Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009: Like I Need An Excuse To Get Introspective

Hey, it's that time again -- looking back on 2009, spitting on its grave, and moving on!

1. What did you do in 2009 that you’d never done before?

Hugged my new nephew. Took sole responsibility for the life of an infant (neither my niece nor my nephew) for 6 to 8 hours at a time. Sang as a "hired gun" specifically recruited for singing. Made my American musical theatre debut in "Fiddler on the Roof." Auditioned for a reality TV show. Saw a Deer Woman. Discovered two podcasts which have since become my favorites: Comedy and Everything Else, and Jordan, Jesse, GO!

2. Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?



No idea. Let's look back. Huh. Sort of! Haven't really been cooking at home as much, but I did find a physical activity I enjoyed; namely, yoga. So, that's something. I'm in the process of discerning my goals for 2010.

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?



Yep. My sister-in-law had an Owen, aka Bubby! (The exclamation point is part of the pronunciation of "Bubby!")

4. Did anyone close to you die?



Yes.

5. What countries did you visit?



The USA, and I think that's it.

6. What would you like to have in 2010 that you lacked in 2009?

A full-time permanent job, or the means not to need a full-time permanent job.

7. What dates from 2009 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

I can't do dates, but January 31 is a good one. (See #3, above.)

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?



I'll say the same thing as last year: accepting what is, and planning for what will be.

9. What was your biggest failure?

Giving in to the inertia of underemployment.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I had a cold a couple times, about 10 days each time. Thankfully, nothing major.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

I know what I will probably say for 2010, but that's not for another week or two, and who knows, maybe something else will be even better. For 2009, I'm going to say nothing, really, because I didn't really buy anything all that memorable.

12. Whose behavior merited celebration?

Mom and Dad, totally. Oh! And Madelynn and Owen, who consistently surprise me and astonish me with their new tricks and learnings.

13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed?



Me. And a friend who decided to end our relationship after nearly 20 years. And a former employer. And politicians of all ideologies.

14. Where did most of your money go?

Jesus, if I knew that, I'd be in a much better situation than I currently am, wouldn't I?

15. What did you get really excited about?

Finding my voice -- learning to sing and perform. Yoga. [TOP SECRET THING I'M NOT ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT].

16. What song will always remind you of 2009?

"I Believe In You" by Il Divo and Celine Dion. (I know.)

17. Compared to this time last year, are you:


– happier or sadder? Hmm, about even.
– thinner or fatter? About the same.
– richer or poorer? Just about the same.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?



Time with Madelynn and Owen. Time with JJ and Beth. Time with Mom and Dad. Time in prayer. Exercise.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?



Negative self-talk.

20. How did you spend Christmas?



Semester Family Christmas was 12/20, with gift exchange and a delicious meal. Semester-Ehlert Family Christmas was Actual Christmas, with a delicious meal and time with the kidlets. And then a nice two-hour nap.

21. Did you fall in love in 2009?

Nope.

22. What was your favorite TV program?



Nip/Tuck, Glee, and Modern Family.

23. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?



No.

24. What was the best book you read?

I just read "Chasing Vermeer" by Blue Balliet. It was really good -- reminded me of "The Westing Game," the book that set my heart and mind on fire for mysteries.

25. What was your greatest musical discovery?


The Reigning Monarchs

26. What did you want and get?

Silence and health.

27. What did you want and not get?

Discipline and diligence.

28. What was your favorite film of this year?

I don't really remember what I saw in the theater this year. So, meh. My favorite movie I saw this year, even though it was made a few years ago is Tarsem's "The Fall" -- aMAZing.

29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I think it was just another day, maybe a special dinner? I turned 36.

30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A full-time permanent job.

31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2009?

Casual preppy.

32. What kept you sane?



Lots and lots of alone time. (Also:"alone time.") Singing. Quiet. Driving.

33. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?

Toni Braxton, on account of my long-standing fascination and her recent divorce proceedings? I think?

34. What political issue stirred you the most?



Healthcare, I guess; war, maybe? But I don't really get stirred all that much.

35. Who did you miss?



Hmm. I kind of keep in touch with the people that I would "miss."

36. Who was the best new person you met?



I think I met Sacha and Bill just this year, so I'm going with Sacha and Bill.

37. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2009.



Do it, and do it now.

38. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.



"[Despite all manner of horrifically bad important stuff or, you know, whatever], it is well with my soul."

Friday, December 25, 2009

A Little Night (Or Day, Depending On When You Read This) Music

So. This year, with my finances being what they are (or, perhaps more accurately, With my finances being what they are not), I had to get creative with my gift-giving. One of the gifts I gave my parents for Christmas was a CD with a few songs I sang myself. I had to rig up a recording studio in the basement and I don't have actual recording equipment for singing, so the audio quality is not so hot, but I thought I'd share a couple of the songs from the CD with you here.

