Friday, December 13, 2013

Voices in the Night

It's a little too cold
I'm a little too tired
It's a little too late
to be very inspired.

The computer is on
The TV is too
I sit here and wait
for a sign or a clue

Is there a truth to impart
or a story to tell
is there a picture to share
or a song I know well?

There are so many options
For topics, instead
I think I'll choose nothing
and crawl into bed.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Voice Reunited

It doesn't much matter that the house is a mess,
...that bags and clothes and books and the laptop are strewn all over the living room
...that dirty dishes once again turn up in random locations
...that the TV remote is not where you left it so you'd be able to find it again
...and that it's late, really cold, and exhaustion seems to have taken up permanent residence.

When your child comes home from college for Christmas break
...the mess reminds you of all you have
...the dishes remind you of your great fortune to have enough food to eat
...the lost remote reminds you that you'd rather make your own stories than watch those of others
...and that time is precious, love fills the house with warmth, and exhaustion takes a back seat to raucous laughter, wild adventures, and a life filled with wonder, happiness and surprise.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Fabled Voices

Once upon a time there was a maiden who lived in a faraway kingdom full of all of the usual enchanted places, magical people and fantastical things that one might expect in a faraway kingdom in a fairy tale.  This particular maiden was an extraordinary beauty with long locks of hair, a dress that sparkled like sunshine and a voice that would charm all the forest creatures.  What was interesting was that she wasn't the only maiden who came complete with beauty, long hair, sparkly dresses and a lovely voice.  In fact, this particular kingdom seemed to be overrun with fair and lovely maidens, so much so that none of them seemed particularly special at all.

In this faraway kingdom there were also Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons.  In other words, you couldn't swing an enchanted frog without hitting a man with fancy titles.  As is also the case, hitting a fancy-titled man with an enchanted frog wasn't necessarily the worst thing you could do, but they might disagree.

Now, as you might imagine, the forest in this faraway kingdom contained all sorts of secrets, some of which were not particularly nice.  The Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons didn't take much notice, for they were often too busy talking to each other about themselves.  They had no time for forest riff-raff, and some even doubted the existence of anything unsavory.  The multitudes of maidens, however, thought otherwise, and took care to avoid the dangers that lurked in the forest. Over the years they learned many truths to keep them safe. They knew it was unwise to enter the forest after sunset.  They also knew that their voice was a powerful weapon, and if they used their lovely voice, alone or together, their strength would multiply and help would arrive.

Nothing of note happened in this faraway kingdom for a long time.  On occasion the Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons would notice the maidens using their voice more than usual, and their talking would interrupt the Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons in the midst of one of their speeches.  They found it quite annoying and wished it would stop.

As is the case with these stories, one day something happened.  And then many, many things happened. One day a maiden found herself in the forest in the midst of day.  Why she was there didn't matter.  She might have been picking berries for a pie or gathering flowers for a garland or making friends with the small forest creatures.  Whatever the reason, there she was.  And then, as is the case with stories such as these, there was the dragon.

There is nothing good about the presence of a dragon.  They appear at terrible times and do terrible deeds. They don't always follow the rules, and this one, on this particular day, decided not to wait until dark to venture from his cave.  That is why, in the midst of day, the dragon came upon the maiden.  When she saw him she was so surprised and so very, very afraid, she was unable to make a sound.  Her lovely voice was as frightened as she was.  Without her voice she was powerless.  And then terrible, terrible things happened.

It wasn't until much later that the maiden was discovered in a terrible state.  She was brought back to the village in the faraway kingdom with all due haste.  Someone desperately needed to tend to her wounds.

The town was in an uproar.  Everyone spoke at once and there was great confusion.  The Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons asked each other why the maiden would be in the forest and offered all sorts of explanations formed from their own imaginations.  The maidens, however, were only concerned with caring for the injured. The more they spoke, the stronger their voices became.  This was a surprise, because it had been believed that their power came solely from happiness and singing.  Through this horrible ordeal, they discovered there was great power in their words.  

So they continued to talk about the forest and the dragon and the terrible terrible things that happened.  This interruption only proved to annoy the the Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons even more. And then they became angry.

"Why was she in the kingdom?"
"Didn't she know the rules?"
"Why didn't she use her voice?"
"I don't believe a dragon would show themselves in the midst of day."
"Perhaps her delicious berries lured the dragon from his den"
"Perhaps the scent of the flowers intoxicated the dragon"

On and on and on the discussion went until the dragon, who had done terrible, terrible things was all but absolved, and the maiden -- half dead from her torment -- carried the blame alone.

Shocked and dismayed, the maidens continued to talk and their voices grew stronger still.  This, of course, made the Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons very annoyed indeed.  So annoyed, it prompted them to take action. 

The Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons summoned all the maidens to the council.  When they arrived, they discovered with surprise and horror that the council had no interest in dealing with the dragon.  The maidens demanded safe passage through the forest.  They pleaded for compassion and begged the council to help them tend to the poor maiden, now consumed with grief and sorrow.  The council replied that if only the maiden had brought an escort with her to the forest, the dragon would have been slain and the maiden would have been safe.  

And with that one single pronouncement, the Dragon was free once more.  The Lovely Maiden lived out her days in silent sadness full of grief, and the rest of the maidens of the village, overcome by disbelief and anger fell silent, losing all the power that their voices had brought.

And what of the Earls and Dukes and Princes and Squires and Lords and Barons? Finding themselves free from the pesky thoughts, opinions and interruptions of others, they were able to talk to themselves about themselves once more.

And there was no happily ever after.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Voices of the Internet

Things I sent today via IM, chat, text, tweet or Facebook for which you have no point of reference:

  2. you would have thought it was Siberia
  3. I swear I just saw "speed peeing"
  4. I wondered why you were being so coy not to swear
  5. did you have to write lines and have it scratched into your hand ala Umbridge?
  6. why do you have to go to fire hazard class IF THEY DON'T EVEN KNOW?
  7. just calm your brain
  8. He knows we're genetically speedy people
  9. And rejoicing arose from Archangel Orville Reddenbacher
  10. Loud lady went to lunch
  11. Damn bird whistles better than I do
  12. As long as Russell Crowe isn't in it
  13. There's no business like snow business
  14. Go kill 'em, Sergei
  15. I'm sure we can hook you up
  16. Yes Master Yoda

Monday, December 09, 2013

Voices - Some Assembly Required

There are times -- more times than I can count -- when I sit in this chair and start to drift off.  This leads to  violent head snapping and empty promises to myself that I'll get to bed early tonight.  Well, earlier.  Well, before 11.  Or 12.  Hopefully? For once?

Then I have to decide what to do.There are times when I feel like I have a rich supply of topics, humorous anecdotes and wise truths to share, but as late night gives way to early morning, these all seem to scatter and hide in the rafters of my mind.

My browser is of no help at all.  Bloated and cumbersome, it is virtually crushed by weight of 10 or more windows open simultaneously.  Nonetheless, it is still a treasure-trove of stuff... recipes, social media, articles to read later, calendars, a YouTube page, an Amazon page and of course, the unruly and very spoiled trio of Facebook, Google and Twitter.  Oh my.

But still I plow on, dozing and then waking suddenly after a 3 minute nap.  I slightly more refreshed, and this wondrous feeling of connection lasts upwards of 45 seconds, and then like Simba and the Circle of Life, it's back to nodding off once more.

