And I am so excited! It really is almost like riding a bike, except I don’t ride a bike anymore. I don’t even have a bike, but I do have a piano. The only thing is that it’s been at my brothers’ family’s home since I left for grad school in 2005. During grad school, I rarely touched a piano. And during my six years in Taiwan, I think I played a piano four times while there, and just a couple of times during my summer visits home. There was an opportunity to have my own piano in Taiwan as reported here, but that didn’t work out.
In my former life, playing the piano was almost a daily event. At various times, I was a music director in a church, a K-8 school music teacher, and a piano teacher. After ten years away, someone asked me to be a rehearsal accompanist for one area of a state-wide choir. I wasn’t too worried about accepting because initially, all I would be doing is playing each sections parts for them. Still, I was curious.
But I didn’t want to just go to my brother’s house. I wanted to go to a church and pull out some of the music and see if I could really do the kind of playing needed for following a director and supporting a group of singers. So, after lunch today, I went over to my parents’ church, pulled out a book of music, and sat down at the piano.
Yes, there were starts and stops, places where I had to work over some rough spots before playing confidently, but within an hour, I was playing well enough to realize that with practice, I could still be a competent accompanist. And it really raised my spirits. I had forgotten how good it feels to move my fingers across those keys. Now, I’m really looking forward to September 15–the night of my first rehearsal with the group. And it is rumored that I might be picking up a couple of piano students.
I am delighted that after a 10-year hiatus, I will be making music again.
Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you?
Today’s twist: You’ll commit to a writing practice. The frequency and the amount of time you choose to spend today — and moving forward — are up to you, but we recommend a minimum of fifteen uninterrupted minutes per day.
Almost anything Carly Simon. Her is creative, energetic, and full of surprises. Here is one of my favorites, but with Carly, I swear I could just choose something at random, and it would be somewhere on my favorites list. All it takes is a playlist filled with Carly Simon to get my motivation going.
If I really want inspiration, I can go to almost anything by Playing for Change. I love how this organization has gathered musicians from around the world and created track after track of amazing music. The musicians, singers, and dancers on these videos often come from several countries around the world. I enjoy watching the text on the videos as the various musicians and groups are introduced. It is great fun just to see what far reaches of the world have been included in a specific song. Not only does this music motivate me, it actually elevates my mood. I can tell because I almost always catch myself smiling whenever I’m listening to their music. Here’s one of my favorites.
You might think that Careless Whisper by George Michael is an odd song in terms of motivational value. It’s a funny story involving an Italian style restaurant near my first Taiwan apartment, a proprietor who is as crazy as I am (and who has taught herself English), and a collection of CDs of all kinds of English music. I discovered this place after being in Taiwan for a couple of months. One day, I ventured the two-block walk to check it out for myself.
Going to a new restaurant in a foreign country is always an adventures. Will they have an English menu? If not, will they have a picture menu? Will someone be around who know enough English to help me? You get the idea. Well, it was the best thing I could have done, leading to an ongoing friendship with Yvonne. For the next 14 months, while I lived in that first apartment, I visited the shop two or even three times a week. In addition to the great food, I loved the music she played there. My first Christmas in Taiwan was easier to spend away from home because I could go have my dinner, grade papers, and listen to Christmas music.
I don’t know when it started, but Yvonne and I began singing along with some of the songs. Whitney Houston’s I will Always Love You is one that comes to mind. We’d get all theatrical about it and act like two crazy women–ok, maybe it wasn’t an act. But we had lots of fun. Not long after that, we starting doing some dancing. Careless Whisper by George Michael became “our song.” We danced and sang, even if the restaurant was full of customers (it was a small restaurant with a seating capacity of around 30, but still).
Yvonne, George Michael, and this restaurant bring out a part of me that is usually hidden inside, and I love the way I feel when I’m dancing in Yvonne’s restaurant. Something else has happened as well. Now, whenever I hear that song, in whatever context, I’m always transported to a little restaurant in Taiwan where I’m singing and dancing and acting crazy. It inspires me to be myself and to remember the good times with friends I’ve made here in Taiwan.
