Tag Archives: family

some Christmas pix


Back in Japan, we celebrated Christmas on Dec. 30. The most fun gift unwrapping was in layers of boxes and tape. Each box was labeled for another person, until it got all the way around the group and back to Lin–the Hallmark 2012 Bear she had wanted for so long!

When we went to a nearby field to try out Rob’s new helicopter camera, a very nice Japanese guy was practicing with his stunt kite (4 lines to control). He let each of us give it a try and coached us in the art he has perfected over 20 years!


me ‘n’ my boys


About 10 hours from now I hope to be flying from Austin to Chicago and on to Tokyo! I do hope the Chicago weather does not force delays but it’s a lot better than yesterday.

Younger son Fred Nugen and I pooled all our frequent flyer miles to make this trip possible. We’re going to visit son Rob Nugen and his lovely and lively wife Rinko Hayashi, aka Lin. Though she and Rob came to the States last Christmas for a Texas-style wedding, this is the first time to meet her extended family. I have a list of names and relationships to review on the plane. After all, 2.5 hours to Chicago, a 3.5 hour transition, and about 13 hours from there to Tokyo. They are 15 hours ahead of us in time.

Fred has very sophisticated tastes! He insisted that at least one leg of our journey would be on Singapore Airlines, business class. He’ll probably take too much luggage, too, and just says that’s the way he rolls. I am taking an extra rolling bag mostly full of gifts instead of my usual one bag and a backpack.

Jon and his daughter Alicia and I had a “farewell” lunch at Magnolia. We had bought a coupon at the Holiday Swing auction and it was about to expire.

The first time I visited Rob in Japan was in the fall of 2003, the first year he moved over there to teach English. I arranged a series of excursions through a travel agent to enjoy a number of tourist sites. Kyoto, Hakone, Hiroshima, and Ft. Fuji are among the highlights. Rob went with us on some weekend excursions; otherwise he was working.

Now I’m not exactly a tourist since I have some sense of the country and the people–tour guides, schoolchildren, monks, other tourists, crowds in the fashionable Shinagawa, Geisha girls, businessmen, shopkeepers. It will be different this time to meet Lin’s mother, two sisters and their families, some uncles and aunts. Her youngest niece Yuu is 6 months old.

So, not a tourist, but a guest. Rob and Lin share a small apartment with her mother, so they have rented an apartment for us about a 5-minute walk away. Perhaps the next time I visit I will feel less like a guest and more like family.

Those of you whose children have married have probably gone through a bit of anxiety about the new in-laws. The cultural differences will also be a factor–family members hail from Taiwan, Brazil, Japan, and the U.S.

Rob sent detailed instructions on which trains to take from Narita Airport to Shinagawa. We’ll probably take the Keisei Line to Nippori station, and then the Yamanote Line to Shinagawa station. He gave information about currency exchange, a number to reach him and say which train we’re on, and a meeting place at the station. I think he’s done this before!

So, I needn’t worry about a thing. My bags are packed; clothes are laid out and ready to put on; and a sense of adventure is growing. Curious about what lies ahead and the stories and pictures I’ll bring back. What an extraordinary opportunity!

Fred, Kathleen, Alicia

Fred, Kathleen, Alicia

buying cat food; see boot for broken foot

buying cat food; see boot for broken foot

Alicia and Jon

Alicia and Jon

pre-travel lunch with Alicia and Fred

pre-travel lunch with Alicia and Fred

Juggling by Threes


This has been a great day to juggle several things: generating an order of service for a memorial service, meeting with a team of ministers, educators, and musicians about our collaborative worship plans, developing a proposed plan for a Rapid Response Network in the Houston area, and adjusting my 2013 calendar for incoming events. Interesting that I chose the word “incoming.” Rather indicative of my feeling that multiple things are coming at me at once. The dates in your calendar are closer than they appear.

Well okay then.

This morning I read some advice from Management Tools (a great resources with a free newsletter, podcasts, and the option to sign up for more). Not revolutionary but practical and easy as 1, 2, 3. When things are coming at you, fast and furious, or you find yourself stuck in the mire of inertia, there’s something satisfying about the number 3.

