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 May 2006

(Crazed Party Business)

Sorry for not posting sooner on this, it's just my pre-party temporary re-arrangement of priorities. I'm looking forward to more of the usual playing and singing soon, hopefully this week a couple times, at least. Until then, more painting, sewing, and cleaning to be done. . .

25 May 2006

(Not a 'Real' Post)

Anxious. Worried about death, money, party, turning forty. Needing to recharge batteries, re-connect with my husband, read trashy books, sleep. Hmmmf.

24 May 2006

"Autumn Leaves"

Originally based on a French poem, later adapted with English lyrics. Surely, somewhere out there the French exists, and I'd love to try it. I like this piece to play, but not so much to sing as is. Its lovely melancholy works better without words.

In recent years I tend to follow my intuition when I feel a need rising in myself. On a very practical level, I pay attention to what I am physically hungry for: is it protein I want? green things? salty things? chocolate? Or it will occur to me to do some small task, like put something away, in passing. If it doesn't cramp my time I don't think too hard about these things, I just do them. I assume that on some level my brain is making decisions, good decisions, and I don't feel the need to know the nitty gritty of how they were made. This sort of following my nose, woven through doing the other tasks of my day, makes my life feel like a gentle dance. I feel that I've become less frantic and more productive, yet another way of paying attention as things move, like breath through my lungs.

23 May 2006

"The Breeze and I"

This song is lovely, another that I would like to spend more time with. The vocal range of this one is perfect, exactly what I want to practice: going nicely low, but not neglecting the higher notes. It also has a nice sensuality about it, and rhythmically three against two is always fun. Ah.

While it's getting late, I know that all of you have been wondering what to get me for the upcoming Big Birthday.

Ok, that's fishing a bit. In reality, my party is the big thing for me, and I'd rather have my friends and family actually be here, than have them send a gift through the mail. Not that I'm against gifts either, though. I spend a lot of my time thinking about how to make the lives of my husband and daughter better, buying them food, clothing, books, toys, etc. I don't spend as much time or money on myself, in general, but in the past few years, at least, I've let this time around my birthday be a time to indulge myself slightly. Since this is a bigger birthday, I'm giving myself bigger indulgences.

In that spirit, I have put together a Wish List of Gifts For Me. Somehow, I haven't gotten around to sharing this with anyone at all, but that's mostly the result of what the process brought. As I put together this list, it occurred to me that I didn't really expect to receive much, or any, of what I asked for, but it pinpointed those personal desires that I couldn't justify in any other way. I realized that this list was mostly just for me, and that the things on it--things I didn't 'need', for the most part, but definitely wanted--were things that I would treat myself to in the coming year, if at all possible. Here's what I want, what I will treat myself to this year:

Sea Monkeys on the moon: What can I say, I like Sea Monkeys. I've had these silly things off and on since I was ten years old. I can't believe that they still sell them, but I'm a big fan of the newest tank that I saw. Oooooo, pretty concept, ooooo.

Business card case: I keep meaning to buy myself one of these, and I never can justify the cost. I could probably write it off, even. It's something that other people might see: what would my choice say about me?

Trip to St. John's: I had two fabulous vacations last year, both of which I'd love to do all over again. I'm trying very hard not to think about the lighthouse on the Norfolk coast, since we are not going there, though others are. This leaves St. John to be my fantasy: just possible enough to not be utterly frustrating.

Snorkeling gear: I want to be ready for my island trip, with better gear this time. The snorkeling was so amazing there, I never wanted to come to land.

Digital recorder: A couple of my friends have these, and the idea of recording digitally from something so small is intriguing. I see myself using this for family-history interviews, indulging my geeky genealogy habit.

Happy Hooker, by Debbie Stoller: My crocheting and knitting has been a fabulous escape of late. I'm still very involved with smaller projects, though my desire to return to larger things is growing quickly. I'm also impatient with the quantity of yarn I've been acquiring, I need to take a break and use a large portion of it. Somehow, though, I still desire more yarn, even knowing this. The projects inspire me. Debbie Stoller's books are really well done: trendy and informative.

Class card for Schoolhouse Yoga: Re-committing myself to yoga this year is a very good plan. I feel more in my own skin just thinking about it, not to mention the bits of time that I've been carving out for this on a daily basis. I haven't done many formal yoga classes over the years, now feels like the right time to start a new habit.

yoga props: blocks, bolsters, straps. I got a book from a client years ago that's all about yoga as relaxation. In my younger years I scoffed at the very thought, but now it's getting much more attractive. Relaxing utterly into acceptance, yes.

5-day intensive (yoga) course w/Ana Forrest (on CD): at some point I'd like to do a proper yoga teacher training as well, but this would be a good start, and inspiration.

Gift certificates to: Apple store (new computer, monitor) I feel guilty even wanting a new computer, but I'm very paranoid that this one will somehow blow up sometime soon, and I've come to realize how very much I depend on it.
Victoria's Secret: I love their underwear, and their clothes. Having my bra match my underpants gives me a deep and abiding pleasure. What can I say?
Target: So much I love, it makes me forget that they're more Red than Blue.
Barnes & Noble: Thankfully more Blue than Red, and one can never ever *ever* have too many books.
Starbuck's: Ah, mochas. Though why O Why! did they have to get rid of that nummy Cinnamon Dolce Latte? I love the consistency at Starbuck's: the mocha I get around the corner is the same mocha I got in Cambridge, England, and it's yummy.
Aveda: Nice products, environmentally conscious. That's important to me. And they smell good.

