Sunday, June 27, 2010

Andre' says: "Stross is getting his pump on!"

Stross has been working out weekly his entire life. That is not an exaggeration. Within months of his birth, a physical therapist began regularly coming to our home to teach us exercises for him. The intent was for us to help him develop the muscles he could use while looking for ways to compensate for ones he could not.

Our mini mighty man soon wowed us with his ability to use his upper body to pull himself the entire length of our living room floor using a baby-sized army crawl. Then he learned to throw his body from side-to-side while standing in an apparatus called a parapodium as he began to comprehend what it meant to "walk." His actual walking lessons were intense therapy sessions twice each week all through his toddler and preschool years.

The list of other physical feats is endless for our oldest son. In recent years, as little by little he has grown past his capacity to do some of the things that we (Stross, his father and I, and countless physical therapists) worked so hard to accomplish, we have had to shift gears. We are now focused on maintaining what we can of his physical abilities for as long as we can, working toward a quality of life that keeps him as independent as possible.

His exercise is no longer considered "physical therapy." Insurance is no longer willing to pay for sessions that are not building toward something that looks like restoration or rehabilitation. Maintenance of physical health is something we all have to do, and therefore, an insurance company makes no exceptions. But, make no mistake, the risks of losing range of motion and muscle strength are higher for Stross. Consequently, the need to maintain the abilities he has is as vital as it is difficult. That's why Mark and I have done what can to get Stross the help he needs without the help of insurance. We aren't exercise experts, but we can connect him with people who are. Sometimes he connects himself.

This past year Andre' Franco, Stross' workout buddy, has been a blessing. As a future personal trainer, Andre' couldn't have been better. Unfortunately, Andre' had the audacity to graduate and get married in May. (You can check out his and Eva's wedding here.) Now he plans to move away, and that means we will be searching again.

I am once more doing my best Scarlett O'Hara - planning to think of it another day. After all, we've got a bit of time. Andre and Stross still have some great summer workout sessions ahead, "getting his pump on," as Andre' says. And my son is inspiring me to get my pump on too, in my own Menopausal Momma way. I have bone health to consider; my body can't do what it used to either.

Part of me wants to believe that if I were Super Mom, I'd become Stross' workout buddy. But, then again, that really isn't the same, is it? I'm pretty sure Stross prefers working out with a cool guy named Andre' who he considers a really great friend. And that's the way life probably is supposed to be.

So, thanks, Andre' - from Stross, Mark and me. You've given us a wonderful model to follow. We will be forever grateful as we keep moving and building our collective muscles - together.

Lunch with Mr. John Eliason

Today our family had the privilege of sharing lunch with Mr. John Eliason, Waldorf College class of 2009. He was in town to capture wedding images of Samantha Langerud and Steven Boucher.

John, always smiling, brought us up to date on many things in his life, including how much he enjoys his work as a corporate video producer for Fastenal, headquartered in Winona, Minn. For those who may not know, Fastenal operates as an industrial supply network with more than 2,500 locations in the United States and Canada. They also sponsor NASCAR No. 60 Fastenal Ford driver, Carl Edwards.

It was simply super to see how happy John is - staying in touch with his wonderful Camp Wapo, making wedding videos for friends, taking photos of friends and landscapes, living in beautiful Winona, and working at Fastenal. We were glad he wanted to make time to touch base with us.

Thanks, John. We will heed your closing admonition to "stay classy" and trust Waldorf College to - just as you asked - do the same.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Reconnecting with Kelli Linn-Bloomquist

Kelli Linn was back in Forest City today. More significantly, back in the land of Waldorf College.

She's Kelli Linn-Bloomquist now, a married mother of three young children (the newest just 3 months old). Kelli works as the coordinator of the Homeland Security Training Center located on the campus of Iowa Central Community College. In her role, she is responsible for coordinating media training opportunities for those working in government security positions across the state of Iowa - soon across the United States.

