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.
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.
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.
Remnev conveys a sense of isolation even when the subject in the painting is not alone — we feel their loneliness.
I am struck by the isolation, the feeling of “alone-ness” in this next set of paintings:
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.
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 😉
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’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.
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.
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?
Do you feel it?
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:
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.
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.
Whirlwind of a rainbow, blind eye of the storm.
Keeper of the bear lodge, brave heart soon to rest.
Stormy Weather 06
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.
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.
…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.
For you who know where I sit tonight, I cannot describe the quality of the light of setting sun on the storm clouds.
(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…
My love to everyone in the down south lodge.
Here in the north it’s become a powerful night.
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.
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!
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.
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.”
The brand is Nature Made. CVS often has it on sale for buy one, get one free.
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.
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)
I 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
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.
The area has dozens of lakes. Seventy-five to be exact (in the county).
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.
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.
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.
Mermaid image by Chip and Andy via Flickr CC license
image by Chip and Andy via Flickr CC commons license
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.
Image via Flickr CC, by Shihmei Barger
Image via Flickr CC, by Shihmei Barger
Beauty finds a way. Life finds a way. Always.
Image via Flickr CC, by Mickey_Liaw
Image via Flickr CC, by A Syn.
Image via Flickr CC, by Nita Hart
Image via Flickr by Robert Nunnally, CC license
Image via Flickr CC, by Nancy Phillips
Then today, I saw this posted on a friend’s Facebook wall.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?”
Image by Larry Miller, Baylor Solo and Ensemble day. Via Flickr CC license.
Image by Kate B “The Monkey Cats” via Flickr CC license. Solo and Ensemble singers.
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.
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.)
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?
A friend posted this article on her Facebook wall soon after I wrote this blog post. It is ON POINT so here it is:
“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.)
As I drove to choir rehearsal on Tuesday evening, I witnessed a fairly large group of young people (high school to 20s) gearing up for a fight. They were on the sidewalk and spilling out onto the road. Guys were charging toward each other, and a couple of them were pulling off their shirts.
I couldn’t decide if I should slow down or speed up. I was going to drive by about when the groups would collide. Could I find my phone to call 911? What if someone has a gun and shoots it? I could get hit by a stray bullet…
Though I had my windows up and music playing, I could their angry voices. I kept a steady speed and drove by. I looked in my rear view mirror as several people (males and females) physically put themselves between those who were intent on fighting. I admired their bravery and said a prayer of thanks for their courage.
I got a little further away and slowed down as I tried (again) to decide if I should call 911 or not . If I called, what would I say? Nothing happened; it just appeared that something was on the verge of happening. But what if the peace makers didn’t succeed?
I didn’t call. I went to choir. I wonder what happened.
Red Beans and Rice.
One of my food-related “guilty pleasures” is to have Popeye’s shrimp or chicken with a side of their tasty red beans and rice. As I hurried from my morning of teaching to an afternoon gig to accompany a group of singers for an hour long program at a senior citizen lunch, I realized I only had about 30 minutest to eat. I decided to drive through Popeye’s. Well, at least in the Milwaukee area, you need to be prepared for at least a 10 to 15 minute drive through “experience” but I figured that would still give me 15 minutes to eat.
There was only one car ahead of me and they were sitting at the ordering speaker. I took the risk. I watched the car clock tick away the minutes. I considered going to another fast food place (there were several in the near vicinity). I decided to stay. I ordered. I waited. My food appeared many minutes later. I didn’t want to sit in the that parking lot to eat so I drove away looking for a little nicer place to park.
I stopped at a library branch. I felt a little guilty because of the large warning sign: “Parking for Library Patrons ONLY. Violators will be towed.” I reasoned with myself that I AM a library patron because I borrow ebooks all the time and my library card is in the Milwaukee County Federated Library System. All of this is secondary to my upcoming drama with the red beans and rice, though.
The shrimp was hot and spicy. It was delicious. The chicken was hot and crispy, too. I saved the red beans and rice for last. I opened the container. Yes! They gave me a spork this time! (I have eaten them using the lid as a “spoon” more than once).
I was trying to open the plastic covering the spork and somehow managed to spill nearly ALL the container of beans and rice on myself. I was stunned. What on earth could I do to clean this up well enough to perform on stage with only a few napkins and only a few minutes to spare? As Dr. Seuss so famously said, “This mess is so big and so deep and so tall, we can not clean it up! There is no way at all!”
I was wearing black pants and shirt with a long red knit jacket over. The jacket had a batik -ish pattern printed on it. It was made so the serged seams were showing on the outside as part of the design. The fact that the jacket is somewhat reversible becomes an important point.
I got out of the car. I brushed off as much as I could. Birds and squirrels were going to have a treat. I used the spork. I used the napkins. Most of it came off, but there were HUGE splotches in several places.
I wondered if I could wear the jacket inside out? The decorative seams would be on the inside and the stains would most likely not show through as much that way. I only needed to find a pair of scissors to cut out the tag. It could work!
