Unitarian Hymnal Sing-along

In which Kathryn attempts to sing a different song everyday from the Unitarian Universalist hymnal, 'Singing the Living Tradition'. Earlier posts are based on songs from the Reader's Digest songbooks she found at yard sales as a child, including: 'Reader's Digest Treasury of Best Loved Songs', 'Reader's Digest Family Songbook', and 'Reader's Digest Family Songbook of Faith and Joy'. Bonus Folk song material from: 'Folk Song USA', by John and Alan Lomax.

31 October 2005

"I Get A Kick Out of You"

Cole Porter, of course, but again one of my not-so-favorites. Jazzy, fun, might be more fun with someone else playing the piano on this one, since much of the drive is from the syncopation. Disappointingly, they don't include the line that goes 'I get no kick from cocaine', which is just a great historical reference in the piece. I did hear this on the recording of Ella Fitzgerald singing the Cole Porter songbook, and she pulls it off like it belongs there, which, it does.

Lately I've been feeling fairly good, and totally stressed, at the very same time. I feel like I have no time to breathe, feel guilty taking an hour to myself for lunch, but yet in some way I'm very happy with how I just keep moving and moving and moving. Proud of my accomplishments, maybe. I did finish the Halloween costume for my daughter, for the most part, enough to get a bucket of candy with it. But my question is this: is it at all possible for me to get things done ahead of time, to ever feel even slightly caught up? Do I always have to be doing things with almost-impossible deadlines in order to feel good, or even in order to accomplish anything worthwhile? I like having the crazed last-minute-finish as an option, certainly, but I think I'd like to add some things to my repetoire, to not feel quite so manic.

I feel like life is this: learning things about how to live better, whatever that means to us. For me, it's figuring out how to do to the best of my ability those things I hold as important, and those things which bring me pleasure, and striking a balance. I want to overcome my flaws as much as I can. This manic-thing, like so many other things in me and everyone else I know, seems to be a flaw tied to a gift. I think I could easily lose both trying to 'fix' it. And I don't know what would replace it, but something would. I feel like I should figure out the contingency plan before I stride boldly forward. Meanwhile, it does feel like a very guiltly pleasure to love my frantic-ness.

Off to bed. Giving myself permission to not make this one perfect, either.

30 October 2005

"You Do Something to Me"

Sing along, everyone! I'm singing to the tune of 'You Do Something to Me': I-i lo-ove this song, I love simply eve-ry thing a-bout it! I love Cole Por-ter too, sure I know he's dead but that can't stop me!' What? You don't remember anything but the tune of the title words from that Time Life collection? Well, yeah, there's that. You should really learn it, and then come over, and we really can just flip through the crazy Pleasure-Programmed for Your Greater Enjoyment Reader's Digest songbook, singing merrily along, la la-la la la. Can we just start with this Cole Porter and Gershwin stuff?

I've just been all weekend at a fabulous massage workshop, and I have no idea why I'm still awake, much less a little giddy at this point. I can't blame the wine, I haven't drunk enough yet. Sometimes my energy seems to be chugging along at exactly the right level, and I wish I knew 'why then?' Especially when sometimes it's after I've eaten something that I'm sure will bring some sort of fabulous sugar crash, and instead my attention is focused and clear and all is well indeed.

I feel like I've been singing all day, which I haven't. (Folks might have stared had I done that in the middle of the workshop.) But I was singing along with my audition-preparation CD in the car during the commute and over lunch, and maybe I'm just excited that I'm finally getting these audition pieces down. (Now if I can just finish my daughter's o-so-elaborate Halloween costume before 5:30 tomorrow, life will indeed be sweet.) Maybe, as a theory, here, it's when I feel like I've been myself all day, with no lapses into pleasing-someone-else-ness. It's much easier on the psyche, that.

Attention, the lack or presense, might have been a great topic for today's post, but the problem is that the lack is all too present for me here lately. My brain is distracted to the point where I don't even have time to idly wonder about what I'll write about, and if any profound revelations are taking place, they haven't exactly jumped to the fore. Not writer's block, really, since I know that I can just write and write gibberish, if necessary. I learned that in a dance and writing workshop led by the awesome Kairol Rosenthal. Writing stream of consciousness can be a way to hook into a host of genuine ideas for future development, and if they don't ever develop, so what!

I'm not going to do stream of consciousness here, for the most part. Maybe briefly, when you least expect it, for kicks and giggles. But I do edit these posts. I am still experimenting with what will inspire me with ideas, and also what will help me to develop coherence and structure within some sort of framework. And this, today, has helped. Not totally incoherent or obsessively self-referential to the point of incomprehensibility, but an ok sort of experiment, from the right state of relaxed mind, in exploring what's bubbling away on the top of my brain.

It's true. You do something to me. You inspire me, o ye fair readers, all three of you, with your attention, and I am grateful for that. Thank you very very much.

29 October 2005

"Begin the Beguine"

What a great song, one I knew only very vaguely before this (possibly from some late night 'Best of the Thirties' Time Life record album commercial). The rhythm of it is great (what is the 'Beguine'?), but the most amazing, most significant thing: in this Reader's Digest, theoretically condensed version, this baby runs to six pages. Six pages! Unbelievable! It's impossible not to have this feeling that the editors were so entranced by the beautiful build up in this piece that not only did they include it--and there are tons of other fabulous Cole Porter songs that they could have put in this set--but they put it in for six pages!

Waxing rhapsodic, I know. This song is also inspired by Cole Porter's travels abroad to exotic locales, it shows, in a good way. Residual glamour, marvelously fragrant smoke, and possibly some discreet glitter, clings.

I am getting weary of moving so quickly through these pieces. Especially lately, when these tunes need more of my time to have fun with them, to wallow in their lushness. In theory, I would do this if I took a day off now and again, but in practice, my life has been recently very overscheduled. I believe that if I took even one day to redo some songs instead of moving on, this blog would end, and that would make me sad. I'd like to make it through this book, at least. Part of this practice, like so many others, is experimenting with the discipline of it. I will play a song, and sing this song, and write something vaguely inspired by this song every day. I will attempt to make what I write not suck, to make it coherent.

Rock on. I'm sure there's more Cole Porter for tomorrow. Stay tuned.

28 October 2005

"What is This Thing Called Love?"

Cole Porter, again, continuing the set, and another tune that I hadn't been familiar with before now. It's an intriguing little thing, and I was glad to have the information in the introduction, which says that Cole Porter wrote this after being inspired by 'native chants in Marrakesh, Morocco'. It does have an interesting modal, half-stepping melody. Nice stuff, and with a great blues riff going underneath, a great match.

I've been distracted, of late, reading 'The Pilot's Wife', by Anita Shreve (and I can blame this entirely on my almost-for-all-purposes-sister-in-law, Amy). She had heard that reading it made women sure that their husbands were cheating on them. Well, so far, that's not true, though I find the mystery of what this woman's late husband had been up to fairly gripping. But it does make me ask questions about what love is, and what happens to relationships over time. All things considered, I haven't been with my husband that long. I've known him now for eleven years, and we've been married a bit over seven years. I wonder what ten years of marriage would feel like, or twenty, or fifty. Things will change, that's the only guarantee. I think I worry sometimes a little too much about what those changes will be; since I also know that they won't happen over night, for the most part, I'll have time to adjust to things. The ebbs and flows of our daily life also might be reflected in the larger whole, I suspect. All I can do is keep my priorities in mental view (love, balance, presense in the moment, appreciation, self-care), and trust that I will survive whatever the future of our love will bring.

But I keep asking questions: why this? why can't that part be better? what's happening here? is this good, or bad, or what? what am I not seeing clearly? I don't always ask these questions aloud. My therapist has mentioned one of what may be my fatal flaws: I try to fix the relationship, whatever relationship, without involving the other person. Not the best plan, trust me, and I struggle with it. Because I care so much about those I love, and desire intimacy with them so much, and it is such a goal and focus for me--I make this mistake over and over again. I'm sure it also has lots to do with being an oldest child, and wanting to be responsible, and being a woman and mother as well.

