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.

28 February 2006

"(They Long To Be) Close To You"

Blah, blah, blah. Maybe Burt Bacharach just isn't my favorite, or maybe he was a cultural favorite for long enough that his songs feel very over used. I'm hoping that this is the last of these. I'm hoping that this section holds some treasures, and isn't just a slow glide into sleeping.

I've felt very trapped in my own life today, in the consequences of my choices. The main facet of this today is indeed, my life, again, as 'Mama'.

My husband asked a question about our mutual calendar in June, about a weekend that he was considering taking a long hike with a friend in New Hampshire. I had been idly dreaming about getting away to a movement meditation retreat that week, but I had already decided in my mind that this was wildly impractical. The financial cost would be considerable, and the effort of finding care for my daughter for an entire week would be astronomical. I did it once, when she was about eighteen months old, a Herculean effort, and even though she is considerably more self-reliant now, the practicalities of providing care for her are not much less significant. I cannot take a day off easily, much less five days, or a week.

Today, I feel like I cannot escape for long enough to make much difference in my mental health. A weekend is not long enough. Getting out to my paying job is not enough, when I come home to work that can never be completed. If I take a break for an hour I feel guilty, all the unfinished projects staring me in the face, the bathrooms ridiculously overdue to be cleaned, my daughter's room to be painted, please, someday, sweeping and dusting that hasn't happened in years. . . so very much more besides.

Today was even productive. I could see that I had made progress, but against the whole house it just seems achingly small. I know that it's important that I take time to work on my own projects, that this keeps me anchored in some semblance of sanity. I know that someday I will have a daily life without my daughter in it so actively, and that I will miss her constantly.

I feel like I'm adrift in a storm, with no land in sight, rowing, resting guiltily, rowing again, eating quickly, rowing, rowing, rowing. . .

27 February 2006

"What The World Needs Now is Love"

Perhaps this is true, certainly it's not the most crazy idea that I've heard. Unfortunately for me, the song has been overplayed, though it still retains just a flavor of its appeal. And it could also be that again, given when I grew up, I heard this song more than folks of a different decade.

My daughter is off school all this week, and I'm already exhausted from momhood. I know this doesn't speak highly of my patience or persistence. A friend today said, 'Isn't it nice having them home all day?'. I couldn't speak, because the answer is very firmly, 'No!'

I love my daughter very much. I love hearing about her plans and projects, and seeing her vision on paper and in play. I love holding her on my lap, playing games with her, having long and short conversations that range over a hundred topics. And I need time to briefly, daily, not be her mother: to be me.

Today I didn't get it, and I'm cranky, and tired, and I'm going to bed.

26 February 2006

"This Guy's in Love With You"

This is a stupid song title, mostly because it's a very minor text line in the song, which would be more memorably called 'I Need Your Love'. It does begin, with a whimper, the next section of songs, titled 'Best Songs of the Sixties'. This book is from 1972, so this is a very fresh retrospective.

There is too much to write. I think more and more how this is a record of my theoretically more important thoughts and theories and views of the world, for my daughter. She may never read any of this, for starters, but even supposing that she would slog through: will these writings make me any more 'known' to her?

What defines us? Is it all of our regular rituals, or the thought or lack thereof behind them? Is it what we most firmly believe, or our actions in the world? Our youthful passions, our sexual partners, our creative projects, our professions, the books we have read, our favorite songs? Am I defined by the way I move, by my hair, my voice, my touch? If you knew all these things about me, would you know me?

I think of the hundred thoughts that I have every day, ideas, plans, memories, warm thoughts of friends and family, and I know that I will never be able to capture enough of it to record myself, to give myself immortality. The spark of my life is broken up into a million pieces, and to bring the person to life, to three-dimensional breath and form, they must all be present. It's the past which has brought me to this present which carries me forth into the future that defines me, and it's why no photo, or film, or recording can ever bring us back the person that we miss.

I am fascinated by biographies of the people that I find compelling for some reason, and the most interesting thing is to witness the author's struggle to make some whole out of all the parts. There must be some speculation, even if all the external facts are present, because nothing can bring us fully into anyone else's head, or even shoes.

But this struggle to define myself in print is still worth the effort. To communicate the flood of ideas, stream by stream, or molecule by molecule, can be enough to impart some flavor of the whole, something of the magic of the hologram. And my daughter does and will live with me, she knows my touch and my voice, my love for her. Any of my writing that survives for her, or her children, or anyone else that has known me in three dimensions, it must be enough to remember me by.

25 February 2006

"I'll Never Fall in Love Again"

This song was a departure from the 'Peter, Paul & Mary' agenda for my friend, Veronica, and I. We'd sing this quite a bit, which probably helped to make us the cynical teenagers that we became. I'm not sure if my daughter's getting an early start--entirely possible--but she wanted to sing along on this one as well.

Warning: if you are a male who gets queasy at the thought of women's bodily cycles, you might want to stop right here and read no further. I'm not talking about it exclusively, and I won't make a regular habit of it, but I am a woman. It becomes an issue now and again.