Ultimately, I wore it right side out. I did find scissors. I did cut the tag out. I did try it wrong side out. In the end it seemed best to leave it “as is.” Most of the staining was on the left side, which as it turned out would be facing away from the audience.
Moral of the story: Open your spork BEFORE you open your beans and rice.
The biggest lingering problem? A very strong fragrance of Eau de red beans and rice.
I accompany two children’s choirs. At the second rehearsal this week, during our break one of the girls told us about a lockdown at her school. She said it happened right away in the morning. There were police cars in the cemetery across the road from her school. They huddled in their lockdown positions for a very long time. She asked if any of us had been in a lockdown before and nearly everyone raised their hands (including me). She said she felt scared and began to cry. Someone asked did you find out what happened? Yes. There was a man digging his own grave and he shot himself in the head. She said she didn’t know if he died or not.
I told her I always feel the need to apologize to my students after a lockdown drill. I’m so sorry they have to go through such a scary experience. Most of the lockdown time I spend wondering if it is real or not and what I would do if someone came in shooting. Is this the day the unimaginable happens?
The school day went on as usual for the girl and her schoolmates. So many aspects of her story leave me feeling extremely sad and somewhat hopeless.
*A quick online search did not yield any shooting or homicide in the MKE area this week that matched this girl’s story. I wonder if the explanation she heard came from a teacher or a student. Sounds like an elementary school rumor, but one can’t be sure. Often real life is stranger than fiction.
*You can read about my very first lockdown experience here.
Sometimes I feel like an evangelist. I feel excited about something I’ve discovered or I have some knowledge that seems relevant to share. Whatever the reason, I find myself telling people about things they might be interested in or that might be of help to them.
Here is my current list of “really great things”:
Hamilton. The Musical.Months ago, my daughter suggested I should listen to the soundtrack.
“I think you’d really like it, Mom.”
Yeah, hmmm. I wasn’t sure.
I knew it was a hot ticket on Broadway in NYC but I also knew it had a hip-hop and/or rap vibe.
Not really my wheel-house.But earlier this week I finally asked her to put it on a memory stick for me so I could put it on my iPod.
Yes, I’m a musician, professional pianist and music teacher — but I mostly listen to music in the car not at home.
I tend to get too caught up in listening that I end up getting nothing done.
Unless it is a special genre of what I call “house cleaning music” but that fills a special purpose.
Hamilton. The Musical.
Anyway, It took me a few trips around town to listen to the whole soundtrack, but even before I finished the whole thing I was already telling pretty much every I met that I LOVED it and that they should listen to it, too. Right away! I have listened to it numerous times now and I am still hearing new things in it.
I’m so excited about it that I’m going to organize a group to go see the show when it comes to Chicago this fall. I can’t wait!
Zenni Optical. Yes, you can order excellent quality inexpensive eyeglasses online. I got three pairs for about $30 including shipping. THREE pairs. I recently bought a pair of glasses at a local eyeglass store that cost nearly $400! I honestly can’t tell the difference between the expensive pairs and the very inexpensive pairs.
Zenni has a very good website. You need your prescription from your eye doctor (with the pupillary distance if possible, but that is not essential since the website tells you how to measure it yourself). You can upload a photo of your face so that you can try the frames on YOUR photo. I found that it takes about an hour to get the photo and prescription enetered, choose your glasses and fill out the order form.
I’m kind of embarrassed to say that I’ve ordered SEVEN pairs of glasses from Zenni (so far.) I stepped on one pair and one pair is AWOL, but they cost about as much as two grande mochas so I don’t feel horrible about it.
I LOVE the cool frames. I have a pair that green multicolor, bright blue plastic, a purple polka-dotted pair, blue wire half-rims, and a pair that look Mondrian-ish. The pair that looks like wood is the AWOL pair, but I have hope they will turn up.
Seriously. Wouldn’t a nice pair of trendy, colorful, hip eyeglasses perk up your day?
Penzeys Spices. I’ve used these spices for probably two decades or more. There IS a difference in quality over the grocery store brands. These are some of my essentials: Cinnamon (I have three different kinds), Chili Powder (two kinds), Peppercorns (Special India Extra Bold), Rogan Josh (curry blend), Sweet Curry, Northwest Seasoning, Double Strength Pure Vanilla Extract, Italian Seasoning, Cocoa (two kinds), nutmeg, Chicago Steak Seasoning.
Take Vitamin D. Most people don’t get enough of this vitamin, especially in the winter months and especially up North. I take 1000 IU a day. The RDA is lower than that, but the research I’ve read seems to suggest a higher amount than the RDA. Some recommend up to 2000 IU a day. The studies that most convinced me to take the extra Vitamin D were those identifying lower cancer risk and lower incidence of colds/flu with higher levels of Vitamin D. Check some Vitamin D facts here.
Thrift Books.I have to thank my niece and my sister for this tip. If you don’t want to pay full retail, you still enjoy reading “real” books, and you don’t mind if your books are “pre-owned” — this is the site for you! You can find all sorts of books and most are $3 or less. You can get free shipping with orders over $10. They have saved over 200 million of books from going into landfills! Good stuff.
