Unitarian Hymnal Sing-along

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

30 June 2006

"(There'll Be) Peace In the Valley (For Me)"

A song with two sets of parentheses in the title, oooo! There's something you just don't get every day. I wish we had a recording of the Elvis version of this song, but alas, no. It would be enough for me to ease the 'No Elvis!' ban on my iPod. This song is sweet, comforting like a fuzzy blankie. I shall say no more about it.

Lately I've been thinking again about the lack of babies in my life. It's not that I know no babies, I do. I have several friends who have little ones, one dear cousin, and another friend expecting later this year. It does seem, though, that among the women closest to me there is a lack of children. More than half of my wedding party is childless and expecting to remain so. My husband's oldest friends are also childless, and a decent percentage of our mutual friends are as well. We know people with children for the most part through our daughter (this is a very lucky thing, I feel, to happen to like people who just happen to be friends with her, I don't take it for granted). It seems very odd all around. I need to wait for my sister to have children, though I'm guessing that will be a while, she's a lot younger than I am. But the upside there is that my daughter should be old enough that I can go and help out, enjoy being the support staff.

The real story, the hidden story-behind-the-story, is that being a mom when most of my friends are not makes me feel very old, very boring and dull, very laden with the endless minutiae of motherhood.

On a tangent: I was hanging out with one of my (childless) friends today, and she talked about our evident 'middle-aged-ness'. For her, the body changes are frustrating: skin that can be dry and still have acne, increased aches and pains, grey hair, etc. These things don't seem to trouble me too much, though I'm very conscious that I may be asking for trouble just admitting that (quick, knock on wood, or something). And I may be starting to see all this from a different angle, one that may spiral into my own bubble: the other day I found myself admiring all the young women walking around town, their thin bodies, their grace, their flawless skin and walk of confidence. I tell myself I still have the walk, at least, but is this going to shortly look just as awkward on me as short skirts? How long can I still feel beautiful, sexy?

This is all nothing new. What might save me is knowing that millions of women have faced this reality and survived, for the most part. I have even heard that people over sixty sometimes still have sex! Amazing. And I think of all the actresses, and other public figures, who have no choice but to submit to Botox, personal trainers, difficult diets, veneers, surgery: are they lucky to be able to afford it, really? Why would I want my body to be my job?

Back on track: I think on my daughter. As the oldest of five children, I entered into motherhood with eyes open. I didn't know the whole of it, of course, and the childless life did have its pull, but I chose this: I chose to be a mother. I wouldn't go back. I cannot stop my body aging; I will always be her mother. Somehow I'll survive this. Surely there is some compensation.

29 June 2006

"Amazing Grace"

A classic, and still an awful lot of fun to sing. Very satisfying. 'Grace', too: how can I quibble about that? I believe in grace, in the gifts of grace, the mystery of grace. Grace: Go you. Jolly good.

I'm still in the thick of job-love, enjoying the physics of Thai massage, letting that spur me on to a bit of anatomy review, all my massage skills influencing each other across disciplines; through it all very much appreciating the mystery of the body, and the satisfaction of knowing that I do something valuable to ease an individual's presense in their own skin. What would I do if I won the lottery (supposing, of course, that I played, ever)? Would I give up my job, loving it as I do? That's hard to imagine, I keep thinking of the things I love about my work, the things I would miss very much.

Reframe the question: if money were no object, and for kicks and giggles, let's say I could set up some fantasy life for myself, what would it be?

Music. Singing in close harmony with people I liked, men and women. Dancing. More singing, great joy in the music sharing. Playing guitar, mandolin, piano. My husband playing the dij. Hand drums at night, around a fire, more dancing. Deep quiet, under the stars, a big sky. Cool air of night, magickally mosquito-free. Waking up to sing in the day, hands to the sun. It's a festival-need, I realize, and I do miss it.

