Tag Archives: music

Good Things #34

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In February, I woke up every morning thinking: Maybe it’s warmer today.

In March, I wake up every morning not believing that it will ever. be. spring. again.

[This place exists, right now as I sit in a snow flurry. It’s called Capri. And it’s way warmer.]

Dad planted some seeds Sunday and we have plans for flowers this weekend. There’s the skeleton of a greenhouse in the backyard, but it’s crooked because it’s sitting on top of a foot of snow.

I got a phone call asking if I’d teach the chicken class again this spring. I was shocked because a class of two doesn’t sound like a success to me, but why not? I had fun, and I liked showing off our “big red barn” of a chicken house. It’ll give me a reason to keep wanting to have chickens because there’s something about a long winter that removes every desire to keep having them. By May I plan to have a new brood of chicks, anyway, so that’ll be another addition to show whoever might sign up. Last year, we ended up talking about writing as much as we talked about chickens – seems the same kinds of people are interested in the same kinds of things.

I am 3/4 of the way done with my second grad school class and I’m close to rejoicing.

This is a song I loved my junior year of college. Justin McRoberts came to our school and for months I made fun of his silly poster that hung in the dining hall: eyes down, shaggy hair, he looked like the quintessential too-serious musician. We went to his coffee-house-style concert and my opinion completely changed. He made us laugh. He joked about being Mexican and Irish and how short he was. I love this song because it is despair and hope all rolled into one.

The excitement of my grammar school Latin students to see my Italy and Greece slide show is overwhelming. Of course, I’m not dumb, and I know that at least part of them is just excited to get out of some translating. But still. I’m terrible with technology so all I can do now is cross my fingers and hope the slide show works…

Read A Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp if you need some encouragement in gratitude. Her style can be a little distracting at times, but it’s beautiful and thought-provoking.

Good Things #31: Rome, Among Other Things

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Italy and Greece. Last night, anticipating a snow day and enjoying a glass of red wine, I skyped with a friend from L’Abri. It’s been five or six months since we’ve seen each other, but  we never considered Skype (probably because I never think of the easy solution to problems), and it was strange to see his face on my computer screen. We were talking because – in joy and excitement – I had messaged him that I would be in Italy and Greece in a few weeks and he should hop on over. Studying in France makes European travel so much easier than living across the pond.

“What?” he said. “You’re just telling me this now?”

I didn’t tell him that I haven’t really been telling anybody. I’ve been holding it close, partly afraid that it isn’t true and partly because I feel I don’t deserve another foray to Europe after my wonderful trip this summer.

My mind has been wrapped up with each new thing that comes, and it’s only now that I’ve been able to think about it.

“I don’t live dates,” I told him, as though this made perfect sense.

“Ummm…?” he said.

I laughed to pause long enough to figure out what I meant.

“I live Mondays and Tuesdays, not January 20th and 21st. So it snuck up on my so fast and now it’s not even two weeks away.”

romeHow is this possible, this trip to Rome and Athens? One of the perks of being a teacher is you get to chaperone school trips. And yes, I mean “get to” because I can’t wait to explore this part of the world, even with students in tow. Maybe, especially with students? There’s a brightness in learning eyes that I love.

I’ll try to take pictures, but I’m terrible at that and I get distracted by everything going on around me.

I’ll try to eat the yummiest foods and buy the prettiest gift for my sister. I’ll try to read Quo Vadis (upon suggestion) to prepare me, but this probably won’t happen. I’ll be swept up on an airplane and whisked across the water.

Airplanes make the world geographically smaller. Skype does the same thing, only from the comfort of your own bed.

Music. Another Joe Purdy song, “Diamond State.” I love his voice. It’s about ice and cold and longing for summer. There are a lot of pauses in this live recording, so find it on Spotify if you want a clear listen.

New dress. I bought a new dress at the mall, and I don’t regret it even a little. It’s simple and chic and I bought it for a YMCA event I’m volunteering at this Friday night. We’re opening our theatre with a performance by a world-renowned opera singer, and in order for me to go, I had to volunteer ($125 tickets, anyone?). I can’t wait to feel slightly glamorous and very volunteery in this new Ann Taylor Loft dress.

[I can even teach in it on those days when I need a little up-lifting. Here’s to versatility!]

Half-truths. In that same Skype conversation, my friend asked me what prompted my last post. He was kind, and I could tell he thought it was a little – how do you say? – angsty, so I told him about watching my middle and high school students, these girls who are so fragile and unsure of who they are. I told him I hate knowing what lies ahead of them (or, maybe for some, what they’ve already been through) and also knowing there is nothing I can do to save them.

