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Saturday, November 22, 2014

I AM NOT A VANILLA SOPRANO!

Surely, I'm not the only one with this disappointment, but there aren't so many singers who read my blog. So, imagine this: Someone sees you in action, doing what you do (in my case, this was singing).  They think you are fantastic and want to hire you, go out with you, or they in some way make you feel as if you hung the moon.  You meet this person again a couple of weeks later to interview, go on a coffee date, or whatever.  You find this person picky, blunt to the point of being rude, and they lack basic social graces.  End of date.  End of interview.  All there is to think of is moving forward.  Yes, this is my story, again.

I was encouraged to attend Unity Church in my adopted hometown.  My friend said that the music department needed a little help and that she thought that I was the one who could lend my voice.  I auditioned, all was well.  The powers that be were excited to hear my voice.  I even got a chatty, excited phone call the following week to work out when we could meet.  I got the time confused, and evidently, that was the beginning of the end.  When we did meet, she was cranky and reminded me of my error (even though apologies had been more than sufficiently offered).  She had previously wanted me to sing in the Christmas concert, but after the meeting, she decided to cut me from the program.  Three songs she brought.  Either she spent time correcting my technique or verbally spitting on me by saying, "No, someone else can sing that better than you can."  She treated me as if I were a lazy diva rather than having been recovering.
April 15th (ish) 2012, I was with my sister and my friend Erich when we decided to spontaneously "sing something."  I couldn't physically make the melody happen.  It was some noise that I didn't intend to make.  I could hear the right pitches in my head, but just as someone with Tourette's syndrome has no control over certain movements and sounds, I had no control of this sound, but the sound coming out was not flowing.  It was more like a vocal train wreck.  I was devastated all over again.  Instead of holding it in and pulling myself together as I had done so many times through so many things, I started crying, and I couldn't stop.

 That was my first attempt at singing.  This week, I'm grateful for the rude woman who doesn't remember the synopsis of my story; for the old crow who treated me like a lazy diva.  My voice has been recovering, and it has done well. I'm almost home!

That story was a sharp contrast to my experience singing to a patient whom I will never see again.  I was sent to do the start of care paperwork for a home health patient who will only be receiving physical therapy visits.  I was wearing my fantastic hoodie that reads, "Keep Calm, or I will use my OPERA voice."  Her daughter prodded me to sing.  The patient was rolling her eyes at me.  As I began with the words, Pie Jesu, I saw her brow furrow in confusion.  As I reached the words, qui tollis pecatta mundi, I saw her brow straighten and  her eyes get big.  As I continued with the words, Agnus Dei, I saw her mouth open a little.  As the aria moved forward, her jaw dropped. As I finished with the words, dona eis requiem, I saw a puzzled look and tears welled up in her eyes.  She had been in significant pain and wasn't feeling well.  She was struggling to find words, and was able to tell me that she loved it but that it wasn't what she was expecting.  I saw her have a spiritual experience in front of my eyes.  It was the power of healing in sound.  The only words she could say were, "That sound vibrated in my whole body!"  By the time I left, she had her back brace on and insisted on walking me to the door (which she did very well).  She was still trying to explain what she felt in her body that was different than when I arrived.  I said that it (the words) didn't matter.  In my most Southern way, I asked, "It made you feel better, didn't it?"  With a sigh of relief and a smile on her face, she agreed.  It had indeed helped her pain and her mood.  This is indeed what IT is all about.  I'm going to keep letting my little light shine.  Here's the melody, if you're curious: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=YAC9vJr--Us
A little facial expression: http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=D99tXZkPFQo


Saturday, November 1, 2014

Thinking of Thanksgiving

Yesterday's weather was the first real hint of fall for me.  It was in the 60s.  I brought along my hoodie.  Yes, the hoodie that I have been waiting to wear with the same excitement that a little kid has as she waits for Santa Claus.  I spent Halloween with my friend Tiffany.  We gave out candy to trick or treaters and while keeping warm by the outdoor fire.  I love autumn more than I love spring.  As the weather cools, it is time to be cozy.  My nature as an introvert tends to draw me inward to my own thoughts, creative processes, and ideas more this time of year than in Spring.  Today, my thoughts are on Thanksgiving.As a kid, I hated holidays because I was sick EVERY SINGLE TIME.  However, as I got to college, things changed.  I started hanging out with my cousins, the Oklahoma Yoders at Thanksgiving.  I love being in a crowd of people (meaning: family gathering as other crowds make me allergic) observing.  And laughing.  Last year, the Geek was with me, so we celebrated Hanukkah as well as Thanksgiving with the family.  I've had so much drama this year, but even so, I remind myself that this is not 2012.  For that, I am immensely grateful!  In spite of a break up, a move, and job changes (some of which I sought and some of which I did not initiate) and friendship lost, I am still standing. For the moments of pure bliss and happiness, I am grateful.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Thank you, Ms. Margaret

