Saturday, February 28, 2009

Addiction?

"I am such an addict." That's what I thought to myself as I stood at the counter of the little independent bookstore on Main Street, handing over my debit card to pay an amount that could--and should--have been used for food (I have yet to grocery-shop for the week) or clothing (I pulled yet another thread from my sleeve as I waited for the cashier to ring up my purchase).

Will I read these books? Of course I will.

Did I plan to buy these books when I walked into the bookstore? Of course I didn't.

Yet, even before I walked in, I knew I would be poorer when I walked back out. Even as I stepped into the store, I thought to myself, "Self, you really don't want to do this." See, I usually try to leave my wallet behind when I go to a bookstore. That's one way I can (almost) guarantee that I won't buy anything. I say "almost" because I've been known to tell the clerk, "Could you hold this book? I just need to run to my car and get my wallet ..."

I bought four books. One should not buy four books at a time. If one is going to get four books at a time, one should be at the library, or at least a used-book store, where the tattered old copies are a quarter apiece.

But one can't write in library books. And, as much as I love used books, there's nothing quite like a new book.

What's really sad, and what is a true sign of this addiction, is the fact that these aren't the first four books I've bought this week. I bought two on amazon.com yesterday.


(No, I don't have an endless supply of money for books. I did the same thing, minus amazon.com (which didn't exist yet), when I was a broke twentysomething.)

It's true that I've been looking for a good novel to read. I generally keep three or four books going at once--the Bible, a nonfiction book on theology or philosophy, some other nonfiction book, and a novel. So lately I'm reading Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure (by Martin Lloyd-Jones), and I'm getting ready to start Uneven Ground: Appalachia since 1945 (by Ronald D Eller). I've read a couple of novels since Atlas Shrugged, but none have grabbed me the way Atlas Shrugged did. So yes, I've been looking for a novel.

I went through all of my bookcases the other night, but nothing jumped out at me.

So what choice did I have?

I went to the classics section, which is, of course, the only section worth browsing. (Just kidding. But it's my favorite section.) I've read most of the books in the small classics section at our bookstore, so I decided I'd buy four books I either (a) had never read, or (b) haven't read in a long time. Of course, they couldn't be books I already owned.

So, I bought:

The Hiding Place, by Corrie ten Boom (I’m not sure why this one was in the classics section. But it jumped out at me, and I was in a book-buying mood, so now it’s mine.)

Animal Farm, by George Orwell (I know I’ve read this before. I don’t remember it. So I’m reading it again.)

The Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan (I love this book.)

The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand (If I can’t find something to grab me the way Atlas Shrugged did, I guess it’s a good idea to read something else by the same author.)

That's two books I've read and two books I haven't read. Considering one of them (Pilgrim's Progress) is one of my favorite books of all times, it kind of shocks me to think I didn't have my own copy.

Who knows. Maybe I do have my own copy. But now I definitely know I do.

(I know. Spoken, or at least written, like a true book-buying addict.)

Friday, February 27, 2009

Lunch Break

I’m feeling all nostalgic today. Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s the fact that my friends David and Kim are getting ready to start their Appalachian Trail thru-hike this weekend. Maybe it’s the fact that I haven’t had made time to read, write, or think lately, and I’m missing that part of my life. Maybe George the Piano is channeling me. (Can pianos channel people? Can people channel people?)

So, dear friends, at least the few of you who still read this blog, I’m going to take you on a tour of places I get nostalgic about. I randomly found these online, and I don’t remember everywhere I found them. I’ll provide links to the ones I can remember.

This is a picture of Highland Coffees, my favorite coffee shop in the whole world. It’s located at the gates of LSU. I've spent many, many hours there, reading, writing, studying, and people-watching. I also fondly remember its previous location, next door to where it is now.

I also loved Middleton Library at LSU, even though it was (still is?) the ugliest building on campus. I loved the smell of it. I loved studying there. I loved being among all the thousands and thousands of books.

Come to think of it, I used to hang out at Middleton Library when I was in high school. How geeky is that? I would go there and work on papers for class and pretend I was a college student. Oh, how I loved that place.

