Birthday Confabulations

I’m hitting a milestone this year, birthday-wise. I guess every birthday is a milestone, though. This one feels very much a mid-point.

Fifty-five, in case you are wondering.

I’ve been thinking about memorable birthdays from my past.

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Jill-Fest button

When I was turning 49, I decided to have a party instead of waiting until the big five-oh. As I talked with friends, we began to call it “Jill-Fest.” I made buttons. We ate at our favorite local Chicago-style pizzeria and had our favorite beverages. Friends from the various parts of my lives met each other for the first time:  quilters, church folks, university colleagues, neighbors, musicians. We had a great time!

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Choir concert

Many birthdays were spent performing in concerts or recitals. Both of our children were members of the local Children’s Choir, and I directed the youngest choir. Every few years, the last concert of the year would fall on my birthday. One year, the audience sang “Happy Birthday” to me. One year I had a university choir concert (I was the accompanist for two of the choirs) AND there was a Children’s Choir concert at the same time (different venue).

Another memorable year, I accompanied two talented students who sang for a vocal studio recital. They sang a hilarious song called “Tear Jerk.” (This video is not of our performance. I’m including it in case you want to watch a version of this very humorous duet.)

In 2006, I also played for my first ever full vocal recital (university level). I had three weeks to learn all the (very challenging) music for a 45 minute program. It went well and I went on to play MANY more in the following years.

 

For my 40th, I got to eat lunch with by three best friends in a Galena, IL at Vinny Vanucchi’s (a FABULOUS Italian restaurant) and then shop the quaint main street stores. I bought a sterling silver ring with a small stone (which fell out a few months later). They got me a bottle of wine (to share during lunch) and a stone for my garden.

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Vinny’s in Galena, IL

Some years I had a “birthday week” or so.  I had a flexible schedule (working about 5 part-time music related jobs) so I had plenty of time for coffee chats, breakfasts and lunches with friends. So many good memories!

Simple family birthday celebrations are the most common through the years, though. We almost always have a cake or pie following a special meal of some sort (either home-cooked or “out”). When I was very young, we’d celebrate with Grandparents, Aunts and Uncles and cousins. Middle school and high school years we celebrated with something sweet at school (cake or cupcakes) and maybe a pizza night (at home or “out”). Usually by the time my birthday rolls around, the trees are just beginning to grown their fresh green leaves, daffodils and tulips bloom, and the grass is growing again. When our children were small, we celebrated by going to the zoo or by taking  walk in the woods. I try to avoid cooking on my birthday if at all possible!

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John Jacobson’s America Sings!

When I was the music director at a small high school in Illinois, I spent my 27th birthday with my students at the very first America Sings! festival in Washington, DC. Everything except the cherry trees seemed to be in bloom. My eyes were red and I couldn’t wear my contacts. I’ll never forget the sound of thousands of singers singing “Love will be our home” with the White House to our right, the Washington Monument behind us, and the Lincoln Memorial in the distance ahead of us as the day melted into twilight.

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SJO HS music dept at the 1st America Sings! event in Washington, DC April 1989

On the bus ride back to the hotel, they sang the song again spontaneously, beautifully, a cappella. This was memorable because I usually have a no-singing rule on bus trips. (They tend to over sing and cause vocal stress; plus, it gets annoying!) We when got back to the hotel, we had cake and a little party to celebrate the event, the end of our trip and my birthday, too.

 

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HS swing choir yearbook photo

Way back when I was in high school, we had a swing choir performance scheduled on a Sunday evening (on my 17th birthday). I asked several of my friends to go shopping or whatever during the day. Everyone said they couldn’t or were busy. I felt sad and a bit hurt, thinking no one wanted to celebrate with me. THEN our choir director called an extra rehearsal for that afternoon (at his house, which was very odd). I was definitely NOT happy.

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Red roses with baby’s breath

I arrived at the house and wondered why I saw Carla Darr’s car there. She wasn’t in swing choir. SURPRISE! Yes. I was totally surprised. It was not a rehearsal! It was a surprise birthday party. I was shocked and SO pleased. After thinking no one cared, I had no doubt they DID care. (I love my friends!) I got my first dozen red roses from my BFF.

 

 

One year sometime in the early to mid 1990s, I spent my birthday at the AQS quilt show in Paducah, KY. Quilters all over the United States (and around the world) aspire to attend this event.

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AQS Quilt Week in Paducah, KY

The whole town of Paducah focuses on all things QUILTS for those few days at the end of April each year. To begin with, there is the main show with thousands of quilts on display and hundreds of vendor booths for shopping. Then, all around the town are other smaller quilt shows, fabric stores and art galleries — and of course, the fabulous Hancock’s of Paducah (fabric frenzy central). It is a quilter’s paradise.

Speaking of birthdays and shopping, we used to live in a town with a Bargain Nook.

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Bargain Nook sweaters

On your birthday you could get 50% off your total purchase (up to a certain amount, but usually it was $100 or even more). This store sold mostly Lands’ End items — returns, seconds, defectives, etc — but also other used items in good condition. I LOVE Lands’ End stuff. Because of this store, I could indulge my love of cashmere sweaters! (For instance I’ve bought them for a little as $10!) Even better, the proceeds from these stores benefit a community organization:  The Hodan Center. Including my town, there were four bargain nooks within a radius of about an hour’s drive. Some years I would go to all four stores!

It is the mission of Hodan Community Services to provide and promote opportunities for work and personal development so that persons with disabilities can achieve individual life goals.