What is this thing called love? I don't know, totally, and that's the final bit of data for me: it is forever a mystery, a question mark, unique in every different place that it grows. I am interested in answers about the definition of love, but I don't expect to get to the definitive and final end game. And there are plenty of other questions besides where I'm very happy to let the mystery be: death, divinity, why people voted for Bush, etc. Not that I don't crawl all over the mystery, peering in cracks and admiring my reflection, but I don't expect to find any one true path to the heart of it all.

My life will never be dull or boring, if I continue asking, and seeking. And it is certainly never dull with my husband around, either.

27 October 2005

"Night and Day"

Cole Porter at last! This wasn’t one of the songs that I had in mind, but nonetheless, it’s quite nice. Rhythmically nicely complex, with three against two bits, contrasting with more ‘straight’ sections, just my style. I like learning songs like this, where I sort of knew it before, but now I have a chance to learn it more specifically, more correctly. This being the Reader’s Digest version, though, I realize that with most of these songs there are probably several other verses out there that I could learn. Maybe later I could go through and look up the extra verses for the ones that are my favorites.

One last note on the song: it says in the written introduction that it was ‘created to fit the limited singing range of Fred Astaire’, and I never would have guessed, since the range doesn’t feel particularly limited to me, it’s over an octave. But maybe I need to know more about Cole Porter and/or Fred Astaire to know what they meant by this. I think we may have this movie (Gay Divorce), it’d be nice to see it in context as well.

Today I feel very stuck on technicalities, rather than romantic or sweeping philosophical issues. My last few days have felt relatively non-stop from morning until late at night, and the next four days or so don’t promise to be any better. I’m still feeling good about life; I thrive, to a certain extent, on having my life be more structured and busy. On days when I have nothing to do--rare, of late--I need to make up a strict schedule in order to accomplish anything. And I do like to accomplish.

Night and Day? It’s all a blur. I remember that there was ‘Day’, and that the trees are really colorful, finally, but this week has been more about the literally dark side of things, as in lack of sun. I always forget how very hard this loss of daylight is. Another technicality, I know.

26 October 2005

"Fascinating Rhythm"

Ok, I didn't cheat, but since this was a three-pager, I do know that this is, I assume, the last Gershwin piece. Also not one of my favorites, but still fun. It's nice to know more of it than just the title hook. (I also know the next song, but I'm not telling.)

I'm not sure that I have anything to say today that bears the slightest resemble to the song in question.

Let's try this, and maybe it'll just be short and sweet for today: Life, right now, is pretty good. I know that this won't last, entirely. Something will occur to make me feel off balance, out of control, in over my head, even just tired. But right now, things are ok, and more than ok. I know that this doesn't happen very often, and that there is no predicting it. When my check out person asks how I am, I tell the truth, briefly. It's nice when I can honestly say, "I'm doing very well, thank you."

I don't often believe in a personally concerned deity, but I do give thanks when I feel like this. If the envelope of my gratitude is a little vaguely addressed, I'm sure that the deity who needs to receive it, somehow, will.

25 October 2005

"Someone to Watch Over Me"

Yet another lush and lovely Gershwin. I could live here for a long time, indeed. And have I mentioned that these are lovely piano arrangements, as well? Short, of course (this is Reader's Digest), but one could add on more verses at another time. Just lovely, this one. I don't know if it's the melody, or text plus melody, or what, but these are such a pleasure to sing.

Someone to watch over me. I would love to be taken care of. Pampered, spoiled, extravagently gifted with trinkets and furbelows. Of course, I am also an oldest child, and woman, and mother, and massage therapist, and my drive is to not ask for help, and to take care of everyone else to the best of my ability and available energy. Being taken care of is absolutely not a given. What am I, lazy, or what? I don't think so.

In past years my dear friend, Jamie, and I have gone spa-ward in the winter cold months. Just for a weekend, and we don't do much spa-stuff, mostly just stay at the resort, eat well, hike the trails, shop a little, soak in the hot tub, drink the fabulous wine that Jamie's boyfriend always send along. But we do get away for that one weekend. It does feel marvelous.

Sometimes I wish I were more high maintenance, or, I guess, that people were accustomed to me being high maintenance, and loved me anyway. But I'm not.

And I do love taking care of my family and friends, when and as I can. Again, I wish I were better at it, but I make the effort, and it has some success. Recently I was reminded of the fact that it is indeed a pleasure to take care of someone who is fully capable of taking care of themselves, it's a love gift, then. When someone can't take care of themselves, it becomes a burden, sooner rather than later.

So don't worry folks, I'm good for now. But if you're in the mood for spoiling me, ever, just give me a little heads up. I'll try to be ready, and able, to let you.

24 October 2005


Ok, this is a whole Gershwin group. But this one is not a favorite of mine. It's ok, it just doesn't grab me like the last two did. I've been listening to a little Cole Porter lately, and I'm hoping that he's represented here somewhere, because his stuff is so great, so classic. I guess we'll see.

Tonight I had a run-in with my crazy neighbors that has got me thinking about courtesy. I think, are these crazy neighbors rude because they're young and self-absorbed? Was I that self-absorbed at that age? Well, yes. But I don't think I was deliberately rude, at least most of the time, and I made an effort to be friendly.

I make more of an effort now, in a selective way. I want to be polite at all times, to all people, and not un-friendly to anyone, though I'm clear about setting my boundaries. I have so many dear people in my life that I am not willing to spend my time unthinkingly with just anyone. But it's a constant balancing act, because I also still make new friends, and I want my perceptions to be open to that possibility--though it's also nice to not feel a pressure to widen my circle too quickly. It can be especially nice to see relationships grow slowly over time, blossoming in ways that I would not have guessed at their onset.

But even more important for my quality of life, on most days, is those small courtesies, given and received. Usually to grocery check out clerks, and the drivers of other cars, I find. People smiling at me, and letting me merge into traffic, can make my day, literally. And knowing that, I make an effort to be friendly, even with just a smile, even when I'm feeling oh-so-less-than-stellar, to everyone I encounter. It doesn't seem to take much at all, and most of the people I smile at I don't even speak to, but it makes me feel better. I know that having a stranger smile at me can do the same.

I'll keep smiling at my neighbors, and hope that eventually they grow up into courteous adults and good neighbors. I'm not holding my breath, mind you, but I will smile.

23 October 2005

"Embraceable You"

Maybe I just like Gershwin, because I am sure loving this song, too. And yesterday's song (also Gershwin, if you're just tuning in) I sang again today, and that's a first. These songs feel well composed, really beautiful and fun to sing to boot.

Last night I did an evening 5K race, in costume, and that was all fun. Even in the cold rain. Really! I was smiling, it was just nice to be out, and moving, and it felt so fall-like, this is very much my favorite season.

But the best thing about the evening was the musical entertainment. I heard the singing as I approached the packet pick-up area, and I thought, I know this voice. And what do you know, it was an old acquaintence, Brad Yoder, singing beautifully to a very non-enthusiastic crowd. I hadn't heard him sing in a while, since, frankly, I just don't get out much in the evenings to entertainment events. He really sounded great. So instead of sitting in my nice dry, potentially warm car while waiting for the race to begin, I stood around and listened to Brad. And not only is Brad a great singer, he has this solid songwriting talent. I grabbed my checkbook and bought all the different CDs that he had available--again, I haven't gotten out much in recent years, so I'm embarassed to say that the latest recording of his that I had was on tape. I did get a chance to say hello, too, which was nice. He had seen me in the albeit small audience and waved earlier, always a thrill to have 'the band' know you.

