Sunday, January 31, 2010

For the Love of Music

Cleveland Orchestra Youth ChorusIt was my great privilege tonight to participate in the Cleveland Orchestra Joint Choruses Concert. The beneficiary of the proceeds of this concert was the Cleveland Orchestra Tour Fund, which is used to support the touring activities of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus and the Youth Chorus.

The evening began with the beautiful young voices of the Cleveland Orchestra Children's Chorus, which is comprised of very talented young singers in 6th through 9th grades. They were lovingly led by Dr. Ann Usher. (There is also a preparatory chorus that begins at grade 5, who didn't perform tonight.) All I could think as these children were singing was that I hope when Boston is in 5th grade, I am in a position to drive him to Cleveland for rehearsal every week. What an incredible educational experience for these children! Dr. Usher said most of these COCC members are also in the band and/or chorus at their schools. When she asked for a show of hands, approximately half of the members indicated they also take piano lessons.

The children were followed by the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Chorus, led by Frank Bianchi, who is also the assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus. The COYO performed a very eclectic program, including the second performance of A.R. Rahman's Jai Ho, which they had premiered yesterday at the Ohio Music Educators Association conference in Cincinnati. These young people represent over 40 high schools in six-county area around Cleveland. Frank Bianchi spoke of how honored he feels to be able to work with these young people, who are the most motivated of students at their respective schools. They sang beautifully. Their parents are, I am sure, proud beyond belief.

After the intermission, the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus took the stage and performed works we do not normally get to perform. As our normal repertoire is works accompanied by the full Cleveland Orchestra, we rarely get the opportunity to perform a capella works. Tonight we sang the Jonathan Dove "Seek Him That Maketh The Seven Stars", Benjamin Britten's "Rejoice in the Lamb", with soloists drawn from the chorus, two Bruckner motets—the exquisite Locus iste a Deo factus est and Christus factus est pro nobis obediens— and two American spirituals.

As Robert Porco, our conductor, addressed the audience a final time, the youth chorus came back on stage and the children's chorus prepared to process down the two center aisles in the House. Then, accompanied by Bill Shaffer on the pipe organ, we sang the Mack Wilberg arrangement of the hymn tune, "All Creatures of Our God and King." To say this performance was powerful is an understatement. As I stood at my normal spot in the center of the back row of the chorus, I was fighting back tears singing this beautiful old hymn. When we sang the final chord, we could see the audience erupting in applause and then jumping to their feet. I wanted to go hug every audience member. I was filled with the love of music that permeates my life, and with gratitude for the opportunity to sing with this chorus and with the wonderful new friends I've made through this organization.

Jill Harbaugh, our chorus manager, does a spectacular job of managing all the intricacies of concerts such as this. Jill is always calm, cool and collected, disguising the stress she must feel every day in her job. I admire her, deeply. We could not put on this complex of a concert without someone of Jill's stellar management skills running the show.

I am honored to be part of the Cleveland Orchestra family.

Comments, Cont'd

I posted a couple of days ago that I had further opened up the ability for readers to comment on this site. Since that settings change, I've started getting spam comments. I have changed the settings again so that I have to approve every comment. All that means is I'll get an e-mail from Blogger with your comment, I'll click a button, and it will appear. It just won't appear immediately after you post it. So keep commenting—I love knowing that you're reading and hearing your reactions to my words.

Happy Sunday—I'm off to Severance Hall for an afternoon of rehearsals and an evening of making beautiful music. Today is a joint chorus concert, featuring the CleveOrch Chorus, the Youth Chorus, and the Children's Chorus. All proceeds benefit the CO choral programs.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

One Amazing Life!

It is simply amazing to me that everything in my life seems to be falling into place, all at once.

I learned over the past week that a new acquaintance in COChorus has much in common with me, including our advanced degrees and our interest in various arts and crafts and our obsession with running benefit auctions. And she expressed an opinion that even though I had problems with the Virginia bar, I should be able to take the Ohio bar with success.

And through the Jazzman I have made a new friend who shares fiber interests with me, including art quilts and a special form of fabric dyeing we both enjoy.

And when everything else in my life is good, I don't mind my job quite so much.

Friends at work are commenting on how I'm constantly smiling as I walk around the office.

The darkness has turned to daylight. Hot damn! I'm one lucky girl.

Lake Wobegon in the Old Pueblo

I received a text from my dear friend, Jill, last night. She was at the dress rehearsal for tonight's Prairie Home Companion live broadcast from Tucson. As an event planner for Arizona Public Media/KUAT/KUAZ in Tucson, Jill gets to meet interesting people and throw fabulous parties. And she's an absolute diva at throwing fabulous parties.

