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.

30 November 2005

"It Had to Be You"

I like this one. Maybe it’s just for the line about all the faults, but still. . . it had to be you. Ah. Makes me all gooey. A lush song again, as well, full.

Today I'm having trouble escaping from my inner world of angst. I have no big problem with the angst, I know it will pass, but I do have issues with passing it along just because it exists. At the very least I should have something profound to say about it, something that will lift us up into new realms of understanding, comprehension, and dare I say, enlightenment. But instead I'm just tired, having had a rough day, and knowing that tomorrow will be long. I want to sleep in more than almost anything else in the world, and be warm. I'm too brain addled to make any more sense than this.

29 November 2005

"Bei Mir Bist Du Schon"

Made popular by the Andrews Sister, which is certainly how I know it. After playing this one on the piano today I got out the CD and played it for my daughter. We talked about when the Andrews Sisters were popular, looked at their pictures.

I'm always trying to give her context in history. 'The Andrews Sisters were singing in the forties, which is about ten years after your American Girl dolls stories take place [about a young child during the Depression]', or, 'This happened ten/twenty/two years before/after I was born.' When we read about other places we pull out a map to give context to where this place is in relation to where she knows: how far from the United States, from England where Great-Granddad lives, from Namibia where Grandpa visited? She wants to hear stories from my childhood, my husband's time growing up in Manchester, and this is all to put her own life into context: this is different, this is the same, this is where I come from. Her mental map is forming, and I want her to feel solidly placed in her world, while at the same time permitting the possibility of change and expansion of the map's boundaries.

Boundaries themselves are another form of context. If we help her to be very clear about her acceptable edges, and help her to be able to articulate these places, she then will know where you and I stand in her world. She will know when her boundaries are crossed, even if it takes a lot more experience to know what to do then. Yet another of life's lessons that I watch her struggling with, and have so little that is helpful to say. I'm grateful that my husband is often more articulate about some of these things, but I hope that I teach her by example as well, as she watches me struggle with pieces of my life.

And watching her parents deal with their own battles is yet another contextual lesson: her place and boundaries will be redefined again and again, by her own will, by the wind of the world interacting with the landscape of her life. I hope that our mindful presense gives her the belief that she will not be alone, or no more alone than anyone else at the center of their world.

28 November 2005

"September in the Rain"

This song is ok, but I'm wondering if it should have had words in the first place. Like the Tara theme song in reverse. At the very least, these words are not the most inspirational, and though the song has melodic possibilities, it is ultimately predictable.

Today was exhausting. My brain has felt foggy and unbalanced all day, weirdly, unusually so. It's possible that I'm just exhausted, which leaves the question: and why am I up this late? Watching Buffy, of all things? Well, you know, coming to the end of season six, which is a bit dramatic, and I had only seen it once. Surely that's not so bad. And I kept busy doing my handwork--lots of projects that I'd like to get done for this holiday season.

But for now, before I exceed all previous records of posts that really don't say anything at all: let's just stop here and get some sleep. Here's to the brain fog clearing.

27 November 2005

"Jeepers, Creepers"

Well, it's not the Siouxsie and the Banshees version, but it's still fun to sing. Somehow in the process of these voice lessons, my break point has become drastically less of a problem, though I'm not sure why that is. But also, not complaining. In addition, the other day someone had to explain to my daughter what a 'bansidhe' is, as in 'screaming like a banshee. . .'. And she thought she knew all about the fairies. . .

I am more sensual than most people, and of course I know this based on a test in Cosmopolitan. But let's say that I didn't take that test, just for fun: I would still know that this is true. For the most part we humans are more dependent on visual cues, even though scent and taste and touch and sound all influence us to high degrees. especially when it comes to memories. I have often wished that I could remove from my memory the association of Bonnie Bell Sugarplum lipsmacker with that seventh grade dance with my then-crush, Marshall Stafford. . . but alas. I've even been known to bring on the sensation (I saved the lipgloss), more because of the wonderment of the fact that it still works, after all these years. Also, my chosen massage career. my passion for dance, for 'stinky stuff', my taste for wine: all of these are clues to my inherent sensuality. And I cannot complain. There any many gifts that I do not have, and this makes up for most of them. It also makes me feel a bit freak-ish in a not-great way, now and again, but I'm willing to pay that price. It's why I am the Earth Mother, the touch-junkie, the dance-into-the-center-of-myself person that I am. I am again grateful for being content in my own skin, more often than not.

26 November 2005

"You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby"

It is kind of sweet, imagining the one you love as a child, imagining them so precious and new. I knew this song ahead of time a bit better than most of the others, it's not too overdone for me yet, though it could be in time.

No one told me what it's really like to be a parent, not all of it. Mostly because no one could know what my unique experience would be. And some of what they did say I never really believed, some to my benefit, some not. Sure, I heard that I would get no sleep, but I didn't know that it would be years of no sleep, not just months. I met mothers before I became pregnant who said that after giving birth, they were in better shape than they had ever been. That, happily, did turn out to be true. I also met mothers who were so happy being pregnant, so earth mother content to nurse until their children entered kindergarten, and I hated being pregnant, and the thought of having this alien pod thing attached to my outside, feeding on me, just when I had freed the inside of my body from it--there was no way on earth that I would even consider this slave-like behavior. Somehow my daughter has lived to tell the tale, and I didn't go to hell, which some people seemed on the verge of implying. Because it is true, that having a child gives everyone else in the world some sort of permission to tell you how to raise said child. I've made this rule work to my benefit, fully embracing the 'it takes a village' notion, and reprimanding other people's children freely in public for things like hitting, and destroying property. And I have been duly chastised for this, since some parents think it's perfectly fine for their children to rip up bulbs planted in your yard, just as a random example.

