enjoyed mine as much as she’d claimed.

Still, my kids learned to read music, and piano background fueled interest in many other song forms.

Our piano — the first purchase my husband made after medical school graduation — often sits silent now, though I try to play daily. My fingers itch to exchange my laptop’s tippity-taps for music. Soon, I’ll touch the piano keys and listen to less-than-perfect love.

Even if nobody gives me a nickel.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you taken piano lessons?

Christmas Classic Post: The Most Wonderful Songs of the Year?

This post first appeared on December 16, 2015.

My name is Rachael, and I’m a Christmas music addict.

Recently, I found a station that plays one 100 percent Christmas music. “O Holy Night,” “Angels We Have Heard on High,” and “What Child Is This?” filled the room, sung by rich-voiced choirs and artists such as Luciano Pavarotti, Sandi Patty and Perry Como.

However, intermingled “cute” Christmas carols triggered memories of long-ago kiddie programs in which I wore scratchy can-cans and pinched-toe Mary Janes while singing “All I Want for Christmas Is My Two Front Teeth.” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” a way-too-much-information ballad, caused me, like the Chipmunks, to wish Christmas wouldn’t be late — partly so I wouldn’t have to sing that stupid kissing song anymore.

Fortunately, I missed out on other animal holiday favorites during that era, including “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” so popular that listeners raised funds to buy one for the 10-year-old singer. Her mother wouldn’t let it sleep in her room, so the girl donated it to a zoo.

Like every Boomer kid, though, I donned western gear to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” with cowboy Gene Autry.

Even with annoying add-ons (“like a light bulb,” “like Pinocchio,” etc.) Rudolph can’t begin to compete with “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” for holiday crassness. And yes, I held that opinion long before I became one (a grandma, not a reindeer).

Lately, however, I discovered a song that surpasses that twisted tune, a rap entitled “Reindeer Poop.” Although the lyrics laud a chocolate mounded candy, wouldn’t your mother have washed your mouth out with soap if you’d taught that to your little brother?

The Seedy Greedy Award goes to “Santa Baby.” This singer doesn’t welcome partridges in a pear tree from her true love. She goes for sables, a convertible, checks … and, Santa, baby, a platinum mine would be nice, too.

Actually, the gifts lauded by the English carol, “The Twelve Days of Christmas” aren’t so economical, either. Their cost totals $107,300, according to Kevin Bagos of AP News. If necessary, one can always go in for a less expensive version, Jeff Foxworthy’s “Redneck 12 Days of Christmas,” which includes three shotgun shells, two huntin’ dogs and parts to a Mustang GT, as well as nine years of probation and six cans of Spam.

Six cans of Spam? Not a Christmas dinner to settle the stomach. If that doesn’t make you squeamish, “Vincent the Christmas Virus” by Canadian band The Arrogant Worms will.

My name is Rachael, and I’m still an Advent music addict.

But some Christmas songs out there come close to effecting a cure.

Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you know one you’d like to fixate in your worst enemy’s mind till 2023?

OMG, It’s Monday! Prayer

O my God, thank You for a great time at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. Four days of glitter, glamour, and fun in Nashville nearly converted this classical music lover. Returning home, I considered dancing through our front door in new cowboy boots, singing, “Achy, Breaky Heart.” OMG, do You think Hubby would have upped my medication?