Kelli has an extensive media background, having worked in multiple media roles, and I regret I didn't take the opportunity to learn more about those vast experiences in the short time we met for lunch at Scoopy Doos today. It was simply more fun to reminisce about her days at KZOW, connect on what it feels like to be a working mom, and compare our concerns and hopes for our individual futures.

She confessed to feeling nervous about coming back; I've heard that before. As other alumni have shared, coming back to Waldorf - a place that has played a significant role during formative moments - isn't always easy. The rush of emotions that floods in can threaten to overwhelm. I know that feeling myself. I've had trips back to my alma mater, Wartburg College, where I have entered the Waverly city limits busily wiping tears.

I hope Kelli felt like she came home today - and not the literal kind of coming home - the kind of coming home that finds you meeting yourself as you were once-upon-a-time. Those experiences are empowering. They give you the hope you need to carry who you are now into the future.

As Kelli herself in advises in the video, "The biggest thing in life is just to show up." Wonderful advice, Kelli. And I agree. If you don't start by showing up, nothing else can hope to happen.

Kelli, it was wonderful to have lunch with you. Thank you.

As always, I continue to look forward to what might come next.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wonderful Willow + Terrific Tree House = Fun for All

A sweeping, majestic willow tree has always been the focal point of our wonderfully welcoming backyard, even when our backyard wasn't as wonderful or welcoming.

When we moved into our current home, our oldest son, Stross, was two-years-old. I remember that our relator was pleased the previous owners had left behind a backyard swing set for him. However, I also remember wishing it away. The metal monstrosity painted a painful picture of what lay ahead for our family.

Stross, born without the capacity to walk, required parents who had the capacity to make life accessible for him. That included our backyard. Any childhood memories we hoped he would experience there were ours to create; any playful moments in our backyard had to accommodate him and his specific abilities. A standard issue swing set wasn't going to cut it. We needed a custom tree house - one with ramps that would allow him to go wherever his cousins, neighborhood friends and future sibling wanted to go.

But that would require planning and researching and saving money for materials. So, for the first few years, we simply took Stross outside with us to enjoy being in the shade of the beautiful willow tree. But two years later - after the arrival of twin cousins and a baby brother we named Skye - Mark and I felt pressure to start building the tree house of our dreams for him. Stross needed a backyard that he could enjoy in equal portions to other children - especially his baby brother.

When Mark began the actual construction, one goal rose above all others: The tree house had to be fully accessible, able to be used by both our sons equitably. That meant long switchback ramps that rose off to one side of the willow tree's impressive trunk. It also meant a deck area brimmed by built-in benches (with an opening for the tree's trunk) so Stross and friends could play on a wheel-friendly surface. And to reach the second story? An enclosed climbing tower built of recycled decking material that does not splinter, so that, after parking his wheelchair at the tower's base, Stross could crawl, level by level, to very the top.

To bring the dream to life, our sons' grandparents built alongside us - their mom and dad (mostly dad); and board by board, the tree house grew until our sons had a place to grow together.

Soon, more equally wonderful things occurred because of the tree house's welcoming presence. Our backyard became a place for our entire family to create memories - birthdays, barbecues and backyard chats. When Stross turned 7, the tree house became a pirate ship; when he was 8, it was a castle. Skye's tree house birthdays were magical as well, including one where his invited guests blasted off to space aboard a tree-tower rocket ship.

Scores of college-aged boys and girls have tree house memories too, because each fall, our backyard is the place where freshmen congregate for part of their college orientation. Those who have declared communication arts as a major gather under the willow to meet one another and to learn what is involved in studying communications at our local college. Then, each spring, those who are just about to graduate linger in her shade to share memories just before sharing good-byes.

Because she is such a welcoming place, the tree house hosts seniors from the nearby nursing center several times a year. They talk with each other and with students from the college's Wellness class, while enjoying refreshments. Then, one by one, each man or woman is assisted on a trip up the ramps in order to pretend to be the "captain of a ship" or "the pilot of a steamboat" once again - or to simply get a better view of some beautiful flower beds. Not every tree house can claim to have - in the words of one visitor's relatives - "given mom the last 'best day' at the end of her life."