Once I get going, though, my neurons start firing and I click into gear.  I hope against hope that tonight will be a night of lucidity and I won't need to spend more time proofreading and editing than I did actually writing.  I know what yo're thinking, and Har Har Har.  Sometimes it appears I don't proofread or edit anything anyway.  Point taken. Moving on.

Finally finished, I save-preview-tweak-save-preview-tweak until I feel sure it's time to press publish.  Then it's off to post a snippet, which looks something like this:
There are times...more than I can count...when I sit in this chair and start to drift off..

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Voices of Imagination

In my most vivid, jealous imagination, you're all having a wonderful time.

I spent another weekend on roller skates, racing from town to town, from concert to concert to rehearsal and home again in time to eat dinner, feed the cats, do the dishes and collapse.

You've spent the weekend doing all sorts of activities.  You baked cookies, decorated your homes, and did some holiday shopping.  You stopped for a fancy cup of coffee and indulged in a scone or perhaps an over-sized muffin.  You went to movies, you played games with your family, you read books, you knit and crocheted, and you dressed your dogs in winter coats before you breezed outside for a mid-afternoon walk.  Sometimes, though, you forego all activities and you lounge around all day in your pajamas, shunning the world with a wink and a smile, knowing full well you'll be back tomorrow.

In my most vivid, jealous imagination, you all live wonderful lives.

I'm a little too blunt and a little too impatient.  My irreverence often strays into the danger-red-zone, and I'm just as apt to look at those in need with skepticism first and compassion second.

You're witty without being crass.  You're good looking, yet approachable.  You're friendly to a fault but still manage a zinger or two, at exactly the right time.  You're funny, occasionally irreverent, but at the heart of it all, you have a heart and a soul which are genuine and sincere.  Your life and your priorities follow a similar arc, and you never hesitate to help someone who seems to have become lost along the way.

In my most vivid, jealous imagination, you all are highly talented, creative people.

I do lots of stuff, but not as well as my perfection would prefer.  For me, practice comes from necessity first and love of craft second.  Patience is an overly-tired toddler who often leaves before intermission.  

You sing.  You dance. You act.  You play instruments.  You paint.  You sew.  You knit.  You spin.  You craft.  You create.  You appreciate the arts.  You are athletic.  You run.  You swim. You play baseball, football and basketball.  You have the patience to practice disciplined activities like Yoga and martial arts.  You set long-term goals and see them through, enjoying the journey and the rigors of practice along the way.

In my most vivid, jealous imagination, you all are strong.

I often feel anything but strong.  I am a compulsive worrier, and have made a sport of simultaneously looking back and beating myself up over messes I've made while looking forward and fretting about impending disasters, whether they are real or not.

You persevere amid hardships.  You get knocked down and you get right back up again.  You don't let life get you down.  You don't let circumstances get the better of you.  Your strength of spirit lifts you, carries you and sustains you during the darkest of times.  And when the storm ends and the sun appears once more, yours is the first voice to be heard, laughing, singing and celebrating once more.

In my most vivid, jealous imagination, you all think I'm crazy.

You wonder why I conjure up perfect people leading idyllic lives, and then compare myself to this impossible  standard.  You think nobody is this happy.  Nobody is this perfect.  No life is this wonderful.

And you'd be wrong.  

My reality is that I know every single person listed above.  And although nobody is all of these things at any one given time, these traits, singular and in combination, describe real people I know -- family, friends, coworkers, colleagues and even strangers.  You all are a wonderful, amazing, astonishing group people.  You do things an infinite number of things to enrich your lives and nourish your soul, which, in turn, enriches and nourishes mine.  You are friendly, funny, creative and strong.  And when the storm ends and yours is the first voice to be heard, I'm not jealous at all.  I'm thankful for all of you and what you bring to the world.  I'm grateful for the inspiration and the encouragement.

And in my most vivid imagination, I am hopeful to be even a fraction of that in return. 

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Photo Finish

Today was concert day.  This, in and of itself, is not an unusual occurrence, especially in December.  Today, however, was especially fun because I had the opportunity to be in the audience, on the "other side" of the conductor, so to speak.  It was a massive choral concert with nearly 200 singers, so the audiences (plural -- there were two performances) were quite large, filled with lots of parents in addition to all the community members who so faithfully support the college music program.

As happy as I was to see so many people there in support of the musicians, I had to wonder how many enjoyed it.  Not because it wasn't enjoyable.  On the contrary, it was an outstanding concert.  I wondered because so many people in the audience were preoccupied.  

Before the concert began there was a stampede of folks with taking pictures.  Lots of pictures of the church, which had been tastefully decorated for the holiday.  Pictures of the giant wreath, pictures of Christmas trees, pictures of the organ pipes up in the balcony.  This progressed to an extended session of "selfies."  Pictures of themselves (obviously).  Pictures of them and their friend/date/random stranger sitting next to them.  Pictures of their entire family sitting in the row all leaned over and scrunched in so they'd make the shot. Everywhere I looked, heads were tilted together, and people were staring and CHEESEing into the back of a cellphone.

When the concert started, the selfies stopped (thank goodness), but the picture-taking, sadly, did not.  Several people shuffled multiple devices: cellphones, standard cameras, movie cameras, and even ginormous iPads, and continued to snap pictures throughout the entire concert like it was THEIR JOB.  The paparazzi seemed amateurish in comparison.  All of this was astonishing, annoying, and very very sad.

I understand the desire to document events, particularly when they involve a child.  It's nice to have something to look back on and remember.  But manners, decorum and tact have taken a back seat to the insatiable allure of one more picture, one more closeup, one more... one more...

If I give camera-people the benefit of the doubt, I will assume that it doesn't even occur to them that all this picture taking is a huge annoyance to the rest of us in the audience.  I'm not here to watch you, but when your screen lights up in a dark hall, I can't help it. It's also impossible to ignore you when your camera is raised above your head right in front of my line of sight.  I know you think you need to "get the shot", but Ansel, you're in my way.  And then I have to watch you focus, and do the little two finger pinchy thing to zoom in or out.  It's a huge distraction, and I'm just in the audience.  Consider the poor performer who has to navigate a concert while an overzealous photog (complete with camera flash) impedes their ability to see critical things, including, but not limited to: words and notes on a page, other people, furniture, and well, you know...THE EDGE OF THE FREAKING STAGE.   For them it's not just a distraction, it's an outright danger.

As annoying as this behavior is, I actually find it more than a little bit sad.  There was a man who spent a bit of time before the concert telling us about his son, a freshman, who was one of the performers.  Even before the concert started, he was juggling an iPhone and a standard camera with a sizable zoom lens.  Once the lights dimmed and the singers began, he.... just kept right on taking pictures.  It seemed sad to me that he was so busy documenting the concert that he never stopped to actually listen to it.

Over the years I've been in and been to more concerts than I could ever possibly count, and each performance represents an enormous amount of time learning and preparing to do one thing:  to communicate.  We tell stories, declare truths, and hope to inspire through philosophy, humor, beauty, rhythm, harmony and melody.  We desperately want to share these incredibly special things with you, and we simply can't do that if there is a camera, cellphone or other electronic peripheral standing in the way.

Ultimately, cameras can only document what they see.  They can never truly capture the heart and soul of either performer or performance.  It takes a real measure of courage to come to a concert unarmed.  I challenge you to put away your camera and turn off your phone.  Be fully present, involved and engaged. If you take the time to listen, watch and think, you'll be amazed at what an incredible gift you're given.  The audience will appreciate your politeness.  The performers will be thrilled beyond measure.  

