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Braving Hurricane Barry, I put in my 9 hours’ morning work yesterday and took off at 3pm to go see Jonathan and Southwind’s last performance in the state before they left at 11pm for the rest of their national tour.

The neighborhood was in the middle of flooding but I took advantage of sneaking out between storm bands (no pun intended) to get on the interstate..

It was at least a 3 hour drive upstate, pounding rain and – thank You God – for a friend recommending audio books, so it was me and Brené Brown and her recent book on “Braving the Wilderness” (how à propos!), white-knuckling it up to Millbrook, AL. I had a mission, to see my kid, his band, the competition with other bands, to make good on a promise to get there and to deliver two corn dogs and a large hot fudge milk shake into the hands of said kid.

He reinforced a couple of times (despite my texts to move things up) that it would have to be AFTER the show (which would be circa 10pm) lest he barf up Sonic on the pristine football field and cost his team points.

Because they had the “home state advantage,” Southwind went last. But preceding them were several truly awesome drum corps, competing for a title.

One was Southern Knights, an all-age drum corps (and I saw young as 10, old as 70s) which rocked the stadium kicking off the competition.

In the middle were bands from Atlanta, the Carolinas, Florida, Louisiana and Michigan.

I would like to point out that I was most impressed with the Louisiana Stars from Lafayette, LA – which happened to be from just a hair north of Barry’s landfall, so these kids were safe and sound inland but probably internally freaking out how their families, pets and homes were faring during the storm which made landfall while they practiced here.

Louisiana Stars – God bless those in the path of Hurricane Barry.

The band from Kalamazoo, MI won, Legends, with their extraordinary drill team posing as Sirens of the Sea en masse, along with a dramatic story line about life in the sea with the gods and goddesses.

The Sirens did a creative wave number to the sound of my beloved sea waves, their long hair sweeping to and fro, emulating the waves of the beckoning sea

This drill team evidently was taught to seduce and interact with the audience with their hair-flips, alluring smiles and seductive beckonings. a perfect opening that wowed and wooed the judges.

With Southwind hosting, their last-on-program/late performance was stellar, nonetheless – and, compared to last week’s dress rehearsal (see previous post), the musicians were phenomenally precise, more artistic, theatrical and in the groove. I am excited for the rest of their tour and am confident they will rock the rest of the country!

Southwind’s precision

They handled the “cages” more expertly tonight…intentional in trapping their prey and skillfully orchestrating the profound exhilaration of freedom

Packing up for the next destination

Drilling the Drill Team – they rocked!!

That semi holds a place for each instrument, supply and uniform

The cages waiting to be loaded. What cage are you captive in?

Each member gets a medallion at the end of their home-state show, depending on how many years they’ve participated. This is Jonathan’s second year.

A competition well-performed

Southwind Mom’s Truck

Thank You, God, for children and their pursuits, for infusing them with talents, skills and interests that contribute to our world’s arts, sciences and teaching them all manner of What Life’s About.

God, please bless Southwind and all the kids this summer who are devoting themselves to greater purposes which ultimately make us better people and make the world a better place. May they go on to serve You in whatever capacity You deem appropriate.

(Here, Jonathan’s brother with Down syndrome pipes up, “Mama, you tired of Southwind?” Mama answers, “No, David, I’m tired FROM Southwind last night, not tired OF Southwind!”) David says, “We’re tired from rains and storms,” to which mama says, “Yes, David, and why we’re going to bed early tonight….”

Night night co-musers!

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Today marks the start of the annual tour for Southwind, an elite drum and bugle corps representing the Southeast region’s best percussion and brass players.

(Oh, and coincidentally, today marks this blog’s 8th anniversary – thank you to all my readers and friends for 8 incredible years!!! xxxooo). Back to Southwind:

They will travel nearly 6,000 miles in six weeks, performing and competing in cities throughout the Eastern seaboard and the Midwest, culminating with a world class competition at the Colt’s football stadium in Indianapolis.