I was just in a Facebook conversation thread with my seventh grade Social Studies teacher.  She commented on a status I posted (after hiding someone's Greg Abbott social media ad) agreeing with me about canned social media ads not swaying my opinion regarding candidates.  She said that God gave her enough brains to figure that stuff out for herself and she didn't need help from Facebook, either.  I made another post in which Santa is pictured.  Because he has read our Facebook statuses, our gifts this year shall be dictionaries.  There were quite a few comments on that thread as well as some interaction from Ms. Margaret.  I mentioned that I own a 1987 version of the unabridged dictionary that I could donate to Santa's cause.  It is missing nearly 30 years of techie terms, such as the use of  the word Google, but it has all the important words that we should know and be using (resisting the urge to end the sentence with lol- pun intended).  Then, she just threw it in there, "BTW, I'm proud of you."  Before I said thank you, my mind was racing through all of the students I knew that she taught.  One of my friends has a PhD in French literature.  Many of her students have masters degrees, and I think she also taught Herschel Walker (our math teacher taught him, and she was never at a loss for a story about him).  Some of her children (students) are smarter than I am, and many of them have made better choices than I have, so I am humbled that she is proud.

Growing up, I was always in classes with the smarter, more privileged students, but most of them were not my friends.  I was bullied before there were campaigns against it.  Books were a great escape, and my few friends were welcome companions.  My mom spent my childhood in survival mode, doing the best she could, while my other parents were not over the fact that they were supposed to be grown ups.  Ms. Margaret and EVERYONE I grew up with knew this.  I had "I'm Getting the Hell out," syndrome when I graduated from high school.  I was delayed a year as we moved almost the minute I walked across the stage to get my diploma. However, I did get the hell out the next year.  I didn't have all those offers from all those schools that I had gotten previously, but I did go to college.  Most of the other girls with GTHO syndrome got pregnant and got married, but I didn't have a boyfriend, so that was out.  College it was.  Then I dropped out.  Then I went to nursing school and wondered why I did that. There were and still are things that aren't easy, but through the little education I have, I have been available to afford myself the kind of middle class existence that most of my classmates had.  As a young girl, I believed in myself enough to become the woman I am becoming.

Thank you, Ms. Margaret, for reminding me of the journey!





Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Oh, to sing again!

One of the dear crones in my life told me one day not to forget my family.  She meant for me to stay in touch with my holistic fair people and my church choir people.  She was disappointed to hear that I had not gone to New York at the last opportunity I had, and she and my other vendor friends had been missing me at the fair.

Honestly, I have less than zero interest in going to church every Sunday morning and having someone tell me what the bible says. (Why would this dear friend encourage such, as I know she prefers to stay home to watch Joel Osteen when she wants some church in her life?)  I know what it says.  I've actually read the whole bible for myself many times.  I wasn't excited at her words to me, encouraging me to participate in choir. Around that same time,  I had been to a funeral where I saw several people I knew and met a few that I hadn't known.  They were shocked to learn that I hadn't been singing and invited me to come and sing with them again.  It made me wonder what I have to say that the church would want to hear.  When I was a church going, bible thumping person, it seemed that no one cared what I had to offer.  There was always more politics than praise happening at any given point.

However, there was tonight.  I was on my way home from my last stop.  I had been near the big church with the big choir that travels to fun places that make you never want to come home.  I was having a moment of inexplicable intuition that told me to go back and go to choir practice.  So, I did.  I had previously been truthful with the director about wanting to sing but having no interest in going to church on Sundays.  Tonight,  I was able to share the same thoughts again about my church feelings with another of this staff,  and was welcomed back again by my old friends.  It is a glorious feeling to be as honest as I have been with those in charge of this choir and to hear the words again, "You are always welcome here."  Right now, I plan to sing for Christmas and for this Sunday.  The Randall Thompson Alleluia is more beautiful than my wish to stay away.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Throwback Thursday and the Voice Lesson

Wednesday, I had a voice lesson with my long time friend Laurie Cosby of Studio Bella Voce.  We have known each other longer than either of us has been in Texas.  She has helped me recover my voice several times (1995, 2003, 2006, and post 2012). Except my sister, she has been my biggest supporter and the greatest advocate to ensure that I don't quit while there's music left for me to sing.