The celebration today (so far) has included breakfast cooked by my husband (bacon and eggs), a nap, time to read and fiddle with facebook, talking to my mom, and coffee (also made by my husband). Tonight we’re going to eat sushi and then see the national tour of the musical “Chicago” which is playing here in Milwaukee.

 

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Easter Memories

As this day draws to a close, my mind wanders back through the years…

Easter when I was young meant a new dress, hair curled (with bristly rollers and a hot hair dryer on Saturday), gloves, hat, purse and maybe new shoes. We’d go to church with Aunt Helen.

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Fancy hats, purses, shoes and gloves.

We’d have an Easter egg hunt in the house. My sister and I each had a woven basket with a nest of green paper grass and filled with eggs we had colored the day before. We usually had some plastic eggs filled with candy, too.

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I also remember having delicate large decorated sugar eggs that were hollow inside with a peep-hole on one end to look at a spring-themed diorama inside.

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Sugar Easter Egg

Most years, we’d drive the hour or so to Grandma and Grandpa’s house where we’d have a big meal with cousins and Aunts and Uncles and look for Easter eggs out in the yard. I don’t have many specific food memories associated with Easter. Jelly beans, marshmallow peeps and chocolate rabbits were the main treats we had.

In later years, Easter day usually meant a long morning at church. As church organist/pianist, I often played for 3 or even 4 services on Easter morning. When my husband and I had small children of our own, we made special arrangements with the Easter Bunny to visit while we were away at church (since we didn’t have time before church usually).

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Easter egg hunting in the yard, Easter Sunday, 1998

We colored eggs every year often experimenting with new ways to decorate the shells — natural dyes, crayon batiks, rubber bands, ombre effects, etc.

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Easter Eggs

Holy Week holds very special memories of having our daughter. I wrote about this in another blog post, The Miracle of Grace. I am still in AWE of the miracle of her birth. Hallelujah! She was baptized on Easter Sunday.

Holy Week services have been an important part of my faith journey. I remember being moved to tears singing Ah, Holy Jesus in an 1800’s sanctuary on Good Friday. I remember singing in and directing Easter/Holy Week cantatas. Lent and Tenebrae services made more sense after we became Lutherans. I’ve attended a few Seder meals in the home of a Jewish friend and cherish those memories. There have been healing services and prayer vigils.

One year when our children were very young we visited my mom and dad for Easter weekend. After we came home from church, we found a tree in their yard decorated with plastic Easter eggs. There were other eggs hidden around their yard. It was quite a mystery because none of us had made arrangements for the Easter Bunny to visit us there. (We solved this mystery many years later when a neighbor admitted being the accomplice.)

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Easter Egg Tree

Our children are much older now (18 and 21). This year we didn’t even color eggs at all. We did indulge in some candy, though. I deeply enjoyed attending church together, all four of us since it such a rare event now that our oldest is away at college. The church we attend now has a tradition of singing the Hallelujah Chorus (from Messiah) at the end of the Easter morning services. Anyone in the congregation who would like to sing with the choir is invited to do so. My son and I both went up to sing. It was joyous.

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Hallelujah

Whatever your faith tradition, I hope we can agree that LOVE and CARING for each other are essential for living our lives together now and forever.

 

 

Crossing the Border

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CN Tower, Toronto Ontario, Canada Image by The Tromp Queen, CC license 4.0

My daughter and I took a spontaneous trip to Toronto during our recent spring break from school.

As we left the USA to cross the bridge into Canada, there were many signs proclaiming the way to Canada and for the last exit before Canada. We showed our passports to the border person. He asked where we were going, why we were visiting Canada, how long we were staying, if we had accommodations, if we had any guns and a few other things. Nothing dramatic; no problems. We were on our way in just a couple of minutes.

After a few days of adventure in Toronto, we approached the border again — from the Canadian side this time. Our plan was to visit the Motown Museum in Detroit; we had reserved tickets purchased online for the 10:30 am tour. I had not really allowed enough time — it was raining, didn’t anticipate possible late-rush-hour traffic issues, didn’t really think through how long it would take to go across the US border — so I was feeling a time crunch.

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US/Canada border at Windsor, Ontario

We chose a line of cars to join. I think there were four lines. Each line was at least 10 cars long and all the lines were moving at a glacial pace. I worried that we had chosen the wrong line. We inched forward slowly, car by car. Minutes clicked by. Ten-o-clock came and went. I worked on how I would beg to be allowed to take a later tour at the museum.

There were border guards walking along the lines of cars. There was a sniffer dog and handler. There were cameras — everywhere — so many cameras.

Finally it is our turn to approach the booth.

I rolled down my window and attempted to clear my throat. (The morning “gags” as my co-workers will attest!)

The guy in the booth (first thing out of his mouth), “Did you just cough on me?”

I laughed and said no. “It is just the morning gags.”

He looked out our passports. “Ah. Milwaukee.” I nodded yes.

“Got a lot of good beer there?” I assured him there was no shortage.

Then he proceeded to ask if I knew that Wisconsin is the #1 drunk driving state in the country.  Yep. I know. Yep. I’m not proud.

He asks about Sarah being born in Iowa. We assure him she is not really an Iowan. Blah, blah, blah.

In my mind, I’m wondering if this guy knows how many cars are waiting in these lines behind us. Does he shoot the breeze with everyone like this? I glance at the clock, mentally calculating how many minutes we have left until 10:30 am and how much time I think we need to drive to the museum.

I mention we have tickets to tour the Motown Museum, thinking he might get the hint.

