Thursday, May 27, 2010

Dear Miss Villani

On a regular basis, I think good thoughts and feel deep appreciation for the former owner of my home. She took such good and tender care of this house for years and years after she grew up here. And she planted great flora. Look at those poppies! Oh My Gosh—they take my breath away. And there are daffodils and irises and peonies and lily-of-the-valley and ….

You get the idea: this yard is exquisite.

Thank you!

And here's a close-up from last year.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Writing for a Living

I've been blogging now for a month short of four years. It all started when I met a man I instantly thought was wonderful and who later turned out to be not so. I wanted to document the travails of dating when one is old over 50. This blog has turned into so much more than that.

All along, I've blogged for the sheer wonder of sharing words, sharing thoughts. I've blogged for the love of words, and seen my writing improve as a result. There was never any pay, except when someone said to me, "I love what you wrote today!"

I never had hundreds of daily readers. I think the most I had was 45 or so, when The Gardener told every woman he knew about being featured in my blog. (Now there was a man with too many women and too little time!) Nowadays I average just over 30 hits. I know the identity of about half of them. There's a whole contingent in North Carolina who read regularly and I don't have a clue how they found me or who started passing my URL around.

<Random Thought On>
Is that the on-the-bathroom-wall-with-magic-marker of the future? Will we write URLs instead of "Sally loves Bobby"?
<Random Thought Off>

I recently started a second blog. It's still lying in its crib, but as it learns to walk, it will contain posts about Youngstown, maybe some posts about our clients, posts about writing and Web stuff. It will not contain personal stuff—the stories I love to write about my grandchildren and children and cats and the development of this wonder-of-a-relationship with the Jazzman. Just the professional stuff, so when someone offering a freelance job wants to see writing samples, I can point out that content.

But still, there's no pay for that.

But (she said, grinning), last night I got my first task assignment from the new boss to write a blog post. Yea! Me, a blogger for pay!

Can I say, "I have arrived"?

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The View from my Computer

The practice of working from home requires some adjustment. One is responsible primarily to oneself, and that requires a healthy exercise of integrity. I like integrity.

As I'm swamped with work, I realize how little serious and important (to the organization) work I've been doing for the past six months or so. I love my work, and I love sitting here in my aerie, windows open, breeze drifting through, cats nearby.

Several people said to me, "You can work in your jammies." One person even said, "You should wear your jammies for the first three days, just because you can." Jammies to work is so not my style. When I ran to pick up the Jazzman from his cousin's house last night upon his return from a long weekend in the Hamptons, I threw on a robe and a pair of yoga pants—over nothin'. I knew I would see no one, and it was a three-block drive. But still, it wasn't quite my style.

<Sidebar On>
Although, PianoLady would tell you stories of our 8:00 a.m. piano ensemble class forty-one years ago where we learned Mozart four-hand sonatas and Rachmaninoff piano duets. There are stories of my wearing a trenchcoat over my nightgown for these classes. I look back now and can't believe I ever did that. It must just be an urban myth!
<Sidebar Off>

So I share with you today's View From My Desk: Angel dozing in the window, waking with a start each time a grackle or a robin or a blue jay whizzes by.

This beats shivering in an overcooled cubicle any day!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Weekend Activities

We are a family filled with a passion for the arts, both performing and visual, and with myriad artistic interests. We play musical instruments, sing, write, take pictures, and make things with our hands—all sorts of things in all kinds of mediums. We are artists. We create.

These passions have extended to the third generation. Ridley can hardly sit still without having a drawing pad and colored pencil in her hand. In her house and mine, she knows right where to go to find all her art supplies. And Boston is very interested in my fabric and buttons and thread.

I had the babes overnight on Friday, which became sewing and dyeing time. Boston has been wanting me to make him a snake that is hollow inside so he can feed it things. Friday night we ran to Jo-Ann's after supper at Panera and picked out some fleece and some silky lining. Once home, he decided the shape of the snake's head, and we cut and sewed. He had told me the snake would have a zippered mouth and a red tongue that rolled up into the mouth when you wanted to zip the zipper.