My husband and I thought long and hard before deciding to have a child, and I actually couldn't seem to stick to any one choice. So many pros and cons either way, and in the end I was grateful to my husband for saying to me, firmly, "Let's just make a decision, and then we'll stick to it, no matter what your mood swings tell you." I did realize that I would regret not having a child more, and even now, even when it's difficult, and she tries my patience so incredibly far beyond any horizon I could have envisioned, it is all worth it. We have the opportunity to live with this incredible person, to be the primary witnesses to her emerging humanity, to perhaps even guide that process in some way. She is the arrow that we have let go, though it's more of an ongoing process of aiming, effort, release, and then beginning again, sometimes as if from scratch.

No one, no thing, could have prepared me for this, and I would not give it up, I would not give her up, for the world.

25 November 2005

"Blues in the Night"

I would have called this song "My mama done tol' me", since that's the first line, and the only way I know it. But "blues in the night' is in there too. New section today, "The Swing Years", and I'm hoping that they're all fun to sing like this one. Maybe my heart is with the blues.

I like being on vacation, being away from the house. Too much of what I consider my job is housework. A noble profession, yes, but it makes it harder to relax, because there's always something that needs to be done, staring at me. It amakes me feel inadequate too much of the time, and overwhelmed the rest.

I've been staying with my brother and his girlfriend, and their house always look great. I accused them of having 'house fairies' who clean everything up, when I found that the mug I had used yesterday morning was not only clean, but put away. When I have company I feel great to have used mugs drying in the dish rack sometime in the next twenty-four hours, and if we've been up late talking, or if there isn't company, or if it's just an off day, things may not have even gotten that far. Now, on an intellectual level I know that they clean up here, quite often, I've even seen it, but I know that I will never acheive this level of things looking nice, and so I'd rather believe that the shoe elves' cousins have something to do with this. And I'm glad to not be going home quite yet.

24 November 2005

"Lulu's Back In Town"

This is a walking down the street song, swinging your bag, doing a little soft shoe even though you never had a lesson in your life song. I like it. Not my favorite ever, but it gets a thumbs up.

I've been home at my parents today for the holiday. It's always fabulous to see my family, though in recent years it's been disturbing to see the changes in their neighborhood. Once a very rural community with farmland and forest, now becoming one big suburb. Nothing unique, alas. Change happens, and though I know it's necessary, I don't have to like it. I'm happy to live in a city, where everything is close, where I can walk to get milk or to the library, but I'm happier knowing that the country is there, too. I need to know there are still places where you can see the stars, walk in the woods, hear the sounds of trees in the wind. I'd like to think that individuals choose to be stewards for some of these places, that not all space has to be declared a public park or protected area for it to be safe from mindless development. I grieve to know that this is not usually the case.

23 November 2005

"It Can't Be Wrong"

Now this is a better song. Lush in all the right places. I like the lyrical elements, the sweeping-ness of it. I'm trying to figure out why some songs do it for me, and others just don't. Sometimes I can understand, but only sometimes. Reactions to music can be quite complex.

I've been feeling pretty lush myself, lately. Life feels juicy, sensual, good. Not simple, which is maybe a part of the attraction for me. Pleasure is everywhere, and not just in the expected places, though those are richer, too. When things are not so great they still feel clear, with a depth and breadth that have their own attraction. It may be an anomoly, but I am grateful for now.

Happy Turkey Day, America.

22 November 2005

"It's Magic"

I need a better song sometime soon, these are starting to get me down. Though it could be that this one just doesn't suit my voice. But it's still not beautiful enough or interesting enough for me to overcome that today.

I'm working on another client with cancer, though I'm very glad that she seems to be doing well. It could be worse, as I know. Most massage therapists that I know don't have any clients that have died, not true for me. I am grateful for the opportunity to work on people who are at the end game, though I'm also glad that my clientele includes a broad range of people, some of them healthy, some of them even relatively stress-free. But those in crisis do find me, when they need me.

When I was speaking to my client today, I was trying to explain how I believe we all have the opportunity to make the best with what we've been given. Sometimes we wish we weren't give quite so many f-----g growth opportunities, but they do indeed, inspire us to grow more than we would have otherwise. Sometimes we also get bonuses like unhealthy weight loss as well. That's just a little joke, ha ha! It's hard to tell what's meant to be funny when you're talking about the heavy stuff, but laughter helps the coping happen, and it can be easier than crying, at least it's a break.

I've learned a lot about life and death from my clients, and I'm very appreciative of the practical approach that I've seen: Try hard and creatively to live as long as you can, but weigh in quality of life, too. Physical pain makes everything worse, and becomes unbearable when it never lets up. Not all drug cocktails are equal, or meant for everyone. It can take too many tries to get it right. Being healthy is good, but getting old is still inevitable, and age means some sort of decline somewhere, eventually. Being touched is a good thing. Being with those you love, those who love you: good things.

I am grateful that I get to touch and be touched.

[I recommend the book 'Handbook for Mortals', by Joanne Lynn and Joan Harrold for anyone facing end of life issues.]

21 November 2005

"My Own True Love"

Some things don't need words. This is the Tara them from 'Gone With the Wind', and the words are ill set to the original instrumental line. Let's not go here again. Ever. I'd prefer to regain the movie theme on its own terms.

There are times when words are unnecessary. Music and art can carry deep emotional meaning that words would bring up into parcels of insignificance. Between people words are very helpful, though having even a common language does not guarantee that meaning will be consistent between them. When I was in therapy I used the word 'pampered', which to me had the emotional weight of 'nurtured', but my therapist objected, since to her it had the weight of 'indulged', in a pitying sense. It took us a few minutes to figure that out, though. With my father I rarely use bad language, though he has heard it from me, but the phrase he finds most offensive is when I say that I was 'pissed off'. He can't say why, and I am baffled as to the strong feelings he has over this. And that's just the words themselves, throw in the heavyweights such as anger, fear, pain, and grief, mix until lumpy, and we are baking one hell of a mess.