Jon Stewart's America, the book: Should've gotten it when it was on sale, but I couldn't justify getting it for myself. So sexy, so funny, such lovely politics has our Jon.

Kevin Ancuin books: I rarely wear makeup, but I might be more inspired if I had these books lying around. I obsessively page through them in the bookstore. I'm very sad that this beautiful young man died too soon.

memberships to: zoo, Phipps, Carnegie Museums. I've almost done the zoo membership twice this year, but both times we went I had just enough to get us in, not quite enough for the membership. We had some of these when my daughter was a toddler, it was a great escape to get away to the museum. We'd have a different kind of fun with them now that she's older.

Summer camp tuition for my daughter: My freedom for the summer. I've paid for one camp, mostly, thus far, and I'm lining up the next couple. I'll just keep pulling money out of my butt (also the source for my party funds, and miscellaneous other expenses) until I reach the end of possibility.

hooka: my brother has one of these, and it's very fun, social, and a totally legal way to indulge my shameless occasional oral fixation with smoking.

serger: In my fantasy sewing space my fine Viking sewing machine is in front of me, and a cute little serger is off to the side to whip up the seams. I probably need to figure out where the heck I'd put this thing in reality, but I will. When I do, I'll get a good, inexpensive one and explore new realms of quick-production sewing.

hands-free headset for the phone: I am so tired of my neck and shoulder aching after a long phone conversation with friend or family member. But a good one of these can be quite pricey.

CDs: Rachel Sage, I Am Sam, Lisa McCormick, Dolly Parton, Carole King, The Mavericks, Death Cab for Cutie, Rocky Horror movie soundtrack (& DVD), Aimee Mann, Spoon. I tried to pick artists whose recordings I owned none, to spare people the inconvenience of buying me a CD I already owned (since of this whole list, this seemed the area where I could actually ask for something tangible). In some cases here, also artists whose recording haven't gotten cheap enough on eBay yet. Too new, too trendy.

DVDs: Angel (have all the Buffy, now need all the Angel), Return of the King extended (how in the world do we not own this yet?), Star Wars (might as well have the original set on DVD, my youthful fandom still influences my studio decor, if nothing else. And my daughter likes them, for some reason), Sex in the City 3-6 (I'm still not entirely sure what I think of this series, but I do find it compelling to watch. The characters' personal flaws make me impatient with them sometimes), West Wing (how did I never watch this? And how nice it would be to see it all in a row!), Twin Peaks (classic weirdness--add that weird aliens on drugs movie to this, too--Purple Sky?), Brat Pack 'boxed' set (another example, with my Frye cowboy boots, of still trying to satisfy my teenage self in key ways), Schoolhouse rock (what tunes! what knowledge! Quick--sing the Preamble to the Constitution!), Six Feet Under (We're getting this from Netflix, but that's just too slow. And already there are episodes I want to see again.)

Do you have all that? Now all you have to do is wrap it. . .

22 May 2006

"That's Amore"

Except for the unfortunate and over-used first line of this song, it's not bad. And it's fun to sing, it does have that Italian easy swing to it, even if it's basically in English. All this not yet mentioning how very satisfying it was to play through it so well on the first go.

Today was less satisfying in other ways, and I knew that it would be from the start, knowing what kind of work there was to be done. In theory, knowing this would ease the end of day reality. I spent a lot of my time doing organizational work in my daughter's room, which is looking gratifyingly empty as we prepare for painting. I'm glad that I do take the time to sort through her things, rather than just sweep them up and throw them all away, which is the approach that my husband might take, I suspect. I wouldn't blame him, it's tedious work that requires something of an education: What is this little bit here and what thing or things did it originally go with and where are they now? (Repeat this several hundred times.) Although the work I did today was important, and I did fill up a couple of trash cans--which surely means that something was accomplished--at the end of the day it looked pretty much as it did at the beginning. I did move a couple of things around just to give the impression of progress.

On the other hand, it is obvious that this large project will finally be done at some point in the very near future, and that is immensely satisfying. We've lived in this house for seven years now, and we've taken our time with the painting. This has meant in practice that every room painted has been transformed, as we re-think our use of the space while putting things back together. Plus it's clean, and pretty. (Bright colors, Oooo.) I just hope our daughter is happy with this, too.

21 May 2006


This is a song that I would like more time with. It has some nice challenges, and a good range, as well. Re-visiting songs would be a project all on its own, and perhaps less inspirational to blog about.

Because life is pretty relaxed here, getting ready for the big fortieth birthday party in less than two weeks, now, we thought we'd take on another rather huge project just to keep us on our toes. So we're painting my daughter's room, which includes receiving delivery of a double bunk bed this week, cleaning out her room (actually almost done), doing some simple muralling over the base painting, and putting everything back in--at least to the point where our library can again double as a guest room. We're accepting volunteers to help, if you're curious.