Believe me, I know.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Colla Voce

A month or so ago I had one of those brief, polite conversations whose purpose and topic was meant to be polite, generic and brief, since we were on a short rehearsal break.  In mid "so what have you been up to" conversation, I was asked, "So, did you read any good books this summer?"

I don't know why this question caught me so off-guard, but it did.  And then I stood there for what seemed like a very long time and thought hard.  Hard like "solve this calculus problem" hard.  Embarrassingly, absolutely nothing came to mind, and so I blurted out, quite honestly, "Uhhh..No!!"  And then, before I engaged my brain, my mouth added, "but I bought a bunch!"

It was the total, unfiltered truth, and for a minute I felt like an idiot.

But then I forgave myself.  I mean, who cares?  I know for some, the summer months are reading months. For me, it's always a great idea, but oftentimes, I'm simply busy doing other things, including but not limited to working, teaching, gardening, organizing, cleaning, exercising, goofing around, going to plays and/or movies and/or concerts, and on occasion, sleeping.  Reading doesn't even rank high enough in importance to earn a spot on a to-do list.  The best it could muster would be a high ranking on a want-to-do list.  Along with about 250 other things.  

There are some who have a very set seasonal schedule.  No whites after Labor Day, holiday decorations up a solid month prior to the big day, Christmas Tree decorated and shopping completed by the end of Thanksgiving weekend, cards sent in a timely manner.  It all sounds wonderful and absolutely foreign to me.  If you asked me if my house was decorated, I'd laugh.  Oh, it's decorated, alright.  It's decorated with papers and binders, with books and music, with mail that needs to be attended to and laundry that needs to be folded.  There are plenty of decorations.  Just probably not the ones you're thinking of.

I think because so much of my life is extremely scheduled -- a necessity with two jobs plus private students, rehearsals and various gigs on the side -- I'm not inclined to commit the personal scraps of time I have left to anything in particular, unless it's absolutely necessary, which, it usually is not.  So have no fear.  I'll get to the holiday decorating, the shopping, the cooking and cleaning, the special TV shows and movies, and yes, even the books. Lucky for me I already have a stack waiting to be read, which I'll get to soon.  Or, eventually.  Or much, much later.  It will depend on one hundred different variables.

But it won't depend on someone else's schedule.

colla voce is a musical term meaning "with the voice".  This instruction is generally found in the piano accompaniment, and it serves as a warning to the pianist to pay special attention to the singer, because they're about to make some decisions and stylistic changes (generally relating to tempo) that aren't notated in the music.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

The Sound of Haiku Voices

The hills are alive.
Is it bleating or belting?
stuff it, Maria.

Maria looks like
The Swiss Miss Choc'late box.
Pass the marshmallows.

Love me some Audra
but you must admit that she's
one sassy mother.

The Goatherd's lonely

Rolf is seventeen?
Now try to make me believe
Maria can act.

Here's the paradox:
Wooden cast chews scenery.
The Sound of Beavers?

Made it through one hour
Appreciate the hashtag
of #teambaroness

At the end did nuns
gave the car a "Before He
Cheats" special blessing?

As for Miss Julie,
The force is strong within her.
Legacy untouched.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Voices of Chaos

I have been trying for longer than I'd care to admit to get a handle on stuff.  And by "stuff" I mean accumulated objects of various types.  And by "get a handle on" I mean rearrange, file, toss or just shuffle the piles around and pray that they somehow magically get smaller over time.

You can probably guess that I haven't yet hung a banner proclaiming Mission Accomplished, and the piles haven't done their damn job, either.  Sadly, they are just as heavy and unwieldy as ever.  Is anyone surprised?  No, I thought not.

I know people who are highly organized.  I know people who not only preach but also (successfully) practice a place for everything and everything in its place.  I have to admit it's both awe-inspiring and annoying as hell.  Sometimes I feel like it must require some sort of black magic or deal-with-the-Devil kind of arrangement.  Whatever it is, so far, I don't have it.  But I still try.

Sometimes I think my problem is I'm a victim of my own over-zealous sense of organization, and I fret over basic decisions and make the entire process much more complicated than it needs to be.  If I'm organizing my books, should I arrange it by genre?  By book size?  Hardcover vs. Softcover?  And speaking of book size, why aren't sizes standard?  What am I supposed to do with the odd volume that's abnormally long, or unusually tall?  SOMETHING has to be done, because it will wreck the entire shelf.  Problems like this might sound insignificant, but these are the exact things that throw me into a tizzy.  

When I'm not dithering over books, I'm wrangling sheet music, CDs and DVDs.  Should I put Porgy and Bess with the operas or the Broadway shows?  Should the Blu Rays be separated or interfiled with DVDs?  And the worst problem of all:  Should I file the movie under L for "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events" or should I file it under S for "Series of Unfortunate Events" or under U for Unfortunate Events?  These decisions should not be and are not taken lightly.  

I'm getting better with embracing the whole notion of donating items for others to use and enjoy.  It took a long time to get to that point without feeling like a wasteful human being, or worrying that as soon as I gave something away, I'd certainly need it again.  I've got clothing donations down.  Books are still a challenge, because getting rid of books is like turning your back on children.  It's not a skill I possess.

In the end, I don't think I'll ever be entirely neat, clean, and organized.  But I'm happy to report that things are getting better, if only by miniscule degrees.  Meantime, I'll be over in the corner, pondering Richard Rogers (Musicals or Jazz standards?), the filing conundrum of Monty Python's Spamalot and what the heck I'm going to do with that one enormous oversized book.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Voice of Holidailies Past

Last year at this time I did a post listing things I was not going to write about.  I think we've all waited long enough, so I'm going to write about each and every one of them.  Right this very minute.  Ready, set...

1. The Fiscal Cliff 
The good news is, like lemmings with improved GPS, we survived this scare.  The bad news is "the fiscal cliff" has been replaced by "the sequester".  Which I shall not talk about.

2. Royal Baby / Babies - Speculative Edition
Speculate no more.  They had one. It was royal.  It's name is George.  I hope like nothing else that one of those royals does the whole Loony Toons bit, because it would be a damn waste of a name if they didn't.

3. The Weather - Too Hot / Too Cold Edition
It's always going to be one or the other, and never the one you want.

4. Santa
Best news I have about Santa is I whupped his butt at the Turkeyman Trot 5k race on Thanksgiving morning.  Take that, Kringle!

5. Elves
I have nothing to say about elves, whether perched on a shelf, toiling in local sweatshops or studying dentistry.

6. Reindeer
I can't believe I somehow felt strongly enough about reindeer to include them on a list of things I was refusing to discuss.  Reindeer are fine in theory, although shorter than one might expect in real life.  Other than that, and the fact that reindeer were stereotyped as enormous jerks in Rudolph, one year later, I still got nothing.

7. Christmas Cookie Power Ranking
I have no idea what this is.

8. The atrocious state of spelling and grammar on the Internet
Here's the thing: I'm as annoyed as the next troll at the mangled verbiage that gets posted on the Internet for all eternity.  And still, I find myself doubly annoyed at people who take up even more space criticizing and mocking the mistakes of others.  Yes, people misplace apostrophes.  ALL THE TIME.  Yes, typos exist.  But you don't look smarter by pointing out how stupid other people are.  You saw it.  We saw it.  Just shake your head and judge silently in your heart and move on.

