“Please stop me if you’ve heard this one before.”

I heard a song this week for the first time in a long time.  It brought to mind the very first time I heard it which was September 27, 2013.  You might wonder how I know exactly when I heard this song for the first time.  Well, there is a story about that.  I realized the other day that I never wrote about it.  At least I don’t THINK I wrote about it; hence the title for this post.

The song is “Ain’t It Your Birthday?” by Jonny Fritz and the In-Laws.

The words to the chorus go like this:

Hey well ain’t it your birthday?
Then why aren’t you smiling?
I just drove 250 miles
In the middle of the night
On an empty tank
Dodging deer along the way
On a central Virginia moonlit byway
Brought to you by this small town
I always thought I could come home to
Oh well I guess I was wrong

I had attended my Aunt Linda’s funeral in Indiana that late September Friday and I was driving all the way back to Dubuque, Iowa in order to attend the rest of the annual fall guild quilt retreat that weekend.
I had been driving several hours in the dark.  I was tired.  I was drained emotionally and physically.  As always, a family funeral brings together far-flung relatives who do not see each other very often — usually just once  a year or so at the holidays.  It had been a good day of reminiscing and of re-connecting. I was sad, but I knew I had done the right thing in going to the funeral.  I was also looking forward to spending the rest of the weekend among very dear friends being creative and relaxing.  There would be much talking, laughing, eating and sewing.

I had my ipod hooked up to the car stereo and I must have had it on some kind of shuffle.  This wacky country song came on.  I heard the chorus.  I laughed.  Here I was driving over 250 miles at night (okay, it was only 9 pm — not midnight) and I had just stopped for gas.  I was on a curvy, hilly country road in the Driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin and was most definitely being cautious for deer and other night critters that might dash out in front of me.

Then it hit me.  This would have been my dad’s birthday.  September 27.

He loved country music.  The twangier the better.  The more steel guitar and sorrowful the better.  He would turn the radio up really loud in the garage while he was doing his woodworking (making sawdust as he used to call it) and sing along to Johnny Cash or Ernie Ford or anybody that old country music station happened to be playing.

Though he was a marshmallow on the inside, he was not one who usually spent extra time smiling.

He also really, REALLY loved to drive.  He would drive hours just to attend a high school football or basketball game, especially if one of his nephews was playing or anyone from our hometown for that matter.

So — this song surrounding me in that dark car on that lonely, long drive with family on one end and friends on the other — felt like a great big hug from my dad.

The weird part is that I had no idea where this song came from or how it came to be on my ipod.

A solo version by the same guy who is also known as Jonny Corndawg:

I later found out that this song was on a free mp3 album I had downloaded from Amazon, so it didn’t appear out of nowhere.  It just seemed that way. I still like to think it was a hug from my dad and that is was sent to me on that night especially.  (I checked.  Amazon no longer offers this album, free or paid but you can download the song for $1.29).

From The Tromp Queen archives on related topics of quilt retreats, Dad, and being a good neighbor:








I Am in Need of Music

I Am in Need of Music (Sonnet)

poem by Elizabeth Bishop, photos via Flickr Creative Commons
Adam Henning, CC license via Flickr
Adam Henning

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.

Abstract by Art G. CC license via Flickr
Abstract by Art G.

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!

Victoria Falls in Zambia at sunset, by Ryan.  CC license via Flickr
Victoria Falls in Zambia at sunset, by Ryan.

There is a magic made by melody:

Rhythm of Fire by Seth Rader

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,

Reflection on Johnny's Pond by Sathish JHeld in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.