Today I was discussing with my daughter, again, how we would be realizing her grand room vision, which includes a night sky painted with silver stars, ocean scenes, a room-sized alcove set aside for her American Girl dolls, and a realization of the 'Grandfather Tree'--included gated in area and Guardian Angel. I can state here that I truly believe that we can do all of this. The difficulty comes in convincing her. She can't believe that I can help her to create this dream room, she feels that she needs to somehow do it all herself in order to make her vision a reality.

I struggled to explain what I would be providing in this process: the interface between her vision, and the concrete facts of her room and what was possible (difficulties she might not understand, as well as creative possibilities she might not have thought of). I hope that at least my sincerity came across, though I'm not confident of even that. Not unusually, all of this had me thinking about my own childhood, especially those moments when my vision was not matched in my eyes by my parents, and misunderstandings and bad feelings abounded. I know now that there were likely a lot of things that I did not understand in those arguments, and things that I will never understand. It doesn't make it any easier, knowing that now, as I try to help my daughter understand me.

20 May 2006

(Time Off For Good Behavior)

It could also be that I'm taking long naps all day. So sue me. I'm tired.

19 May 2006

"Young At Heart"

This song is quite difficult to sing, though that could be related to range, as well. My motivation has been very low this last week, which doesn't help.

Tomorrow I'm treating myself to a couple hours of yard saling alone. I grew up going to garage sales, yard sales, tag sales, flea markets--you name it--with my parents. I like to say that I was trained from birth, and it's actually true in this case. My parents still go out on a Saturday morning together to find treasures. When I'm feeling insecure for any reason, bargaining at a sale for some ridiculous price on some equally ridiculous unnecessary item, I pretend I'm my Dad: 'I'll give you two dollars for the whole box!' I have very fond memories of those adventures: buying the flute, bring home a free puppy ('Your mother is going to kill me'), supplying an entire kitchen when I got my first apartment.

These days I'm training my daughter, which is mostly backfiring thus far, since people tend to give her things just because she's cute. I tell her that she'll never learn to bargain this way, and she says that someday her own cuteness will wear off on a daughter of her own, who will then get free stuff. That does make it make sense, somehow.

I'm looking forward to being on my own tomorrow, a welcome gift from my husband, being in my own time and pace. It's a community sale, so that makes it a bit easier. Next week, though, I'm sure that I'll have my daughter with me once again, training her to be my navigator.

18 May 2006

"Ring of Fire"

I don't have much familiarity at all with any original version of this song, the version that I know best features 'The Bobs': fabulous accapella inventiveness. This is a good song to know. Knowing the words is always a good party trick.

Relentless. That's my week in a word, and my focus sucks. I am the Queen of Coping this week: I have remained equanimous throughout. There has been no screaming, no blood, no breakage, and lots of creative coping. I am exhausted and I can't stop yet, by a long shot. Run. Run, Kat, run.

17 May 2006

"I Almost Lost My Mind"

This is definitely The Blues. And as far outside my musical vocabulary as one could get, which is to say that the sound is most unfamiliar, but it's still there somewhere. I've just never sung much of this genre at all, and listened to not much more. It sure is fun to sing, even from my relative inexperience.

For the last few days I've felt exhausted to the point of incoherence and incomprehension. Party preparation (pick dress, make dress, clean house, order masks), working on my daughter's room (clean room, pack room, paint room, reassemble room), and then all the other life stuff (laundry, dishes, daughter, organize school potluck, buy bike tires, work, stress about finances for this party). I'm still not making much sense, or my censor is gone, or both. But be sure to know that the above lists are barely begun. . . and I hit the ground running early in the morning, and don't stop all day. Today I made sure that I ate dinner, and sat down for ten minutes in a row. But I think it was the bottle of Starbuck's Frappuccino that really helped.

16 May 2006

"Wildwood Flower"

Singing this song made me want to hear all the recorded versions of it. It seems to hold some potential for interpretation. Because of long day working the primary election here in Pennsylvania, I was too beat during my lunch hour (at 4PM) to do more than sing through all five verses (the first one twice!). Also too tired to figure out what I thought of this song's potential for my own interpretation.

Because of the election, I got to spend the day rather pleasantly, oddly enough. Working the polls is a very, very long day, today I left home before 6AM, and except for a very brief stop home to let out the dog, didn't get home for good until after 9:30PM. And that was pretty good, considering new voting machines, and following the Judge of Elections to the final check-in spot--both because he needed the help carrying extra stuff, and because he's grooming me to be his replacement sometime soon.

Still, a good day, one that seemed to go more quickly than other Election Days. I always bring some handwork, today it was a couple of crocheted pin cushions that moved along quite quickly. I read some of my magazines, and got to chat very pleasantly with my fellow poll-workers, who are such lovely people that I continue to work at a polling station in a neighborhood that I moved out of seven years ago. My oldest, and one of my best friends (I've known her since we were five) also works with me as a more and more regular replacement worker, and it's great to see her and catch up a bit in the midst of our incredibly busy lives. The group of us rather shamelessly got someone to go out and get us donuts in the morning, and the new machines seemed to work flawlessly, so the day was just about perfect. Small and significant pleasures.

