Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Old Man Winter

The weather forecasts all call for plummeting temperatures tomorrow and freezing precipitation for Thursday. Never ye mind that today the forecasted high is almost 80! Assuming the forecasts are correct for the latter part of the week, this will be our first real dose of winter all year. And wouldn't you know that I plan to be out & about on Thursday since I have to sing that ASQ fundraiser in the evening. I'm not getting too excited. They predicted rain yesterday and we saw nary a drop. Texas...don't like the weather? Wait a few minutes.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Happy Birthday

Happy Birthday, mom! Hope you have a terrific day.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Family Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving hasn't been the biggest of holidays in my family. When you grow up in a hunting family, you learn to let many of the fall holidays come second to a big hunt. For the first in many years, the boys weren't off hunting. Both Derek and David drew short straws this year--they had to work. So today, we were able to celebrate together as a family a year of many blessings. We are thankful for each other, our friends, our good health, our good jobs, our many talents, and homes to call our own. It has indeed been another good year.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Thanksgivings

translated by Harriet Maxwell Converse
from a traditional Iroquois prayer

We who are here present thank the Great Spirit that we are here to praise Him.
We thank Him that He has created men and women, and ordered that these beings shall always be living to multiply the earth.
We thank Him for making the earth and giving these beings its products to live on.
We thank Him for the water that comes out of the earth and runs for our lands.
We thank Him for all the animals on the earth.
We thank Him for certain timbers that grow and have fluids coming from them for us all.
We thank Him for the branches of the trees that grow shadows for our shelter.
We thank Him for the beings that come from the west, the thunder and lightning that water the earth.
We thank Him for the light which we call our oldest brother, the sun that works for our good.
We thank Him for all the fruits that grow on the trees and vines.
We thank Him for his goodness in making the forests, and thank all its trees.
We thank Him for the darkness that gives us rest, and for the kind Being of the darkness that gives us light, the moon.
We thank Him for the bright spots in the skies that give us signs, the stars.
We give Him thanks for our supporters, who had charge of our harvests.
We give thanks that the voice of the Great Spirit can still be heard through the words of Ga-ne-o-di-o.
We thank the Great Spirit that we have the privilege of this pleasant occasion.
We give thanks for the persons who can sing the Great Spirit's music, and hope they will be privileged to continue in his faith.
We thank the Great Spirit for all the persons who perform the ceremonies on this occasion.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Another Singing Engagement

I have the unique opportunity to join the chancel choir of Lake Highlands United Methodist Church for their production of Rutter's Gloria on Sunday, December 10th at 6 p.m. This concert is open to the public.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

In Other News

And since I'm a little behind in my posting, you're a little behind in your news. Congrats to my brother & his wife who will be closing on their first house on December 28th. The 2100 sq ft, 4 bedroom, 2.5 bath house is in Forney. I haven't seen it, but mom says it's really nice. I'm jealous b/c he gets hardwood floors in his first house!

Not Forgotten

Contrary to popular belief, I really haven't forgotten about the ol' Foxhole. No, really. I haven't. Actually, I've been working on the post about New York. It's been in draft since last week. Haven't taken the time to get the pictures off the camera, so the post hasn't made it from draft to publish yet. Instead, I've been preparing the house for company.

The holiday season is a busy one. Now that David lives so close to me, it got a little busier. I volunteered to host Thanksgiving and Christmas at our house. I'm actually pretty excited about it. It does mean a little work for me--I actually have to decorate. And it means I have to put my house in order. But it also means we won't have to juggle schedules to make the drive home. Actually, part of the reason we're making a new tradition to have the parents come our way is that David and Derek both drew short straws this year--they have to work both holidays. (For David, this will likely be the case for several years until he gets a little seniority in his office.) Since their jobs require them to remain in the area, it just made sense to have everyone over to our house.

