Wednesday, November 22, 2017

November 22

54 years ago, this date fell on a Friday.  As a 19 y/o Sr. student nurse I was studying/working at Baltimore's Seton Institute.  And I was looking forward to a movie date scheduled for that evening.

The rest of that day, and I daresay the rest of our lives, was immeasurably altered by the horrendous act in Dallas on November 22, 1963.  We used to hear words like 'What were you doing?' or 'I will never forget what happened that day', and we used to talk with each other about our individual experiences.  I am doubtful that many (if any) of the millions born since then, however empathetic, can truly understand or appreciate the depth of the emotions we felt.

No matter what our "political" alliances were, we were so "old-fashioned" that we prayed, or at least wished, for the success of the President of the United States.  Because we knew, we sincerely understood, that that sentiment was "best" for each of us, for our families, and for our country.  

The evening movie? Unforgettable! The 18 y/o newly-minted Marine (the youngest fellow I had ever dated), clad in his dress blues, instead escorted me on a train ride to our nation's capitol, where we walked up and down a score of its streets, visiting several churches in the process.  The entire city was like a cathedral, cloaked in silence broken only by a whispered greeting or a heartfelt prayer.  We comforted each other by our presence, our shared grief.

Rest in peace, John. And may God bless us, one and all.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Coffee Milk

If you would kindly consider thinking of the deepdark-pink-nearly-but-not-quite-red, mottled with white - -  what WAS that tabletop’s material? Formica? I simply do NOT know - - but it is where we ate most of our meals - - the oval shaped table with red covered seats and backs - - aluminum/chrome chairs; our # 1 daughter has it in her home right now; when we visit for family feasts it usually holds all the desserts.

But during (my) childhood times, it commanded the “breakfast room”.  That’s funny. Because we DID have a nice big dining room table in the dining room, but we saved that for Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Easter. Or some other rare very special occasion.  So we always ate on the lovely not quite red table.  Daddy sat at the head of the table, Mama to his left, my brother to her left.  My sister sat at Daddy’s right hand, just across from my mother.  I sat next to my sister, directly across from my brother.  Don’t know how they decided on the seating arrangement.  I remember it very distinctly, though. 

My mother was a good cook.  A really good cook.  Hmmm…I’ll talk about that another time…but for now let's talk about my father's "coffee milk".

I want to tell you something about why my father drank coffee the way he did.  And I imagine a lot of folks who lived through the depression and worked in areas like my dad did may have learned the same sort of things he did, in order to survive.  He had gone up to New York City from Atlanta because he had an offer of work which, although only occasional, paid a small amount.  He told me that in the morning he would go to the automat and choose a piece of buttered toast from the receptacle, take it to the counter and tell the attendant he also wanted his coffee refills, "Please".  The coffee, sugar, and evaporated milk refills were available since he had already purchased the toast and coffee.  He always poured in a lot of sugar (more calories) and as much milk as the cup would hold.  When the cup was about 2/3 empty, he would signal for a partial refill, so he could melt more sugar and replenish the canned milk from the shiny pitcher on the counter.  “About 11-12 ounces” (I had asked how much milk he drank at the automat. [I learned all this after I had grown up and moved out of the house, btw.])  “We did it for the food value.” 

On Sundays at the not-quite-red table, we often had pancakes, waffles – or the very best – French Toast – for breakfast.  And then we would sit there with our glasses of milk, untouched.  Daddy would sit there too, finally intoning “Does anyone want coffee milk this morning?”  Of course, three voices quickly answered in the affirmative.  So our glasses were handed forward, and he ceremoniously ladled a spoonful of his (generously sweet!) coffee into each of our glasses. 

Ahhh!  Sweet memories! 

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Some scattered pigskin memories

When I accompanied my mother and my brother to his practices for the Buckhead Red Devils at Bagley Park, I pretended I needed to use the bleachers’ lowest levels to do my schoolwork, where I ensconced myself, turned ever-so-slightly backward with my books on the riser above – but my ears clearly attuned and attentive to the teaching of the assistant coaches, Mike Meatheringham, and Candler Crim, and of course the incomparable Head Coach  Robert "Bob" Blackwell.  I had excellent hearing, and used it to learn about the proper stances, where to focus, how to focus, attention to detail - - all kinds of things - - hmmm - - no telling, I thought, when this info may come in handy, and after all, I always wanted to be an offensive lineman (in a way I still do!!).

A few years later, I stood on the edge of the bank of the practice field behind St. Pius X High School, watching the very first practice of that school’s first football team.  As I recall, I was partial to a freshman running back named Steve Muma.  If memory serves, his # was 40.  (Yes of course I went to all the games!)