15 May 2006

"Bouquet of Roses"

I'm sure that if I knew more about Country music I might have heard this song at some point. I'm not a huge Country fan, though, though my husband listens now and again, and I've heard some of the contemporary highlights. We're big fans of the Faith Hill video for 'Like We Never Loved At All'. I like this song because it's a perfect Country blend of bitter and sweet--and way before people started singing about their trucks.

This last Sunday, after the race frustration, my husband and daughter presented me with a Starbucks' card, and took me out to brunch at the Walnut Grill. My day got much much better from then on.

I discovered the Walnut Grill one weekend when my husband was away. He had the car, so my daughter and I walked down to Shadyside, an upscale neighborhood complete with chi-chi shopping district. We browsed through the toy store, and decided to try this place for lunch. The food was very good, the atmosphere was pleasant, and since we were walking home, I indulged in a glass of wine with lunch. That clinched it: for me, the warm yellow, slightly trendy, friendly Walnut Grill is like being on vacation. When we've been on vacation we eat at fun restaurants, places that feel new, cozy, and inviting all at once. We're pretty relaxed, happy to sit down and joke with the wait staff, try new things. We have a drink with lunch.

At home, we eat pasta. We don't go out much, and if we do, it's to Eat N Park, the local diner chain, where we have pretty much the same meal every time, by choice. Eating at the Walnut Grill opened my eyes to my hometown: what if I were visiting here, what would I think? Where would I be drawn to eat, to shop, to browse, to snap photos? This is a beautiful city, and I know it every day, but seeing it through my 'tourist eyes' makes me appreciate it even more, and gets me determined to do all of those things: eat, drink, take pictures, maybe even shop when I don't have a list of necessities, if I feel like really living on the edge.

14 May 2006

"I Walk The Line"

Although I know that Reader's Digest did, indeed, put out a whole book of country songs at some point, it's still very odd to be encountering this one here. This heads up the new section, 'Country Music Hits'. I'm not a long-time Johnny Cash fan, but the album with the Depeche Mode cover (American IV: The Man Comes Around) really gets me, and seeing this song today reminded me to load that baby up on my iPod. It makes me cry.

I had a really great Mother's Day, in the end, though it didn't start out so well.

Today I ran the local 'Susan G. Komen Race For the Cure', certainly an absolutely worthy cause. Last year I couldn't run this event because we were out of town. So this year I woke up early, leaving two hours before the start of the race to ensure finding a parking place. I heard that 33,000 people were expected, so that wasn't really overkill. When I got to my parking lot of choice, I realized I had left my number at home. Back home I went, my stress rising exponentially. I hadn't really been looking forward to this race, races with large numbers of people have turned out to be not so fun. I did make it back to my lot before it filled, followed the crowd to the starting area (tents! vendors! advertisers! lots and lots and lots of people everywhere!), and got my chip. Relatively speaking, a small percentage of the participants were being timed for the 5K run. Because I was there so early, I had lots of time to kill. I filled out a 'In Celebration of . . .' page for my back. Because I was running, and on my own (not wanting to carry and run), I didn't have the option of collecting anything from the vendors. I joined in the group aerobic warm-up. I read other folk's back signs 'In Memory of. . .' I walked up and back on part of the course, I used the restrooms a couple times, I watched people. I felt very very lonely.

When the race itself finally began, it was nice to be doing something. It's relatively hilly course, which is ok, but tiring at times. I kept running, kept passing people. I only got noticeably slower in the last half mile or so, but I didn't stop. Still, my time was disappointing, but I told myself it was the hills. At that end point, I just wanted to get home. But where was my car? I'm not that familiar with that specific area of Pittsburgh, and I got confused, ending up not going out the way I had come in, and needing to walk uphill and back to the car. I felt totally exhausted and ready to cry.

I don't think I'm liking running races alone very much, and that isn't just a result of this last event. It would be very nice to be doing this with someone else. I see couples, or families (or am passed by children of same), and I'm very jealous. My husband's not so interested in these shorter distances, and I don't know any other women who are racing at all. To run with another woman, someone magically at my pace: that would be perfect.

13 May 2006

"Wait Till the Sun Shines, Nellie"

Sometimes I just know too much. I would have liked this song better had I not known that the composer was inspired by the story of a man and his daughter who had lost the rest of their family in a fire. The father was determinedly optimistic. The composer transferred this sentiment to a young couple in love who are disappointed because a picnic is rained out. Somehow, this suffers greatly in translation, in my eyes.

My husband has been elected president of the School Board for my daughter's school. I'm excited for him, I think this will be a great growth opportunity for him, as much as I do not look forward to the increased number of hours that will be required to do this commitment justice.

I was joking with some of my friends at the school the other day, we speculated about what I would wear to the inaugural ball as First Lady, whether my gown would then be on display. What type of first lady would I be: Barbara, Hillary, Laura? How about Nancy or Rosalynn? For that matter, what about Martha, Abigail, Eleanor, Mamie, Jackie, Lady Bird? What would my agenda be? Power behind the throne? Obliging little wife? Busy with humanitarian aid? Walking the family pooch? What's my motto?