He jumps on the new bandwagon.
Do I play any instruments? Yes, I admit.
“Which ones,” he asks? To save time, I say, “all of them.”
He gives me grief. I tell him I was a band director and it is mostly accurate to say I can play all the instruments (wishing I had just said “PIANO” and left it at that!).

He asks Sarah what she plays. Violin, she answers. He is impressed. He tells us he wanted to play cello. This brings on a new thought apparently —

“Say. Tell me honestly,” he says, “how hard would it be to learn to play the bugle?”

“Well,” I say, “There are no valves so once you get the hang of the lip thing you are all set. Why? Do you want to play Taps?”

Yes, in fact, that IS the reason. He is a vet, he tells us. There is a shortage of Taps players. I know this because my brother-in-law has played Taps at many veteran funerals.

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Bugle. Image from eBay.

“You really think I could learn?”

“Sure,” I say, though I’m basing this affirmation on no proof of his musical talents and mainly his gift for gab.

I kid you not. More questions about the bugle come next!

“Where would I find a bugle?”

“Um… eBay? Or a good music store?”

“Oh. Right.”

At this point, I risk a pointed look at the clock and then say, “Well, if that’s all you need we should be heading to the museum….”

He hands back our passports.

“Have a nice trip.”

We made it to the museum with zero minutes to spare.  The tour started the moment we got past the ticket booth.  The tour was FABULOUS, by the way.

Beautiful Nature and Remarkable People: The Art of Andrey Remnev

http://www.remnev.ru/en/bio

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Andrey Remnev

My birth place is Yakhroma town, in the vicinity of Moscow. It is situated on high hills, from where broad Bruegelian vistas are open. The uneven terrain with significant differences of high and low; a canal between the Moskva river and the Volga; small rivers, woods and villages; a nearby ancient town of Dmitrov, which is equal to Moscow in age; ships cruising the canal and trains outdistancing them – all this I saw from my window since my early years. It was a view that embraced all the diversity of the world. This is why I can say that the impressions of my childhood and youth – beautiful nature and remarkable people – are the most important ones.

In the museum of Moscow’s St. Andronic Monastery I copied the best examples of the old Russian painting of the 15th-17th centuries.
My own style evolved from the ancient icon painting, Russian art of the 18th century, the compositional innovations of the World of Art group and Russian Constructivism.

As painters of the past, I use natural pigments bound with egg yolk.

I had never saw a work by this artist until today. I ran across the image on the left below — of the woman sleeping, wearing pearls and a thickly embroidered golden gown covered with blackbirds and waves. There is a lovely sense of peace and serenity.  A richness. Stillness.

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High Water. Code. Diptych. 2014 Remnev

 

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Siesta, 2008 Remnev

The more I looked, the more I fell in love.  This guy is obsessed with birds!  I wish these fabrics could exist in real life.  What fun it would be to wear clothing like this.

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Frau Herbst, 2001 Remnev
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Migration, 2009 Remnev

 

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Bagatel, 2010 Remnev
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Hotbed, 2014 Remnev
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Polya 2011 Remnev
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Echo, Remnev 2011

Ah, yes.  The birds, the inscrutable expressions on these women’s faces, the textured luxurious fabrics, and a very strong sense of surrealism — the paintings of Remnev are captivating.

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Vesna (Spring), 2010 Remnev
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Silk Birds, 2007 Remnev
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Metamorphosis, 2012 Remnev
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Apples of Gesperides, 2007 Remnev

 

Remnev conveys a sense of isolation even when the subject in the painting is not alone — we feel their loneliness.

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Eurasia, 2015 Remnev
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Spring-Winter, 2007 Remnev
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The unplaiting of the hair, 1997 Remnev

I am struck by the isolation, the feeling of “alone-ness” in this next set of paintings:

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Andromeda, 2007 Remnev

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Tomorrow will be wind, 2005 Remnev
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Deep Breath, 2011 Remnev
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Siringa, Remnev

 

 

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Papagena, Remnev

 

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Expulsion from Paradise, 2008 Remnev

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this artist.  Which painting speaks to you most clearly? What does it say to you? If you find others by this artist  that intrigue your senses, please share a link.

 

This Week in February, 2012

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George’s Barber Shop; Image from a 1991 calendar.

My dad died five years ago this week. I ran across this summary of that week’s events. I sent it to just a few friends at the time, but as I read it today I thought it might be of help to someone who might be going through a similar life event.

I thought I’d post a summary of all that has happened this week. All of you were very close friends at some point in my life and I still care deeply about each of you. If you don’t want to hear all the details, then you don’t need to read the rest of this. I thought some of you might want to know more, however, so when I had the chance to collect my thoughts last night I tried to write them down to share.

The funeral planning started the minute I got here Sunday evening and it all went very smoothly. The few things that could have been major issues were solved quickly and with little effort.

It has been very good to have time with my sister and with my mom. We took time to sort photos for the slide show (power point) and it was wonderful to bring back all those memories.

I have a very clear vision of my dad as his much younger, happier, healthier self, smiling and enjoying himself with many, many relatives and friends — all together in the presence of Jesus. No more tears, no more pain, no more sorrow, no more darkness!

Tuesday we spent time gathering the items and photos for the display of my Dad that would be on view during the calling hours and funeral since there wasn’t a coffin. I posted a pic of this on Facebook. R, B and S arrived just as the calling hours began which was wonderful. Tuesday night we had about 400 people (which is about 1/2 the population of this town!) come through the line to give condolences and offer memories and comfort. We saw so many people and heard so many stories that we have difficulty remembering them all, but we were left with an almost tangible sense of the impact Dad left on so many lives in this town. So many people told us about ways that he had cared for them during difficult times or that he made something special for them. R (the funeral home director who was a childhood friend of mine, growing up in our neighborhood and a member of youth group at church, etc) said he thought if we had had more hours of calling that we would have had even more people! But it was what we could do and I think it was as much as Mom could do in one day.