This first one is my favorite hymn, Great Is Thy Faithfulness. I figured, instead of just singing the melody, I'd sing it as a three-part piece. So, here is Great Is Thy Faithfulness, sung by me, and me, and me:



This other one is also a churchy song, but a more contemporary one. I've been listening a lot to K-LOVE on the radio lately (101.9FM in Indianapolis, which used to be something else I was pre-set to, but then it changed and I have so many damn pre-set buttons that I never really got around to changing it and it turns out I don't need to change it because I like it.) Anyway, they play this song a lot. It's Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus), by Chris Rice, only this one is Untitled Hymn (Come to Jesus) by me and a karaoke track:



In conclusion, if you think my performances suck, please to be keeping that to yourself. If you enjoy them, please feel free to smother me with compliments.

Oh, hey, if you're reading this on Facebook, the audio embeds might not make it through the auto-import process. Click here to hear what all the fuss is about.

¡Feliz Naviblah!

It's an oldie* but a goodie. (*In fact, it may be a duplicatie; have I posted this here before?)

But I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas! Or, en español, ¡Feliz Naviblah!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Lookin' good, part 2 (Cutest niece & nephew EVER!)

Got some more pics of Madelynn and Owen from their dad today. Madelynn actually took the two of Owen on the right. Pretty cool, huh?!

Click to embiggen, etc.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Lookin' good

Madelynn and Owen had some professional photos done recently. Here's a couple samples:

Monday, December 14, 2009

D'oh! A deer, a female...woman?

OK, this is weird. Please stick with me. 

You know those little ripped-from-my-headlines character-development stories I've been writing lately? I was writing one this evening, based on an experience in Chicago this morning after my [TOP SECRET THING I'M NOT ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT]. What's below is how far I got before doing some research. After you read the story, which maybe still needs an ending, check out what I just learned.

The woman in black stood out on the platform precisely because she stood perfectly still. As we all waited for the train, she was in her own quiet time zone, utterly, effortlessly.

She didn't fuss with her make-up, or a book, or a text message. She didn't pace back and forth like the rest of us, looking for the lights, listening for the brakes, straining not to taste the wind of the oncoming train. She wasn't waiting for the train at all; she seemed to have been assured the train was coming just for her.

We boarded the train -- we, on the train's schedule; the train, on her schedule -- and headed north toward Howard, although I doubt many of us actually went all the way to Howard. I certainly didn't, and just as certainly neither did she, for we both got off at Clark and Division, just two stops up from where we started. Hardly worth the $2.25, but better than an $8 cab ride, I guess.

I'd been watching her quite guilelessly for about five minutes. Either she didn't notice, or she didn't care. I guess, looking back now, 12 hours later, I remember that she had long blonde hair, but can you believe that's all I remember? Well, that and her shoeprint.

This beautiful young woman with long blonde hair exited the train in front of me, and I followed her up the escalator, around the corner, and up the grimy, snow-dirtied steps to the sidewalk on Division Street. I trailed, curious and entranced, a few steps behind. As she glided up the steps two at a time, her shoes left the most remarkable pattern in the wet urban muck. I swear to you, it looked like
deer tracks. The footprints she left in the mud and the dirt and the grit on the subway stairs looked exactly like the tracks of a doe.

I don't remember which way the blonde woman walked, because I was trying to figure out what kind of shoes could have made those prints as she bounded up the steps.

But she sure was memorable.
OK, so, like, nice story, right? Even though it needs an ending, maybe.

BUT! This is where it gets superweird. I thought to myself, "I need to know more about deer -- and more about women, for that matter -- to finish this story." And then: "I wonder if there's some sort of mythical 'deer woman' creature in, like, Greek mythology or Native American tradition." So I Google "deer woman" and holy ess, you guys, it's a real thing! (Or, at least, a real legend.)

I really did see a beautiful woman whose shoes left honest-to-God deer-track prints in the dirt today. And she was kind of hypnotic and seductive without really seeming to try

What do you make of this? Not enough sleep? Too much emotional roller coaster, thanks to [TOP SECRET THING I'M NOT ALLOWED TO TALK ABOUT]? Just a coincidence?

All I'm saying is, I know what I saw...or at least I think I remember what I think I saw...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Holiday Magic, indeed.

My friend Lori Ecker was the headliner in "Lori Ecker's Holiday Magic" last night, and she did a wonderful job presenting a variety of holiday/inspirational music that delighted the ear and touched the heart.

The show took place at the Indianapolis Liederkranz, where I'd never been before. It is a kind of social club/arts organization founded in the 1800s by Germans who started a men's choir. (A ladies' choir was added in the late 1900s.) In keeping with the heritage of the place, there was lots of German food on hand, as well as many Teutonic peoples in the audience.