My voice teacher assured me that I could make money singing, if I wanted that, but it's not so much wanting the money or fame. I want the music. I want that high. It's something that just not so fun on my own.

28 June 2006

"May the Good Lord Bless and Keep You"

I sang this song over and over today, trying to clear my throat of gunk left over from my cold. It did seem that I was trying to accomplish something else, as well, perhaps some sort of 'look at me singing the God song and not getting struck by lightning', maybe. So far, so good. I'm still working on what feel like such very basic singing tricks and techniques, I wonder if I'll ever get past that.

The other day I was talking about my childhood church-going. I was raised in the Catholic Church, confirmed at thirteen, and then things went downhill from there. I felt a connection to God, but there didn't seem to be anywhere to hang anything mystical feeling, without becoming a nun. And outside of a convent the real study of Catholicism seemed to be discouraged. It would be many years before I knew anything about Judaism, but I was immediately envious of any religion which encouraged the asking of questions.

I grew in my understanding of myself as a woman, and as someone deeply concerned about the environment. I found the Earth itself to be sacred, without the need for text or creed or even organized thought about it; all that was necessary was to witness and know. When I discovered that I was not alone in these feelings, that there were others that felt that women, trees, and sex were all sacred, it was like a homecoming, and I never went back.

I had continued to go to mass through my first year of college, and for years afterwards I would go on the weekends I was home, later very consciously as a gift to my mother. I loved singing the songs long after everything else felt hypocritical. I knew that it was time to stop when my boredom grew to a level where my constant desire was to crack jokes during the prayers, or make rude comments. But I will never forget the words to all those prayers, and the choreography of when to sit, stand, and kneel. There is a strange comfort to that.

Now, the incense and the archangels act as a bridge between my childhood enforced faith and my adult choice of faith, and this feels meet and good.

27 June 2006

"You'll Never Walk Alone"

'Carousel', the musical that this song hails from, is horrible. I could also say 'horribly dated', but that would be a vast understatement. It forgives spousal and child abuse as an act of love, and that's just too hard to swallow. Years ago my friend, Kellee, and I watched the movie, and made a sacred vow to never again see it. Then, I still liked this song. Now, I'm not so sure. The soaring melody still moves me: it's better than a hymn and chock-full of emotional weight. But now the text doesn't ring so true: do I really believe that there's a light at the end of every storm? Is this the same as asking me to believe in an after-life?

I do believe in having a moral code, but I'm skeptical that there is a Divine Being out there somewhere, or even 'in here' somewhere, who knows my name, who would answer my prayers to win the lottery or get home safely, who cares about my choices in sensual preference. I also don't believe that it's important that I believe in 'God/dess'. On the alternate days I choose to entertain the idea, I visualize my Deity to be like me, but much cooler, much more of what I aspire to be, if I suddenly had super powers. She's wearing cool colors, comfortable fabrics, she has infinite wisdom, she laughs, she touches with affection. We hang out sometimes.

What is important is that I lead a good life. I believe absolutely that what I put into the world is directly related to what I receive back. I believe that self-consideration and mindfulness will lead me to be aware of my actions, and that this is the first step to improving my relationships in the world. I believe that small goodnesses and small bad deeds will both get bigger, like ripples in a pond. I believe that it behooves me to continually expand my horizons, while keeping my boundaries intact: they may move and alter, but I'm happiest when I know where I live inside my own skin and being. I know that it's more fun to choose my own symbol set, to have fun with it, to be in love with the myths I have chosen to guide my life. Things that bring greater love, understanding, laughter, or music to dance to are always worth choosing, all else being equal.

And 'when all else fails, there's always food.' Words to live by.