As for the twist, I’m using the blog as a means of focusing on the daily practice of writing. It doesn’t mean that a blog post will result every day. But at least I’m writing and thinking about future writing ideas. I’m also working on new ideas for my writing classes–a nice mix of writing and exploration about writing, without having to stop to read and comment on essays. 🙂
This post is part of the WordPress Writing 101 Blogging Challenge:
Image courtesy of fotographic1980 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
If you’ve been following the Container Chronicles, you know that I have been participating in Music Themes for a while. Since October, my daughter at Sincerely Kate has been my Collaborator. After we announced the Hobbies and Pastimes theme, the other participants have had things come up, and the group seemed to be on hold for a bit. On one hand, my friend, the Plate Spinner is thrilled because that’s one less thing taking so much time and energy, but at the same time I enjoy this creative exercise and would like to do it, just maybe not so often.
With that said, Kate and I decided we would get the Music Themes back up and running, though we will only be doing this monthly compared to every 4-5 days. Everyone is welcome to join us, posting videos, poetry, and/or artwork as it’s convenient for them. Should the others like to post a theme over the next few months, we’ll gladly put together some sort of schedule so everyone gets a fair shake at this.
February’s Theme: The Seven Deadly Sins
Kate has posted about each of these sins in the past, and she thought it would be fun to look at them again in a different way. Personally I am more likely to explore a couple of them in more depth. But regardless, should be a lot of fun.
What ideas do you have about how music might tell a story or two about one or more of the seven deadly sins? Feel free to comment below OR maybe you’d like to join us in our Music Themes project for February. When Kate and I finish our posts, we’ll link them here. You can do the same and see what we all come up with.
Interestingly, this post helped me discover that even when it comes to fun things, I may have a few too many plates in the air. It became obvious when I realized that there were so many “favorite things” that writing a few lines about each of them seemed like an obstacle. Along with the decluttering I’m doing in the rest of my life, I need to sort through these activities and see which ones really sustain me and which are just “one more thing to do.” This is somewhat ironic, because I had no trouble in coming up with lots and lots of ideas and songs for this post. Thankfully, Collaborator was able to fill in the musical gaps.
Favorite Thing #1: Entertaining
Even though my husband has taken over most of the food preparation part of things, I do like entertaining (when I have the time). However, I notice that lately, I schedule a lot less of it than I did in the past couple of years.
Be Our Guest (Beauty & the Beast)
Favorite Thing #2: Swimming
I’m not a great swimmer, but I enjoy the water. I find it relaxing as well as a good way to exercise. Not too easy to do in the part of Taiwan that I live, but maybe something to consider in the future.
Just Keep Swimming (Finding Nemo)
Favorite Thing #3: Spending time on the Water
Speaking of water, a favorite activity in Seattle was to either take the four-hour cruise to Victoria, BC or the ferry ride across Puget Sound to Bremerton. I don’t know if it’s still this way, but once you paid to get on the ferry, you could ride back and forth on one fare. Being on one of those trips was one of the most relaxing things I’ve experienced. I someday want to take a longer cruise, maybe to Alaska.
Sailing (Christopher Cross)
Favorite Thing #4: Riding Bicycles
Growing up on the west side of Bay City, Michigan, I rode my bike a lot. My sister and I could ride to the library, to Grandma’s house. If we wanted to go visit a friend, we could hop on our bike and just go. People are always amazed when I tell them that I used to ride my bicycle to college and back several times (10 miles each way). After my children were born, I don’t know if we just didn’t have bikes around anymore, or if I just got too busy, but I haven’t ridden a bike in many years. But I (think I) remember how much I enjoyed riding, and I think I’d like to get back to it. Not something I would pursue in Taiwan, but maybe when I return to the U.S.
Bicycle Race (Queen)
Favorite Thing #5: Flying Kites
I have a thing about kites. Like the Plate Spinner of late, I once had an inner dialogue with a kite. A few weeks ago, we went on a trip to Hsinchu, and near the coast, dozens of people were flying kites. I knew right then and there that I was going to be flying a kite sometime in the not too distant future.