I strive to speak as clearly and exactly as I can, to the best of my ability. We work to help our daughter have a large vocabulary, not to impress anyone, but to be able to convey to another person subtlety and preciseness of meaning. The more clear we can be, the less misunderstanding, and even small misunderstandings often have a snowball rolling down the snowy hill results. I also act based more on the text spoken to me, even if I don't discount the information that my intuition also brings. But I am doing my small part to retrain the world to speak what it means. I think relying on our mind reading skills is a bit premature at this evolutionary stage.

20 November 2005

"Too Marvelous For Words"

Boring, just boring. Not horrific, in no way inspirational.

I'm thinking a lot about family. The family of choice, the dear friends that I want to know in the retirement home, and the family of blood, my siblings, their partners, my parents, my husband, my daughter. And that's just the first circle or two. Extending out I have all sorts of wonderful people that I cherish, moving out until I reach the circle of people that includes the mailman who brings a treat for the dog and the nice check out people at Whole Foods. It seems that people move in towards me and out away from me in a dance that's as natural as waves crashing and receding. The inner circles are more stable, but even the people in those shift, sometimes joyfully closer, sometimes heart breakingly farther away, and occassionally it's a gradual, pain-free drift either way. I love meeting new people, even if I'm much less rushed about it these days. My life is so full of love and beloveds, and the people I cherish most are so amazing that the bar is high indeed. The amazing thing is that I still meet people just as fabulous. Friendship and intimacy isn't immediate, and often it never gets that far, but knowing that all these people exist does give me some hope that the world really wants to move towards a good place. Our connections can be healing, invigorating, soothiing, blessing-filled, tender, brave, passionate, steadfast, supportive, challenging, and vastly fun.

At this time I am very very thankful for my families, of blood and of choice. They are so marvelous that I don't have enough words, and I'm happy to keep trying. My world feels warm behind the fall chill.

19 November 2005

"Secret Love"

I really like the melody of this piece, though the words don't really grab me. But this nice, freely moving melody--I wouldn't kick it out of bed, to use one of our wine tastings terms.

I started learning about wine when my daughter was a eighteen months old. It felt like a grown-up hobby, and one that I could maintain ignorance about until I was fifty, or so. My perception is that then, if you are presuming to know anything about wine, you must have bottles aging in a cellar somewhere, preferably French, and be able to speak intelligently about any vintage that crosses your palate.

Here I am, five years later, and I'm way ahead of schedule as far as learning about wine. I know what I like: reds more than whites; new world younger wines rather than aged European style wines; big, fruity, spicy, dry wines. I still buy based on the store sales, and the attractiveness of the label, but now I can also buy wines that I know. Still nothing in my basement, er, cellar, except for the one dessert wine that needs to wait a few years, a gift from my father-in-law. I suppose that makes me a little bit grown-up.

Today we had twenty people over for a sit-down dinner, our annual pre-Thanksgiving event, where we invite some of our very near and dear friends to give thanks. We pass my daughter's plush hedgehog as we all take our turns to speak or sing. For reasons I can't really explain, except that it seemed like a good idea, we all wear antlers. And we drink bountifullly, and enjoy each other's company mightily. For the first time this year, I've deliberately remained relatively sober, and not just because I knew that I needed to write my blog entry at some point. Maybe I'm going to need to invest in better wines, wines I like more, things that don't come in magnums, which has been the norm for party situations. But still, also very very nice to enjoy my friends' company and be able to fully remember it all in the morning, without, I hope, a headache. And right now I'm headed back to the party to enjoy it a bit more. Hear's to us, one more toast!

18 November 2005

"I Only Have Eyes For You"

This is a lovely song, but I certainly had no idea that it was originally from a movie (Dames, 1934). Singing it I can't help but think of the 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer' episode that used this so effectively to create a 50s flashback mood. Maybe that's why there's a definite creepy overtone to it for me.

We're having 22 people over tomorrow for a sit down dinner, and I'm still not feeling particularly prepared. Over the years I've gotten much better at party preparation, until it's been a practically no-stressor to throw a wine tasting, or birthday party here. But I'm not feeling that graceful at the moment. Life, work in particular, has been busier, and all of my usual cleaning-up-ahead-of-time fell by the wayside, and now I'm just exhausted, and nothing feels done. I am no longer quite so panicked, since my friends staying here who arrived tonight encouraged me strongly to sit down, relax, start talking, don't worry: what is necessary will get done. Thank goodness for friends, especially friends who don't mind so much that I didn't get the bathrooms cleaned.

My only goal now is that I remember to write my blog tomorrow, since it will be a very busy day. And I might be shy singing in front of house guests. Maybe I just need to start drinking a little early. After my run, though.

17 November 2005

"Days of Wine and Roses"

I can't help but think: I never did see the end of this movie. I saw the beginning about twenty years ago, I really should finish it at some point, but I've heard that it doesn't end well. It's a pretty song, and in a very different style, which makes sense since we've skipped ahead about thirty years for this song. Well, only twenty since yesterday's song, but still!