[I looked them in the eye once, when they were freaking out about something – clothes or a movie or something a boy had said, I can’t remember – and I said It gets better. Whatever you’re going through right now, I can tell you, it gets better. Because there is no doubt in my mind that what I’m living now is better than (and a product of) those tough years, figuring things out.]

I even told him that I’d recently read through one of my journals from 8th and 9th grades, and that this horror added itself to the mix.

But I didn’t tell him the whole truth. I didn’t tell him the seeds of other things that fed into that letter.

I think that’s okay. This blog thing is kind of strange, anyway, this baring of thoughts and soul online.

Half-truths are the way to go, I think. I’m just trusting that he (and you) won’t feel slighted.

I want to share my thoughts and life, but some things are better left in those journals I’m always talking about. Maybe I’d tell more over coffee or curled up on the couch, but even then, I remember we can only know others so deeply. There’s always a curtain, a half-truth, an incomplete truth.

I like to think this is part of the beauty of human connection. It keeps me guessing. It keeps me interested in other people.

It keeps me wholly known by God and no one else.

[Coliseum photo: Marcel Germain.]

Good Things #30

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[A misshapen collection of thoughts and a longing for summer.]

I am sitting at one of my favorite coffee shops (yes, Dad, typing in public), listening to music I don’t know, drinking an Earl Grey latte, wondering how to make myself stop sneezing.

My 7th graders are writing adaptations of Greek myths for me, and it’s all I can think about. I wish I were as creative as they are. It’s so annoying.

I like this song by Penny and Sparrow:

I like that the sky still has a little light in it, even at 5:06pm.

I like realizing that if I get a B in my grad school class, I won’t die. If it’s between getting enough sleep so I don’t want to scream all day at my students and getting that extra point on a paper, which do you think I’ll choose?

I like daydreaming about sunshine and sand and the ocean. It’s still January, but my skin feels ready for sun.

I like writing poetry in my car. I like that I don’t write it down. That way I’ll never know if it were good or not – it can hang in perfection.

I like that this is the thirtieth time I’ve done this.

I like that it’s Thursday and almost the weekend.

Good Things #29

Music. I discovered this band on the radio. I listen to 92.5 The River, and it always makes me think back to middle school. My best friend was cooler than me – she was more eclectic than your average kid – and she was listening to 92.5 and David Gray and other alternative bands way before any of us were. I remember teasing her because I didn’t know how great these different sounds could be. I’m always late to the party.

But here’s the band. Boy and Bear. I know absolutely nothing about them except that I love their sound.

Sherlock. It’s back. I can’t even tell you how excited I was to watch that first episode. I waited until it aired on PBS (I have amazing will-power, apparently. But really? I just wanted to watch it on the big tv…), and I was swept right back up in my love of Sherlock and Benedict and the friendship between Sherlock and Watson and everything. (For those of you who don’t know, I have a slight love affair with this.) Twitter and facebook were things to be avoided before I watched it – some people just can’t help spoiling things.

sherlock_3(That moment when he jumps through the window, flips his collar, tousles his hair, cups Molly’s face and kisses her. Man.)

Eggs. It’s been a long December (haha, Counting Crows, anyone?!) and beginning of January. The temperature has been in the teens and lower, and the girls can’t handle it. We weren’t getting a single egg for a few weeks. I let customers down. I didn’t know if the girls would recover. But this week it’s been a little better – we’re averaging about five eggs a day which, with nearly twenty hens, is quite terrible, still. One step at a time.

Pickles. This might be strange, but I LOVE pickles. Claussens – big, whole cucumbers, cold – dipped in hummus. Homemade mustard pickles for dinner with buttery potatoes and steak. Homemade bread and butter pickles with pork chops. They’re tangy and delicious and add flavor when every other food seems so utterly boring in January.

[Also, I finally watched The Artist after my friend Kate recommended it. It is better than you think it will be. Trust me. Way more thought-provoking than I expected.]

Happy Wednesday! And happy snow day to my fellow teachers!

Good Things #28: Flannel and Coffee

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There are things you think about when you’re sick in your bed. You think about being weak and whiney. You think about how wonderful flannel sheets are and that maybe you’ll buy yourself a new set with a pretty floral pattern. (I once had someone disdainfully describe a man: “Well, he wears flannel.” My first thought was, Yes.) You wonder how long is too long for Christmas lights to be up and you want more coffee but you keep putting it off because you’re too lazy to go downstairs.

This past month and a half has been crammed full with strange. I meet up with friends, and I realize I have story after story of bizarre occurrences, moments of I can’t believe this is happening and So I walked into this strange guy’s apartment because what do you do at night when your car breaks down and your cell phone is broken? (More on that one later, maybe).