So I ran the ten miles today. It was a beautiful day, and the course is lovely, a five-mile loop around the lake. I got my period ten minutes before the start of the race, which is drastically unfair. It also makes it difficult to tell now if I'm achy from the run, or my period, or from the several hours of chair massage I did later in the afternoon. It all hurts, right now.

I ran slowly, though my time at the end wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. At this time of year, the people wanting a long race are marathoners for the most part. They are all dressed well, with real running clothes, streamlined jackets and tights, though the people who win the race always seem to be wearing shorts, no matter what the weather. These people are able to hold long conversations with their friends during the race. Admittedly, I really don't know if I could manage that, I've never run with anyone I knew, except last fall, and then my husband took off shortly after the start, which made sense, given his speedier legs.

Everyone passed me today, as far as I can tell. In recent races I've done pretty well, passing a few folks myself, but today I saw them all run by me: old people, heavy people, slow people. I kept thinking throughout that surely everyone had passed me, but they kept coming. Towards the very end I was even 'lapped' by the faster runners who were doing the fifteen or twenty mile race. I tried not to let any of that bother me, I was glad to keep going, to keep running, and I did.

I have my souvenir hat. I have two more races to finish for the jacket, both short 5Ks. May this spring feel like a downhill coast in all good ways.

24 February 2006


Another song about a strong woman, this must be the section for it. I think I like this song more for its familiarity than anything else. But it is catchy.

Tomorrow, Saturday, starting at 10AM EST, I will be running my 'long' race, ten miles. I feel relatively sure that I will never want to do this again. I also feel sure that I can complete it. I will get a souvenir hat, and it's race number three on my way to that jacket, which had better be a darn fine jacket. I'm doing this one without a cheering section, except for those of you that will be sending me your good thoughts at this time. Direct some of them to making sure the iPod keeps playing. The weather looks to be reasonably good, so far. Yahoo, me.

Brief rant: I am infuriated with these people, in Pittsburgh, these pedestrians who wait until their light is red, and then begin to cross the street. I have seen them wait the last minute of the green, or yellow, light, and then they begin to cross. Slowly. I don't get it. It happens every day to me. It's rude! Wait for your turn!

Ok, I'm tired. It's been a long day. I give up on making any sense at all.

23 February 2006

"Hello, Dolly"

What a great song to sing, even though the end bit in this particular arrangement fell at just the wrong spot for my voice. But still, I'm learning that this isn't the big deal that I thought it was, I can do this. It might not be great, but it'll work somehow.

I get a lot of practice with my daughter around the issue of 'starting over'. I just can't hold a grudge with her, it's counterproductive for starters. But while thinking about it, I realized that I tend to not hold grudges in general. I have one or two that I can't seem to let go of, but on a daily basis I'm not gathering any more.

I do get angry, and that's a frightening thing to see reflected in my daughter, both her anger reflecting the fury of my youth, and her response to my own occasional loss of control. When I was in my teens it was understood in my family that my one brother got angry a lot, but was able then for the most part to let it go. My other brother held it all in, and when things burst I was absolutely terrified. This brother has mellowed some, and discovered a more Zen approach to things these days, and the angry-all-the-time brother has mellowed as well, it takes more to get him riled up. And me: I was, and am, somewhere between them. I was furious most of the time in my adolescence, and I'm happy to not be now, grateful every day. Now I think I hold some things in more, feel more Zen about most things, while I practice at other times being angry in a clean and 'get rid of it' manner. Then the trick is figuring out what skill--new, old, or improved--needs to be used when. For that, I trust my intuition, my gut. Then I know sooner when I can't resist making the absolutely wrong decision that it was, indeed, wrong.

At least when it comes to parenting I do know that there are always new and exciting opportunities to be a bad parent. Dozens every day, usually. I cannot worry about the mistakes I will make with her, it's too stressful, too impossible. When it comes down to making decisions about where my life is going, I can only hope that the mistakes are a bit less strewn across my path.

22 February 2006

"All The Things You Are"

I like this one. It feels very lush, it's very nice to sing. My daughter was home sick today, and she sang this one with me, as well as accompanying me to my voice lesson. She likes following along with the music. It's really nice to have her join me.

It's interesting to think what her early music memories will be, and on what path they'll be the soundtrack. My husband remembers Abba and Mahler, and I remember asking my babysitter to put on the Peter, Paul and Mary records. I've started to collect these recordings now on CD, and it's very moving to hear them, for the first time in years in some cases, since the tapes I made died long ago. Listening to this music, singing along, literally changed my life, shaped it. That sounds so over-dramatic, but I think I would have been very different if my early musical influence was Bach, or the Beatles.

So now: our daughter may not listen to much Mahler, but she loves Peter, Paul and Mary, and Abba, and Dar Williams, and Wolgemut, and the soundtracks from Grease and the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Musical. The mind reels to consider it, certainly, but I'm looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

21 February 2006

"Look For the Silver Lining"

Not a song I'm familiar with, but yes, it is the 'Look for the union label' song, which makes me think of how disappointed someone was when that happened. This song is ok, but it doesn't really grab me, though I feel I should make allowances for the union label connection.