Both our sons are young men now, but not too old to play night games with friends using the tree house as home base; and, not too old to help their parents host a picnic for new faculty or a farewell for friends. Our family still has decades of birthdays to celebrate; bunches of barbecues to enjoy; handfuls of first dates to experience; and hundreds of afternoons to sit in the tree house, under the willow's canopy, and simply "be."

A sweeping, majestic willow tree has always been the focal point of our wonderfully welcoming backyard. I'm counting on the fact that it will be for many years to come.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Singing "Evermore"

Those who know Mark's and my "back story" know that we met as singing waiters. Only a few people witnessed what took place on those weekends as we reluctantly gave in to an infatuation that had the potential of becoming something more. The something more has extended more than a quarter century - 9 months figuring it out, 9 months being engaged, and 24 years marveling at what it means to be married.

Of course we love singing with each other at a wedding (and, yes, we sang at our own wedding). Weddings allow Mark and me to experience the intimacy of music in exponential portions: phrasing together, breathing in sync, knowing when the other might miss a lyric and then finding our way back despite it. During a wedding, we are all about the married couple, trying not to look directly at each other too much, since the attention belongs to the bride and groom. But during the pre-wedding rehearsal, we can just be us and have fun singing together, because - truly - there is nothing else like it in the world.

The song in this vlog (footage begins with actual wedding but the remainder is our pre-wedding warm-up) is one of the very first songs we ever sang together - early in our dating relationship. I don't think we could have comprehended how prophetic the lyrics have been. I simply know that every time we sing Evermore, decades of experiences pass through my mind in a storyline that feels epic.

I always wanted to marry a man I could sing duets with - and not just any kind of duets - romantic ones. So whenever we have an opportunity to sing together, especially for a wedding, I am reminded that I had a dream come true. I know I probably take that for granted too often. But I'm not taking it for granted tonight: I got to marry a man who made my dream come true; and not just one dream, but a few others as well.

Ok, that's probably more schmaltz than you like. But you know what? It's real. And I will be deeply grateful from this time forth and evermore.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Riding the Storm Out - June 17

Our band's rehearsal this week turned into a time of shared survival as we waited out a threatening storm. While our community - and even our physical location in the community - fared well (only severe wind damage with downed power lines and trees), others were not as fortunate.

As you can see from my vlog, every person reacts to threatening weather in a different way. But we knew that already, right? What you won't see here are the vast number of text messages and phone calls that were being made by each one of us to our loved ones. We all needed to be assured and reassured that our children and significant others were safe and acting responsibly.

What you will see in the vlog is how a married couple - namely Mark and me - can act fully opposite of each other during a time like this, and how we likely weren't fighting about it because we didn't want to fight in front of our friends. That is simplistic thinking - totally - as I'm not acknowledging all the other dynamics at work. I believe there is likely a testosterone v. estrogen ratio at work, guiding reactions during a storm, as well. I'll leave you to hypothesize about how the ratio may or may not manifest itself.

Anyway, I know this: If I have to be hunkered down somewhere riding a storm out, and I'm not with my children, I can think of no better place to be than with my husband and a handful of really great friends, and I can think of no better situation for my children to be in that where they were last night. Stross - with a nurse/friend in our basement; Skye - with faculty friends and their son in their basement.

Not gonna lie, wasn't thrilled about the sheet metal roof over my head, but at least the building had a cinder block bathroom. And we could have all fit in it if we had to! Just so you know ...

Since last night my thoughts and prayers have been with families whose lives have been changed forever by the tornadoes and severe storms that blew through. My paternal grandparents had to rebuild their farm after a tornado when my father was 7 years old. My Aunt Lois' and Uncle Chuck's farm has been hit by a tornado - twice. One of my cousins has also had to rebuild a farm after a tornado, and another cousin has in-laws whose quality of physical life has forever been altered because of a tornado. The danger and impact of nature's atmospheric turbulence is all too real sometimes.

