Monday, October 23, 2017

Graduation Day


The day finally came:  May 13, 2017 - Daniel's graduation from the University of Tennessee.

And what a great day it was! We drove up to Knoxville on Friday and got to Thompson-Bowling Arena bright and early on Saturday to get good seats. The ceremony lasted a couple of hours, but the speakers were interesting and it was worth it to see Daniel walk across the stage to receive his well-earned degree.

Fun facts:
  • The graduates don't sit in alphabetical order. They are given a placard with their name as they want it read and what degree that they are receiving.
  • The diplomas are mailed out later, so the graduates received rolled up fake diplomas.
  • The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest college at UT and is the longest commencement
  • Daniel received a Bachelor of Music degree in Studio Music and Jazz w/emphasis on Drum Set 
  • Daniel and one of his friends, John Dooley (pictured below), have known each other since the fifth grade at Meigs Magnet School and went to Hume-Fogg together before ending up at UT.
  • Daniel and his roommate, Luther (also pictured below), also a drummer, met the first week of Freshman year and became fast friends.

He's down there in the section in the foreground, somewhere in the middle
Daniel got to sit with some of his friends

Daniel and John Dooley

Grandma and Mom with the graduate
Analese, Anita, Dad and Noah with the graduate


Mom and Dad with the grad:  We all did it!
 After the ceremony, we headed over to Daniel and Luther's apartment and had a delicious catered lunch with both families. Luther's mom ordered some good Southern food from a local restaurant and I provided a cake. It was a fun time to hear stories of Daniel and Luther's years in the dorm and rooming together and Luther showed us some video from his Senior recital.

Laughing about some antics that Luther and Daniel told about from their dorm days
Luther's Senior recital

Luther and Daniel

We didn't notice until later that the cake has some typos!

Showing their true personalities


Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Well, Hi!

It's been a while since I have posted and I'm honestly trying to decide if I'm going to continue with the blog or let it come to an end. I do enjoy writing and am glad that I have this outlet for sharing thoughts and memories. I think I'll try catching up on some major events that have happened over the past six or seven months and then see how it goes from there.

Before I go on, my salutation at the top reminded me of one of my favorite stories from Daniel's childhood. He was about two or three years old and Halloween was coming, so I thought I should teach him how to trick-or-treat. One day I told him that in a few days he would get to wear a costume and we'd go to our friends' houses to get candy (of course, this sounded like a great idea to him).

I had him go in his room and close the door and told him that I would knock and he should open the door. When he opened the door, I said, "Trick or Treat!" very enthusiastically and offered him a pretend bag for him to put pretend candy inside. We did it that way a couple of times and then I told him that I'd stay in his room and he could go in the hall and knock on the door. When he knocked on the door, I opened it and smiled at him, waiting for him to speak first. After a couple of seconds, I said, "What do you say?" Daniel smiled real big and said very confidently, "Well, hi!"

I burst out laughing and reminded him to say "Trick or Treat!" in order to get candy on Halloween. We've gotten a lot of laughs out of that memory for the past twenty or so years!

So, stay tuned for some new posts coming soon!

Monday, March 6, 2017

Daniel's Senior Recital


If I had a dollar for every time someone has commented to me how fast Daniel's four years of college have gone by, I'd have enough to book another cruise! I agree with everyone that it has gone by very fast and it is hard to believe that Daniel will be graduating from college in May.

My theory on why it has seemed to go by faster than any other stage of his life is that he has been away at school. Other stages have gone by in the blink of an eye, but I was at least getting more of the day-to-day details from living under the same roof. College has been a different story and while we have stayed in close touch, thankfully, having the weeks and months go by without seeing Daniel has made the time zoom by.

So, that brings me to the point of this post:  Daniel's Senior Recital. If you're not familiar with music majors, they are usually required to perform a recital in the Junior year which is a practice run, so to speak, for the Senior recital. The Senior recital is a culmination of all four years of study and is a big event for a music major. Being a drummer, Daniel had to recruit other musicians to play with him (wouldn't that be be funny show to watch a drummer play solo for an hour). He also had to choose and arrange the songs and make the plans for rehearsals and secure the date for the performance with the School of Music. Pretty much gets things planned from start to finish and then gets a grade, and more importantly, the go-ahead to graduate with a Bachelor of Music degree.

I overheard Daniel talking on the phone to a friend before he went back to Knoxville after Christmas break, and they were talking about all the work that Daniel needed to do to start preparing for his recital. At that point, the recital was still a few weeks away. He evidently put his all into it, because on February 20, Daniel and his friends put on a performance that made everyone proud!