My mom's weapon of choice is a 357 Magnum. We have some pictures of her, firing this gun, and it's very cute. In fact, we have pictures of almost everyone in my family firing a gun. My husband touched his first gun, shot his first gun, and yes, got the requisite picture, all in the company of my family.

It's not that we're big NRA supporters, either, or hunters, for the most part. For years it just seemed to be the family thing to do: on all the holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter) that we'd all be together we'd end up going behind the garage afterwards for some target shooting. My parents live in the middle of the woods, and this was a pretty safe thing to do, shooting literally into a hill, though it seems a little shocking even to me, in retrospect. We did have the police come and find us once, after receiving complaints from neighbors around the valley. It ended up being ok, since they knew my brother from his volunteer ambulance driving.

My parents, most of my siblings, and I really like target shooting. These days we don't shoot behind the garage, but once a year we have a family weekend at the hunting cabin that my brother belongs to in Central Pennsylvania. The cabin has a wood stove, gas lights and refrigerator, no electricity, and an outhouse, but better than all this: we're just a few yards down from the shale pit, where everyone on the park road goes for their target practice. Before we go out, every year, my brother has everyone sit through the safety lecture, where we're quizzed on range and weapon safety, and briefed on the weapons available to fire. This year we had the choice of up to six shot guns (including black powder), as well as five hand guns, though that may not be counting the weapons that my uncle and cousins added this year. We set up the range with balloons, soda cans, milk jugs filled with water, and more conventional targets. This year I shot skeet for the first time, which was fun. I had never tried a moving target of any kind, and I did pretty well for my first go.

As fun as it is, it's very odd to talk about. Some people seem to understand the nature of it for me, but others lean very heavily in one direction or the other: pro-gun, anti-gun. I have no idea what to say to either of them. Having firearms seems so deeply rooted in American history, I can't imagine that it would ever disappear, but I also don't see a drastic need to personally own a gun, much less anything more powerful than that sweet little magazine-loaded, semi-automatic Berretta that my brother has. What can I say, there's something very seductive about it. It's power in a compact package, and to hold that power in my hands feels good.

20 February 2006

"Why Do I Love You?"

I like this song, and not only because it's very nice to be singing a 'Song of the Day' after a couple days' break. It's very nice, feels good in my mouth, tasty without being filling, satisfying on the tongue. The text could be absolutely anything, but it does have lots of nice 'oooo's and 'oh's, and beyond this, it's an oddly compelling love song that demonstrates how hard it can be to write about love at all.

My nephew (the talented one mentioned the other day, and my only nephew, as it happens) made me learn more about bar chords this past weekend. As a gesture of good faith, he ate the stew that I made for dinner Sunday night. Everyone else raved about the stew, but he's almost fourteen and not quite so forgiving of the many-vegetables-and-no-meat format, so this is something to consider. Desperate to remain even slightly cool in his eyes, and very conscious of having played guitar amazingly-not-well considering I've been playing for more than twenty years (more off than on): I gave those zany bar chords another go. I do understand more of how they work, now, at least the basics. Considering how out of practice I am, I think they even sounded ok. In theory, this will make me approach new songs that have scary chords (including B minor, and anything with an accidental) with more confidence in my sight reading ability.

I had been thinking lately that my guitar playing skills would benefit greatly from the kind of attention and discipline that my vocal and pianistic skills have gotten in the past six months or so. The thought of fitting in any more musical lesson or practice time is daunting, though, and I can't yet imagine taking away any energy from my current pursuits. That seems in pretty short supply anyway, considering my multitudinous obligations. I've again come home to hit the ground running. Zoom, zoom. Et zut, alors.

17 February 2006

"Make Believe"

[Note: I will not be posting for the next two days, as I will be without Internet access or piano availability until Monday. My first vacation from blogging!]

Another song that didn't work for me. It's not as interesting, plus it does some things that aren't as fun to sing. What is it that makes something fun to sing? It's certainly the way the text is set, but what about the line of a melody makes it pure pleasure when done well, and almost painful on the opposite end? I know some of this is the match of song style to vocal style, but in some respects a good song is just a good song.

I was talking to someone today about menopause. I'm not there yet, but it does feel like it's looming on the horizon, and I'm not looking forward to it. It sounds like pregnancy in many ways, your body doing weird things you've never seen before and have no way to predict. Also, there are way too many books about both pregnancy and menopause that can tell in gory detail the three thousand possible horrible things that can happen. Probably not many of these will happen to any one person, as far as I can tell, and I think that our adaptability in the moment helps most people to adjust. I stopped reading the pregnancy books early on, and I don't imagine that I'll start in on the menopause ones ever. My plan is to keep breathing, and pay attention. Change is always happening, in all parts of my life, and my experience will always be unique. I love to hear other women's stories, because it does give me touch points, more information to imagine my own life as it unfolds. But I will have my own story to tell, which will be unique.

16 February 2006

"Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man"

I do like this song, also. And it's all true, which helps. At least the love part is true, I should say. This was another challenging accompanyment, with a lot of tenths provided by the arranger with the big hands, but also with some very nice ornamental touches. For some reason today the lower part of my range was fuzzy, it felt like I needed to clean out my head with some higher register singing.