Southwind began 40 years ago and carefully selects its members from rigorous auditions and recommendations. This year, its members hail from 15 states. Lucky for us (and our son who plays the euphonium), they chose our county as Ground Zero for their many weeks of rehearsal camps leading up to today, so we didn’t have to go far to visit him.

Last night they held their dress rehearsal, before they leave tonight for Valdosta, GA, their first stop on the tour circuit. We will catch up with Southwind again next Saturday in upstate Alabama for one of their competitions, before they head north for New Jersey, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Michigan and points beyond.

Some highlights from yesterday:

The schedule is dizzyingly intense, with few breaks

Local high schools house the Corps; boys in the gym, girls in the cafeteria, members over 18 in another room (members are from both high schools and universities)

Shoe blow-out is common – these students engage in marathon-training conditions in blistering heat and are fed special high-energy diets and go through gallons of water a day

Did I say “blistering heat?” This was what the sign said yesterday as I was leaving camp at 4:30pm

The supplies and resources necessary to pull off a tour of this magnitude are phenomenal. How every detail comes together is a miracle of the many staff and volunteers who expertly think of everything!

You just never know who’ll show up on tour with Southwind!

(wonder if this guy ever wishes he’d taken up the trumpet instead?) Everyone helps haul the instruments, props and supplies

Meals are served outdoors and consist of lots of high protein, high carb foods. I’m told that spicy and sugary foods are off the list for the most part.

It takes a crew to wash the uniforms, a crew to cook and clean up, a crew to keep track of the students, a crew to organize and pull off the tour, etc. Check out the Southwind website to see their talented Visual Staff and Percussion Staff.

Warming up on the field while the rest of the Corps unloads

Full percussion warming up with brass getting ready behind (note everyone’s gallon jugs precisely at their sides)

Just like a pro ball team, each position/section has its coaches. For the Corps, this includes experts in fine-tuning (literally, as in ensuring drums are properly tuned). The coach listens to each drum carefully, getting down to drum-level with his ear and instructs each player accordingly to ensure perfection.

Each instrument has to be inspected, each day

For each performance, they have a very short amount of time to assemble all instruments, props and supplies, so they learn, among other skills, how to, um, for lack of a better term, haul ass

The drum majors take the field. Yes, that is a roller coaster in the far background but it was so hot we didn’t see anybody on the rides!

The dress rehearsal turned into an un-dress rehearsal, as the searing heat even after the sun went down, prompted them to spare the uniforms for the tour and they did the rest of rehearsal in their bibbers (and white gloves – never ditch the white gloves, so sayeth the Lady, no matter what the conditions!)

The choreography, precision and talent are mind-blowing!

The performers put their heart and soul into each note

This year’s show is called, “The Cage,” in four movements. The first movement portrays what it is like to feel caged – the constraint, the sacrifice of self, the pain of stuck-ness. The second movement illustrates the frenzied attempts to break out of the cage, unsuccessfully.

Movement three is about what we might call learned helplessness, or accepting our circumstances, perhaps complacency and/or ditching the dream to be free and happy. Choosing to settle. Learning to be “happy” and giving up on potential.

In the last movement, the cage finally opens and we experience the joy of true freedom, being able to live life to its fullest capacity and the relief of being out in the open at last.

The show is copyrighted so we are forbidden to upload videos of the performance (plus we don’t want to give our secrets away to our competition before the tour!), else I would have loved to share the power of the sound and theatrics this talented group of students and staff produce.

Am I outside the cage, or in? What about you?

And, just like a ball team, they have their own mini-ambulance

Away from the action, empty hangers, backpacks and instrument cases line the fence

Ready to roll up the road to the next venue!

I caught up with him after last year’s show in Hiram, GA

Thanks, God, for opportunities You give us and our children to exercise talents, discover new skills and to experience great adventures. Thank You for freeing us of the many cages of our own making in which we ensnare ourselves….and may we always fully trust and be free in Christ.