Somehow, I am surrounded by music these days, and very aware of it. And it's not a mystery, really, I've just kept opening doors, and creating windows in my life these past few years for music to come in, and so I'm playing piano (alone and with others), taking voice lessons, leading others in singing, hearing my husband and daughter work on their music, getting more CDs of late, even (and of different genres and performers), writing this wacky sing-along blog, and there it is: Life Full of Music. If I would have dreamed this, I'd probably have dreamed something very different, more dramatic, more predictable in a way (Kathryn writes songs, records an album at home, plays at open mikes and coffee houses to a dozen friend-fans). This is more integrated into the whole of my life, and it is very good. In some ways a it's also a lot of work, but it is a joyful work, a pleasure.

In one of my previous relationships my partner's father would play guitar or banjo and sing after dinner every day, and I was in love with that. I don't do that exactly, but one of the three of us, if not more, plays piano every day. And if I'm not writing songs yet, I feel more sure that I will again, and this, here, is part of the process that will lead me there. I will write songs from this place, and I'm hoping that they speak truth in text, melody, and harmony, half so well as the singer songwriters that I admire. And other unknown, unimaginable opportunities will continue to come in through my open windows. I look forward to the musical adventure.

22 October 2005

"The Man I Love"

This is a great song. In the paragraph of introduction the editors speak of how odd it is that this song should be a standard when it's never been part of a successful musical (and yet it is, somehow, the very first song in our new section 'All-Time Broadway Hit Parade'). And I say, duh, this is Gershwin. It's good.

The man I love. Now this is no big surprise. I have been in love with my husband, lo, these eleven years. When I met him, and fell so madly in love, I noted to myself that this was the very most in love that I had ever been. Then this was fairly significant, since I admitted to myself that the man I loved most, previous to this, was not the man I was at that time married to. And somehow, magically, after all my wild and crazy years of being unable to resist the pull of 'loving' anyone who crossed my path and my fancy at the same time (and oh, there were many), I found myself very happily monogamous. Now I am still very happily monogamous, and occasionally I think, this is weird. No trail off, no gradual decline, just coming to my fair city, standing on a concrete turtle one weekend, and then never having to sleep with anyone else but him. He says, Ah, no surprise, I am a force of nature. Well, I don't have tons of better explanations. But I do think that something happens to people when they enter their late twenties, as I was then, some sort of big shift in our individual worlds. Astrologers call this the Saturn return. I don't believe in astrology per se, but I do find that it has some true resonances, and I find no harm in profound meanings, however oddly they come into my view. The world is strange, at best, and full of mystery. So I find this Saturn return thing to be a valid occurance: something big happens as we enter our thirties that transforms us radically further into ourselves as we will be from then on.

So here I am, still in love, still happy. Now, I also know that this is a deliberate choice on my part. I, again, choose this love, and choose it over and over again. That's my method, when it is my desire. And part of the reason for the choice was knowing that yes, I had in the past chosen widely, but it was time to go deeper. And I chose a man who could be my partner through that depth of learning and seeking. I chose a man who makes me laugh, who is never boring, who I still find unbelievably attractive, a clever, amazing man. Lucky me: through all sorts of adventures, more and less pleasant, still with the man I love, and happy to be exactly here.

21 October 2005

"Happy Days Are Here Again"

Here's one that most people know, I think. Or that I know, at least. Perky, happy, New Year's Eve theme song. And I'm especially happy, since it was a three page song that comes directly before the next section of tunes! Yahoo! Nothing against the 'Memory Lane' section, but I'm looking forward to singing something a little different.

Tonight I watched 'The Life Aquatic' with my husband, and I didn't get it, or like it. I do like some fairly quirky movies, including 'Moulin Rouge', 'Buckaroo Bonzai', 'Big Trouble in Little China', 'Rocky Horror', 'Liquid Sky'--maybe it's that I haven't seen many movies at all this past few years or more. I'm always too beat to stay up very late, and frankly, I usually don't want to watch anything that requires too much of my attention (for example, nothing that requires me to look up very often from my knitting). Watching movies for me is real down time, in the worst sense, since I'm very big on the 'be accomplishing something at every moment you're awake' idea. Though somehow I can lose myself in a book and not feel too guilty about it, a movie seems a bit too easy, too lazy. I do have this idea that I will spend my retirement, presuming that I have such a thing, watching lots of movies that I never got around to. Also going to live music concerts, and learning to play the cello. I do realize that most likely, of course, I'll work until that's no longer possible. I'm thinking Starbucks, for the beverages, or possibly Pottery Barn, for the employee discount. Happy days, indeed, eh?

I'm going to cut this a little short tonight, I burned my hand making cookies this evening (another wild and crazy Friday night at my house!), and unless I keep the ice on it it's killing me. Typing with one hand is no fun anymore.

20 October 2005

"When Day is Done"

A love song, aww. Actually, an ok love song. Unless I've just heard way too many songs from this era, and they're all starting to sound good, as well. But this is attractive. Goes a bit too high at the end, considering the rest of it. Not that I can't sing that high, mind you, because I can, but, well, it's late. For me.

I'm not a night owl, though I can and will stay up late when I'm working on a deadline, most often a sewing deadline. Trying to finish someone's costume, most likely. Which means I'll probably pull a few late nighters this next 10 days or so. August is also high time for this sort of late night carousing, when I'm working on our outfits for the crazy Medieval camping thing we go to. Somehow this year, my husband and daughter got new outfits for Pennsic, but I missed out. Next year I'll give myself two new dresses to make up for it. And I'll be making them the night before, probably, and that will be fine.

I like the quiet of the night. And even here in the city, when it's a relatively quiet evening, and I'm sitting on the back stoop, and the moon is out, in any phase--ahh! The light from the street lights on the trees, green all around me even in this very urban setting. I feel lucky. I sing quietly to the moon, knowing that she hears me, or I hear, or that it's the same magic either way.

At other times the night is less of a thrill. There are endless nights on end where my daughter wakes me me at 2:30AM, and I walk her back to bed after a trip to the bathroom, and then I lie in bed, unable to fully drop back into sleep, for an hour or more. Or, worse, the nights where I wake up and all I can think about is the inevitability of my death, or the death of those I love. Or I'm trying to figure out endless variations on how to make too little money stretch just far enough.

When I was pregnant, and up a lot in the night, my mother suggested just giving into it. "If you're going to be awake, be awake. Get something done, and then get back to sleep later." But now I try to think more along the lines of resting, even if I can't actually sleep. Let my body relax, breathe deeply, think happy thoughts. Well, the happy thoughts are the part of that equation that works least well.

But this always works: When I was a child, I had an imaginary playmate, a little boy. We had all sorts of adventures together, and he grew up with me. When I was older, 10 or so, I started to write these stories down. I never finished one, not one I was happy with, at any rate. Now, on a sleepless night, I start the story again, and imagine it in as vivid detail as I can. I plot out the story line a little more clearly, or rationally, or not. And I'm asleep in no time. Although I idly am attracted to the thought of someday finishing this story of mine, I realize now that there is such a comfort in letting my dreams keep this story to themselves, letting it play out endlessly, as I need it to continue on that particular evening. I can go without needing a morning recollection of its conclusion, if there is one. And my imaginary friend continues to grow older with me, a strange and secret companion.

So now I have this blog writing that's keeping me up a little later into the evening than previously. I never think that I'll write very much: this will be the night that I write two lines and I'm just done, I think. But it really hasn't worked that way. Generally, at least, I don't have trouble getting to sleep either. I read 2 pages of the ubiquitous bedside book, the light goes out, and I fall into a deep sleep.

But just in case, my story is ready to go. For years, it's begun the same way: "The night had been cool, and the dawn brought an even cooler morning. The sounds of the night insects had changed into the pre-dawn songs of the birds. . ." And I'm off running.