I'm listening more to my PDQ Bach CDs recently. I was introduced to this unique music by my very dear friend, Paul, way back in high school, where Paul taught me some of the very strange rounds while sitting in the school cafeteria (I particularly remember 'Jane, My Jane', which went on to mention Pittsburgh, even). That's also where we did a lot of our early tarot readings for each other.

Lately I've been thinking about my high school activities, and how they really don't do me much good at this point in my life. This is in stark contrast to my almost fourteen-year old nephew, who not only plays guitar, well, but knows quite a lot of impressive slight of hand card tricks. When one is young, with lots of time on one's hands, this is the time to learn the cool things, the things you will pull out at parties decades later. What were my hobbies at the age of fourteen, besides Tarot? Indian (as in Native American) Sign Language and string figures (as in 'Cat's Cradle'). Trust me, there's not a huge demand for these as party tricks. And I even became interested in guitar at this point, but didn't follow it through with the determination that I gave to my 'String figures of the Torres Straights'. Alas.

So, my friends, encourage the young people in your life, with relatively bounteous time on their hands, to learn something that they can help them get a date in their latter years. Save them from the farther reaches of eccentricity in their lives. Not that the suburbs of eccentricity aren't interesting. The schools are better, too.

15 February 2006

"Smoke Gets in Your Eyes"

I like singing this song, though I really wonder about the backstory that the text describes. She's in love, her friends tell her it won't last, and when her lover leaves her they laugh at her. I think she needs to lose these friends. What a non-supportive bunch.

Approaching my fortieth birthday, I realize that very shortly I will no longer be able to call myself 'young'. Somehow, being young and in one's thirties is one thing, but being forty and being called 'young' is just wrong. Not that I believe that I'm suddenly jumping to 'old', either. I've known people in their seventies and eighties who are not 'old', as well as people in their thirties who absolutely are. 'Old' is all about one's attitude towards life: have you given up and given in, or not? Are you still alive, or just holding space?

I'm glad to no longer be 'young' as well. I wouldn't go back to being in my twenties for anything, though it was certainly fun the first time around. But this, here, now, this life is good. I know my own strengths, and I've learned to compensate somewhat for my weaknesses. I know what I like to do, and I know who I like to spend time with. My priorities are more clear than they've ever been. But there's still the question: if I'm neither 'young' nor 'old', what is this? 'Middle-aged' sounds really dreadful, surely we can do better than that.

I am satisfied that my biggest legacy to the world, besides my daughter, will be the afghans I have made. I even get a dorky kick out of thinking of someone holding an afghan of mine a hundred years from now and calling it 'valuable', or even 'quaint'. I mourn the fact that fiber arts are not the longest lasting of all things (I recently saw a Bog People exhibit that mentioned this, an interesting reminder), but then I remember that I've tended to use wool-acrylic blends, and I feel that the fossil fuels expended will go to some good, after all.

And as dreary as this thinking of my legacy sounds, I do believe that I have plenty of time to make a lot more afghans. Maybe some sweaters, even, or hats. And socks: I cannot pass from this good Earth without learning to make socks. Ah: there's still time. I am so not old.

14 February 2006

"Good Night Sweetheart"

Blah blah blah boring. And this arrangment has some weird dissonances in it. I love dissonance, but these don't make much sense in context. Blah blah blah.

Lately I've felt aware of my impending death. Not in any predictive sense, just the awareness that I have little time on this planet, and I shouldn't waste it. I feel the need to finish things, as much as I can. I clean up and do dishes before I leave the house, I put stuff away. I'm trying to set my house in order on an ongoing basis, and not just my literal house. This tendency isn't necessarily new, except perhaps in degree. I've always thought about what I was leaving behind, particularly in the sense of not wanting to leave a mess of any sort for someone else to deal with. That hasn't made me magically capable of straightening everything out all the time, unfortunately, or of finishing everything that I've started. I'm still working on it, I refuse to give up.

There is the possibility that I'm taking this a bit too far, but I don't feel morbid about the whole thing, it's much more matter-of-fact. It feels like a very practical way to become aware of my priorities. I'm still planning for the long term, my life up to the age of 112 (so I can see the Tricentennial of our, ahem, fine country--maybe we'll be back around to that by then). I'd like to see my daughter's children, and have lots of years to enjoy my family and friends. But I just don't know what will happen.

I think about this blog as a little time capsule for my daughter sometimes. She could read this, even if I were gone, and know something of what I found important, significant enough to write down in some vaguely coherent form. I think if I hadn't made up this project for myself I wouldn't have found the opportunity to write down the more 'trivial' thoughts that make up my life. Some of them are not so trivial when I start to write. Some still are, granted. But again, the magic of writing for an audience means that even now, entirely exhausted after a very long day, I still manage to craft a few short paragraphs that fit together.