For me, that is the clearest. My motto: 'La, la, la, don't tell me anything, la, la, la, I'll just read it in the newsletter with everyone else, la, la, la, I'm not listening. . .'

It's not that I don't want to support my husband, it's very much that I don't want to unnecessarily taint my interactions with the staff or other parents at my daughter's school. There are many things that I simply don't need to know. I do think that a selective lack of curiosity is a useful skill to have in one's arsenal.

I think I learned this to some degree from my mother. My mom was always great at keeping secrets, mine, and everyone else's. It was never any use trying to wheedle them out of her, and I came to know that in most cases, it really doesn't matter if I don't know. It's much more energy efficient as well. La, la, la. . .

12 May 2006

"Ma (He's Making Eyes At Me)"

This song was very fun to sing, and I kept thinking, If I had sung this well in high school, I might have even gotten a real part in one of those musicals, instead of being a muchkin, or a lady in waiting, or a nun. Life would have been very different.

I did audition for pretty much every show that my high school put on, which was quite a few. We even had a drama department--albeit only one teacher--and three or four shows were put on each year, culminating in the spring musical. The other shows were not musicals, I remember the January shows were a series of one act plays, and the fall production was a drama of some kind.

When I was a senior I finally got into a show other than the musical (possibly pity casting, though I did know that my auditioning skills were improving, at least): the stage production of 'Inherit The Wind', in which I played the wife of the lead, and got to scream dramatically. I also made my costume, a semi-period black taffeta suit. (After the production I shortened the skirt considerably.)

In college I took the acting major's set of acting courses as far as I could, as a non-major. A lot of the exercises were incredibly fun to do. I never got very good, though I did do a couple community theatre productions after college, and I always imagine that I'll try to go back to that at some point.

I'm thinking about acting a bit lately as I work on 'selling' a song. What am I selling? Who am I selling it to? Who am I? I've been running these scenarios through in my head: bored socialite, slutty cowgirl, young innocent, competent callgirl. Costumes, makeup, props, it's all there, in the virtual sense. I don't have any idea, though, if my inner stage will transfer to the outer world, if I could create the desire in real life that my imaginary audience feels in my head. It does feel like a part of me that is very little stretched, though, and that alone makes it worth the effort.

11 May 2006

"Beautiful Ohio"

I found it difficult to commit to this song, and I'm not sure if it was just a general difficulty with my day. I guess the song's just boring--but since it is the state song of Ohio, I don't want anyone to be offended. I was born in Cleveland, Ohio, my dad was getting his doctorate at Case Western. I once spent the fourth of July in a bus terminal in Toledo. I got offered a big scholarship from the University of Dayton; Ohio State was my second choice for school (after Syracuse, Dayton actually was choice number four). I have good friends in Ohio. Does any of this count if I find the state song boring? How many people even know their state song? It occurs to me that I have no idea what the state song for Pennsylvania is. Hold on.

Oh God, it's horrible. And only signed into officiality in 1990. Don't listen to it, whatever you do! I'm going into deep, deep mourning over this, wearing sackcloth, ripping my hair. Or maybe just trimming it.

10 May 2006

"Santa Claus Is Coming to Town"

Yes, a bit out of season, but they couldn't have predicted my grand scheme here. The classic version of this song, the one that saves it forever from being just a kid's song, is the one by Bruce Springsteen. It felt like a very important event when we introduced our daughter to that version this past Christmas. It is weird to think that it's twenty years old now.

My brain is working on overtime recently, though not in a bad way. I've been taking advantage of this milestone year in lots of ways, including treating myself to various things, some tangible, some less so. I've give myself permission to shop at Aveda maybe a *second* time this year. I've officially begun, as of today, my collection of cool cowboy boots to wear (I would have given my eye teeth for this pair of navy Frye harness boots in high school or college). I'm loving my new iPod and using it everywhere. I'm sewing more. My ongoing piano and voice lessons continue to give me great joy. I'm thrilled to know that my entire family will be at my birthday party, as well as a bunch of amazing friends (enjoying the resulting mix of folks is also something to be happily anticipated). I'm resuming my regular yoga practice, which got temporarily disrailed when I began running.

Perhaps most importantly, I'm appreciating what gifts I have to give to the world, to those I love, and to myself. Maybe my gifts are a large collection of little special things, rather than some grand scheme or project. I'm letting myself try new things, or new ways of thinking about things, which is even more liberating. I'm exploring my self-perceptions: how closely do they relate to reality, and how much does that matter? I'm consciously talking to people who will spur me on to new understandings, and new questions to explore. I feel weirdly together.

Everything is not being accomplished, and I'm ok with that, too. Things are getting done enough, enough progress is being made on my key projects, both personally and for my family and career. I'm busy in ways that do not feel crushing or cramped. I'm realistic in my goals, practical as well as adventurous.

I think I'm really going to be ok, growing up, and I'm not so worried about what I'll be. When I get there (again and again) I'm sure it will be just fine.

09 May 2006


This song sticks in my head and I don't like it. The sticking, that is, though that probably doesn't speak well of the song, either.