Two or three times on Friday night, I threaded my Bernina 1630 and each time said, "Over this, around that, up the right, down the left . . ." On Saturday morning while I was fixing breakfast, he decided he wanted a different color thread, so sat down and successfully threaded the machine. By himself. At eight-and-a-half years of age. With no help from me.

Anyone who sews will tell you that threading the machine is difficult. You must make sure you pass the thread through each of the eight or so nooks and crannies or the machine just won't sew. Well, he got all the nooks, crannies, and the tiny little eye in the needle. I was astonished!

Ridley spent time looking at all my bottles of fiber reactive dye, and chose "antique gold" (although she kept calling it an-tee-cue) and "lilac". Then we dug a silk scarf out of my stash and gave it a base bath of gold, then folded and clamped and finished our mini-shibori experiment with lilac. She said, "It's going to be cold today. I think I'll wear it to my soccer game to stay warm." I had to explain that a silk scarf is something you wear for dress-up, not for warmth.

I love that my grandkids think that I, with a needle and thread, can do everything there is to do. And I especially love that they want to learn to do everything I do.

I said to Ridley, "Do you know how you are like Grandma? Because we both have lots of interests and not enough time." She smiled.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

An Accident Waiting to Happen

When I was preparing to buy this house, the home inspector commented about the front steps. They were 80 years old and the mortar was barely holding them together. Someone had repaired them at one (or more) point(s), but it had not held. The inspector said they had to be repaired.

For the past year-and-a-half, I have been living in constant fear of someone stepping onto the steps and falling backwards as the bricks gave way. I was certain a lawsuit was just around the corner.

The Jazzman did some research and called Chuck Hyde of Leonelli Remodeling. Leonelli sent some of their people over yesterday, and I now have beautiful new steps. Next week I will have a beautiful new column (or two) on the front porch, devoid of decades of wood rot.

But I made one minor error. Yesterday was a lovely day—and by that I mean not cold. I threw open the windows in my bedroom and the babes' bedroom. Then I went into the small bedroom my office to begin my day's work. I didn't think about the work that is involved in demolishing aged mortar before applying new mortar.

I heard some grinding and ran downstairs to look out the front door. The air around the front door was thick with dust. Again, I didn't engage my brain and think about my bedroom. Then I heard grinding in the back, and noticed the air around the back door was thick with dust as one of the workers repaired the brick walls on either side of my back stairs.

A couple of hours later, starting to think about the ramifications, I walked into my bedroom and trailed my fingers across the dresser. Oops. Big oops! My dresser and everything sitting on it is coated with dust. I haven't stopped to look at my nightstand or the nightstand on the other side of the bed. Or the floor. Or the armoire.

I'm just grateful for the fact that Monday is my cleaning lady's day. I can stick my head in the sand—er, dust—and let her deal with it.

Oh, and I'm grateful for my beautiful new front stairs.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Obama Comes to Youngstown [Again!]

Busy day today, so I'll cop out by directing you to the White House blog, where there's a post featuring President Obama's visit yesterday to the Mahoning Valley.

Photo credit:

Beauty in the Valley

My new job requires me to research and think and write marketing materials for clients, which I greatly enjoy doing. I feels much more like exercise for my brain than the technical writing I've been doing for the past two years. It's much more like the writing I was doing at IBM in Tucson, which I loved. In doing my research and preparation, sometimes I come across bits of media that are simply irresistible.

In that vein, I share with you a video narrated by photographer Greg Miller. Miller is a photographer who came to Youngstown in April to shoot the images that would accompany the Inc. magazine article Sempre Youngstown. I posted several weeks ago about this article.

I loved Miller's script in this video. He found in Youngstown some of the beauty that we get to see on a daily basis.

Greg, I hope you'll come back and visit us again to meet more of our friendly, upbeat people and see more of our beauty, both man-made and natural.

Photo credit: Greg Miller

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Shake a Leg!

I told you last week about my conversation with my doctor regarding my recent decreased lung function. I told her my plan was to walk every day on my way to "the office." However, the weather had been cold and wet and, generally, unenticing. I walked around the block one day when I got home from doing the banking for my boss. My block is only ten minutes around, so I need to make it two blocks or more. But regardless, I haven't done it. My butt is not off the chair. I am not exercising.