"The pond" by Mikael Tigerström
“The pond” by Mikael Tigerström


sonnet by Elizabeth Bishop
I believe I understand what Elizabeth is describing with her words.  Early in my teen years, I discovered that music was a calming force for me.  Not that I always felt or feel calm when I play, but that the act of playing (of creating music) brings me to a calmer state of being.
Is it because my mind stops turning inward or spinning in worried circles?  I focus on the notes and the feel of the keys, the pattern of the chords and melodies — and there is only music.  Is it the physicality of the hand/eye coordination or the wavelengths of sound going through my eardrums into my brain that does it?  Or is it the “Zen”ness of the playing, the feeling of letting myself slip away until I only see and hear and feel the music?
There is healing, of rest, of flow (hence the imagery of water), of stillness, of floating.  Quiet Breath.
I don’t know why it works this way for me, but it truly does.
These are but a few of the many reasons why I will always be in need of music.

Final Few February Haiku

This post marks the end of my February Haiku (part of my Joy 365 project).  This was more difficult than the January photos.  I am already behind on March!  I’m not sure what I will be doing with March yet.  Stay tuned, and as always, thank you for reading and following The Tromp Queen!

25 Tues — First rehearsal with area HS students preparing for upcoming district solo/ensemble contests.

image by TTQ
image by TTQ

Singers prepare songs.
First run-through:  a little shy.
Music minds the gaps.

26 Wed — Meet with photographer at Milwaukie’s Art Museum lobby to take head shots for my new job as MCC accompanist.

image by TTQ, CC license -- at Milwaukee Art Museum
image by TTQ, CC license — at Milwaukee Art Museum

Hair, make-up, jewelry:
Head shots at Art Museum.
Carved marble profile?

27 Thurs — Driving across the state from east to west. Going through Pville en route to quilt retreat.

Driving Driftless roads
Passing bluish-white meadows
Trees and cows dot hills.

Tears rush to fill eyes.
I don’t live here anymore.
“Home” is elsewhere now.

28 Fri 

image by lynn Dombrowski attribution, sharealike CC license via Flickr
image by lynn Dombrowski attribution, sharealike CC license via Flickr

Favorite coffee shop:
Time to chat with my dear friend.
Joyful day begins.

quilt and photo by qurikyjazz aka Jill CC license
quilt and photo by qurikyjazz aka Jill CC license

Next stop: Quilt Retreat.
Bound with stories, tools, advice,
Hugs, laughter, sorrows.

Connections endure:
Souls and voices — we still hear.
Fabric soothes us all.

February 4: Happiness Haiku

image via Flickr CC by nexus6

Girls’ choir spins pure tones
Words of comfort, peace and grace:
No tears in heaven.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death
or sorrow or crying or pain.
All these things are gone forever.
Rev. 21:4
(New Living Translation)

I got a call on Sunday from the Artistic Director of the Milwaukee Children’s Choirs.  Suddenly, they were in need of a replacement (permanent!) pianist.  Thanks to a friend and fellow accompanist, I was recommended and asked to play.

I went to the first rehearsal this evening.  The group of young 3rd to 5th grade girls meets once a week in an absolutely fabulous downtown Youth Arts center.

The room was filled with red t-shirts, snazzy boots and wiggly, smiling girls.  When they sang it was angelic and the room was transformed into a huge gothic cathedral!

The first song they sang with piano accompaniment was a setting of Rev. 21:4.  My heart lurched when I opened the music. Tears sprang into my eyes as I quickly scanned the piece. This verse was one that I held onto two years on this very day — the day my Dad died — the day he fell asleep on the couch in Indiana and woke up in heaven!

He had been sick for so long and had been so miserable. It was a great comfort to me to read these words and to keep them in my mind and heart that week — through the funeral planning, all the visitation hours, through the sorrow, laughter and tears.

So as I sat there in that room with all the that young vibrant musical energy, I was filled with gratitude and joy.

God brought me through. I believe I was sitting in the exact place I was meant to be at that moment.
Thanks be to God!

Charles Wesley and a Boatload of Singing Moravians

CC via Flickr, image by by Riku Kettunen
CC via Flickr, image by by Riku Kettunen

I enjoy reading the Writer’s Almanac.  Each day Garrison Keillor publishes a poem and describes several historical figures or events related to the date.  I’ve learned a lot of very interesting tidbits about authors and such, and have found many wonderful poems to love through this avenue.

