Saturday, November 28, 2009

A few random thoughts

Why is it that the one day I'm up early, the kids sleep in?

A great trip to Rochester this week, and I'm glad to be going home today.

No desserts until Christmas. I have been out. of. control.

I'm hitting the Y this morning before the trek back East. It will be good for the kids to run around in the "Mystery Cavern" there, too, to burn off some energy before we hit the road.

A family is a place where you can all get in each other's way cooking Thanksgiving dinner, and the tension can be pretty high, but it goes away and it's all good and there are no hard feelings.

Wii is such fun. Earl does a mean "Eye of the Tiger" on the American Idol game. Me (mii?), I finally learned the words to "Stayin' Alive." Randy and Paula loved me; Simon said I just didn't look like an American Idol. The truth hurts.

My baby godson, Eli, has the best little laugh ever. He is precious.

Serialized anxiety dreams might make good column fodder. Hmmm.

Timmy, my showoff social butterfly, got stage fright when it was his turn for American Idol. The tears in his little eyes! He was so relieved when we told him he didn't have to sing. Poor baby.

For the first time in years, literally, I am getting excited for Christmas. I think it's because I have most of my shopping done. Thank you, FlyLady, for making me work ahead this year. I don't think we'll be decorating tomorrow, but maybe next weekend.

The kids are awake! Off to start my day.

Christmas show preview

Here is my preview of "What Christmas Means to Me" -- dinner theatre at the Tirrell Room in Quincy.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Friday, November 20, 2009

Back in the saddle for a short ride

I attended church choir rehearsal last night. I don't usually go, as I rarely cantor when the choir is singing, but the music ministry at my church has a special event this Sunday evening, a hymn festival in honor of Christ the King. We have a dress rehearsal on Saturday, but I decided I'd better go to another rehearsal just to be a little better prepared.

I'm glad I did. I quickly discovered I need to spend some time getting my music in order, and that I need to make copies from my hymnal of a few songs.

The music director also asked me to sing a couple of solos, one of which is a beautiful obbligato vocalise over a very interesting setting of a traditional hymn text. I even get to sing a few high notes; a rare thrill for this soprano, who never sings but in middle voice these days.

I've pretty much ceased to think of myself as a singer over the past few years. I'm not actively trying to get performance work, preferring teaching and cantoring to the stress of auditions. My sister asked me to do a recital with her this summer, and I just couldn't even get my head around the idea, let alone find the time in August (a crazy, crazy month in our family) to do it.

But last night in rehearsal, it felt pretty nice to be able to sing a couple of things in my normal range, to sing them well, and to have people appreciate it.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Stirred up

I've got a blog post or a column or something stirring around inside me, but haven't the time to actually write anything. (Of course, if I spent less time looking up videos from "Between the Lions," perhaps I'd have more time to write.)

Just briefly, then: I was chatting on the phone with a friend today, and I started telling her about how I've backed off on the master plan to become a Very Busy Writer, at least temporarily. Over the past couple of months, I've come to realize that I really am very busy already, with teaching, cantoring, mothering and the writing I do as it is. I don't need to make a huge push to have piles of multiple deadlines every week.

This is not to say I'm not ambitious. I love to write, and want to do as much of it as I can (for all you editors out there who might think I'm retiring or something.) There's no question that I'll continue to write as much as I can. I'll meet my deadlines, and I'll enjoy it, too.

It's just that the two kid-free hours I get on weekdays, when Timmy is in preschool, aren't enough with which to launch a full-blown career. Next year, when all three children are in school all day long, I'll be able to devote more time to it.

I still want the world, but I'm going to wait a year before I start seeking it in earnest.

Funny video

I saw this on PBS with Timmy earlier today, and I'm still chuckling about it. It's spot-on for G&S style, and of course I love all the big, giant, humongous words!

Recommended reading

Here is a post by Susan Senator that anyone with opinions about Autism Speaks as an organization should read.

I've been disturbed by some of the awareness campaigns put out by Autism Speaks, as well as by the backlash from people on the spectrum -- generally high-functioning -- who dismiss Autism Speaks and what the organization stands for and tries to accomplish, often with the catchphrase, "Autism Speaks doesn't speak for me."

Susan has written a terrific essay. What do you think about the subject?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Little swim

Today was lift-weights-with-Abby day, and I decided that, crowd or no crowd, I was getting in the pool this morning when the kids were in swimming lessons.

My swim started out rather busy -- there were four of us in the lane, one of whom was trying to do physical therapy of some sort. He got out after a little while, so then it was just three swimmers, and we managed to stay out of each other's way pretty well. Then, one by one, the other two got out, and I had the lane to myself for a few laps. I did 15 all told, with fewer backstroke lengths than usual for recovery time. A decent workout, considering I did a Nautilus circuit beforehand.