Speaking of books, this is the sign in front of the Maple Street Book Shop in uptown New Orleans. When I was at Tulane, and when I spent May Term there my freshman year, I could often be found here, usually all caffeined-up from a several-hour reading-and-writing session at PJ’s Coffee. (I couldn’t find any good pictures from PJ’s on Maple. I still get nostalgic about that place, too.)

They had the most awesome Walker Percy section. And an amazing collection of photos of writers who had done signings there. What a neat place. I still have my "Fight the Stupids" bumper sticker that I got there. Sigh. What memories.

I don’t get nostalgic about many aspects of my freshman year at Tulane. But I do miss Maple Street.

Moving back in time a little bit, this is where I went to school from pre-Kindergarten through fourth grade: St. James Episcopal Day School. This picture is of the “church” section of the school, where we had chapel. The playground is to the right of it, and the “school” section is to the right of that. I loved that place. I get nostalgic about so many memories and people there.

It's weird how vivid those memories are. My pre-K teacher, Mrs. Phillips, used to say "Good night!" whenever she got mad (which wasn't often). I remember earnestly telling her that one should only say "good night" at night time before they go to sleep, and that it didn't make sense to say it during the day.

I'm sure she appreciated my sage advice.

After graduating from St. James, I went to Episcopal High School. It went from fifth to twelfth grade at the time, but the whole school was still called “Episcopal High.” This is a picture of Perkins Hall, which was (still is?) the main high school building. In the early 70s (I think), a tornado ripped right through the center of it. They ended up turning the ripped-through sections into upstairs and downstairs locker halls.

The school has grown a lot since then. It's now all 12 grades, plus Kindergarten and maybe pre-K, and it has more buildings and more athletic facilities and more ... of everything. And I think they lopped off "High School" from their official title. I'm back in touch with a lot of EHS friends on Facebook now. It's odd but good to be able to chat with people who remember EHS as it was, way back when, in the '80s.

This is McClung Hall, the first dorm I lived in at Mary Baldwin College. Known as the “virgin vault,” it was the one dorm on campus that allowed male overnight visitation only one weekend per semester (or something like that).

Rumor was that it was haunted. I was walking to the bathroom one night and, about halfway down the hall, got a really weird, cold, creepy feeling like I'd never had before. It was like someone was watching me, but ... it's hard to explain. It just felt like some sort of presence. So the next day I asked around if McClung was supposed to be haunted. People said yes. That freaked me out a little bit.

What a great dorm it was, though. Lots of good people were there when I was there.

The next year, I lived in a corner room in Woodson, which I thought (and still think, probably) is probably the ugliest building on campus. I'm sure I uglified it even more with my display of empty Bacardi bottles in my windowsill, which faced campus. I was so bad (or thought I was). (I was really pretty tame. I always preferred poetry and piano to partying.)

I have lots of good memories of Woodson, though. It was in Woodson that I met my best-friends-for-life, MB and Amy. We had many odd parties in our corner room at Woodson. I have pictures. Most of them are embarrassingly silly. We would dance for hours. I actually lost weight that year from all the dancing.

I also had a hammock in my room in Woodson. And a loft. It was a cool room.

I spent the next two years in Memorial. My senior year roommate was the lovely Amy, and our Resident Advisor was the lovely MB. They had just renovated Memorial a year or two before, so it was in really nice shape. It still smelled of new carpet and paint. We had the most beautiful wood floors and cool dimmer lights in all the rooms.

Yes, we were spoiled. But our parents were shelling out enough $$$ for us to go there ... so it made sense for us to be spoiled, no? It was a great dorm to live in. I loved it, loved it, loved it.

Ah, Deming Hall. This was (is?) home to all-things-fine-arts at Mary Baldwin College. I spent many hours here, since this was where the piano practice rooms were located.

There was a "permanent" art exhibit on the walls on the way to the practice room ... or at least it seemed permanent. It was awful. There was one painting of a banana being crucified. I'm serious. The other pictures were pretty silly, too, but the crucified-banana painting was the worst. I think they finally took it down after a couple of years. I was grateful.