At the website there is a link so you can listen to Garrison read the poem and tell about the historical events.  I find his voice very soothing and expressive.

Today, Keillor tells of the influence singing Moravians had on a young Charles Wesley during a long Atlantic crossing back in the early 1700s. (Today’s poem is “The Journey” by Mary Oliver, which I instantly added to my “poems that speak to me” list.)

Here is a portion of the Wesley story featured in today’s  Writer’s Alamanac for December 18, 2013 by Garrison Keillor:

Charles Wesley was on a ship traveling from the colony of Georgia back to England. Many of his fellow passengers were German Moravians, and they constantly sang hymns together. This was a radical idea — the Anglican Church had beautiful choirs, but the congregation never joined in. When he returned to England, Wesley began to write hymns that could be sung by congregations, and it became his life’s work. He sometimes wrote a hymn every day, using popular songs for the tunes. The Wesley brothers traveled around England, preaching in the open air, and Charles continued to write on the road. By the time of his death at the age of 80, he had published more than 4,500 hymns, and left thousands more in manuscript form.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Hark the Herald Angels Sing (Photo credit: A. Strakey)

His hymns include “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending,” “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today,” and “Jesu, Lover of My Soul,” in which he wrote:
“Other refuge have I none;
Hangs my helpless soul on thee;
Leave, ah! leave me not alone,
Still support and comfort me.
All my trust on thee is stayed,
All my help from thee I bring;
Cover my defenseless head
With the shadow of thy wing.”

Beauty Sleep
Beauty Sleep (Photo credit: tarotastic)

Tuesday Travels — Cefalu, Sicily

Tuesday Travels — Cefalu, Sicily.

What a beautifully written piece about a lovely moment of blessing in a faraway cathedral!

I follow “Soul Gatherings” and read it regularly.

This post caught my attention because the Christ the Pantocrator mosaic image from this cathedral in Sicily is so similar to the ones I saw this summer in Istanbul, Turkey at both Chora Church and at Hagia Sophia.

Sometimes There is Beauty

The Heart
The Heart (Photo credit: petalouda62)

Some of you might remember reading a post I wrote several months ago: It hurts because it matters.

The amazingly talented young singer I describe in that post recently wrote about me on her blog, Sometimes There is Beauty, reflecting on what I wrote. The post is called “Dear Jill.”

Working with people like Amanda is the reason I’m still reeling from the changes this year brought.  I’m now several hours away from them, not playing piano on a regular basis now, and I am still grieving the loss of those deeply personal and creative connections we shared.

This was my reply when I read her post:
I love you, dear Amanda. Thank you for writing these beautiful words and for sharing them with me. My heart feels the same as yours. I try to tell myself that Pooh was right: “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” But my heart is still sad and empty without the music and connections we created — day by day, week by week. (Of course, tears are streaming down my face as I write this!) i carry your heart with me (i carry it in my heart) — For Good.

Thirds (Photo credit: e_monk)
i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go, my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing, my darling)
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life; which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart (i carry it in my heart)

— by ee cummings


I’ve heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good
–lyrics of For Good, from the musical Wicked
music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel sing For Good, accompanied by Stephen Swchwartz on the piano:


fabulous Fazoli piano!
fabulous Fazoli piano!


Heliotrop vua flickr creative commons by Don Burkett
heliotrope via flickr creative commons by Don Burkett

Old Tunes

As the waves of perfume, heliotrope, rose,
Float in the garden when no wind blows,
Come to us, go from us, whence no one knows;

So the old tunes float in my mind,
And go from me leaving no trace behind,
Like fragrance borne on the hush of the wind.

But in the instant the airs remain
I know the laughter and the pain
Of times that will not come again.

I try to catch at many a tune
Like petals of light fallen from the moon,
Broken and bright on a dark lagoon,

But they float away — for who can hold
Youth, or perfume or the moon’s gold?