(This hot summer – and now 16 and driving! – he values a shorter haircut than last year lol) – Godspeed, Jonathan William and all of Southwind!

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Being fashionably late to everything, I’m just now stepping up to the challenge due to the hardships of cross-country travel.

But here is what’s NEW through my lens…coming home to Oregon for the first time in 17 years AND getting to share it with my 10 year old son, who was born and bred on the subtropical beach of his parents’ adopted second home.

He had as much fun beholding majestic wonders from above as I did, answering his gazillion questions about the earth, aviation, nature, God, geology, geography and all manner of why-cuz.

His very first flight ever…he remained fixated on the skies both to drink in the experience and to conceal his cheek-busting nonstop grin

Why are we at this angle? What if those rivets weren’t tight?

Mommy!! “What IS that down there? What’s happening to that side of the land?” That is where snow fell. “Why did it just stop at that line?”

The clouds seem to mirror the mountains below. We managed to fly over 12 states total!

Is that frost on the window? What’s it doing way up here?

Rocky Mountain High!

At PDX, a to-scale version of Multnomah Falls, all in Legos!

Later, when he got up close and personal to the live, giant Christmas trees, more questions arose which challenged my memories of college biology and botanical reproduction: How do they get so tall? Why are they so sheddy? Why are there so many pine cones and what do they do?

More adventures to come….

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Who can resist a well-earned Special Olympics smile from a kid who wasn’t supposed to live past age 4?

David turns 18 in 22 days!

Thank You, God, for defying all odds, for playing the ultimate April Fool’s joke on death – showing the universe for once and for all that where death seems inevitable, life rocks on!

That there is no such thing as finality, that You are the only Omega…and Your gift is eternal life. May we always recognize that those things seeming to a close = opportunity for new beginnings in ways we haven’t yet fathomed.

And therein lies faith…and trust. Faith and trust that there is always more in store than we can possibly know or deserve in our finite wisdom. Thanks, God, for perpetual resurrection and preciousness in all things. SMILE!!

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Magic came early this spring! 

My kiddo, who was supposedly doomed to a vegetative state until his predicted death by age 4, went to the Tim Tebow prom last month with a classy “typical” classmate in a hott pink dress, who donned him with a crown and made him king for the evening.

He turns 17 this April.

Security on the main floor was tight as a drum. We peacock-proud parents, along with well-wishers and assorted spectators, were relinquished to the balcony Atop the main floor of a local Episcopal reception hall balcony. 

Parents reconnected. Teens connected. Souls and dreams flourished…


Dear God, thank you that there is a place in Heaven and here on earth for everyone. 

Help us remember that regardless of health or illness, strength or infirmity, life or death, earth or Heaven, sane or insane, righteous or sinners, we belong to You. 

During this Lenten season, Lord, let us wrap our brains around Your concepts of letting go of convention and embracing what is different, foreign and changed.

Transform us, God, into what You would have us be for You, not for men or earth or the lives we know here on earth.

Shine Your mercy on us, Father, that we might slow Down and cherish every moment, with the faith of Your promises beyond.

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The path to Christmas at our house seemed a lot like the one for which the day itself celebrates.

This year has been a long, hard journey…only to get to the end to find no room at the inn, in many ways.

The year has been a story of disabilities, disasters and way too many losses….but also one of perseverance, sharpening and victories, often disguised as hardships. I am highly confident that 2017 will be a year of rebuilding and grace.

So, there weren’t as many gifts under the tree this year, and many of them would have blended in with the latest Fruit of the Loom commercial….which may sound bleak for American children in this day and age – at least at first glance.

But in our culture of entitlement, I think it was just what the children needed to learn some valuable character lessons. 

Less yields more appreciation and a deeper sense of valuing “Stuff.” Less is just what was needed to drive home some salient points we parents otherwise try to teach our children with varying degrees of success. 