19 October 2005

"Till We Meet Again"

A WWII song, again very sweet and sincere and lovely. But help, help me, they're really all blurring together, and I can't remember what I'm singing any more, argh! And it's way too late to be writing anything tonight, I worked later than planned, and now I'm just beat, after coming home and doing a little catch up on the phone with my brother and sister-in-law. The ones holding down the 'living in sin' card, not the actually married ones.

Tonight someone asked me if I believe in marriage. An odd question, actually. Marriage does exist, it's not the Easter Bunny. Do I believe in the institution for myself? Well, I am married. And so determined was I to be married, that this is my second try at it. My mother says that the first time I really wanted to be married, but I didn't consider closely enough the person I was choosing to be my partner. He was a good guy, and a great playmate, but not the best partner for me in the life game. Maybe someday I'll fully get over the guilt of not being smarter and braver about that whole thing.

Being married did change my current relationship (with my husband, in case there's any question here). I didn't think it would, since we were already living together before then. But somehow it felt like things dropped into a new level of comfortable security, a very nice thing. We did want to have a child, and that was the main reason to make it all legal, but the unexpected feeling of stability, groundedness, was a bonus. Now, I'm still content with him, happy, even. Still in love, still attracted, still liking the time we spend together very much. We've had our struggles, paid our dues a bit. And yes, ended up stronger on the other side of the ordeal. All cliches that have turned out to be true, not that I ever doubted; based on what I've seen, getting through the shit with someone successfully will bring a relationship stronger than before, more intimate.

I believe that commitment to something is important, if only because it tests and strengthens one's willpower to accomplish great things. There are so many things that cannot be measured, as physical strength or even I.Q. is measured, but these strengths of will and of purpose are perhaps more important, in the end, when determining the quality of the lives we live. And marriage is not a work of art, it is not something that we finish and hang on the wall. It does not, frankly, have to be called 'marriage', the terms can only be adequately defined by the individuals involved, at this level (community acknowledgement is a whole other significant issue). Marriage is, like parenting, a thousand little moments, some of them boring and routine, that make up a long saga. We don't know the end of the story until we get there, and probably not even then. It is, like so many things for me, another way to practice being in the moment. Being here, and here, and here. Pay attention. Don't take for granted this time, this place, this person. Don't run away from the painful or joyous moment, breathe deep into it, smell heaven in small whiffs of magic.

18 October 2005

"If I Could Be With You One Hour Tonight"

Ah, here's another nice one. Not much to it, but what's here is sweet. Though I must admit, all these songs are starting to blend together in my head into one big, bouncy, lyrical, questionably-texted tune. I'm looking forward to this section of 'Down Memory Lane' songs to be done, so we can move into the 'All Time Broadway Hit Parade'. But again, not cheating, not looking ahead here, and since there isn't a standard table of contents in this wacky little book, I can know the title of the next section without knowing what page it starts on, or how many songs I might have left in this group. Those crazy Reader's Digest folks!

Today was a very long day here in Kathryn-land. I didn't eat lunch until 4, dinner until after 9PM. I was exhausted when the day began, and as usual, I didn't accomplish everything I thought I would on my to-do list. But still, overall, not a bad day. The highlight was my piano lesson, closely followed by the fact that the dog did not have any unfortunate accidents in the house today. What more can one ask for, really?

Lots. Buckets of money, for starters. But hey, as my mother always said, if your only problems are money problems, you're in good company. And I know plenty of folks whose problems are worse than mere finances. I am supremely grateful for my fabulous family and wonderful friends, and a job that gives me great satisfaction. And big glasses of red wine every night. Life *is* good. I don't have to be in the goodness for just an hour nightly, I have lots of good hours all over the place.

Today I walked through fall leaves, red and brown, rustling crisply, and smelling that lovely dead leaf smell of fall. I felt the wind on my face and my arms, and I knew, with all certainty, this is indeed good.

17 October 2005

"Poor Butterfly"

Ah, yes, this one will be in the 'yuck' group, alas. First of all, the pidgin English that takes over the second half of the song really turns me off, but even when I substitute a few key syllables or words, the song as a whole still does not grab my heart. Oh, I know you all are singing this in the shower every day, such is its lasting popularity, but I cannot, in good faith, join in with the crowd in this instance.

I've just gotten in from a memorial dinner for an aquaintence of mine, who passed away last month. I had known him a few years, and although I can't say that we were friends, per se, I do feel that my world is less rich with him not in it. This dinner was the right closing ritual for me. Everyone took turns to stand up and clink their glass, and tell a story about this marvelously eccentric, brilliant, most-often insulting man. But insulting in a way that made us all feel noticed, and an important part of the larger story, and certainly, the ongoing amusement, of this man. Our ability to still be amused by him is the greatest gift that he has left.

There are so many amazing people in my life. I have little idea of why I am so lucky to be so blessed, except that I really love people, all their eccentricities. Not surprising, when one looks at those closest to me.

Too intoxicated with very fine red wine (also a favorite of my late almost-friend, particularly the French varieties) to write something more profound this evening, especially when the song disappointed so. Again, check back, anon, and I will attempt to redeem myself in your eyes. Sweet dreams, all; dream of those you love, particularly those who have not been in your dear company of late.

16 October 2005

"For You"

This song is just lovely. Very lush, very romantic. Ok, I know I said 'ick' on the love songs, but this somehow. . . as important as text is to me, if the words aren't so bad that they distract me with their stupidity, a lovely melody makes everything ok, more than ok.

And my problem here is this: some things are just too personal to write here, too difficult to articulate without naming names and explaining more than is appropriate, for me, in this space. I can say that REM's 'Stand' reminds me of what fun it was to live with my friend Edith, but I'm not going to tell you what the Goo Goo Doll's 'Iris' calls to mind, though it still does, years later. I do wish I could remember the song that was 'our song' the year I lived with my oldest friend, Erica, almost fifteen years ago, especially after the one day recently we heard it in the fabric store and I felt like I was in a time machine, right back in that Polish Hill apartment, cats and ferrets everywhere. On the other hand, I can't seem to forget, but I can sure refuse to go to the place where 'You Light Up My Life' lives. I love all the classic wedding songs, including 'The Chicken Dance' and 'Shout', because they do recall celebrating happy events, and polkas make me remember dancing with my grandfather as well, a bonus. Seeing music live helps this process of song equals memory wave, which is part of the draw of hearing live music, for me. I bet I can remember almost every song that I've heard a band do live. Ah, the vision of my mother singing along with Queen's 'We Will Rock You': really beautiful, and not just because I also remember that she helped us bootleg the concert that night. The other day I was surprised when a reggae song made me think of my brother's wedding in St. John, since that was just this past summer. I think you don't always know when something's going to stick, when the smell or sound or taste of something will someday and someday again pull you somewhere else entirely.

The worst or best thing about all of this is you also don't know when you'll be hit by one of these triggering tunes (or smells, or tastes) years later. In the car, in the mall, at a party, in the grocery store, doing dishes: at some point, they will come. And for me, at least, I either have to run, or wallow. Sorry, I can't always share what 'it' is, these boundaries are hard won. And there is no in between for the things that touch my heart deeply.

15 October 2005

"In a Shanty in Old Shantytown"

Although this is the most recently written song in this first section, 1932, it's not one that I bet many people have ever heard of, and I can see why it's not still known. But that's more the subject manner than the song itself, which is sweet enough. A Great Depression song.

The word 'shanty' makes me think of my grandfather. He was born in 1917, maybe he knew this tune. He died fifteen years ago this fall, and I miss him very, very much. He was my favorite grandparent, and the only one who's died, which seems really unfair.