26 June 2006

"The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire)"

Somehow, 'Chestnuts roasting on an open fire' doesn't fit the season all that well. But it is the song of the day--or month, since I've missed quite a few posts here. This song is surprisingly fun to sing, it tastes good in my mouth, though that may be the lack of enough singing recently, as well. For the past two years our favorite CD at the winter holidays has been Anne Sofie von Otter's 'Home For Christmas', which is very lovely--except for her version of this song, which somehow does not suit her at all. We skip over this track every time. So I was prepared to not like singing this, and perhaps it's true that my husband wouldn't want to hear it, but it was satisfying to sing.

I have missed writing very much, my head feels full: too much to process and not nearly enough time with adult friends to do much of it at all. My husband's been away for more than a week, which is unusual, and it's left my daughter and I feeling very off balance. I miss him very much.

Someone recently said, having met my husband for the first time, that we seemed like newlyweds, though we are far from that: married for eight years, together for twelve. She said that we did spend most of our time at my birthday party apart, but that we came together now and again like magnets, firmly, before circulating back out through our guests. It seems that we have not yet started to take each other for granted. I like to think that it is at least partially a deliberate choice on our parts, it certainly feels to be that for me.

On a rare occasion I will find another man attractive in some way, and in the last decade it's been an interesting learning experience to have it happen. In my distant and less-than happy past I behaved badly at these times, but when I met this 'force of nature' that I eventually married, that all seemed to slip away. At the time I didn't trust this effortless freedom from temptation at all, but as the years have gone by I realize that force or no force, I was ready to grow up myself when I met him. Now, the attraction I feel for other men merely spices up my life in warm ways. I don't have any need to act on it, and it reminds me of how precious I hold this particular man in my heart, how much I do not want to lose this great gift that is us together.

24 June 2006


I'm so needing to write, and plagued with illness, computer problems, you name it. Stay tuned though, the singing and writing about my deep thoughts will continue anon. . .

14 June 2006

"(How Much is That) Doggy In the Window"

My daugther, unbelievably, had not yet known this song. We had a lot of fun barking through it. Arf! What is it doing in this book?

When I'm under stress I can feel and see my particular coping behaviors coming into play. Sometimes it's obsessive cleaning, or eating, or drinking. Sometimes it's not eating. Today I discovered again the benefits of playing 'Solitaire' on my PDA: it's something that can occupy large amounts of my rational mind while something settles on other, more emotional levels. Playing other computer games, or mindlessly surfing the Internet: these, potentially very stressful times are the moments to indulge in these things.

Stress is so odd. Remembering times in the past when I was stressed doesn't really help, the fog doesn't lift with tricks of distraction so easily. I remember to breathe, again and again, but I can't seem to stick to it. I tell myself that the process is all good, it's all a learning, even if I can't tell from inside the bucket if it's making my progress towards open air any quicker, or easier.

Knowing that something will not be fun, knowing that it will, in fact, be unpleasant and difficult: I'm not sure that this really helps me. Maybe, though: I have to believe that there's some chance of it. From deep in the bucket, the bucket in the well, it's just impossible to know anything for sure.

13 June 2006

"Paper Doll"

This is just a silly guy-song. Not offensive, just silly. Melodically not boring, but not inspiring, either. Let's move on. I'm almost done this book, and trying to decide if I'm brave enough to tackle 'Songs of Faith and Devotion' after all.

I feel pulled, uncomfortably, between my desires for the quiet, and for the connection of human contact, the voice of a friend. Pulled between stillness and the accomplishment of activity. I muddle along, getting done when I can, taking breaths now and again to feel my chest rise, and enjoying the time I have with friends, the push and pull of conversation. I'm looking forward to having a little more focus tomorrow.

12 June 2006

"Stella By Starlight"

This is another instrumental song that had lyrics added later. I'm not sure that this one suffered for it, and I did enjoy singing it. The range is broad, and in a good place for me. It's jazz and easy listening combined; the words are just place fillers, but nicely placed for their fit in my mouth.