Wednesday the service time arrived so quickly. We talked with the people who came early to talk with us and with mom until nearly the last minute. The service was fantastic. The pastor did an excellent job. He wove in the humor and the grumpiness and the love — it was perfect. The two people who did the eulogy were right on. One was my cousin and the other was one of Dad’s very close friends through thick and thin these last 35 years or so.

Both were heartfelt but also made us laugh. All those trips to various basketball and football games in a car full of girls were definitely mentioned and chuckled over. We sang Mom’s favorite hymn towards the end and also played the recording of A’s song. My mom had heard the song (the composer was a student of mine when I taught at a small high school in central in IL) and LOVED the words and felt they were so perfect. The pastor did a short homily type wrap up using several of my dad’s favorite scriptures. I also played a piano solo arrangement of my Dad’s favorite hymn, The Old Rugged Cross.

Several people said it was the most joyous funeral they had ever attended. Even the funeral director said he didn’t think he had ever heard quite so much laughter at a service.

Many people said it suited Dad perfectly. We all felt very peaceful about the whole thing.

After a lunch at the church, we met at the graveyard very briefly. It was cold and windy. You can see my sister’s house from where his ashes are buried.

I think this was the most difficult time for me.

The pastor read the scripture from Revelation about no more tears, no more pain — and it became very real that my Dad’s body had been burned to ashes and was in that little white box at my feet but that he is face to face with Jesus now. Tears streamed down my face as I realized I will not ever see him again on this earth and as thoughts of all the good memories crowded my mind.

The plot we got for them is right next to Dad’s friend who did the eulogy.

Very cool how that worked out.

My mom will be buried there, too.

Mom and I have listened to the funeral music several times these last couple of days. We had two songs played during the prelude that were sung by the university choirs that I have accompanied for the last several years (7? or more now). One is called “No Time” (No time to tarry here for I’m on my journey home…I really do believe that just before the break of dawn you can hear the angels sing in that morning…Fare thee well for I on my journey home — it is gorgeous!). The women sang that one and they really did sound like a choir of angels! The men sang a beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace which I loved at the time (2006) and thought it would be perfect for funeral music someday. I had the mp3s sent here so that we could have these songs as the prelude. There are about 80 to 100 college students in these choirs each year so over the years I’ve gotten quite attached to many of them, so having this music at the service meant a lot to me. (Plus the pianist is very good 😉

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fabulous Fazoli piano!

The more we mull over Dad’s last few weeks and especially his last week, we are so thankful for the way things ended for him. He saw most of the people he loves at least once in the last month and he got to do many of the things he most enjoyed in those last few days — eat with his favorite relatives and go to a HS basketball game. He died at home on the couch in his sleep (if not in his sleep he died as quietly as if he was just going to sleep because Mom didn’t hear him from the next room).

We are thankful he didn’t have to be in a nursing home or kept alive on a respirator or via feeding tube. We are thankful that he didn’t have time to be afraid or to feel pain this time. I’m thankful that I called that afternoon — probably it was in the last hour of his life.

We all feel a wonderful sense of relief, of peace, of comfort. We are truly surrounded by love and prayers and we feel it every minute of every day since those first few hours as the news spread.

There are so many details to take care of. I want to do as much as I can before I go back to WI. Lori has done so much over these last few weeks, months, years. But we also are trying to take time to just rest and soak in the peace.

I’m thankful I had such a wonderful Dad, and that I have had this time to say goodbye to him.

 

I’m thankful for each and every one of you.

Dr. Who: Philosophy of Fear

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I’ve been Dr. Who off and on for over 30 years. Back when my husband was in grad school, it was on every week night at 10 pm on the local PBS station. Tom Baker, Layla, K9, the Daleks, Cybermen, Sarah, John Pertwee, Unit — many years, many Doctors, many companions, many adventures.

Dr. Who has had a re-boot in the last few years. The new version is still on BBC.

My husband (who seems to be in the midst of a Dr. Who binge-watch) had Series 8, episode 4 on today. The topic of fear caught my attention.

I struggle to not let fear rule my mind and heart.
Attempting to think of fear in a different way may help.

Maybe it will help you, too, if you struggle with fear every once in a while
(or all the time…)

Clara (hearing a loud noise): What’s that?
The Doctor: What kind of explanation would you like?
Clara: A reassuring one.

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Clara (spoken quietly to a child in the dark):
I know you’re afraid, but being afraid is alright.
Because didn’t anybody ever tell you?

Fear is a superpower.

Fear can make you faster and cleverer and stronger.

…If you’re very wise and very strong fear doesn’t have to make you cruel or cowardly.

Fear can make you kind.

You’re always gonna be afraid even if you learn to hide it.
Fear is like a companion, a constant companion, always there.
But that’s okay because fear can bring us together.

Fear can bring you home.

I’m gonna leave you something just so you’ll always remember.
Fear makes companions of us all.

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The Doctor:
Let me tell you about scared.

Your heart is beating so hard I can feel it through your hands.
There’s so much blood and oxygen pumping through your brain it’s like rocket fuel.
Right now you could run faster and you could fight harder, you could jump higher than ever in your life. And you are so alert it’s like you can slow down time.

What’s wrong with scared?
Scared is a superpower.
It’s your superpower.

There is danger in this room and guess what?
It’s you.
Do you feel it?