I'm sure, with Jill driving the bus, the PHC broadcast tonight will come off without a hitch.

The picture above? My Tucson Friday night Girls-Night-Out group. On my left is Jill, then Debi and Mary. Seated below are Susan and Kris, by whose pool we are posed. They're the best friends a woman could ask for, and I miss them more frequently than just every first-Friday of the month.

(By the way, if you're in the Northeast of Ohio or of the U.S., and you're freezing your butt off today, that picture was taken in the winter in Tucson. Notice how we're dressed. Debi is in a cotton blouse. No sweaters. No coats. Heaven!!!)

It Just Ain't Right

OR: Brrrrr!

It's about 12 degrees in Youngstown this morning, and the wind chill is slated to be below zero today. In a phrase: it's cold!

As I was getting dressed in my cold bedroom, I glanced at the windows and realized there was a problem. Ice. Ice inside my bedroom windows. Now, that's cold!

The first three photos here are taken in my bedroom (!) of the inside of my bedroom window.

I guess we could say that these 1927 windows weren't designed to block the cold.

These last two pictures were taken about ten days ago. After two weeks of daily snow and below-freezing temps, we had had one day where the sun came out. The high temperature was still below freezing, but the sun caused some of the icicles to melt.

The icicles on the west side of my house melted and dripped onto tree branches below, and as they dripped and froze, dripped and froze, they formed a magnificent arc of an ice sculpture.

Can you imagine if I had wanted an ice sculpture like this for a wedding or other event? I would have had to pay Big Bux to have someone sculpt this. But Mother Nature sculpted it for me for free!

Stay warm today, wherever you are!

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Camaraderie of Music

I've been a musician all my life. I started playing the piano by ear at age three-and-a-half. I don't remember it, but I've heard the story repeatedly about how Mother heard my older brothers' piano lessons being practiced and discovered it was little me, not tall enough for my feet to touch the floor.

Music is at the core of my being, as it is with most of my friends. We meet in this chorus or at that concert, and we seem to cling together, with the pedalpoint of life underscoring everything we do.

I've organized my Facebook friends into lists so I can keep everyone straight in my mind. The majority of my friends are musicians; Washington musicians, Tucson musicians, and Ohio musicians are the three biggest lists in my profile.

I love that we've all struggled through the same college classes and the same pressure, as kids, to practice. I love that we all know the same people. My conductor in Cleveland used to work with my conductor in Tucson. My son's mentor in high school was my conductor in Akron. Our little musical world just spins.

A while back, I saw a musician on Match. We met for coffee, and had a thousand points of commonality. He had gone to YSU and knew, quite well, my closest friends here. He had taught at a conservatory where several of my acquaintances teach. His daughter had graduated from the same arts boarding school as my son, a year behind him. It was too funny and fun.

We all share the same love of tunes, of notes, of remembering passages from music, of seeing applications for snippets of tunes in everyday life.

When I sang the Star Wars in Concert performance in Pittsburgh, there was a holding room for the chorus. We went on stage for rehearsal, came back and ate the dinner that had been provided for us, then waited for the appropriate moment to process onstage again. As we started, single file in our long black dresses and tuxes, down the backstage hallway, a tuba player, waiting for his moment to go on, started playing a march. It brought such humor and lightness to the moment. Choral musicians passing by orchestral musicians, all buoyed by the fact that we were going out to make be-YOO-tiful music for an arena full of people. It was the kind of moment that stays with you.

You read various tales I tell about PianoLady. We've been fast friends for 41 years now. It all began at Florida Technological University, now University of Central Florida. We were two of the four piano majors at the fledling university. The movie "Camelot" was new to the big screen. We sat down at twin spinets in the music building and started playing "If Ever I Would Leave You." PianoLady was playing from memory; I was playing by ear. And yet we played in the same key, with the same harmonic progressions, with the same crescendos and ritardandos. When we reached the end of the piece, we played the exact same tag on the ending. We looked at each other and just laughed with joy. A lifelong friendship had been born.

The music in me is, absolutely, a gift to me from the universe. I cannot imagine what my life would be like if I had not been given that music.

Or all the friends who came from that music.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

If you work really hard and you're kind . . .

I don't spend much time on pop culture in this forum, but I have been following Conan O'Brien's situation. He was such a gentleman through the entire debacle. I felt that Jay Leno acted like a spoiled little kid, and that he needed to just go home and play with his own toys, rather than being an Indian giver with Conan's toys.

Conan's final words from his "Tonight Show" desk were eloquent and lovely. He mirrored my own sentiments with his kindness statement:

If you work really hard and you're kind, amazing things will happen.

During the late months of John's illness, when family members were starting to go a little crazy, I often said that I wanted to cross-stitch a piece to hang by the front door. The piece would say, "Kindness spoken here."