Sara Teasdale
Moonlight on the Water, via flickr RobW_'s photostream aka Robert Wallace (creative commons)
Moonlight on the Water, via flickr RobW_’s photostream aka Robert Wallace (creative commons)

Who knew Sara Teasdale wrote a poem about earworms?

I love this poem just for its inherent beauty, but also because it highlights a common (nearly constant) problem I have:  songs stuck in my head.  

I nearly ALWAYS have some sort of music running through my mind.  I think this is why I don’t often have a radio playing even when I am home alone:  I already have a station going in my head!


image from ComposerBase dot com

This week my inner song cycle has been full of choral music because I recently accompanied a high school choir concert.  I frequently have a mix of Broadway tunes and classic rock going, too, though.  Throw in a few children’s songs (I taught elementary music and children’s choir for several years), a few hymns (church organist and choir director), a few pop tunes (60′ to 80’s era mostly) and random other items from my iPod — and, well, you get the idea.

My least favorite thing to get caught in my head is some operatic aria that I don’t even know the words for (usually in a foreign language to boot).  This is a job hazard when I accompany voice students for their lessons and recitals — and it happens frequently.

One day, I was wondering how many people have this constant stream of music in their heads so I recently used my Facebook status to ask what my friends had playing in their heads.  It was quite a mix, but not many people replied.

As I looked into this phenomena, I discovered Vicky Williamson — a psychologist who researches and collects earworms.  She said, “It’s an interesting everyday phenomenon. It happens to at least 90 percent of people once a week, [they] get a tune stuck in their head.”  If you are interested, you may read the whole article here:  Why That Song Gets Stuck in Your Head.

Other articles about this topic:

I’m curious:  What is playing In YOUR head?

(Journey is a frequent camper in my head)

Don't stop believin'
Don’t stop believin’

The Small World of Ram Sam Sam

The larger of the two amphitheaters in Ephesus.

My family took a trip of a lifetime in July.  We spent three weeks visiting family in Turkey and had the opportunity to see many historic sites while we were there.

One of those historic places was the ancient city of Ephesus.  Yes!  THAT Ephesus:  the book of the Bible, the letter to the Ephesians written by the Apostle Paul.

The library of Celsus in Ephesus

The Ephesus site is near the modern day city of Selçuk, in the Izmir province and near the western Aegean coast of Turkey.  The day we visited was very hot, very sunny, and the area is always very dry.  (No water is available inside the historic area, so it seemed even hotter!)

Road in Ephesus
Road in Ephesus

We walked along the huge flat marble and other types of stone slabs on the streets, marveling at the magnificent columns, sculptures, city buildings, temples, homes, amphitheaters, etc.

As we were walking near the large amphitheater on our way back to the car after several hours of walking through the amazing ruins – I heard a familiar song being sung faintly nearby.  I quickly looked around to try to locate the person(s) singing.  I saw two teenaged young women walking behind an older couple (the parents, I presumed).

I listened as we walked.  They continued to sing.  The girls sang part of the song and then the Dad sang part of it back to them.  I was amazed to recognize the song as A Ram Sam Sam!!

What a small world!  I know and love this song and so do many children in my hometown area.  I teach this song, A Ram Sam Sam, to my young children’s choir every year.  Children love to sing it because of the fun words, catchy tune, and the clapping/hand motions we do as we sing it.  I find this song is a great way to introduce singing rounds because it is simple and repetitive.

I only hesitated a couple of seconds before I approached the young women from behind asking if either of them spoke any English.  I quickly explained that I recognized the song they were singing and was curious to know where they were from.

The family smiled and gathered around.  One of the girls told me they were from Romania!

I tried to explain that I am a music teacher and that I teach this song to children.  I’m not sure if they understood me completely, but I am sure they knew that I recognized their song since I sang a little of it with them.

This whole exchange probably took less than a minute.  I thanked them and we all went our separate ways.