13 February 2006

"The Glory of Love"

I like this song. It feels much more contemporary to me than I would guess for a song from the 1930s, but with this song it might be that it enjoyed a come back in 1967 when it was in a movie, 'Guess Who's Coming to Dinner', though I can't remember ever seeing this movie. This is a bouncy, happy song that doesn't tire my voice out, in contrast to the Stephen Foster songs that I was singing with my group tonight, which made me feel like screeching. It doesn't help, I suppose, when I'm a bit beat in general.

It feels like I'm entering a less-tense time with my daughter this last week or so, a time when the effort to keep our relationship warm and growing is less stressful, more fun. I know from past experience that this is merely a lull, that at some unpredictable point we will enter another screaming-every-possible-moment period. I know to enjoy this break while it lasts.

I am so afraid of her hating me when she becomes a teenager. I got along with my mother, basically, throughout my entire life. I call her a couple of times a week, normally, just to touch base, and I still feel like the kid trying to get her approval and love. Which is not to say that my relationship hasn't changed and grown, it absolutely has. I may never be able to even mention sex--and my much-younger sister seems to do this without thinking, I can't seem to stop cringing and turning away--but we are close, and she feels as much friend as parent. I value her input and advice as I work to live my life in some vaguely sensible way.

I saved all my teenage angst and anger for my father. We're close now, it only took until I was twenty-eight or so. Up until then we both kept trying, with varying degrees of success, and that's what saved us in the end. Though I never quite felt that I gained his respect in those years (I might, *might* have since, in a limited fashion), I always knew that he loved me. That meant a lot, when I was cussing him out more virulently (and literally, and to his face) than I did any other person in my life.

It's a weird thing, endless weird and strange, to be a parent. Remembering your own childhood, trying to figure out if it has anything at all to do with how you raise your own child. Yes, no, and the endless maybe: that's as close as I can guess.

12 February 2006

"Heart and Soul"

A classic of my childhood, of the time when everyone who was vaguely cool could play 'Heart and Soul' as a duet on the piano: one person doing the melody, and the other doing the basic accompanyment. When I taught this to my daughter this past year it felt like a milestone. Now, it's fun to actually learn the words--who knew there were words?!

I'm back from my lovely weekend away, and tired, of course. I've also had to type in the last two days's posts before doing this one. It always takes me a while to relax when I'm away on my own, the second night of sleep was better and longer than the first, and I know from doing ten day dance meditation retreats that it would have taken me about five days to really feel rested. It's something to have the two days. And it's good to be back with my husband and daughter, though I had to laugh, inside, at how I hit the ground running: putting away everything, picking up the household mess, throwing in a load of laundry, and getting my daughter to bed, a whirlwind of activity in my first ninety minutes at home--and then I ate dinner, at nine o'clock.

Again, I know that I crave the activity, but it reinforces the idea that to truly relax, being elsewhere is extremely helpful. On the flip side, knowing that I am capable of relaxing elsewhere--sitting in a chair for an hour Saturday morning, doing nothing more than watching a lazy snow fall outside--I could do it here, as well. It is possible, freely acknowledging that it'd be tons trickier to balance and keep the relaxation focus while on the home front. It's a good thing that I love a challenge.

11 February 2006

"Blue Hawaii"

[This post was delayed not because of Comcast, but because I am out of town. I am with a very fine piano, but without internet access. I am writing my post, though--long hand!--such is the depth of my dedication.]

This piece would be better as an instrumental number, a mood piece. I think it has an evocative feel to it, but it's just boring to sing.

I would like to go to Hawaii at some point. Anywhere that I can find mountains and the ocean in such close proximity sounds perfect to me. My husband's not overly fond of the warm, scenic vacation, though, so I'll have to find other travel companions. We've also heard a lot lately about Hawaii's high risk of tsunamis, not to mention the ever-present volcanic threat as well.

I like these reminders that we live on a planet, that we are tiny beings on a large rock hurtling though space. We cannot control earthquakes, tornadoes, or even blizzards. The world is terrible and awe-inspiring. It feels like a privilege to walk on it, and I want to tread lightly and mindfully, not forgetting to admire the glory of the clouds.

10 February 2006

"It Looks Like Rain in Cherry Blossom Lane"

We talked in my voice lesson a little about songs that suit a voice, and the glory of changing the key of a piece to help with range. But I think I'll accept that this song doesn't work for me, and move on. I am noticing, that the arrangments in this book have a different feel to them, and I suspect that they were done by someone with hands big enough to easily span the ninths, and possibly the tenths.

Customer service is a beautiful thing when it's well done. Today I feel much more aware of the situations when it's done wrong. Just an an example, those swell folks at Comcast who have no interest in actually helping me, time and time again instead creating a fun 'why don't *you* jump through hoops to get what you want' mentality. Last week the fine people at Goodyear tires never even bothered to apologize for giving me one mis-sized tire out of the four new ones that they put on back in November. If that hadn't been caught in my recent inspection, I never would have known. Crazy me, assuming that someone knows what the heck they're doing.

I worked retail for a time, and waitressed for a summer, and I am very thankful that my current job has a much more direct relationship with good service. When I am a customer, it doesn't take a whole lot to make me happy: politeness, smiles, and the institution's keen awareness that I am paying them money to do something, and it would behoove them to do it and do it well. I'm doing my part, here: I begin with friendliness, I assume that this, and my funds will do the job. Unless something heinous has already happened to piss me off.