When I think of tornadoes - or twisters, as some like to call them - I also think of this line: "It's all fun and games until somebody gets hurt." Indeed.

I pray you are feeling safe and well-cared for today. And, perhaps like me, you have appreciated the reminder that - truly - there is no place like home. No place at all.

Monday, June 14, 2010

UFN - Getting Closer to the Sound

Well, our band, Until Further Notice, (which we lovingly refer to as UFN or 'just a little mixed up fun') had another night of rehearsal recently. We got through the remainder of the songs we think we might be able to have performance ready in time for our local Relay for Life concert.

We're still searching for harmonies that, at times, seem hopelessly lost. Mark and I are pretty confident we're not singing things the way we used to. We just hope the new way we are singing them will eventually sound just as good - or maybe even a bit better.

I was reminded - yet again - of the joy there is in simply letting music and lyrics take you to another place in time. I think that is part of what happens to each one of us when we get together. We connect with a part of our past that resonates with some sort of musical memory - kind of like muscle memory only with music.

For Mark and I, it's likely that our musical frequencies tune to the days when we met as singing waiters at Carver's Restaurant. On some level, singing equates flirting to us, and mingling our voices in harmony is a bit of an intimate experience. Don't worry. I'll stop there. Or if you'd like to know more, read how I describe those days in Chapter 2 of Involuntary Joy. (Yes, another shameless plug, but it's my blog. I'm entitled.)

As for Dave, he sings melody and plays bass for us, but he began with the guitar. So Dave's musical memories might connect him to times in college when he pulled out a guitar and began playing with roommates or dorm mates or whomever wanted to discover what sounds there were to be made during a late night jam. Even I can envision that kind of night in my mind, and I never managed to learn guitar chords well enough to play. Ah, good times.

What is there to say about Gremmer, our lead guitarist? He is a drummer at heart but taught himself to play the guitar, in part, because we needed him to. That says a lot right there, doesn't it? Have you noticed that he is one of those guys who can't help but smile with his entire face? And on rehearsal nights, Gremmer smiles a lot, and he dances with his guitar a lot too. He's got this sway-and-weave sort of movement that indicates he's "feelin' the groove." That makes us all smile.

And then there is Roger. I don't know you if can tell (you should be able to), but Roger is like, well, a real drummer who used to play in real bands. The kind of bands that had scary names and car loads of female groupies. That stick twirling you see him doing from time to time? He can probably do it in his sleep now. In fact, I think he could drum in his sleep.

I wish you could see and hear our other guitarist, Greg Owen, as well. He and Roger share a rock 'n' roll past. They were in two different bands together. Our band, Until Further Notice, is their third. And while we might not have the hardest and loudest sound of the bands they've been in, we've been together the longest and might have the tightest sound. That counts for a lot.

So here we are again with different songs this week. Still the same crazy fun, however. I hope you enjoy. Oh, and if you missed the excerpts from last week's rehearsal, you can check them out here. (June 3 UFN Rehearsal) Enjoy!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Those of you who have read Involuntary Joy might understand how my husband's place of employment (which has also been, at times, mine as well) has shaped our lives in the same way a person would. Our arrival on campus – almost exactly 17 years ago – felt a bit like coming home. The "call" to kinship with her DNA was undeniable. And so, we uprooted our lives, trading old dreams for new ones in order to share a future that we believed was full of promise.

Before I write much more, I feel the need to share this: Waldorf College is one of the easiest and, paradoxically, most difficult topics for me to write about. When I've had the opportunity to write copy for marketing or public relations pieces, the words flow easily, for I know Waldorf intimately and honor the wonder of her, cherishing the personal transformations that have occurred on her campus since her beginnings in 1903.