One of my very favorite toys growing up was my pet Sea Monkeys. I think that I had Sea Monkeys--which are actually brine shrimp, if you're not familiar with them from your own sordid past--since I was eight or nine years old. We had dogs, and occassionally a cat, but I really wanted a rodent or reptile, which my mother refused to allow.

I did a sixth grade report on my Sea Monkeys with a friend. I remember bringing them in, but then spilling the container in my purse, tragically. (It must have been around that point that I gave up on purses, perhaps too traumatized to do anything else. Surely they all smelled of brine to me after that accident.)

Now, every so often I have another batch of Sea Monkeys; currently, of course, I'm trying to pass on the 'tradition' to my daughter. I'm amazed that these things are still around at all; the packaging and instruction booklets are freakishly similar to the ones I received as a kid. Though the 'Sea Monkeys on the Moon' tank that we saw the other day is certainly new. I'm hoping that someone gets me that one for my birthday. (Hint.)

08 May 2006

"Beer Barrel Polka (Roll Out the Barrel)"

One just doesn't hear the words to this polka enough. Not all the words, which I now know were translated from Czech, where its original title was 'Unrequited Love'. One can see why that didn't go over as well. It's very strange to sing this. I don't entirely disagree with words going with this music--I haven't been shy about revealing my feelings about this in earlier posts--but while singing it accapella my mental dance band keeps drowning out my voice. I want to dance along.

Polka dancing was a very important part of my upbringing. We polka-ed at weddings, primarily, but those were very key family times when I would see all sorts of distant cousins that my mother would have to re-introduce to me each time. I associate polkas with warm family feelings, lots of smiles and hearty laughter. I would polka with my grandfather, and with my father, and my mother, and my younger cousins: anyone at the party was fair game for a polka partner, regardless of age, sex, or ability. I remember one wedding where one of my cousins was marrying into an Italian family--that was a very high energy group, an Italian-Polish wedding. I remember the bride dance: pay a dollar, dance with the bride or groom, receive a shot of whiskey (sometimes it was a cigar). At the end the bride is surrounded with circles of people who have danced with her, and the groom has to fight his way in.

After that dance (where the groomsmen were the ones passing out the liquor) I remember one very drunk gentleman, possibly also a cousin, whirling me away into another polka. My adolescent heart leapt. I can think of only one other time in my life when a handsome man just whisked me away into a dance without asking, with that special combination of style and confidence that makes the heart beat faster. That was at a gay bar in San Fransisco where I didn't recognize the man as a member of the group I came with, since he had removed his shirt, and what the heck was he dancing with a woman, anyhow? I doubt that that time was a polka, unfortunately, that might have made it somehow more understandable to me.

I did polka with my Uncle Mike at his fiftieth wedding anniversary, and again with him at my wedding. At a Slavic festival in college I polka-ed all afternoon with a blond and handsome stranger that I never saw again: he was a great lead. At a friend's wedding after college I polka-ed with a man, and decided then and there to sleep with him, the dance was that great. The sex was not a disappointment either, when it came to that. I've always believed that people have sex the way they dance, to a large degree. Years after that relationship ended it felt like appropriate closure to polka with him at my wedding, too.

I don't get invited to extended family weddings any more, I'm too far out and out of touch. I miss the polkas a lot. Last year one of my good friends got married; it was the first Jewish wedding that I had been to, I didn't know what to expect. I knew lots of people there, which was lovely, and my husband warmed my heart by asking the band to play 'Georgia on My Mind', 'dirty', and danced slow and sexy with me. But when they played a polka I knew that he wasn't the choice for that dance. I let my own traditions lead me, and pulled my just-married friend out to dance with her. It was perfect, and we laughed and laughed.

07 May 2006

"Notre Dame Victory March"

It's a very peppy tune, which is appropriate, since it's a fight song. Although my daughter didn't like this one, I enjoyed singing it, much more than I thought I would. The driving, marching beat inspired me.

I was one of the very few people in my high school, or college, to know all the words to all the school songs. The only way to accomplish this, of course, is to belong to a choir. I loved choir so much. I started singing in my grade-school chorus in second grade, continuing straight through five and a half years of college, followed by a short break, then on to community choir for a couple years. From there I moved to Pittsburgh, and auditioning for a choir was one of the things (along with finding a women's spirituality group) that I did within the first three days I was here. I got lucky in college, and belonged to what was probably the best group for me, and I lucked out here, as well. I sang for four years with the Pittsburgh Camerata, a twenty four voice mixed choir singing mostly accapella works.

I had to sing alto with the Camerata, since the soprano section was filled, and the alto section was where the need was. My range accommodates that, for the most part, though it isn't my strength. In my ideal universe I sing second soprano, because I like singing high, but I also like singing harmony. In that universe I always have strong voices in my right ear, preferably a bass. I don't seem to hear as well out of my left ear, which I don't notice as much in things outside of singing with others. I have strengths I've built over the years as a choral singer, I think: I blend well. I pay attention. I love close harmonies and I have a reasonably good ear. I only know the mass in Latin because I sang it so many times in choir; I can also sing in German, French, and Italian, without much direction, and probably any other language with it. I have a great love for the choral repetoire: Medieval chant, all those lovely masses and requiems, madrigals, contemporary pieces--tonal and not so tonal, classically notated, and not-so.