One such Teutonic person was one of Lori's special guests, a striking woman of a certain age named Anne LaPorte. She took the stage in a black dress with bright red sash and introduced the song she was about to sing, Ihr Kinderlein Kommet. The way she sang, slowly and sweetly and duskily and, at first, in German, communicated the Christmas carol in a different, somehow more meaningful way:
Ihr Kinderlein, kommet,
O kommet doch all!
Zur Krippe her kommet
In Bethlehems Stall.
Und seht was in dieser
Hochheiligen Nacht
Der Vater in Himmel
Für Freude uns macht.
And then she sang the first verse in English:
O come, little children,
O come, one and all,
O come to the manger
In Bethlehem's stall.
And see what our Father
On this holy night,
Has sent us from Heaven
For our pure delight.
And then, something happened. Something which, before I witnessed it, I would have said was the worst thing that could possibly happen to a performer: she forgot the words.

She had continued into the third verse in English. But after a few words, Anne LaPorte was silent. A couple beats later, she said, "What." Not a question, really, but rather a command, as if to say, "What. Words, come back to me." Only they didn't come back. 

The pianist trailed off elegantly, and Anne LaPorte admitted she'd forgotten the words. A few seconds of silence seemed like a lifetime.

But what happened next truly astonished me. 

I don't know if it was the fact that she was on her home stage among friends, or if German camaraderie has magical powers, or if it was a Christmas/Hanukkah/Festivus miracle, or what. People started clapping, and someone in the back shouted "Sing it in German!" and then people clapped even more, and she did. And then she went right back into the verse she'd started in English, and all the words were there.

It was a wonderful rendition of the song, heartfelt and lovely, full of meaning and grace.

The weird thing is, I'm not sure it would have been as great if she hadn't forgotten the words. If she'd been perfect all the way through, it would have been a nice song. Perfectly...nice. But our shared experience of imperfection, support, grace, and celebration made it something even bigger.

Not to turn this into a sermon or anything, but I really think (and desperately hope) that our failings -- or, rather, the ways we support each other through them -- are our best opportunities to show the best of who we really are. 

May we not simply forgive each other's failings but, indeed, celebrate each other through them, in spite of them -- because of them! -- this holiday season and throughout the year.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

It's been too long since I've been regularly posting, so I'm going to try to get back into the swing of things, even if it means relying on the Imagination Prompt Generator for blogging topics.

I hit the button just now, and here's what came up:

Make a list of five ways you've changed in the last five years. 
What changes do you wish to make in the next five years?

I believe, of course, that if you asked my family or friends that question about me, they might come up with a different response to Part A, but here are my answers:
  1. I think probably the clearest change in me over the last five years would be a stronger connection to church. I am more churchy now than I've ever been, and also more connected to God. (I know for a fact that those two things aren't necessarily the same.) I spend a lot of time volunteering at St. Luke's (check the new website!), and I spend more time in prayer and meditation than I ever did. This has led me to build many strong relationships with new friends; unfortunately, it seems also to have cost me a friendship or two.
  2. I've discovered the joy of singing. It was 6 years ago that I was sitting at a church event in St. Catharines, Ontario, when a woman I'd never met before tapped me on the shoulder and said, "Excuse me, do you sing in the choir at Mountainview [the church I was attending at the time]?" When I said, "Um, no," she said, "Well, you should be." So I joined the choir -- which I had been thinking about doing -- and singing has been a fun and fulfilling activity I've enjoyed ever since. In fact, I may even get back into voice lessons at some point and maybe even have a recital.
  3. I've become less and less uptight about time & deadlines. Considering I'm kind of in a job search right now, it may be unwise to share this, but it's a noticeable change. After my first trip to West Africa, deadlines and timelines and the associated stress pretty much slipped off my radar. This is more vexing for others than for me, but I'm trying to be sensitive and not be too, too, too laidback, time-wise.
  4. I'm not sure whether this one's associated with #1, but I think I've become more judgmental -- or, perhaps worded better, I'm the same level of judgmental, but I've become less apologetic for it. I'm more willing to call idiotic behavior "idiotic" -- whether in others or myself. 
  5. I've become WAY more kid-friendly. If you had told me 5 years ago that I would be mannying for an 18-month-old boy (including diaper changes!), I would have told you that you were clinically insane. But now, with Madelynn and Owen and Auggie (and Harmony, who is a four-year-old story for perhaps another time), I've become a ton more comfortable around kids. 
The second part of the question is trickier. Here are some of the changes I'd like to make over the next five years:
  • Develop a healthier lifestyle, fitness- and nutrition-wise. (There may be some developments in the coming weeks that could address that.)
  • Get a handle on my relationship with money, and figure that out so I'm a better steward of everything I've got.
  • Grow into a habit of writing every day.
  • Mature into my relationship with God in a way that includes daily prayer and devotional time.
Huh.