9. Why I've Never Seen a Single Episode of Downton Abbey
Another year gone.  Keeping the streak alive!

10. Internet Trolls
Simple solution -- Stop reading the comments section.

11. Politics
See above.  And here's another thing -- could we possibly stop with the whole litany of Kindergarten name calling, like "Rethuglicans" "Obummercare" and the like?  It might be clever if you're five, but really, if you resort to infantile name-calling, you're just a poopyhead.  DID YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE?

12. Lost Socks
Still losing them.

13. Cats
Currently resting and recharging in preparation for the 3am game of Turbo Chase followed by 15 rounds of feline wrestling.

14. Inflatable Christmas Decorations, or, Why is Santa in a Snowglobe?
Maybe it's me, but these just seem creepy.

15. Skype - Or, How to look like a murderer in one easy step
When I Skype -- which is solely to chat and do homework with the collegian, I've gotten to the point where I'm pretty sure all she sees is the top of my head.  And you know, I'm fine with that.

16. Haiku Poetry.  Creativity Abounds.  Counting is a Must.
With each Haiku line - My fingers count syllables - Trust not an option.

17. I'm Trying to like Doctor Who like the other cool kids, but so far the jury of me is bored.
Stalled out after Season 1, episode three. Keeping the streak alive!

18. No, I still haven't seen **insert name of movie here**
I did, however, see "Catching Fire".  Ten points for Gryffindor.

19. Why is the Ghost of Christmas Future a Skeleton?  Isn't a skeleton the representation of something that is past?  Like Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Past?
Wow.  Why did I care about this?   Maybe it's a skeleton because skeleton's are scary, and it would be a bit of a stretch to be psychologically intimidated and coerced into a different lifestyle by a baby.  

20. As much as "Hoarders" makes me feel good about my house, it's not enough to compensate for how utterly sad and creepy gross it is.  I Can't Watch.
Keeping the streak alive!

21. Wacky-Tacky Nativity Scenes -- What's Not to Love?
These are awesome.  From Marshallows, to a Spam manger, to Fischer Price Peg People, to Veggie Tales, wacky-tacky nativity scenes are THE best.  Magi tested, Messiah approved.

22. Teaching is Exhausting Awesomeness
23. Whoever Invented the Cubicle is a very, very bad man.
24. I'll let you have "God is Good" but you'll never convince me that God answered your prayer for a good parking space.  Even God has priorities.
25. How many more days until **something that happens later** ?
26. Waiting
27. Three Wise Men
28. Fifty Dumb Men
29. If Frozen Yogurt battled Gelato in a cage match, who would win?
30. Considering everything that was happening last year at this time, it's a wonder I'm still here.
31. What does a Christmas List and War and Peace have in common? I haven't started either one.
32. I don't like Miracle on 34th Street or It's a Wonderful Life. Do I need a Holly Jolly transfusion?
33. Charlie Brown Christmas will always and forever be the best. Rudolph runs a close second.
34. Is there a book club for people who can't get past page 3 before falling asleep?
35. I'm tired

...and the accompanying commentary
22. Yes.
23. Yes, very.
24. Yes, but the hosannas have been silenced because God upped the ante and gave them temporary handicapped vouchers.
25. If it's something good, always more than you wish.  
26. Tis the season
27. They sure took their time.
28. There's only fifty?  What happened to the rest of them?
29. Frozen Yogurt, because Gelato is too classy to climb into a cage.
30. The irony of this statement is overwhelming.  If I only knew then what I know now.
31. Keeping the streak alive!
32. Keeping the streak alive.  And NO!
33. Damn right.
34. No, but there is a timer on the TV set, which is very handy, indeed.
35. This observation brought to you by all the days with a "y" in them.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Silent Voices

At the end of the long Thanksgiving weekend it was time, once again, to return the college sophomore to her tiny room with her bed up in the sky.  She was armed with apple cider and a fresh supply of bagels to get her through the last week of classes and finals.  Traffic was predictably lousy, with the marauding hordes darting in and out of bumper to bumper traffic in an effort to return to wherever they came from in the first place.   After lugging the clean laundry, laptop and homework back to the third floor, we said a quick goodbye and got back in the car to go home again, half-giddy that our ETA was a very respectable 10 pm.

As we made the last turn and followed the curve to the house, we saw police lights.  Two cars.  "Uh oh," I said.  "Someone got nabbed."  But two cars seemed unusual, and as we drove past, we noticed there was no car pulled over and no tickets being written.  And then we saw the yellow tape in front of the grey house at the end of our block.  And then we got very quiet.

First there was wonder, and then there was worry.  Was there a robbery?  Maybe.  It was a holiday weekend, and with people out of town, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility.  Was there a fire?  Didn't seem to be.  Was there other mayhem or mischief?  It was hard to tell.  Did the Internet know anything?  I checked periodically and couldn't find any answers, which made us wonder and worry even more.  From my bedroom I could see one of the police cruisers, and I ended up falling asleep with visions of flashing blue and red lights that continued long past midnight.

In the morning, they were gone.  The Internet had no information to share. With an absence of any clues, I did what I do every Monday: I hauled myself into work and kind of forgot about the whole thing.  It wasn't until late morning that I happened to see a post from the local news station full of words you never want to see:  murder... suicide... married... elderly... failing health... in my city, on my  street, down my block.

I was left with shock, an overwhelming sadness for people I didn't know, and a tangle of thoughts and emotions.  Was it noble?  Was it selfish?  Was it brave?  Was it compassionate?  Was it anguished?  Was it peaceful?  Was it madness?  Was it rational?  Were there no alternatives?  All my words seemed to be followed by question marks.  Even my own feelings were conflicted. Scared.  Angry.  Sad.  Unsettled.

Tonight there are no answers, no morals to the story, and no neat conclusions.  Never has the thought of asking for a "peace that passes all understanding" seemed so important, because there is no understanding and there is no peace.  Yesterday voices were silenced, and in its aftermath, I can find nothing to say.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

One Voice, Hold the Wilderness

On the first day of December, the first day of Advent and the first day of Holidailies, I have come to realize that this tiny, insignificant, sometimes self-indulgent, and more frequently-than-I-would-prefer ignored corner of the Internet is ten years old.

Over the years while this page has been redesigned and links have been added and deleted, the posts have remained an eclectic mishmash of verbiage: from inane to humorous to serious to poetry (with Haiku being my personal favorite). There is also the customary postings of pictures and YouTube clips, depending on my mood, the time of day, the time of year, the insanity of my calendar, the insanity of my family and friends, and the reading on my current boredom and/or procrastination meter.

The creation of the TunaNews came as a result of some on and off forum postings and daily recaps for yes, gasp, a reality television show (Hello, Big Brother 2003).  During those long chunks of time when nothing was happening, we'd post anyway, often telling humorous stories of our "real" life.  Because I had a nine-year old, I had plenty of fodder.  At the end of the summer, and with a bit of nudging, I created a "blog", which, back in the olden days (ten years ago), was a much newer idea.  Without the presence of Facebook, Twitter, and all the other social platforms, blogs were a major way to communicate with people who chose to come visit.  It was fun.