Daniel was so relaxed and he and his friends seemed to be having fun on stage together. In fact, several of the guys are some of Daniel's best friends, including Luther Allison, who played the piano, and has been Daniel's roommate for couple of years. Another guy, Jeremy Wright, who played guitar, has been with Daniel all four years at UT. Still another friend, the trumpet player, was at Hume-Fogg with Daniel for two years and then came to school at UT. Nathan Domini, who played upright bass, actually went to our church in Nashville when he was a child, and then ended up as a student at UT in the Jazz program and got reacquainted with Daniel. Small world kind of stuff!

In true Daniel fashion, he confidently spoke at the mic to introduce some of the songs and give shout-outs to his band and others. It was just a fun show to watch!
Grandma, Daniel, Mom, Bud & Vickie

Dad, Daniel, Anita, Keith

Daniel with Nana & Papa G

Good friend, John Dooley and his mom
Daniel had his typical "fan club" present:  Mom, Dad, Anita, Grandma, Uncle Bud and Aunt Vickie, Papa G and Nana. Some other relatives weren't able to make it this time (Nana, Papa, Aunt Dana, the Masseys, etc.), but were able to watch via livestream. There were also many of Daniel's college friends who came, as well as some friends from church. One friend, John Dooley, has known Daniel since the fifth grade when they were at Meigs Magnet School and his mother was their teacher (and she happened to be in town to visit John, so she attended the recital). All counted, there were around 55-60 people there, including his professor, Keith Brown.







After the recital was over, we gathered out in the foyer of the music building to congratulate Daniel and we showed some pictures of Daniel drumming through the years. We also had some custom decorated cookies to give to the guests, which was a special touch for a special night.


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Turning 50!

This year marks a milestone for me:  I turned 50! I've been alive for five decades! How can that be?

I really haven't had any qualms with turning 50. In fact, I was kind of looking forward to it, seeing it as the start to my "second half" of life. With Daniel graduating from college this year and "leaving the nest" officially, I feel like I have a blank slate and can't wait to see what all the Lord brings in this next chapter of life for both of us.

If you know me well, you know that I like to start celebrating my birthday at the beginning of the month (February 3rd is the actual day) and then continue the celebration as long as it will go . . . all month if possible. This year on my actual birthday, I was feeling under the weather, but didn't want to squander the day being sick, so my mom took me out to lunch and we shopped for a little while at an antique mall where our friend Robin works. It was the perfect outing and I enjoyed the rest of the day sitting on my couch under a quilt reading a book.




Oh, and God gave me a beautiful sunset to end the day!



On Sunday after church, some friends treated me to lunch and then I went to a party that was being given in my honor. I enjoyed visiting with the many sweet friends who could come and eating delicious treats, like apple cake made from my mom and grandmother's recipe. Yum! My friends also showered me with sweet words of encouragement and affirmation and presented me with a surprise gift.











For many years, probably since high school or college days, I have had a dream of getting to fly in a hot air balloon. I have been on a tethered ride, but it is my desire to actually go on a flight (some call me crazy for that). Well, my sweet friends decided to make my dream come true and gave me a gift certificate for a hot air balloon flight for two! It takes a lot to surprise me and they absolutely did! I am looking forward to planning a flight with Daniel this Spring!




Last, but not least, some friends took me to dinner the week after my birthday. I had requested that we go to a place where we could hear live music, but when we got to the place we had chosen, it was pretty crowded, so we decided to go across the street and eat some Mexican food. It was much better to be able to sit down and enjoy some good food and conversation and at the end of the meal, the server told us that someone had already taken care of my bill (we think we know who the birthday elves were). It was a fun night to go out on the town to celebrate!






Monday, February 6, 2017

Belize 2017

In January, I was able to return to Belize on a mission trip with Access-Life. Our team of 15 came together from Tennessee, Florida and Texas. We stayed at the Hearts of Christ mission in Roaring Creek Village and went out from there to build ramps for three people. We also traveled to San Ignacio two consecutive days to visit a nursing home and to hold the Expo event at a college. Below is my recap of each day:

TUESDAY:



On our first full day in Belize, the day started out very wet. The team stayed at the Hearts of Christ mission and started organizing supplies and cleaning equipment that had been shipped. Korie and some of the guys went to buy lumber and materials for the first ramp that would be built. After lunch, the rain stopped and we all loaded up and headed to the work site.
 

Ciara
The first ramp was for a family with several children, one of whom has Cerebral Palsy. Ciara is almost 10 years old and has a smile that lights up her face. We met her mom, Kimone, and her cousin Taylor and baby brother Will. Their house was up on stilts, so the ramp needed to be “double decker” with a landing in between. The building team had put together the larger pieces before we went to the site, so they got to work building the framework and finishing out the ramps.
 