Other fond memories from Deming: piano lessons with Riley Haws, the "History of Jazz" class with Bob Allen (and the day he showed up in some horrendous suit he'd worn back in the 60's or 70's). A not-so-fond memory: Finishing my Music Theory final exam and leaving the building in tears. A good memory: meeting my friends Kellih and Rusty in said Music Theory class.

You’d think I would have spent lots of time at the Mary Baldwin track. Nope. I was a waddly girl throughout most of college. It wasn’t until my senior year that I started eating right and exercising. Only then did I consider going near the track. I think I walked around it a couple dozen times, but no more than that.

I did throw up once in the parking lot next to the track, though. That's my main memory of being anywhere in or near the fitness facilities in college. Kellih and I had gone out to eat, and I'd had a Caesar salad. That was in 1991. I haven't had a Caesar salad since. Really.

OK, that’s enough nostalgia for today. I’m planning a “me weekend” this weekend. If the nostalgia continues (meaning, if the rain continues), maybe I’ll finally scan some old pictures and post them here.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Going to Practice

I'm going to practice. Now.

I really hope I don't have to commandeer the sanctuary, Jack Bauer style, from the Organ Lady.



Seriously. Jack and I are both English majors who were born on February 18. Don't mess with the likes of us. And don't get between me and my piano.

Going to Practice

I'm going to practice. Now.

I really hope I don't have to commandeer the sanctuary, Jack Bauer-style, from the Organ Lady.



Seriously. Jack and I are both English majors who were born on February 18. Don't mess with the likes of us. And don't get between me and my piano.

(This post is also on my NAPS Blogger blog.)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Where My Pinky Hurts

Pretend this is a left hand.


See those red arrows? I put those there to show where my pinky is hurting. It's at the joint between the intermediate phalange and the proximal phalange. It has definitely helped to lay off piano for several weeks. Massive doses of ibuprofen have helped, too.

Today I practiced, just a bit, before the Organ Lady came in. The pinky didn’t hurt too much. At this one point, however, I had trouble even lifting my pinky (the circled numbers are the fingers).



Note that the pinky holds down the G, then picks up and presses it right back down. My pinky doesn’t want to pick up, much less press back down. It would rather just stay down.

This could, of course, be due to lack of practice. I’m hoping it is.

Many thanks to my favorite arpeggist for pointing out that the IMSLP site is alive and kicking.

(This post is also on my NAPS Blogger blog.)

Where My Pinky Hurts

Pretend this is a left hand.


See those red arrows? I put those there to show where my pinky is hurting. It's at the joint between the intermediate phalange and the proximal phalange. It has definitely helped to lay off piano for several weeks. Massive doses of ibuprofen have helped, too.

Today I practiced, just a bit, before the Organ Lady came in. The pinky didn’t hurt too much. At this one point, however, I had trouble even lifting my pinky (the circled numbers are the fingers).



Note that the pinky holds down the G, then picks up and presses it right back down. My pinky doesn’t want to pick up, much less press back down. It would rather just stay down.

This could, of course, be due to lack of practice. I’m hoping it is.

Many thanks to my favorite arpeggist for pointing out that the IMSLP site is alive and kicking.

Kicked Out by the Organ Lady

On weekdays, the Organ Lady haunts the halls of the stodgy Baptist church on the corner of First and Main. She's not the organist for this church, but she practices there. She wears shorts and a t-shirt, regardless of the weather. She's lonely. She's friendly, but only to certain people (or so I've heard). She's always very friendly to me. I think it helps, in this case at least, to be a Bach nerd and a half-decent pianist.

She was haunting the halls again today. I didn't know that this morning, when I got a wild hair and decided I would practice on Xan the Grand at lunch. For my faithful reader, you may remember that Xan the Grand is the old Steinway grand at the stodgy Baptist church on the corner of First and Main. I hadn't visited old Xan in ages. It was time.

So, shortly after 1:00, I braved the frigid winds and walked the block to the church. "Please, Organ Lady," I thought. "Don't be practicing today. I really want to spend some quality time with Xan the Grand."

I entered the sanctuary ... and oh, was it sanctuarious! Nary an organ tone to be heard! Nary an Organ Lady to be found!

"Waterfall, is it you?" cried Xan the Grand. "Is it really you?"

