Friday, April 19, 2019

Spring Flowers

I took a couple of days off from work last week, and I spent all day Thursday digging up a garden and planting flowers. It's been a week now, and they're still alive! Here are a few pictures I took yesterday:
Geraniums, planted by my mailbox

More geraniums

Marigolds. I bought three different varieties. See below for more!



More vinca, getting ready to bloom.

This begonia was left over from last year in a pot, so I replanted.


Blooming vinca

French marigolds



Azaleas from one of my bushes. These were past their prime and are mostly gone for the year now. :(

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

DIY Mad Gab: Definitely a Tribulation

Here are some of the mishearings at my latest meeting:

Shabat prompts!
Shakin' her knees, they're around us. She'll tell us.
Kitty settings in the notifications.
They're gonna get no vacations or activity.
Incising this line.
Crappolo for your free-ah pizza.
It's hearing well, and shorty.
That phrasing's dust and not mud this time.
No, it's not a loo butt.
I'm almost air and almost there.
We really want punches.
I don't think you have this off-prime, but in a brown broswer.
God bless the Addy fawn.
I'm not happy with this entropy.
Sweatin' a bona fide.
Toucan mob hours.
Hours'll be abused.
The ticket hours or the ticket opportunities.
Would that infect the cow? It would work.
The Joe Neidermeier option.
A butt's what they want.
The Higginson family hole.
And something, for some heavens, that's fine.
It can get maybe to fusing.
A gallop lice going home.
Definitely a tribulation.
'Cause I think I solved it from the Russia part.
Give it a little bit of wishful ray cup.
A jaw. A jaw.
I didn't, else maybe, I got my own thing.
I fall a little different.
It goes to sea, it goes to sea.
More of a usage state.
Vermeer to help you go to a different place.
Quash'n, squash'n, go your program.
Rod, I feel like Ibotta.
It's just surreal.
On fire by you!
Ali crack corn.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Hiking at Stevens Creek Heritage Preserve

This weekend, Dan and I went on a two-mile loop hike at Stevens Creek Heritage Preserve. It was a pleasant little hike with a couple of small stream crossings, a variety of trees, some big rocks, and even a bit of a view. Here are some pictures:

A small waterfall. Transylvania County, eat your heart out! ;-)

Dan "Sheltowee" Rogers, on his second short hike of 2019.

I wonder what lives there.

Parts of the woods were overgrown with bamboo.

Cool old decaying tree stump.

Large rocks on the side of a hill.

More rocks, and a twisty tree.
We kept seeing these tufts of sticks and leaves growing in the side of trees. We weren't sure what caused this.

Here's another one.

Dogwood bark! I'm always happy when I see dogwood bark! I love its nubby-ness.

Another way to identify dogwoods in the winter: opposite leaves (see below).

Opposite-leaved twigs form a kind of "turkey foot."
A view!

Pine tree bark. I'm not an expert on pines, but I'm guessing this is Pinus taeda, loblolly pine. 

Imagine my delight to see a baldcypress tree right on the top of a hill! I love how the bark looks like God just reached out with his brush and painted it!

Another unexpected delight: resurrection fern! These look dead and dried-up when the weather is dry, but when it rains, these beauties turn bright green and definitely alive!

Not sure, but I think this is reindeer lichen.

A baldcypress tree on the side of a hill with a view. I'm used to seeing them in swamps, so it was cool to see it here.

Twisted pine tree trunk.

More twists and turns.

Another view of the twisted tree trunk.

This is the twisted tree, with the branches and leaves growing only on one side.

This was the first and only sycamore that I noticed, growing (not surprisingly) alongside a stream.

I thought this was a neat image of the various parts of a tree trunk.

More resurrection fern! I would love to come back here after a good rain.

Dan's calves. Part of what make me fall in love with him.
All in all, it was a good little hike. It isn't too far from home, so I'm sure I"ll be visiting that trail again soon!

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Music Thoughts

Tonight I practiced piano for a bit. It wasn't the three-hour marathon I would have liked, but it was a good practice.

Henry the Grand

I started with scales and arpeggios, as always. Scales have gotten easy. I guess that playing all the majors and minors every single day, sometimes twice a day, for months will do that. I've been a good little piano student and have been practicing at a tempo slow enough that I can play them perfectly ... and then inching them up a notch on the metronome.