Last night it was a computer malfunction and not lack of will that resulted in no posting. 'Master, I grow weary of this [old computer]. . .' Though the very nice people at the Apple store waxed nostalgic over what a fine old machine this. . . was. Thank goodness for my new and huge hard drive, which makes this lovely thing not totally obsolete. I pray that it's not planning to finally, ultimately, die any time soon.

Still, the lesson is: back up, back up, back up. You would think I would get that, it's a basic tenet, learned relatively young considering that I grew up firmly in the computer age. To be fair, I actually had just started to back up the things that aren't backed up automatically (thank goodness for BackUp and iSync): my photos, movies, text files. It would have made sense, also, to get a new surge protector, since that's what I originally suspected as the cause of this current problem. It turns out to have been related to the dead clock battery, but still. . . These preventative things are very useful though. It would have helped very much if I had gotten tags for our dog, for example.

On Sunday I had friends over for our bimonthly crafting group. My husband was going to drop our daughter off at a birthday party, and then run some errands, including dropping his bike off for a tune up. The dog was out while he was loading the bike up, and he didn't realize that the dog didn't come back in when he did. It was an hour before my friend, Maria, noticed that Buford, our beagle mix, was nowhere in the house.

We all went outside and called for him, somewhat frantically. Kaaren and Maria walked up and down the streets. Kaaren has brought him back from his 'walk-abouts' before, she knew where to look first. Maria is very animal friendly, and has had some luck retrieving other lost animals. My friend, Michael, and I drove up and down the neighborhood streets in his car, looking for Buford, calling him, asking every other pedestrian about him, telling them what his name was and where we lived, just in case. Everyone was very nice, but no one had seen him.

In my head was the picture of my daughter holding Buford that morning. She's so afraid that he will run off. I was grateful that she was at a party, out of the house, and I was already planning how to delay telling her that her dog was gone. She would be hysterical for hours, I knew.

Michael and I finally found someone who had seen him, though I kept finding it difficult to believe: this woman, walking her own dog in our neighborhood, had seen him, or heard of him, over by our local Home Depot, one neighborhood East. Buford would have crossed two or three very busy main roads to reach this location. I didn't want to think about that, but we drove over and circled their parking lot. No sign of him.

I called my husband, who had the cell phone, thankfully, and asked him to come home to help look. Kaaren called the local shelter where we got him, and where his chip is registered to. They had run out of forms to update linking the chip to our address, and I had been planning on completing this process later this month when I picked up his next supply of heartworm medicine. He did have tags at one point, too, but they kept falling off, and I asked my father to help us attach them a bit better when we visited them a few months ago. He misplaced the tags, and after finding them, forgot to bring them when he last visited. Such is the trail of many mishaps: long, composed of tiny mistakes and bad luck.

My husband came home, and went out on foot. I dropped Michael back at the house, telling him to get some lunch (I had had such a nice lunch planned!), and I drove out in our car to continue the search. Kaaren was manning the phone. I found Maria and had her hop in to help. We drove north one neighborhood farther, past the Home Depot and south one neighborhood down. I realized that there was little chance of finding him if he had truly gotten this far out. I kept reminding myself that he had a chip, he would probably make it back to the shelter, he was a friendly dog, likely to be found.

We went home. And the shelter had received a call about him! Someone at Home Depot had seen him, a neighbor of theirs possibly even had him. Maria and I jumped back in the car and drove over. We waited for what seemed like a very long time at customer service to talk to the woman I had spoken to, but she could only point us vaguely in the direction she presumed the neighbor's house to be. Meanwhile, Maria had wandered over (to forestall an Animal Control truck from taking Buford away), and there he was: safely in the neighbor's gated yard.

This kind woman had given him some water. He didn't even seem glad to see us, and kept pulling at his lead--longing to continue his advenure? I thanked her again and again. We got him into the car and home, a half hour before we were due to pick my daughter up, an hour and a half after we had realized that he was gone. My day of crafting and gossip with friends: lost.