I saw the first half of this movie at the drug and alcohol rehabilitation center where I worked summers as a lifeguard for several years right after high school. It changed my life in ways that had nothing to do with the swimming pool, though I did learn to do my own pool chlorination for the first time, and two ways to cut a deck of cards with one hand. I did a lot of yoga on my breaks between pool openings, in meeting rooms that weren't being used at that time, breathing into stretches and learning the limits of my body,

I also met lots of alcoholics and drug addicts. I found out that old drug addicts have better stories. I went to AA and NA meetings for the sense of community that I couldn't find anywhere else. I was young and innocent and ripe for the kind of lessons that these people were learning because they had realized they were addicts: that one chooses to improve a life, to change one's life, in order to become better, and stronger. And taking things 'one day at a time' is a great precursor to taking things one moment a time, being fully in each of those moments. I read great books from the store there that talked about self-improvement, and self-reflection. Today the 'self-help' movement has a bit of a light weight status among some serious readers, but I didn't know any better then. What I read felt important, and worth considering, pondering. It gave me a different way to frame my college experience and the lessons I learned there. I think the residents of the place found me rather refreshing, and I found them fascinating. They were all so different from one another, some were like me in ordinary ways. I saw them at their best, totally sober, more or less sincere, and working their programs.

I think that's why I never saw the end of the movie, having seen the beginning there. I didn't keep in touch with anyone from the rehab, and I prefer to believe in their happy endings, even if I know that it's likely that some people, at least, ended up making very different choices. I really hope that some also made it out alive, and are still choosing their lives bravely and boldly. I am grateful for having learned my own lessons there, and at a very good time to take them in.

16 November 2005

"As Time Goes By"

Wow! Suddenly I'm in the next section, the 'Songs from Movies' section. That last section could have gone on a bit, I wasn't tired of it yet. This song is a classic, what's not to like. Ok, maybe it's over-done, over-heard, but I do still like it, and it's fun to sing. It can be serious, or schmaltzy, or a little of both.

Today I've been contemplating my inevitable dorkiness. I never did figure out the 'popular' thing in school (though my sister, Beth, did. She was even a cheerleader, darn her.). And while I'd like to believe that the dorks in high school have now become wonderfully eccentric and fun--no, I actually do believe that. At least among my friends. But still, the dorkiness remains in some form. And my fear is that as I age, and care even less about what people think, this will come forth with a vengence. Now, of course, I won't be caring, but my daughter will have to suffer that absolutely inevitable 'O sweet goddess my parents are so embarassing!' thing. I do feel for her. Growing up is so hard, so many unfortunate life lessons to learn, even if the alternative is just way less fun. She will, hopefully, still acknowledge us, at some point. Maybe even appreciate us. Meanwhile I must follow my bliss, and my bliss will probably take me headlong into that realm of geeks, in which I will blissfully pass my latter days, ah, yes!

15 November 2005

"Body and Soul"

I did not know this song at all before this, and I am in love. It's not the text, per se, not the meaning of it, anyhow, though the words fit the shape of line so well that they melt in my mouth. Bluesy, jazzy, nice range for my voice, and it feels so easy to sing. As a bonus, I also love the piano accompanyment, and I've played it through several times. Again, though, this was a very different era if this is a 'easy and adaptable arrangement with surprising musical twists. . . simple to play'. In this century, for the average home in America, playing the piano at all is not so common, and playing pieces like this one which not only has the usual plethora of sharps and flats, but also a B double flat. . . well, you don't see that every day in today's 'Easy Piano Favorites'. It also must be mentioned that in the notes to this song it says that a 'ok for the airways' lyric was added at the end, 'my castles have crumbled, but I am his, body and soul' replacing 'I'd gladly surrender myself to you, body and soul'.

I can't say that I'm up for body and soul surrender myself, but I do sometimes feel like a plant in need of water. I am a human in need of touch, of intimacy, to a greater extent than most of the people I know, except for some of my colleagues in massage, and a couple of my clients. I have no idea how I got this way, my family is affectionate, but not overly so. I remember at one point feeling like I could just go from lap to lap and be petted and held--and this was as an adult, albeit a much younger one than the current model. Shortly after that realization, I came to the unpleasant conclusion that this was an absolutely unacceptable desire, or so I gathered from my peers at the time.

Now, I don't know what acceptable means, but I do understand the rules a bit better. My boundaries are drawn very carefully, at times blatantly artificial to my eyes, but I stick to them because a part of me fears the backlash, internal and external. I touch my clients in a professional non-sexual manner that manages to be caring and attentive. I choose carefully which clients I will hug when we say goodbye. Since I'm very heterosexual, I'm extremely careful with straight men everywhere, and I don't have to think about this consciously for the most part. I'm friendly, I smile, unless I feel threatened, and then it's sensible to back away. I touch friends a lot in conversation, but hate that at almost every instance I think: Is this ok? What will she/he think? Could this be misinterpreted?

I get very sad when I think that I can't really relax my control around anyone, including my husband and my daughter. But maybe that's growing up, too, another thing to be mature and responsible about. It doesn't come close to addressing my need for touch, but I think I've given up on having it fufilled. I assume that somehow I'm broken and inherently inappropriate, and that those broken pieces will not be soothed.

14 November 2005

"I'll See You Again"

This is a sweet waltz from a Noel Coward operetta, 1929. Nothing really special, but nice all the same.

We pause for a brief moment, to honor my iMac, which made me so happy, and which is now dead. Heavy sigh. No data lost, yet, just the trauma of a black screen. Also, Happy Birthday, Lydia!

I've been thinking about my laziness recently. This process started during my recent piano lessons. I am very lazy about music theory, and sometimes it would be so much easier if I would take a minute to think about what key I'm in, or what the basic structure of the piece is, and I just don't want to take the time. I could, it's within my abilities, but I don't. And that got me thinking about lots of moments when it might be very helpful to stretch my brain just the slightest bit outside my comfort zone of familiar thought patterns, outside those problems that are fun to solve, into the not-totally-unknown realm. It sometimes seems like it would be easier to learn or do something really different--speak Turkish, do cave scuba, raise tigers--rather than do something not so far reached, totally within my limits and even experience, but something that would involve what seems like a lot of effort in exchange for the boredom of the almost-familiar. But this seems to be where the real growth takes place, stretching in these uncomfortable nearby places. Learning Turkish is a fad, here today, gone tomorrow when the CDs from the library are due, but actually practicing the music theory that I learned could change how I approach my daily music ration in noticeable ways immediately. I already know what I need to know, just the hurdle of application to overcome.