So this weekend I started getting ready--went grocery shopping and started cleaning house. I had fun buying table decorations--suitable for both occasions, of course. All that changes is the centerpiece and tableware. We decided on a Thanksgiving menu and divvied up who'll bring what. And we've also made our plans for our annual day-after-Thanksgiving early-morning shopping trip.

Throw in an evening at the opera and an evening concert and you understand why I didn't have time to finish up the long-promised post about our trip to the Big Apple. But it's coming. I promise.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Nibble of the Big Apple

Manhattan is one of many places that cannot be seen in one trip. We didn't even begin to scratch the surface in our four short days there. What we did do was get a taste of the Big Apple and began the list of things to do on the next trip. So here's the Reader's Digest version of our trip:

Thursday, November 9
In his many business trips, Derek has learned to use the self check-in kiosks at the airport and has found he's more often offered inexpensive upgrades. Flying to JFK was no exception. We were both able to upgrade to first class for the flight, which for a guy of 6'4" makes for a much more comfortable ride. Once in New York, I talked Derek into taking the SuperShuttle to the hotel instead of a cab. While it was cheaper, I think it ultimately cost us in precious time--not to mention it was a very crowded ride. We had to wait for over an hour for the shuttle to arrive and then spent about 90 minutes in traffic between the airport and Manhattan. Once in Manhattan, traffic was crazy (and our driver was crazier) & we had a million and one stops to make before ours. Four hours after landing, we were finally at the hotel. We rested for a bit before venturing to Times Square for a look at the lights and a bite to eat at Junior's.

Friday, November 10
We walked from our hotel at 32nd & Broadway all the way to Central Park. Once in Central Park, it's very easy to forget that you're in a big city. It's really a lovely place to spend a morning. We headed back in the direction of the hotel, grabbing lunch on the way. Then it was time to catch a ride for our guided tour of the city. Our guide actually worked for Frommer's, so he had an exceptional knowledge of the history of the city and its architecture. Our 5.5 hour tour included stops at all of the places you'd expect plus a ride on the Long Island Ferry with spectacular nighttime views of Manhattan and Lady Liberty. After our tour, we met my college friends Eric & LaNita for a night out in Brooklyn. It was quite an adventure getting there and through some pretty shady areas, but we did eventually make it and had a great time. I got to meet a childhood friend of LaNita's whose in New York "making it" on the vocal scene. We had a great time "talking shop."

Saturday, November 11
Today was a lazy day for us. We did some more walking in Times Square, touring the world's largest Macy's. Derek had a great time riding the escalators--well, they were old-fashioned, hand-carved escalators from the turn-of-the-century. We grabbed lunch and then went to see Spamalot on Broadway. Hilarious! If ever you have the chance to see it (it's coming to Dallas Summer Musicals this season!), you really should...assuming you like Monty Python. We then went back to the hotel to change for dinner and then rode the subway to Del Frisco's. By far the best steak I've ever eaten!

Sunday, November 12
Today we decided to go to the Empire State Building Observation Deck. Boo! Silly me, I heard the weather forecast on Saturday which called for rain on Sunday. It never dawned on me that that would mean cloud cover. Duh. So, there was absolutely no visibility on the observation deck. But we went up anyway. It was cold & windy but a neat place. I can only imagine what views you must get from up there. Afterward, we had breakfast and then caught the subway to Rockefeller Plaza where they were preparing the Christmas tree for decorating. We enjoyed shopping at Saks (who pays that much for stuff?!), amongst many other high-end stores in that area. Had lunch at Blue Fin because I hadn't gotten my fill of sushi. Then we met up with Eric & LaNita in their neighborhood--the Financial District. Got a better look at Ground Zero (just around the corner from their apartment) and then set off for Greenwich Village for Eric's terrific mini-tour. Had dinner at the world-famous Little Italy establishment called Lombardi's. By far the best pizza on the trip!

