We hosted a game night/birthday celebration with our best friend families down here, and it was the perfect storm of delightful, safe, insightful conversation, and laughter, games, and stories that we all love.

Let the games begin.

The cake was chocolate on chocolate with chocolate ice cream and chocolate syrup available in case you didn’t get enough chocolate.

Everlasting candles provide great entertainment.

Introducing friends to “You Suck At Cooking”

Laughter together

Bonding time

How long does it take a group of UU’s to get a decent picture?

I love these people.

So grateful to be on this journey with these other families.

A Bluebird Setlist

The line up.

Our singer-songwriters last night were.

* Jeff Cohen
* Jamie Floyd
* Brian White
* Victoria Banks

(Jeff) Intro

Jeff got into it before we started to take notes, so I can’t recall what he started with.

(Jamie) Mississippi Flood

This song was featured on the TV show Nashville. Here’s Hayden Panettiere singing it. In the show’s world this song charted at #1 so Jamie was pretty happy with her “fake news” #1 hit. Jamie has a bluesy intensity that I prefer to the show’s pop-country version.

(Brian) Drop

Rolling, rollicky, sexy wordplay.


(Victoria) The Wheel

One of Ginnie’s favorites. A meditation on motherhood.

(Jamie) Stuck

Jamie had been progressively pulled in to a not yet released movie project staring Burt Reynolds and Chevy Chase. She wound up writing 18 songs and basically creating the entire movie soundtrack.

(Brian) Beach song

This was a fun audience participation song. Brian channels more than a bit of Jimmy Buffet and starts started by asking the audience “Do you ever wish your life was like a Corona commercial?” Well, yeah!! was the response. I can’t find this one but it was a fun, friendly time.

(Victoria) Saints and angels

One of many songs this night that was overtly religious.

(Jeff) Take me away, take me now

One of Jeff’s many songs that’s popular in the UK.

(Jamie) People you know became people you knew

A real soul-crusher by Jamie. She told a story of co-writing (with Loreena Mckennitt?) and unveiling this song to some wet cheeks.

(Brian) Watching You

This was a hit that got a lot of plays. Rodney Atkins recorded it and just try to get over the fact that he looks like Ernest Goes to Camp. We preferred Brian’s fun version.

(Victoria) Drinking too much, not praying enough

This one hasn’t been picked up and that had all the songwriters puzzled as to why. It’s about the age-old intersection between Jack Daniels and Jesus. I can’t find it so will stub in this one.

Drinking with Dolly

This caught my eye.

Songwriters aren’t often contacted at all by the artists who record their songs, let alone included in the process, but Stephanie very kindly invited both Rachel and me to be in the music video. Unfortunately I was out on tour at the time, but click to watch it below and you’ll see some great footage of Rachel and her daughter Olivia right at the beginning!

(Jeff) In her eyes

This one was popularized by Josh Groban. I prefer Jeff’s soulful treatment much, much, much more than this glitterbomb.

(Jamie) Trouble

Lost the thread on this one, my only notes are “get new off your mind” which surely can’t be right.

(Brian) Magic in the air

A beach-y love song from Brian about a love that just misses.

(Victoria) Being a woman ain’t for the faint of heart

This was a co-writing project with Sister C. Victoria shared how it’s hard as a female songwriter when the vast majority of the current country music sound is male voices.

(Jeff) Hallelujah

Another song that’s seen popularity in the UK

(Jamie) The Blade

A lyrically strong song that’s seen some popularity. Here’s

(Brian) Throwing up a Hail Mary

A song Brian wrote for a young cancer patient. This song reflects Brian’s Christian faith, right at that intersection of football and faith in this case.

(Victoria) Ordinary angels

A perfect close by Victoria given Alive Hospice’s mission. This video flips the script.

This is what it’s like to be a songwriter hearing your song performed for the first time. Phil Barton and Victoria Banks watch Tate Stevens sing “Ordinary Angels” at the Key West Songwriters Festival.

What a Sunday!

What a whirlwind Sunday turned into.

We all had a lovely morning hanging out together. Buds and I got in a workout before church. It’s one of the reasons we love that our church service doesn’t begin until 11 a.m. It makes for a relaxed way to ease into your Sunday.

Because once we got to church, the day didn’t stop.

It was one of the infrequent Sundays where Buds and I got to be in the sanctuary to hear the homily together. Normally one or both of us are teaching Religious Exploration, so this was a delight.

