I have a pounding sinus infection, the kind that makes you want to stick a vaccuum attachment up your nose in hopes of removing everything…even the brain, if it brings relief.
The week was busy, busy, busy. Let’s see..after playgroup with the girls on Tuesday, I had volunteer training with Interfaith Care Alliance, a group that brings Care Teams to people living and dying with HIV/AIDs, cancer, or any serious incapacitating illness. Care Teams run errands, clean house, walk pets, give spouses time to rejuvenate or simply just listen to the Care Partner. It’s a one year committment with a required one hour a week visit per Care Team volunteer. So, a group of us will be hand selected and matched up with a person with specific needs that our group can meet.
I’ve decided the amount of time I’ve volunteered over the last 14 years will be slowing down from benefit concerts to personal one on one time. I grew up with two grandmothers that volunteered, so it must be an integral part of my DNA. But, now with children and family and career and church, I’m finding I miss the part of volunteering that was hands on, and I’d like my personal time to be spiritually rewarding, nourishing and quieter. I also know that spending time with people who are dying is astounding. It brings gifts that no one can really talk about; gifts for the dying and the living.
Wednesday night—got on the Asleep at the Wheel Tour bus with a buncha folks from NARAS (National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences…you know, the Grammy people)…we drove to San Antonio to be a part of the public’s voice
in conjunction with the FCC’s panel. Ray Benson was a guest panelist, and spoke convincingly about the FCC’s recent ruling, in which they will be allowing greater acquisition by large corporations of radio/tv/newspapers. Scary stuff. In other words, it used to be a newspaper was owned by one company (or individual), a tv station by another, radio stations by others still. Nowadays, groups like Belo (in Dallas) or Clear Channel are buying up newspapers/radio/tv and owning
all three outlets in one city. The end result is that your news/programming/music/entertainment can all be owned by one group, so there is no local diversity…no diversity whatsoever. You are being spoonfed as to what to like/believe without the choice of adversity/varying opinions and facts.
My question was: Why is the U.S. fighting oppression in other countries when our liberties here at home are being threatened in the same manner? Sadly, I didn’t get to ask that question, nor did any other audience member. Folks were given two minutes to voice their concerns, and there were hundreds and hundreds of people who had lined up at 4 a.m. that morning to speak their minds. It was astounding.
Afterwards, we were all in a variety of moods…got back on the bus and headed home to Austin. The festivities were in the back of the bus, were Reuben Ramos, Ray, me, Matt the Electrician, Deb & Bo Yeager and I were singing away.
Thursday: Girl Scouts! We went to Central Market for a tour of how a grocery store runs. Best part: Watching girls poke their fingers into bread dough until the bread looked like a flattened, lifeless martian from outer space. No. They didn’t cook it and no…we didn’t eat it. But we did get to make candy badges and stick them on a chocolate cake sash…which we gobbled down with fresh, cold milk.
Then on to more volunteer training. We have a Care Partner come and speak about what having a Care Team has meant for him. We have someone speak on drug/alcohol addiction, and what it is like for people in recovery. We role play, to learn more of what we, as volunteers, would do in different scenarios. The evening comes to a close. We are all bonded. We are excited to get started; ready to serve.
Friday a.m.: While the girls are in school, I have a rehearsal with Austin, a young pianist I will be doing a duet with in church on Sunday. Then, a meeting at my office with a yoga instructor who has just released her first cd and needs advice.
Friday afternoon: Lily and I head over to Pauline’s after school. Pauline has lived in Clarksville (Austin) all her life; she says it used to be prarie, and her parents would drive her down 6th street in their Model T Ford. She is a gospel singer,
and we are practicing for Margaret’s birthday party…
Friday night: Took the family to the DIFFA (Design Industries Foundation for AIDS) jacket viewing here in Austin. The Dallas headquarters had called and asked if I would mind performing at the satellite function…I also got to play auctioneer and auction off one of the hand made jackets. DIFFA has different designers/celebrities from around the world decorate blue jean jackets, and they auction them off at a huge gala once a year. Proceeds go towards AIDS research.