I can safely say it is much harder to teach some of these lessons unless a child experiences the sting of disappointment, of going without. A little humility yields great things!

There were lessons this morning in climbing out of a pit, of garnering one’s creativity and ingenuity to generate solutions to get where you want to be, to realizing your dreams. To being the one to make your own dreams come true instead of relying upon others and the world to make it happen FOR you. 

Actually, kind of like the very premises our country was founded upon!

Instead of a spirit of downtrodden weakness, a prevailing spirit of hope, faith and love.

And it didn’t come in the form of an expensive gift, it was not proud, it did not boast. There were no clanging cymbals.

My friends, God was right when He said the greatest of these is LOVE. This gift sat in at the back of the tree in a little silver, unmarked box, having gone mostly unnoticed until this morning.

The very youngest child patiently waited until all the gifts had been opened and he quietly padded over to his mother, the one in the room whose name was not on any of the gifts (because it’s all about the kids, right?) and he handed her the plain  tin box and eagerly waited for her to open it. 

His light blue eyes danced with anticipation as she carefully opened it and joyously received the greatest gift of all:


And Merry Christmas with love to you all! 

May God bless you richly with His love…but don’t look for it at the 5 star resort in the top-floor suite. It can be found in a quiet valley of solitude, where things are simple and lowly, sweet and holy.

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It’s been awhile, friends. I’ve missed y’all!
I did not abandon the blog, but have been pleasantly distracted by this, that and the other in life, like…
 

Monitoring my teenagers’ phones and finding stuff like this

 
 

Selling the farm

 
 

Easter Egging

  

Teaching young men to be gentlemen

  

Coming home to a fountaining water heater and getting a new one

  

Noticing odd photo ops

  

Finding out my kid discovered Photo Shop on my iPad

  

PMSing

 
 

Trying a lighter hair shade, going Garth-Blonde

 
 

Getting to see what my town looks like from the air

  

Getting one of two hip replacements

  

Doing a homemade color-by-numbers during recovery

 

Bloodletting

  

Barely getting out of the hospital alive (note listed allergies & plate)

  

Watching Mr. Lizard go a-courtin’

 
 

Mardi Gras parades & assorted residual loot

  

Being visited by a cardinal

  

Septic fun!

  

Coming home to find the silverware gnomes organized my silverware drawer

  

S’mores…

  

…over a warm winter fire dancing

  

Savoring thoughtful sentiments from little ones

  

Hot morning coffee in the cool spring sun

 

A winter walk on the beach

  

Turning 50

  

A little getaway to my favorite Suites

 
Thanks, God, for a long season of joy, renewal, hope and resurrection. Thank You for the dead of winter yielding to the lifeSpring of growth and eternal life. May my readers be thusly blessed in their seasons, as well. 

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I love this week’s Photo Challenge which is all about taking something and running with it – about going many steps beyond your wildest dreams.

Never believe that the impossible isn’t possible or that a dark and gloomy prognosis means the end of the track.

From a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, 8 months old…told IF he lived, he would be in a vegetative state and die by age 4…

  
…to Special Olympics, 2015 – Kissing a pretty girl fifteen years later makes it well worth coming out of a coma and surviving!

 Believe in the extraordinary – faith, hope and love are the greatest of gifts.

Thanks, God, for second, third and fourth chances. And tenth and seventy-seventh chances. 

You know, God, sometimes I think that Your lessons about faith, hope and love are as much about our aspirations as they are a reminder of Your unwavering faith, hope and love for us. It IS a two-way street, isn’t it? 

That when our ordinary faith, hope and love stray, You – our Rock – never lose those three things for us, and it is Your extraordinary faith in us, Your hope in our return and Your eterrnal love for us draws us back and is what causes such rejoicing among the angels when we return.

Many happy and extraordinary returns!

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Humanity …http://dailypost.wordpress.com/dp_photo_challenge/humanity/

Medical technology gives us more choices in creating and controlling our destiny and that of our offspring.