S08E04

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A voice heard halfway around the world

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CS Lewis quote; image by The Tromp Queen, CC license.

Most days, I probably spend a little too much time on Facebook.
On weekends I probably spend a LOT too much time on Facebook.

But sometimes I’m deeply touched by the things I read and see there.
I’m flabbergasted by the kindness of strangers and friends.

I feel connected to people and places I’ll probably never see again (or ever see period).

Yesterday I made a new friend.
She lives in Hobart, Tasmania and I live in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Here’s how it happened.

As I was scrolling through my newsfeed, I saw a post about a conversation between two friends:

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(at Starbucks)
FRIEND: I need a tea. Do you want anything?

ME: A new president.

Thinking the post was by a friend, I commented:

“I can’t believe it’s only been a week.”

Turns out the post was from another source and a friend had re-posted it. A short while later I got this very kind message from a woman in Australia who said my comment struck a chord with her which prompted her to contact me:

Please excuse me contacting you like this .
I normally wouldn’t. But I’m sitting here in Hobart Tasmania like 12 thousand miles from Washington and I was thinking exactly what you said

” I can’t believe it’s only been a week”

A cry from the heart or just a bemused thought or whatever.

Exactly that. A week in time. There’s 52 in each year. If things are 208 times worse in 4 years god help us all long before then.

My apologies again but you struck a chord in me. Peace.

This was my reply:

Thank you for your words. I had planned to try to bury my head in the sand for the next four years, trying to naively believe all will be well. Every single day it is more apparent that I can not in good conscience pursue that passive path. My comment was a cry from the heart; I appreciate being heard.

I was having a bout of insomnia. It was about 1:30 am here and I don’t know what time there, but I’m guessing 17 or 18 hours since it is almost literally half-way around the world.

We chatted (via Facebook Messenger) about the new US President and various issues, then meandered on to family and common interests.

I spent a little time trying to figure out if she and I had any mutual friends.
We didn’t.
This was truly a serendipitous connection.

We decided to become friends on Facebook and just started our first game of Words with Friends together.

A person can never have too many friends — virtual or otherwise.
Being kind is always a good thing to be.

Documenting Rural Iowa

 

Meet photographer Cody Weber.

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Cody Weber of ForgottenIowa.com

Cody Weber is a no-coast photographer from Keokuk, Iowa.  He has had a lifelong fascination with the history of his home state and a bittersweet love for his hometown.

He has committed himself to photograph and visit all 99 counties and all 947 towns in Iowa with hopes of capturing the soul and story of every one. He calls it Forgotten Iowa.

There are 947 towns in Iowa. I’m going to take pictures of every single one.

 

There is a real disconnect between city poor and rural poor and neither one seem to quite understand the other.

Read the Forgotten Iowa blog posts  and see photographs here and here.

Check out the Forgotten Iowa Instagram, too.

I discovered Cody’s work on the Antique Archaeology website in an article entitled:

Intriguing project, right?

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Image by Cody Weber for ForgottenIowa.com
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Image by Cody Weber for ForgottenIowa.com
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Image by Cody Weber for ForgottenIowa.com

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Image by Cody Weber for ForgottenIowa.com
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Image by Cody Weber for ForgottenIowa.com Dubuque, Iowa area scenic view
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Image by Cody Weber for ForgottenIowa.com
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Image by Cody Weber for ForgottenIowa.com
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Image by Cody Weber for ForgottenIowa.com

 

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Image by Cody Weber for ForgottenIowa.com

 

Rarely does the rain taste like tears

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image by TTQ cc; Uncommon Folk exhibit at MaM

Whirlwind of a rainbow, blind eye of the storm.
Keeper of the bear lodge, brave heart soon to rest.

Never have I seen the clouds like this, never have I seen the river white caps whipped so, such rare light marking off in sacred four directions.

Rarely does the rain taste like tears.

Rain, rain, rain, in my tears / Measuring carefully my years --Uriah Heep
Rain, rain, rain, in my tears / Measuring carefully my years –Uriah Heep Image by Robert via Flickr CC.

Tonight my heart is breaking, yet bursting with gratitude – such dichotomy is the stuff of growth and pain.

Life gives us this and more, and in death the reminder of how short and sweet and tumultuous and tender this gift is.

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stained glass windows; church in NJ, image by TTQ CC license

…the storm shall soon pass, with it that kind-hearted Whirlwind and in doing so will leave us all the better for knowing him.

We sit, still in ceremony with all of you. Prayers are felt.

Doug Ellis via Flickr CC license candle light prayer circle
candle light prayer circle

 

For you who know where I sit tonight, I cannot describe the quality of the light of setting sun on the storm clouds.

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sunset storm clouds over Lake Michigan

(We listen) to the wind whip around the house and he laughs! Fitting to go out in a storm he says… The spikes of light in the cardinal points, something very surreal about it all…

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image by QThomas Bower, via Flickr CC

My love to everyone in the down south lodge.

Here in the north it’s become a powerful night.

Rainbow Curls image by Kris Williams via Flickr CC license
Rainbow Curls, Iceland image by Kris Williams via Flickr CC

 

–Kristen Andrews

I found this lovely, incredibly moving tribute posted by Kristen Andrews somewhere on Facebook a while ago.  Such beautiful words, such heart wrenching imagery, such love and beauty — it makes my heart ache.

Simply Give; Give Simply

Dear Readers:

I have done a “simply give; give simply” post for the past couple of years now.