I've decided to learn enough golf to be able to play a few rounds when the Jazzman and I go to the lake for the week of July 4th. We were going to go to the Par 3 course at Mill Creek Metroparks on Sunday morning, but we ended up working on the house instead. So when he said he had a 2:30 tee time with his golf buddies, I suddenly decided I was going to go walk along with them.

When we arrived at the Mill Creek course, all the wives had come along, so I paired up with the wives and walked the three-mile course. I watched everything they were doing—each stance, each swing—and felt I would be welcomed by this group, no matter how poorly I played. (I've always heard that in golf you're only playing against yourself, anyway.)

Now, when I say I walked the three-mile course, please be mindful that it was not constant, steady, fast-paced walking. It was walk to the first tee, wait for the two young guys ahead of us to clear the green, then hit-chase-hit-chase the ball until we got to the green, then walk to the next tee and repeat. It was a lot of standing, some walking, and two sit-downs on available benches.

I'm not complaining; let's be clear about that! I'm just saying it wasn't exactly aerobic activity. But activity it was. When I woke up on Monday morning, I could hardly get my body out of the bed. Every muscle and tendon—and, yes, even my bones—hurt. Ached. Burned. If ever there was an indicator that I'm out of shape physically, my sensations on Monday morning were the clear indicator.

Must. Get. Exercise.

But, oh, what a gorgeous day it was in the Mahoning Valley on Sunday afternoon. Blue skies, puffy clouds, around 72 degrees.

It was the kind of day that makes up for all the gray, rainy, cold, snowy, foggy, cloudy days that seem to be in abundance in this part of the world.

Until I master what to do with clubs and little white balls, I'm perfectly happy walking a round or two with my friends.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Who Are You and Why Are You Here?

The cats are used to hosting parties all day long every day. Great parties with unlimited cat treats and clean litter boxes. They don't have to answer to me; they just invite all their friends.

Now, suddenly, I'm working at home. They're not alone during the day any more. They are not free to just do what they want.

They frequently sleep together on Ridley's bed. Whenever I walk past the open bedroom door, Angel looks up at me as if to say, "Why are you here? Can't you just go away?!" Rudi says nothing. He just ignores me and continues sleeping.

Really, if I had known my life was going to take this turn, I wouldn't have gotten Angel to keep Rudi company. Rudi would have just had me to keep him company. Think how much money I would have saved!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Effing Exercise

lungsYou know the people in my family love a good alliteration. Effing Exercise may not be the most creative alliteration you've seen on this site, but it completely describes the prescription my doctor gave me yesterday.

<Sidebar On>
If you live in Mahoning or Trumbull county and you're looking for a good internist/family doctor, I wholeheartedly recommend Dr. Angela Roberts, who has recently joined the practice of Dr. Paul Rich, 5170 Belmont Avenue, 330.759.2511‎. Dr. Roberts is smart, compassionate and practical. She doesn't laugh at my crazy ideas and she makes me glad I made the call to her office. And she's accepting new patients. (She's a YSU grad. Oh, and a musician. We speak the same language.)
<Sidebar Off>

When I took the g'babes to North Carolina for New Year's week to visit their great-grandmother, Ridley gave me her cold. It took me six weeks or so to get over that cold, and I still, five months later, have a nasty bronchial cough that just hangs on. Sometime in late winter or early spring, I began feeling a weight in my chest. Sometimes when I woke up in the morning, I could hear a rattling or wheezing when I breathed out. When I was in rehearsals or performances with the COChorus, I would sometimes run out of breath far earlier than in years past. Or when I went to grab a breath before a long phrase, I would fight the urge to cough.

I've always considered myself fairly healthy, except for my chronic headaches. So these lung symptoms didn't give me a warm feeling. Of course, my imagination was taking me to lung cancer or esophageal cancer. Whatever the worst case scenario was, that's where I was going with this weight on my chest.

Now that I'm not driving to Akron every day (yea!), I felt free to take the time to get the problem looked at. This morning I spent two hours with Dr. Roberts. She ran an EKG and took a chest x-ray. These were all good. My lungs were clear and my heart was great. Then she ordered a spirometry, a test normally given to determine if a patient has asthma.