He had a grade school education, and my mom speculates that he may have had dyslexia or another learning disability, because although he could read, it was a struggle for him. He would have my mom 'practice reading' when he needed instructions read. I can picture that easily, him and my mom as a kid, down in the basement of my grandparents' house, him working on some complicated project or another. He was amazing with his hands, always puttering, and could make anything, I believed. He built me and my sister dollhouses, as he built them for his three daughters; mine was finished when I was ten. My sister's was much more elaborate, with lighting that was never installed quite correctly. I remember doing leatherwork in school, which he enjoyed, and watching how he would work on his projects, having him give me projects to tackle.

He called me 'Kasa', my Polish nickname. No one else ever called me that. My mother was 'Mahnya' (I'm sure there's better Polish spelling). He was the only one to call my brother by a derivative of his middle name. Remember that, 'Tony'? He had nicknames for everyone, it seemed. They made us all feel very special, and unique to him, and loved.

He drew these great little sketches, people mostly; I remember them being on scraps, napkins. He smoked cigars. I threw one of them off a bridge when I was little, he had just lit it, but I didn't like the smell when he picked me up. He was tall-ish, with dark curly hair, and wore suits and a hat a lot. People thought he was Italian, and he would fake it, muttering Italian-sounding words to them. He liked red-haired women, in later life, at least, though my grandmother had been blond. He courted her heavily, even though she wasn't so interested at first. They had met at a wedding. When they got married, the two families were now twice related.

He never learned to drive, but was always the first one in the car to go anywhere, even to the grocery store. When the entire funeral procession got lost on the way to the cemetary (because the hearse was lost, and we all followed it obediently), we all got out of the car laughing. Pop-Pop's last ride, we said. My mom said that he knew, at the end, that he wasn't going to be around much longer, though it seemed so very sudden to me. And I didn't realize at the time how much of a hole in our lives there would be.

My brother, Chris, is a lot like him in some ways, the way he stands, pontificates, mutters. No offense, Chris. It's actually quite nice, since Pop-Pop isn't around. I just think it'd be great to see the two of you side by side like that again. And I would love for him to know my daughter. I tell her all about him, all the stories I can think of, over and over.

It makes my chest tight just to think about it. I miss him more and not less as the years go by. On alternate days I believe that our beloved dead might still be looking over us in some way, and it's always my grandfather that I want to see me now. Many parts of my life would be incomprehensible to him. He wouldn't have approved of my divorce, but he would have doted on my daughter in the biggest way. He would have come up with some goofy nickname for my husband. He had three girls himself, always said that he wanted a son, and loved the son-in-laws he got. He had more grandsons than granddaughters, and we always knew that we girls were his favorites. Especially me, *of course*, since I was the oldest. I'm glad of that now, especially since it means of my generation, I got to know him the longest.

I just miss him so much. That's the way it works, death, with those left behind.

14 October 2005


It doesn't get much peppier than this. This is just a great song, and I cannot sing it worth a darn. The quickness of it leaves me no time to notice what I'm doing right or wrong, and it just makes me tense. Very frustrating. But I can still dance it.

And I love to dance. I hardly ever do it these days, though I've been trying to catch the Saturday afternoon belly dance class here, so well taught by the lovely Olivia. It's a start. Dancing is something else I crave, 'fever in my blood' is not too strong a term, and yet I manage to avoid having time to dance most times by being caught up (yet again) in the minutiae of my life. Fevers can be deadly when the dishes and laundry and lunch need to be dealt with, for starters. But this past week I caught a whiff of it unexpectedly: my husband lent me his MP3 player (and his heart rate monitor, I was briefly high tech runner girl) for my long run on Monday. He had a mostly random mix of songs on, and besides discovering the very cool 'Satin in a Coffin' by Modest Mouse (exactly and utter distractingly my running cadence), I also got caught, as always, by an Erasure song that reminded me how I need to dance. Ok, maybe for you it's not Erasure, maybe that also dates me, but there are oh so many Erasure songs that will get me moving like nothing else, wherever I am. See me dancing, in the kitchen, in the car, in the shopping mall. . . Mom always said that I was the one most likely to break out dancing in a store, as if in a movie when the soundtrack starts rolling.

I've learned much about myself and the way I want to live my life while dancing. I didn't study dance formally while growing up, except for two years of ballet as a kid. I quit after that, never regretting it, and I never did very well in my brief attempts at formal, classical dance classes later. But in college, in the magic time, and even before it, I learned some life lessons dancing:

1. Never be afraid to be the first one dancing. Someone's got to start it. Thanks, Fred.
2. Never be afraid to be the only one dancing. I'll thank Beth Williams for this one, only because it's her music that I first remember finding so irresistible that I just didn't care what anyone else thought.
3. Never be afraid of being ugly when you dance. Thanks, Quentin. In fact, I strongly suspect if I'm totally not afraid of being ugly, I probably never am.
4. Be with your breath. Return again and again to the center of your breath and the dance you need to dance is there, large or small, actively huge or vibratingly tiny. Dunya, you are the most amazing example of how to be utterly present in dance.
5. When you have trouble finding the center, still, return to familiar ritual. I dance the elemental circle, spinning out of it and into the spiral of myself. My body sings under the stars and the big bowl of sky. Thanks for Brushwood.

I can also thank Michael for being my smooth dance partner so many times, and Kenn for being a great mirror, and that guy I never saw again for winning the waltz contest with me, and Zoey for showing me that you can start dancing anything at any age and be utterly beautiful, Andrea for performing with me, Kairol for combining writing and dance and creativity so brilliantly. I could go on and on, and I know I am incredibly lucky to be so blessed with so much recognized inspiration from people I know and love. So I'm crazy to not be dancing more now, when it feeds me so--but I am so much the Renaissance woman, so wanting to do way too many things, and my time and energy are just limited. I'll dance when I can, when the fever burns too suddenly bright. I'll make excuses to do it, take classes to do it, wear clothes I can always move in, play music I love, dance walking down the street, be in this body so fully that the dance is simply a part of me-in-time; there, inspired by my heartbeat and breath, without any thought but 'Now, *This*. . .

13 October 2005

"I'm Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover"

First, this is very disconcerting because I keep thinking of the version that goes "I'm looking over my dead dog, Rover". Different, indeed, and some nice imagery there. I also discovered that I didn't quite have the rhythm of this one down correctly, though that's easy enough to fix. But this song also makes no sense, lyrically: "I'm looking over a four leaf clover that I overlooked before. One leaf is sunshine, the other is rain, third is the roses that grow in the rain. No use explaining, the one remaining is somebody I adore. I'm looking over a four leaf clover that I overlooked before." Now, what does that mean? Why is this clover overlooked, and what exactly is he seeing in it now, and why?

So I have this image of a dead dog, and this dolt skipping through a field, perhaps tripping over said dog, and ending up chin in the mud, staring raptly at a clover. I think he has a concussion, he's certainly not making much sense in this moment.

Oooo, sunshine, rain, pretty flowers. . . mommy?

I just can't get this out of my head. I apologize. I'll do better tomorrow.

And I worried about writing good songs. Ha! Profundity be damned.

12 October 2005

"My Buddy"

I'm not sure why this song touches me, but it does. It's a non-bouncy waltz about missing 'My Buddy', and I just learned it today. I think the text on its own didn't inspire me, but somehow with the melody: a poignant song that makes me sad, somehow.

I've been thinking a lot about the songs that I've written. I haven't written any lately, but I wrote a bunch of them (54) in a relatively short span of time (4 years total, most within a year) a while ago (about a decade). Not just thinking about these songs: they're in my head a lot, tuning along. I'm not singing them out loud, yet. I'm nervous. Taking these voice lessons has made me very conscious about my singing (and even my speaking voice). On one hand I can guess that if I wrote these songs, surely they're in my range, at least, and one would think that now I might be able to sing them even better. And if I enjoy them, if singing them gets me singing more, maybe even playing guitar again, that's all to the good.