I blinked. I was hallucinating. I was so happy to have Xan the Grand to myself. I was so happy that the Organ Lady wasn't there. I proceeded to settle down with Xan and had played through two sets of scales and arps, plus a few minutes of Bach's G-minor sinfonia, when ...

She entered the room. It was the Organ Lady. My muscles tensed.

The sanctuary was no longer a sanctuary. It was a place of battle. And, as had been ordained from the moment I first learned that this church's organ is the only one within a 50-mile radius, I knew I was going to lose. I stopped playing. The white flag came out in the form of a smile and an apology. I began to pack up my stuff.

I chatted with Organ Lady for a few minutes. She'd only been taking a short break, she explained. And she was back to practice some more.

I don't resent Organ Lady. There's no rule that says I have to give up Xan every time the Organ Lady shows up, but, seeing as pianos are a dime a dozen around here and organs aren't, it wouldn't make sense to do otherwise.

Still, I wish I'd had more time with Xan. My back-up pianos were both taken, so I wasn't able to practice anymore.

I'm definitely disappointed. I'll plan to get there a little later tomorrow.

(This post is also on my NAPS Blogger blog.)

Kicked Out by the Organ Lady

On weekdays, the Organ Lady haunts the halls of the stodgy Baptist church on the corner of First and Main. She's not the organist for this church, but she practices there. She wears shorts and a t-shirt, regardless of the weather. She's lonely. She's friendly, but only to certain people (or so I've heard). She's always very friendly to me. I think it helps, in this case at least, to be a Bach nerd and a half-decent pianist.

She was haunting the halls again today. I didn't know that this morning, when I got a wild hair and decided I would practice on Xan the Grand at lunch. For my faithful reader, you may remember that Xan the Grand is the old Steinway grand at the stodgy Baptist church on the corner of First and Main. I hadn't visited old Xan in ages. It was time.

So, shortly after 1:00, I braved the frigid winds and walked the block to the church. "Please, Organ Lady," I thought. "Don't be practicing today. I really want to spend some quality time with Xan the Grand."

I entered the sanctuary ... and oh, was it sanctuarious! Nary an organ tone to be heard! Nary an Organ Lady to be found!

"Waterfall, is it you?" cried Xan the Grand. "Is it really you?"

I blinked. I was hallucinating. I was so happy to have Xan the Grand to myself. I was so happy that the Organ Lady wasn't there. I proceeded to settle down with Xan and had played through two sets of scales and arps, plus a few minutes of Bach's G-minor sinfonia, when ...

She entered the room. It was the Organ Lady. My muscles tensed.

The sanctuary was no longer a sanctuary. It was a place of battle. And, as had been ordained from the moment I first learned that this church's organ is the only one within a 50-mile radius, I knew I was going to lose. I stopped playing. The white flag came out in the form of a smile and an apology. I began to pack up my stuff.

I chatted with Organ Lady for a few minutes. She'd only been taking a short break, she explained. And she was back to practice some more.

I don't resent Organ Lady. There's no rule that says I have to give up Xan every time the Organ Lady shows up, but, seeing as pianos are a dime a dozen around here and organs aren't, it wouldn't make sense to do otherwise.

Still, I wish I'd had more time with Xan. My back-up pianos were both taken, so I wasn't able to practice anymore.

I'm definitely disappointed. I'll plan to get there a little later tomorrow.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Thinking

I sat down to write this morning, and the more I wrote, the sadder I got.

Maybe all these work hours are taking their toll. Maybe my magical-happy-pill dosage is too low. Maybe, maybe, maybe ...

It's been hard to think lately. I feel very ... scattered. I don't like feeling scattered. I'm a person who likes to focus 100% on one thing. I prefer depth to breadth, even if it means missing out on things. I joke that I'm "DDA" (the opposite of "ADD"). I don't like multi-tasking, but it's my nature to take on 101 responsibilities. Why? Because I'm a nice person. Because I like to help.

But when I'm scurrying from one focus to another, I lose certain important parts of myself. Part of me is angry at myself for letting myself fall into that; part of me is angry at the world for being so ADD-friendly.

Yeah, Waterfall. Get mad at the world. That always helps.