Now a few days after that practice I was in a tiny room which served as “the music room”.  I had gone there immediately after classes because I had heard a rumor that “…perhaps a band may be formed…” No one was there when I first entered, but I spotted, over in the corner, bell down, a brand-new shiny Sousaphone.  Naturally, I quick-walked over there, carrying all my textbooks and the spiral loose-leaf binder (no book bags or backpacks in those days, y’all).  Setting the books on a chair, I hefted the instrument – not too heavy, I thought. Just then, a Sister of Mercy appeared; I told her who I was, saying, I’m here to play your Sousaphone, Sister! “Oh good! I was worried about that!”  (That was Sr. Mary Barbara, RSM.)  Not waiting for her to change her mind, I wrapped the ‘phone around me, marching-band-style, picked up the books, and hurried out into the hall to call my mom to come pick me up (no way was I going to take this big brass on the school bus!) As I was threading my way through the back hallways, Coach (George) Maloof came over saying, “Can I help you?” [I must have been quite the sight!]  “Yes Sir! Thank you Sir! Here, Sir!”  And I handed him my books(No way was I going to let ANYbody touch that Sousaphone.)

After only two years, I transferred from St. Pius to North Fulton High School, just a few blocks from home.  That third year of high school was quite eventful in a number of ways, but I will touch only on the football-related ones here:  During the regular season, our team was undefeated, untied, and unscored upon.  Quite a feat.  I also enjoyed watching the “B Team” games - - that’s what they were called then - - not JV - - but especially that year.  The quarterback was remarkable.  A junior, he played on Friday nights as a defensive back, and only in a mop-up role occasionally on offense.  He never – ever – started a game at QB in high school.  I remember coming home and tellin’ my mom that “the B-team QB is better than the varsity guy”.  She shrugged.  Funny thing is that - - some years later, that 'B teamer' had spent a good # of years, quarterbacking, in the NFL, and also sported a Super Bowl ring (as the qb coach!).

Sometimes people have asked me “how can you watch those games?” (meaning high school games when the scores are way out of hand) – Well, that is the way you can tell best when a youngster has the fire and fortitude to keep going to learn the best to do the best to be the best - - hmmm kinda hard to explain unless you’ve lived through thousands of hours and and minutes of practice and game time and seen enough to recognize the purity of the love of the game. 

Reckon you may just have to be there. 

Friday, August 29, 2014

A brief ♪

Regarding the website:
The point of "showcasing" the hymnsmith songs -- especially the ones that use me as the vocalist -- is purely and simply to present them to the listener who will hear them and think "Hey! I/we can sing that song a lot better than that - -  not a bad tune, good melody, great message - - needs a way-better singer!" - -

So! The video graphics - indeed, the website design as well - were created by the wonderfully blessed artist Linda Smith, graphic designer, Lawrenceville GA Heart of the Matter Designs.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The 1st Blog Notation

With both hands 'n heart wringing (? ringing?), I'm finally putting down (some) information so that this "web log" process can be initiated!

I very acutely remember my 8th grade teacher, Sr. Sally White GNSH - - that's "Grey Nuns of the Sacred Heart" - - saying to me "Toni, You have a gift with language, with writing."  And she smiled at me. It was a lifetime ago but I have never forgotten her kindness.  Now this was at Christ the King, a parochial school in Atlanta.  I also attended St. Pius X HS, and was graduated from North Fulton HS.

After graduating from St. Joseph's Infirmary School for Nursing (edited the hospital newsletter "the Coronary"), I attended Barat College as a full-time student majoring in Philosophy, spending evenings and nights working in the college infirmary.  I did enjoy traveling with the Barat Singers both as a participant and as the health care provider for the college students and Dr. Platon Karmeres, the Director.

Both music and other pursuits went 'on hold' for a while when Ed and I married, 47 years and counting. Occasionally a rhyme or two, or an idea would pop into my head and if I could and materials were handy, I would scribble them down --- thus "The Brown Bag Pomes", so called because often all I had available to write on were used leftover not-yet-thrown-away off-springs' lunch bags. (Now those were the prehistoric times when children actually took their lunches made at home to school, but not only that, some of those children did NOT have special character school lunch boxes, or even a plain school lunch box.)  But JUST a BROWN SACK - - my poor knee-gleck-ted chilluns!  Ah well. At least I remember I would occasionally write -- to include inside the sack lunch -- on a sheet of paper saying at the top:  BILL of FARE. Then I would list the lunch ingredients, using as many adjectives as possible, trying to make that day's lunch sound exciting, scrumptious, delicious... (funny the things remembered...)

Anyway, on to the imPORtant stuff:

In 2003, (thank God!) I experienced a spiritual re-awakening - - after a period of being -- for all intents and purposes -- areligious -- I was, as I characterize it, "knocked off my horse!".  The Lord God, in His unending Mercy, looked at me and helped me to understand -- to 'know' -- exactly what and how His Son Jesus had died, for me, for others -- the Holy Spirit breathing the breath of life upon me.

And that is the big deal. Really.

After that, just a few days after that, I woke up with a tune in my head, and a sentence that went along with the tune.  Not much later, the rest of the sentences came, and "The Message is Jesus" happened.
"Burn Bright the Flame" came soon after that, then others.

I resumed full-time participation, first at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Lawrenceville and more recently, at the Catholic Church of St. Matthew in Winder GA.  Besides enjoying the choir at St. Matthew's, I sing for memorials/funerals, usually in the greater Atlanta area.

In October 2012, I was professed as a Secular Franciscan (after several years of formation). "...going from gospel to life and life to gospel."  That is not merely a (Franciscan) axiom, but a description of "The Way".   Sometimes I veer off the path, often falling -- but for me, this is The Way, The Truth, The Life.

Peace and All Good!