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mahna mahna... Mar. 15th, 2006 @ 12:30 pm
I have the Worlds Best baby sister. It is certifiable.

I offer the following as proof:
FACT: She surprised her big sis with a present for no reason at all.
FACT: The present was SEASON 1 of the MUPPET SHOW!!!
FACT: It came in the mail a few minutes ago.
FACT: The MUPPET SHOW is possibly the most wonderful TV in the history of the world. (In my opinion, which is all that matters in this case)

Bug... you are the best... really!
*hugs baby bug*

I don't know why I like them so much... Mar. 15th, 2006 @ 09:13 am
But I do really like the lyrics to this song. I agree with my dear Hubby that musically it sounds like it has informed and been informed by the praise songs we used to sing in our Baptist days... but even so, I have yet to sing them in rehearsal without choking up. I really hope I can sing it in concert without waterworks!

For the uninitiated, Elphaba is the "Wicked Witch" of Wizard of OZ fame, and Glinda is the "Good Witch." Wicked tells the backstory of the two arch-enemies. The novel, so far, is a really interesting read.
We're singing this in our next concert, but the choir is taking over the "chorus" parts beginning with the words "Like a _____..."

Given the end of the story and the relationship these friends had later in life, it seems appropriate on the Ides of March.

For Good
From the Musical WICKED

GLINDA
I've heard it said
That people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you:

Like a comet pulled from orbit
As it passes a sun
Like a stream that meets a boulder
Halfway through the wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good

ELPHABA
It well may be
That we will never meet again
In this lifetime
So let me say before we part
So much of me
Is made of what I learned from you
You'll be with me
Like a handprint on my heart
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have re-written mine
By being my friend:

Like a ship blown from its mooring
By a wind off the sea
Like a seed dropped by a skybird
In a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you:

GLINDA
Because I knew you:

BOTH
I have been changed for good

ELPHABA
And just to clear the air
I ask forgiveness
For the things I've done you blame me for

GLINDA
But then, I guess we know
There's blame to share

BOTH
And none of it seems to matter anymore

GLINDA ELPHABA
Like a comet pulled
Like a ship blown
From orbit as it
Off it's mooring
Passes a sun, like
By a wind off the
A stream that meets
Sea, like a seed
A boulder, half-way
Dropped by a
Through the wood
Bird in the wood

BOTH
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better?

GLINDA
And because I knew you:
ELPHABA
Because I knew you:

BOTH
Because I knew you:
I have been changed for good.

Forgetting to see Mar. 8th, 2006 @ 12:21 am
"I really enjoy forgetting. When I first come to a place, I notice all the little details. I notice the way the sky looks. The color of white paper. The way people walk. Doorknobs. Everything. Then I get used to the place and I don't notice those things anymore. So only by forgetting can I see the place again as it really is."
-The Narrator, True Stories (1986)

Jazz guitarist Pat Martino enjoyed a successful recording career before an aneurysm and the surgery to correct it robbed him of his memory. When he came to, he could not remember his former successes, his loved ones, his songs and the things that had brought him joy in life. He didn't want to touch the guitar he had loved and that had been his reason for dropping out of school in 10th grade. Instead, he fought bouts of anger and depression, until he finally came to grips with his life as it was and resolved to build a new one. He taught himself to play again. Now critics say his music, as his life, has an incredible energy and exuberance... a sort of unfettered quality that makes it soar in incredible ways. But the journey there was one of incredible sacrifice and pain.

Perhaps something was gained in the forgetting. Surely something was gained seeing life in a new way.

It strikes me that Lent creates for us the sort of conditions we need to forget, so that we can ultimately see clearly. It disrupts our routines, allowing us to "forget" our usual lives--the tedium, the materialism, the pettiness, the excess, the cares--and to examine our souls with fresh eyes: with eyes able to see the details. It allows us to remember who we are in Christ and who we are called to be. It allows us to see ourselves and our passions more honestly. It calls us to wipe the slates of our hearts clean and to start living afresh. It is an amazing opportunity while it is a terrible burden.