I took an online swimming lesson this afternoon -- really just watched a demonstration video of the forward crawl. It turns out I'm doing it pretty well, although next time I'm in the water, I'll pay closer attention to my kick speed and to the angle of my hands.

No swimming tomorrow; I'll be singing three masses in the morning and then heading off with Earl to our Marriage Encounter Weekend reunion. I'm really looking forward to it. It promises to be more of the same kind of work we did three weekends ago, and even though that work can be challenging, it's already making such a difference in our lives together. We wouldn't miss it for anything.

The end of the drama

This morning, I got a short email from the distraught dad I mentioned in yesterday's blog post. He wrote that he may have overreacted and that he didn't mean to imply malicious intent.

It was very nice of him to write back and acknowledge my email to him. I cannot blame the man for overreacting; if his son took the review as hard as it seemed he did, it must have been difficult, as his father, to see that. Hopefully father and son are both feeling better.

I'm glad all this is resolved. As they say in the business, on with the show.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Did I call it, or what?

Yesterday I posted a link to my review of Cohasset Dramatic Club's "Lend Me a Tenor." (Read the original blog post here.)

It turns out that, wording change or no wording change, I apparently greatly maligned one actor, whose father informed me as such in a tersely-worded email this morning. He reproached me for my lack of compassion for his son's individual situation, which, naturally, I could not possibly have known.

It made me feel bad, of course. I wrote back to the father, explaining that there had been a bit of a wording change, that I certainly had been unaware of his son's situation, and that I try to gently offer suggestions where I feel they are merited, even in community theatre.

In my singing life, I've been on the receiving end of criticism (and faint praise, which is sometimes worse) and I know it can be disappointing to read that one's performance was not universally cheered. It's hard; sometimes really hard. I do hope that this actor (as well as his father) can get past the review -- dismissing it, if necessary -- and continue on to this weekend's performances without giving it another thought.

Another writer told me today that she gets this kind of feedback from readers all the time, and that she just tells herself that if she's going to write a review, then she needs to be comfortable being reviewed, herself. I think it's good advice. I hope I can take it.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Funny Timmy

Yesterday, all three kids were in the car with me as we were coming back from the Y, where Abby and I had lifted weights and the boys had played in the babysitting room. Brian asked me how far I could see, and this led into a short discussion on how far and how well we all could see.

Trying to bring a greater sense of gratitude into our lives, I said, "What a wonderful gift from God, being able to see."

There was general agreement in the van. Then Timmy said,

"And a wonderful gift from France was the Statue of Liberty."

He was right, of course.

Big swim

I did it! I swam 40 laps today!

I was going to go for a mile (36 laps or 72 lengths) but once I got to 72, I decided to just keep going to 80 lengths.

I was all grumpy and nervous this morning, worrying that the pool would be crowded. I hate that, and I don't swim as well when I have to share a lane because I'm worrying about where the other people are.

The pools weren't too crowded today, though. I started out having to share, and then had a lane to myself for maybe 30 laps, which was lovely. Then another swimmer wanted to share toward the end, which really was okay, but not as nice as having the stripe to myself.

I'm able to concentrate more on form and technique (such as it is) when it's just me in the lane. Last week and today I started experimenting with my breathing and a little bit with my follow-through on the armstrokes. I really have no idea what I'm doing, of course, but it's funny how changing something will affect how I feel when I'm in the water.

All told, I think I was in the pool about an hour, with hardly any rest time -- just to adjust my darned goggles, which decide to leak at the most inopportune times. I'm a slow swimmer, but all those laps have to count for something.

I might swim a few laps on Saturday when the kids have lessons, although it's been wildly crowded the past couple of weeks. If not, back to my lifting weights/swim 20 laps schedule on Tuesday, followed by another big swim on Thursday.

Theatre review

My review of Cohasset Dramatic Club's "Lend Me a Tenor" ran in today's Patriot Ledger.

Unlike some other reviews I've written, it looks like this one ran in its entirety, with one noticeable wording change. I am careful about how I offer criticism of community theatre, and generally try to use my teacher persona, offering suggestions rather than blasting something that I feel that doesn't work. Gentle wording is important to me, and it was the gentle part that was changed, alas.

It's really not that bad -- just a little stronger than I originally wrote it. The meaning is essentially the same; it's just not as nice. Ah, well, no one ever won friends being a critic.

Monday, November 9, 2009

November currents

Current Book -, I'm not reading anything right now.