Monday, November 13
Time to bid adieu to the Big Apple. Got up early to catch the hotel's suggested shuttle. A much better return to the airport. It actually turned out to be a sightseeing shuttle, and to avoid traffic, we snaked around Manhattan and the boroughs to return to the airport getting little tidbits of info from our driver along the way. We got to JFK in plenty of time. Derek was disappointed that we couldn't upgrade on this flight. We later found out why. Apparently, several flights from the day before had been seriously delayed because of weather and all of Monday's outbound flights from LaGuardia had been cancelled and the passengers bussed to JFK. That meant a bigger plane--we flew home on a 777 instead of a 757. Anyway, that meant the plane was pretty full and the first class cabin was not available to we lowly in coach. But Derek did ultimately get a front-row seat in our section and had plenty of legroom.

All in all, it was a fabulous trip. We had great weather almost the entire time we were in Manhattan. And it was great to see old friends. We look forward to our next trip to the Big Apple!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Singing Engagements

While I thought the end of the year was going to a vocally quiet one, I'm happy to say that I've recently been employed by two separate groups. On November 30th, I will be part of the entertainment for the American Society for Quality annual fundraiser. This event is open to the public, and tickets can be purchased through the ASQ website. For the month of December, I will be the paid soprano at John Calvin Presbyterian Church in Dallas. This is a small congregation with an equally small choir. The music minister is trying to build his program and will be hiring singers until his program is off the ground. I have signed on until the end of the year and do have the opportunity to sing well into the spring if I am able.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Happy Veterans Day (albeit belated)

One cool thing about being in New York City this weekend...we were there for the annual Veterans Day Parade. Derek and I wondered why we were seeing SO many guys in uniform. While I realize New York does play host to many sailors, it seemed odd to see many other military men and women walking the streets. And then we saw the sign...join us in honoring our veterans at Saturday's parade. It was so awesome to see how many people came to cheer on these young men and women as they marched down Fifth Avenue. Again, while many Americans do not agree with the war, they do come out to say "thank you" to all of those who so generously give of themselves for God and country.

Are you thankful for your servicemen? Why not send one a card. There's a really cool website dedicated to sending notes of thanks to men and women serving all over the world. The coolest part? It's totally free. AND the cards are all designed by children. So take a minute to tell a troop thanks. It really does make a difference!

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Only in New York

We're having a great time in New York. This city is so amazing and so vastly different from any other big city I've visited. Traffic is insane, the drivers are even worse, the streets are crowded, and I'm surprised by something at every turn. We'll have lots of stories to tell, but for now, I think this photo says a lot.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Start Spreadin' the News

So just a few short days before we're on our way to the Big Apple. And I'm so excited that I can hardly contain myself. It's been a long-held dream of mine to go to New York. Granted, my plan was to sing at Carnegie or the Met. But I'll take what I can get at the moment. Seriously, we're very excited about this vacation. Derek goes to the Big City a lot on business since Stryker's headquarters is only about a half hour away in New Jersey. And while he usually gets at least one night on the town while there on business, he has yet to get to sightsee. So naturally, we intend to see as many of the New York City landmarks as is humanly possible in five days. And along the way, we hope we're able to meet up with several friends who live in the area. The next few days will be hectic as we prepare for the trip, but we look forward to sharing some great stories sometime next week.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

For My Friends With Four-Legged Children

For those of you whose furry children are members of the family, enjoy!

Just a dog

From time to time, people tell me,
"lighten up, it's just a dog"
or "that's a lot of money for just a dog."
They don't understand the distance traveled,
the time spent, or the costs involved for "just a dog."

Some of my proudest moments have come about with "just a dog."
Many hours have passed and my only company was "just a dog,"
but I did not once feel slighted.
Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by "just a dog,"
and in those days of darkness,
the gentle touch of "just a dog" gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.

If you, too, think it's "just a dog,"
then you will probably understand phases like
"just a friend," "just a sunrise," or "just a promise."