One: Pick the next three things you need to do.  Write them down on a post it or a piece of scrap paper.  Do them.  Every time you get distracted and think – what was I supposed to be doing? – go back to your short list.  When you’ve done the first three, do another three.  You’ll be amazed at how many completed post-it notes you’ll end up with.  I find this helps on days full of interruptions or when I’m feeling a little [overwhelmed].
Two: At the end of the day, pick the most important three things for you to do the next day.  Write them down.  Do those things FIRST, before email, before phone calls, before any meetings.  If you use this technique, you’ll always be working on your priorities.
Three: If your list is very long, pick three like things, and do just those.  Three phone calls, three emails, three pages you need to print, three pieces of filing.  If you like stability, do three more of those things until all that group is done.  If you like variety, do three of something different.
Part of their advice reminds me of another resource, a book with a great title: Never Check Email in the Morning by my hero Julie Morgenstern (Fireside/Simon& Schuster, 2005). In other words, take control of your day before it is swallowed by other (very important) information, requests, or events.
Busy days can be the most productive of all. When I had just 10 minutes before a meeting I sent out the first draft of that order of service, printed a document for the meeting, and showed up ready to participate. After the meeting I had received a reply that generated a second draft. Feels good to accomplish a lot. There’s also a down side, so read on.
Give yourself a break! Just as skipping a meal to lose weight just means you’re so hungry later you want to eat everything in sight, going non-stop from one task to another means you starve yourself of time for reflection. If you have to schedule time for yourself in your calendar, do it! Then you can honestly tell someone you have other plans.
So here’s what I’m working on, just for me: yoga in the morning, a walk every day after lunch, and learning and practicing a Bach aria assigned by my voice teacher. Easy as 1, 2, 3. Then I might pick another three or maybe even the same ones!
What works for you? How do you balance work, family, chores, and self-care? It won’t always balance on a given day, but is there a rhythm you can sustain over time?

Going Home


Homegoing requires leaving somewhere and someone. This week I visited my dear sister Madeleine, her husband Richard, and the kids and grandkids. On the plane toward home thoughts of leaving followed one another through memory’s nooks and crannies.

Any time I leave my sister I remember the times I left my mother after a visit, even though she’s been gone since 1996. Upon leaving her house, there would be hugs, expressions of love, then waves until she disappeared from view. Then my tears would flow. So much of her was passed down to Madeleine and me–our homes are full of heirlooms and our personal habits remind ourselves of Mama.

Over the year we have said a final goodbye to other family members: grandparents, brother Hall, Mama, Daddy, sister Jean, and cousin Martin are the closest relatives who have preceded us in death–the ultimate homegoing, their ultimate spiritual journey. We will carry their memories for X number of years with no idea when our time will come (or go, as it were).

So much leaving! Children learn to go to sleep, sometimes with the help of a lullaby; parents let their children climb into a giant school bus or head to camp or move into a dormitory or apartment of their own. The prospect of leaving highlights our poignant need to attend to everyday relationships. They’re so ordinary and therefore quite extraordinary. No one can know how or when they might end.

Leave by choice or by circumstance: home, school, job, relationship, country, comfort, tradition. . . . Just go where you must and enjoy the journey!!

A few family pix: the four of us kids in 1957; three sisters and our mother when our brother died; and a departure picture when Madeleine was seeing me off from Columbus in January this year. Farewell for now!



Kathleen and Jon were married about five years ago. It was my honor and privilege to officiate. We had an immediate connection through their names and my husband’s and mine. “My” Jon was included in the wedding festivities and we were invited to the rehearsal dinner at ZTejas Grill, hosted by Kathleen’s father Richard Moore.

Fast forward a few years. Jon and Kathleen have two children. Serena is 4 1/2 by now and Jacob is almost 2. Beautiful children; happily ever after and all that. Then in June I was contacted through this very blog. When Jon “found” me I was traveling in North Carolina, but that was old news. By the time he sent the message, I was in Phoenix for a church conference. Jon wrote:

I just read on your blog here that you are/were out of town, are you still out of the area? The reason I ask is that Kathleen’s father has passed away, and we would like to have you officiate the memorial. From what I understand, he liked you when you talked to him at our rehearsal dinner; you made a strong impact on him, and we know that he would have liked to have you for this.

