Friday, January 30, 2009

Excuse me, do you have the time?

There are so many things I want to do—even beyond the 101 things (or the 91) that I have on my list.

Lately I’ve been trying to work on my exercising and practicing and hand therapy. This isn’t going so well. Things keep interfering; I have a bad night’s sleep or get to bed really late, and so I wake up late and rush out the door. Or I have too much to do in the day. Like last week when I was putting in 12-hour days several days in a row.

All this and I’m supposed to be flossing my teeth every day, too.

And I’d sure like to 1) keep the kitchen cleaner, 2) make and adhere to menus for the week, 3) get back to some of my shoulder and knee therapy, 4) get back to drawing cartoons, 5) oh whatever…

I know people who actually get stuff done like this every single day. Why is it so hard for me?

I’m taking a good hard look at my daily activity, trying to see where everything fits in. One place I really fall down, besides getting up too late, is when I get home in the evening all tired out from my commute. I sit down at the computer with a glass of wine and putter around on Facebook, or I sit down with the ScottieDog and watch political shows on TV. Or both. I think it’s called vegging out. (Vedging out?)

Obviously I’m not going to reach my goal of daily discipline if I fold up every night when I get home. I’m hoping that if I do get my exercise in regularly (I was doing really well at this in December), I’ll feel lots better and have more energy and can use some of my evening time for projects.

Does anybody else have this problem? How do you plow through all the things people are supposed to do every single day? Like make up your bed?

At least I’ve been really good about getting my makeup on before I leave the house. (Goal 80)

This week I’m going for the discipline thing again: I’m going to get to bed early and get up with ScottieDog so I’ll have time to exercise AND practice—haven’t gotten to do both in the morning yet. Who has an extra two hours in the morning? Consider Obama. He gets up at the crank of dawn and goes to the gym and then does president stuff all day. But he doesn’t have to practice. I wonder how well he would do if he had to put in at least an hour of vocalizing to boot.

So we’ll see how this goes…

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Music of the Forest Monster God

CD of the Week - Goal 74

Sibelius: En Saga, Finlandia, Tapiola, Swan of Tuonela, Oceanides

I keep forgetting that Sibelius is one of my favorite composers. Even trying to listen to this CD on my iPod on the subway with all kinds of competing noise, it was mind-boggling.

If you liked The Lord of the Rings you would love this music. I don't know why they didn't use it for the movie soundtrack; it is spine-tingling. En Saga is my favorite, but Tapiola is right up there--I always imagine walking in a big scary forest in Finland and happening upon a monstrous spirit-being...which is sort of what the piece is about. Scariest. Music. Ever. So if you like being scared, Tapiola is the sort of thing you'd like.

Don't get me wrong, though, it's also insanely beautiful. As are all the other pieces on the recording. It's very high Romantic style, but with a edge to it.

[Note I have started a rating system. I Y this particular recording five Ys.]

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Goal 61 – Read all the books on my reading list

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
J. K. Rowling

The Brothers Karamazov was such a slog (not that there’s anything wrong with that) that I thought I’d choose some lighter fare for my next book --how about a nice children's book, I thought. Boy, was I mistaken.

These poor kids (Harry, Ron and Hermione), after about the 53rd page or something, never get to sit down and eat a square meal. It’s just one damn thing after another. And they misunderstand each other a lot, and get mad at each other and stuff. That’s how it goes when you’re on a really dreadful trip. You know it’s a bad vacation when school looks like paradise. And when you keep running into big snakes.

And then poor Harry finds out close to the end (SPOILER ALERT—almost) that he has to essentially kill himself if he wants to kill You-Know-Who (for various reasons I won’t go into). Life’s a bitch, and then you die, is how the story seems to be going. It certainly does for a lot of the characters in this tome (759 pages). Rowling ratchets up the destruction factor about fiftyfold for this series finale.