I had to take a deep breath, then exhale quickly and fully through a tube that measured the exhalation. This was done three times, then I was treated with a medication to open the tubes. After sitting for ten minutes with my NYTimes crossword, I had to do the exhalation again.

Dr. Roberts came back into the examining room and said, "The good news is, you don't have asthma." I had no problem with my lungs.

"However," she continued, "the bad news is . . .

"your lungs are 69 years old."

Wait. I'm 59. In five weeks and five days I'll be 60. I'm often told I look much younger than my age. When the g'babes were little, people were surprised to hear I was their grandmother. So "your lungs are 69 years old"??!!!

Dr. Roberts looked into my eyes and said, "Jan, you're out of shape."

Well, sheeit. For the past two years and two months, I've spent two hours a day driving to and from Akron, eight hours a day in a job where I felt, oh, never mind, and an hour a day running errands at lunch. Running errands, not walking around the block. And now I'm paying for it.

My lungs are 69 years old.

We all want to exercise, right? We all want to be in good physical shape. Now my doctor has told me I must get into physical shape.

She said, "Don't start fast. Start slowly. Walk, don't run."

I nodded.

She asked, "Do you have a plan?"

"Yes," I responded. "Now that I'm working from home, I will walk around the block before starting work." She nodded.

She wants to see me again in three weeks.

I've got to get off my ass.

Aging sucks!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

First Day on the Job

tornadoI've been trying to keep my head above water this week, and haven't made it to the blog, although lots of topics are—of course—flying around my brain.

Monday was my first day on the new job. By the end of the day I found I had experienced every emotion known to man. I had totally and completely run the gamut, as they say.

The day began with meeting my new boss for breakfast at Café Cimmento for breakfast. (By the way, if you haven't been following this blog and the recent changes in my life, you don't know that my new boss is my younger son. We are now a family business!) We sat there for a couple of hours, laptops by our sides, and talked about various upcoming tasks. Then I went and did the banking and came back home to get settled into work.

An hour later I called the Jazzman to see when he was coming over for our lunch date. Alas, he had totally forgotten our lunch date and made a spur-of-the-moment lunch date with his buddy. I immediately lapsed into old fear-of-rejection behaviors, which threw my mental state into the ditch.

I spent the afternoon working on tasks for the new job, with a few minutes' break to talk to my cleaning lady, who is accustomed to having the house to herself when she works—new patterns for both of us. About 6:00, the Jazzman came over for dinner and to try to redeem his reputation. I ran down to the basement to grab something before we left for supper at Station Square, and noticed there was standing water in the drains in the basement. I called upstairs to the Jazzman, who came down to survey the situation. After deciding it was just slow-draining water from the wash machine, we left for dinner.

Upon returning, we went straight to the basement, to find a pool of water about five feet across. And rising. Jazzman immediately got on the phone to the water department, and I called several neighbors to see if this was a situation reserved solely to me. It was. I ran upstairs and discovered the toilet in the upstairs bathroom was running. I jiggled the handle and it stopped, and by the time I got to the basement the water was receding. Hmmm. Cause and effect? I think so.

More calls to the water department to call off their people; calls to plumbers to see if we could get someone out with a snake; and a determination that we would just not flush all night and I would not shower in the morning until we got a plumber out. Pretty soon we heard a noisy truck outside and saw that the water department had not called off their people. Ten minutes later we heard banging on the front door, and I threw my clothes back on and ran down to open the door, setting off the security alarm. The city water guy declared an all-clear, confirming that the problem was mine alone.

By the time I crawled into my bed, I was brain-weary. I had felt elation over the new job; confidence and accomplishment at producing copy for a class announcement; depression over being tossed aside by my sweetheart; frustration at the problems with the house; fear about the financial hit of house problems; disgust with myself for buying this old house with all its problems; and anger at myself for taking in this kitten.

No, the standing water was not the kitten's fault, but he's caused me so much angst and cost me so much money in the six months I've had him, everything seems to come back to him. He's the convenient scapegoat!