"Just a dog" brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure unbridled joy.
"Just a dog" brings out the compassion and patience that make me a better person.
Because of "just a dog" I will rise early, take long walks, and look longingly to the future.

So for me and folks like me, it's not "just a dog"
but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future,
the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.
"Just a dog" brings out what's good in me and
diverts my thoughts away from myself and the worries of the day.

I hope that someday they can understand that it's not "just a dog"
but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being "just a man."
So the next time you hear the phrase "just a dog,"
just smile because they "just don't understand."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Bits of Good News

I heard from my girlfriend Jen yesterday who called to tell me that she & Jacob came home from the NICU on Wednesday. Jacob is doing fabulously well, obviously, and is a very happy & healthy baby. The little scare they had last week turned out to be a whole lot of nothing. But his doctors are still requiring some follow-ups just to be on the safe side. Naturally, because he's a preemie, he has lots of doctor appointments over the next several weeks. But they're all routine. Thank you for all of your prayers for the Pike/Willingham family.

And I'm excited because my car is ready to be picked up from the dealer's body shop. So I'm due to sign paperwork tomorrow morning. I could have picked it up either yesterday or today, but there was just no way to fit it in the schedule. While it did take a little longer than anticipated, it still wasn't all that long to wait in the grand scheme of car repairs.

Otherwise, the weekend will be full of things I want to do. Have a trivia party to go to tonight, my car to pick up tomorrow, some light house cleaning to do. But otherwise, I plan to spend the weekend getting ready for our trip. Have some odds-n-ends to buy, like new shoes and easy-to-pack toiletries. Yeah for fun weekends!

Concert Invitation

One of my good friends is a member of this chorus. Since I know I have many readers who are interested in area arts events, I thought I would post this on her behalf. So if you're interested, mark your calendar for November 19th.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

This and That

Had to go for a regular check-up this week. It was time again to evaluate the blood pressure. I'm not sure I've ever mentioned that I even have a blood pressure problem. Unfortunately, I got the flawed set of genes in that department. Dad was kind enough to pass those along. Actually, I should feel fortunate. Several, if not all, of my dad's sisters have been medicated since their early 20s. So to put it off until my late 20s is saying something. Anywho, I've been on baseline meds for 18 mos now. And in the last month, I've seen my readings really start creeping. I knew I wouldn't be able to stay on the baseline stuff forever. When you're dealing with a genetic issue rather than environmental, you expect to have to make adjustments to meds along the way. After running some tests, the doctor decided to switch me to a beta blocker. I'm not all that thrilled with the switch; it can pose issues down the road. But those issues certainly beat any alternatives to being unmedicated altogether! Hopefully, the new med will work and I'll see my readings come back into the normal range and stay there for a while.

My brother had his first bit of excitement on the job. He was involved in a multi-agency nighttime manhunt. This was a particularly dangerous situation since the suspect was considered armed & dangerous. So David was on the case with weapon drawn. That'll keep you awake on a night shift!

Still don't have my car back. It was only supposed to have taken 6 business days to repair...at least, if you believe what the insurance company tells you. I've called the dealership to see how much longer they'll have the car. If all goes well, I'll have it this Friday.

So just one short week until Derek & I head off to the big city. We're very excited and already have a game plan for our four-day vacation. We have several friends we plan to see. And we'll do the usual sight-seeing. We hope to make a show or two and have a nice dinner somewhere. I must admit that I've been a little floored by how expensive NYC is! If you want to stay in the city, expect to pay handsomely. And while you can eat on the cheap, a nice meal will also cost you. But...when you're on vacation, you can't always be budget-conscious (a/k/a tightwad/cheapskate/penny-pincher). Naturally, I'll give all the trip details sometime after we get back.

Close Race to Finish

Congrats to Derek who had a very good month of sales in October! And after the very slow sales in September, it's just the boost he needs to finish the year strong. I'm not exactly sure how far off his yearly number he is, but it's going to be a very close race to the finish. And that could mean an extra bonus. I know you can do it!