I think I’ve created a jacket every year but maybe three over the last 14 years.
Anyhoo, so it came down to auction time, so I was silly, I was fun, I was trying to get the small group of wealthy, dressed up folks to pay attention to the tulle and the lace and the silk of the jacket by Jocelyn White, when I got fed up. The bid was only at $350 (which was, by my account, really ridiculously low)…so, I stood up on top of a chair, mic in hand, and said, “Hey. Put your drinks down. Listen to me. Just for a moment.” And I proceeded to talk about AIDS. I proceeded to talk about the death of my friend, David Drane, and how alone he was at the end of his life. How the stigma of AIDS still causes people to suffer emotionally because of the fears and prejudice within our society. I got choked up. I talked about how this jacket wasn’t just fabric and thread, but that it represented someone’s life.
How each jacket was a chance to raise more money for more research to find a cure. What if your friend or your daughter or your lover caught this disease? I asked. Would this jacket mean more to you? I demanded $1000 for the jacket.
I warned everyone that by the time I reached 30, someone had please please
donated the money. I closed my eyes. I was weepy and tired and I wanted people to realize that this function wasn’t just about free wine and fancy food.
All the schmoozing, popping of camera bulbs, loud talking…what were my children seeing? I knew that at least they would see that speaking up is something we should all do…even when our voice is shaking.
Well, the jacket went for $1000 at number 28. I opened my eyes. I had specifically told all the DIFFA volunteers it could NOT be one of them…and, yet,
Gretchen, who is on the DIFFA staff, had bought the jacket. I was bummed.
The jacket had also included a free night’s stay at the Adolphus in Dallas, and two free tickets (worth $500) to the DIFFA show. I was so sure someone would buy this lovely one-of-a-kind jacket…and someone had. But not a new face to DIFFA, an Austin face.
Friday night—later—Aunt Kevina comes to stay, and we play KERPLUNK with the girls!!
Saturday a.m.—I get up to make homemade waffles for all. Walnuts, bananas, strawberries, whip cream, melted butter and syrup…cherry noses and chocolate chip eyes on the girls’, sausage for all.
Saturday night—-My friend, Margaret, is turning 62. My oldest daughter has made her a seashell necklace and sweet lace card. We head to Margaret’s peaceful domain; candles light the path. I am singing in honor of Margaret, and also performing with her friend, Pauline…We sing “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”
and Pauline’s lilting voice brings the room to a hush. We also do “This Little Light of Mine” and “Thank You, Lord”. Then, I am singing…and surprise! Lily joins in…on “Look At It This Way”, she is singing the chorus with me! And mouthing all the words to the other songs…now she is hand signing and swaying, and Margaret’s friends are smiling and nodding their heads to her movements. I am saddened in that Lily is seated behind me on a giant, thronelike chair, so I miss all of her additions to the music. Afterwards, everyone is telling me how wonderful both my children are…and I can only agree. They surprise me with their sweetness and their intelligence beyond anything I could ever have dreamed.
Sunday: Sing in church, sinus infection is starting to set in. I just go for those high notes and hang on!
Sunday afternoon: Hang out with my mother-in-law and sister-in-law. We go to see “Mystic River”, but the film’s sound is not working, so we go to the Cheesecake Factory and have fine conversation instead. Then, home to
be with my baby girl while her dad goes out for the evening.
Create a hand-decorated flower pot for the annual Umlauf Sculpture Garden Party. While io is glueing things on her tiny pot, I, too, cram a zillion beads, ornaments, coins, toys, plastic frogs, tiny unicorns, broken bits of mosaic,
stickers, lace, and antique dance cards I took from a deserted, and haunted!, house I once visited. I glue everything down and laugh at my creation. I almost don’t want to turn it in…it’s so fantastically fun. It’s great to be able to make art/music and know that I don’t know where it will end up. That it is all temporary and the letting go is the best part. It gets easier and easier with age…or is that just my sinus infection talking?