The saddest thing is that nearly all of these have fallen by the wayside with the business of all the work I’m doing. The knitting is ok, because I have quilting. And when students are here doing puzzles, I enjoy it vicariously even though I’m often working in the other room. Dave has taken over most of the cooking activity. So that leaves reading and drawing, or in my case, Zentangling. Those might be worth finding a little time for. Oh, I do like Sudoku, and usually manage to do one of those before going to bed. I do enjoy that.
When Will My Life Begin (Tangled)
Favorite Thing #7: Singing
I love music. I have played the piano for years, and I love singing. Even though I can’t play the piano much in Taiwan (well, I could, but it would take too much time and effort under the circumstances), I am planning to do karaoke sometime this year, including one song in Chinese.
Favorite Thing #8: Quilting/Sewing
If someone had told me last year at this time, that I would be in the middle of two quilting projects, I wouldn’t have believed it. But progress is being made, and I’m really enjoying it. I will post a quilting update soon.
Tapestry (Carole King)
Favorite Thing #9: Dancing
I have enjoyed dancing at different times in my life. I studied ballet as a young girl, and then during my freshman year of college. I later attended an adult ballet class before moving away from Seattle. Although it is physically challenging to think about dancing, I want to give it a try again.
We’re Dancing (Center Stage)
I hope you’ve enjoyed finding out about a few of my favorite things. I will be considering where to focus my time and energy, and give myself some breathing space for the ones that bring me real joy!
Hey, it’s Kate, Deborah’s youngest and favorite child. My mom was a bit too busy to think of songs for this Contrast theme let alone put a blog together, so as her faithful collaborator I thought I’d tackle a bit of her commentary for her.
As you’ll see in my blog on the 13th, I was immediately inspired by this theme, and when that wasn’t the case with my mother, I told her she should pick two ends of some sort of spectrum and do a few videos for each one. My original recommendation was heroes and villains, but then we reached the conclusion that she should find a happy and sad video from the same artist(s). She chose The Carpenters and Carly Simon for this path.
Top of the World (Carpenters)
I Get Along Without You Very Well (Carly Simon)
Let the River Run (Carly Simon)
Although I liked that route, I, of course, had to over-think it. Maybe instead of happy and sad songs from the same artist, we could find renditions of a song that’s both happy and sad! Thanks to Glee, I had a couple ideas ready to go, and I also thought of another musical number and its reprise from Rent. Mother was happy with these offerings so you can find them here:
I Want to Hold Your Hand (Beatles)
I Want to Hold Your Hand (Glee)
I’ll Cover You (Rent)
I’ll Cover You (Rent)
Deborah here: I got my blog back from my daughter. Although I used my collaborator to my advantage, I still enjoyed this exploration, and her ideas were invaluable in looking at this theme. I realized that I typically thought of contrast only in terms of the visual, or thematic, so I was constantly surprised at the various kind of musical contrasts we discovered. Of course, the more we did, the more it was possible to see others. The last combination, in particular, was striking in its contrast. And it was great contrasting the approach to this theme between mother and daughter. See you next time.
For a little extra entertainment, I thought I’d give you a little insight into the mother/daughter collaboration process. As we started on this one, I was in the middle of a work project, but Collaborator was on a roll, so she just kept going.
Keep in mind that when Collaborator and I work together, we are on opposite sides of the world, and our communication takes place via Facebook messaging. It is usually morning in Michigan where she is, and my grandson, Mr. Logan, is often nearby. It is evening in Taiwan where I am, where I am sometimes working on other things. But we somehow manage.
To say Collaborator was happy about this theme would be a huge understatement.
Collaborator: YAY! DREAMS! You could use your dance videos
Me: I could, but I think I want to do something else. Because I have very specific plans for the dance one
Collaborator: do you have an idea of what you want to do instead?
Me: I will give you an idea in a little bit. For me, it’s largely about possibility
When I came back from meeting with a student, I found these:
Dream Weaver (Gary Wright)
This was quickly followed up with her #2 offering:
Daydream Believer (Monkees)
I may have casually mentioned California Dreamin’, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when this popped up:
California Dreamin’ (The Mamas and the Papas)
Here’s where it starts to get really interesting.
Collaborator: There’s three dream songs, the other three can be more specific once you get a more specific idea.
A “little” time passes, and I get another message as she sends this.