On top of that, one of our favorite guest speakers was presenting:

January 28, 2018 – Guest Speaker, Amy-Jill Levine, Ph.D. – A reflection on “The Parable of the Dishonest Steward” (Luke 16.1-9): The right thing for the wrong reasons? The wrong thing for the Right Reasons? How do we find a moral center?

A.J. presented her message as a talk-back session so there was lots of lively interaction, which our congregation loves. The nugget of the message was talking about how knotty a parable this one is, and what the heck was Jesus meaning?! There were also questions about how our morality is tied up with our perception of how much a person has. (Is it worse to steal from a rich person or a poor person? Should one truly be “better” than the other?)

That led to great discussion for Buds and me, but the discussion had to wait until later.

After church I had a Board Meeting and Monkey had agreed to provide childcare. I only got a picture of her with one of the children, but at one point she was entertaining six kids on the playground outside. She had brilliantly convinced them all to sit on a big swing together so she could keep them corralled.

After she was done she told me, “I’ll gladly babysit again, but I’m exhausted.”

Playing with a 40 year old game that still works!

While Monkey and I were taking care of business at church, Buds and the littles went to cousins’ house for crepes. It sounded like they had a delicious time there.

THEN, we met up at Aldi’s to get our family grocery shopping done. We love that little store, and the family was excited to tell me when we walked in that there was a queen-sized mattress for sale. Buds and I love our Aldi’s mattress, so Monkey got a new mattress, too. Luckily we had driven two cars to church so we had room for all the people, all the food, and the new mattress.

After we got home, Buds had a brilliant idea.

“Guys, remember how in the big yellow house and the Reston house we used to have the two mattresses side-by-side? Let’s do that for Family Book Club!”

Yes, we still had Family Book Club left for Sunday afternoon.

So while I grabbed some lunch, the rest of the crew got the new mattress all unpacked in our bedroom.

I’ll write about Family Book Club in a separate post, but to wrap things up here I searched up a picture of our old double mattress set up from the Reston house:

Buster is zonked.

And seeing Buster sleeping like a zombie led me to another favorite sleeping picture:

What the heck had we been up to on this day? They are wiped!

I love old family photos.

What A Saturday.

Before our Saturday workout, Buds and I headed to the library to see what was planned for our local favorite playground. Red Caboose Park has hosted many hours of fun for us over the years, and there are plans shaping up to completely renovate the park.

After that, the weekend really began with a workout, as it generally does.

Uncle Z and I get a great deal of juvenile enjoyment in teasing “Coach Buds” as he lays out the workouts for us.

It was cold in the garage as Coach wrote the WOD on the board.

Coach lifting big.

After the workout we always have coffee and conversation with Uncle Z and any cousins that have come with him. It’s such a delightful way to begin the weekend.

On this rainy Saturday our afternoon included a reception and play from Room In The Inn to thank the folks who have volunteered over the year.

Waiting for the play to begin.

Notice the two male trolls in the pictures above.

“I just want to get one quick family picture,” I said.

“Okay,” they said.

Interestingly the play and reception were also held at a United Methodist Church, as was the shelter on Friday night. This was a huge church downtown with a theater on the 4th floor of one of the buildings on their campus.

Stand was a moving, sometimes difficult play to watch. I’m very glad we went for a variety of reasons.

The car ride home lead to interesting discussion about what sacrifices individuals need to make, and if, as in the play, you agree to support someone emotionally, financially, in whatever way, recognizing the gravity in that commitment.

The play also led to Buds, Monkey, and me having an emotional, heartfelt conversation about how we are making the world a better place and the deeply private fears and anxieties or guilt each person carries within themselves. Tears and love can heal so many aches.

Though, as the play showed us, not nearly all the pain for some people.

We wrapped up the evening with reading together and kitty snuggles:

Waffles gets wiggles.

That MoonStar face.

The Country Music Hall of Fame

Editor’s note: Post contains video. View on the website for best experience.

Our local library has coordinated with the Country Music Hall of Fame downtown so that children from our county can go to the Museum for free any time, and adults can check out a “passport” from the library for two adults to go for free with the pass.

Buds, Yessa, and I took advantage of this chance yesterday on the first warm day we’ve had in a long time. We parked at Buds’ office, and enjoyed the walk downtown.

The museum was nearly empty, beautiful, and one of our first stops was to pick up one of the scavenger hunts they offer in the Taylor Swift Education Room.

We’re not huge country-western fans, but I do have lovely memories of watching Hee Haw with my parents growing up, and learning about Nashville history and the many ways that music can bring people together was interesting.

This recon visit was a success, so I’m looking forward to heading back there when we have friends visit.