Another thing I've started doing every day: In my re-acquaintance with Hanon, I'm playing each exercise every day. I'm up to preparatory exercise 15.

"What?" you say. "But you've been playing piano all your life! Seriously, you're doing Hanon?"

Yes. I've focused mainly on relaxing my left hand, which was tensing up a lot whenever I used my third, fourth, or fifth finger. My thumb would arch back in some kind of compensation for the weak fingers. So after many weeks of practice, I can now play the Hanon exercises (and the scales, and everything, the Bach Prelude in B-flat in particular) without tensing up like I was before. I'm also able to play through the 15 exercises without stopping (and by memory!). I couldn't do that when I first started back--just playing the first exercise would exhaust my left hand and arm.

I focused mostly on the Bach Prelude tonight, starting at ♪=92 and working my way up to ♪=96, playing it about a half-dozen times at ♪=92 and then a half-dozen times at ♪=96. In between, I stopped to work on a couple of measures where my fourth and fifth fingers on my left hand are still "misfiring," giving the measure an uneven sound. By the time I finished practicing, it sounded pretty good. Tomorrow I'll play ♪=96 a half-dozen times, and then ♪=100 a half-dozen times ... and I'll keep doing that until I get to the goal tempo of ♪=160, or ♩=80.

I also worked on the fugue at ♪=63 and, after a few times at that tempo, moved up to ♪=66. I'll practice again during lunch tomorrow and will isolate a couple of measures that are still not quite right. Other than those two measures, the fugue sounds really good. I recorded myself playing it, and I can hear the voices clearly, even where I don't hear them that clearly when playing them! Because I have the notes down cold (except for those two pesky measures), I've become better able to listen to the different voices, and I think the piece will just sound better and better the more I play it.

I also had a voice lesson yesterday and listened to my recording of it last night before I went to bed.

Ugh! I am such a terrible singer! I'd practiced this one English art song, "Come Again, Sweet Love," ad nauseam, and I thought I was sounding pretty good ... but that recording! I love my voice teacher and his patience with me. I'm sure some of the sounds I make are cringe-inducing. I so want a nice, even beautiful, sound to come forth from these vocal cords, from this stressed-out body of mine. And so I practice and I keep going to voice lessons and I keep having faith.

I do see improvement. I know that my expectations are unrealistic--I mean, I'm 48 years old and have never seriously worked on my voice. In fact, I've never even sung that much, ever since being told as a teenager that I can't carry a tune in a bucket. So I have some stuff, both technically and mentally, to overcome.

I'm glad I have piano--a musical outlet where I have some confidence, and where I know I can make beautiful sounds. And I'm glad I have voice, too--not just a voice that is functional to some degree, but voice lessons, and a voice teacher, and music, and these wonderful art songs that I've been exposed to.

While a lot in my life has gone wrong in the past year--one thing that has gone right is that I found two music teachers that I love, and I've spent more hours communing with music than I have in a long time. And that's good.

If you want to read more of my boring music posts, you can find them at my Picking Up the Pieces blog!

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Looking Back on 2018

It's 2019! And now, for my sometime tradition of answering questions about the year, with my paraphrased 2017 answers for comparison. So let's take a look back ...

1. What was the single best thing that happened this past year?
2018: I got Henry, my new (antique) grand piano, and I started taking piano lessons again. I also found a voice teacher that I love and joined our church choir. Oh, and I started going to church again. That has been good.

2017: The move to Georgia, and selling our Maggie Valley home.

2. What was the single most challenging thing that happened?
2018: Work issues. I could write a book, but I probably shouldn't.

2017: Rifts with people that I thought were friends.
3. What was an unexpected joy this past year?
2018: Henry! Henry came out of the blue. I found a voice teacher, Richard Cook, who also happens to be the music director at a church in Augusta. At my first lesson, I mentioned that I play piano, and he said, "Do you need a grand piano?" Turns out they had an old, abandoned grand collecting dust at the church, and it needed a good home. I went to visit "Henry," as I would name him later. After a couple of days of thought and research, I decided to take him. I haven't regretted it for a moment. The piano itself was free, and the moving and tuning costs added up to about $1,000 ... a pretty penny, but I know I got a great deal.