Time passed, things changed and the Internet grew into a much, much bigger machine.  It became possible to track how and when and why people visited our sites.  Weekly, daily, and even hourly stats became as important as the content on the page, and sometimes more important.  It was fun for awhile, but then started to feel less like communication and more like competition.

I don't know when exactly it was that I began to feel overwhelmed by the noise.  The Internet noise.  The explosion of blogs in every format possible led to websites able to track the latest postings of blogs you might "subscribe to" so you wouldn't miss anything.  This, in my case (of course) led to subscribing to everything.  Literary blogs.  Cooking blogs.  Political blogs.  Essays.  Humor.  Parody.  News.  I didn't want to miss anything so I subscribed to everything and immediately got BURIED by my interests.  And then instead of not missing anything...I missed everything.  

After blogs came Facebook and Twitter.  Oh my.  And Instagram and Flickr and Pinterest and Lord knows what else.  More and more people added their voices, not merely wanting to be heard, but needing to be heard . Obsessively working in overdrive for the elusive click of the ticker.  Wanting the stats.  Cross-posting once, twice, ten times a day.  Sure, you still had to choose to come visit but it was a short trip from a kind request to a gentle nudge to an annoying nagging to click through to hear their voice, read their opinion, laugh at their joke, cry at their story, or copy their family recipe.  And then not only were the writers fighting for readers, the readers themselves became equally competitive, vying for most comments, wittiest rebuttals, most antagonistic troll-bombs, or a mutual love-fests via re-posts and thumbs-ups.  People were fighting for two things -- validation and a voice.

I understood it and still do: this the overwhelming need for validation and to be heard.  But for me, a middle child who prefers a peaceful, balanced coexistence, when the noise of the Internet got too loud, my response was to not add to the cacophony.  So I silenced my voice and stopped writing.

My poor blog sat for days, weeks and months at a time.  This time I've almost gone a full year without posting and it's been several years since I checked a blog counter or looked over my stats.  Yet to this day, my blog is my homepage and every time I go online I feel both guilty and sad that I'm staring at a story that is 350 days old.

In Advent we hear about "a voice in the wilderness crying".  Although the Internet is probably the furthest thing possible from a "wilderness", there is a very real and palpable loneliness that comes part and parcel with all of the people and the postings and the memes and the quizzes and the games and the noise.  Despite all that, I'm going to dive back into Holidailies and spend the month writing.  Maybe this month will give me some insight into my voice, my words, my content and my contribution.  While I'm no John the Baptist and I'm fresh out of hair shirts, I hope to rediscover my voice and its purpose in this otherwise noisy world.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Rejoice Greatly

I was sitting at my desk this morning in a full-on Friday stupor when I got the message.  Soprano sick.  Messiah tomorrow night.  Can you do it?  Even with my caffeine barely registering, I woke up. Quickly.  Can I do it?  Check the calendar.  No direct conflicts, so technically, yes.  However, the logistics required for the next 36 hours would be Herculean.

Have to pick up the kid from College.  Bad.
But college is 20 minutes away from dress rehearsal.  Good.

Have Broadway tickets for Saturday afternoon.  Bad Bad.
Arranged to leave dress rehearsal early to make the show.  Good Good.

Should have at least an hour to spare to make the concert after the show after the dress rehearsal.  Good.

So, all systems are a go.  Ran home, found (yet another) Messiah score, pulled myself together, grabbed the kid from college, grabbed some dinner, made it to rehearsal, and all was well.  In fact, all was very, very good.  Good players, good singers, good music happening.  It's why musicians do what we do.  We live to make music, and we want nothing more than to share it with others.  It's a force so powerful, we are willing to sacrifice, except it's not a sacrifice at all.  It's what we do.

So tonight I'm in baby-the-singer mode.  That means no midnight blog posts.  It means everything has to be organized, accounted for, and ready to go.  My gown is set, my gig bag is packed.  My music and folder are prepared.  I have my written instructions, my GPS to help me find the venue, a fully charged cell phone, pencils, tissue, cough drops and aspirin.  Tomorrow I'll take ridiculous care to consider when and what I eat.  Lay off the dairy.  Not too much caffeine.  Nothing terribly heavy or saucy or gloppy or sugary.  But make not mistake: none of this is a hardship.  It's simply what is done.  I look forward to traveling to a new place, meeting new friends and making amazing music.

If you ever wonder about the old chestnut it's better to give than to receive" I can tell you as an artist, while the gifts we are given are a blessing, the ability to share those gifts is what sustains us all.  So, Rejoice, Greatly!  Tomorrow, that's exactly what I plan to do. 

Thursday, December 06, 2012


This is my confession:  I used to cheat at Battleship.

Battleship was the game where you positioned several plastic ships on a grid, hidden from the view of your opponent.  You then would call out grid locations (B-3!), and if one of your ships was on that location it was a "hit".  If not, it was a "miss".  Hits (red) and misses (white) were recorded on a second grid so you would know what *not* to ask the next time.   My ingenious strategy was to record ALL guesses.  My guesses would be marked on the second grid, but my opponents guesses were marked on the first grid where my ships lived.  The cheat came in that my fleet always happened to be, well... mobile.  If my ship was on B-3, well... it just moved somewhere else.  Since I was recording the guesses of my opponent on my ship grid, I knew which spaces were open so my cheat would go undetected.  And, to defend something as silly as my amazing moving ships, there was nothing in the rules that said you couldn't.  It just assumed once they were placed, they were anchored for the remainder of the game.  I simply didn't make the same assumption.

Another cheat-possible game was Monopoly, but only if you were the banker.  If you were sly or able to distract your opponents, it was possible to palm a few extra hundreds when you were running low.  But to be honest, actually completing an entire game of Monopoly happened NEVER because we always got too bored to finish.  So, extra money or not, it never really mattered.

I abandoned my cheating way with board games early, because... I stopped being six and seven and eight years old, and there didn't seem to be a point to it.  There was no lasting satisfaction in always winning.  It's nice to win.  It's OK to lose.  As always, it was just a game, and the whole point of the fun was to play and hang out with friends or family.  Besides, you cannot help but laugh when you get sent back to Plumpy in Candyland for the 3rd or 8th or 12th time in the same game.  Sure, it's annoying, and you'll probably lose, but hey, Plumpy needs a friend too.

1. Don't be fooled by the smiles.
If you're stuck here, you're in the back of the pack, Jack.

2. I always thought his name was "Plumy" (Plum-ee), not "Plumpy".  
Sorry Plumpster, you shall always be Plumy to me.

 Competition, sportsmanship and fair play are lofty ideals and worthy attributes when it's convenient.  We toss around all sorts of sayings (winners never cheat and cheaters never win) to demonstrate how upstanding we are, and when cheaters are found out, they are impeached or stripped of their victories, or banned for life.  We don't take kindly to cheaters when they are the other guy. 

In an ideal world, we are all better when we begin a sporting event, a prizewinning competition, an academic exercise, a game of chance, or a philosophical debate on equal footing following the same rules.  That ideal works out just fine, until we're hit, and then the rules become fluid and our moral ships become mobile.  We cork a bat, we sabotage a competitor, we steal answers, we palm fake money.  We win our debates by not allowing the opposition to speak.