Today? All is well. The plumber came yesterday morning, snaked out the pipe and installed a new flapper on the toilet. I had another good day at work, including another couple of hours with the boss learning how to prepare and send out the invoices. I did research for copy for a website, again feeling productive. And had a delightful evening with my beau, who has well and truly redeemed himself.

That's the thing about pushing 60: your brain doesn't work the way it did ten or twenty years earlier. You forget things. You frequently forget things.

It's not fun, but it's a fact of life, so you might as well accept it.

And all the changes and unknowns in my life right now? I think I'll live through it.

(And you're probably wondering why I chose a tornado as today's image. Because that's what my brain feels like right now!)

Friday, May 07, 2010

The Roasted Swan

Last night's performance with the Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus was a great success. This morning I'll share with you interviews with two of our soloists. Raymond Aceto is the bass soloist in the Prologue to Mefistofele, and Ljubomir Puŝkarić is the bass soloist for Carmina Burana. They are interviewed in Cleveland Classical by Daniel Hathaway.

Aceto and Puŝkarić are joined by soprano Lisette Oropesa and tenor Christopher Pfund.

Can you imagine having a career basically centered around singing "The Roasted Swan"? Christopher Pfund is fabulous in this role. If you're not familiar with this movement, here's a rough translation:

Once I lived on lakes,
once I looked beautiful
when I was a swan.

(Male chorus)
Misery me!
Now black
and roasting fiercely!

The servant is turning me on the spit;
I am burning fiercely on the pyre:
the steward now serves me up.

(Male chorus)
Misery me!
Now black
and roasting fiercely!

Now I lie on a plate,
and cannot fly anymore,
I see bared teeth:

(Male chorus)
Misery me!
Now black
and roasting fiercely!

When Pfund wanders off the stage as the men of the chorus are finishing singing about his "roasting fiercely", you just want to doff your cap to him, he has sung so brilliantly.

I am enjoying these performances of Carmina more than any I've sung before (I think this is my fifth Carmina), and I'm sure a large part of that has to be the thrill of standing behind the Cleveland Orchestra. And it's a treat for us to be singing under Maestro Porco's baton. Porco regularly prepares us to sing with other conductors, but in this instance we have been prepared by him and are conducted in performance with him. I was tickled last night to see his smiles as we nailed particularly tricky passages. There are many times when we fall short of his expectations in rehearsal; to do exactly what he wants in performance is the reward of hours and hours of practice.

My favorite movement of the evening, by far, is Were diu werlt alle min. I don't know why this movement brings me such joy, but I cannot keep from grinning ear to ear as I sing it. (Well, in my mind I'm grinning from ear to ear. It's impossible to sing while grinning from ear to ear, dontcha know?!)

Were all the world mine
from the sea to the Rhine,
I would starve myself of it
so that the queen of England
might lie in my arms.

Yesterday I posted the information about the live broadcast on Saturday night. If you can't join us in person, tune in online. I think you'll love it!

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Full Circle

I had my final lunch today with friends at one of our fave restaurants, Tres Potrillos on Restaurant Row in Copley. Sheila packed up Miss Adie and brought her over so I could meet her in person after telling you all about this little miracle over the past two months.

At two months and three days, she now weighs a little over six pounds. She's sleeping well and eating well. And just look at all that beautiful hair!

Thanks, Loren and Sheila, for all your efforts to make sure I could meet your miracle. May her progress continue!

Look who I had lunch with!

Now the Fun Begins

MefistofeleThe Cleveland Orchestra and Chorus had dress rehearsal last night for Prologue to Mefistofele and Carmina Burana. Tonight the real fun begins.

I first heard the Boito Prologue to Mefistofele in D.C. in 1990 on a first date with a man I went on to have a very long relationship with. I remember sitting in my box seat in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall and drinking in this music, performed by the Choral Arts Society of Washington and the National Symphony. They had placed the percussion section stage left, in full view of the audience. My son was in his first year of boarding school, a new percussion student at Interlochen Arts Academy. Watching percussionists play with their toys always made me feel he was not so far away. The Boito features a whole lot of percussion instruments.

In the next phone call I had with my son (this was before the days of e-mail), I asked him, "what do you call that sheet of metal that you shake and bang?" He responded, "I don't know. A 'sheet of metal that you shake and bang'?!" I laughed out loud and this has been a code phrase for us for the ensuing twenty years.