While the building team worked, others on the A-L team walked around the village neighborhood to hand out hygiene packs and candy to the children and families who were walking home from school. The activity attracted a lot of attention and one family came by asking for some kind of chair for their son, Wilson, who was born with deformities in all four limbs. Leanne and John had gone back to the Hearts of Christ mission to get a chair for Ciara and at the last minute decided to put a mobility stroller in the van to see if Ciara could use it. When they got back to the job site, Wilson and his family were there and it was very evident that God had intended the mobility stroller to go to him.
 
Doug’s morning devotion had reminded us that God is with us and goes before us, so this was affirmation that God was at work and had gone before us to help us to be prepared for the families we met that day.
 
WEDNESDAY:



The plan for the day was to build two ramps for families who live not too far from Roaring Creek Village. Our team was divided up to send some out to build and to leave others at Hearts of Christ to clean and sort and organize medical equipment and supplies.


Ms. Sonia:
The first ramp of the day was for Ms. Sonia, a woman who had one of her legs amputated below the knee last October. She was surprised when we drove up, as she didn’t know what day we were coming. We also were able to give her a motorized wheelchair to help her to get around. 


One serendipity was that while I was inside meeting Ms. Sonia, the building crew removed the stairs. Instead of jumping down 5 feet into mud, I stayed inside and visited with Ms. Sonia for a couple of hours while her ramp was being built. It was a sweet time to learn some of Ms. Sonia's story and to hear about her family who lives close by.
 
Several of Ms. Sonia’s siblings live nearby on their family ranch, so our team was also able to meet them and see about some of their needs. One brother, Roy, needed colostomy supplies, and one of the sisters, Matilda, has stage four cancer and was blessed to receive a scripture blanket and a wooded cross carved with the words, “Amazing Grace.” Our team was blessed by all of the interactions with Ms. Sonia and her family.


Ms. Laverne:
The second ramp was built for Ms. Laverne, a woman suffering from arthritis in her knees and arms. She needed a ramp to get out of her house and we also were able to give her a motorized wheelchair. Her daughters, Desiree and Haley and son, Leon, were thankful that we could help their mom. The family was also blessed to receive a scripture blanket and a wooden cross.

THURSDAY:
 
 
 
Our team stayed at Hearts of Christ to clean and organize equipment and get supplies ready for the Expo. One of our team members, Norm, had an accident while working on a flat tire on a trailer, smashing his thumb pretty badly. He was taken to the ER and thankfully they could bandage it up, but the injury was significant enough that Norm and his wife, Nancy, decided they should go home the next day. Rick and Korie were also able to take some other vehicles to get tires fixed on Thursday and we got the trailers loaded up with all of the equipment and supplies to take to San Ignacio on Friday.



Jesilyn:
One family had made arrangements to bring their daughter, Jesilyn, to the Hearts of Christ mission to see about getting her a chair. John worked on a chair for and when it was ready, he got it adjusted just right for the little girl. While all of that was going on, several team members were cleaning other mobility equipment to get it ready to take the the Expo. I was helping with that for a few minutes and noticed that Sharyn was cleaning a pediatric walker/gait trainer and commented how small it was. After Jesilyn was fitted for her chair, John said that they had something else that the family could use. They brought in that exact pediatric walker and it was a perfect fit for Jesilyn. It was a joy to see how God once again had gone before us and knew that we could give away that piece of equipment to help Jesilyn gain greater mobility.

FRIDAY:
 

Friday morning we drove to San Ignacio to check out the Expo site at Sacred Heart College in the gymnasium. While we were there, we found out that we were going to be able to set up for the Expo that day (we were originally told that they had an event there that night that would prevent us setting up early). After lunch and a visit to the nursing home, we unloaded the trailers and got the different areas set up for Saturday. Everyone was excited that we wouldn't have to leave as early on Saturday morning to get to San Ignacio!

Our visit to Octavia Waight Home was a sweet time for our team. We gave each resident a scripture blanket and a Bible, and also donated some medical supplies and hygiene kits. One of the Hearts of Christ team members, Deb, played the piano and sang hymns and we all joined in. Afterward, Deb told the team that she had almost completely lost her voice and had not been able to sing for a couple of years. After getting some treatment, her voice was healing and she was happy to have been able to sing for the residents. The residents enjoyed the singing and appreciated our visit with them. It was wonderful to see some friends we had met in 2016, as well as Susanna, the director. Some of our team also met a nurse who does a lot of physical therapy for the residents. She was encouraged by our team's visit and was excited to receive the supplies we brought.