2017: I love living in Georgia, and Anne discovered taekwondo. And I got to meet Rick Springfield!
4. What was an unexpected obstacle?
2018: Insurance woes, and our renter moving out of our Franklin house with no warning. Oh, and hip pain.

2017: Dental problems and leg pain ... and the related bills.

5. Pick three words to describe this past year (or to describe yourself this past year).
2018: Anxiety-ridden, overbooked, musical.

2017: Novice (at learning voice and guitar), comfortable (living in a nice house with a neighborhood pool), painful (see above).

6. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe your year—don’t ask them; guess based on how you think your spouse sees you.
2018: Stressed, unhappy at work, depressed.

2017: Unsettled, musical, tired.

7. Pick three words your spouse would use to describe their past year—again, without asking.
2018: Stressful, financially challenging, unhealthy.

2017: Satisfying, challenging, stressful. 

8. What was the best book you read this year?
2018: Body and Soul by Frank Conroy

2017: Peak: Secrets from the New Science of Expertise, by Anders Ericsson

9. With whom were your most valuable relationships?
2018: My daughter and my husband, as always. But two of my most valued new relationships are with my music teachers. I've also made some valued friendships at church and in my neighborhood.

2017: My daughter and my husband.

10. What was your biggest personal change from January to December of this past year?
2018: I have a lot more anger. I hate to think that I am becoming a bitter old woman, but that is what happened this year. I feel like I've been treated unfairly, and there is nothing I can do about it. The sense of helplessness is maddening.

2017: I'm more guarded and protective of my feelings. I'm not as open or friendly. I'm also learning to live with chronic pain.

11. In what way(s) did you grow emotionally?
2018: I feel like I regressed emotionally this year! If I've learned anything, it's that I need to guard my time and my energy. I was far too willing to give it away this year.

2017: I guess the upside to being more guarded and protective of my emotions is that I am not going to get hurt the way I did last year. The downside is that I have trouble trusting people.

12. In what way(s) did you grow spiritually?
2018: I opened myself up to the possibility of a spiritual life again. I am still stunted beyond recognition, but I feel like there's a flash of green somewhere among the wreckage.

2017: Not sure if this is spiritual, but with guitar I've found a new way of communing with music. It's been wonderful to develop a whole new mode of creative expression. It'll be a long way before I've reached any level of proficiency, but I'm excited about the journey.

13. In what way(s) did you grow physically? 
2018: None. Thanks to hip pain, I'm now going on three years without regular exercise. But I haven't gained any weight. In fact, thanks to the depression and anxiety of the past few months, I'm ten pounds lighter than my normal weight.

2017: This year was a struggle physically, a(nother) year of starts and stops. Motivation is not the problem; I'm plenty motivated to exercise. But the pain keeps coming back, and a few days of exercise lead to a few days (or weeks) of hobbling around, wincing with every step. I did manage to run a 5K on Thanksgiving (and haven't been able to run since).

14. In what way(s) did you grow in your relationships with others?
2018: I made some new friendships in the past year, though I work too much to give them as much attention as I'd like. I love Dan more than I ever have. My relationship with Anne is changing as she grows older and more independent.

2017: New friends in Georgia, but no real growing yet. Dan and I are much happier together than we were a year ago, but there's still work to do. Anne and I read the Harry Potter series together, and I think our relationship grew as a result of our mutual love for the books.

15. What was the most enjoyable part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
2018: There are still a lot of things I like about working from home, though there are definitely some downsides. The most enjoyable part with the raise I got with my promotion, I guess. Work itself was not as enjoyable as it's been in the past. I have hopes that that will change in the new year. At home ... hard to say. I pretty much worked all the time this year, and I neglected home duties in every way.

2017: Working from home! I also started doing a lot of QA for new builds, which I enjoyed as a nice change of pace from technical writing. I also seem to be pretty good at it. At home, it's been nice to have a comfortable home that we own. Reading Harry Potter with Anne was also a high point of mom-life this year.

16. What was the most challenging part of your work (both professionally and at home)?
2018: Getting a new role, never having time to sink my teeth into it because I kept being given other priorities. And then losing that role because I never got anything done. Go figure. At home: Working all the time and never having energy to cook, clean, or be present for my family.

2017: Being burnt out at work. The challenges of working from home.