To end on a positive note, there are some folks who do the service thing well: my local Starbuck's, at the Marriott on Liberty Avenue; and the staff at the local Whole Foods grocery, who always win out with their short check-out lines and smiling, helpful staff. The other large local grocery chain has started to stock up on more organic produce and other products, but until they figure this bit out, they're not going to win the war. [Whole Foods has not paid me to be their advocate here, but they are welcome to contact me in order to deliver my endorsement gifts. I really like the bakery cookies.]

My post for this date was delayed because of those swell folks at Comcast. Send them big thank yous for me! We're enclosing ours with a request for cancellation of service!

09 February 2006

"Deep Purple"

I love this song. Love it, love it, love it. Can't say enough about that. I sang it over and over again this morning, and tonight it still works for me. It hits the happy spot. I can't seem to listen hard enough to memorize it, I just keep singing it, all those lovely half note mini-runs. Ah.

I'm thinking a lot about the people I love, and I'm lucky to have a lot of those. Most of them, I think I'm safe in saying, love me back. I don't mind those who don't, that's not the point of loving. My dreams are filled with old lovers lately, and beloved friends. My waking thoughts are with those that I don't speak to nearly enough, those far and near dear folks. It's not enough that my people are my priority, the problem is that I don't have nearly enough time for them all. I refuse to cut hardly anyone out, which is my own problem. The many amazing folks in my life are just too precious. How blessed I am!

And as a side rant, because too much happiness is just sticky and gooey-sweet: how weird it feels to say that word: 'blessed'. As if mono-theists have a monopoly on it, which I would certainly hope that they don't. Let's reclaim it. The state of grace is not something limited to a chosen few. Hmmmpf.

08 February 2006

"Penthouse Serenade"

I didn't spend as much time with this one today as I wanted to, it played and sang through very smoothly on the first go, though. And I liked the feel of it.

I have such a great job. Lately I've been feeling really good about the massage work that I've been doing, and where it's going. I feel as though I've been able to pay closer attention to it, and put lots more energy into it. I've learned new things in recent workshops that I've taken, and it's fascinating to see how the new techniques work. It's immediate gratification when my client likes it, and it's a good lesson when they don't, especially when they can tell me why they don't. Because the work has been so much fun, so satisfying, it's reminded me of when I first started doing massage. At the time, it was difficult to think of charging money for something that I enjoyed so much. I did get over that, and I'm not going to give it all way any time soon, I couldn't afford to right now. But sometimes I feel almost guilty for liking work so much.

It helps having clients that I really like, and I'm glad that I've drawn in such wonderful people over the years. I was working on a friend the other night, and we were running a little late, running dangerously close to her evening television viewing, but it was hard to end the massage. It's certainly not the first time that I've been aware this is because I simply like working on people, working the warm puzzle of what works for them. There's a great communication that happens, often without words at all. When I'm breathing with the person lying receptively under my hands, I know where I'm going, I even can feel how it feels, to some extent: my life feels comfortably in the groove of the perfect communion of now.

07 February 2006

"In the Chapel in the Moonlight"

If this had a totally different text I think I might like it, except for that part where I have to hang out on the E for too long. But the longing-for-my-wedding-day sentiment is a bit much for me. It does reference 'Promise Me', which now I know, at least.

The other day I saw a woman walking along the street, and it occurred to me that she didn't look comfortable in her own body. She was wearing heeled boots and jeans. I need to digress a bit and state that my mom hates that look, and she also has always hated women who don't know how to walk in heels, which happens way too often. Walking in sneakers and walking in heels are not the same thing, and can't be done the same way. I don't pretend to be great at walking in heels, since I do it so rarely, but I'm very conscious of making an effort when I do: shorter steps, keep it heel-toe, don't stomp. Let my upper body float over my legs, as if I'm on wheels. I have this image of me wearing a long dress when I do this, in order to help with the floating idea, as if people really couldn't even see my feet, and might wonder if I am indeed on roller skates.

What is it to be comfortable in our bodies, so that it shows to a stranger? Teenagers will always look somewhat awkward, it's impossible to adjust quickly enough to that much change happening so quickly, physical and psychological and emotional all mixed up, and not in a good way. But after we grow into our limbs I would think we would have all learned, eventually, where we are in space. Athletes and dancers often have it figured out, and it makes watching them a real pleasure. Just to watch some people walk is nice.

I've always been attracted to the way people move, as if the ease of being in their bodies reflected some deep ease with life that I wanted to bask in the warmth of, as well as twine myself around. And I never tire of watching my daughter move: growing fast now, but a few years yet before all the hormones hit full blast. She's sometimes clumsy, but she's unafraid to explore space with her body, and to take great joy in where it goes.

06 February 2006

"On The Sunny Side of The Street"

[This post didn't get up yesterday, sorry! I couldn't get on the site last night, and got too tired to wait.]

