>Ascending and Commencing!

>Tomorrow is the Feast of the Ascension (of our Lord into Heaven after the Resurrection) in the Orthodox Church. You can read lots about the Feast and also see a detailed explanation of the icon of Ascension at this website.

We’ll celebrate the Feast on the Eve of Ascension, tonight, at St. John Orthodox Church here in Memphis, with Divine Liturgy and a potluck dinner afterwards. It’s one of my favorite feasts because of the hopefulness it inspires… as Christ ascended, so shall we! As he sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven, he sits there as a Man, reminding us that our humanity is being redeemed.

I also love that the Feast of Ascension usually falls around the time of Commencements. New beginnings. This May I’m proud to congratulate 6 graduates who are dear to my heart:

First, one of my Goddaughters, JULIE STANEK, graduated from the Memphis College of
Art with a Masters in Art Education. Julie has been teaching art for many years, and now she’s taking it to a whole ‘nother level. I’m sorry I had to miss her graduation a few weekends ago, but check out this joyful picture! I did enjoy going to a reception and viewing some of her work at the Memphis College of Art this spring. Way to go, Julie!

CLARK McGEE graduated from Murray State University in music. Clark can sing most anything, but his true love is opera. Last summer he worked as an intern at Opera Memphis. He’s looking for a “real job” now…. but we’re enjoying having him back home in Memphis and in the choir at St. John! Clark is also a great leader at our summer Vacation Church School programs.

MELANIE STANEK (Julie’s daughter) graduated from Lausanne Collegiate School this month, and will be staying in Memphis to attend the University of Memphis this fall. Melanie is an actress, and has acted in numerous local theater productions, which she will continue to do while attending the U of M. Here she is performing with her dad, Bill Stanek, at Mo’s a couple of years ago. (She’s belting out “Summertime”!)

JAY BROWNLOW will be at Harding Universitiy this fall. Jay just graduated from Westminster Academy. His mother, Sue, is one of my Goddaughters, so Jay is part of my “extended” family.

BRIAN BOONE graduated from Germantown High School, where he played baseball, and he’ll also be at the U of M, but not to play for the Tigers. Instead, he’ll concentrate on a business degree. We enjoyed celebrating Brian’s graduation at a barbeque at his aunt and uncle’s home on Memorial Day, where lot of proud friends and family were singing his praises!

And finally, my youngest Goddaughter, SOPHIE MANSOUR, graduated from Kindergarden at Grace St. Luke’s. Sophie is so excited to be in First Grade! We had fun celebrating Sophie’s birthday in February at the Little Gym. Check out the great photos if you missed them!

On a bittersweet note, two of my Goddaughters are moving away from Memphis this
summer. Katherine Thames and her husband, Hardy, and their children, Benji, Mary and Simon, are moving to Gulfport, where Hardy will teach at Gulfport High. The good news for them is that the kids will be close to one set of grandparents, and will be four blocks from the beach!

Here’s the family with my husband, Father Basil, presenting them with an icon during coffee hour at St. John last Sunday.

And me and Katherine afterwards.

I can barely type this through my tears. Katherine became my Goddaughter in 1997, and she and Hardy spent their first Pascha in our home. I served as sponsor for her wedding in 1998, and in 2003, when the Thameses returned from missionary work in Honduras, they lived with us for a couple of months. (Benji was about 3 and Mary was about 18 months.) We’ve travelled together to writers workshops here, and here. (Here we are with our friend, Daphne, at a Creative Nonfiction workshop in Oxford, Mississippi.)


And to visit friends in Arkansas. We’ve spent hours at coffee shops sharing our struggles and our joys. And I’ve had the blessing of serving as surrogate grandmother for Mary on Grandparents Day at her school, since her own grandparents lived out of town. Katherine’s friendship is a gift I will always treasure, and I wish her family a blessed life in Gulfport. My 2002 Toyota Camry just turned over 100,000 miles on my recent trip home from Seagrove Beach. I hope it’s got many more miles in it, as I’ll be making lots of trips to Gulfport!


Yes, this summer is a time for transitions, as TWO of my Goddaughters will be leaving Memphis! Julie Stanek is moving to New Jersey in August. Julie and I are also soulmates, especially with our love for art. Julie was the hostess for a group of artists who met monthly to paint, sketch, throw pots, and drink wine on Sunday afternoons for a year or so. We called ourselves the “Mixed Bag Ladies.” She and I travelled to Chicago a number of years ago to venerate several miracle-working icons there. And she attended several of my icon workshops at St. John the past few years. I will miss sharing these special times with her so much, but I wish her happiness in her new home! And yes, I’m thankful for Worldperks miles!

Back in April we had baby robins on our front porch, and now we’ve got another family in our carport. This time we’re able to watch them growing up (last time we left town and missed their “graduation”) and hope to catch sight of their first flights out of the nest. These pics were taken through the glass in our kitchen, so the quality isn’t great, but don’t you just love them?


I think the baby robins are teenagers now… here they are asking for “more, please!” on the one hand and yet wanting to get out of that crowded nest! They’ll be graduates soon. Like Julie, Clark, Melanie, Brian, Jay and Sophie.

May God grant them all many years!

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