2015:  https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2015/12/16/gifts-that-give-back-2/

2014: https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/gifts-that-give-back/

2013: https://haskerj.wordpress.com/2013/12/01/radical-gift-giving/

This year’s is going out without the bells and whistles (photos and detailed descriptions) because if I wait any longer it will be of no use to anyone.

All of the following links are for gift ideas (or websites with lists of ideas) that support what I think are good causes.

http://www.shopdignify.com/

http://www.embracingasimplerlife.com/2014/12/10/how-to-give-more-without-spending-more-this-christmas-advent-conspiracy/

Made by Survivors:  http://www.madebysurvivors.com/

http://www.madebysurvivors.com/collections/necklaces/products/silver-circles-of-life-necklace
Tree of LIfe necklace Made by Survivors

 

http://www.aworldofgood.com/index.htm

http://www.etc-nepal.org/alternativegifts.php

http://www.tenthousandvillages.com/   *dove of peace pin made from bombshell casings, image below*

 

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Beautiful doves of peace, made more meaningful by their source. Cambodian artisans shape these doves and their universal message from recycled brass bomb casings. War in Cambodia littered the landscape with unexploded bombs. Artisans group Rajana helps young people gain skills in handicrafts production and marketing, transforms bomb casings into fashion statements for peace.

https://www.globalgiving.org/microprojects/sponsor-tailoring-skill-for-indian-womens/

http://www.papermojo.com/

http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/Gifts-That-Give-Back/1

http://www.elle.com/fashion/news/g27423/gifts-that-give-back-charitable-presents/

http://greatist.com/happiness/gifts-that-give-back

http://www.refinery29.com/2015/11/98280/ethical-charitable-gift-ideas#slide

http://donate.worldvision.org/ways-to-give/gift-catalog

http://donate.worldvision.org/ways-to-give/handcrafted-gifts

http://www.womensbeanproject.com/help-women-thrive/retail-partners/

https://www.sevenly.org/collections/prints

https://www.statebags.com/pages/our-story

http://www.canvashomestore.com/pages/global-partners

 

Enjoy exploring!

Merry giving and receiving.

Peace and Grace to you all.

 

 

 

The Tromp Queen Recommends…

Every once in a while I get excited about something and feel the need to share with whomever is willing to listen. Today, that is you!

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I recently discovered Outlander, which is both a collection of novels by Diana Gabaldon and a TV series on the STARZ network.

The basic premise has to do with accidental time travel by means of a Stonehenge-ish set of stones near Inverness Scotland. A woman is taken from 1945 back to 1743; the books (and very well done TV series) deal with her life in both eras.

Can the future be changed? Can love heal all wounds? Are our paths governed by fate, destiny, faith, honor, love or chance (or some combination all those things)?

The characters are well developed, and the historical details are woven intricately into the story. I’ve literally laughed and cried (not at the same time) while reading the books and while watching the series.

I bought all 8 (verra long) books for my Kindle (currently reading book 6) and ordered both seasons of the show on Bluray. (Season two releases on Nov. 1; Season three is shooting now in Scotland.)

Also, who knew kilts could be so sexy? I’ve not been paying attention apparently.

13 Problems only people obsessed with Outlander understand. (read the list here)

 

If you have trouble falling asleep now and then (or even every night), this is the only thing I’ve found that helps while not making me feel groggy and out of sorts the next morning. It is called simply “Sleep.”

Nature Made "Sleep" (sleep aid)

The brand is Nature Made. CVS often has it on sale for buy one, get one free.
Trader Joe's Dolmas

After our trip to Turkey a couple of years ago, I’ve been on the lookout for foods I can make here that are similar to foods we ate there. One item that is very good and tastes very authentic to me is available at Trader Joe’s.

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Take them out of the can, drizzle them with a little lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil and you are good to go! Delicious.

Good measuring cups and spoons are necessary kitchen equipment. Until recently I was using a couple of sets of old plastic measuring cups. I ordered some good stainless steel ones and they are so nice! Click here to order them from Amazon for only $7.95 (for one set of cups and one set of spoons)

http://tinyurl.com/jfe3358I carry ear buds with me most of the time. I love this little case. It is small and sturdy; most importantly it keeps the ear buds untangled and intact. The item is called

Case Star ® Black Earphone handsfree headset HARD EVA Case – Clamshell/MESH Style with Zipper Enclosure, Inner Pocket, and Durable Exterior + Silver Climbing Carabiner with Case Star Velvet Bag

and it looks like this:

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At Amazon and you can order one here.

 

Zoonections

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We visited the Milwaukee County Zoo last weekend.  I’m always drawn to the same animals.

I love the big cats and the flamingos.

I love watching polar bears, seals, sea lions and otters swim.

I enjoy listening to the little ones declare loudly what they are seeing.

I love the zoo signs that make all the grown-ups instant Biology Professors.

I never get tired of watching the people and the animals. I’m not sure which is more entertaining, but the interaction between the groups is definitely the best.

Shooting Mermaids

I grew up in a small town. When I was in college, I used to describe it as 699 people and 1 stoplight. It is a little larger than that now– population now around 1,100 with 3 stoplights–but it is definitely still a small town.

My hometown is a pretty special place, though.

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My beautiful hometown lake.

The area has dozens of lakes. Seventy-five to be exact (in the county).

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Kosciusko County Lakes, public domain photo

Because of all these lakes, the area is very popular with weekend visitors. Many people drive several hours just to spend a couple of days “at the lake.” We lovingly call these visitors “Lakers.” They arrive in droves on Memorial Day Weekend and are there all summer until Labor Day weekend, with more on the weekends. They rent cottages or stay in hotels; they float on pontoons, ski behind power boats and fish until their hearts are content.