Reminiscent of Buddie’s New Hampshire Compulsion Medallion

He’s a troll with a smile.

The picture above makes me laugh. We were making medallions to wear around the museum, as suggested in the education center. Buds got in trouble with Yessa because her name had been misspelled the day before with an “h” on the end.

She was displeased.

At the museum, to troll her, he had to misspell her name on her initial medallion, and when she protested that, he assured her he’d make a new medallion for her with her name spelled correctly.

He spelled her name correctly, but made tiny little “h’s” as the background pattern.

The way these two tease each other makes me smile.

Add a line for a song.

Our meta-picture.

Filling out the scavenger hunt.

Nudie’s sewing machine. When Todd and Gina were in town, I think Nudie’s honky was one of the places we tonked.

Boot design

Interactive history of Country Music.

They had sound booths so you can listen to different songs with various studio musicians and names we recognized.

Smokey and The Bandit-another movie Dad and I loved to watch.

Taylor Swift’s notebook page of a famous song.

The Dixie Chicks’ outfits. We love the Chicks.

Gina and I laugh about how folks from the U.S. will toss coins into any puddle of water.

We saw many beautiful instruments.

After the museum we headed to the Farmers’ Market for lunch, then home to enjoy the rest of the weekend with a workout and time with the whole family.

My favorite kind of weekend.

Snow, Snow, Snow, Snow

We cobbled together a couple weeks of ice and snow down here in the south. Buds worked from home for many of the days, cousins got to spend a snow day with us, and sledding, snow angels, and snowy bounces on the trampoline all happened.

It’s so rare to get snow down here, we’re always delighted when it happens. And we’re grateful that our schedules generally allow us the option of staying hunkered in at home, warm, dry, safe, and fed. I don’t take this privilege lightly.

Cousin angels.

Fleecey face masks made by Grandma Vermont many years ago still getting grateful usage.

The trampoline created an ice heart.

Tastes delicious.

Big, puffy flakes.

Four-legged family members impressed too.

Looking out in awe.

He had to wander around to find a quiet place to work sometimes.

What a lovely white skirt.

Of course, Buds did have to bond with Waffles to pass the time after many, many days at home.

We’re back up to 50-60 degree days now, but we loved the snowy winter while it lasted.

State of the (Coffee) Nation 2018

[Post by Buds] This video nicely encapsulates the state of our coffee art (and relationship) here at the start of 2018.

– Glad to try new things…
– …but comfortable in our rituals.
– Dragonfly thinks that the Buds is making things up…
– …but he isn’t.
– Cinnamon levels are up…
– …way up.
– Ability to congratulate each other…
– …high.
– Somethings are still imaginary…
– …like an arrow with the number one on it.

Sips and Smells

I had a wonderful experience last Saturday. Two best buddies and a new buddie attended an event together; “Sips, Senses, and Goals: A Vision Board Party With A Twist.”

There were mimosas, goal planning, lots of laughter, women telling inspirational stories, and new friends. It was a splendid day. I learned new things about my friends and heard personal, uplifting stories from women who are driven to achieve their goals and change the world. I love events like this, and this one was well done.

The added bonus for me is that one of my friends and I were the only two white attendees.

I’ve been pondering this from a variety of angles.

I’ve been pondering my privilege. The event was presented by all Black women, so it wasn’t shocking to me that it was majority Black women attending. I purchased my ticket and sauntered in the door of the event, expecting to be welcomed. That is privilege.

That is an assumption I unconsciously carry with me every day, all the time, everywhere. I’ve carried that attitude around the world, from Italy to Costa Rica, from Ireland to Mali. From tiny villages to fancy restaurants. I expect to be treated well any where I choose to go.

I guarantee that is not the case for some of the Brown and Black women I enjoyed spending my day with. I’ve learned enough to recognize this, and I’m listening and learning more. And what a sickening lesson it is.

I also saw some of what I miss. The spirit of connection, of Sisterhood, was palpable.

Events like this certainly draw women of a certain “type.” We’re a pretty readily motivated crowd; but the energy and enthusiasm had a very different feel than events with all white women. I’m trying to be careful to not stereotype; hence I’m truly speaking from my own experience here. I have spoken to groups of all white women; and support will be offered through soft murmurs or a touch on the shoulder to encourage a speaker who is sharing something difficult. We may even break into spontaneous applause if especially thrilled by a comment.

The crowd we were with was more verbally supportive; more vigorous head nods, more “Baptist Preacher” phrasing, “Am I right, my sisters?”

I loved being “a sister” for this one afternoon.