Typical day for me:

I wake up early to read, write, and think. I read some poetry and the Bible. I'm working through the Bible-in-a-year again this year, using the Literary Study Bible (ESV).

I pretty much start working when I get to work. Things have been slow at work because it's support season--the product we work so hard on in late summer and fall is now out in the field. Our programmers are fixing things for patches, our SMEs are serving in consultant roles for the customer service reps, the QA testers are testing program updates, and the technical writers are working on supplements to the manual and writing Knowledge Base articles and ... hanging out. Everyone is hanging out. It's a slow time at work.

I'm not answering phones this year because my deafness is such a liability. But because I have a work ethic that won't quit, I figure out things to do. The things I'm working on don't require 100% of my attention, so I'm listening to music while I work. And taking a free course on the Old Testament from the Reformed Theological Seminary. And reading the required readings from books like An Introduction to the Old Testament and He Gave Us Stories. It's fascinating stuff. Time flies when I'm listening to these lectures.

At lunch, I normally play piano, but I've had a pinky injury for several weeks, so instead I go to the local coffee shop and read and write. I can't read without writing, so you can usually find me with my nose in a book and a pen in my hand, scribbling absently in a notebook. Oh, and I'm the marketing chair for our county's Relay For Life effort this year. So I take care of that stuff at lunch, too.

Between tasks at work, I go to Bloglines and catch up on the latest on the news and read the lefty and righty blogs. For some reason, I feel compelled to read both sides of the ugliness.

It's always dark when I leave work. On the nights that I run, I go home and change, then head to the gym and run. I listen to my iPod when I run. Usually I listen to podcasts--Phedippidations, Stand to Reason, Grammar Girl (why didn't I get that job?), The Word Nerds, This American Life, or preacher podcasts like Mark Driscoll and John Piper and Ravi Zacharias.

When I finally get home, I wash a load of clothes or do the dishes or straighten up around the house while checking Facebook. Hubster has been overworked, very overworked, these days, so he usually doesn't get home until late. I'll read a bit before I go to bed--usually fiction or poetry. I'm looking for another big book to dive into, so I think I'll start The Fountainhead next, or else re-read either The Brothers Karamazov or War and Peace.

Of course, on Monday nights, we stay up and watch House and 24. Our two shows.

When do I eat? I don't. I usually forget to eat. I nibble on fruits and vegetables at work, and cereal at home.

So, I have a pretty easy life, as you can see. In one sense, I love it. In another sense, I keep getting sad. I don't know if it's my bio-chemical tendency to depression, or if it's something else. Maybe it's lack of variety in my diet. Maybe I miss the Hubster. We make time for each other, but it is a challenge, considering both our schedules.

I've wanted to write so much lately. I've been reading a lot, thinking a lot, and learning a lot. I want to write, but I keep getting distracted--by laundry that needs folding, by errands that need running, by Facebook, by the cell phone's endless ringing.

I think I need to go hiking. Leave the computer behind, leave the books behind, leave even the music behind, and go into the woods with nothing but the basics and a notebook and a bunch of pens.

Maybe my pinky needs to heal so I can play piano again.

Maybe I just need to go to 80's night somewhere (do they still have those?) and dance the night away. Dancing to Adam Ant's "Goody Two Shoes" might be even more fun than running to it.

They're cutting back our work hours starting next week. No more 56-hour weeks. Let's see if that helps.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Running Blog Updated

If you're interested in reading about my running (I'm training for a May half-marathon), I'm co-blogging with my friend Janet at Return Runners. Please feel free to visit and leave encouraging comments!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Listening to Pandora Radio

Pandora’s assessment of my musical taste for today makes me feel boring yet tasteful.



In case you can't read the tiny writing, it says:

Based on what you've told us so far, we're playing this track because it features mellow rock instrumentation, folk influences, acoustic sonority, major key tonality, and thru composed melodic style.
Mellow? Sonority? Melodic? Somehow, I'm pretty sure I'll be listening to Neil Diamond before the hour is over.

Earlier it was playing Led Zeppelin and Molly Hatchet. I guess I’ve morphed and mellowed a bit as the day has worn on.

It’s been a nice little diversion from my usual Bachian fare.

Heh ... as I finished this post and got ready to click Publish Post, "Hello Again" came on.