As most of you know me, you remember the posts and photos from 2012.  As I had to re-learn the simplest of things (like how to get in and out of the bathtub), I found out the most painful way, I couldn't sing at that time.  It is no exaggeration to say that I couldn't carry a tune in a bucket.  I still remember the first time I tried.  June took me to see Erich, and when we are together, there is almost always singing. I could not sing a melody line! I could not make it come out.  I could not coax it out. I was shocked and bewildered that this could happen.
 June had to take me home right then.  (For those of you who know Erich, you understand that we went through a phase that singing entire conversations was not unusual.  Our interactions were much like a singspiel with flute overtures (except when in the hot tub, Ember, the flute, NEVER came to the hot tub with us).    When I was able to get back to work, I got my first hospice job, and I started singing to the patients.  I was happy to have some of my voice back, and they all appreciated the effort I made.  I was excited to make that effort as it made the patients feel better, it was help for me in getting my voice back.   Recently one of those first hospice patients passed away, and the family asked me to sing at her funeral.  I think I sang better for her at her funeral than I ever did at her bedside.  (But my church choir gig recently was utterly disastrous).  As I shared my recent experiences with Laurie, she invited me to have a lesson to see if she could help.  After that 45 minute session, I was vocally fatigued, but enlightened.  The injuries from the wreck still need a little rehab.  For those of you interested in the mechanics of breath work and support as it relates to vocal technique, I still have some right sided weakness, especially obvious with the use of the intercostal muscles. As much as I didn't like the discovery, it explains a lot.  It explains the vocal fatigue and pitch control issues.  As we were talking about my voice, I was talking to her about hearing the harmony for my recent funeral song.  I don't have a good explanation for being able to hear that which isn't audible, but a good example of that is the phenemenon that happens when you get a song "stuck" in your head.  For those of you who remember Tommy Two-Tone, the number 867-5309 triggers the melody, and we all begin singing about Jenny.  I also wondered aloud to Laurie about why clairaudience is only seen as cool when a composer is working on her next great work.  Her take on that is that clairaudience isn't weird or just for dying old ladies to hear heavenly music, it is an indication that there's still music in my body that has yet to be sung.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

She Made My Day

My life is not nearly as interesting as when I was in Europe singing for coffee and reveling in how rapidly my German was improving.  It has just been life.  The geek and I broke up a few months ago, (but I now live with two adorable kittens, Luciano and Mirella).  I don't miss the situation I left, but starting over is not easy, even living in my same old house and adding to my wonderful circle of friends. It seems that every time I have wanted to write recently, I have been too busy, or I have wanted to rant, or I have wanted to share my bleeding heart drama about love lost and friendships ruined.  Who wants to read a whole article about that? Most people just need to scroll through their Facebook feed and see that there is more than enough of that to cover the Earth than there is saran wrap at a bakery.  
As I was out seeing patients today, I was in the neighborhood of Central Market at lunchtime.  I went in to get a sandwich as I contemplated meeting another new patient and what the rest of the day had in store for me.  There were two ladies sitting near me having lunch.  One got up to get a drink, and the other person (now known as my new friend, Patty) randomly started talking to me.  As I was dressed in a bright, flowered scrub top, she asked what I did.  (People always have a HUGE reaction to the word hospice).  We chatted about life and transition in the context of hospice, as if they are not such a big deal, just as we talked about my youthful look and my 'real' red hair, then she gave me a hug. As we were getting ready to part ways, she handed me her business card.  The photo on it of the Earth taken from the moon gave me those little chills, as if I were encountering someone spiritual, so I said that 's' word.  The rest of the conversation made me feel as if she understands my perspective as she talked about having heart connections.  I thought back to all the people I have hugged recently and how I feel more connected to some than others. Not many people can appreciate conversations about heart connections and heart energy without getting bent out of shape, but I was struck that my new friend Patty was able to put words to this phenomenon so beautifully.  She didn't know that I needed that hug and that understanding today, or did she?







            (they hate bath time)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Having a Spiritual...No, MUSICAL...Oh, Whatever you call it, EXPERIENCE

This past Wednesday, I went to choir rehearsal, as I sometimes do.  Honestly, I don't like most of the music, but the conductor is a fantastic musician whom I believe could make a toad sing.  Anything written by Carol Cymbala gives me chills, and I like it because it makes me feel good.  I looked through my folder this week and saw a piece of music with a four part vocal score and piano accompaniment.  I was almost afraid to look. Could it be something I actually like singing??  My heart starts racing as I look to the top center to see the name of the work: Hallelujah from The Mount of Olives.  I'm sure I turned fifty shades of red as I looked to the upper right corner (you know, where the composer is listed) and saw the name Ludwig van Beethoven.  I saw the first line of lyrics and instantly remembered this work!  Never mind that I haven't seen this music in about 25 years.  I remembered it, and it seemed to remember me.  I could sing those repetitive "high" notes without any difficulty (prior to 2012, I would have not used that descriptor about those notes), and my "A" was only a little flat.  I saw that bit of Beethoven as a precious gift to me; as an unexpected reunion of two old friends. We were just getting reacquainted.