On the ubiquitous other hand, as much as I really like some of these songs, the problem for the past 8 years or more is that they're very dated. They don't have a whole lot to do with my life anymore. Songs of longing, of lost loves, of searching for a home: here, still in love with my husband of seven years, in our home for six years, generally happy with my life, it's just not the best fit anymore. Do I even have enough angst these days to write new songs? What does one write about except angst-driven issues? Somehow other songwriters do manage to find other topics. I've even heard some great songs written by mothers, about being parents. Maybe I should listen to those again, because right now I'm finding it hard to think of a current parenting concern that could become a song ("I'll be sure to buy more Cookie Crisp tomorrow, darling!" "Sweetie, your hamster got out again!" "If that dog poops once more inside I'll going to scream!"). Maybe I need to step back a bit for a bigger picture.

On the still important third hand, maybe it's that I know there is still angst to be had. It's so easy to be distracted by the demands of breakfast and pet care, but I also think a lot about death, and sex, and intimacy, and vulnerability, and love. All classics of the angst scene, and surely all possible songs, many songs. When I was younger, and living deep in my own struggle it was usually no problem to take the time to dig deep and spew out my pain. Now, when the dishes and the laundry need to be done, I just don't have the time. And I'm better at taking care of myself these days, I don't have a burning need to continually dig out the blackness and loss and share it with everyone I meet. But I do have the ability to go there when it's necessary. I believe that growth requires me to face the dark, not to dwell in it, but to shed light on it when possible, accept it when necessary, break through in my understanding of what it is there and why.

So is it necessary? Necessary to write these songs? I want to write--but do I want to go to the place inside where I find the stuff I'd want to sing about? Maybe that could be a song in itself. It'd certainly be a place to start.

11 October 2005

"There's a Long, Long Trail"

This is one of the very few songs from this book that has stuck in my head throughout the years, in a good way. Again, could be the evocative picture that goes with it, which looks so much trails from my childhood, from the Pennsylvania forests. It's a poignant little piece too, but not too sappy or silly.

It makes me hungry for some genuine hiking in those forests. Years ago I hiked pieces of the Appalachian trail over several summers. Never more than five or six days at a go; parts of it were very hard hiking indeed. Carrying all of our gear on our backs, hiking over rocks big enough to be called boulders, I really liked the peace of it, and the green woods all around me were very comforting.

I grew up in a smaller woods. My parents live still in the house, on a one-lane, dead-end, dirt road with seven houses on it. When I was growing up there were only five. We were surrounded by the woods, and beyond that, farmland. Now the farmland is gone, replaced by suburbs, and all the wildlife from miles around is converging on the woods near my folks' home. My dad counted six bucks the other day in their back yard. Beautiful, but as a sign of things coming to an end, also very sad.

I think the woods around my parents are still safe from the encroaching 'burbs, for the most part. The creek runs through it, and the hills are fairly steep in most parts, though I suppose that wouldn't stop anyone who was really determined to dig up the whole thing. There is a protected area, a nature reserve, on the other side of the woods from where they are, at least that should be safe. I don't know whether to feel good or bad that my daughter has really taken into herself my worry about the wild places, and the need to protect them. She's very upset about cheetahs right now, concerned that they will disappear in her lifetime. I would be very upset if the cheetahs were gone, too, but I must admit that I'm more upset that my 'aboriginal rights of passage' may be gone for the miles of deer trails in those south-eastern Pennsylvania woods.

My husband and I are waiting until my daughter's old enough to go for longer hikes. Eventually we'd love to do more of the Appalachian Trail, this time with her. I still think I'd find peace in that.

10 October 2005


I thought I would say something about how this song is very dull and predictable, text-wise, and it is. But it's the toughest song that I've had to learn, thus-far, and that made it feel a lot more interesting in the end. Although I sang this through initially this morning, I'm too tired now to figure out at the moment whether it was tough because it's poorly composed, or only because the harmonies aren't quite as predictable as the other songs I've done this far.

Do I want things to be predictable, or not? There's certainly a comfort in predictability, but I scorn a total lack of variety when I find that sorry situation. I also get concerned about needing too much predictability, because I know that as I get older it will be more important to maintain some level of change, challenge the mind, stave off Alzheimer's and all that. Use it or lose it. And since I'm planning on living to be 112 (I enjoyed the US Bicentennial so much at 10, I decided then that I wanted to stick around for the Tricentennial, then have a little of a graceful decline), and I want to be in good shape for my live interviews at 110, well, I'd better get into the good habit of tying my shoes differently every so often now. Use my non-dominate hand, learn a few new languages, take up the cello even (just when I thought I was saving that for my *next* life). And if I'm planning to live another 70 years or so, well then, that puts things into perspective. I've got plenty of time to put out my next album, throw a complete set of useable plates on a potter's wheel, and finish a few quilts.

On the other hand: Tonight I just came in from a viewing for a client of mine. She led a long and full life, ninety-plus years. I worked on her for the last time a few weeks ago, though I never would have suspected that would be the case then. One of her younger relatives put together a fabulous photo collage that showed her living her long life very fully indeed. It was great to see that, since I've only seen and heard about bits of her end game. I've also been thinking a bit lately about another client of mine that died almost two years ago now, near Halloween. She was 36, and found out about her terminal cancer only about 7 months before her death. I met her a couple months after that nasty surprise, and I will forever regret never being able just to hang out with her, have a glass of wine, talk about parenting and music and life, ordinary, non-traumatic stuff. I remember her talking about how hard it was to shop for a new book to read, because she knew that she'd be reading a very finite number of books now. She also had lived a very full life, by being very strong willed and determined to do what she wanted, way before she knew that her time here would be limited more than average. It's a small blessing for the people that will always regret that she's not still around.

I don't know how much time I have here. But whether I'm going to meet my age goal, and need to keep active to keep sharp for my moment of old lady fame, or whether my time will be up around the next bend and I need to get everything in in the short term--either way, now is the time to do it. Whatever 'it' is. Be cool, be here, be with the ones I love, take care of the business that makes life feel good. Spread joy, peace, or kindness when I can. Make music, dance, enjoy, smile.

09 October 2005

"I'm Forever Blowing Bubbles"

This is a bittersweet song that gives nothing away in its title. "I'm forever blowing bubbles, pretty bubbles in the air. . . and like my dreams, they fade and die. Fortune's always hiding, I've looked everywhere. . ." The song remains light and sweet. It makes me sad.

Lately it's been feeling like I'm having a return to my low self-esteem teenage years, and it sucks. I have no clear idea what's brought this all on (though tons of vague theories abound). Intellectually, I know more now than I did then: Sure, I'm the center of the universe--but who isn't? It matters less what I do now, because I know that no one else is watching me, they're really all wrapped up in their own stories. And the choice to be like or unlike my peers is much less of a draw. I can try what you're trying, or wear what you're wearing, just for the fun of it, and keep it or discard it tomorrow. I know now that life is just way too short to sweat a lot of stuff, small and large.

I remember again what I decided way back in those troubled teenage years, thankfully: that the most important thing in my life is love. Oh so trite, you say, so overdone, such a predictable happy ending to the story. Ah, no such predictability or surety here. Love has never worked as a panacea for me: it's a choice, a goal, a striving. But in a pinch, when I have to decide to do something or the other, if I can decide based on love--of my family, friends, or myself--that's always the way to go. I'm willing to drop everything and focus, to the best of my ability, on loving. I grieve that I'm not better at it, for all those years of deciding, of practice. I'm usually much more aware of my failings at this than at what seem like few successes. Love is, though, in practice, all the small, everyday, ordinary events. Here, when things get bleak, when I feel like I'm shouting in the well (or pointlessly blowing bubbles), again, when loving myself or anyone feels like climbing an endless hill and nothing I do makes me feel better--still--I'm erring on an ok thing to again and again make the choice to love myself, to love you, and do whatever seems to be, even clumsily moving towards that goal in that moment.