Today my state government realized it was hit and the rules became fluid very, very quickly.  It started shoving bills through as quickly as it could, and it accomplished this, in no small part, due to the fact that they locked the doors of the Capitol.  No debate.  No dissent.  No opportunity to discuss or consider any viewpoints other than their own.  And make no mistake -- this is not a question of being on the opposing side of the issue.  It's a question about being allowed to have a side and then participate in the process.  There should always be the opportunity to listen, discuss and debate.  We are stronger when we are all given the opportunity to agree or disagree and express those opinions.  But that didn't happen.  Not in my state.  Not today.

Today, anybody who wished to be a part of the process, to play the game on equal footing, or to present a viewpoint and engage in thoughtful discussion was unceremoniously shoved all the way back to Plumy.  It was back to the back of the pack, Jack, and by the looks of things, nobody is going to be moving forward any time soon.  If this were a board game, it might be funny.  But it's no game.  Meanwhile, the ships continue to be on the move, skirting the rules and avoiding the hits, just as long as they are able.  

Sure, I used to do the same thing.  But I grew up.

What's their excuse?

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

I've Got a Little List

Things I'm Not Going To Write About Today

  • The Fiscal Cliff
  • Royal Baby - Singular Edition
  • Royal Babies - Speculative Plural Edition
  • The Weather - Too Hot Edition
  • The Weather - Too Cold Edition
  • Santa
  • Elves
  • Reindeer
  • Christmas Cookie Power Ranking
  • The Atrocious State of Spelling and Grammar on the Internet
  • Why I've Never Seen A Single Episode of Downton Abbey
  • Internet Trolls
  • Politics
  • Lost Socks
  • Cats
  • Inflatable Christmas Decorations, or, Why is Santa in a Snowglobe?
  • Skype - Or, How to Look Like a Murderer In One Easy Step
  • Haiku Poetry. Creativity Abounds. Counting is a Must.
  • I'm Trying to Like Doctor Who like the other cool kids, but So Far the Jury of me is Bored.
  • No, I Still Haven't Seen **Insert Name of Movie Here**
  • Why Is the Ghost of Christmas Future a Skeleton?  Isn't a skeleton the representation of something that is past?  Like, Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Past?
  • As Much as "Hoarders" makes me feel good about my house, it's not enough to compensate for how utterly sad and creepy gross it is.  I Can't Watch.
  • Wacky-Tacky Nativity Scenes -- What's Not to Love?
  • Teaching is Exhausting Awesomeness
  • Whoever Invented the Cubicle is a very, very bad man.
  • I'll let you have "God is Good" but you'll never convince me that God answered your prayer for a good parking space.  Even God has priorities.
  • How many more days until **something that happens later** ?
  • Waiting
  • Three Wise Men
  • Fifty Dumb Men
  • If Frozen Yogurt battled Gelato in a cage match, who would win?
  • Considering everything that was happening last year at this time, it's a wonder I'm still here.
  • What does a Christmas List and War and Peace have in common?  I haven't started either one.
  • I don't like Miracle on 34th Street or It's a Wonderful Life.  Do I need a Holly Jolly transfusion?
  • Charlie Brown Christmas will always and forever be the best.  Rudolph runs a close second.
  • Is there a book club for people who can't get past page 3 before falling asleep?
  • I'm tired.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Shelf Life

Can I tell you how insanely happy I am that my only child is no longer a child?

Sure, there are times when I'm just bummed that she is off having the college experience (which in her case involves class, homework, indentured servitude to the music building practice room, complaining about food, and taking the occasional trip to the football or hockey game), because the house is understandably quieter without her.

But oh, let me count the benefits.

Growing up, as she passed the many milestones of childhood, adolescence and the teenage years, I had a camera in one hand and a imaginary glass of champagne in the other.  Never once did I experience tear-stained nostalgia for loss of diapers or formula.  Like the Israelites freed from their bondage in Egypt, I celebrated the day we walk out of the nightmare daycare #1.  However, just as the Israelites were soon running for their lives from Pharoah and the boys, I quickly discovered the nightmare that was daycare #2 was exponentially worse than the first.  Daycare #3 was the answer to my prayers, and the day she entered Kindergarten, it was as if I had finally entered the land of milk and honey cookies.

Over the years there have been countless other celebrations of never again.  No more school pictures.  NO MORE HOMEWORK.  No more standardized tests.  No more tri-fold pamphlets, power point presentations or group projects that always seemed to involve way too many people and one video camera.  No more elementary school music class recorder presentations (one was MORE than enough).  No more dances, No more proms.  NO MORE PARENT TEACHER CONFERENCES THANK THE LORD AND SAVIOR.  They were all important (or perceived to be important) at the time, but over the last several months I have found myself taking a mental roll call of all the things that are absent this year.

To be fair, life after college isn't all skittles and beer.   Many activities I thought I had drunk into the "done" column managed to return, albeit in a different form.  Group projects continue to rear their ugly heads (but without me, so that's a plus), and the scourge that was parent-teacher conferences was quickly replaced by the scourge that was freshman parent/student orientation.  Somehow, I suppose in the end it all evens out.

But looking back on it all, sweeter than knowing certain tasks were forever done has been knowing that we managed to dodge the bullet on some fads altogether.  And nothing, NOTHING in this world makes me happier than knowing I never had to deal with


For the uninitiated, this is the dreaded "Elf on the Shelf" who is nothing more than a holiday snitch.  A tattletale.  An enforcer.  A narc.  By day this creepy crappy hunk of plastic is the ultimate voyeur, and by night, it's the elfish equivalent of TMZ crossed with the National Enquirer -- reporting all the scandalous activities to Santa.  The purpose of the Elf is to make the child behave during the holiday season, but my question is, where are the parents?  Why does behavior and manners suddenly fall under the jurisdiction of this sideways glancing stool pigeon that has a 31 day shelf life?  If there was ever an inanimate object that deserved "you're not the boss of me" hurled at it by an indignant preschooler, this is it.

Even if I -- God forbid -- still had a young child, there is no way I would ever cede this kind of power to a doll.  The day an adult isn't adult enough to actively parent a child -- day in and day out, for better or for worse -- is the day the parent has lost control in power struggle.  After all, if the elf has to do the dirty work to make a child behave, what recourse will a parent have when their toddler is now a teenager asking for the keys to the car?  Elf on the dashboard?

Thank you, no.  As far as I'm concerned, the Elf can go to shelf.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Ordinary Days

There are days when nothing extraordinary happens.  No unusual stories to tell.  No humorous anecdotes.  No great lessons learned.  No hardships overcome or obstacles encountered.  It was a day, like many others, where I got up, I went to work, and I came home.  Unremarkable and forgettable.

On days like today I could complain about my boredom and the utter Monday-ness of my Monday. The gray, dreary weather, and the last week of college classes.  I'm weary of the national news cycle that has been fixated on the "fiscal cliff" for what seems like an eternity, and I'm fed up with politics of every flavor.

I could whine. I could complain.  I could make up something better so my day appears to have some meat on its bones. But why do that?  Why is it so hard to be content with the unremarkable and ordinary?  Why does "just another day" feel like a failure?

There are lots and lots of people who would give anything to have an unremarkable and ordinary day.  A day without fear and hardships and problems.  Without illness or sadness or loss or grief.  A day where going to work or to college would be a privilege instead of a punishment, and a cause of celebration rather than a source of obligation. 