Saturday:
 
 
On Saturday morning, we drove back to San Ignacio for the Expo. As we drove up, we saw that people had already started to arrive, several hours ahead of the announced start time. As we finished getting everything set up, more people came and by the 10:00 start time, we had a line of people waiting to get in, mostly to see if there was any equipment that we could give to them. We had lots of activities available for the participants, from painting to games and adaptive fitness to crafts and face painting. We also offered a prayer and care booth and a photo booth.

At the art booth, Beth, Carolyn and Sheila were able to help many children and adults to paint, some for the first time in their lives. Especially some of the adults were reluctant to paint, thinking that they were creative or artistic. After they tried it, they found that it was very relaxing and that it was something that they could do. One man named Antonio came to the art booth in a power chair, unable to use his arms. His caregiver and Beth were able to assist him in writing his name and then painting "God is good" on the paper. He told Beth that this was the first time that he had been able to use his hand in over a year and it had given him hope. Another boy named Edwin, who had a shriveled hand, came to paint and his friend and Sheila were able to help him to paint. Afterward, they helped him to toss the football and when he was able to do it, they all did a "happy dance."

Sharyn, Mike and Jimmy enjoyed their time at the adaptive fitness booth, helping people learn to do ladder drills and use the battle ropes, and teaching them how they could do exercises at home. Jimmy and Mike were able to visit with a man who was a double amputee and a soldier who was wounded in Guyana. Both of the men they met were encouraged to meet some people who lived with disabilites and were able to be active. They also met Jalen and Jaden, twin brothers who were in power chairs. They were students at the college and were both excited that we had come to do the Expo there.

On the medical equipment side of the gym, John, Lisa, Ashley, Cindy, Helen, Janet, Dave, Rick, and Korie were kept busy throughout the Expo with trying to match people with equipment that would best meet their needs. It took a lot of adjustment and fitting to make things work for each person. Some who came were not able to get exactly what they wanted, but everyone got was was best for their situation and need. We also had a lot of equipment that had been donated that was very intensive and user-specific or needed a therapist to assist with it. God sent a man named Juan who is one of only four or five physical therapists in Belize. He is starting some therapy facilities and needed equipment to get it up and running. He plans to treat children free of charge and we were able to give him several pieces of equipment that he can use for therapy, as well as some mats and adaptive fitness equipment.

A large group of disabled people came from Belize City and they had to take taxis and a bus to get to San Ignacio, but God provided for them to get there and we were able to give all of them medical supplies and equipment that they could use. Other families brought children with cognitive disabilities who were able to enjoy the activities and get resources. Over 250 people attended the Expo (including volunteers), making it a larger turn out than the two previous years in Roaring Creek Village. All of the chairs were given away, including some that were traded in that day.

After the Expo was over and we got things loaded up, we headed back to Hearts of Christ. On the way, we stopped to see Eli, a parapalegic man we had met last year and built a ramp for his home. Eli is interested in cycling and Mike had brought a hand cycle to give to him. Eli was surprised to see the group and was happy to meet Mike and Jimmy and to see Doug again. The guys were able to give Eli some words of encouragement and we had a prayer time for Eli. Jimmy later shared with the group that he had been tempted to just stay in the van and let the others visit with Eli, but God had prompted him to get out and meet Eli. Jimmy was thankful that he had obeyed God's leading and was inspired and encouraged by their time together.

As many of the team expressed in our debriefing time, the interactions we had at the Expo and all week long were not always easy and the people we met lived in some difficult conditions and circumstances. Over and over again, we saw that people had a resilient and grateful spirit and were so appreciative that we had come to help them. We may never know the impact that we are having on others, but God is with us and with them and goes before us to prepare the way as we are obedient to Him.




Saturday, December 31, 2016

Year in Review: January-May 2016

I haven't been keeping up with my blog as often, but since it's the last day of 2016, I wanted to do a recap of the highlights:

January:
I went on a mission trip to Belize, my first of three international trips in 2016. You can read all about the Belize trip here.


February:
It was my birthday month and I celebrated with my mom and several of my friends throughout the month.










March:
This month I tried out a clean eating plan called "Whole30" and enjoyed the benefits of getting back on a healthier track of eating. I did another 30-day round in September and it has become a life-style change, for the most part.


Also, in March, Daniel had his Junior Recital at the University of Tennessee and it was great to see his accomplishments as a drummer.




April:
Mom and I celebrated Easter together in Nashville. At the end of the month, I went to Knoxville to see Daniel play again and got to spend some time with Doug and Leanne.



May:
Fun times spent with my community group "Breaking Out" and with our church family at a picnic on the church property. I also hosted a cook out for Memorial Day.