And that is it. That's why I can have an ear for languages, but I never became fluent in any of them. The fear of that application hurdle. What if it's too hard? What if people think I'm stupid/bright? What if I do well and then I have to go even farther, learn something even more difficult?

I think this is why some people are brilliant and lots of other people are just clever and/or smart. Maybe the brilliant people manage to overcome that shyness in application, they step forward bodly to practice while others preach. This is my new goal: to find the places where I hesitate to put my learning into action, and to get it over with, get started. It's always the hardest part: to begin.

13 November 2005

"I'm Just Wild About Harry"

I like this song, and I thought I wouldn't, because the title just sounds dorky. In fact, looking at it now, after singing this song and liking it, the title is still dorky. It's too bad that I already wrote the 'I love my husband' post, because this would have been a nice place to put the love. Let it be known that the love is still present.

In an odd mood tonight. I feel this familiar sadness in me, a heavy feeling in my chest. I'm really liking the Girlyman song "A Young James Dean", because it has a fabulous hooky bit in it, and tonight it made me want to cry, which was the first hint of the up and coming emotion without a cause. Or with causes so multitudinous and tangled, with exhaustion a veil over the top, that I just can't think to sort it all through. I need to comb out my brain, and I need sleep.

12 November 2005

"The Birth of the Blues"

What a fabulous and fun song. A keeper. And it reminds me of playing the saxophone, bluesey all over, which I haven't done in years. I always wanted the sax solo, but I didn't have enough senority in my saxophone playing to get it. My main instrument was the clarinet, which I stopped in tenth grade when my braces made it too painful to play. I wish I had kept up with both.

Thinking a lot about live music tonight, having just come back from a Dar Williams concert. Girlyman opened for them, and they were great, wonderful harmonies, and some of the best covers that I've heard, though Dar held her own with the Pink Floyd. Dar has a great stage presense, and I was watching that carefully, along with all the real and imagined details of what it might be like to perform like this. But also thinking that when I sing in my living room, alone, I can acheive some not-so-faint whisper of the same high. Maybe heaven is also having all the time I want to play and sing, alone and with others. If it is heaven, I'd like to get some really tight harmonies happening, exactly in tune, the kind that give you chills to hear them.

I know I've said it before, but there's just something magical and totally attractive in a visceral make-me-cry way about live music. This venue wasn't conducive to dancing along, but that's all it would have taken to make it heaven for me. Every great live band that I've heard still lives on in my head, I remember where they played and how it moved me. Ah, did it move me (and if it didn't, I get to not remember it). The hope is always, then, that the CD doesn't suck, since that's all I'll have to go on until the next time I hear them live. Which will probably be years, since I don't get out much. But my plan for my old age, somehow supported by my wages at Starbucks, is to eat out often, and hear lots of live music. Meanwhile, always looking to play more, sing more. Although I'm not able to expand my lost-in-song time very often, it is happening these days, with startling regularity. Amazing.

11 November 2005

"April in Paris"

I don't get this song. I feel like I need to see the movie, or at least the Broadway show, but as far as I know neither of these things exist for this song, despite it's presense in the 'All-Time Broadway Hit Parade' section. I think this song could grow on me, but it needs a bit of context, whether it's from my experience, or on the big screen or stage.

I've never been to Paris. All of my overseas trips have been to England, first because it was someplace that my mother and I had always wanted to visit, and then because of trips planned with my husband's family. He was born in England and came here as a thirteen year old. I have always been sad that he doesn't have more of an accent, but the peer pressure was intense at that age to lose it. My friends get a big kick out of trying to make him say 'banana', and the very few other words that still sound British.

What is the fascination with 'foreign parts', for me, at least? And mostly it seems to be centered around things that are very ordinary, and yet somehow different: grocery stores are so interesting, and magazines, and the coin and currency. (my money is always so much heavier there, and a change purse is a necessity.) I love the yoghurt drinks that they have in the highway rest centre where we always stop outside of London. The different kinds of sandwiches available in the fast food chain 'Pret a Manger', not to mention their freshness and relative cheapness, are always fun. We come home with suitcases full of shower gel from Boots, bath supplies from Lush, Branston pickle, Cadbury chocolate, weird flavors of Pringles like 'Curry' and 'Paprika', tea, and digestible biscuits. It's required that we have curry take out at least once, and fish and chips at least once, and that we have a 'picnic' that ends up being eaten in the car because it's raining. Somehow this never stops the picnic from occurring, and it's almost expected.

I love living in Pittsburgh, and for all my utter embarassment about politics in our country today, I am very happy, and lucky, to be American. But I like knowing that at any time my husband, or my half-British daughter, could decide to pick up and move across the ocean, and I'd probably be able to tag along. I couldn't imagine moving for good, but to have all the Cadbury chocolate that I wanted for a year or so--ah--that might be quite pleasant. Jolly good, even.

10 November 2005

"Mack the Knife"

I love this song, just love it. And since it's such a short song, Reader's Digest filled up the white space with more verses! Maybe all of them! If I like a song, I love singing all the verses, finding new verses, oh the glory of it. So this is all good. Also, I have very fond memories of dancing to this song with my friend, Fred, many years ago, when we went to hear Tommy and the Intrigues at the Brickhouse in State College, PA. The Brickhouse is now a parking lot (though I have a couple bricks), and I have no idea where Fred or Tommy is. But good memories. Ah, when they covered that Bangles song, too. . .

