Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas In Review

Christmas time is chock full of tradition in my family. Below is a sampling of the sweet, comical, and sometimes bizarre:

One man's snowman is another's canvas for corn-rows and creative red-hot placement. To the frustration of everyone, I average about seven to eight cookies per hour.

Every Christmas, Gramma gives my sister and I a new game as a shared gift. However, until this year, there was no practical way to share the gifts. No one ever said anything to Gramma, it was a present after all, but Carebear and I always exchanged the customary raising of the eyebrows with every unwrapping. Needless to say, without the burden of traveling by carry-on bag only, Carebear claimed sole ownership of the loot! And can you believe, she still complains about the time I stole some of her DVDs and took them with me to NY...sounds pretty generous to me.

Note: Packer Snuggie!
Mom's new tradition the past couple of years is to pit me, my sister and my sister's husband against eachother in a timed puzzle competition. This year I fell into last place during both rounds. I don't remember the entire event, I know it didn't begin until 11:30pm or so, and I do remember having my first cocktail around 4:30PM... At one point, after both Carrie and Brett had finished their puzzles [and after Mom snapped their victorious winner, and runner-up, photos; fingers raised indicating position earned] I let out an exasperated, "This isn't fair! This puzzle doesn't even fit together!" I'm pretty sure, around that point in the evening, my family started referring to me as 'drunk santa.'

Jack was not having it. And of course, when we gave second dibs to Cody, he wasn't having that either.

Probably my most favorite food in the whole entire world. I ate at least a half-pound of shavings before the prayer of Grace. In a new tradition: I carve the ham! Very very exciting in my world.


Customary holiday beverage since before the pre-teen years. I tried introducing a couple new ice cream drinks in the past, but let's just say: disaster. Ice cream doesn't make everything taste good, and on more occasions than not: amaretto kind of sucks.


Three instead of five is what happens when folks get married: two have to leave the party before family photo time to attend other parties. Or in their marital bliss, they float upwards.

Joy, I got 'Go-Girl.' Now actually envious of Party Animals.

All my best to you and your families. Hope you all shared many laughs.
'till New Years...

Snow Experience

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Wisconsin's Advantage, #1

Your car can double as a refrigerator.


Friday night, 5:40PM, running out the side door into the garage with hopes that my car would be ready to drive after only three minutes to warm-up. When I'm due somewhere at a certain time, I like to plan it so that I arrive right on time. Considering it only takes 40 minutes to get into Appleton, and dress rehearsal didn't being until 6:30PM, I was golden. Except, at 5:35PM, my tummy whined for an Eaton's sandwich; so I called-in an order for pick-up. I was pushing the clock, but decided I'd feel less bad showing up late with a full stomach than sitting through a four hour rehearsal with thoughts of mayonnaise and white bread dancing in my head.

I zoomed into town and pulled into Eaton's parking lot a little too quick, but there were two other cars about to turn in before me and there was no way I'd let them get ahead of me in line, senior citizens or not. I was pulling off my seat-belt before I finished the full turn into the stall. I made an a-line straight up to the counter for my just-toasted sub, neatly packed in a brown paper bag. I gave the girl at the counter a twenty, and while she was making my change, I began making plans as to how best to eat the sandwich while driving. I decided my two biggest obstacles to avoid were: causing an accident and squeezing mayo onto my black wool coat.

I'm not very good at multi-tasking behind the wheel, which is probably to the benefit of drivers everywhere. However, I kept the sandwich within reach on my lap [resting in the torn open paper bag] the entire ride and managed a few monster bites after returning to the non-passing lane with cruise-control set. The healthy looking sandwich was barely touched when I had to put it down to run yet again, but it didn't really make a hell of a difference, because at 10:35PM, the sandwich was still perfectly in tact and the bread still had chew.

I was so pleasantly surprised! I even called MK on my drive home to revel in the delight.

And that, in my opinion, gives validation to the temperature.

And maybe you just had to be there!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wanting To Be Great

I woke up feeling very inspired today to be great. Conveniently, this feeling came on my day off from work, so I have a moment to reflect before I get busy with this and that.

I have finally completed my audition and application process for school. I passed a prepared vocal audition for private studio work on Wednesday and the Praxis I yesterday. Both exams were weighing heavily on my mind and spirit the past couple of weeks, so when all was done: a huge sigh of relief was ushered, and a little 'happy jig' was performed for the secretary in the testing center. [Note: The secretary instigated the dance.]

Then I drove myself home, after a butterburger at Culvers [gosh darn they are like crack], and froze in a feeling of: I have nothing to do. [Imagine the kinds of sentiments expressed by empty-nesters and the newly retired.] After a half hour of pulse counting, I went to the piano. What I wanted to do, or what seemed customary in these kinds of situations, is celebrate with the company of good friends. Unfortunately my location isn't very accommodating.

Thank God for the telephone. I had a most inspiring conversation with a friend last night. Someone going through some similar challenges, but who, also like me, is making lemonade with all those darn lemons. I've not yet said 'Thank You' to all of you who read this blog, and have faith in me, and I apologize for it. Your support gives me courage and confidence. And for you, I want to be great.

There is a really cold winter ahead of me. But I'm pretty good at keeping myself busy, and I have plenty of playing to do before the semester starts, including a complete revival of running scales in thirds, sixths, octaves, and twelfths; also with: broken scales, arpeggios, full chords and finally running octaves. The mechanics of my playing should improve greatly by the end of the semester, which will help me tackle some of the bigger pieces I'd like to be playing. And I will also be spending a bit of time relearning the foundations of theory and harmonization.

It's hard to imagine in what ways my life will change once I become full-on music master, but I'm sure I will have plenty to blog about.