Last night at dress rehearsal, I looked everywhere for the "sheet of metal". I can hear it. It sounds like thunder—very loud thunder. I love it! When I hear it I'm 40 years old again! But it appears to be positioned offstage—partly because of its size and partly because of its decibel level, I presume. I'll look forward to hearing it again the next three nights.

If you cannot attend the concert, you can listen live online at at 8:00 p.m. EDT, Saturday night, 5/8/2010.

A Shout-Out

Thirty-five years ago right now I was lying in bed in the maternity ward of Florida Hospital, staring at a beautiful bedimpled baby boy. He's capitalized on those dimples all his life, and they're just an attractive flourish on the package: a hard-working, thoughtful man of integrity.

Rather than again write at length on this topic, I'll share my post from two years ago.

Thanks for being you, Tyler. Have a fabulous day. Love you bunches & oodles & gobs.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Shouting About Youngstown

There's much excitement in our family and our city over the May issue of Inc. Magazine. My son and daughter-in-law are interviewed, reported upon, and pictured in front of their beautiful 1927 Tudor-style home.

Tyler and Jaci's decision three-and-a-half years ago to return to Youngstown and, specifically, to return to the kind of community and friendships that they had made nowhere else they lived was life affirming and transformational. I cannot imagine their having the kind of personal and business success they have here had we stayed in Washington, DC or Tucson, AZ.

Their feet are more firmly planted on this midwest soil than could have happened for them in Washington or Reston or Tucson.

So today I'm going to be succinct and share with you what some other bloggers are saying about this article and the good things that are happening in Youngstown. I'm so lucky to be here!

The article: Inc. Magazine's Semper Youngstown

Burgh Diaspora - Economic Development From Geographic Mobility

i will shout youngstown: let's "inc" a new want ad for Youngstown

And to further emphasize what can happen for entrepreneurs in Youngstown, read Jaci's post about her new studio. Or spend a few minutes on Tyler's blog to see multiple examples of his successes here.


Monday, May 03, 2010

Choral No Nos

I spent last Tuesday, Friday and Saturday singing with [Not My Regular] Chorus. It's always a trying experience. I sang this concert because I love the conductor. He is the younger brother I never had. But my random Facebook rants about the behaviors of many chorus members led to an extended discussion on the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus Facebook page. So today I'm going to share with you my opinion on the behaviors a symphonic chorus member should not exhibit.

Let me begin by saying that if you have auditioned for and been accepted into a symphonic chorus, whether in the big leagues (Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, et. al.) or a smaller orchestra (Tier 2, such as Toledo; Tier 3, such as Tucson; down to a Tier 7, such as Champaign-Urbana), or an independent symphonic chorus not directly affiliated with an orchestra (such as The Washington Chorus, Choral Arts Society of Washington or The City Choir of Washington) and regardless of whether or not you receive financial remuneration to sing in that organization, you are a professional.

You have studied music for years; you have probably studied voice; you sang in choruses—probably elite choruses—in high school and college;many of you have degrees in music; many of you chose music education as your vocation. You are a musician. Music is in your blood and, probably, constantly present in your brain.

You are rewarded by being allowed to sing under fabulous conductors and directors who give you a free graduate-level music class during every rehearsal. You are privileged to bring entertainment, beauty and joy to thousands of audience members each season.

When you sing, you are held to a higher standard.

With all that in mind, I give you Jan's List of Choral Don'ts—or Dos:

  1. The top, number 1, most important item is "be courteous." Be courteous to your seatmates, the director, and the accompanist. Be especially courteous to (and appreciative of) the chorus manager. Without him or her, your life would be much harder. If everyone were courteous, there would be no more items on this list. There wouldn't even be a list.

  2. Be in your seat before rehearsal begins. If you must arrive late, don't just saunter in and take your seat. Wait for the end of warm-up or for an appropriate break in the rehearsal. (See #1.)