You can’t go too long without a good talk. You can’t expect to not see someone for months and have everything line up perfectly in conversation. We sat in our favorite local pub and our stories criss-crossed and overlapped and we found we had way too much to tell each other.

What is it about the holiday season that brings the oddest things out of the woodwork?

Is it up-close familiness?

The realization that you are the same and different as you’ve ever been?

Things always come rolling rapidly at me in the months of November and December.

Now, on January 15th, the good thing is not that I am sick, really, but that I am allowed to be sick. I can light a candle and think about good conversations and wonder what 2014 holds. I can worry and plan my next steps in education, or I can watch Sherlock (IT IS COMING ON JANUARY 19TH). I can read a book of poetry or Percy Jackson or nothing at all.

When I’m allowed to pause, I am grateful. Whirlwinds are fun, but they really only get their punch when they’re interspersed with calm.

Here’s a song that sings to my wintry soul because without sunshine, winter songs are the best.

Good Things #27: 2013 Edition

What were some of the highlights of 2013? Miley Cyrus, of course. Actually, that isn’t true at all. I made it through the year without laying eyes on her infamous performance, and I hope to keep it that way. (This might frustrate Kate, the queen of the internet, merely because it solidifies my old-fashioned and misplaced irritation with modern technology.)

My highlights might not by Hollywood-worthy, but they’re the best of another sort. And there are only six, not five or ten or fourteen, because six is how many I thought of.

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1. Cafe shopping. There’s something about opening new doors for the first time, wondering what you’ll find behind enchanting names like Breaking New Grounds, The Blue Mermaid, or my favorite, Grendel’s Den. This has been a year of finding new digs, partly because – for the first time – I have a steady paycheck and I don’t live in constant fear of “Oh my gosh, do I have five dollars in my account?” anymore. There’s something about dark wood and dim lighting that makes me want to curl up and pay hand over fist for delicious things. Good thinking, restaurant owners.

2. Making music. My friend sent me a recording. It was me and seven college friends singing “An Irish Blessing” at one of our recitals. It’s an eight-part piece and because sopranos are a dime a dozen and I have a little more weight to my voice I’m Alto I, a part I never feel comfortable singing. I listened to it over and over, remembering how the sound filled the hall, what it felt like to make music with people I’d shared so many memories with. This summer, I’ll be singing an eight-part song at my college roommate’s wedding, five years after we made this first recording.

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
until we meet again,
may God, may God hold you
in the palm of His hand.

[This is a similar recording of the arrangement we sang by Graeme Langager, only ours was mixed voices.]

3. Friends. I read this quote in Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, and I paused because I have felt this intensely this past year:

They say – or maybe I said – that a good marriage is one in which each spouse secretly thinks he or she got the better deal, and this is true also of our bosom friendships. You could almost flush with appreciation. What a great scam, to have gotten people of such extreme quality and loyalty to think you are stuck with them. Oh my God. Thank you.

I am so grateful for friends who understand me. I am also grateful for friends who, when they don’t understand me, love me anyway.

4. Christian Wiman.

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When I first encountered Christian Wiman, I was so overcome with overwhelmed-ness that I emailed an old art professor to share my joy. It was this article that first introduced me to this man of faith and art, and what was it that caught me so immediately? This man who was faced with his own death (cancer) slowly and carefully examined his latent faith and found it there, curled deep inside him, even when he thought (and maybe hoped) it was dead. My Bright Abyss, Wiman’s collection of thoughts on faith, may very well get a post of its own, but here are some of my favorite quotes:

Life is short, we say, in one way or another, but in truth, because we cannot imagine our own death until it is thrust upon us, we live in a land where only other people die.

…it involves allowing the world to stream through you rather than you always reaching out to take hold of it.

Falling in love seems at the same time an intensification of consciousness and the loss of it. Never are the physical facts of existence more apparent and cherished, and never is their impermanence more obvious and painful.

I think of this when I hear people say that they have no religious impulse whatsoever, or when I hear believers, or would-be believers. express a sadness and frustration that they have never been absolutely overpowered by God. I always want to respond: Really? You have never felt overwhelmed by, and in some way inadequate to, an experience in your life, have never felt something in yourself staking a claim beyond your self, some wordless mystery straining through words to reach you? Never?

He is currently in remission, and his latest book of poetry, Every Riven Thing, is on my list.

5. Boots. This might not seem to fit with the other things in this post, but this year I discovered the beauty and ease of boots.