I reposted a cartoon from Eric Whitacre on my Facebook page.  It is one where the composer (who looks like a cross between Snoopy and Greg Brady) needs a long rest.  Snoopy Greg gave himself 18 bars and was refreshed.  I have been following this guy on FB because I like his posts.  They are witty.  I had no idea who he was.  I just thought he was some pop musician I hadn't heard of.  A friend  posted a photo of herself conducting one of his works.  WHAT??  I went straight to youtube to investigate.  WHAT???  I have been missing this?  Harmony. Dissonance.  Dissonant Harmony? Yes! It felt as though I had been given another gift.  This is work that I would sing, and it makes me feel good.  Good music sends me to a place where I'm transcendent.  It makes me feel as if there is hope for the most difficult things to be accomplished (like that maybe Congress would actually act in the best interests of the American people?).  I joke about Congress, but I remember them standing shoulder to shoulder all singing, "God Bless America" after 9/11, and I know that as much as the emotion of tragedy can unite people, the expression of that unity during that time came through music.  (For example, the first public work done in New York after this 9/11 was Brahms' Requiem).

The power in stepping outside of myself  that is delivered on the wings of this music gives me hope for the most unlikely things.  To pull sounds like this out of the air, to think in chord structures, in melody lines, and to balance all of that brings together the concrete and the etheric where the earth meets the sky.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spiritual Restlessness and Singing

As I listen to an interview with Sue Monk Kidd, I understand the restlessness she described going through.  She felt out of place being a nurse.  Although I am much happier and have been told that I am doing a great job working in hospice, something about that statement from her still resonates with me.  I feel that I can do this job and still be true to who I am (I could not go back to the hospital and feel the same way), but it seems that there is more to life than work.  And more to life than religion.  Singing always made me happy, from the days of standing on a stool and singing into a hairbrush or singing into the handle of the vacuum cleaner to singing in a recital hall, Bass Hall, Carnegie Hall, and Vienna.  Although I don't have the same vocal ability as I had before my wreck, the music calls.  The creativity calls.  It occurs to me that, for me, to sing again requires courage.  To open my mouth and let the voice find its place and to allow it to resonate where it will is painful when I am used to judging every sound that comes out.  Is the pitch correct?  Is the support in place?  Is the sound resonant and beautiful?  The answer to all of those is sometimes.  Can I be kind enough to myself to remain nonjudgemental and to love who I am when the sound isn't so pretty?  Why is there shame in making errors?  It isn't a sin to miss a note.  Singers rehearse to learn, polish, correct, and to own the work that is being sung.  Wrong notes happen in that process, and no one gets hurt (not really, lol). Being less than confident in my ability (to learn, to read the music, and to sing) is a disservice to me and to those with whom I sing. To continue requires the heart of a lion.

Like Sue Monk Kidd, I think that I am a good, caring nurse who does my best for my patients.  I still wonder if becoming a nurse was showing a lack of bravery.  I chose this because I needed a job and knew I could do it.  There was never a doubt about my ability to understand the concepts necessary to become a nurse and to pass the licensure exam.  It wasn't exactly easy, but it was do-able.  I have enough empathy and compassion for others to take care of them.  As taking care of patients really is not about me, neither is continuing to sing and to follow the calling of the more creative path that calls to me.  I'm a small part of a large planet, and I hope to continue to have enough personal fortitude to continue to sing my part.  

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Shoe on the Other Foot

Yesterday, I attended the funeral of someone from my HISTORY OF YOGA class.  This was the only social thing we had in common.  He lived in the city.  I live in the suburbs.  He was a black man whose children are approximately my age.  As I walked into St. James AME church for Ray's service, others were walking in as well.  I wasn't greeted with "Hi, how do you know Ray?"  I wasn't greeted at all.  I felt the discomfort of those walking in with me as I overheard a this comment from a younger woman talking to an older lady, "You just don't like anyone who doesn't look like you."  The older woman was probably coming of age during the Jim Crow era.  I wondered what she must have gone through in order to feel hostile to this red-haired stranger a half century later.  In my interactions with Ray and his family this year, they were a bit mistrustful of me until they got to know me a bit.  The breakthrough seemed to come in that HISTORY OF YOGA class.  One day, we paired off to do an exercise in which we had to talk for five minutes about the qualities we saw in the other person.  Ray was my partner.  I learned a lot about him that day, but I learned even more about him at his funeral.  He was a loving, giving person dedicated to his family until the moment he died.  As we saw him leave the church and being placed into the hearse, I sensed that in that small, frail body had been a huge, beautiful spirit, so much more than I had been aware of while he was still here.  I am privileged to have known him.  I think now, his soul can truly quote the words of MLK, "...Free at last.  Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I'm Free at last!..."