If we can teach all our children to be kind, just imagine what the long term results could be.

No Phone Zone

Have you heard about Oprah's No Phone Zone? I'm sympathetic, really I am. I get annoyed beyond relief at the dingaling (pun intended) drivers who pull into the left lane, lower their speed to 60, and start talking on the phone. I only talk in the right lane. Aren't I good?

And I do text. But I only text when there are no cars around. And I look up between each character. How many points on the "You're Not an Unsafe Driver" scale do I get for that behavior?

Since leaving Tucson twenty-three months ago, I have put eighty thousand miles on my car. That's an "8", followed by four—count 'em, four!—zeroes. 80,000.

If I signed on for Oprah's No Phone Zone pledge, I would totally lose touch with all my friends. My drive time is my sacred communication time. I call my mother every morning, whether she hears the phone ring and answers, or not. I call the Traveler, who arrives at his Tucson office before 5:30, and is always happy to hear from me. I call PianoLady to see if I can get her before she heads to the gym or Starbucks. I call my long-time buddy JW in Rochester, who always makes me feel like I've performed a great service to mankind, or to that man, by calling. On the evening commute, it's the perfect time to catch up with friends in Tucson. I've arranged lots of get-togethers for my March trip simply by holding the iPhone to my ear while I'm driving home.

How do I feel about the possibility of laws prohibiting me from picking up my phone while I'm driving? I feel like they're going to create a whole damned lot of wasted hours! Oh, yeah, and boredom.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


For those readers who've been telling me they can't comment on my blog posts, I've changed the settings. Your comments are now—and always—welcome!

(Thanks to my colleague, ÜberTechWriter Nicole, for the suggestion.)

Too Sacred to be Uttered

I love words! I love sorting through, in my mind, all the words at my fingertips to find just the right word to express my thoughts or feelings. I love finding a new word, one I've never heard before, that pithily says several things with one or two syllables.

I've long been formulating a post to elucidate for you my favorite words. Yesterday I added a new word to that list.

PianoLady e-mailed me about yesterday's Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor, which she enjoyed. I listened this morning and agreed, so share it with you now.

The Ineffable


(BTW, "Too sacred to be uttered" is one of the definitions of "ineffable". Just in case you wondered.)

Lightning! Overrated?

I've written many times about the beauty—the desireability—of lightning striking the table when a couple meets for the first time. I experienced this with Mr. Match three-and-a-half years ago. It was an instant sense of attraction, of rightness, of heightened sensitivity. It was a sense of confidence that this was the man of my dreams that I had been waiting eight years to meet. There was an assurance that I could relax because I had found the "it" I wanted.

And yet I was wrong. Or I was right, and the rightness scared the living bejeebies out of him, making him unable to change his old patterns of behavior to settle into the new wonderfulness. He went his own way, and yet every few weeks he would call and want to see me again, until a couple of weeks before I left Tucson. I've never heard from him again.

I kept my eyes open for that lightning strike, and The Traveler and I would discuss our respective dormant love lives and wonder why there were no lightning strikes at any tables we occupied.

Flash forward—or actually move forward at a snail's pace—to several weeks ago when I walked into Panera for a Sunday supper with a man I had "met" on Match. There was a distinct lack of lightning. But in its absence was, even better, a sense of calm, well-being, comfortableness, ease. A sense of all being right in the most peaceable of senses. All this was emanating from a man who turns out to be thoughtful, kind, compassionate, caring, helpful, and possessed of the most incredible blue eyes.

Lightning or all-encompassing calm? I think I'll opt for the calm,

Monday, January 25, 2010

Thank Your Lucky Stars

If you've never had to look for a date as an adult, if you've been in a solid marriage for years and years and never had to figure out how the rules have changed since the last time you dated, you should consider yourself lucky.

Dating over 50-55-60 is like walking through a haunted forest where an ogre, real or imaginary, lurks behind every tree.

I've been on-and-off Match since late 2003. When I was living in Tucson and looking at men who were sited in that geographical area, I would see the same men, year after year. Their photos never changed, their profiles were always visible. Occasionally I would e-mail one whose information struck some note of accord with me. Frequently he'd e-mail back that he was seeing someone. (But your profile is still out there?!)

Men whom I dated and formed relationships with—usually of three-months' duration—never stopped communicating with other women on Match and never hid their profiles. One was even telling me he was falling in love with me, and two weeks later telling me he couldn't see me on a Friday night. Turned out he had a date with another woman he saw on Match.

Most of the men I communicated with on Match indicated in their profiles that they wanted a woman, one woman, and wanted a committed relationship. Very few said they just wanted to play around. They all indicated they were in it for the long haul.