We made a promise among us to not tell my daughter any of this, there was just no point in rocking her world's foundation of safety and security for this. Maria promised to record it all in the book of things we hadn't told her: along with the dead bird found in the music shelf, and the fact that the Marisol doll that she had saved up for for an entire year had been sold out when we placed the order (thank goodness for eBay).

I was utterly exhausted for the rest of the day, and could accomplish nothing. Today I drove past the Home Depot twice: I still cannot believe that he made it there in one piece. He seemed exhausted yesterday, but otherwise unchanged. I can't say that I love him more, but I am going to get him new tags. And I'm going to back up my photos.

10 June 2006

"Anniversary Song"

This song reminds me a lot of 'Sunrise, Sunset' from Fiddler on the Roof. Both in three, both with similar harmonies, both with bittersweet lyrics. Maybe it's like the Da Vinci Code, all sorts of profound inner meanings and connections. I'll be the grand discover of this. Shhh. Don't tell anyone.

The other day I received an odd package from a friend. This friend is someone that I haven't seen in years, but I have known her a long time, since we were about twelve, or so. We were close all through high school and into college, and she was in my wedding party for the current marriage, but since then we've barely spoken. Things seem basically congenial, though, and I'm hopeful that we will reconnect at some point. She did send me a card for my birthday this year, which was lovely to receive. Then I got this package, and assumed that it was some kind of gift. I even felt a little embarassed, considering that.

It wasn't a gift. It was a box full of old sewing patterns, and a book that I had given her as a gift, years ago now. I'm guessing that she forgot and thought that the book had been a loan as well. The patterns are very dated eighties-wear, and I'm going to file them away in my vast pattern stash. At some point I'll have an eighties party and be so very set. I enjoyed the faint nostalgia of looking through them.

There was no note in with the package, and I have to imagine some cleaning of an basement, or attic that uncovered these things. I go through this myself, so I am unabashedly projecting here: it's the need to clear things to the baseline, to return all those things that belong elsewhere, and at least in my case, to magically call back home all the things that I have lent out over the years. I wish I could even remember where my things all went. I do feel that I would acheive a deep peace if even briefly everything could be back in its place, back where it belongs.

Because I am not the anal housekeeper that some of my friends are, this will never happen. I still yearn, now and again. The package from my friend feels like a gift anyway in this context, since it gave me, all unasked for, a little piece of that dream.

09 June 2006


This is not the "If" that I knew, this is one made famous by Perry Como in 1951, which explains why I don't know it. It's not horrible, not bad at all, though the words don't make sense as a whole. But who needs sense at my age, eh?

Ha ha! That's the extra special funny joke this week, now that I have acheived wisdom and adulthood. On my birthday itself I walked the labyrinth in a neighborhood church: slowly and mindfully in to the center, and then flying like a 'mystical creature' on the way out. Maybe that's what this second set of forty years will be: Flight. Leaving the ground I knew for parts unknown.
'Winging it'.

This week has felt like getting married, since I didn't expect that to change things either, but somehow it did. I felt more secure, more relaxed in my relationship with my brand new husband. This week I feel good, secure, content in my own skin. I feel very willing to try some new things, look at life in a new way. I'm not sure how radical that will be, but I don't feel the need to go to extremes to proove anything one way or another. It feels very much like my internal amusement will guide me, and to hell with the rest of it.

So, for starters, among other things, I will do my best to write here daily, but if some days that doesn't happen, that's ok. It's like the possibility of divorce makes marriage really ok. Not that that's in the works. Thank goodness my husband doesn't read this, he'd give me such a hard time for that one.

07 June 2006

"Galway Bay"

The blurb here states that this song is right up there with 'Danny Boy' as a famous Irish rallying song, but I've never heard this one before. It's also not quite so interesting, melodically, as 'Danny Boy', though I might have to hear it performed by someone who does have a bit o' the Irish in him or her to really understand and judge.