I just realized that all of those things have to do with developing better discipline. Maybe I ought to declare 2010 The Year of Discipline. (Sounds like a lot of fun, right?) But seriously -- I'm DONE with 2009; this has been pretty much the suckiest 12-month period of my life. If I can enter into 2010 with an appreciation of discipline -- what I will be able to do by specifically NOT doing other things -- I think I'll be able to make some good progress toward those positive changes.

How are YOU preparing to say goodbye (or see ya, or good riddance, or get the hell out) to 2009, and what are YOU looking forward to in 2010 and beyond?

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

How time flies

It's been a while since I've shown you the awesome and adorable Madelynn and Owen. Therefore, here they are:

Madelynn

Owen

NOW what are you tweeting about?

I just happened across this old blog entry, which showcased a word cloud based on my tweets (from Twitter) about eight months ago. The things I tweeted about more are bigger:


So I decided to do another analysis, and here's what I found:


I'm unclear on the different time frames -- like, how far back the tweets go -- but what do you think about the comparison? What differences do YOU see?

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Recital Dreams

My friend Maria is awesome. Here's proof:



If you're playing along at home (what game that would be, I don't know -- "Name! That! Opera!" maybe?), that's "Laughing Song" from "Die Fledermaus" -- the backstory is that Adele (whom Maria is portraying) is a chambermaid crashing a ball unauthorizedly, and in the course of the evening she is introduced to her employer and must explain away her striking resemblance to his maid. (Which she is.)

Maria's recital yesterday was great, and it showcased her talents in a range of genres. She sang ten songs total (I was able to stay for 6 before heading to be a part of the concert at St. Luke's), with some upbeat and some more ballad-y, some Broadway, some opera (English, French and Italian), and some folky, jazzy stuff. You can see more of Maria on her YouTube channel. (Maria and I met when I was in "Fiddler on the Roof" at St. Luke's.)

As these things are wont to do, Maria's recital got me thinking it would be fun to have a recital of my own. Here are ten songs I would sing at my recital, with my selection criteria being:
  • They sound good in my vocal range;
  • They match my worldview;
  • I know all the words; and
  • I tried to pick a variety so they're not all the same style.
Here goes:
  1. Ave Maria (Bach, not Schubert)
  2. Let It Be
  3. Love Letters
  4. His Eye Is On The Sparrow
  5. Grow Old Along With Me
  6. Contigo En La Distancia
  7. Time Heals Everything from Mack & Mabel (probably in a lower key and with less cleavage than Bernadette Peters)
  8. A New Life from Jekyll & Hyde
  9. I'm Putting All My Eggs In One Basket
  10. Major-General's Song from Pirates of Penzance
So if I ever pull a recital together, you're invited. I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

One Step at a Time

"Attention, ladies and gentlemen. It is now 9:00. The library is closed."

I grab my computer and stuff it in my bag, toss my jacket over my shoulder, and head down to the car.

At the top of the steep stairs, I glance down and see a man -- about my age, about my height, about my weight -- already halfway down to the first floor. He's taking the stairs one at a time, with both feet on this stair before moving on to that next one. He doesn't seem to be favoring one leg or the other, just taking his time down the stairs.

Two steps per stair: right foot, left foot. Right foot, left foot. Right foot ... wait for it ... left foot.

I don't know if he has a long-term injury, or a chronic medical condition, or a physical disability, or a mental impairment of some sort. But his approach to the stairs is just different enough to knock me out of my head and -- I don't know why -- it rocks my world.

I'm curious why somebody so like me would do something so unlike me. In light of recent events, I decide not to strike up a conversation with him, but since I'm following him out to the parking lot, I watch and try to figure out more of his story.

He takes short and quick, but careful, steps in the long lobby hallway, and when he gets to the exit, he uses one of the manual doors, not the Automatic, push-button-operated one. After pausing on the sidewalk to let a couple cars drive past, he ultimately short-quick-careful-steps his way to a sensible, nondescript sedan parked in a non-Handicapped spot.

His passenger seems to have been waiting for him for some time; she can barely contain her excited yips and enthusiastic barks when -- at last! -- he opens the car door.

I'm watching from across the parking lot, so I can't see his face, but when he greets the dog, his whole body is smiling; if he had a tail, it would surely be wagging as much as hers.

He pats her head and runs his hand down her golden fur, from her collar to her wiggling butt. Pulling something from his pocket, he invites her into the front seat, where she sits patiently, until the deal is sealed with a treat.

As they drive past me, I can tell that he's talking to her, though I've no idea what he's telling her.

Probably a story about the weird guy who just followed him out of the library and into the parking lot.