Collaborator: So do you just want DREAM songs or do you want something a little more specific?
It’s hard to respond while I’m listening to Fleetwood Mac, but I do after the song.
Dreams (Fleetwood Mac)
Me: “Not sure yet, but I think you may be all done before I decide 😉
Up pops this one:
Dream a Little Dream of Me (Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong)
Me: (appreciatively) I like that one. There’s a song from the 50s or 60s about dreams, dreams, dreams that I can’t quite put my finger on”
BAM! Kate posts the video. And a comment:
Collaborator: You’re dreaming about songs from yesteryear. (Such a darling child!)
All I Have to Do is Dream (Everly Brothers)
RIP Phil Everly (Jan. 3, 2014)
Collaborator: That’s 6.
Me: BUT . . . . we don’t have any Glee!
and then BAM! Kate strikes again, giving me her leftovers,
Hall of Fame (Glee)
But hey, I did this one all by myself!
Dream Baby Dream (Bruce Springsteen)
Me: Wow, I did this one all by myself. Geez, I sound so pathetic 😉
As the new year begins, I am doing a lot of reflection and planning for what I want to pursue. But I won’t be making resolutions. I’m not out to resolve things. I am out to live more fully and to embrace my goals and dreams for the future. Part of that involves really discovering what it is I want in life. And I intend to do some explorations in many areas of my life to refine what it is I want. I’ve started making lists, and I’m excited about the possibilities. You’ll be reading about some of them in my blog over the next few weeks, but at 11:21 this morning, I had just revealed one of my fun intensions to a friend, and now I’m going to share it with you.
At 11:21 this morning, I was talking on Skype with my friend Joycelyn of Farther to Go! fame. She and I have been friends for forty years and have been through a lot together. For the last few years, while I’ve been in Taiwan, we try to reserve this time every week to catch up, and to support each other in our respective endeavors. I knew when we started our conversation that the specified moment would arrive sometime during our conversation..
Joycelyn and I were having an interesting discussion about our respective fitness programs and how we were feeling differently because of what we were doing. We realized in the discussion that most people talk about going to the gym as a goal, when that’s not really the goal. It’s the means TO a goal, such as feeling better, getting stronger, getting in shape, or other possibilities. But at this time of year, people set a GOAL of going to the gym as if going to the gym in itself is something we really want. No wonder fitness goals often fall by the wayside. There is no real desire and motivation behind them, except maybe prodding from a doctor or loved one, or guilt, or some other negativity that we’re convinced we can (re)solve if we just have enough will power. Right!
There was much more to the conversation, but we began sharing some of the things we wanted for ourselves in the new year, and at 11:21, I had just finished telling Joycelyn about a challenge I have given myself for the year. Something I’m excited about. Something that will keep me jazzed and move me toward a goal I have had for a while, but was having trouble getting there.
So here’s the background. I live in Taiwan. This is my fifth year here, yet I know very little Chinese. I know enough Chinese to be somewhat entertaining to the natives, but that’s it. To be fair, I’m so busy with teaching, editing, and textbook writing, that I don’t have a lot of time for language study. And I did make a real effort before arriving, but learned the wrong accent, so even my minimal phrases I learned before I came weren’t too helpful. I’ve tried working with a few students who wanted to teach me some Chinese, but that never worked very well.
But one of the students from the new writing group is double majoring in English and in Teaching Chinese as a Second Language. She and I are setting up biweekly lessons for me. Just enough to give me a bit of language without it being too overwhelming. (She is one of the puzzle solvers in the picture above. She’s on the right.)
OK, now here’s another piece about me you may not know. I use to be a music director for a church. I’m a keyboardist, choir director, and vocalist. Though I don’t do a lot of singing anymore, and never did much karaoke in the past, it seems like a fun way to spend a little time with students. The students tell me that most of the English songs at the karaoke places are “old.” They obviously forget who they’re talking to. I can do “old” songs.
But a couple of days ago, I realized that if I had the Romanized Chinese words and a YouTube video, I could learn a song in Chinese! It would give me an extra motivation for my language study, and satisfy the urge I have to sing. I can go with a group of students and do some singing in both languages. I am psyched!