(Now y'all know what a music nerd I am when I'm not being all highbrow.)

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Just Writing

It's Saturday night, and I don't have much to write, but I thought I'd check in before reading a bit and going to bed.

Today was my first Saturday off since early October. My first two-day weekend in five months. I thought of doing lots of things--making a king cake, going shopping for some jeans before my last decent pair dies on me, etc. I ended up going to the town of Highlands, which involved a curvy drive through some of the most scenic areas of western North Carolina. Hardly anyone was out this morning, so I had the road to myself and got to drive as slowly as I wanted. Nice because there was a lot to stop and look at.

So I went to Buck's Coffee in Highlands. I keep inadvertently calling it Highlands Coffee. My favorite coffee shop in Baton Rouge was Highland Coffees, so it makes sense. I guess. I sat and wrote for several hours. What did I write? Nothing much. No fiction, no deep thoughts, nothing like that. I just did some easy writing, a bit of thinking, some comments on some thoughts I've had over the last few days.

I filled up four or five pages of my notebook, then went on a walk. It was so nice to have a day where I didn't have to talk to another soul.

Then I came home and went on my weekly long run. Today's "long run" was only about seven miles (I went 10 last Saturday, and 9 each of the two Saturdays before that). Next Saturday is supposed to be a 12-miler. My half-marathon isn't until the first weekend in May, but I've decided to do longer long runs, as if I'm training for an actual marathon. One of these days I'll run that marathon ...

I've been very out of touch with everyone (as usual) and haven't written much here (obviously). I'm reading about six different books right now and taking a free online course on literary analysis of the Old Testament from Genesis to Joshua. Plus, I'm Marketing Chair for my county's Relay For Life effort this year. Anything else? Oh. I'm helping direct a discussion group of C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity. Yep, I'm busy.

That's pretty much my life these days. I'm feeling very happy. Funny that I should feel so happy, considering the recession and all the negativity on TV.

But ... I haven't been watching TV. I guess ignorance is bliss.

OK, time for reading and bed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Beginning

Where to begin?

I don’t remember the beginning. I’ve been told stories of what happened before the beginning. Where did I come from? Here’s where I came from: a 17-year-old girl, a high-school junior. A 21-year-old hippie, just back from southern California.

This story isn’t about what happened before. It’s about what happened much later. The reason I’m starting here is to explain that, in that tumultuous time, my biological mother, then 18, made a decision. I think she made a good decision. She had other choices, and she chose to sign the papers. She chose to give up her claim to me. But she never forgot me. Almost 30 years later, she would find me.

But now I’m getting ahead of myself.

I was two and a half months old when I came home to my family: a college-educated, professional father; a stay-at-home mom; and a three-year-old brother, also adopted. Later I would get a little sister, my parents’ only natural child. I had aunts and uncles and a few cousins, most of whom were much older than I. I had grandparents: my mom’s mother, and my dad’s parents. Growing up, I was especially fond of my grandfather.

Family. A good life in a good home. Unconditional love from all levels of generations. This is what my birthmother gave me by giving me up.

Of course things weren’t perfect. They never are. They’re not supposed to be. When I was very young, it was discovered I had severe hearing loss in both ears. I would need hearing aids someday. I might need to go to a school for the deaf. We would wait and see.

I was shy. I was pigeon-toed. I hated attention. I didn’t like being around most other kids. But I was stubborn and smart, and I loved music, stories, Jesus, and Gilligan. Was I a typical kid? I guess so.

Why am I telling you all of this? I’m not sure. I think it’s because everything is all connected. Everything I’ve mentioned so far will play some role in the story of what happened later. Everything I’ve told you so far is true, mostly.

Love gave me up, and love took me in. Sometimes I look back on my life and just shake my head at how often I thumbed my nose up at love, how many times, and how irreverently, I tried to destroy the gift I’d been given. I’m glad I lived through those troubled stretches, and that I can now look back at them from the safe haven that time and healing provide.

This is the beginning of my story. It’s cheesy, but it’s a start. I’m re-reading this and seeing how truly rusty my writing has become. The good news: the more I write, the less mouse-worthy my writing will be. More later!