I'm glad to have a good memory for song and music. There are musical skills that I struggle with (arpeggios on the piano suck), but there are things I can do well, and remember songs and their words is one of them. I pale beside the phenomenal skills in this area that my friend, Maria, possesses, but even so, I'm not bad.

I also move well. I'm good at making something out of next to nothing. I have a good eye for color, and a great spatial understanding that comes in handy when packing the car or trying to move furniture. I somehow manage to keep in touch with a lot of people that I care about, over time and distance. I'm good at remembering details of form.

I could probably go on, but we'll hold at that for the real point: when did I become able to list my good points as easily as the bad? I remember years ago when my friend Quentin asked me to list some number of things about myself, each starting with 'I am great at. . .' At the time it was an incredibly tough exercise, though I did complete it. Growing up to some extent has made me better able to be honest about my standing in the world and history, which is not very large or important, but it has also made me more honest about what I am capable of here, in this family, in this community, in my little world. My flaws are plentiful, I agonize over my need to change and improve myself, and I hope I at least know about most of the areas that need it--but it is nice to realize that I know my strengths, for the most part. I'll figure out more as I go, it's worked thus far.

09 November 2005

"Dancing in the Dark"

A classic song, and one that's somehow quite different from what I thought it was. The basic elements I remember are here, yes, but there's more to it, or something. Not a favorite, but I would sing this again. I am still looking forward to going back and singing a lot of these. I’m trying to not think about the text of this one, I realize, since it reminds me of sad memories of school dances, ugh.

In my voice lesson today I realized, again, that I mistrust what seems too easy. It turns out that I developed some not very useful habits during my classical vocal training. I'm still very grateful for that training, not just for the knowledge of what it is, but because it fixed even worse habits that I had developed with no training. But now I'm learning singing for the masses, as it were; my husband says that it's learning how to sing songs that people actually sing to each other. I will always love large parts of the classical repertoire, but considering that I'm not one of the very few planning a career in it, this is just way more fun because it's more portable and transferable. I feel as if yet again, I've stumbled into the best place I could choose to be.

For the most part, when my voice comes out clear and strong, with no tension getting in the way, it feels relatively effortless. I know how to breathe and support, at least the basics, and since I'm accustomed to that part of things to some degree, that doesn't feel like a miracle. But singing without stress in my throat does. And what an interesting metaphor to apply to my life: thing don't have to feel effort-driven to be good. It's a real revelation for me, a light bulb over the head. Not applicable to everything, I'm sure, but that fact that's it's true here makes it a tool for the tool box of life, and I suspect I will find other places where this is true.

There is something here I can’t articulate completely quite yet: about what it is to be efficiently creating with skill and knowledge that comes from a deeper, less detail-driven place, because the good habits of creation have now been formed. From my piano lessons, for one, I know that that’s no ‘guarantee of continued perfection’ since when things get taken for granted they often crash and burn, but it’s an important starting place, to have the knowledge of what it is to do this thing as it should be done. It is a solid ground from which to step, or leap, forward.

08 November 2005

"Something To Remember You By"

This song is not unpleasant. The melody on its own is unremarkable, but nice, the text is ok. With the piano part the harmonies are richer. I’m not sure if it’s these arrangements, or the original pieces, but this book is sure unafraid to use accidentals. Sharps and flats all over the place, every measure, and that’s typical for most of the things I’ve sung so far.

My posts still aren’t posting, very frustrating, but I’m still writing, and hoping that I hear back from someone soon about what’s going wrong. The point is to write for an audience, and this isn’t quite working. I’ve been explaining this blog to more people lately, people who have no idea, or little idea, what a ‘blog’ even is. And heck, I don’t have much of an idea, either. That was part of the point: to do something with discipline that I didn’t have too many preconceived notions about. If I read too many other blogs at the start, would I have been unduly influenced?

I think about that with song writing, too, and from the other side of things, since I’m not abstaining from listening to songs. When I hear a great song I want very badly to be writing my own, but so far not enough to actually do it. And I do wonder, how much will I be influenced, in a less than creative way, by what I’ve heard? How much influence is inspirational, and how much just leads to derivative work? Does it matter, as long as it’s not outright plagiarism? Maybe that’s just the whole trick of it, write something original, period, and let the critics sort out the influences. Most of us will not be asked by Rolling Stone or Esquire to spell them out. And how conscious are we of our own influences, anyway? Is everyone, or anyone, that perfectly self aware of their process?

Ok, my husband, and perhaps his spiritual colleagues, might say they are relatively self aware, and I’m sure they haven’t cornered the market on it.

Sometimes I wonder if I’m clever, or just clever enough to think I’m clever without realizing that I’m not that clever. Too much thinking about self consciousness too late at night makes Kathryn a foggy-minded girl.

07 November 2005

"You and the Night and the Music"

This song is lush and lovely and fun to sing, and as a bonus, it’s a tango. Ahh! The notes mention how it was very well received on Broadway, but banned from the airways since it mentioned being ‘filled with flaming desire’. Ahh! Yes!

[Very frustrating to consider writing today, since I’m skeptical that this post will be able to go up at all. I’ve been having problems, and thus far haven’t heard back from the help people. It’s only been one day, keeping the faith, and the process continues, regardless.]

I’ve been preparing for an audition that I have this week, and it’s got me thinking about what it means to audition at all. It’s a crap shoot, there’s no way to know for sure what ‘they’ are looking for, and, frankly, ‘they’ might not even know, absolutely. So what does it mean to just go out there and be me? Share the love, the energy, the vibrancy and fun that I can give? Can I even pull that off? There’s a freedom in this process, and since I also don’t have a lot of frantic weight attached to it, and it won’t be insanely formal, there can even be some fun in it. Having a bit of a cold this week has been a little bit of a downer, but even that can’t dampen me. Singing through a cold is one of the few things I did learn in college, and my recent studies have only strengthened my other tools besides. I’m not sure I’ll be at my best, but that’s mostly because I can’t hear as well as I’d like, I’m guessing that I might sound more than ok, maybe even good. And I’m auditioning for people I like, whose work I admire.