The big summer event happens in June, though.

Every year since 1945 during the last full week of June, the Lions Club in my hometown has hosted a Mermaid Festival. There is a carnival, elephant ears, salt water taffy, caramel corn, a beauty pageant and a cutie contest, a talent contest, and two parades with floats and marching bands.

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Rinker’s store, Main St.

Mom and I were in the old Rinker’s store which is now a consignment antique mall looking at the antiques. Mom saw one of the old mermaid signs that used to hang on the downtown streetlight poles during the Mermaid Festival. The signs were painted by a local artist and some people thought they were a little too risqué. 

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Vintage Mermaid sign

Mom started talking about how much a local feisty elderly woman hated the mermaids and actually took a shot at one that someone put out by her house (as a joke).

The elderly woman got arrested and hauled into “the hoosegow.”(Mom’s word for jail.)

I said something like she shouldn’t have a gun if she thinks it is reasonable to go around shooting at mermaids.

A lady came around the corner and said, “I couldn’t help overhearing your conversation. I’m over here freaking out because I thought my whole life mermaids were NOT real.”

I chuckled and assured her that she was indeed correct in her assumption that mermaids were not real — and then went on to explain we were talking about mermaid SIGNS not actual mermaids. She looked relieved and we all had a good laugh.

 

 

Information about upcoming Mermaid Festivals.

Mermaid Festival Facebook page. 

Growing through concrete

Yesterday I drove to Chicago and back to see a friend. I drove through the usual mess of road construction and major traffic snarls. The closer I got to the Loop, the more bogged down the traffic got.  As I sat (at a standstill) I glanced at the cement median. Along several cracks in the concrete, I noticed grass and wild flowers growing. Not just growing — thriving.

I considered taking a photo but I couldn’t reach my camera safely. (So I found some similar photos on Flickr. See gallery below.)

I thought about how sometimes we feel like those weeds and flowers. Hanging on by a few fragile roots, in the middle of a hot unforgiving place, with just a tiny fragment of space, little or no resources — but still finding a way to not only survive but to actually bloom.

That trite saying “bloom where you are planted” has truth. I’ve had to move more times than I have wanted. Each time, the process of leave-taking then starting over commences: the good-byes, the leave-taking, then being the outsider, mustering the bravada to carry on, and finally searching for the new “normal.”

I got my first teaching job in the summer of 1985. It was in a tiny town just east of Urbana, IL. The band room was surrounded by a tar and chip parking lot. As I prepared for the first marching band rehearsals, I was pleasantly surprised to see some lovely pink lilies pop up out of the tiny seam between the building and the pavement. My mom told me they were Resurrection Lilies. I later discovered other names for them:  Magic Lilies, Surprise Lilies, Naked Ladies, lycorissquamigera, and Amaryllidaceae.

They pop up out of no where (or seem to), bloom and then whither away all in a week or so. Each year I taught there (four, to be exact), I looked forward to seeing those lilies.

Beauty finds a way. Life finds a way. Always.

 

Then today, I saw this posted on a friend’s Facebook wall.

From Word Porn
From Word Porn

 

Quote from Tupac Shakur, photo by TTQ CC 4.0
Quote from Tupac Shakur, photo by TTQ CC 4.0
Quote from Tupac Shakur, photo by TTQ CC 4.0
Quote from Tupac Shakur, photo by TTQ CC 4.0

Remembering Violet

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Violet

Once upon a time in a small town in Indiana, a young man named Cecil married a young woman named Violet on July 10, 1926. A little more than two years later, Violet died in the fall of 1928 of consumption (tuberculosis) at the age of 22. Her burial took place at Woodlawn Cemetery in Warren, Indiana. The grave is marked with a simple, small grey tombstone with black lettering.

On Christmas Day of 1930, Cecil married Edith. They were married for over 66 years. My mother is their first-born of four children.

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Cecil

I’m Cecil and Edith’s grandchild. I’ve been doing family history research for a little over a year now, though I’ve been interested in family stories and connections for much longer than that.

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Decoration Day

My mom refers to Memorial Day as Decoration Day. She isn’t alone in this tradition. My Dad’s relatives have a tradition of decorating family graves for Memorial Day. This usually happens on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend or a few days before that. Many relatives are buried in just a few cemeteries within a short driving distance. Sometimes there are several cars moving in a caravan from place to place; sometimes there are just one or two cars. Each family grave stone is cleaned. Weeds are pulled. Live flowers are planted or planters hung from hooks. Silk flowers are stuck into the ground. Photos are taken. We often end up at a local restaurant for a fun family lunch afterward.

We missed the decorating day this year, but my mom and I made the trip to Woodlawn on Saturday anyway. We had arranged to meet a couple of cousins there.

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Dale Schwob, 1909 – 1923 Woodlawn Cemetery Warren, IN

Mom and I happened to park near Violet’s grave. She is buried next to Grandpa’s brother who died of influenza at the age of 17 just a few years before Violet’s death. We have many relatives buried in that area of the cemetery.

Our cousins arrived and we stood talking for several minutes. As we chatted, I noticed a man and a woman walking from a car parked some distance away. They seemed to be making their way directly toward Violet’s grave.

Sure enough, they stopped right in front of her grave marker.

I couldn’t resist asking if they were related to Violet.

The woman looked at me intently and said, “Why are you asking?”

I replied that my grandfather had been married to Violet when she died.

The woman was flabbergasted. Her father was Violet’s brother; Violet had been her first cousin.

I pointed to my mother and said, “Cecil’s daughter is right over there.”