A sweet reconnection with a family I had met as a group during one special event. They lived close enough for visits with Grandpa–Pflugerville, Austin, Cedar Park, San Marcos, and Leander. A little over a year ago Dick and his third wife Marsha moved back to Texas and spent much more time with the kids and four young grandkids.

Kathleen, Lori, and Jason remembered wild rides with Dad on a golf cart; the Bradley Kit car he worked to assemble (and never quite finished); and his invention of the touch tone phone. Too bad he never applied for a patent before someone else followed through and manufactured it! The family enjoyed entertaining dinners together every month and brought in the extended family on holidays. The greatest memory after Dad died was the laughter and hilarity of these times together.

I’m glad Dick and Marsha, who had been his childhood sweetheart in San Marcos, moved back to Texas. He had been absent for most of 25 years in Albuquerque or Florida after he and their mother divorced. When family members separate, the children–in this case, teenagers–feel a real void. In the midst of pain they all did the best they knew how.

How do YOU keep love alive? It’s so easy to lose touch with friends and family members whom we don’t see on a regular basis. It’s not so easy to break ties when we would much rather stay connected. Perhaps Dick and his children needed that time apart to go on with their independent lives without undue drama. I’ll never know the whole story. The ending of Dick’s story is that he was indeed back in touch. This Henry Van Dyke poem was included in the memorial service:

For Katrina’s Sun-Dial

Time is

Too slow for those who wait,
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grieve,
Too short for those who rejoice;
But for those who love,
Time is Eternity.

Hours fly,
Flowers die
New days,
New ways
Pass by.
Love stays.

–Henry,  Van Dyke

Bending a life


For those of you who have wondered from my previous blog, I have no plans at present to move. (It could happen some day but not for a long while.) There have been opportunities presented to me and some that I have pursued on my own. Although each of them had positive attributes they ultimately did not fit well enough with my priorities–the things I value more.

Instinct, conscience, and family carry a lot of weight. The story of my life … still unfolding, outcome uncertain. For now I am content and very fortunate to enjoy the unfolding. Life is good.

How about you?

Theodore Parker said (and has often been quoted): “The arc of the moral universe is long, and it bends toward justice.”

Shrink that down a great deal and you might also consider: The arc of my/your life is long and it bends toward _________________.

Something positive, I hope!

Your past may well be full of hard knocks, understanding, or humility. (Better those than hanging on to emotions like anger, resentment, or remorse.) But look ahead, especially when faced with one of those crucial decisions. What has been the arc of your life, where is it going, and why? Most importantly, how does it serve your higher purpose?

Blessings to all!

A new normal? Exhausting!


My favorite water coaster says, “Pretending to be a Normal Person day-after-day is exhausting.” But in a good way!

My sister Madeleine loves Austin so we try to pack in a lot of restaurants and even touristy things while she is in town. The heat was rather a welcome respite from the chill left behind in Columbus, Ohio. They had a very warm March in which everything bloomed, then a late frost killed off some of that bounty. Now they’re warming up again.

A baker’s dozen of things we did:

  1. Austin Overtures 90-minute tour with our friend Maggie who loves Austin probably more than anyone else. She knows the history and even where the bodies are buried–in the Texas State Cemetery. As it happened, everyone else on the tour that day was also from Ohio. Originally from the Cleveland area, these 7-8 friends have an annual reunion from all over the place. This year they chose Austin. We’re so glad they did!
  2. Favorite restaurants such as Magnolia, Zocalo, Galaxy, Wildflower Cafe; and pot lucks with friends.
  3. Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which is absolutely bursting with spring blooms. QR Codes provided information about various sections right on my phone, either spoken or in text. I took lots of cell phone pix as well and we enjoyed browsing in the gift shop.
  4. More shopping! Madeleine needed something special for a wedding luncheon and the wedding itself. I helped her spend lots of money on some good values.
  5. A children’s orchestra performance on the plaza of the Long Center. Jon recognized Elizabeth Whitehead, their conductor, who was a friend of his daughter’s from 15 years ago. I took pictures, including one of the two of them together.
  6. Conspirare Symphonic Chorus and the Austin Symphony, conducted by Peter Bay and Craig Hella Johnson. This was a wonderful concert that included two Stowkowski interpretations of Bach (Toccata and Fugue in D Minor; and Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor).
  7. The Chorus sang Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms. Orchestration was mostly with woodwinds and not a single violin or viola! . . . and Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms. How beautiful! A boy soprano, Lucas Revering, sang the 23rd Psalm in Hebrew. It was dramatically interrupted by the chorus breaking into a furious “Why do the nations rage?” Then the boy’s clear voice came back in and sang, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow us all the days of our life, and we will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” Familiar text added to the effect.
  8. Lost cell phones! Madeleine literally lost hers somewhere. We retraced our destinations as soon as we could, to no avail. She was eligible for an upgrade so it cost her about $1 plus some angst. On the very same day, my iPhone completely died! It’s only 2 months old, but even Apple’s Genius Bar expert said it gave her an error message she had never seen before. They gave me a new phone, but I lost the day’s pictures from the Wildflower Center. Fortunately, Jon had emailed himself some of the pix of him with Elizabeth Whitehead so those were safe in cyberspace. Phone contacts were restored through iCloud.
  9. Tapestry Singers concert! It was wonderful, if I say so myself. Since I was concert co-coordinator I was grateful all the logistics went rather smoothly. A great committee makes a world of difference. This year we added colorful scarves to the basic black and we added a Scarf Diva to the concert committee. Well done, Sonya! Excellent conducting Jenn Goodner; sound by Tom Johnson of AltaVistaRecording.com. We eagerly await the polished recording. Already we enjoyed watching the video of the concert at our after-party. It was fun to sing our favorite parts again and to laugh at our missteps. (Literally: Mary missed a step and fell, though she is just fine.) Musical mistakes are not nearly so noticeable in the video as they had loomed in our minds!
  10. Tapestry Singers were joined beautifully by Westlake High School’s Chamber Women’s Choir, also directed by Jenn Goodner; and the Westlake Middle School Choir, directed by our accompanist Andrea Snouffer. Each choir sang one song and they all came up for the encore. Over 100 voices sang another favorite, “For Good,” from the musical Wicked. (“Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, but … because I knew you … I have been changed … for good.”)
  11. More shopping! I had borrowed Madeleine’s new skirt for the concert and decided I liked it well enough to get one of my own. The ruffles make it swing nicely. I also found a crocheted top that will look great over a camisole.
  12. The Bakery Jam! We topped off Madeleine’s visit with my weekly musical jam. It was something of a house-warming, too, in the newly remodeled home of one of the Jamsters. Sheryl was thrilled to have us fill her home with joy, laughter, and best of all, music.
  13. Up around 4am Monday morning to get to the airport in time for Security Follies. Even with a doctor’s note about her fake knee, she always has to be patted down :~) … Love and hugs as she goes away for a while. We are already planning our next get-together.

Now I’m just waiting to know she landed safely back in Columbus (she did). A wonderful week and new memories. Plus, I recorded her telling some family stories from long, long ago. Deviled eggs, pie and ice cream also made this week heavenly and special.

Two full days later and Jon and I are about to hit the road to visit friends in North Carolina. More travel tales await!

Wrap Up


This has been such a busy week that I haven’t had time to write until now, a full week into May!

My sister Madeleine arrived from Columbus, Ohio, on Thursday, April 26–right on Jon’s and my 15th wedding anniversary. We enjoyed a nice TexMex dinner on a garden patio. Lovely plants, water features, and fans kept us cool at Vivo. Good food, too!