(An exception to this is the profile I read recently of a USMC Vet/biker in Northern Virginia. He said flat out, "We ain't goin' exclusive until we know it's workin'. Let's not rush this thing." Okay, so I paraphrase. But his wise-cracking profile had me laughing until I cried, and I wrote him a note to congratulate him on a compelling profile.)

Many of the men will see the photo of an attractive woman, and immediately "wink" at or e-mail her. They don't read her profile; they don't peruse her likes and dislikes and education and height and …. They see a pretty trinket and go for it. I've had men who were 10 years outside my stated age preference or who said they were trying to quit smoking or who lived 1000 miles away from me or who stood 5'6" tall send me an e-mail. I quickly and politely said, "No, thanks." C'mon. My profile is brutally honest: I'm not a biker babe. I don't cook or dance. I'm just a really nice, kind, oft-married person with a lot of degrees.

And many men will not make the first move. They, at age 50-55-60+ are so afraid of rejection that they sit and wait. If a woman e-mails them, sometimes they'll respond. But e-mail someone they think is a good fit for their lives? No way.

And when they do e-mail someone, they can't write. They can't spell, they can't parse a sentence, they can't hit the Shift key (or don't know how to turn off the Caps Lock key), they can't write without strings of periods (People! An ellipsis contains three periods. Three. Not seven or nine or 13!) A first or second e-mail on a dating site is no more or less than a job application. If you're writing someone you wish to impress, you cut-and-paste the note into Word and spellcheck it! Especially if that someone you're wanting to impress earns her living as a writer!

I knew one woman in Tucson who broke up with a man she met on Match after they had been together about nine months. Why? Because he never would introduce her to his family. He was Hispanic, and had a large and close family. She was a beautiful, smart, shapely blonde, hardworking, non-Catholic Gringa, and he couldn't take the risk of his mother's rejection.

So why is this the topic of today's post? Why does this come up now? Because the Jazzman is proving himself to be out of the ordinary. Wayyyy out of the ordinary.

He e-mailed me first. He writes beautifully, with good grammar, perfect spelling, and a healthy dose of humor that leaves me grinning after reading each e-mail. He's already told his mom and brothers about me. We have a double date later this week with one of his best friends and his wife. And this weekend he e-mailed all the women he had been communicating with on Match and wished them good luck with their search, saying he was out of the market.

Me? Impressed? You betcha! Big time!

I'm not sure what planet this man is coming from, but I'm sure thankful my stars were aligned with that planet!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Way To a Girl's Heart

You've long heard that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. But women are different—especially Southern Belles.

SBs, you understand, were born and carefully bred to be taken care of. Most of us are not especially good with a screwdriver or drill. I own a drill. I own a number of screwdrivers. I have a great tool bag that I bought at Ace Hardware in Tucson, but I'm really not sure what all those tools are that are languishing inside.

When a man walks into my house and says, "Oh, here, let me fix this for you," there's a high likelihood I'll follow him anywhere.

The new man in my life, whom we'll call the Jazzman, has just this attitude. He is always alert, when walking around my house, to the items that need attention, that need fixing or changing.

The next tool I'm going to give him is a broom, 'cause he's sweeping me off my feet!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Wonder of It All

At the risk of jinxing things, I believe I can safely say I have a friend. Maybe I'll just whisper it here, rather than shouting it from my rooftop.

For the six months prior to leaving Tucson almost two years ago, I think I might have had five dates. With five different men—if you get the point of that. Those were not relationships; there was no longevity, no connection. To be fair, I was completely clear with everyone I knew that I would be moving to Youngstown the moment I found a job. And what man wants to try to get to know a woman whose feet are standing on distant ground?

I've been honored to be part of my younger son's nuclear—rather than extended—family ever since moving up here. I have said a thousand times that I am a lucky woman to be so completely accepted my both my son and daughter-in-law, and a lucky grandma to be able to have such a close and connected relationship with my beautiful grandchildren.

But I've been lonely. There's only so much one can (or should!) confide in her adult children. I've occasionally borrowed a few friends from my kids, but I didn't really know anyone 1) whom I considered solely my friend and, 2) who was as single and alone as I and could run to a movie or out for a drink whenver we felt like it. I lived for my children—not that there's anything wrong with that.

But suddenly, with the birth of 2010, with the sense of fireworks exploding in the sky, I have met a truly decent, nice, and honorable man, a man whose sense of humor makes me smile and laugh, a man who thinks I'm—dare I use a word from a much younger generation—hot. Do you know—do you have the teeniest tiniest idea—how truly rare those characteristics are in single men over 50? No? Let me tell you: they're freaking rare. Rare!