Today I was feeling lucky. Lucky to have so many wonderful people in my life, and very, very lucky to have so many of them come and celebrate my birthday with me. I'm lucky to feel this good at the 'far advanced' age of forty, to feel content in my own skin. I'm also lucky to have a job I love, a husband I love, an incredible daughter who brings me much joy. Moreover, I'm feeling that based on limited time and money resources, I'm doing pretty darn well at this point: I'm taking care of myself, I enjoy my life, I don't take any of these blessings for granted. So here I am, doing the geeky dance of joy. There are certainly worse things to be doing.

06 June 2006

"Arrivederci, Roma"

I shrug. It's not horrible, but it didn't make my heart feel like singing, either. The accompaniment is nice, though in general the arrangements here have been fairly good. I feel like I'm going through a primer of rhythmic and chordal patterns as used in Western popular music over the last hundred years.

This morning my daughter was hysterical. Tomorrow is her last day of school, and this, for her, means that she will not again be in school with her best friend, Rose. Two years ago a girl in her class that she quite liked, Alison, moved to California. Last year her good friend, Miriam, moved to Iowa. Comparatively, having Rose move to the North Side of Pittsburgh seems not so bad, but I'm afraid that it will be quite bad, indeed.

My daughter and Rose have known each other since they were two, and have been in school together and inseparable since their first year of Nursery. Four years of school together have only confirmed their friendship. They both will play with other classmates, but their teacher admits that they hold a certain ground as a pair. Rose's parents have bought a new house, and although they could continue to have Rose at this school, they plan to home school her and her younger sister next year. Knowing their family, I can see how this will be a good fit for them, and Rose is very excited about the idea.

My daughter is heart broken, and my heart aches for her. The worst of it is knowing that nothing I can say will comfort her now. My daughter is an only child, and she worries about having no one to play with, no one to talk to at school as well as no one at home.

I know that she is adaptable, that she will find a way to cope. I know that unexpected things happen: another member of her class may develop into a better friend, or someone will move into our community this summer or fall who will find her Waldorf school a good match for their child, their child who might be a good friend to my daughter. I also know that these things may not happen. Surprises do happen, gifts from the world at large, but there are no guarantees. I also know that I am projecting some of my own pain onto this--pain from my own childhood, pain from adulthood--loss of friends at any age is not something that I'm able to accept lightly. My throat felt tight all day. I wanted to cry for her and release this pain for her. Knowing that this is in no way possible did not lessen my desire.

05 June 2006

"Blue Tango"

I'm not sure how I feel about tangos having lyrics at all, but as far as it goes, this was fun to sing, and to play. As an entry back into my happy blogging world, not bad at all. Having taken a break, even a break that gives me no regrets, does make me realize how much I like this process. As a bonus, it's good for my vocal and pianistic processes. I'm not sure that my writing is any better, I think there I might need some boost of knowledge and view point from the outside world to improve that, and I'm not sure that I'm confident enough, yet, to get it.

It’s very good to be singing and playing again. It was important to me to begin this again today, on my actual birthday: to begin as I meant to go on. In that spirit, I also ran today, played a little bit of piano, and folded the laundry. Ok, maybe I don’t really want to do laundry every day, but considering how much that task annoys me, I’d like to learn some measure of acceptance while doing it.

While I was running I checked in with my body: How do I feel? Do I feel forty? I just felt like me. I feel that there is a lot of external pressure at this age: to be different, entering some mysterious new bracket of being ‘grown up’, and in this case, that doesn’t seem to be a state that I’m aiming for, if it means acceptance of the status quo, and cessation of growth. I’m not sure whether to be glad of my ‘liberal hippy-ness’, and its continued inspiration in my life, or whether to be embarassed about how I do very much value people, including myself, who choose inner growth, inner knowing.

Here's to me, to continuing the work I have begun: taking care of myself, treating myself well, not being afraid of the mysteries I may contain, both light and dark, keeping my priorities clear. The next decade has begun well with today.

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