I can't imagine waking up tomorrow and not remembering the shadows of my collected lifetime experience. I can't imagine facing the incredible opportunity of starting over so completely without finding it to be immensely difficult and disheartening. It is hard enough when I am asked to "forget" my attitudes and inclinations enough that I can see myself a bit more honestly.

Lent, done right, means struggle. It means wrestling with ourselves. It isn't supposed to be easy. It isn't supposed to be comfortable. It is an opportunity to gain the perspective of one not hardened by familiarity, not lulled into a stupor by the sameness of everyday life.

I would like my soul to be unfettered. I'd like to be able to see the details of my life in its entirety. The color of paper, the way people walk. Doorknobs. Everything.

Guess it is time to forget.

Forgiveness Sunday Mar. 5th, 2006 @ 08:44 pm
Just got back from Forgiveness Vespers...

To any I may have offended or wronged in any way, big or small, please forgive me, a sinner.

This semester's Musical Catalog Mar. 1st, 2006 @ 07:07 pm
I thought I would record here all of the music I am learning for the various choirs I am singing with at the moment (minus our parish choir, since saying " lots of music for Pascha" should suffice).

I LOVE singing. I am so glad to have all of these opportunities. So far I have 5 concerts this month. Should be fun!


The "day choir": (read, the music student choir)
I'm singing mostly Alto, and I'm bored most of the time by the 3 notes I get to sing. I'm also doing a number on my voice by carrying the section. Bad!!! Fortunately the music is upbeat.
----------------------------------------
Chili con Carne (SSATB Jazzy number by a Swedish group with lots of nonsense rhythm syllables, acapella)
Am I Blue? (SATB standard)
Tango to Evora (SATB Loreena McKinnitt turned choral, acapella)
The Awakening (SATB Morality anthem, really. Guilts us into thinking about the evils of a lack of music education)
The Prayer (SATB -- yes, *that* the Prayer, although, to my great relief, we have been positively ordered not to sing it like Celine Dion)
Tuxedo Junction (SATB with solo, standard turned vocal jazz piece)
A Jubilant Song (SSATB, based on a Whitman poem, by our own dear, talented Scott Farthing)

The "Concert Singers" (read, the select group from the larger choir coming up)
I'm singing Soprano and am being challenged by the "quiet" nature of these pieces. It gives my mid-upper range a "quiet" workout.
------------------------------------------
O Vos Omnes, Pablo Casals (SATB, in Latin, acapella)
Lass Dich Nur Nichts Nicht Dauren (Let Nothing Ever Grieve Thee), Brahms (SATB in German with Organ)
Missa Ave Regina Coelorum, Palestrina (3-5 parts, acapella, in Latin and neverending)
Cantique de Jean Racine, Gabriel Faure (SATB in French with organ)
Ave Maria, Igor Stravinsky (SATB in Latin, acapella)

The "Master Chorale" (read, the 100-voice group with the pretentious name)
I'm singing 1st Soprano and loving it -- I get to sing high Cs in several of the pieces!
--------------------------------------------
[]indicate solos that the choir isn't learning but that will be performed

OPERA Section
Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves, Verdi
[Catalogue Aria - Solo]
Chorus of Enchanted Islanders, Handel
Dido's Lament and Final Chorus (I am singing Dido's Lament solo)
[Vesti la Giubba - Solo]
Neighbors Chorus, Offenbach

OPERETTA Section
Modern Major General, Gilbert and Sullivan (Rob's big solo!!!)
Three Little Maids, Gilbert and Sullivan
[Ruth's Aria, Gilbert and Sullivan - Solo]
Finale to the Gondoliers, Gilbert and Sullivan
Stouthearted Men, Romberg
Italian Street Song, Victor Herbert

MUSICAL THEATRE Section
[Some Enchanted Evening, Rogers and Hammerstein - Ernie's solo!!!]
[Till There Was You, Meredith Wilson - Chihiro's solo!!!]
Make our Garden Grow, Bernstein
Send in the Clowns, Sondheim/Martin
For Good, Schwartz
[This is the Moment]
The Impossible Dream, Wasserman et al

AND... I cannot disclose which big fancy Orchestral number we'll be doing acapella as an Encore.
It would spoil the fun!