So now I consider myself not only honored to be included in my younger son's family, I am honored to be included in the world of a really nice man.

Now, instead of trying to figure out how to spend my time when Ty and Jaci and the babes are busy, I'm trying to figure out how to balance the facets of my life.

Facets. I have facets! Can you hear the joy in my fingertips as I write that?

I am filled with joy. This 2010 is going to be a very good year!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Planet of Genii

My grandson constantly amazes me. His brain works on a rarified level that seems to indicate he emigrated from another planet.

Now, lest you zip off a critical e-mail to me, assuming I'm saying my granddaughter is less intelligent, just hold on. She has her own brilliance—artistic brilliance—which I will be extolling for years to come.

But Boston. Ah, Boston.

The other night the three of us were having our ritual Tuesday dinner at Denny's. He said, "When I grow up, I'm going to have a business that is a spa for animals. It's going to be named S'Paw. Get it? spa[w]. And the apostrophe between the "s" and the "paw" will be a pawprint."

I was flabbergasted. Would you please tell me what eight-year-old child thinks like that?! A lemonade stand? Sure. A life as a fireman or policeman? Sure. But a spa for animals with the logo already defined?

I'm impressed.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Following One's Passion

When I consider men who would be suitable to date, one of the first factors I consider is how they would mesh with my family. Would my children respect this man or think he's a buffoon. My sons love me very much—would they think this man was worthy of me, or think I had settled for less, maybe even far less, than I deserve?

I look at profiles on Match, and read about potential dates' interests. And the thought that comes to mind is: is following a passion, in and of itself, a good and admirable activity? Does it matter if the passion is an oddity? Does the fact that it's your passion and you've figured out a way to follow it negate the fact that it's somewhat off the beaten path?

Must I be comfortable with your passion, or does my belief in you enable and allow me to just be supportive of your passion rather than worrying about identifying with it?

If a man plays, for example, alto water glass in an eight-person water glass ensemble, and I think a water glass ensemble is just a little wierd, does that a) put the kibosh on the potential relationship; or b) function as one negative mark, to be weighed with and against all the other negative and positive marks that are amassed; or c) have no bearing — suck it up, it's just something he likes to do?

If you feel awkward saying to your friends that your new man plays alto water glass, do you simply not tell your friends about that aspect of your fella, or do you think maybe this is not the fella for you?

When husband #1, FOMC, and I had already agreed to separate, he decided it was time for us to go to a Marriage Encounter weekend (even though I had been asking and he had been declining for years!). One of the mantras of Marriage Encounter in the early 80s was "Feelings are not good or bad; they just are."

Is it the same thing for passions? A person's passions are neither positive nor negative, good nor bad, they just are? Does the goodness come out of following the passion, whatever it may be?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Okay. I'm old.

I went to lunch with three colleagues today. We went over to Donato's and used a $5 off coupon for some great thin-crust pizza.

I should set the stage by telling you I believe all three of these colleagues are under 30. One is, I believe, under 25. They're young. I'm not.

We were sitting, chatting and waiting for our pizza, when a fast, loud song came on the sound system, I heard the youngest of the three say something about liking cake. My mind was on the fact that tomorrow is monthly birthday cake day at my workplace. We get these cakes from the wife of a colleague, and the cakes are fabulous. I immediately piped up that I love the cakes this woman makes.

My lunch companions all burst into gales of laughter. They were talking about the band "Cake", whose song was being played all around us. I had never heard of the band "Cake".

I just had to laugh at this prime example of age disparities and life experience.

Further, not only am I old, I am no judge of age. My colleague told me she and our best work buddy, both of whom I judged to be under 30, are actually approaching 32. And the young woman I surmised was under 25? Over 25 by a couple of years.

So does that make me seem to be 55 or younger?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dating as a Memory Exercise

I've had two dates with a Very Nice Guy. And a third is scheduled. I am happy. I am elated. I have a whole new outlook on life.

Living alone has its good side and its bad side. The good is that I can drop my clothes on the floor and nobody complains. Oh, wait—maybe that's the bad. There's no one to shame me into picking up and putting away my clothes at bedtime.

The real bad side is the loneliness and isolation. I tend to use Facebook to counteract that isolation, and now that I admit that trait, I wonder how many other people (single or coupled) use it the same way.

One of the characteristics of the early stages of dating someone is all the facts you tend to exchange. Things like where you grew up and how many siblings you have and where you've lived and what jobs you've held and why, exactly, your ex did you a favor when he broke up with you.

As you're sitting and listening to the recital of these facts, you have to be focused. You have to not be thinking about the clever response you're going to come out with when he comes to a stopping point in his recital. You have to be focused on what he's saying, and you have to be tucking those facts away for future use or reference.