It's difficult to maintain a healthy sense of appreciation and perspective when you're wandering in the desert of tedium impatiently waiting for something better to come along.  So as monotonous Monday slips into Tuesday, I'll not wish for a better day for myself.  Excitement will come soon enough.  Instead I'll wish for an unremarkable, predictable, ordinary day for all those who would wish for nothing more.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Just Around the Corner

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours in a common activity: killing time until rehearsal was over. GramTuna and I were in Broncoland, and after visiting our usual haunts, we decided to go exploring.  This morning we were looking for something specific, namely, the church TeenTuna has been attending since she's been here at college.  We figured we'd find it, poke our heads in the door for five minutes, make a bunch of snap judgements, and leave.

After navigating the maze of one-way-streets that surround "Church Square" and driving past every other religious structure in the city, we finally fished our Episcopalian wish on the corner and found the right one.  It was a bit of a lucky find because we hadn't been given much to go on.  All I knew was "It's old.  It's small. It's quaint."  Not for nothing, but the wise men got better directions from a star.

With the five-minute plan firmly in place, we headed for a door and went inside, only to be met immediately by another set of doors which were locked.  So much for stealth surveillance.  Time to charm the gatekeeper, also known as the church secretary.

I began babbling in the hopes of gaining access.  "Daughter in college.... sings here.... has made this her college church home... seems to really like it.... we just wanted to poke our head in and look for a minute and leave... don't want to be a bother..."  Before I finished we were ushered inside and now I had to start my babbling all over again with sweater guy.  Sweater guy who also happened to be The Priest in Charge.

I began my babbling all over again, but what I really wanted to say was , "No offense, but I really don't want to talk to anyone.  I just want to look around and leave."  Of course, I kept all that in my head, but to tell the truth, even if I said that, I don't think Father Sweater Guy would honor that request, because before we could say Christopher Wren, we were taken on a personal tour of every nook and cranny.

I had heard the church described as old, small and quaint.
I found it to be solid, warm and lively.

I assumed it would be just another building filled with stained glass, candles and flowers.
It had all those things, and they were indeed beautiful.
But it was anything but JUST another building.

It was alive.  It was filled with the joy that comes not only from sustaining the people within, but especially serving the people on the other side of the stained glass.  There was a celebration of laughter and artwork and stories and good deeds.  And despite an introduction to their hibernating bat (religious affiliation unknown) there was an undeniably infectious excitement for all the possibilities of what comes next and what more they could do.

As I left the building it was hard to know if I was more surprised or grateful for what had just happened.  On just another day we found just another building filled with stained glass and candles and flowers that happened to be where my singing daughter spent just another Sunday singing.  It was just a chance encounter with just another person who spoke with love, conviction and unashamed joy that changed my perspective on just about everything.

It was just another Saturday that was anything but just.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Surprises and Mysteries

We've hit December again. 

There is no surprise and no mystery to that statement.  Ready or not (usually not), it's THE SEASON.  Actually, right now it's lots of seasons.  According to the calendar it's still fall, although it has always seemed strange for it to be fall AND the month of December.  Compounding the confusion is the fact that it is so warm up here in the mitten right now, it feels more like early spring than late fall.  In the month of December.  If there was a Druid nearby it might be easier to get an official ruling, but in the meantime you can henge your bets and safely say it's some sort of season, meteorologically speaking. 

Yes, I've already made up a word and resorted to a Druid joke.  It's going to be a long month.

December is a month of competing interests and conflicting priorities.  Is it Silent Night or Rudolf?  Is it the season of giving or the season getting what your neighbor missed during the 3 AM Super Doorbuster Blowout?  Is it stocking the food bank or stockpiling the food?  Is it "the little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay" or "Hey! Good Lord....Jesus...still asleep?"

The answer is yes.  It's every one of those things.  It could be.  It might be.  Or maybe it might not be.  Maybe it's not all of those things.  Maybe it's not even any of those things. 

What December is is formed by countless activities influenced by society, tradition, religion, and seasonal consumerism, to name a few.  But what December could be is infinite.  This year, instead of swearing an impossible vow of abstinence from everything that is December, I'm hoping for a peaceful coexistence and a better balance between what is and what could be. 

Many years have taught me that what December is is shopping and concerts and commitments and an abundance of stress I am far too skilled at heaping on myself. But there has to be more.  The world is filled with mysteries and surprises and wonders and miracles.  But mysteries can be quiet and easy to miss.  Surprises are scary and best to be avoided.  Wonders live in strange, faraway lands, and miracles are fragile things, easily drowned in a wave of skepticism.

So this year, while I live the incredibly busy, insane December that is,  I hope to discover the quiet mind, the  brave heart and the adventurous spirit that will lead to a December of new possibilities.  I don't expect a complete life overhaul at the end of thirty-one days, but I'm going to set aside my skepticism.  After all,  despite being fragile, miracles do happen.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks

I am thankful for the here and now.  For sun and sky.  Quiet instead of chaos.  Chores that don't seem a burden.  Family warm and comfortable as familiar stories, favorite sweaters, and pets napping in the November sun.

I am thankful for the people in this present place.  For pilgrims that journey to reconnect and reaffirm the importance of being a  friend, sustaining a family, building a community.  For all those who rise to the challenge of being a verb in this world, not just today, not just this weekend, but in daily affirmation.

I am thankful for traditions honored, newly created and mercifully ignored.  For parades and football and turkey and stuffing.  For hamburger Thanksgivings.  For naps before and after.  For pie, cheesecake, mousse and ice cream.  For adult tables and kid tables.  For folding chairs.  For empty couches.  For paper plates.  For Grandmother's china.  

I am thankful for photographs, stories, twitters, posts and statuses that mark this time.  For those we laugh about today, cringe at tomorrow, and count among our most prized possessions years from now.  Silent witnesses to the whos and whats and wheres of the day.  Able to speak only if we tell the stories.

I am thankful for today, grateful for yesterday, and hopeful for tomorrow.  For chapters written, a story in progress, and blank pages of endless possibilities.  For gathering friends around me more precious than gold.  For knowing where to turn in a storm.  For a family that loves to live and laugh and live some more.  For unsolicited advice and unconditional love.

For love, for family, for traditions and stories.
For yesterday, today and tomorrow.
For seeing and being and sustaining and building and honoring and sharing.
For the here and now.  Whatever it is.

There is good.  
It is good.


Friday, November 16, 2012

One-Minute Warning

It started innocently enough when I read this afternoon tweet:

Do you have 60 seconds?  Then you have all the time in the world 
to create one of these DIY centerpieces

Oh boy Oh boy Oh boy.

Now, I understand that a pictorial like this (I cannot in good faith call it an "article") from my crifty, crafty, handy, dandy 60-seconds-to-spare friends at Real Simple magazine is supposed to be uplifting and encouraging.  My response to this is supposed to be either "Wow!  Of course I have 60 spare seconds to make this beautiful centerpiece" or "Well, even though my strongpoint isn't home decorative arts and I still have nightmares about my high school ceramics class, if YOU say I can do it AND it's on the Internet, then surely it must be true!"

Unsurprisingly, their enthusiasm was entirely lost on me, because instead of inspiration, I took one look at that tweet and felt a one-two punch of guilt ganged up with a double-dog-dare-NOT-to-have-60-measley-seconds-to-make-this.   So, half curious, half annoyed and filled to the brim with delicious sarcasm, I thought, for your sake, I would go take a look.