This music takes me through March... after that... a new batch is coming!
Other entries
» The rest of the quote.
Einstein is quoted as saying that "Gravity is not responsible for people falling in love." However, I don't think he went far enough. In my world, here's what he would have said:
Free Image Hosting at ImageShack.us
» Thoughts on Mortality.
"The best burial supplies are faith, piety, and love of compassion." Saint Basil the Great

When I was in high school I seriously considered studying mortuary science. It was, I am sure, part of a morbid fascination that I outgrew along with my 14-hole Doc Martens and my affection for metal music of various sorts. I went from thinking it might be interesting, somehow, to participate in the sterile and artificial process that has become the proper way to prepare a body for the grave, to deciding that thinking about death at all is a supremely bad idea.

Long gone are the days of in-home vigils and bodies laid out on the same table the family gathered around for meals. Gone is the tender washing of the body and the careful dressing of a loved one in his or her best. Gone the simple pine boxes that offered no guarantee of holding back corruption. Gone are the tombstones in the backyard or the churchyard that point to the sky... those have been replaced by flat stones that disappear into a perfectly manicured lawn in the stretches of land reserved for the dead. We don't like death, and we certainly do not want it touching our lives in any organic, hands-on way.

I'm no different. I don't like to think about my own mortality. Thinking on my mortality breeds repentance, and repentance is uncomfortable--most of the time it seems I would rather find comfort in my passions than freedom in forgiveness.

I visited my grandmother in a convalescent home just over a week ago. I felt, as I sat near her, the shadow of death drawing nearer. Since that visit, I have found it hard to avoid thoughts of death... and, it seems, I have found it hard to shake the conviction that I must unburden my soul of the weight of some of my favorite passions. It seems that the other circumstances of my life have conspired to move me closer and closer to repentance. I've started asking forgiveness of others, in my home and in my community.

I'm no saint. I remember once asking my confessor earnestly if the Saints weren't made of sterner stuff -- surely they did not begin as I am! However, much to my chagrin, my confessor wisely assured me that they were no different... they had just completely given their lives over to the living God. As for me, I find it difficult sometimes to give over an hour on Sunday. I cannot fathom the love and devotion for God of one truly righteous. I cannot conceive of the selflessness required to abandon one's life for Christ. I'm too busy living... scratch that, I am too busy dying.

Deathcab for Cutie recorded a song stating that "love is watching someone die." Then, they ask, "So who’s gonna watch you die?" I think, in one sense that they are absolutely right. What love it takes to witness a passing from this life to the next. Those moments, so precious and fleeting require a witness, as do all of our life passages. I do wonder, sometimes, who will watch me die.

However, there is a thought that is more sobering by far:
Who have I wronged? Who have I scandalized? Who offended? Who loved? Who encouraged? Who embraced? Who distressed? Who harmed? Who provoked? Who has forgiven me?

In short, who is watching me live?

Love is more than watching. It is repenting. It is forgiving.

"God forgives our sins and does not force us to make a parade of them in the presence of others. He seeks one thing only: that he who benefits by the forgiveness make learn the greatness of the gift."
St. John Chrysostom

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What Sarah Said
Death Cab for Cutie

And it came to me then that every plan
Is a tiny prayer to father time
As I stared at my shoes in the ICU
That reeked of piss and 409
And I rationed my breaths as I said to myself
That I’ve already taken too much today
As each descending peak on the LCD
Took you a little farther away from me
Away from me

Amongst the vending machines and year-old magazines
In a place where we only say goodbye
It stung like a violent wind that our memories depend
On a faulty camera in our minds
And I knew that you were a truth I would rather lose
Than to have never lain beside at all
And I looked around at all the eyes on the ground
As the TV entertained itself

‘Cause there’s no comfort in the waiting room
Just nervous pacers bracing for bad news
And then the nurse comes ‘round and everyone lift their heads
But I’m thinking of what Sarah said
That love is watching someone die

So who’s gonna watch you die?
So who’s gonna watch you die?
So who’s gonna watch you die?