I may have mentioned that I got marked down on my recent performance appraisal at work for doing the daily crossword puzzle during [boring, seemingly unnecessary] meetings. (Okay, so the "boring, seemingly unnecessary" insertion is mine and was not included in my appraisal.) I explained to my manager, who is in his mid-40s, that after a certain age people, especially women, need to strive constantly to keep their brains alert and working. We are counseled and advised to work a variety of puzzles each week. Sudoku, crosswords, and other logic puzzles all exercise different little niches in our brains and help ensure that we won't forget our own names by the time we're 80.

But it occurs to me that dating over 50, over 55, and soon, over 60, performs the same function. I don't want to seem like I'm not paying attention, so I pay extra careful attention. Instead of trying to remember the word for "Diagonal line, on a bowling score sheet" ("spare"), I try to remember his mother's name, his brothers' names, his cousin's names, his relationship to x or y, what he majored in at the university, where he lived when he was first married, and the rest of the encyclopedia that is his life, thus far.

I'm wondering if I can slack off on the crosswords now that I've changed my focus from word puzzles to life puzzles.

Is there a market for Memory Lessons for [Over-50] Daters?

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Oneness of Music

Many thanks to PianoLady for passing this quote along to me tonight.

From Muriel Barbery's "The Elegance of the Hedgehog":

"A choir is a beautiful thing"

. . .Every time, it's a miracle. Here are all these people, full of heartache or hatred or desire, and we all have our troubles and the school year is filled with vulgarity and triviality and consequence, and there are all these teachers and kids of every shape and size, and there's this life we're struggling through full of shouting and tears and laughter and fights and break-ups and dashed hopes and unexpected luck -- it all disappears, just like that, when the choir begins to sing. Everyday life vanishes into song, you are suddenly overcome with a feeling of brotherhood, of deep solidarity, even love, and it diffuses the ugliness of everyday life into a spirit of perfect communion. Even the singers' faces are transformed....I see human beings, surrendering to music.

Every time, it's the same thing, I feel like crying, my throat goes all tight and I do the best I can to control myself but sometimes it gets close: I can hardly keep myself from sobbing. So when they sing a canon I look down at the ground because it's just too much emotion at once: it's too beautiful, and everyone singing together, this marvelous sharing. I'm no longer myself, I belong, and I always wonder at such moments why this cannot be the rule of everyday life, instead of being an exceptional moment, during a choir.

When the music stops, everyone applauds, their faces all lit up, the choir radiant. It is so beautiful.

In the end, I wonder if the true movement of the world might not be a voice raised in song.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Six Ways You Can Help Haiti

I am deeply concerned with the effect of yesterday's earthquake on the Haitian people. Today I share with you Chris Sacca's post detailing six ways we can each pitch in to help.

How can we not help?!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Two Skids Forward; One Slide Back

Or: Doing My Part to Help the Local Economy

Let's start off by admitting that I put a lot of miles on my car each week. A lot!

On a normal work day, I log no fewer than 120 miles. On Mondays, with the drive to Akron for work and then Cleveland for rehearsal, it's about 175 miles. And then little jaunts like the post-Christmas visit to my mother in Western North Carolina add about 1300 miles to the odometer. To net it out: When I left Tucson at the end of February, 2008, the odometer showed 52,000 miles. When I took the car to the dealer for maintenance today, the total was over 133,000. That's a lotta miles.

My daily required commute to the office requires an enormous outlay for gas. I fill the car up every other day, and use mid-grade. The car's specifications indicate high-test is required, but as most of my miles are "highway miles", I cheat and just use mid-grade. When you add up all those gallons, and put them together with the wear and tear and monthly maintenance required because of the excessive mileage, it's no wonder that I can't seem to get ahead on my credit card bills. I'm spending a ton o' money on my commute.

I've complained for the past two weeks about not being able to get up my driveway through the accumulated snow. When I got the estimate call from the dealer today, my colleague suggested the reason I couldn't get up the driveway was not the snow, but rather my bald tires.

Today's Acura service visit mandated new tires (Michelin at $1200+ or Bridgestone at $980? I chose Bridgestone.), a new battery ($130+) and new windshield wiper blades. (At $30+, that's chicken scratch!) There will, of course, be other charges—change the oil, top off the fluids, … .

The only good news out of all this is that I've got a sound, reliable, safe car that should last me at least another three years or, thanks to the real estate crisis and my need for cash two years ago, until it's paid off.

The funniest part will be the call I receive in three days from the sales department of Acura of Boardman. A nice young man will offer to give me back everything I spent today if I trade my car in. Nice dream. Oops—no can do.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dressing to the Nines

Snow, snow, snow, snow, snow. Have I mentioned we've got lots and lots of snow? Daily snow? Snow every single frigging day since New Year's Eve?