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They immediately transform any mediocre outfit into a work of, if not art, at least style. Oh, you’re wearing THAT again? Wait, what are those? Oh my gosh, I love them!

Crisis averted.

6. Recommendations. This is a blend of numbers three and four because good friends recommend good things. I get most of my music from other people, from my city-friend to my brother, and a lot of my books are recommendations, too. My friend Bryn who blogs over at All My Roads, recently wrote a post of 14 Books for 2014, and I was struck by how great they are. Not only had I loved the ones I’d already read, but I wanted to rush out to the book shop and grab the ones I hadn’t.

[And miracle of miracles, my city-friend went and bought me Flannery O’Connor’s A Prayer Journal – with no prompting from me – and I wonder if my friends who don’t know each other are in cahoots.]

It’s good to have people you trust in your life to tell you what to read. And listen to. And do.

So, there you have it. Enjoy your Wednesday!

 

Good Things #26: A Smattering of Things

Friends who don’t twist your arm but somehow always get it out of you. I’d been holding it in the whole time. That’s something I’m not particularly good at, but there are some things better off left to stew for awhile. I’d been smiling and laughing and whatever else the moment called for, but finally, on the phone in the dark, I spilled my guts.

They weren’t pretty.

I didn’t do it because she begged me, and I didn’t do it because I felt an obligation. It was like a letting go, a release of all that I’d been holding onto for far too long.

And what did my city-friend say, miles away in her apartment?

She reminded me that every week I write about something good, and I should remember that.

Exactly what I needed on a Sunday night in December.

My bedroom at Christmas. There are few things more delightful than a cozy bedroom, and while I can’t fit a tree in here, I do have a balsam candle that’s almost as good. I strung lights around the window and made an attempt at a garland (gingerbread cookies and cranberries – the logistics are harder than you’d think).

photo 1I also set out the Christmas dolls my mom bought me when I was little (I think they may have partly been for her, but I hold on to them nonetheless).

Set them out on my new bookshelf, made for me by a friend. Yes, you read that right. Seems the stacks of books surrounding my bed was an abomination that couldn’t wait. Pretty pleased with how it turned out.

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Aladdin. The musical is over. It was so much work. The kids were wonderful, and I laughed through the whole show. My father chided me, saying it wasn’t nice, but they know me. They’ve been listening to me laugh for two months now. They know it’s for love.

Surprise packages. I don’t remember the last time I got a package in the mail. Okay, I do. I bought some cds with an Amazon gift card last year. But you know what I mean. Yesterday, I came home to a little white package on the island. I didn’t recognize the address. Out came a paperback of flash fiction with a card from my uncle. I don’t even think he knows I have an affinity for flash fiction, but there it was in my kitchen. I stuck it in my bag and carried it around all day, but it looks like it’ll have to wait for evening and a glass of wine.

Sippican[Also, not quite sure about this character. Sippican Cottage? That can’t be his real name. And his blog is hilarious. More to come.]

Music. I rediscovered this classic from my friend’s blog last week. Nothing like a good, melancholy Christmas song.

Only one week left, guys. Buckle up. Today’s my shopping day. Watch out.

Good Things #24

Percy Jackson. I’ve been teaching Latin for almost a year and a half, and for almost a year and a half, I have heard the name Percy Jackson.

“Magistra, have you read Percy Jackson?”

“That’s just like in Percy Jackson! Except…”

“In Percy Jackson, Ares is evil!”

It was unending. Every time we read a Greek myth or talked about the gods, it came up. Finally, after months of prompting, I have picked up The Lightning Thief. It’s a small dark green hardcover, and I like the way it feels in my hands.

It’s pretty good.

And this from a lady who skipped YA books entirely (I’m kind of regretting this, but there’s still time to make it up). It helps that Percy reminds me of one of my 7th graders, only I’m pretty sure this kid isn’t a demigod or half-blood or anything so unique.

And which teacher has starred in the book so far?

The Latin one, of course. And his hard Greek myth tests and the chanting of Latin declensions and conjugations. No wonder they always bring up the books in class!

The son of Poseidon is about to embark on a terrible mission…glad Riordan wrote a whole series. I hate when you start liking something but then *poof!* they’re done.

Lord Huron. My brother texted me this band the other day and because it was during a prep period and because I’m getting tired of the same old same old, I looked them up on Spotify right away. You might know them from their song “Into the Sun” that’s been on the radio lately. Check them out.