» "Friendship isn't a big thing...
...It is a million little things."--Anonymous

I have had many opportunities of late to be grateful for faithful friends who love me without conditions, forgive my foolishness, listen to my complaints, shoulder my burdens, laugh at my jokes, encourage my growth, overlook my mistakes, sing my heart songs, celebrate my joys and bless me in a million little ways. I love you all dearly. I just hope I can do some of the same for you!

---------------------------------------------
"Think where man's glory most begins and ends, And say my glory was I had such friends."
--William Butler Yeats

"A friend knows the song in my heart and sings it to me when my memory fails."
--Donna Roberts
» "The plans I have for you..."
I find it interesting that my life circumstances seldom work out the way I expect them to in spite of my best intellectual efforts to reason it all out and my best intuitions about how things will be. Turns out I am not a prophet. *gasp* It also turns out that the plans God seems to have for me are, in the words of a promise recorded by a legitimate prophet, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future."

I wrote on February 2nd, when I was physically sick and distraught, that I was not sure how to proceed with my vocal training, in spite of the obvious signs. Well, I waited a week or so and then sat down with my choir director at the local college, Scott, and had a heart-to-heart about what to do and who to contact. It turns out that the original idea he had for me may not work out, as the Soprano he had in mind is pregnant and scaling back her teaching. However, after some thought, he referred me to a young bass in San Diego who has worked in all of the major local opera companies (he's connected here, which is where I want to work eventually) and whose students frequently win the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions in this region (he's a good teacher), who has 3 earned degrees, including a doctorate in vocal performance from reputable programs (he's well-trained himself) and, importantly, who is a very approachable teacher who invests in his students (he's unlikely to treat me like just another means to a paycheck).

He sounded too good to be true, so I put off writing him for a good two weeks, expecting that he'd give me the royal brush-off when I finally bothered to write. That changed last night when I finally sent off an e-mail to him a bit after midnight asking him if he would consider either working with me or referring me to someone who might be a good match. I was prepared to hear back in a week or so or never... but lo and behold, he responded by 8:30 this morning: "...please convey my thanks to [Scott]. I would love to work with you..." So, I have sent him my schedule and hope to start lessons with him quite soon. He may be too good to be true, but he may also be the perfect match for me. I'm excited to find out. I'm already too old for Met auditions *sigh*, [For the record, I am not just saying that -- I looked up eligibility requirements] but I am NOT too old to accomplish the other vocal goals I may set for myself.

In other music news... I have had my assignment for our next concert change about 3 weeks before concert date. I was to sing a comic musical theatre piece, but Scott told me yesterday that he is going to have me to a gorgeous opera aria instead, because nobody else in the choir can pull it off. The song is Henry Purcell's "Dido's Lament" from Dido and Aeneas -- the song in which, before she commits suicide (calling death a welcome guest), Dido asks her handmaid to remember her but to forget her fate. I asked Scott if he wanted to hear me sing it (he hasn't before), and he said, "No, it will be beautiful."

*sigh* How wonderful to be trusted so completely, and how terrifying. The terrifying part I will get over, because I am really excited about this particular chance to sing it. This aria is often done in isolation, but this time a 100-voice choir will be singing the hauntingly lovely opera chorus invoking the cupids to scatter roses on Dido's (my) grave immediately after I am done singing. I cannot imagine having the opportunity to sing the aria in context like that again without actually being cast in the opera. I never would have dreamed of having an opportunity like this 3 years ago because my voice didn't show that sort of promise. Now I can't imagine being cast in the opera.