So when you're dressing to go out in the snow for a first date, where you want to impress the man with how chic and cute and desireable you are, what on earth do you wear?

It's a given that it was going to be black. Ninety-five percent of the items in my closet are black, so I pulled out the pretty cabled black cashmere turtleneck, black twill pants, a black silk tank to go under the turtle, and a fabulous multi-colored furnace glass necklace and silver hoop earrings.

But the shoes. You know I'm not lacking for black shoes. But there was snow and ice everywhere. And I'm a klutz.

A peek into my Fashion Police Manual said I should wear the good Cole-Haan black leather boots. But they have a smooth sole. My Don't Be Stupid and Fall On Your Ass Manual said to wear the Ugg snow boots with lugged soles.

You toss these alternatives around, then you think about men and their tendency to analyze a woman's outfit. Nope, probably not going to happen. When the date—whether it turns out good or bad—is over, the man probably will not remember what was on your feet, if he even noticed.

So I opted for safety and wore the snow boots.

And if somebody wants to go into the room in Heaven that houses the snow-making machine and turn the damned thing off, I would be thrilled beyond belief.

Differences in Decorating Opinions

On one of my recent trips to the NC mountain cottage, my sister-in-law suggested I bring this quilt home with me. It was in my home when I was a child, and its acquisition definitely predates my parents' acquisition of me. (I.e., I don't know how old it is, but it's older than 60.)

It's not a particularly precious quilt. It does not have all the embroidery outlining each piece, as normal (and highly prized) Crazy Quilts have. It's just something that's older than me that's been in my family for many, many years.

I was very happy to get it, and decided it needed to hang over the railing at the top of the stairs in my 1927 Colonial.

Angel, however, has different ideas of where it belongs. He thinks it belongs under his butt!

Each time I hang it over the railing, he waits an appropriate amount of time, then goes out and pulls it down, quickly planting himself in the middle of the puddled quilt where he can simultaneously survey upstairs and downstairs activities.

Who knew cats had ideas (and such definite ideas!) about interior design?

Cute? Cute!

Dating in the Tens

Remember the old days when you might meet a handsome, humorous man and he'd ask for your number?

First, in those days all you'd have to exchange would be a single telephone number—your home number. If you had the type of job that enabled you to talk on the phone at the office, you might also give him your office number. And to exchange these numbers, you'd dig around in your purse for a card on which were printed these bits of data.

Nowadays? There are multiple points of information. There's your home phone, your office phone, your mobile phone, your personal e-mail, your office e-mail, your Twitter ID, your Facebook ID, and much more. Oh, and your name. There's a chance that you've gotten through the getting-to-know-you e-mails and the opening 95% of the first date without knowing each other's last names.

Netting it out, what's important? There are two key points: mobile phone and personal e-mail. That's all you need. But how to exchange it. Hand him my business card, which I've flipped over and on which I've scribbled the two key points. That scribbling assumes I was able to find a pen in my purse. If you're very organized, like my friend Melinda, you have printed cards with all your personal information. When you meet a new friend, you hand him or her that personal card. I'm obviously not that organized.

<Sidebar On>
Here's how organized I'm not: I spent all afternoon sewing a bag for Boston and Ridley's upcoming school gala. It wasn't until I was sitting at the table, waiting for my Panera buzzer to start vibrating, that I looked down and realized my black cashmere turtleneck was covered with little white threads. Argh! I'm 1) too old for this nonsense; 2) too out of practice; or 3) brain-dead. Pick one!
<Sidebar Off>

So in the "Tens", what's the technology-forward way to handle the challenge? Once he divulges his last name, you whip out your iPhone, press the Contacts icon, start a new contact, enter his name, tap Phone and hand your iPhone to him to enter his number. After saving the Contact entry with his phone and e-mail, you quickly send him an e-mail so he has your e-mail in his inbox.

Please tell me in which decade things became so complex.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Interminable Quest for the Perfect Black Shoe

Naot 'Matai'Any singer will tell you that standing for an hour or half an hour in performance creates a requirement for a comfortable shoe. A comfortable black shoe. When I started formulating this blog post in my mind, my thought was to pull every black shoe out of my shoe closet, pile them up, and snap a photograph of that mountain of blackness.

<Sidebar On>
Yes, I have a lot of black shoes. Yes, I have a closet devoted to my shoes. And no, all my shoes do not fit into my shoe closet. A few spill over into other closets. Several other closets.
<Sidebar Off>

Ah, but then Naot came into the picture. I had seen the Naot Matai in a catalog. Then I tried it on at a local shoe store and fell in love. The shoe was expensive, but I've been known to buy expensive shoes. Not Jimmy Choo or Prada or Manolo Blahnik expensive, but definitely Stuart Weitzman, Ferragamo, and Taryn Rose. Three pair of Taryn Rose, once.