My personality craves open, honest connection with people, and this group of women was ripe for delightful, splendid conversation. I learned new things about my friends I came with, new things about new friends, and new things about myself. I listened to entrepreneurs discuss their business beginnings and the ups and downs. We heard from people who have turned their lives around; women who have grabbed hold of their internal power and set it on fire to light up the world. Amazing, fantastic, interesting women.

What if my presence changed the experience for other women? Simply by being white, did I possibly steal some of the richness of the event for anyone? (Notice I am assuming that my personality would not be repugnant in and of itself. You may choose to disagree.)

I pray I didn’t cause any feelings of anxiety or anguish for anyone. The day was splendid on every level, and I hope others felt the same.

But, it’s worth considering. I certainly know Black people who have dealt with such frequent ill treatment by white folks that white folks no longer get any benefit of the doubt. I can appreciate that.

I certainly won’t lose my inner belief that I can go anywhere and do anything, but I am going to continue listening and learning and being willing to be lead by Women of Color and the many lessons they have to teach me.

Sips and Scents

Warming By The Fire

We’ve been enjoying sitting by a cozy fire.

Nothing beats a crackling fire.

As you can probably tell, that’s a computer monitor, not an actual roaring fire. But it has been interesting to have the crackling fire playing.

The children laughed with me when I told them I was laying a rug out in front of the fire since it hadn’t gotten fully dry in the dryer. When MoonStar laid down in front of the fire, it also made us laugh.

But the power of your brain to create feelings has also amazed us. Several of us, including cousins, have commented on the feeling of warmth when you walk by the monitor. It’s a little unnerving.

You too may enjoy a warm crackling fire. In fact, you may enjoy the exact same fire as us:

Where’s The Line?

The children and I have been looking for social justice/volunteer opportunities that fit our personalities and time. After gathering suggestions from various folks, we settled on two ongoing roles that we will all feel comfortable participating in.

Open Table Nashville is one of the non-profits we’ll be supporting with our time and talent for bed making.

This is very similar to the offering we support through our church. The children and I will be setting up the space for the un-housed to sleep safely. Beds, tables, etc.

The second volunteering decision we made was to support an outreach program through Catholic Charities. We had several choices with them and we decided that putting together “Welcome Home” baskets to be given to families transitioning from homelessness into homes would be the task that most resonated with us.

The children and I had a lovely time this afternoon packing up the supplies we had already purchased into the new wastebasket and deciding how to spend the leftover money. After some great discussion and a little tension around who liked which sheet colors and why, we picked out a handsome microwave and some comfy, cozy sheets to go with this first “basket” of our creation.

The “line” referenced in the title comes from a discussion Buds and I had last night. We needed to reach consensus on what our family could afford to donate for each of these welcome baskets, and I’d had an idea bubbling inside all day that I wanted to talk through with Buds. I was pondering if Catholic Charities was an organization we should be giving our time and donations to.

Catholic Charities here in Nashville is doing great work. Their offerings for the refugee and immigrant populations are inspiring. Their website is very clear that they offer their services because they are Catholic, not because recipients need to be Catholic. That was critical for us; but we do have grave reservations about Catholicism and many, many of its aspects. Birth control and and abortion are only two of the issues that come to mind.

Where is that line? When is the good works enough of a counter-balance to some of the horrific ideas they spread? To be clear, I’m not judging those who are Catholic. Every organized group has good and bad aspects. I’m proud to be a Unitarian Universalist, but our history is filled with extensive stains of inhumane treatment.

I’ve been kicking this ball around with a couple friends and general consensus seems to be that the good work being done locally by this particular group is something we can feel good about supporting. Supporting local homeless folks or formerly homeless families who so desperately need help is a tremendous blessing to us.

Obviously, if the local neo-nazi group runs a can drive for the local food pantry, they can kiss off. There’s a line for when local good isn’t enough. And each family needs to decide that line for themselves.

I am still pondering this on a larger scale. Where our money goes does matter, and how much time, thought, and effort should I put into figuring out how we are invested? What sort of policies does Starbucks have? Is Aldi’s actually a good company? What do the Koch brothers actually own and can I not give them any money at all?

And then my mind wanders to the other end of the spectrum. Monkey and Buds are both actively supporting creators and artist through Patreon. How fantastic is this?! When your teen decides to use some of her allowance to support work being done by people she has learned from and finds interesting and motivating, that’s a new world order.

Lots of ideas to toss around. We’ll keep working to lighten the load of folks who need a hand and work toward the day when homeless shelters disappear because there is no one to sleep in them.

Comfy beds ready to go.