  3. Be quiet. Chat with your friends and neighbors until the moment the director steps to the music stand to begin warm-ups. Then shut up. When the director stops the rehearsal to give instructions to one section, this is not your signal to begin chatting again. There is no excuse for you to begin a conversation with your neighbor. (Well, if you're totally lost, try to find yourself from a neighbor, but as quietly and unobtrusively as possible.) You don't need to ask your neighbor to repeat the funny thing the director just said. If you hadn't been talking to someone else, you would have heard what he said. (See #1.)

  4. Pay attention to the written music. Rests and bar lines are printed in the music for a purpose. They signal the end of sound. So stop singing! For your friends in the audience to say, "Oh, I heard you." is not a compliment. Your voice, held out loud and long after you were to have stopped singing is not a good thing. Cut. Off.

  5. Don't scoop. (Y'know how some country music singers will start singing a little below the designated note, then slide up to the note, finally settling on where they should be a second after they started? That's called scooping.) Scooping is inappropriate in classical music. It's not really appropriate in country music, but it's accepted. It isn't accepted in classical music. Don't do it.

  6. Write. Keep a pencil in your writing hand at all times during rehearsals. When the director says something that applies to you, write it down. Draw eyeglasses. Circle notes you chronically miss. Remind yourself in pencil lead about those crescendos and accelerandos and fortepianos and accents. Then do them. Do them each and every time you sing that section. Don't circle a note you've missed and then continue missing it. This is why you must rehearse on your own between rehearsals—so you don't make thoughtless errors. (See #4.) (Oh, and see #1.)

  7. You don't need to correct the director. He or she is paid. He or she has studied the music and thought about the directions he's giving and—really—knows what he's talking about. If you want to approach him after the rehearsal and question him about some particular note, feel free to do so. But don't waste valuable rehearsal time to show off how much you know about music. You're not making points with any of your fellow singers!

  8. Don't conduct along with the conductor. Your conducting pattern is in the peripheral vision of your neighbor, diverting her attention from the director's pattern, and—quite possibly causing her to make a mistake. Find some other way to keep time for yourself.

  9. When you're dressing for performance, observe the stated dress code. If the dress code says "white blouse with long sleeves", don't wear 3/4 sleeves and—especially—don't wear ivory. If the dress code says "no dangling earrings", then don't wear dangling earrings. If the dress code says "blouses must be tucked in", tuck it in! Don't make the chorus manager tell you to tuck it in. (See #1.) You are on that stage for the sake of the music and for the sake of the audience. Don't behave in any manner that will draw attention to yourself. You are part of the whole.

  10. When the concertmaster rises, in rehearsal or performance, to signal the oboe for Concert A, shut your mouth, zip your lip, and don't say one more word. That is sacred, precious, holy time. If you are in mid-sentence to your neighbor when the concertmaster stands, don't finish the sentence. Just. Shut. Up. (See #1.)

  11. Oh, and my final item? See #1.

There, I've gotten that out.Thanks for listening.

Play nice. Be courteous.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Is It Fit to Read?

BookshelfEach time Tyler or I move, we talk about books. We discuss the number of books we have, how it makes sense to get rid of them, and how much we love them. We don't want to get rid of them. We are book people. When a colleague told him his books all live in a library and can be checked out when he wants to read them again, Tyler said, "But when someone walks into my home, he can look at my bookshelf and instantly know a lot about me." I like that idea. I like my books. But at the same time, I have too many books. Or not enough bookshelves.

The other day I posted about the crap stuff on my nightstand. I thought you might like to know what all these books are and why they're just sitting there. So here goes. You can help me decide whether they need to go downstairs to my library or out the door to some worthy book-giving organization.


You're impressed, aren't you, that I listed this one first. This is for my geek side and is brand new. I need it for some work I'm doing for Tyler. It will move to my new desk in my new home office (currently in the back of the TV family room.

Golf for Dummies

Brand new, with accompanying DVD. I'm bound and determined to learn to swing a club respectably before I go with the Jazzman to his summer cottage on the shores of Lake Erie. Note to self: Make time to watch the DVD, and schedule some time at the practice range as soon as Carmina is concluded.

Making the Cat Laugh, by Lynne Truss, 1994

Subtitle: One woman's journal of single life on the margins. From the woman who wrote "Eats, Shoot, and Leaves". A wanna-read, just haven't made the time. Back downstairs to my library.