Rowling really, really likes to write. There are a LOT of words in this book. And for me, some of the wallowing around in mundane wizardry (as opposed to the extraordinary kind) gets kind of boring. The last several of the series have gotten kind of bogged down in that respect --I was really not enjoying the big huge Quidditch tournament several books back (When will this be over, I was saying to myself)-- and also from the fact that poor Harry sits around in various states of anxiety and frustration for long stretches. When he's not slogging. That being said, Rowling has amazing imagination and vision. And the plots certainly pick up speed as you go along…these are some of the most exciting endings in literature. Really. Rowling sure comes through with some interesting existential situations for her little guy. This is not so much a children's book, I'm thinking (as I suppress my sobs).

I started the Potter series way back in 2002 or so when two of my daughters were moving to New York from down South, and I was helping them drive a big U-Haul full of stuff. We took turns driving, and those who weren't took turns reading The Sorcerer’s Stone. I found it extremely entertaining. I was bummed when we ran out of book before we ran out of road trip. When I broke my hand last year, it seemed like a good time to embark on the rest of the series. It was the only part of my recovery that I enjoyed. Well, except for the Percocet.

I’m glad I wasn’t on painkillers, though, when I read The Deathly Hallows—because it requires concentration. By the way, I thought the Deathly Hallows was a place, for some reason. It isn’t. I mean they aren't. I’m not going to tell what they are, either. (Not telling what happens to Harry, either.)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009


I inadvertently put off my New Year celebration until now. I even had a huge quantity of champagne last night, and stayed up past midnight…something I didn’t do at the actual start of 2009. Wasn’t interested.

It occurred to me only this morning, when I jumped out of bed all energetic (and strangely enough, no hangover), fired up and ready to go, if you will--Ack. I had hoped never to encounter that phrase that again. (I mean the “if you will” part—forever in my mind associated with Cheney. Why the hell did he keep saying that? Like we had any choice?)

NOW I’m ready to jump into my diet/exercise/whatever other resolutions I can come up with at this late date. Being a better person, etc.

For years and years now I’ve been yearning for somebody to ask Americans to take some responsibility…something Bush obviously felt we were either incapable of or that it would be a terrible imposition (projecting, maybe?). And it finally happened! Hooray!!! I felt like I had almost written Obama’s inaugural address my own self. Or at least the outline. He is so right—there’s nothing like a good challenge to get the blood flowing.

I couldn’t tear myself away from the television until the Obamas had danced their last dance. I was thinking during the parade that they must have been so exhausted—though they stood there for hours smiling and cheering. I somehow felt that if they had to endure the entire rest of the day, running the gauntlet of the inaugural balls, I would just see it through with them (albeit from the comfort of my couch).

I’ve been cynical about the comparison of the new White House to Camelot—Barack Obama is no Jack Kennedy, and I mean that perhaps in a good way. I believe that Obama has a lot more going for him—for one thing he’s a lot healthier, both mentally and physically. Well, okay, Kennedy was funnier. It began to dawn on me though, that I was experiencing something like déjà vu, or nostalgia, in spite of myself.

I realized as I bounced down the street this morning on my way to work that part of the glow I was feeling was healing, not the healing I was expecting from the emotional and spiritual wounds of the last eight years, but something else as well.

I was fifteen when John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and it was a trauma that haunted me for years and years. I always believed that that same trauma drove everyone who lived through it a little mad, drove the craziness of the rest of the sixties.

With succeeding inaugurations, there were always odious comparisons in my head, always the feeling that the energy, élan and aura of the Kennedy years would never be recaptured. That the world would never look at our leader again with that same mixture of awe and respect. Until now.

That wound--still gaping all these years, though I didn’t realize it—has finally closed.

God and the Secret Service keep them safe.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Goal 61 - Read all the books on my reading list

The Brothers Karamazov
Fyodor Dostoevsky

(I didn't know until today that Google Books has entire books up on the web including this one--see above link.)

Finished it, finally!

Golly, this is Some Book. It appears on almost every list of the "essential" books that you have to read if you're to be considered an educated I had to read it to keep up appearances. I started reading on November 21, 2008.

I read the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation, which is supposed to capture "the musical whole of Dostoevsky's original." I wouldn't know about that, but The Brothers Karamazov is certainly the most passionate book I have ever read. This edition (paperback) is 776 pages long not counting the end-notes, and it is VERY small print. I had to buy stronger glasses.