The weekend was awesome with a fantastic service and sendoff from Live Oak Unitarian Universalist Church. Love that congregation! Love the friends and family members who came just for that final service. Some “Loose Threads” and other members of Tapestry Singers came to join the choir in singing “Seasons of Love.” (The one about “Five hundred twenty five thousand six hundred minutes . . . how do you measure a year in the life . . . how about love?”

Lots of hugs and love from people of all ages. I will miss the children and youth most especially. It is such a blessing to watch them grow up and mature year after year. They are now frozen in time in my mind’s eye. Adults don’t change nearly so rapidly, but they, too, have filled my memory bank for years to come as they are now.

Already the congregation anticipates the arrival of an Interim Minister who will assist with multiple transitions, both personal and congregational, beginning August 1. Meanwhile, lay led teams have been doing wonderful work in preparing to cover the 3 months in between. It’s exciting to imagine the changes going on already!

Now my key ring is lighter and my email has dropped to a manageable level. No complaints there!

Back to the Real World . . .


Rob and Rinko are on their way back to Tokyo (Kawasaki-Shi, to be more precise). They will spend one night in San Francisco with her uncle. They’ll be home in the early hours of Thursday, Japan time, and back to work just a few hours later.

It’s so quiet here without them! My heart has grown larger with the addition of a new family member plus conversations about starting a family in a few years. Even his younger brother Fred is pondering marriage and family. They were always “late bloomers” and that has always been a good thing for them. Fine young men.

The wedding was “whimsical and wonderful.” It was Lin’s first visit to Texas, though she has been to California and New York. Rob made most of the wedding decisions (in spite of anyone else’s advice). You will probably guess which parts gave me pause!

Lunch before the wedding at Golden Corral. This was a sentimental choice because of multiple times Rob went there as a teen and young adult. Lin was quite happy, as she is with almost everything. An amazing selection of fried foods, but there were raw veggies as well. It was a little awkward to sit with my ex Bob and our younger son Fred, but we managed to reminisce about some of the good old days. His wife did not join this party of a dozen or more.

In spite of my worries otherwise, Rob did actually wear a tux. I walked him down one aisle, then Bob walked Lin down the other aisle. Not until it was time to get Rob did I see that he really and truly would not be wearing shoes. That felt awkward to me but it made him happy and Lin didn’t mind. He goes barefoot whenever possible and just has flip flops in his backpack when necessary for restaurants, etc.

The wedding took place at Northwoods UU Church in The Woodlands, TX. It is where the boys grew up and I was a member for 15 years before they ordained me in 1993. Rob and Fred were there for that occasion, too, so it seemed like the best place for Rob’s wedding. We had plenty of time after lunch to walk through the building and grounds that we had all helped build in 1984-85. Lin and I even took a walk in the neighborhood until it was time to get ready for the main event.

I helped Lin with her wedding dress. Since the room didn’t have a mirror at all (I had asked ahead of time) it was good to have brought a full length mirror where she fussed with makeup and headpiece.

During the ceremony, the minister read a “love letter” written by Rob and Lin. With a reference to Rob’s longstanding nickname as ThunderRabbit, it concluded with a reference to rabbits happily playing in a field with plenty of ice cream and pizza available. At that point the congregation was signaled to put on their rabbit ears to surprise Lin and Rob.

Family photos after the ceremony, cake and sparkling cider and other goodies afterward.

Karen and Bob had provided the cake, some of the drinks, and the flowers–a bouquet for Lin and a boutonniere for Rob. Karen had loaned a pearl necklace to Lin. Karen left after about an hour of the reception and retrieved the pearls. I ran out to my car to get new pearls to give Lin–necklace, earrings, and 3 bracelets. I had bought them on sale plus they were less expensive river pearls,  but had held them back because I knew Karen had loaned her some. I thought these were interesting with their irregular shapes, and felt just right for Lin. She was delighted and I was so glad to have bought them for her.

After cleanup and lockup, fifteen of us migrated to Dimassi’s for dinner. We had already had dessert first! Jon wisely didn’t eat; I overdid it just to taste some of the delicious Greek delicacies. The party finally broke up and dispersed in several directions. What a fun time!