I stopped singing with the Camerata when they got a new director, and I got pregnant. The two are not related, though the morning sickness I had early on in my pregnancy helped to make my debut with this new director less than stellar. I've kept in touch with folks who still sing in this group, which has continued on to be more of a semi-professional group, and it is way beyond my abilities, especially with the long break that I've had since then. For three of the last four years I've been singing with the adult singers at my daughter's school, leading them for the last two. That's something I manage only by the seat of my pants, though I've probably developed some basic skills that I take for granted at this point. I've tried to pass on the choral wisdom that I've gathered over the years, mixed heavily with charm and humor to cover my shortfalls. This semester the group consisted of nine women, and our sound came together with solidity and some grace. It's been very nice.

I do miss singing with men, though, and I miss having someone else do the conducting, and decision making. I want more of a challenge, but I'm not entirely sure how to go about finding it. None of the groups that I know of in town fit the bill. My ideal group would be small, no more than three voices to a part, accapella for the most part. Maybe starting with some madrigals, if we had to start from scratch, and then moving on from there--barbershop styles? Masses? Bluegrass? I'd love to do it all, frankly. It occurs to me now, that if I could ask for something non-tangible for my birthday, this would be it.

My husband wants the rest of the group to do Messiaen's 'Quartet for the End of Time' (cello, clarinet, and violin to his piano); I want a group to sing with that satisfies my own fantasy.

06 May 2006


It's a fun spelling song! Like 'Bingo', but not! I feel very ambivalent towards this one, I sang it through quite a few times, and it inspired neither love nor hate, which says something all on its own. I even sang it at different times--morning and evening--no difference. Ah well.

Tomorrow morning at 6AM, Eastern, my husband will begin running the Cincinnati marathon. This will be his fourth marathon, his third time running this particular one. He's hoping to finish in under four hours.

I'm very disappointed that we can't be there with him this weekend, as we have in the past. My daughter's school was having its Mayfair today, and besides her disappointment if we dared to miss this event, I had commitments with my singing group there. It was a good day. But tomorrow morning my daughter and I will be thinking of him, and waiting to hear of his journey. Running this distance seems to be a mind-altering event akin to drug use, and it's very useful to have a familiar face around as one 'comes down' from the experience, we know it would actually make a difference to him to have us there.

While I was browsing through a running magazine today it was hard to not be aware of how hip it is to run marathons these days. I have no desire to do this, though I also have no doubt that I could do it. There is this belief in me that if I have seen someone else do it (someone 'ordinary', like myself), I can do it. Like walking on fire: it can be done.

I am concerned that my desire to be 'merely' Queen of the 10K will never be respected by the larger running crowd, but so be it. Meanwhile, I have quite a ways to work up from 'underservant of the 10K'.

05 May 2006

"Alice Blue Gown"

Historical factoid: this song refers to the preponderance of a particular color blue in the wardrobe of then-contemporary, Alice Roosevelt Longworth, daughter of Teddy Roosevelt. I always thought it had something to do with 'Alice in Wonderland', the Disney movie. This version of the song has very odd harmonies, and works a little better without the piano part. But, alas, only a little better. No need to keep this one in the Big Book of Bardic Crap.

I think we might be entering a bit of a lull in my daughter's life, in the sense that the battles we have with her will be a bit less pitched and heated for a few years. I hope that I'm not just dreaming this, but it is the appropriate time for this mythical and much awaited 'pre-puberty' break. She seems to be generally polite--more with others than with us, as could be expected--affectionate, creative, thoughtful, curious about the world. All good and proper things for this stage of her life.

I'm increasingly aware of how difficult it is to be a parent even now, how my job is to continually set the bar higher and higher for her. 'Ok, that's fine, but now you have to do *this*': *this* being always more difficult and detailed. Since our job is to make her into a reasonably well-behaved, competent member of society at large, we can never afford to rest on our laurels, there is always way too much information that needs to be imparted.

It's good to be aware of our job. It will still be heart-breaking when she screams endlessly at us in her adolescent years, but we will know, at the least, that we've laid a good foundation for her, that she will know the basic rules and regulations. She will be as fully conscious as is possible when she chooses to set them all aside, discovering her own unique and unmapped gifts.

04 May 2006

"Yes! We Have No Bananas"

This song is just silly, and according to the notes here, unintentionally (presumably) plagiarized from multiple sources, including the 'Hallelujah Chorus'. Try it yourself: 'Hallelujah! Bananas!' I remember my father singing this, though I have no idea why he would.

My father is crazy that way. You should hear the traditional family uvulations. It started with my Dad trying to get our attention when he took photos, and it sure worked. People stare. I've adapted it very successfully with inspiration from Middle Eastern approval calls. People stare at me, too.

It's a good thing to not be afraid of the stares of strangers. Or friends.