For the most part I confine my reading to my subway commute, and this is a good place to read a book like this. I actually like reading the "great" literature, and this book was kind of hard slogging for me at times. On the subway almost any diversion from reality looks pretty good.

I just finished it, lolling around in bed for the first part of the MLK holiday today. (I had to break up my reading with several short naps, but that was probably because I stayed up late watching the Obama Story and not a reflection on Dostoevsky.)

Karamazov is actually a page-turner for the most part, but at times characters go into long philosophical discussions, which is only a diversion if you're into that kind of thing. (Which I hasten to add that I am, up to a point.)

Aside from containing several philosophical treatises (the three brothers and one other exalted personage have at least one treatise apiece), the plot includes a sensational murder mystery which I will not "spoil" here. Suffice it to say that, here at the last, I'm questioning the sanity of every single character in the book, including the "exalted personage."

This is not really a review, because I read the book in short spurts over a long period of time, and the totality of it has not quite sunk in. There is a repeated idea in the book that all the Karamazovs have a tendency toward selfish sensuality, but it appeared to me that the plot mainly explored the characterization of the three brothers as sensual, intellectual and spiritual, each brother taking one of those attributes. Kind of like a Beethoven symphony, really, and it even has a kind of Ode to Joy at the end.

So that's all I have to say about that for the moment. (I reserve the right to post any bright ideas I have about the book later on.)

Friday, January 16, 2009

Breakfast Date!

Another thing I kind of forgot about was "Goal 85 - Have a date with Scott once a month." Well I did have one lined up for December, but the show got cancelled. And December was awful.

So this time, we went to one of the local diners on a breakfast date! I decided I'd have pancakes, and remembered too late that this is never such a good idea as it seems before you order and are ravenous and nostalgic for the gluttony of your youthful breakfasts. About a third of the way through the stack I was regretting 1) no whole grain flour in them at all which made me feel like I was eating a stack of warm wet cardboard and 2) no real maple syrup, which once you have become accustomed to you can never go back to Log Cabin or Aunt Jemima's.

Scott took a picture of me watching the snow outside the window, which was coming down like in a snow globe. The snow isn't so nice right now, the temp being down in the teens, and what's left of the snow being hard as a rock. And they say there's more to come this weekend. I just hope it gets to be more of a reasonable temperature. (Especially if any more planes decide to land in the Hudson River--that must have been really uncomfortable.)

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Poem of the Month - "The Wood-pile"

Talking of motivation--and I believe we were--because of this poem, I went back to school and completed my bachelors degree at age 32 or something like that. I have returned to the poem again and again over the years, and it always impels me to reflect and to look at things I've started and abandoned for some reason or other. I read it to my freshman arts class at Berea college back in the early 90s. They (predictably) tolerated my whim until I got to the last bit--which they really responded to. Maybe some of the greatest last lines in the history of poetry.

Robert Frost (1874–1963). North of Boston. 1915.

16. The Wood-pile

OUT walking in the frozen swamp one grey day
I paused and said, “I will turn back from here.
No, I will go on farther—and we shall see.”
The hard snow held me, save where now and then
One foot went down. The view was all in lines
Straight up and down of tall slim trees
Too much alike to mark or name a place by
So as to say for certain I was here
Or somewhere else: I was just far from home.
A small bird flew before me. He was careful
To put a tree between us when he lighted,
And say no word to tell me who he was
Who was so foolish as to think what he thought.
He thought that I was after him for a feather—
The white one in his tail; like one who takes
Everything said as personal to himself.
One flight out sideways would have undeceived him.
And then there was a pile of wood for which
I forgot him and let his little fear
Carry him off the way I might have gone,
Without so much as wishing him good-night.
He went behind it to make his last stand.
It was a cord of maple, cut and split
And piled—and measured, four by four by eight.
And not another like it could I see.
No runner tracks in this year’s snow looped near it.
And it was older sure than this year’s cutting,
Or even last year’s or the year’s before.
The wood was grey and the bark warping off it
And the pile somewhat sunken. Clematis
Had wound strings round and round it like a bundle.
What held it though on one side was a tree
Still growing, and on one a stake and prop,
These latter about to fall. I thought that only
Someone who lived in turning to fresh tasks
Could so forget his handiwork on which
He spent himself, the labour of his axe,
And leave it there far from a useful fireplace
To warm the frozen swamp as best it could
With the slow smokeless burning of decay.