I really like this song, love it, want to sing it all the time. It's like a great Broadway musical song, the kind that sticks in your head and gets you humming. And, for me, it appeals to the deep seated optimist that I am. Yahoo, yahoo, hip hoorah!

So we were just sitting around, sewing, crocheting, knitting, shooting the breeze. Somehow we ended up talking about fur. Maria felt that it was ok to buy a mink stole on eBay, considering that it had been dead since before she was born. When she got the stole, it was so nice that she couldn't imagine where she would wear it. Then Diana said, 'That should be the theme for your birthday party: Formal wear. Long dresses, tuxes.' And Michael said, 'It should be a Viennese Ball. With masks.' 'We can clear out the dining room for dancing, put the table on the porch.' 'We should let people know now. Maybe I should have it catered.' And we'll need to decide drinks, and music selections, and invitation style. Two other people since then have also been inspired by the idea. The ball is rolling.

This is how my parties always start, except I'm usually not quite so blessed with a group of friends to help with the initial inspiration. But a little idea becomes something bigger, more detailed, and the best ones have always fallen into place easily and gracefully. Sometimes with a lot of work thrown in for kicks and giggles. Four months to go. Should I wear my Oscars dress with the kick train, or should I make something new? Do I even need to ask?

05 February 2006

"Moon Over Miami"

Why wasn't this smack dab against the other moon songs? It turns out, as well, that 'Miami' was a relatively random pick of places, picked more for the sound of the word rather than the composer's attachment thereof. And also because Florida was having a bit of a boom at the time, apparently, though this is hard for my mind to see. What were Florida and Miami like in the thirties?

Today I met with the Martha Coven, and it was lovely, as usual. Two good friends and I started our little group about six years ago, meeting at Michael's house to admire the work he had accomplished. He has an older home, unimpressive from the outside, and inside it had been very badly re-done. Diagonal wood panelling: I don't think I need to say any more. Michael served us a meal on his sun porch that first meeting, and we set aside time afterwards to work on our crafts. Michael can take a thrift store bench and transform it into a magazine-quality home decorating dream. I usually do some sort of sewing, sometimes utilitarian mending, other times more elaborate projects. Diana crochets, fabulous afghans and blankets for all and sundry.

The 'Martha' part is very much inspired by Martha Stewart, of course, who we all have a love-hate relationship with. We admire her dedication to detail, and we lit candles when she was in prison, but we still probably would never invite her to dinner. She will always inspire us, and we speak her name with reverence (real or with overblown satire, or both, your pick) at every gathering.

The group works like this: every other month we gather at someone's home, the location rotates throughout the group. Right now we have six or seven interested members, today we had seven attendees including an out-of-town guest and my daughter (who made a shawl for her American Girl doll). The hostess is responsible for providing a suitably Martha-esque meal--Michael does this best--I tend to be thrilled to pull together anything at all, and sometimes the 'staff' has helped via my husband. A couple of years ago we started drinking alcohol as part of the festivities, never in huge amounts, but as someone said today 'to soften us up' and 'to knead the blankets as a cat does', to get comfy. My daughter asked towards the end of the meal 'When do people stop talking and laughing and do the craft part?' She doesn't quite understand that the talking and laughing part is key to the whole experience. We gossip, complain, brag, relate, tell dozens of stories. It's extremely cathartic. And then, every time, we actually do get to work for the second half. The talking slows down a little then, and breaks into smaller groups or pairs. Sometimes there is even silence. But things get done, and I cherish the knowledge that at least every other month I will have a couple hours to sew, one of the things I crave in my life, even a couple hours of mending. Usually I'm also more inspired leading up to the meeting, and following it, also.

And I love these people. I am warm and cozy after a Martha day. I have been seen and heard, and have heard and seen beloved friends, and we have made tea cozies. Well, maybe. Or mended pants, knitted sweaters, made curtains, studied Middle English, something. Today, as a bonus, and totally uncalled for, we figured out the theme for my upcoming fortieth birthday party. All is indeed good.

04 February 2006

"Red Sails in the Sunset"

This song has a particularly nice piano arrangement here. The song itself is ok, though the text doesn't ring true without a more complete back story. Since the song was written based on no such thing, but merely on the beautiful picture of a boat on the water at sunset, that will do.

I keep wanting to be back on St. John, snorkeling in Trunk Bay. When I was there this summer it was a crazy trip. I saw a beautiful wedding, and had some fabulous time with my family and a good friend on one hand, and on the other hand it was a logistics disaster. Who knew that the roads would be so narrow that we couldn't walk anywhere? And that, therefore, not having enough vehicle space for everyone would become such a huge deal? And how did I not realize that everything would be so expensive?

But still--that snorkeling. Our equipment wasn't that great, but I found myself unable to give it up. I would think I was coming in for a break, but then I'd head right back out with the next group, and end up drifting off on my own, mesmerized. The water really did look that clear and blue, and it was the perfect temperature against my skin. The sand really was that white. I never did see the turtle I was hoping for, surely I could go back for another try. I am very touched that my parents thought to buy me a watercolor print of a turtle when they left. Realistically I could meditate on that, play that Sting album about the turtles, if it actually has anything to do with turtles, and there you are. Hmmm. Maybe it wouldn't be quite the same.