So, damn the expense. But the store didn't have the color I wanted in the size I needed, so I put the project on hold. Then several months later I saw my friend, Kim, who with her man, John, owns the Great Harvest franchise in Fairlawn, wearing the Naot Matai. Kim spends the entire day on her feet. Five days a week, all day, walking from mixer to oven to cash register to storeroom. My feet ache to think about her day. Then at one of our Star Wars in Concert performances, I noticed one of my fellow Chamber Choir singers wearing a pair of the shoes. Both women raved about the comfort of this shoe.

So back I went to Lucky Shoes, but again they were out of my size in the black. So I went online to Nordstrom, who also was out of my size in the black. Zappo's to the rescue. I should have just gone there first, but you know about my love for and addiction to Nordstrom and, even greater than that, my commitment to buy local.

Two days later the Zappo's box was on my doorstep. I wore the shoes to the office the next day, and then to Messiah rehearsal that night. Wow! Comfort! There was no breaking-in period. There was not a moment of discomfort.

The shoes do not look as chic, as fashion forward (I truly hate that phrase!) as the shoes I normally wear, but—Oh. My. Gosh.—can you spell comfort? I've even worn them to the office a couple of days, just because they feel so darned good.

I'm thinking I'm going to have to buy another pair in a different colorway to take on my trip to Ireland this summer.

And all those other black shoes? Umm, there may be a thrift shop in their future. Or a vintage shop—after all, one pair of patent flats has been in my closet since around 1981.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Creativity of Authors

I'm reading Linda Howard's "Burn". Ms. Howard crafts good, solid writing—characters who are believable and a plot that draws you in and keeps you turning the pages or, in my case, pressing the "Play" button.

I'm not enamored of the creativity of her writing, as I sometimes am with books I pick up. But occasionally she comes up with statements by her characters that just grab my ear.

So, on this snowy morning—day after day, flake upon flake, where you just want to scream to Mother Nature, "Turn off the damned snow machine!"—I give you one clever turn of phrase by Ms. Howard:

"You're a demon. You know that?", he said with feeling.

When your feet hit the floor every morning, I'll bet the devil shudders and says, 'Oh, shit! She's awake.'"

Isn't that terrific writing? Don't you have more than a few people in your life you could say that to?

Travels with Grandma

My brief and quick trip to North Carolina during New Year's week gave me another opportunity to observe my grandchildren up close and without the filters they might apply when their parents are around.

It's always interesting to see the world through their eyes. I wanted to share an incident with you.

To set the stage, you have to understand that Boston and Ridley live in a fabulous house. Fabulous - in the truest sense of the word! Their home was built around 1927-1929. I think it contains about 3600 square feet in five bedrooms and three full and two half baths (depending on how the rooms are defined). It is adorned with Brazilian mahogony paneling and crown moldings that are individually cast. It is, simply, a work of art. A treasure.

Against that backdrop—that old grandeur, that way of life—we walked into my brother's vacation house on the mountaintop. Jerry has exquisite taste, and always uses interior designers for his spaces. His house was built, as I recall, in the late 80s or early 90s. It's rustic chic: natural twigs are used in many of the design elements; earthy colors adorn the walls; two large leather sofas call you to collapse into them. The house has three bedrooms and two bathrooms in a split configuration divided by a great room—open kitchen, dining area, and living area. I think it probably contains about 2600 square feet.

We walked in and said hello to everyone, with hugs all around. Then Boston walked around the living area, taking it all in. He looked at me and said, "Wow. Uncle Jerry must be rich to afford a house like this."

The statement struck me. I don't think he's ever looked around his house and said, "Wow, we must be rich to afford this house." His house with its understated elegance is his norm. But Uncle Jerry's house, with its highly-decorated perfection, was out of the norm. It was so magazine-perfect that the owner must be rich.

I love peeking inside my grandchildren's brains!

Photo credit: Jaci Clark Photography

Sunday, January 03, 2010

A little poem for your New Year

There are lots of blog posts swirling around my brain, but this afternoon I'm committed to some editing jobs for Tyler. So I will simply share with you a poem from a Prairie Home Companion broadcast of last summer.

If you hate the incessant and unending cacophony of kids playing Marco Polo, as I do, I think you'll love this poem by Billy Collins. Scroll down to "Hangover", and enjoy a memory of warm summers, in the midst of the unending snow showers here in Northeast Ohio.

I hope you're having a wonderful and relaxing New Year's weekend.