This is not that kind of piece; therefore, my task is exponentially more difficult–as difficult as writing about a family member and wanting it to be "just right." Doubting that is possible, I'll forge ahead anyway.

As the fruit of Lutheran education (Go, Wartburg Knights!), I have lived my adult life in kinship with all sister institutions as if they were members of the family. Because I grew up United Methodist, I never really thought much about my spiritual heritage (I was baptized Lutheran) until I was courted by the admissions staff at Wartburg College. And then, thanks to encouragement from then President Robert Vogel, I soon forsake scholarship packages from other institutions for the chance to become a Wartburg Knight – a decision that had my Lutheran godmother, Aunt Lois, rejoicing. Once transplanted on the Wartburg campus, it was as if a seed had found the soil it needed to grow deep roots and flourish.

You see, I know what it means to "Be Orange." But I also know what it means to "Live Purple."

Waldorf College ... what am I to do with you? You helped bring some of my husband's vocational dreams to life and coaxed me into the classroom. You didn't seem aware that I'd vowed to not follow in my educator parents' footsteps. And, yet, I became an educator in spite of myself – all because you needed someone to teach the knowledge and skills I enjoyed using while employed in a career I loved.

So, year after year, as young men and women found their way to campus to discover their individual callings, my roots stayed watered and even deepened. I felt myself growing with Mark and, in turn, both of us felt strengthened by colleagues who shared a vision for educating "the whole person" in an atmosphere where faith and reason divinely mingled.  

In recent years, the people who are Waldorf College have experienced personal pruning and even transplanting – each event as difficult as the circumstances that are represented by the change. For instance, this summer our family will say good-bye to friends who have lived in this community for 26 years – nine years longer than we have. They came as a couple and have raised four children here. We have been in a Bible study with them for more than a decade and have celebrated our children's confirmations, graduations, and various school accomplishments. We have grieved together. We have been frustrated at life together. We have been awed by life together. Now they are moving on - transplanting their lives to a place where they can continue to be nourished and grow.

It's not as if we have never seen people come and go from this fascinating place. We have. In fact, when we arrived 17 summers ago, we were taken under wing by several elderly couples who had recently retired from Waldorf. The kind of emerita and emeritus (now no longer living) whose names and spirits are infused in the hearts of thousands of alumni. They saw Waldorf through some of her darkest days and believed we had come to help her transition into an expression that would help her withstand unforeseen days to come (i.e., changing from a junior college into a baccalaureate institution).

Their tutelage testified to us in recent years when we needed it most - when our roots felt exposed, and we wondered what remained for us in this place they had built with love. As the ground shifted under us, we wondered: How deep do our roots go? How much nourishment do we require? Are we healthy enough to withstand inclement times? I even found myself wondering if I was more like a hosta or a rose – or if it even mattered.

I still don't really know.

Whenever Mark and I hear of another friend who has decided to uproot – to transplant their life in a place with soil that promises rich nourishment – we look for the sun and stretch to search for water. Are we still able to flourish where we are planted, or are we in denial about the condition of our garden?

This past week we got some unsolicited nourishment from two former students - Melanie Lane, class of '07, (the first vlog) and Justin Hawley, class of '99 (the second vlog). We had a chance encounter with Melanie, who works at Mayo Clinic, in the Rochester subway, just outside our favorite lunch spot. She joined us for lunch, bringing stories and memories full of life and light and love. And when she spontaneously thanked us and shared what we have meant in her life, I cried. I didn't know how much I needed to hear what she said.

Obviously, I didn't ask her repeat what she said for my vlog and I won't type her kind words verbatim here (even I am not that tacky), but I did ask her to repeat a story she shared about her volleyball coaching experience. Waldorf communication alums, you'll see why.

When we got back to Stross' clinic exam room, I posted on Facebook that we had run into Melanie during lunch. That generated a posting with an offer to share dinner from Justin Hawley, another communications alum who has transplanted to Rochester, Minn., where he is flourishing. And, fortunately, we were able to – almost as spontaneously – make that reunion happen as well. Then, during dinner he, too, volunteered extremely kind words about Mark and I in an expression of affirming gratitude.