Current Music - again, I got nothin', unless you count Suzuki recordings.

Current shame-inducing guilty pleasure - pumpkin chocolate-chip bars, Freschetta pizza for lunch instead of Lean Cuisine

Current colors - plum and yellow, not together, though

Current triumph - embracing my Organizer personality type, and putting it to work for me.

Current fetish/obsession - pumpkin bars; getting all prepared for Christmas before December 1st.

Current annoyance - a sweet tooth that will not quit, hair that sticks up and out

Current Drink - coffee

Current indulgence - going out to dinner mid-week (tomorrow!)

Current slang/saying - Well, then.

Current outfit - plum top, navy yoga pants, pink baseball cap. Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.

Current excitement - looking forward to a big swim on Thursday

Current endorsements - Worldwide Marriage Encounter, Google Calendar

Celebrity crush - hmmm. I got nothin', except for the usual Johnny Depp, but I haven't seen him for so long that it barely registers.

Current links - Asperger's Association of New England; Freecycle; The Word Detective

Current movies - rarely watch 'em, but it's almost time for A Christmas Story.

Current wish list: ummmm...maybe a Blackberry or iPhone or something like that? I'm really very enamored with Google Calendar, and am thinking, wouldn't it be cool to take my Google Calendar with me when I'm out and about? But it's totally not something I need.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Today's family column

Here is today's family column, inspired by a saying related to me by a fellow writer: "You do the math; I was an English major!"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Splish, splash, sniff

I decided to make swimming my only workout today, and hoped to be able to do 30 laps, or maybe even 40. I've done 20 a few times, after lifting weights, and it hasn't been too hard, so I figured, more than 20 without weightlifting beforehand would be a snap.

I can't say it was a snap, but I did swim 30 laps this morning. I drowned a couple of times, and had a very annoying stretch when I couldn't get my goggles to seal correctly, but once I fixed the goggles and remembered that I was supposed to exhale when my face was in the water, I was fine.

I'm essentially a self-taught swimmer, and I don't pretend to be good at it. I can do a serviceable front crawl with rotary breathing, and the backstroke, which I use every fifth length to give myself a little break. I usually breathe with each crawlstroke, but was experimenting with breathing every two strokes, and was able to do that pretty well for about half the time I was swimming.

I had a lane to myself today, which was a luxury. It was in the middle of the pool, though, not on a wall, and I did get a little freaked out about the deep end when I first started swimming. I figured out if I just don't look at the whole big pool and all that water -- if I just keep my eyes on my own little lane stripe, I'm fine. As long as I don't look at the drain, either.

Since I had a fair amount of pool water up my nose earlier today, and survived, I decided to try out my new neti pot a little bit ago. My brother, a longtime neti user, gave it to me last weekend, and I've been wanting to try it, so I finally did.

Of course, I did it wrong at first, and had all kinds of salt water down my throat. Yuck. But I got the hang of it, and it was okay.

I can't say whether I'm smelling smells I've never smelled before, or anything like that, but I'll continue to check in with nosewitness bulletins now and again.

Feature on Meredith Hansen, soprano

Here is my feature on Cohasset native Meredith Hansen, who will be singing the role of Frasquita in the Boston Lyric Opera production of Carmen, which opens this weekend.

Monday, November 2, 2009

All Souls' Day

I'm remembering those I love who have died today, on the feast of the commemoration of all the faithful departed, or All Souls. The entire month of November in the Church is dedicated to the holy souls, beginning with All Saints' Day on November 1st.

Below is the first reading for today, which is often read at funeral masses. It's a beautiful reading, and always brings me deep, calm comfort whenever I hear it.

The souls of the just are in the hand of God,
and no torment shall touch them.
They seemed, in the view of the foolish, to be dead;
and their passing away was thought an affliction
and their going forth from us, utter destruction.
But they are in peace.
For if before men, indeed, they be punished,
yet is their hope full of immortality;
chastised a little, they shall be greatly blessed,
because God tried them
and found them worthy of himself.
As gold in the furnace, he proved them,
and as sacrificial offerings he took them to himself.
In the time of their visitation they shall shine,
and shall dart about as sparks through stubble;
they shall judge nations and rule over peoples,
and the Lord shall be their King forever.
Those who trust in him shall understand truth,
and the faithful shall abide with him in love:
because grace and mercy are with his holy ones,
and his care is with his elect.
(Wisdom 3:1-9)

May the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Halloween photos

Here is my web album of Halloween at our house. My brother and his family were visiting, and my neice, Mairi (black cat) and nephew and godson, Eli (gray mouse) joined my three kids for trick-or-treating.