I wish I had thought to take a photo of the family or to possibly make a quick video of them singing the song!  I, an American music teacher from Wisconsin, was so flabbergasted at hearing this children’s song — which originated in Africa and sung by a Romanian family in the ancient city of Ephesus in Turkey – that I didn’t think to do any of that.

Sometimes a moment is just meant to be enjoyed and remembered, and it does not have to be saved and chronicled for posterity in order to be a precious memory.  This is one of those moments now.

Ephesus Amphitheater
Ephesus Amphitheater

All photos taken by me (quirkyjazz, aka Jill) and are under CreativeCommons copyright.  See front page of The Tromp Queen for details.  

Sorrow into Song

English: Barley field, Ormiston Barley field b...
English: Barley field, Ormiston Barley field beside the railway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Like barley bending
In low fields by the sea,
Singing in hard wind

Like barley bending
And rising again,
So would I, unbroken,
Rise from pain;

So would I softly,
Day long, night long,
Change my sorrow
Into song.

–Sara Teasdale

English: A sea of barley at Budna.
English: A sea of barley at Budna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I ran across this poem by Sara Teasdale today.  The imagery is lovely and is very relevant to my life now.  I’m full of sorrow to be leaving my home of 17 years, but I’m determined to look forward — to turn my sorrow into song and to bend not break with this wind of change.

For some reason, I decided to search youtube for the poem.  I found this lovely song.  I found it very soothing to listen to the music and to the Chinese words.

Channel for grace

I’ve had a song stuck in my head.  It is a chorus from my church youth group years.  The words are simple and few:

This is my commandment that you love one another, that your joy be made full.

Golden ratio sunset
Golden ratio sunset (Photo credit: jcoterhals)

I’ve been thinking about love a lot this week.  I’ve thought about that commandment to love. I realized that I have often felt that loving others (especially the un-lovable ones) is just one more duty that I should be doing as a Christian.  Check it off the list.  Do it because Jesus said to do it.

photo by quirkyjazz
photo by quirkyjazz

Then I had a thought:  Maybe Jesus is telling us (ok, commanding us) to love others because it is the best thing for us.  It is not only because of the people who need to receive the love.  It is because we are created to give love.  The loving others (even the un-lovables) is so that we get the whole deal coming to us, too.  I’m not saying we should love others because of what’s in it for ourselves, of course.  It was an insight into the whole shebang of things for me.

NautilusCutawayBlue (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m in a small group book study.  We are reading a book about prayer.  One of the readings  this week described prayer as a channel for grace.  I kept thinking that love is a channel, too.  It sometimes runs only one way; at its best it runs both directions, though.

Jesus is So Cool
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That other, larger, stronger, quieter life

Stress (Photo credit: topgold)

The moment you wake up each morning, all your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists in shoving it all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other, larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in.

English: Flowing stream over rocks
English: Flowing stream over rocks (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

C.S. Lewis from Mere Christianity

Mountains - Autumn in Denali

~I Choose the Mountain~

The low lands call
I am tempted to answer
They are offering me a free dwelling
Without having to conquer

The massive mountain makes its move
Beckoning me to ascend
A much more difficult path
To get up the slippery bend

I cannot choose both
I have a choice to make
I must be wise
This will determine my fate

I choose, I choose the mountain
With all its stress and strain
Because only by climbing
Can I rise above the plane

I choose the mountain
And I will never stop climbing
I choose the mountain
And I shall forever be ascending

I choose the mountain

–Howard Simon
Mother Teresa of Calcutta (26.8.1919-5.9.1997)...
Mother Teresa of Calcutta (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”
― Mother Teresa

twisty forest paths
twisty forest paths (Photo credit: MGSpiller)
In this life
we are all just walking
up the mountain and
we can sing as we climb
or we can complain
about our sore feet
Whichever we choose
we still gotta do the hike
I decided
a long time ago
singing made a lot
more sense
Sing (Photo credit: ktylerconk)