08 October 2005

"April Showers"

I feel like I might be starting to understand more about how to manipulate the placement of sound in my mouth while singing, and remembering open my mouth wider. It might be a long time before any of this seems natural, but I can tell it's working when the sound changes to something different, easier, wider-sounding. And I don't feel so much change when I come to my break point.

I love rain, weather of all kinds. Wind is pretty fabulously wonderful, too. Not that weather doesn't scare me from time to time, but I'm always in awe of it: weather is the easiest way to tell that we live on a planet, spinning its way through space, and we are not in control, here. Earthquakes, volcanoes, and hurricanes are more dramatic representations of this, but it doesn't take much more than a good rain storm to bring it to my mind.

I love the whole sensuality of weather. Visually, the fast movement of clouds against the sky is amazing. White clouds against a dark night sky even more so. The taste of wind and rain on my face, in my mouth, the sounds of thunder, rain on the roof or tent above my head. The smell before the rain, and during the rain, fresh or bitter or electric. And the feel of rain on skin is magical, especially a summer rain. When I was younger, and less employed, you could not keep me away from running through the summer rain for anything else. Except perhaps the sound of drumming.

Once, in that magical once upon a time I mentioned, I had it all. A storm was coming, and the sky was weirdly, amazingly, green. Lightning had begun, dramatic and beautiful, and the power went out in the building where we were all dancing to live music. The drummers never stopped pounding out the heart beat and the dance beat on the congas and djembes and talking drum inside, the doors were wide open in the early summer warmth, and we ran out into the parking lot, to dance barefoot on the blacktop while the lightning flashed around us. It was my birthday week, and I can't remember any presents I got that beat the gift of that night.

This past summer I've tried to get out in the rain more. Running has certainly helped that resolve. And if I have to run in the rain to get my exercise, it's a handy by-product to remember once again that being in the rain is another way to just feel good.

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07 October 2005

"Pretty Baby"

I really like this song, and I have no idea why. Again, bouncy, that's fine. Referring to a woman as a baby, not so fine. But heck, something about 'Won't you come and let me rock you in my cradle of love' really appeals to me, even if I'm not so fond of 'Oh, I want a lovin' baby and it might as well be you'. 'Might as well'? How complimentary can that be?

I'm not a baby fan overall. Infants are sweet and all, but a bit boring, and way too much work for too little sleep. The communication thing really isn't happening at all for a long while; I do much better when children get to be a year old or so. I remeber vividly when I first had a conversation with my daughter, thinking, wow, we're really having a conversation. Not a particularly profound one, but still. I knew all of my weaknesses (and a few possibly strengths) coming into parenthood. I'm the eldest of five children, so I helped out with the younger ones a bit. This was especially true since my family's broken up into two 'litters' (Mom hates it when we call it that, but it's true). The exact same parents for both sets, but my folks just took a break in the middle. I'm up top with two brothers, then an eight year gap, then my younger brother and sister. I'm 15 years older than my sister, and I got a lot of teasing in high school when I showed up with her to events. But it was good practice for having my own child. For the first 3 or 4 years of my daughter's life I did experience a kind of deju vu, without specific memories, but with feelings of having been here before. And of course, I was vaguely remembering my sister's childhood, before I left for college. It was helpful, even in its vagueness. Now my daughter's older, and I'm on my own, no helpful hints from my life besides memories of my own childhood.

Raising a child is such a whole new perspective on being a child. It's hard business, being a kid. Having to learn about everything there is to know, and not always knowing enough to appreciate the benefits of childhood, while being more fully aware of its limitations. And I am so grateful to my parents now. I have no idea how they survived *five* of us, and had none of us turn out to be ax murders or anything. I suppose we have something left to strive for in our old age if we choose.

My daughter would love to have a little brother or sister of her own. Or an older sister. ("You could adopt!") I hated being pregnant, wasn't thrilled with that first year, my daughter wanting to have a sibling is not reason enough to give her one. I tell her, very truthfully, that all I wanted was a little girl just like her, and here she is! We tell her we want to give all our attention and love just to her. And she certainly will have a different set of benefits as an only child.

But I still feel bad sometimes. I love my siblings, love being one of a bunch. When we all get together it's incredibly fun. And we have each other for all sorts of things, memories and complaining about our parents being key. Who will commiserate with my daughter when she wants to complain about us? I hope she has a slew of fabulous friends, at least a steady strong handful, and a good life partner. And I'm hoping what they say is true, that being an only child skips a generation, because I'd love a few grandkids to spoil some day. I hear you can give those back when you need a break.

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06 October 2005

"I Wonder What's Become of Sally?"

I don't think I ever sang this song at all, never even tried it out. I do know that there are songs beyond this point in the book that I know, and like, but maybe I just got tired of songs about girls at some point, is my guess. There's a icky gooey romanticization of women that happens fairly often, thus far. Wandering through tulips with that sweet, only girl down memory land in Avalon. . . are all love songs like this? The red wine this evening (ah, red wine, are you with me on the red wine, binky? Has anyone but me, and them, been following binky and andrew in their comments?) has blurred me a little, and I don't think I can even think of a contemporary love song. How about one of mine. . . ok, I guess I didn't write any really typical love songs, but that doesn't mean anything. So what if I wrote one of my best songs about my teddy bear?

I'm recommending 'Eats, Shoots, and Leaves' to everyone right now (but I might buy it for you for Christmas, so be careful). It's all about correct use of punctuation, and don't think I'm not occassionally in anguish here over whether I've used the correct punctuation in this blog, the correct spelling. Argh! Read the book, it's amazingly fun and entertaining. And 'The Time Traveler's Wife', which is disturbing in all sorts of ways, and has stuck with me in the corners of my head. I'm not a fan of disturbing books, but the romance of this one sucked me right in, and I have to say, it still didn't disappoint me in the end.

So I guess that I won't be able to write profound things every night, (maybe not any night), but stick with me, gentle reader (I have so always wanted to write that). I have these ideas throughout the day of what I'll write about, inspired by my song title, and then I write about something else entirely, and in a good way.

05 October 2005

"Moonlight Bay"

It was fun working on this one a bit more in my voice lesson today. It was short enough to run through a bunch of times, trying different things.

[Happy Birthday to my incredibly wonderful and generous little sister, Beth! I don’t mind at all that Mom loves you more! Really!]

I like the process of this learning to sing (again). Until this year, every year for the past dozen or so I’ve gotten away to some sort of retreat: personal growth, or meditation oriented, and most often, I’ve done one of each. Then this year, nothing. One gathering that I loved was cancelled (and for the future has changed into a form that I can’t afford), and the other retreat was timed such that it was attend that, or my brother’s wedding, and that was a no-brainer. (Admittedly, the wedding was in the Virgin Islands, I got to go with a very dear friend, and spend time with my awesome family, so I didn’t suffer overly much there, but it wasn’t relaxation, per se.)

I missed the time away to naval gaze. Time to look inward and decide what I thought about what I saw, time to rest my tired parental brain. Time to process. I once wrote a song: “Process. . . process teaches, eat your lessons, love the process. . .” and I do love it. I know how process works, how one takes new information, makes it one’s own, hard wires it into the system, and runs with it: rejoicing, accepting, acknowledging. I know all about the watching time, where I just have to pay attention, and remember to pay attention again. I know how things I’ve ‘put on a back burner’ come to the fore mysteriously soon, get solved, or accomplished. I know what resistence to process is, and how sweet it is to break through into something that later always seems easy--if I didn’t know how damn tough it was to do the breaking. I so miss the processing this year.