Risking Everything: 110 Poems of Love and Revelation, Edited by Roger Housden

Recommended to me by my dear friend and teacher, Diane Ericson. I love the poems in this book, and actually gave one to you earlier. I want to spend more time with this book. It can stay.

Ireland, by DK Eyewitness Travel

Ireland trip cancelled. Book goes back downstairs to my library, to the travel book shelf.

Dog Days: Dispatches from Bedlam Farm, by Jon Katz

I love this man's blog and include it in the feeder on the right side of my blog. Beautiful words; beautiful photography. But I have not enough time, so it's going downstairs onto the "Nexxxxt" stack. (You have to say that with a rising inflection, like the lady behind the counter at the bakery. "Nexxxxt?")

Floor Sample: A creative memoir, by Julia Cameron, the author of "The Artist's Way"

I want to read this, as I also want to work through her Artist's Way and Artist's Way Workbook. Maybe after I retire.

The Grapes of Wrath

My book group chose this last year, but I never get to book group any more because of Monday night conflicts. I started this and got nowhere. Heading downstairs.

Reflections on the Causes of Human Misery and upon Certain Proposals to Eliminate Them, by Barrington Moore, Jr., Pub. 1970.

WTF possessed me to purchase this book?! I must have heard some talk show host discuss it and thought it was pertinent to all my adoption issues. I'm not sure this is ever going to get read, and not sure I would even bother to give it away. It may just go in the trashcan as a lesson on impulse purchases.

Dreams from My Father, by Barack Obama

Another book group book. Probably not going to get read. Too many books, too little time. (Remember when I used to say that about men? Glad that's over!)

Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty TIps for Better Writing, by Mignon Fogarty

This woman has a great podcast that she turned into a book. I refer to it occasionally. It came home from my office and never got past my bedside table. As I glance over, there are a number of other papers and items that came from the office that need to leave the bedroom. Now!

ASP.NET Development with Macromedia DreamWeaver MX

From the old office. Going to the new office. Why is this in the bedroom?!

ASP in a Nutshell


The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to solve the mysteries of weak writing, by Bonnie Trenga

Double ditto

Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, how today's smartest businesses grow themselves, by Adam L. Penenberg

Someone somewhere on a plane recommended this book to me. I bought it. I haven't read it. To the office. I should read it.

Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson

Don't remember when or where or why I bought this. It caught my eye. A legal mystery, which I tend to buy and enjoy. Back downstairs for more free time.

Wishful Drinking, by Carrie Fisher

Put this on my wish list after noticing the play adaptation in the NYC theatre district last October when PianoLady and I made our annual trek. Thought I'd enjoy it. Tyler bought it for me for Christmas and remembered to give it to me at Valentine's Day. Notice a trend here? I think we're both too busy. Oh, wait. That's why I'm going to work for him! (I am halfway through this book. Will put it in my music bag for the Hell Week that is ahead.)

And finally …

Puzzle books

As one ages, one should spend some time each day on a puzzle of some sort. I told my manager this when he dinged me on my appraisal last year for doing my daily crossword in awful, interminable, boring meetings. I think he bought my explanation, but he didn't take the ding off my appraisal. And it's no longer my problem!

Current stack: Tri-Doku (throw/give it away—you don't get it!); Fill-In Paint-doku (nah, not gettin' that one either); 10x10 Sudoku (all the easy and medium ones are filled in and you don't like to waste/spend time on the hard ones - trash it); Sudoku to go - Gentle (about five puzzles left in this one—put it in your music bag and finish this week).

Okay, now was that so hard? Oh, wait. As I look down, I see two more Sudokus and a Washington Post crossword compilation. And five catalogs. And four beading and quilting magazines. I'm out of control!!

"Hi. My name is Jan. I'm addicted to the published word."

(Oh, and thanks for your help.)

Oh, dear. An hour later I found one more book under everything I'd been going through on my bed.
The Other Side of Organized: Finding Balance Between Chaos and Perfection; by Linda Samuels

How funny is it that this is the book that got lost under all the clutter?! This is the one PianoLady sent me recently, which I'll get to soonest. I'm sure. I have to!!!