It is estimated that 92% of fetuses who test positive for signs of Down syndrome today are aborted.

When David was in utero, all the tests came out “false negative.” We had no reason to believe anything was abnormal. His birth was normal – he came skidding out in 45 minutes flat, weighing in at 10 lbs 6 oz.

But he wouldn’t nurse, and his blood coagulated quickly – he resisted life initially, so measures were taken to keep him alive. He got blood transfusions (GIVE BLOOD!) and was the biggest, giant baby in the NICU.

A couple weeks after his birth, he tested positive for Trisomy 21. Fragile, he contracted pneumonia and his lungs collapsed 75%. He was airlifted on a Mercy Flight and was not expected to live.

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I pumped milk for him to be fed through a tube down his nose and into his stomach for months, while we lived in a Ronald McDonald House.

In his coma, we sang to him and talked to him, trying to give him the best of his only days on this earth.

Some argue that this is a waste of human and social resources. Had the fetus (David) been tested with today’s technology, it (he) could have been caught and prevented, and the six-figure price tag for his hospital care (at the time) could have been saved.

This is not a new concept; history repeats itself over the generations, but usually only the newer generations have forgotten the atrocities of the older generations. And…one thing leads to another….

Technologically advanced eugenics is indeed alive and well in the world today, whether we prefer to notice or not.

The prognosis was, if he didn’t come home in a casket and came home in a car seat instead, he’d be in a vegetative state at best, and could possibly live to age four or five.

Once I relinquished him to God, whether it be on earth or in heaven, somehow his flat line began to take off and he lived…(the little dickens extubated himself when he came out of his coma…he had a will to live).

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“Mighty David” defied all odds and, just like you and I, went on to do great things.

Like walk and talk and tickle and play in the band and paddle board and know Santa and be featured in the National Down Syndrome Society and Little League….nosiree, no vegetative state for HIM!

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imageMeeting Santa Claus while marching with the high school band in the Christmas Parade last year (He’d really hoped to meet Philip Phillips):

(Can you say JOY?)

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Quality of Life: Priceless

(beating Mom at push-ups)

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Don’t judge: there were abortions and one live birth prior to David, and two live births and four miscarriages after David…it always works out just the way God intends, even if we think we’re in charge!

No judgment, only LOVE and FULFILLMENT!

We do what we believe we must do when we must do it. God does what is meant to be, regardless.

Thanks, God, for Your perfect will and guidance….for rainbows out of clouds, for strength in weakness, for thumbs up in the face of Downs, for David and children all around the world who beat the odds and magnify Your glory, and for always being in control no matter what.

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Thank You for being an Awesome God!

 

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This Photo Challenge began with a commotion Friday night in our back yard, with my eldest child mysteriously sawing and hammering and screw-gunning away.

Then yesterday the sun dawned on his creation. And all this mother on Mother’s Day Eve could whisper was, “Oh, snap…what IS THIS instrument of death?”

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He’d made his own bike ramp and tested it repeatedly throughout the weekend.

I’ve no idea how many test-runs he made before I got home, BEFORE I reminded him to wear his helmet.

Be still, my heart…

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The littlest brother tried to learn to jump off the ramp like the biggest brother’s double-backwards twist:

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Kids will be kids!

And moms will be moms. After I studied how he did it and had captured his motion enough times on camera, it kinda looked fun…so I thought, “Why not?”

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But I couldn’t master his speed, so I decided to stick with the motion that gives me the most positive e-motion:

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Hey, God…thanks for keeping us on the move, whether we like it or not, ready or not, willing or not.

You created the universe to be in perpetual motion – us included.

May we find comfort in change, the inevitable – for You have by design made all things to go forward towards Your plans, in Your time.

Let us change and be changed…and embrace the journey as we go!

P.S. – and God, please help us remember to wear our helmets… (Ephesians 6:17)

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