Tomorrow I do my 7:30 A.M. performance of "God Bless America," complete with verse I had never heard before yesterday, at our city's annual business breakfast. This opportunity also is thanks to Scott. The verse, for those who care: "While the storm clouds gather far across the sea, let us swear allegiance to a land that's free. Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, as we raise our voices, in a solemn prayer." The storm clouds? Hitler and the Nazi forces. This was composed in 1938. This is not my favorite song, but one part of it's message is salient: Prayer was then, as now, very much in order.

Thinking about all of this, I can't believe how blessed I have been. God is faithful in spite of my faithlessness, and I am not sure how to start thanking Him. I suppose I can start by taking the opportunities He brings to me and following the plans I see laid out before me. Hmmm... I think I will.
» Clouds of unknowing
An Anonymous Medieval writer composed a tome entitled "The Cloud of Unknowing." While the author was referring to something of more spiritual import, I have found myself wandering in clouds of unknowing of other sorts. I hate not knowing. Most of the time I fancy that I would rather know -- even the worst. However, in God's grace, I'm not permitted to know.

On Saturday I spent the day with my parents and a friend. The day was nothing like the care-free, unemotional outing I expected. My parents had offered me two tickets to see Riverdance in Los Angeles. Not one to pass up the opportunity, I accepted, and then invited Rob, "little brother" and arts lover that he is, to join me when my husband declined to come along.

The tenor of the day began to change when I got a call from my mother on Friday night asking me to leave home early enough on Saturday morning to visit my grandmother in a nursing home near their home. Grandma has only been there a few weeks. She took a fall that, in a moment, deprived her of her ability to walk, just as, over the last several years, small strokes have deprived her of her memories and her ability to carry on a normal conversation. She can't go home because she can't walk. She can't be in the hospital because her insurance won't pay. She CAN stay in the nursing home where here own mother spent her last years. But staying there will cost her her life.

I walked into my grandmother's room at 10:45 Saturday morning. She was sitting unmoving in a wheelchair, her pale forehead cupped in her left hand, her elbow resting on her knee, evoking images simultaneously shockingly like and unlike Rodin's "Thinker." The Thinker is heroic, strong, determined. Grandmother was weak, frail and utterly depressed.

A nurse helped me get her into bed, and then I greeted her properly. It was clear she didn't know me. I asked anyway:
"Do you know who I am?"
"Yes and no"
"I'm Ron's oldest daughter".
She smiled a bit, "Ron. Ron's oldest." Her voice weak and tremulous.
It was also clear that conversation would be difficult. She was not capable of remembering what she had been told a moment earlier. I sat silently and held her hand for a moment. Her voice broke the reverie of the moment.
"I have no life" she whispered.
Not sure I had heard correctly, I asked her to repeat herself.
"I have no life."
"It is difficult to be here, isn't it?" I asked.
"Yes." she replied, and turned her head toward the curtain separating her from the coughing woman in the next bed.

Of course it is difficult. She doesn't have a life. She has a bed, a wheelchair, a faithful husband and one loving son who are doing what they can. Well, she does have one more thing: she has the tremendous knowledge deep down that she isn't getting any better.

Talking to my mom and dad, physical therapy isn't working. She is refusing to eat. Her spirits, though, have been high.
Talking to Bob, her angel of a second husband, she managed to walk a whole hallway slumped over a walker -- and that is progress.
One side sees reality. The other clings to hope.
I, however, was the first to see her round this new corner to despair.
My parents' response: "We've never seen her like that. She has never said anything like that."
She did on Saturday.

Memories are strange and orderly. When they go, they seem to turn about and leave in reverse order from that in which they came. I've only been in Grandma's life for 31 years, and I have been rather hit or miss for the last 10 years. Out of sight, out of mind. I'm one of the first to go. The cloud Grandma has lived in for the past several years is deep an impenetrable.