So I can latch, a little, at least, onto these vocal excursions into me, into my issues around my own voice. Today I realized I’m afraid when it seems too easy. As much trouble as I’ve gotten into in the past, I distrust when it feels too good also, a little. Surely the entirely sensual pleasure I take in my voice must be wrong somehow, right? What if someone hears that? And then another part of me says, ‘Goodness, girl, just get over it! Surely you’re old enough now that you don’t care what anyone else thinks.’ And maybe, finally (for the most part, and for all practicality), I don’t. Watch me process, folks. Gory details are optional.

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04 October 2005

"Carolina in the Morning"

This is the first song so far that I haven't known fairly well. Again, bouncy. Except for yesterday's song (gack, and verily, gack) all of these tunes date from the 1920s, which I'm now assuming was just filled with bouncy tunes. The notes on this song say that neither the composer nor lyricist had ever been in the Carolinas. I don't remember ever being to either North or South myself, so I can't offer my own thoughts on how well they faked the song.

My thoughts are certainly often South these days, though. I was in New Orleans when I was ten, visiting my aunt, who lived there at the time. I don't remember a whole lot, but it was very green, and we did walk down Bourbon Street, and there's a great picture of me putting the toe of my purple low-top Chuck Taylors in the Mississippi. It's been tops on my places to visit for a while, that list being mostly places where I have friends living, just to make the possibility of visiting a little more in reality-land.

My friend Kathleen lives in New Orleans, and I know that she's ok, but not much more than that, so far. She was in Austin when she sent out emails last. She's resourceful, with lots of friends, so I know that she'll prevail in the long run. When I think about Kathleen I think of that amazing smile of hers, totally infectious, and dancing with her, wildly. . .

A long time ago in a not-so-far away place I once had a magical autumn, and every autumn since then I remember it. I did so much art, and dancing, had a lot of regular sex with an amazing man who was a great friend to me, and hung out with these absolutely incredible people who helped to shape my vision of what being 'grown-up' meant. I mean, at the time, they were in their *thirties*, at *least*, and that didn't seem exactly old, but still! And they were so intelligent, and creative, and it brought those qualities out in me. It was also the time in my life when I discovered the real depth of relationships with other women friends. Ah, the dancing we did together! All out, no holds barred, all together, follow the music, sing the song, tell me a story, make a picture, many limbs, clear voiced, I trust you, dance.

It ended badly, for me. But the ending was just a small tail on the end, not the body of it; and more, it was a long time ago now. I've kept in touch with most of the people from that time to some degree. I can't go back. But every fall, I do remember it. I remember the joy.

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03 October 2005

"If You Were the Only Girl in the World"

". . . and I was the only boy. . ." Gack. A bit too much on the schmaltzy side for me. And, frankly, why would I want to be one of the two people left in the world? What does that imply? World plague a la 'The Stand'? Who would work at Starbucks, making the Have-A-Happy-Day mochas? And how much time do I really want to spend with anyone? Yeah, this one's really not working for me.

When I studied voice in college, at Penn State, I was at the bottom of the School of Music barrel. Not a voice major, just pursuing a BA in Music, with voice as my main instrument. But I was lucky enough to study with an excellent teacher, Suzanne Roy, and doubly lucky to have her encourage me to sing in one particular choir, where I sung under an amazing director, Douglas Miller. And somehow I got all the way to the senior voice recital. My voice teacher knew me pretty well at this point (5 years into my college career), and so we chose music where the text interested me as much as the music did. No songs about love, none about God, but bloated corpses? Absolutely!

I remember at the time that Dr. Roy was having ongoing discussions with the Music Theory instructor, Burt Fenner, about the importance of text. He refused to give it the weight that she thought it deserved. And that still sticks in my head. I've sung in French, Latin, Italian, and German, and more often than not I felt I really had to know the meaning of what I was singing, word for word. And most times, it seemed that the composer really wanted me to know, as well. Classically composed sacred music is all about the text, holding up the Divine on a high 'C'.

When I wrote my own music, later, it was still about the text. It came equally from my love of poetry and love of singing, and I've often thought that the reason I haven't written any songs lately is that I'm not reading enough poetry, not enjoying the play of language as much as I used to.

My voice teacher recently suggested that I work on my articulation in my everyday speech, since speaking really isn't that different from singing, and when I make some effort (or when I'm excited about something, or have some determination to get my point across), I can make myself heard very clearly indeed. *This is what I want heard and understood.* I call it my 'on stage voice', it feels like a performance in a good way. I'm looking forward to singing about the corpses again, and leaving no doubt of what I'm singing. Maybe I'll find some better love songs to work on as well.

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02 October 2005

"Ain't She Sweet"

Another favorite old song, for the same reason as 'Bye, Bye': bouncy, fun, just sweet. All the reasons it was popular before 'pop' was a term in use. I remember singing this song when I was growing up, with my friend Veronica, and we would always change it to 'Ain't He Sweet', which I still do, most often. But when I first turned to the page today (and I'm not cheating at all by looking ahead, here), I thought first of my daughter.

It's been said a million times, and it's so so true: there is nothing that can prepare you for parenthood. And one of those things that can't be prepared for is the overwhelming love you feel for your child. It's just miraculous every day: how did this amazing, alive, independent being come from us? She is our daughter, and I see and hear us in her every day, and that's scary and incredible, and I see and hear things that are so *not* us, in good ways, and that's mysterious and profound. How did this happen? Her wisdom astounds me, because often it is the thing that seems to come entirely from her, from her true and deep self. And she's in touch with that self on some effortless level when that wisdom emerges. I know that this happens in 'grown-ups' too, and it's perhaps no less beautiful, but there's something pretty wild about the wisdom from the mouths of babes. Easy to forget along the way that we really did learn some of the most basic and important things about how to live our lives at the very beginning.

As frustrating as parenting can be (always another chance to be a bad parent!), I'm glad that in so many great ways, it is everything I wanted and more.


01 October 2005

"Bye Bye Blackbird"

Hands down my favorite of the 'Reader's Digest' songs, and not just because the key is comfortable for me. It's a song that I'll just start to sing for no reason, because it's fun and bouncy. And it's got this illustration that I like for some reason, a man waving from the back of the train, very 'Music Man' feel to it. 1926.

Last weekend I ran my first 10K. My husband's been running for a few years, doing marathons for the most part, but last year he ran Pittsburgh's Great Race. I suddenly had this idea that *I* could do this, could run a race, this race. And so, around Thanksgiving last year, I started running on a regular basis, following a training schedule from an online running site.

My family isn't very athletic. I did swim team, and rode horses for a little while. My sister played lacrosse, did some cheerleading. One of my brothers ran track, I think. Overall, nothing very impressive. But I've always been active, dancing some, doing yoga off and on, exercising of the fitness video type fairly regularly in recent years. I never thought that I would run, or even could run. My mom always talked about her bad knees, and how she couldn't run, and I just assumed that if I ran, my knees would somehow fail me. Not that I had any evidence to support that, but you know, family history asserts itself in ways, here in imagined ways just as strongly.

Still, I had always liked the action of running, if I did a brief sprint: the feel of my legs moving under me, the extension and exertion of it, the movement through space. When I began running officially, all this was still true, still good. Moreover, I was reminded that I hadn't gotten outside much in my recent life. How good it was to be out in the weather, to hear the birds, to see trees, to feel the air. And once I was out there, I had to finish, to come home--but not until I was finished. I was alone with my thoughts and my breath and my body, and that felt really good as well.

My husband says that 'feeling good' is not the point of running, and implies that I'm not doing something right if I'm enjoying myself at all. But I still like it, a year later. Not every run has been a barrel of laughs, but the sensation is still good, and I'm stretching my body and mind in ways that I never thought I would, which is good for me all on its own. Years ago I did a firewalk--actually walked on hot coals, without injury--and it helped me to believe that I was capable of a lot more than I could conceive in the normal scheme of things. Beginning running, running 5-5Ks, and now my first 10K, is less dramatic of an event, perhaps, but it reminds me again of that truth.


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