I've spent a lot of time tending to my garden this week - figuratively, of course. Perhaps Mark has too. We both seem to need reassurance that our lives are still in a place where we can - not just grow - but flourish.

Hey, Waldorf College Communications alumni. If we haven't told you lately, please know that we love you. Your lives continue to nourish ours. We are grateful. Many blessings to you - each and every one.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Our Day at the Mayo Clinic - Rochester

The medical profession has played a significant role in our son Stross' life since the moment his lungs first filled with air. Please understand that medical professionals may have assisted him in taking his first breath, but no more than they would have another newborn. No, their most diligent medical efforts for our otherwise healthy newborn-infant-child-now-a-young-man, have been related to his physical and intellectual condition.

His malformed body has been the reason our family has grown comfortably accustomed to the rhythm and reason of medical facilities. During the span of his 19 years, we've split our time between four major hospitals and become well acquainted with more than two dozen doctors. We've also shared hours upon hours of life with occupational and physical therapists. In addition to seemingly endless therapies, these years have also been marked by 14 surgeries and a hospitalization for an illness–rotavirus–that got out of hand.

But those facts aren't offered as complaints - only context. It's my way of attempting to explain how a place like the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, now feels like a former hometown we love to visit. Well, only if it's for a day of checkup appointments (a.k.a., the Spina Bifida Clinic Day).

Our family probably appreciates clinic days the way distant relatives appreciate family reunions. You get pre-visit anxiety, but mostly related to not fully knowing what to expect. And, you might enjoy a full day of really good news, or a day that goes down the dumper for a hidden reason that finally becomes known. There is only one way to find out, however: Show up and endure it all.

There is soooooo much more I could write about the way our family tackles a typical clinic day.

* How we strategically pack for a day that's mostly hurry-up-then-wait.
* How we understand to rush from one diagnostic test to the next so we won't get behind schedule the remainder of our day.
* How we individually entertain ourselves in our examination room "home base" while waiting for one doctor after another to stop by for a consult.
* How to create a new experience on our way to lunch or another building if we ever do get ahead of schedule.
* How we've learned to ask questions for which we might not like the answer.
* How coffee breaks and chocolate treats perk up the most tiring day.
* How budgeting a shopping stop on the way home is an important component to our personal wellness.
* How preparing for the possibility of tears makes them a bit more tolerable should they decide to well up and spill out.
* How time spent in an exam room or waiting room moves at half the speed of time spent eating lunch.
* How we feel connected to every person with whom we share an elevator ride - whether they are on their way to work or medical tests and consults of their own.

Our good news on this visit: Stross has graduated to annual visits across the board.

Our not-so-good news: Stross' body is no longer capable of safely bearing his weight when he pulls himself to stand. Where he once was capable of walking long hallways for large portions of time (using leg braces and arm crutches or a walker), he now should no longer attempt to stand.

Basically, we saw our son stand on his feet for the last time on this visit - if you could even call what he was doing on Monday "standing." I recognized the grief when it came. The same brand of tears I cried when we realized he should no longer use his crutches or walker to walk. My solace at that time was: At least he can still stand. Now that becomes a memory too. And you can see what it looks like as well, should you decide to join us on our clinic day via the vlog. I chose not to record my tears. Those are for my memories alone.

I hope you do watch these few clips from our day; I hope you enjoy seeing such a day through our eyes. If your family has someone that gives you a reason to be familiar with such experiences, I'd love hearing how your family tackles these days. We're all in it together, aren't we? And thankfully so.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Stross was Born to Ride

Written Sunday, June 6, 2010, 11 p.m.
Monday will be a full day of appointments at the Mayo Clinic – beginning at 7:30 a.m. and ending when our 4 p.m. consult ends. Because it makes Stross’ no-food-or-drink-after-midnight easier, we typically head to the Med City on Sunday night (like tonight) to spend the evening at our favorite home-away-from-home hotel.