Goodwill. Favorite things to find: jewelry (gemstones and glass beaded necklaces and earrings either to wear or tear apart to make new creations), cashmere sweaters, silk scarves, original art and photography, books (cookbooks, too), CDs, leather purses, picture frames and so many useful, beautiful items over the years.
There are many more but I won’t continue to go into so much detail. I’ll leave you with brief list of past evangelistic crusades I’ve been on: A&E Pride and Prejudice (Yes, all five hours of it). Humans of New York (Facebook page) Terry Pratchett (author, Discworld series) Shutterfly (make your own books) Colossal: website devoted to photography, design, animation, painting, installation art, architecture, drawing, and street art
I’m sure I’ll think of other items to add to this list as soon as I post it.
As I am winding up this blog post, I realized suddenly that I read an article recently about having a friend who was always making connections between people and always had a recommendation to give about almost everything. I can’t find the article and I can’t remember the term for the person who doled out the advice and links. (If anyone happens to have read it or finds something similar, please let me know!) There wasn’t a negative connotation; the point was that this person was a good type of friend to have. They know a lot of people, and they have a lot of knowledge about a wide range of topics/places/people/things/ideas/etc which they share freely and without any ulterior motive or need for approval/praise. I wonder if I’m this type of friend. I hope I’m not annoying! I do tend to share things I’m excited about, though —
What are some things, recommendations, or topics you tend to get evangelistic about?
I’ve known for many months that you were going to die. That doesn’t make the news that you are gone any easier to bear.
I’m thankful I had the chance to let you know how much you meant to me before you were gone.
I wish you had not had cancer. Knowing that you suffered and shriveled makes my heart ache.
Losing you leaves me as the sole caretaker of our shared memories. We both claimed the other as “brilliant” and as the best (teacher/student) we ever had.
We only had about 4 years that overlapped in time and geography, yet your influence and spirit are with me still (more than 40 years and counting).
You were effervescent, ebullient and jaunty. I can still hear your voice and your laugh; I still see your lively eyes and joyous smile.
I didn’t know until last night when I Googled you, that you had taught in Colombia, Nicaragua and Venezuela as well as at Indiana University. That our paths crossed and that I became your student leaves me humbly grateful.
You changed my life.
Without your talent and knowledge (and patience) I would not be a musician, a pianist, an accompanist, a music teacher, a choir director.
I would not be who I am.
There are not enough words to thank you, dear Susan. There are no words to convey the sorrow; but the joy and the music and the wonderful memories will endure.
Two poems that will always remind me of you:
I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!
There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.
Why does the wild cherry tree
on the Hudson
So the green
of the elm is greener than
when it stands alone,
are one of those
who make others
more what they
Of those who draw them to
the extreme verge,
that is what
“The Wild Cherry Tree” from “To Hold in My Hand,” published by Sheep Meadow Press, Riverdale, N.Y.
(Excerpts below are from a letter I sent many months ago…)
There are no words to thank you for teaching me. Your daughter tells me that you think of me as your best student in all the years you taught, and I thank you for that gift. You were the BEST teacher I ever had! I would not play the way I did and do without your guidance and knowledge.
I’m so thankful that we found each other. You changed the direction of my life, whether you know it or not. Before I had you for piano, I was planning to become a beautician. By my sophomore year in high school, I had begun to think of music as my career.
I’ll never forget how I felt playing that first wonderful Rachmaninoff piece. The power, the beauty, the drama — I fell in love with it and with the piano. Then learning Fantasy Impromptu the next year was a new and completely different journey. I remember spending several weeks just working on the fingering and timing of the first page or two. I fell in love with the beauty of the phrases, with the melodies, with the emotion of the music. I felt like a door had been opened into a wonderful world that I never knew existed. I can still play Fantasie Impromptu mostly from memory even after all these years. Since learning that piece, I’ve loved Chopin’s music. Many of my future teachers continued to let me study Chopin pieces because I was good at it — AND because of the technique and training I got with you.
I think those two gorgeous pieces (and so many others you taught me) gave me so much confidence, not only musically but also personally. I realized I could do something quite well that most people couldn’t do at all and better yet, that I LOVED doing it. I played solos at school and at various community performances, and I felt proud and appreciated. YOU did that for me. I would not have had those experiences or opportunities without your expertise.
I also love the other big pieces we learned together, especially Reflets dans l’eau and the Chopin Ballade (and others). Each piece became part of my heart and soul. I can’t imagine my life without this wonderful music and without you having been in it.
Because of your influence on my life, I in turn have influenced many other lives. Some of the high school students I taught tell me that I made a difference in THEIR lives and that I was their favorite teacher. Parents tell me that students I had when I was a long term sub (for various maternity leaves) still talk about some of the fun things we did in music class many years after I taught them. That is YOUR legacy, too.
I’m sorry I haven’t called, but I am not great at expressing my feelings — especially over the phone. I asked L if she would consider reading this to you so that you will know how much you mean to me. You, your knowledge, your teaching, your expertise — your love of life and your wonderful personality — thank you for sharing part of your life with me and for making me a better person.