Monday, January 12, 2009

I have been so bad!

I totally slacked off, feeling all proud of myself for not slacking off too much in December. AND I got real busy doing a concert.

But I'm back at it now. One thing I did do was Review My Goals. I realized I had started new projects and then forgotten about them in the press of other events, like hand surgery, etc. Such as "Goal 74 -Listen to a CD every week." After that one post (after the jump) I never listened to another CD! I thought about it from time to time, but I got really busy. I'm telling you, you have to keep reviewing your goals or you'll forget about them.

Anyway, I listened to an actual CD. This was Olivier Messiaen: "La Nativite du Seigneur," nine meditations for organ. It's performed by an organist friend and colleague of mine, Renee Louprette, who is about the most amazing organist I've ever heard and can totally make stuff up out of her head on the spot that sounds like some major composer wrote it.

I'm really fond of Messiaen, and I hear his work a lot, being in the pro choir of a big church with a huge important organ. Listening to the CD wasn't as big a thrill as listening to it live, but it's still pretty amazing.

Messiaen was a super-religious person whose "faith was the sole reason for his composing," according to the liner notes. He used stained glass as a sort of "muse" for his music, and listening to it is actually a little bit like looking at really amazing stained glass. (Ever been to Saint-Chappelle in Paris? Wow.) Even on the little computer speakers the last meditation of the set made the hair rise on the back of my neck. I have to listen to it again on my iPod. Preferably reclining with my eyes closed with a glass of Chardonnay. That would be the way to do it. If you can't actually listen in the organ loft, which would be my preference. IF they would let me have a glass of Chardonnay up there.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

My Jumpstarted January

Hey there all--my December of Discipline seemed to work, even though I was kind of half-assed about it! Things just got so hectic!

I jumped on the scale the other day, and I only gained two pounds, so I was thrilled. After I catch my breath and get back into the daily grind, I'm going to go back to the good fitness regime. I've learned a lot about the way I handle this kind of thing, and hopefully I'll remember it all when next December comes around!

#1 on the list: figure out to do with the Pecan Cake before you make one. My husband is only tepidly interested in it, because it's not meat, and the kids aren't around that much, being off on their own now, so I'm the only one who eats it, and it's a humongous cake! I'm just now finishing up the last of it! And I figured up the WW points, and it's somewhere around 6 to 8 per slice! Oog.

The culprit

To explain, the Pecan Cake is my great-grandmother's recipe, and Christmas is not Christmas without it. It's kind of like a fruitcake, except it has a lot more pecans in it and only raisins. Okay, and a little orange juice and a lot of Harvey's Bristol Cream--that kind of counts as a fruit. And butter and eggs and spices, etc. It's really, really good. But next year I'm either going to make it in three small loaf pans, or cut up the leftovers and take them to work or choir or something. I can't eat a steady diet of Pecan Cake like this! I'm amazed I haven't gained 10 pounds. (With a glass of milk it makes a very tasty breakfast. Or lunch. Or both.)


Incidentally, by popular request I made this cake for my daughter's wedding. Except I covered it in marzipan so it would look more bridal. I used to have a picture of it, but now I can't find it. >:-(

#2 on the list: PLAN AHEAD. I can't make wise decisions about what I'm going to eat or if and when I'm going to exercise unless I figure it out ahead of time. Menus for the week are a must. Or at least a day ahead! The parties etc. are not such a big deal for me. And the concerts and services are so exhausting, I don't feel like partying that much anyway. Doing Messiah twice and then Christmas Eve and Christmas Day--I think I lost five pounds during that week. Seriously. I'm convinced singing is an aerobic excercise.

Hope everyone's holidays were great! I'm looking forward to a great year!