03 May 2006

"Show Me The Way To Go Home"

A classic drinking song, really. Maybe that's what the 1920s were really all about, of course: drinking. Not at all surprising that so much good music came out of it as well. This one is not so great, really, as a song, but it's still a familiar tune, and there's a lot to be said for that, eighty years later.

I'm experiencing irrational dog desire.

Anyone can tell you that I'm not a big fan of our dog, Buford. He's a six-year-old beagle mix we adopted from a shelter last September. He's worked out much better than the dog we had before, Gala, a collie mix who now lives very happily with my in-laws. She was too big and active for us at that time. Now that my daughter's older, a dog in the general sense is a better idea. And Buford is a better size of dog for our urban home (yard, but not fenced in, on a main thoroughfare, but in a nice neighborhood with lots of trees). He's very sweet, very quiet (especially for a beagle), just wanting love.

I don't hate him, and we've developed an understanding of how things will work, for the most part. If he would stop tipping over the kitchen trash I'd be reasonably content with the situation, even if I can't really love him. I look at him and think: *This* is a dog? Surely a dog is one of the dogs of my childhood: St. Bernard, German Sheperd, Husky, Samoyed. A beagle just doesn't cut it.

Then I saw this ad in the paper on Friday. (It really is unfortunate that the garage sale section is always on the same page as the 'Pet Corner'.) The ad was for an Australian shep/keeshound mix, 3 years old, female, owner died. I couldn't get it out of my head. I talked to my husband, and we emailed about her Saturday night. They replied Sunday night, with a link to pictures. I hemmed and hawed, and got directions to the boarding location (an hour away!), and called for an appointment to see her (tomorrow!).

My in-laws have refused to take any more of our dog cast-offs, and this is a good thing. I know that wanting this dog is wanting my childhood in some sense, and that is a neutral and natural thing. I know that I don't have to act on this, and that it will be difficult to see this dog and not take her home if she is reasonably suitable. I strongly suspect that Buford would love to have a friend, the cats just aren't responding to his attempts at friendship. Two dogs will not be that much more difficult than one, though it will be more expensive. My husband is leaving the decision entirely up to me. I still feel insane to be doing any part of this.

Maybe I'll call in the morning and cancel. Maybe this time tomorrow we'll have two dogs. Argh! Woof!

02 May 2006

"Last Night On the Back Porch (I Loved Her Best Of All)"

It's just kinky to me, or, kinky considering this is Reader's Digest. The additional verses have him loving her in a taxi and in a rowboat, among other things. This is a songtype that one's archetypal Uncle Joe would sing, while drunk, at family gatherings. Some people would join in, everybody else would laugh heartily.

Tonight my husband and I are going out for our anniversary. We're going out to dinner at Kaya, a Carribean-themed restaurant in Pittsburgh's Strip District, which has nothing to do with strip clubs. We haven't been to this restaurant in years, not since the first couple of years that it was open here. It's part of a larger restaurant group owned locally, with each restaurant being unique and different: sushi, Meditteranean, Mexican, Pan-Asian, contemporary (whatever that means). Coincidentally, and of vague interest, Kaya is Tori Amos's favorite restaurant to come to when she's in town. My friend, Jim, likes it for lunch. My husband is looking forward to their beer selection.

We've been married for eight years today, which seems, suddenly, like not a short period of time. When people ask me how long I've lived in Pittsburgh I say, 'Not long, only twelve years.' And it isn't long, for Pittsburgh: the 'real' citizens here have not only lived here their whole lives, their parents and grandparents were born here as well. But eight years seems like it's getting somewhere, in the land of being married. We've been through a share of struggle, we're raising a daughter who's now a bigger kid, we own a house, our careers are moving slowly ahead, and we're lucky enough to still like and even desire each other. It is very good.

01 May 2006


Now this song is up front with its nonsense, it's clear that this is not meant to be taken seriously. It is, therefore, entirely successful, as well as being loads of fun to sing, and to dance to, as my daughter will attest.

Tonight was the night to watch 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'. Or at least the first half. I'm older now, more easily tired. I remember that 'Rocky Horror' always came on at midnite, but that was in the days when I didn't even think about leaving to go out for the evening until 10PM. Now I'm lucky to be up that late.

I have such incredibly fond memories of seeing this show. I saw it for the first time when I was seventeen, with my boyfriend at the time, and a good friend a year older who was going to the University of Delaware. It was lovely and shocking and fun. By the time I went to college a year later I was ready to take part in the show myself. I was lucky enough to date the man who portrayed the lovely transvestite, Dr. Frank N. Furter. I played Columbia, and there was one very special weekend when our buddy, Bondo, who was supposed to play Riff, passed out half way through the movie. My younger brother was visiting for the weekend, and got to step in as understudy. A magical night, indeed. I'm glad to have a picture or two from that one.

Watching it tonight, on video (must get the DVD sometime, and the original movie soundtrack on CD), all alone, still knowing most of the audience part--it was strangely not so lonely. Community is community, even when they're all dressed up, or maybe even more so then. To be part of something bigger is always seductive. Somewhere, some crowd of folks is watching this tonight, having brought all their own props, knowing all the lines.

Tim Curry is still damn sexy, too. Mmmm, mmm, mmm. Can't even blame that on the wine, tonight.

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