Friday, December 11, 2009

More Moments of Mediocrity

We were hit with the first big storm of the season Tuesday evening; eight to ten inches of snow and winds above 30 mph, which created obstacle course drifts on the road.

Every now and again I find it really difficult to sleep through the night. Tuesday happened to be one of those nights. Wide awake in bed at 3AM, I decided to roll out into standing position, walk over to my east-facing window and open the shade to catch a moment of the storm. 0 to 100, I wrapped my quilted housecoat around my pajamas, layered on hat, leather work gloves and my rain boots, and headed outside to shovel.

It was quite bright outside for 3AM. I swear there is an allusion of the moon seeming larger here and the reflection of the light on the white snow had more effect than tens of those dippy nite-lites parents pollute their hallways and bathrooms with.

I thought my work would be a huge help and surprise to my dad the following morning. He leaves the house around 6:30AM for work. But it turned out he didn't even notice. Oh the pangs of disappointment. Apparently, unless absolutely necessary, don't bother clearing the snow until the storm has stopped. Winds can shift directions and all of your neatly piled work can blow back upon you. This is also a very real observation to note when snow-blowing. It's not that much fun when you can only yell at yourself.

The combined couple of hours of shoveling [I went back out Wednesday afternoon to clear the pile of snow left at the bottom of the driveway skirt, courtesy of the city] was an excellent workout for the two small muscles encasing the 'chicken bone' perimeter of my spine. I didn't know these muscles existed before yesterday. I can't wait to see how sexy my back will look in a tank top after three months of element pumping.

Also in some pain, is the 'ole left hamstring. I haven't had any pain in this region since I pathetically tried to join my previous college's track team, without any previous running experience*. I can only assume my quick-hurry-shuffle-because-it-is-so-freaking-cold-out is to blame, and my lack of wanting to drink water, or any beverage of, or cooler than, room temperature [except this delicious Leinenkugel's Fireside Nut Brown, which I am holding in a mittened hand].

I am working through the discomfort by working more and by wearing the Man's Mall favorite: flannel hat. The hat is not a favorite of my sister, nor my mom or really anyone female. They liken me to an Elmer Fudd type character. I dig it though and I don't plan to quit designing my burly outer costuming just yet. 'Man's Mall, I shall return. Army Surplus, we rendezvous next week.' Documentation forthcoming.

*For your enjoyment, a historical review of my early writing career as a columnist for The Royal Purple, the student newspaper at the previously mentioned college. And of course I took the position without any previous writing experience [save a few C-graded papers from my high school's junior year lit class; probably on the topic of Steinbeck, with the stylistic charm of poor penmanship and strong critical analysis built upon 'I don't understand what I'm supposed to be writing about.'] As you will come to notice, I always jump head first.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Last Time It Worked...

...I posted about wanting something, and I got it.

It's not greed, when you are student poor.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Big White Bird

Way way back in July, I anticipated the likely results of a full-out battle between Rob Halford and my neighbors, the miniature ponies. Today, I challenge the likes of the local music community.

I am currently singing second-alto in a local community choir. 70 folks, mostly white or lacking on top, color the choir. A few recent Lawrence University grads, and myself, help even the inevitable tremolo that comes with age. Don't get me wrong, this isn't some glorified church choir, we are conducted by the Director of Choral Studies at Lawrence University and receive endowments, which far surpassed my estimation.

We perform three concerts each season. And it seems we host a guest artist each concert as well. We were joined by a Salvation Army staff band last October [image below] and will be joined by a deaf choir [Glee, anyone?] this December. Our choir has an executive committee that picks each concert's theme a year in advance. Not being a member of the committee, I don't know how we came about deciding upon this season's guest artists. Considering past themes, which have included: "Gypsy Spring, a celebration of Gypsy music," "All Creatures Great & Small, the music of animals" and "It's All About Sports, a Packers game set to famous choral pieces," I don't think the likes and dislikes of the refined music community are necessarily taken into account.

I'm a speck of tan in there.

An estimation of score card ratings and comments from audience members of both concerts:

Gregg (Male, 49, Business Professional)
Band: 9 "When that one old lady got up to play that solo, I didn't expect much, but, "Wow" she did really good. I liked the uniforms."
Deaf Choir: 6 "I forgot my glasses at home so I couldn't really see what they were doing with their hands."

Lorraine (Female, 78, Retired)
Band: 10 "I love that kind of music. Carl and I, before he passed, used to see the band concerts at the high school. You know, Carl used to play trumpet in the old army band. Him and the guys used to play at the church bazaars. Before my legs got bad I used to dance and dance. We had so much fun."
Deaf Choir: 10 "You all sounded like angels. I am praying for those deaf kids tonight. You know, I think Fran might have a deaf granddaughter."

Brad (Male, 23, Undecided)
Band: 8 "I liked the drums."
Deaf Choir: N/A "Deaf? [pause] Shit. That sucks."

Renee (Female, 54, Assistant)
Band: 7 "I enjoyed the energy the band brought to the concert, but if they hadn't played, couldn't the concert have ended earlier? Two hours is too long for me."
Deaf Choir: 10 "I am an open and accepting person, unlike most people around here. You know what I mean."

The deaf choir better get to practicing if they hope to get Brad's attention. And I better, too; we will be performing 11 songs in just under a few weeks time. Not sure I will be able to continue on for the spring concert, because of my NINETEEN CREDIT semester ahead, so if anyone wants to purchase my elegant floor-length rayon grandmother-of-the-bride dress and sheer 'flowy' dress jacket for $200 (yes, that is the going USED price), please drop a comment.

Your witchy ringmaster demonstrating the 'flowyness' of the dress jacket.

In other choir news, I was accepted into the university's chamber choir this morning. Costume swap? May I please show that I have a figure? Very few straight young men go to choir concerts, enough said.