Tech Week. Yes, it’s coming. Starting Monday, we will be in tech week of Aladdin, Jr., and I can’t believe the show’s almost over. It went so much faster than Alice last spring. I want everyone and his brother to come see the show for a few reasons:

1. I can’t believe I’m directing musicals. It’s fun. And hilarious.

2. I absolutely LOVE some of the numbers. “Prince Ali” is awesome – the kids come down these huge stairs and march through the audience and the parents are gonna love it.

3. The kids are so adorable. It’s true. Sometimes I watch their faces and I just start laughing. It’s crazy how much they’re their own little persons already, in those tiny bodies.

4. Because I always want to go out and celebrate after a performance. It’s been that way since high school and I was in Beauty and the Beast and Kiss Me, Kate and whatever else I was in. We’d sing our hearts out then head to the diner and eat pie and french fries. So come to the show and then we can toast to our success with a chocolate milk shake.

Good Things #23

Mulligans. I am extremely thankful for mulligans. No, I don’t mean these in strictly the golf-sense, as I have no intention of taking up golf. I’m thinking of two things at the moment:

1. Knitting. I take so many redos in knitting it’s ridiculous. I started a scarf for a friend – I found a pattern on ravelry.com (another good thing, just wait for it!), and I was so excited. And then I looked at it. And it was terrible. I ripped it all out and started over, this time with the same pattern but larger needles. Maybe I’m a tight knitter? I’ve always thought one’s knitting style might be a disturbing look at one’s psyche…stressed? anxious? uptight? So, I’m grateful for knitting mulligans because the new scarf is looking much better.

2. Teaching. I am so grateful that my students give me redos. We’re working on passive and active sentences in Latin, and there was one class where I thought I was explaining it well, but I saw the look in their eyes. I couldn’t seem to reword my explanations; I was too tongue-tied to unravel it. But the next day? We started over, went step by step, slowed it down, and worked it out. They’re ready for their test and I’m proud to say they can define the functions of the subject in both active and passive sentences. Ablative of agent, anyone? I’m grateful for teaching mulligans.

Music. If you were one of my students, I might make you listen to this while taking a test. It’s interesting – I would be totally distracted if a teacher played this while I took a test BUT THEY LOVE IT. It’s weird. Maybe it makes them feel smart? I probably should be playing Bach (isn’t Baroque the music for geniuses?). Oh well. Vivaldi’s not bad.

Swiss visitors. Monday night I got a surprise phone call – my friend who’s been living in Switzerland for the past year and half was calling to see if I wanted to go for a walk. Of course I dropped everything to walk with her and our good friend in the dark. We took the new puppy to the graveyard (ignoring, of course, the “No Dogs” sign) and talked about all manner of things. Soon she’ll be returning to L’Abri and all that I found there, but for now she’s stateside and it’s lovely.

Good Things #20

What’s that you say? The twentieth Good Things post?

Yes.

Who would’ve thought I’d stick to an idea long enough to write 20 posts about it?

[Follow up on #19: I plan to watch The Artist tonight…here’s hoping I don’t fall asleep!]

Blogs/Posts. As I said in my last post, I’ve been thinking a lot about creativity and what it means and what do I do when my creativity doesn’t look like I want it to look? I came across this post by Stephanie Motz Skinner, and I love how she yearns for “the place where creative waters do flow”. The most poignant line to me, though, was this: “It’s easy to give way to comparison, which is the enemy of creativity.” There’s nothing worse than destroying your efforts before you even begin.

Music. My sister introduced me to this band, and it’s no surprise at this point that they hail from Washington State (what is it about that place that produces such phenomenal music?!). The Head and the Heart has a great mix of male and female vocals, and I like pretty much every track of their album. And judging from the image on this video, they are quite the eccentric bunch. Enjoy.

Flip phones. Yes. The ever-hated flip phone (does anyone even know what that is anymore?) is on my Good Things list. You wouldn’t believe the work having a flip phone has gotten me out of.

Catherine, could you just email all those people and ask…oh, wait, you have a flip-phone. Never mind.

Hey, can you look up…oh. Ugh.

Can’t you just pay with your iph— you are so annoying! Get an iphone already!

The thing is, I love my little flip phone. I love how it doesn’t ask more of me than to dial its little button numbers. It doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t, and it certainly doesn’t hold all the answers to my questions. And I like that – I’d still like to have an excuse not to know something. It’s freeing not to have the entire world’s knowledge in my hand.

So, thank you, flip phone. Going strong since 2010.

[That being said, I do wish I could participate in phenomena such as “SnapChat”, “HeyTell,” and various other hilarious pastimes. Alas, sacrifices.]

[I hope there isn’t an expiration date on photos. This one’s from my summer in Salzburg; we were laughing and dancing (and being annoying, I’m sure) along the river.]