Am I getting myself psyched up for this deliberately here, trying to drown any nerves? Of course. But it’s all true, even so. I still have dreams where I’ve forgotten all my lines, and I still feel bad for totally flubbing my last choir audtion, lo, these seven years ago, but on the whole, I feel good about what I have to offer. I like it, and I’m willing to have fun with it, and that’s got to be good all around. Heck, it’s even gotten me singing around the house when my husband is home this past week. Not a lot, mind you, but singing. For that alone, I am grateful to an audition for the kick in the butt.

06 November 2005

"Tea for Two"

Out of the Rodgers and Hart section, still in the larger Broadway group. This one is sweet, catchy, sticks in your head in not a bad way. I'm not a tea person myself, but luckily that's not relevant at all. I've heard coffee songs, a rum and coke song, tequila, whisky and beer all represented, but I don't know any hot chocolate songs, alas. But surely there must be some wine songs extolling the virtues thereof.

I've been thinking a lot about that fabulous awkward feeling one can get, specifically as it refers to being with people I really want to have like me, people I'm some sort of friends with, those with whom I'd like to take the next step towards a true friendship. I think highly of these nice folks, and it's really important to me to make these relationships work. So around these people I tend to become a blithering idiot. All concepts of sense and logic and plotline are gone without a trace, and there is not even a whiff of what-a-together-gal-this-is in the air. I start out saying something that I think will make me look cool, or at least not hopelessly uncool, and as the words continue to come out of my mouth I realize that I'm just not making any sense, and it would make the situation even more obviously mangled to try. Ideally at this point I am able to gracefully sputter to a stop. I'd like to believe that this state that I find myself in is not the same as the comparable teenage situation, but in reality I'm sure it's just a slightly more grown-up version, now with a large dose of self-awareness of my tendency to speak total nonsense, just to really complete the horrible uncontrollable aspects.

It sucks for my self esteem to find myself in this situation, and thankfully, unlike my teenage years, it doesn't occur that often. But when it does, or worse, when I know it's coming, the best being older seems to get me is the knowledge that it will be over at some point, and if I can try to mostly keep my mouth shut, it won't be as bad as it could be. This person will probably never find me to be cool, I think, realistically, and that will be ok. Maybe they will think kindly of me, at least, say hello on the street.

In family situations an exciting variation can occur, where I am still somewhat desparately trying to get the attention and approval I want from my parents: look at me! look, look! Mommy, see me! When I and my five siblings are all trying this at once it's either extremely sad, or a very good show.

05 November 2005

"The Blue Room"

I really like this one, finally. I'm trying to figure out why this one captures my fancy, and the others don't. And maybe it's just the totally romantic sentiment of it: we'll have a place that's all our own, and 'everyday's a holiday because you're married to me.'

Today, I'm feeling just that. It's very late, too late, one might say. We spent a lot of time cleaning house today, and then a few nice folks came over, and we had food, and drink, and good conversation, and played a board game, and even though I have a splitting headache, I still feel happy about the day, and happy to be married to my husband, and happy to be going to sleep in our, coincidentally, very blue room.

And the best part of cleaning up for company is that the house is still pretty darn clean when they leave. Life is good.

(Happy Birthday, Bruce, too, sorry it's a little late. Does it still count that I thought of you?)

04 November 2005

"With a Song in My Heart"

I did sing this song, multiple times. It was ok, but just ok. I know that I like a bunch of Richards Rodgers composed tunes, I grew up on them, memorized them, with the introductions, but so far I'm not seeing anything like those. Was Rodgers more inspired when he was working with Hammerstein, or is it that this is just earlier in his career?

With a song in my heart, indeed. I do love the title of this. Songs in my heart, in my head, down my body to my hips and into the earth to swell back up again to my fingers. I broke out dancing the other day in some weird place and I just let it take me, no one around to see. I'm not quite so brave when I sing, in fact, I'm not brave at all. If other people are singing, fine, but even in the car I'm self conscious if I'm not alone. I assume that no one wants to hear it, because growing up my brothers let me know that no one did. Somehow, in that unfair way of perception, this stuck with me more than knowing that my mom loved to hear me sing. Also, unfairly and significantly, I still think back to one incident, shortly after I moved to Pittsburgh and I was staying with my then future-husband, when I was playing guitar and singing loudly as he studied, and he asked me to stop. Because he never again asked me to play, I assumed that he thought I sucked, too.

Why o why do we remember these painful incidents and forget, I presume, so many other beautiful or supportive moments? Though I can remember some of those, too, I just have to try a little harder: my cousin, Lisa, giving me card that tells me how much she always wants to hear me sing, my friend Jamie asking me to sing in the car, successfully busking in Dupont Circle in DC, and having someone request one of the songs I'd written.

Song in my heart, yes. Song in my throat, yes. Song coming out of my mouth, sometimes. But, as I am willing to say to others: grow up, Kathryn. Get over the childhood trauma and sing. Life is short, and who cares if you 'bother' someone briefly. Sing it.

03 November 2005

"Dancing on the Ceiling"

This is a sweet little piece, it reminds me a lot of the songs in the first group, but without the bounce. The lyrics are a bit strange, I'm imagining someone with a rich fantasy life, which isn't tough, since one of my dearest friends here has devoted an entire blog to hers (see 'Blogs I Have Known').