There in her room, I resorted to the one thing I have left when words fail me and when tears have not yet robbed me of the ability. I started to sing a few old Baptist hymns -- the sort Grandma would know from her childhood. As I sang softly and stroked her arm, a few flickers of recognition would flash on her face and she would mouth the words.
"My mother used to sing that song" she told me, and I knew I had succeeded.
I continued singing for a few minutes more, pausing to look at her as she seemed to drift away to sleep. Putting the chair back against the wall, I leaned over her to say goodbye. She woke suddenly, and looking at my face, she said, "Well, hello, Sweetheart," as if I had just arrived and she knew me. I debated staying. Did she really know me now? WOuld she know the difference 2 minutes from now? Instead, mindful of the time and my own frailty, I told her that I loved her and I left the room.

I found Rob in the hallway outside the room. He had been pacing back and forth while I was inside. We made our way toward the exit and I tried to keep myself more or less pulled together while I explained what I had encountered inside. He issued a gentle reminder: "Don't cry. You'll mess up your makeup." I laughed. He was right. He had already had to wait once for me to get my face on - no sense making him wait again!

In the parking lot we met Bob, my grandmother's late-in-life love, as he was coming in for the day. We talked for just a few moments before Bob--the sweetest, most down-to-earth and positive person I have ever met--began to cry. He explained the futility of the situation. He can't take her home. If he could, he wouldn't be able to pay for the additional care she needs. He may hope otherwise, but he knows what I was only learning--she will die here.... and it may not be long.
"We have had so many good times... and now it looks like it is all coming to an end."
What could I say? "I can't imagine what you must be going through."
Bob knows exactly what lies ahead. He has nursed two other women he loved dearly right up to their last moments: his first wife as she died of cancer, and his aunt as she wasted away.
I hugged him briefly and then went to the car, tears beginning to work away my make-up.

The second departure from the expected came a bit later when we arrived at my parent's house and my mother launched into her "when it is my turn..." speech. "Don't feed me. Let me go. I don't want that."
"Can we PLEASE not have this conversation now?" I pleaded. "I don't want to have to think about losing you, too."
"Oh yeah, you don't want to mess up your make-up."
"No... I don't care about my make-up. I can always put more on. I just don't want to have to think about this right now. It is sort of like when you want to go over the details of your will right before you take a trip... I hate that"
Too late. I was thinking.

Things settled down a bit as the four of us piled into the car. But there were new surprises in the wings. Seated next to me in the back seat, my mom asked if she could look at my engagement ring. Turns out she was comparing the design to the ring she had in her purse... saved for intermission in the show, when my dad was going to propose to her again.

A year ago it looked like their marriage, which had been terrible for years, was finally dissolving for good. As my mom explained over coffee and pastries before the show, "I never had an engagement ring. I never really wanted one. We had originally planned to buy new ring sets at our 25th anniversary, but when we got there, we didn't like each other, so it didn't seem like the thing to do."
"Yeah, that was money I could have spent on a nice fishing rod." Dad chimes in.
However, almost 10 years later, now that my father barely scraped past death's door, my mom issued the ultimatum and the two of them have begun to pick up the pieces, they are engaged again -- "for another 34 years, if the Lord gives us that long."

It was surreal to watch. I had begged and pleaded with them to go to counseling for years. I had secretly hoped they would get a divorce because living with them both so profoundly unhappy was terrible. They were living a lie, and I hated it. We were one big happy family on Sunday morning at church... never mind the foot through the TV in anger, the screaming and the deafening silence after another fruitless fight. I was the one in the middle "I never loved your father..." "Your mother just doesn't understand..." and I wanted out.

So many emotions washed over me as I watched the proposal and the kiss that followed. I'm not sure any part of me ever expected to see that. It was sweet, beautiful and profoundly confusing.

We stopped and got chili burgers at Tommy's on the way back. I spilled greasy brown chili on my new white blouse before I took my first bite. At least some things are predictable and unchanging!

The clouds of unknowing right now seem rather dark and menacing. What will happen with my grandma, with my parents, within my own life... Questions outnumber the answers right now. However, astoundingly, I am finding some peace.

That peace can be attributed to the support of a loving husband, the unfailing love of God, the faithful and quiet presence of dear siblings (both birth and "adopted"), and the prayers of wonderful friends.

In spite of all I don't know, I can see clearly that all of this is in God's hands.
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