Mom and our cousins came over and everyone got introduced to each other. The woman, Leilani, and Mom had quite a conversation, and shared several reminiscences. They talked about Naomi who was the sole surviving person from that earlier generation. I remembered some of Leilani’s Aunts and Uncles. We had often gone with them and with my Grandparents on fishing vacations at cottages in northern Michigan.

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Mom and Leilani, talking near Violet’s grave in Woodlawn Cemetery in Warren, IN.

I asked if Leilani had a photo of Violet. She said no but she would love to have one. I told her I had one and would be very happy to send it to her. Mom asked Leilani if she had any photos of her parents that she could share in return. She readily agreed. We exchanged addresses and promised to send the items soon.

I didn’t hear about “Grandpa’s first wife” until about 30 years ago. Grandpa was in the hospital and I was visiting my Grandmother at her home. She casually mentioned her concern that Grandpa might want to be buried by his first wife instead of beside her. I was shocked and speechless for a few moments. I had no idea he had been married before! My Grandparents had been happily married since 1930 and no one had EVER mentioned a previous marriage or anyone named Violet.

I quietly asked her a few questions. They were young. She was pretty. Her name was Violet. She was a Yount. She died of consumption. They didn’t have any children. She and Grandpa met a few years later and the rest, as they say, is history.

I assured Grandma that I was sure he would want to be buried next to her, not Violet.

So that is why the Yount family has always been close to Mom’s family. I thought they were just friends. The reason was much deeper — they were related by a long ago marriage that ended tragically.

I can’t help thinking — If Violet hadn’t died, my mother would not have been born and by extension, neither would I.

88 years after her death, I’m thankful Violet is remembered and her memory is honored by her family.  I’m thankful for the encounter we had in the cemetery near her grave, discovering relatives in common after so many years.

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Cecil and Violet, marriage certificate July 10, 1926.

 

 

 

Some things never change…

I wrote this about solo/ensemble festival in a long-ago blog post:

I can write this before Saturday because I already know what the day will be like. There will be herds of young people moving up and down the halls. Girls will be dressed in their uncomfortable finery — some sporting high heels that are clearly killing their feet. Boys may have ties or tennis shoes, and sometimes both! There will be smiles, laughter, tears and frustration. There will be donuts, hot dogs and probably BBQ sandwiches. Some will perform better than they ever have (or ever will again), and some will make huge mistakes. Some who deserve twos will get ones, and some who deserve ones will get twos. Families and friends hover, chatting quietly, and move from room to room. The tension and nerves of many performers is nearly tangible. Scraps of conversations can be overheard: “I got a one/two/one star!” “That judge is crazy/easy/hard/good/bad!” “The room is running way behind.” “Where is my accompanist/instrument/music/director/reed/room?”

Flash back to this past weekend:  I had a conversation about this topic with another Mom while we were waiting for scores to be posted on Saturday (which was our state solo/ensemble festival this year). I said there are always the same types of people every year; some things never change. There are girls in too-high heels or no shoes at all (one walked by as I said this!), girls in too-short skirts (we saw one on the way to our cars), and people in various costumes (medieval dress, sparkly show choir outfits, bow ties and suspenders, etc.)

Nerves can be covered by a veneer of confidence that is only a millimeter thick — or not covered at all. Red-rimmed, tear-filled eyes are easy to spot in nearly every hallway. After (and sometimes even before) a performance that may or may not have been an accurate showing of the musician’s ability that inner voice that says “You completely messed that up!” or “You’ve never made that mistake before — EVER — why now?” can drown out all other coherent thoughts.

Musicians are fragile yet incredibly strong at the same time. If you’ve never had to stand up in front of a group of peers, or strangers, or experts and sing, play or perform knowing you’ll be evaluated not only against yourself but against everyone else who will perform in that room that day you can’t imagine the amount of courage and fortitude that requires.

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We want to be perfect and perfection is nearly impossible to obtain. (That doesn’t stop us from trying to attain it, though!)

I think that is why we sometimes play the “Diva.” We can easily hide behind the DIVA persona . “Who gives a damn what you think? I know I’m fabulous.” But all the while We still have nagging doubts: “I missed that G#!” “I can’t believe I mixed up the verses!”

The fear that we are not good enough is always there. (At least it is for me.)

atelophobia

It isn’t easy to let go of the ideal “perfect” performance goal. Striving for steady progress and for excellence while appreciating and enjoying the journey are much more achievable, healthier goals.

Easier said than done.  But saying it is the first step toward doing it, right?perfectionism-quote

A friend posted this article on her Facebook wall soon after I wrote this blog post. It is ON POINT so here it is:

Pianist Misses Notes In Recital, Says Pianist

“Oh my god, no. What are you talking about? I was terrible,” Hayes said, challenging Christine’s version of events. “I missed so many notes, I can’t freaking believe it. I never mess up there.”

Several audience members besides Christine also failed to notice Hayes’ embarrassing mistake, leading them to falsely conclude that the recital was a success and the 22-year-old pianist should be proud of his tremendous accomplishment. Most attendees were seated at a considerable distance from the stage and had at best a partial view of Hayes’ hands, while several among them lacked the musical education necessary to have formed a credible judgement of his performance.

Their glowing accounts of Hayes’ recital were directly contradicted by Hayes himself, who was the key eyewitness to the memory slip in the Schumann. Not only did Hayes have a closeup, firsthand view of his own senior recital, he had also been studying his repertoire in depth for several months and had better knowledge of the correct notes than anyone else present in the auditorium.

(Read the complete article which was posted on SubMediant on May 2, 1016.)