I've been thinking about friends in general lately, in terms of what I might have predicted, say, five years ago, for now. Some things remain the same: still a large group of beloved friends in my life. But the big disappointment is that I'm still often incredibly lonely. I keep busy to avoid thinking about it, and life is still good, but this specific part of my life isn't what I would've imagined, and it's not what I want. I'm thinking particularly about my women friends for this, not that I don't have very dear men friends as well, but with the exception of my husband, I don't have a burning need to talk to any one of them daily, or perhaps even weekly, on any sort of strict basis. (This sounds so harsh! But I also can't imagine that my male friends or siblings would want to talk to me every day either. Sorry, Chris.) I do have a need to touch base with a woman friend every day, and sometimes I can hear a little desparation in my voice when I'm finally with someone I can talk freely to. Desparation, ick; worse even than developing a regional accent, another recent fear.

Some of the friends I thought I'd still be talking to regularly I'm just not. Some lives are more complicated, some unfortunate fallings-out have occured, some people aren't great at keeping in touch--and that's very significant since a large number of good friends live too far away for any physical hellos to happen often. But even with people who live within a ten minute driving radius, the keeping-in-touch thing is tricky. It doesn't help that we're hours away from our immediate families as well.

If I could change things to suit me, I would certainly cut out large portions of the state that have less significance to me, just to bring those people dear to me a little closer. As it is, perhaps I need to make more of an effort to call someone daily, to check in, touch base. So that someone has heard me, someone outside my house knows that I'm alive.

I really miss you, you know. You know who you are. I want to hear how you're doing, too, to know that you're alive. Drop me a line.

02 November 2005

"Thou Swell"

This just sucks. Not only not to my taste, but I can barely make myself sing it. Stupid text, half Old English sounding and half 1920s slang, and just horrible. And the tune doesn't save it. Don't make me do this again.

I love learning new things. I always loved learning, even if I wasn't so great at school, per se. I needed to learn things at my own speed, which was often faster or slower than everyone else. Faster when I learned math, for instance, which I love. I really like algebra and calculus especially, so elegant, so fun. Slower when I want to learn things differently, usually in a different direction, or when I couldn't honestly hook it into my life in any useful way. Things like voice lessons were hard in college, since it was genuinely difficult to understand my body and what it could do in this format. My ease of learning in a lot of things made me very lazy and stubborn when the going got tough. And my voice teacher was great, as I've said, she still somehow managed to get some of the basics across to me. A great instructor could turn thing around for the better in other, less important, classes. I took an Electrical Engineering logic course at one point, it was required for my major at the time, and the instructor was this grad student, and he was great. He made this required, not overly difficult course fun, which felt like a gift, at the time. EE 271, a fond memory.

So, I think that's part of the reason that life is more fun these days. Taking piano lessons, voice lessons, massage workshops, writing and singing more, all this has at times seemed like ridiculously overindulgent things to do for myself, not to mention the time and monetary cost. And I realize that I'm getting a bargain, even then. But these things have opened up my mind and body at the same time (particularly effective, that mix), gotten me thinking about things in different combinations, and I know this waking up has positive repercussions in the rest of my life as well. I know that I'm relatively intelligent, and I consider it a requirement to use my brain daily in some useful way, but I think I had gotten into a rut of a sort of predictability of thought and routine. Shaking up the details of what I'm requiring of myself, as well as the bonus feature of taking care of myself as I indulge myself, has been all to the good.

01 November 2005

"My Heart Stood Still"

On to songs--I'm presuming multiple entries--from Rodgers and Hart. This section as a whole has been very funa and lush, and I'm feeling good about the future offerings. I've noticed that notes in what I thought of us my break point are not as difficult as they were, I wonder what that's resulting from. (Ugh, never end a sentence with a preposition. I have trouble with that rule, I can rarely figure out how to change it to another sensible form.)

I've been thinking all day about yesterday's post, the frantic-me post. I think that what's going on, this strange satisfaction with my accomplishments, is all to do with mindfulness. Yes, I'm drawing still on my manic planning self, my endless energy self, but I'm also being more relaxed in the each successive moment following so closely one upon the other. Making my list, but then being very focused on each task in its order, doing it well, neither quickly nor slowly, careful yet efficient. Breathing every so often, even, deeply, before moving on to the next task. I don't get more done, neccessarily, but what does get done is done as well as possible in that moment, and I don't fret about the rest at all, it falls to the side, gently.

When I was in labor with my daughter the final 'pushing' stage took a long time, four hours. I don't remember it super well, I was in a very altered state at the time, though nothing to do with any drugs. Totally natural childbirth, that's me! Ok, it's more that I was incapable of uttering more than monosyllabic words, and those were focused on telling the midwife when the next contraction was coming. Between each contraction I relaxed utterly. I was exhausted, saving my energy to some extent, and focusing entirely on that relaxed state and breathing more deeply into it. The midwife kept checking the baby, and me, and since we were doing fine, she let me take my time. It was the most amazing experience of my life, and if I could go through it again, without the pregnancy part and the taking care of an infant part, I would do it in a heartbeat. My focus was absolute, on the effort as needed, and on the relaxation between effort.

I also think of Robert Heinlein's 'Stranger in a Strange Land', where the Martian-raised human brings in the concept of 'Waiting is.' There's a comment at some point about looking at the semi-alien's method of waiting so fast that anyone would consider him to be rushing at full speed. While I don't have his internal time-alterating capabilities, something like this does seem possible. When I take a breath, and focus fully, without allowed distractions, in the time it takes me to exhale I can solve the problem, make the decision, move forward. Time seems to slow, seems endless in its finiteness, mysteriously, but miraculously evident. Most anything can wait for my exhale, and when it can't, I trust my intuition and leap. So far, so good. Moreover, I seem to even know when to leap and when to let the breath be taken. It's a very good thing.

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