17. What was your single biggest time waster in your life this past year?
2018: I don't feel like I wasted a lot of time this year. I wasn't on Facebook as much. My biggest time-waster was probably the vicious cycle of negative thoughts that came with 2018's anxiety and depression.

2017: Facebook.

18. What was the best way you used your time this past year?
2018: Playing piano, and taking piano lessons. Taking voice lessons. Being part of the choir.

2017: Practicing guitar every morning.

19. What was biggest thing you learned this past year?
2018: I recently made a friend who, observing my life objectively, confirmed that I'm not crazy and was saddened and sympathetic that certain of my life circumstances have made me a basket case. How sad is it that the biggest thing I learned this year was that I'm not delusional?

2017: As I get older, I'm going to have to deal with physical limitations that I didn't have when I was younger. It's been humbling.

20. Create a phrase or statement that describes this past year for you.
2018: I can't do it all, and I can't do everything to everyone else's satisfaction.
2017: Pretending to be a suburban mom. I have all of the trappings here in Georgia, but the shoes don't quite fit as comfortably as they should. Still, life is pretty comfortable.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

DIY Mad Gab: Puttin' My Bored Cat On

Another "fun with deaf people" post, this one from a meeting where I didn't have the benefit of video and couldn't see the speaker on the screen. Here are some of the things I heard and could not translate:

Kind of break up you have to be pig
This meeting isn't about defibrilating
Peau-wee. Peau-wee.
The daily bot.
Cool time, Amanda!
Sales, fork, spooner dollars.
We said we would have the new ones
A gross bar o'gin
We look in the path
Probably about a hundred knee
We paid to bed down, that's a good thing
A booze sleepover
We never beat on our bangs at all
We're a crocodile company, we get what we deserve
Clearly our biggest fishies
We got a bunch o'butchers
Puttin' my bored cat on
Those'll be the thankful talk tomorrow
Don't let us snot, that's the half of this shit
Coalesce. I am here.
Hate days plus one bloated.


Friday, August 31, 2018

Vocal Stuff

I have written enough about my voice insecurities in the past, so I'm not going to go into that here. But I do want to write a little bit about what's going on with voice.

Some days I feel encouraged by my progress, and other days I wonder why the heck I am doing this. Why am I trying to sing? I feel like a fool, attempting an art form that I have no business attempting. I might as well try to take up professional basketball.

Of course, I'm not trying to be a professional singer. I'm just trying to graduate from "bad" to "not bad" for now. Maybe someday I'll aspire to "good."

It's been slow progress. I have to make myself practice voice. Once I start, I love it and can go for an hour or more, and then I'm singing happily for the rest of the day ... but I have a bit of an inertia problem at first. I think it's because I always feel a little silly practicing, wondering if it's all a waste of time.

There I go, writing about my voice insecurities.

Here are the songs I'm working on right now. There are a bunch of them, and it's a little overwhelming to see the list, but I'm trying to focus on just a couple of songs a week.

From the 24 Italian Songs book:

  • Alma del core (Caldara)
  • Sebben crudele (Caldara)
  • Caro mio ben (Giordani)
  • O del mio dolce ardor (Gluck)
  • Tu lo sai (Torelli)

From the Standard Vocal Literature book:

  • Come again, sweet love (Dowland)
  • If music be the food of love (Purcell)
  • Weep you no more (Quilter)

Huh. Somehow I thought I had 10 or 12 songs, but I guess it's really not that many.

I love every single one of these songs, though "Weep you no more" is my absolute favorite and has been for months.

I'm going to have quite a bit of free time over Labor Day weekend, so I'm planning to spend a good bit of it on voice. My big focus will be less on singing and more on memorizing. I've been lazy about memorizing, even though I know how important it is to be free of the crutch of the sheet music.

I hate writing that I've been lazy, but I think it's probably the truth. Another problem is I haven't been able to practice regularly. My voice lesson is on Monday evenings, and then Tuesdays and Wednesdays are just crazy, so I usually don't get to practice until lunchtime Thursday. I can get some time in after work on Friday, but I don't really get to dive into practice until Saturday and Sunday. When I'm not singing these over and over again every day, the familiarity (and memorization) doesn't come.

OK, this blog post doesn't seem to be going anywhere and I have to get to work, so I'll sign off for now.

Spring Flowers

I took a couple of days off from work last week, and I spent all day Thursday digging up a garden and planting flowers. It's been a week...