 60 Second All The Time In The World DIY Centerpiece Number 1
Their title:  "Natural"
My title:  "Leaves and Crap"

I am fairly certain I can beat the 60-second clock on this one, if you ignore the "tip" that says "Make sure the stems aren't all the same length. The arrangement should mimic the natural, free-flowing form of the leaves themselves."  Now, I have neither the time nor the inclination to measure the stems of dead foliage (and how could you with the clock running?) but if you stand outside in 50 mph winds, the leaves will magically come right at to you, natural and free-flowing, ready or not.  Real Simple tells me to use a galvanized tub or any opaque container that hides the stems.  I can only assume that a neon orange Home Depot "Homer" Bucket or Yellow Kitty Litter pail counts.

60 Second All The Time In The World DIY Centerpiece Number 2
Their title:  "Glowing"
My title:  "FIRE!"

The good news here is that I have large stashes of candles.  The bad news here is that they are in my basement, and that factoid alone is going to put some serious hurt into the 60-second rule.  The tips says, " Make sure no candles of the same height sit side by side."  I have to say, Real Simple is REAL PICKY about how big and tall things are and are not.  Even if I DO find the candles in my basement (and honestly, I think Jesus has better things to do than help me on this one), how will I ever get them arranged in a shallow platter, tray, bowl, or pan with no candles of the same height sitting side by side in under sixty seconds?  And what about lighting all these suckers?  Sixty seconds is unfair expectations here, Real Simple.  Way to make me feel like a slacker.

60 Second All The Time In The World DIY Centerpieces Numbers 3 and 4
Their titles:  "Sunlit" (above) and "Fruitful" (below)
My title:  "WHATEVER" (both) 

Already I've saved time by crafting a one-title-fits-all for these arrangements of kitchen crap.  The tip for "Sunlit" teaches me "Juxtaposing large, smooth, shiny objects (lemons) with smaller, textured ones (nuts) creates a compelling composition."  "Fruitful" implores me to use fruit with similar hues and "any white bowl with a sensuous line." Among my many, many problems here:  Although I may or may not have a lemon at home, I know I don't have twelve.  Hazelnuts are a no-go, and sadly I've used up all my leaves and crap in an earlier arrangement.  I could juxtapose large, smooth, shiny sticks of butter with smaller, textured hot and spicy peanuts, but I'm not sure how compelling it would be.  As for the bottom centerpiece, I'm totally at a loss.  Do fruits have their colors done?  Bowls with a sensuous line?  All mine are rated G.  Would a decidedly non-sensual Peter Rabbit cereal bowl filled with fruity pebbles suffice? Could I have a 60-second therapy session if I fail?

60 Second All The Time In The World DIY Centerpiece Number 5
  Their title:  "Bountiful"
My title: "No way in hell am I buying 8-dozen carnations at $7.99 a pop"

Problem solved with 51 seconds to spare.
Thanks, Real Simple!  I guess you were right!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Riches of Deficit Living

Deficit (n.) - Inadequacy or insufficiency
                   - A deficiency or impairment in mental or physical functioning.
                   - An unfavorable condition or position; a disadvantage
                   - The amount by which a sum of money falls short of the required amount

Welcome to my world.  I would say that I am queen of this kingdom and ruler over all, but ruling anything or anybody requires far too much time and effort.  So whether you're just visiting or here for the long haul, you're on your own.

I really began living life in the deficit during college.  I wasn't planning for it to last long, but a full schedule of  classes combined with multiple part-time jobs (not to mention additional gigs whenever I could get them) quickly proved that life in the deficit was the new norm.  My days were filled with early morning practice, classes and work.  My nights were a round-robin of work (different work)  rehearsals or concerts.  Weekends were a mixed bag of any and all of the above.  If it sounds insane, let me assure you, it was.  But somehow between the sleep deprivation, the exams, the research papers, the drop-the-needle cram sessions (a reference few will understand), the lessons and incessant criticisms that are part-and-parcel of a performing arts education, the midnight work shifts that seemed to last an eternity and the unseemingly unanswerable question when will this madness end?  there was a great deal of happiness.  There was music.  There was singing.  There was art.  There was learning.  There was acing that drop-the-needle final exam.  There was embracing the criticism and hammering away at the technique to finally achieve a breakthrough.  And there was an unlimited supply of free popcorn as we waited for Bruce Willis to triumph yet again in Die Hard as Beethoven's 9th Symphony blasted moviegoers out of their seats into the night.  The days and weeks and months were like burning a candle at both ends with a flamethrower.  It was life in the deficit, and still, it was good.

Time marched on, and eventually a wedding, a baby and a divorce were added to the the mix.  I traded research papers and exams for diapers and day care.  I added jobs and subtracted jobs, but never made enormous gains in either the sleep or financial department.  There was always enough to get by, but sometimes not by much.  It was a difficult and worrisome time, and somehow it seemed busier than ever.  There were problems with day care, toddler germs, and a preschooler that came with an encyclopedia's worth of challenges but no instruction book.  We dealt with the elementary school bullying, a scarily advanced sense of music, and life with a too-smart-for-her-own-good pint-sized drama queen who, early on, possessed an astonishing lack of coping skills, thus requiring us to hold daily briefings outlining "the plan" lest we risk total meltdown.  And despite it all, there was a great deal of happiness.  There was music.  There was singing.  There was art.  There was learning.  There were bedtime stories that became 4-year old impromptu operatic extravaganzas.  There were car rides with the same ten books on permanent rotation.  There were made-up songs with 97 verses...that rhymed.  There were living room recreations of Riverdance -- complete with a grand running entrance from the bedroom -- and evening performances of 'The Bottle Dance' from Fiddler on the Roof done in footy-pajamas.  There were days I didn't think I could do it, much less be everything to everybody.  It was life in the deficit, and somehow, with family and friends by my side, it was still good.

And now here we are.  We survived the trial of fire known as elementary school, middle school and high school.  We survived first dates, homecomings and proms. We managed to come out (not entirely unscathed, but still fighting) with college acceptances in hand, a graduation cap on our head, and excitement for the future.  My life in the deficit is as it ever was: too many jobs, not enough money, and never enough sleep.  I've also managed to discover some new fun worries that have joined my old favorites.  And believe me, it's still insane.  There are days I think I won't be able to do it.  But thirty years after I did the academically inspired deficit tango, I am now able to watch my daughter embrace college with more excitement and joy and dedication than I ever thought possible.  Because for her there is music.  And singing. And art.  And learning.  And embracing criticism and hammering away at technique.  There are victories, and yes, there are setbacks.  But week after week, instead of backing away from life in the deficit, it's as if she's recognized all the opportunities placed in front of her and all she can do is grin that slightly wicked grin and say, "Let's do that AGAIN!"

So when you ask us how we are, most likely we'll tell you we're tired.  We're overstretched.  We're anxiously awaiting a true day (or more!) to rest and regroup.  We know we do too much.  We know just how tired we are.  But know that underneath all that exhaustion, you can be assured that we are grateful for the joys we have had and the opportunities we've been given.  It's not just life, it's a good life.  Even when it's life in the deficit.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012


It's been an extremely grueling election cycle and in its aftermath some are celebrating and others are mourning.  Unfortunately, an end to the election hasn't translated into an end to the arguments.  Today I have absolutely nothing profound to offer.  It just isn't the day.  Instead, I'll offer up a small but impassioned plea for the entire country to breathe deeply, take a bath and go to bed early.  Here are some animal pictures that might make you smile.  Maybe tomorrow we could all go out for ice cream.