These days, insanely busy by my own choice, I still fantasize about getting away. If I had my druthers, I'd be back there. They said the weather is pretty much the same all year, so I could go now and it would actually all still be there as I left it. Ahh. My turtle is waiting, I know she is.

03 February 2006

"I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself A Letter"

There's a fairly long song title for you. I though that this would be a good song to learn properly today, but I couldn't seem to feel right singing it today, which is to say, something in the physical process of singing wasn't working. It felt tight and pushed, ugh. The song is ok, though weird, textually, but ok. Like, why does the singer refer to signing 'with love the way you do' but he/she needs to write their own imaginary letter in this instance? What's going on?

Tonight we were with friends for dinner, and the pre-dinner conversation touched on the differences between 'invoking' and 'evoking' the god-form. Now, for those of you who haven't done this in a while, to 'invoke' means to call the deity into onesself, and to 'evoke' means to call the deity into something else: an object, a space, someone else. I thought, at the time, how I was informed enough to know what this all means, and weirdly experienced enough to have done it, but not quite cool enough to do it regularly, as some of my dinner partners do.

So, where's your wacky-line? We all have one. I was reading parts of an interview with Shirley McLaine, and her wacky-line is definitely in a different place than mine. I respect other people's wacky-lines, even when I just don't get it. The wacky-line, in my understanding, is not drawn at a place on a simple continuum, but it's more of a series of boundaries, usually placed at odd angles, and intensely personal. For instance, and not necessarily my instance: one believes in reincarnation but not heaven, one believes in peanut butter and marchmellow fluff but not peanut butter and pickles, one believes in 'mixed' marriages but not those which include animals. I have walked on hot coals, but not ingested psychedelic mushrooms. I enjoy the absurd and despise 'The Office'. I resonate with Mary, the archangels, robes and incense, but I cannot be Catholic. It's all another way of defining ourselves, and I love the varieties of defining.

02 February 2006

"I'm In the Mood For Love"

I love this song, though not for any stylistic or rational thing, I just used to sing it as a kid and I have fond memories of really schmaltzing it up. I still like it now, and I'm telling myself that that's because it really is an ok song, but honestly, I am incapable of knowing that for sure.

There's something about certain kinds of memories that grab us, move us beyond what makes any kind of sense. Sometimes that's ok, and sometimes that feels very not ok. My neck twinges unpleasantly at thoughts of some of the less than ok moments of sensory recollection. Why do we hold on to bad memories at all? Sometimes I wonder if some people don't--and is this a sign of their mental health, or their insanity?

For whatever potentially bad-parenting reason, I've mentioned to my almost-seven year-old daughter about a couple of teachers I had that were horrible to me, and she's fascinated by this. 'How were they bad?' she asks. 'Were they bad to everyone, or just you?' My original intent is just to tell her stories of my life, and that's mostly because I am fascinated with other people's stories, their memories of their lives, and I want to share that interest with her. But of course I sometimes say, shall we say, too much, and then I need to explain things that seem to be a real bother right now, things I was hoping to save for my retirement, to tell my grandchildren. It goes back to the reasons I have for not letting my daughter read my journals while I'm alive, why it's tempting to not let anyone else read them ever. All those embarassments, all that stupidity: it would be very nice to forget it all.

But crazy me, I feel as though it would be useful to remember, to learn from my past, to not repeat less successful chains of events. Surely it will. But even if it won't, I'm not sure that I'm ready to let go of any of my memories, good or bad. If they grab me, in particular, there's got to be a reason why that is so. Darn my desire for understanding.

01 February 2006

"Blue Moon"

Ok, moon theme going on. Plus, a three-pages-per-song theme going on as well; maybe they had requests for this book to be not-quite so condensed. I'll all for that, but this song is also very low, which is also unusual, based on how the last book went. I took it up a fourth or so, that helped a bit.

I had a not-wanting-to-sing day. (And, apparently, a day-to-really-use-the-hyphen.) This will happen, I understand, but it felt unfair on a voice lesson day. My teacher wants me to try a bit of playing-piano-and-singing (I'm giving over into hyphen-land here, going to the extremes so that I can come back tomorrow with just-enough). So I've played a couple of songs that I sang back in the college voice lesson days, and it is nice to revisit these pieces. I love Faure, Samuel Barber, Leonard Bernstein, and Ned Rorem. But I haven't played the piano parts in a couple years, at least, much less while singing. The benefit is that I will show my vocal faults in high relief within my lesson time, distracted as I am with playing the piano part simultaneously (and not especially well). And this is a good thing. I knew from the beginning that my lesson is the time to make the big mistakes, otherwise how would I learn how to correct them? So today I got a good start. Somehow I was able to easily reach a high B-flat in my warm-up, but I bombed on an E in the song. Life is all about these learnings: I can reach so high and far, and I know it, but somehow I manage to trip myself up on the way.

Yahoo, growth opportunities. They'd be a heck of a lot less stressful if I weren't so tired, besides.

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