We do this whenever Stross' Mayo schedule calls for an early start to an incredibly full day. It gives us time for a preparatory evening of pizza, swimming (sometimes) and a good night's sleep.

This time we had a surprise for Stross upon our arrival. We had arranged for a visit from Heather with Bikes for Everybody. In fact when we pulled into the parking lot, she had already arrived from Red Wing with a hand-pedal bike for Stross to try. The vlog is really the best way for you to find out what happened next.

Some context might be helpful for you, however. For instance, you might appreciate knowing that we attempted to get a bike for Stross more than a decade ago. It matched his abilities at the time and was among the latest technologies at the time, but it required too much energy and coordination to be fun. For Stross, that bike felt more like physical therapy than recreation. We didn't know that on the day he got it, though. I clearly remember and cherish the memories of the day it arrived. His blue bike had him beaming. He felt just like one of the neighborhood kids and, equipped with a set of wheels to call his own, he tried his darndest to keep up with them.

I don't remember when the fun became work. I only remember that the blue bike's days faded with Stross' interest in keeping up with the neighborhood kids. Sometimes fun isn't worth it. Fun has to be fun.

Today was fully different. Stross is a young man now. And while he’s lost more of his already lacking physical abilities in his lower extremities, he’s more than made up for the reduced lower body mobility with his upper body. A hand-pedaled bike is just what his body likes, and exactly what he needs. This bike promises grownup-type pleasure rides, exercise and even independence. And the time he spent in the hotel's parking lot with the demo not only looked fun, it felt fun. As with the blue bike years ago, seeing Stross ride the hand-pedal bike brought his dad and I one of those elusive moments of involuntary joy.

Our oldest son rode a bike today. He rode one independently of us and looked extremely grown up as he rode it. So we'll figure out a way to buy him a bike just like this one - only in emerald green with a black seat (Stross' choice). And we'll probably smile every time he rides it, because he'll be smiling. After all he was born ready to embrace moments such as these, and many, many more.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Continuing to play "until further notice"

Sometime in the late 90s, Mark and I became part of a worship band – first known as Band-Aide – that facilitated our church's Wednesday evening worship experience. More than a decade and several versions of that original band later, five of us, who have been known as Until Further Notice for at least 10 years, continue to find our way back to the music that first brought us together:

• Roger Lyons, drums
• Jeff Gremmer, acoustic guitar
• Dave Melby, bass guitar and lead vocals
• Mark Newcom, vocals
• Joy Newcom, vocals

and when we are fortunate enough to get on his schedule so he can join us in a reunion concert: Greg Owen, the man who can make a guitar sing.

Last summer, we got back together after a four-year hiatus for a reunion concert as part of Forest City's Puckerbrush Days. We had so much fun that we agreed to do a concert again this year on July 17, and we even added a concert on June 26 for our local Relay for Life.

I think the music is a tonic. We feel younger when we play - almost invincible again - at least for a little bit. And how we interact with each other is a good medicine too. We can talk about anything that comes to mind and have fun with it, even if it's serious business. In the time we've been Until Further Notice, we've survived a couple divorces, a bankruptcy, surgeries (for ourselves and our children), serious illnesses, career shifts, career ends and beginnings, child craziness and much, much more.

Last night, after our gear was stored and our minds began to shift out of musical mode, we sat on the floor talking about baseball (perfect games, bad calls, catching equipment, wild pitches, crazy teammates, and groin injuries), and we laughed and lingered as long as we could.

Our sound isn't fully back yet. But it's very close. Maybe we will even work up some new tunes this summer. Who knows? I'm just glad we've kept our covenant to one another to keep getting back together as opportunity allows - even if it's for a few concerts every summer. And I'm grateful we all still feel like we want to keep making music together - until further notice.