I emailed the young lady in the picture above and told her of my plan, and she’s already sent me a couple of videos and the Romanized Chinese for both of them. Now I just have to talk to my new tutor and tell her of my crazy plan, but I know she’ll be as excited about it as I am.
And at a future moment in time, I will be singing a song in Chinese. And the plan is to record it and share it in a blog post. Stay tuned! I’ll keep you posted!
A Moment in Time is a shared blogging experience, where writers document and share their stories from the same moment on the same day. The day and time for the next A Moment in Time is posted by Randee every few days in such a way that you’ll have a heads up on the exact moment to which you need to attend and focus on and, if it’s significant in some way, write about and add to the list.
I’m also participating in Just Jot it January *JusJoJan.” You just jot something everyday, even if it doesn’t always result in a blog post. Maybe several days’ jottings end up in one post. Lots of possibilities. Check it out here:
Like any year, 2013 has had its ups and downs. At the moment, it seems the scale is tipped in the direction of down, but that’s just my current story. And in the end, it doesn’t matter, because 2014 is really coming. I can say good-bye to 2013 and embrace the possibilities of 2014.
Sometimes, it seems we put a little too much stock in the new year, hoping that some magical “reset” button is going to make things better. But I know there is nothing magical about it. I also know that much of what will happen in the new year is beyond my control. But my attitudes about it are in my control. And my intentions for the new year are in my control. So, I will focus on building a set of intentions (not resolutions) for 2014. Watch this space for more! 🙂
In the meantime, here are some of the songs that I take into the new year with me. Thanks to Collaborator for her assistance in finding these songs that I will use to inspire me, motivate me, and keep me keeping on when it seems difficult to do so. According to one of them, I have five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes in 2014. My first intention is to make the most of those minutes.
Thanks to my students who remind me that home is where your heart is; you hold a very special place in my heart.
Thanks to all of my friends, both in the US and here in Taiwan, who make me feel welcome and appreciated wherever I go. Even during rough times, your friendship and support keep me going and get me smiling again.
Thanks to my family back in my country of origin, my parents, my siblings and their families, and my children and their families. Because of you, I have cherished memories of the time we spent together. No family is perfect, but we had some wonderful moments and experiences.
And thanks to my husband, David, for helping me make a home away from home.
It is in the spirit of what we’ve shared in the past that I offer these selections about home and holidays, and what it’s like to be in a home away from home at this time of the year.
I’ll Be Home For Christmas (Bing Crosby)
I’m Going to Make This Place Your Home (Phillip Phillips)
Where Are You Christmas (Faith Hill)
Merry Christmas, Darling (Carpenters)
Somewhere in My Memory (Home Alone)
Homeward Bound/Home (Glee)
There’s No Place Like Home (Wizard of Oz)
Thanks to Collaborator for helping to find songs, some that are here, and some just enjoyed and put aside.
Thanks to my other fellow themists for welcoming me to this group and making this activity so interesting and rewarding.
For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you know that I’ve been participating in a group of people who do musical (and other artistic) interpretations of various themes. I have now been invited to also take a turn in the rotation for selecting the theme, and my first time is NOW! What better theme for me to start with than Christmas?
So bring out those songs, movie clips, pictures, poetry, and other artistic bits!
Will you be home for the holidays this year?
Are you hosting those who are coming home for the holidays?
Do you want to run away from home for the holidays?
Some of my personal thoughts on the topic.
As I spend my fifth Christmas away from the US, I think a lot about how my attitude about the holidays has changed. In spite of those changes, I still think about the fact that I won’t be home for the holidays. Not that I was really ever that HOME anyway. I was a church musician for years, which meant that I worked all the holidays, particularly Christmas and Easter. And now in Taiwan, where Christmas is not a national holiday, I actually teach this week, even on Christmas Day.
Also, the holidays bring so many high (and dashed) expectations of how things should be, along with memories of how they were in the past. Even though some of those memories have been idealized beyond what really happened. The holidays have good moments and bad moments; and those idealized memories only contribute to the disappointment we often feel when the present doesn’t match up to that idealized past.
And then add home to the mix. We have idealized ideas of home and family, and how we should all be happy and harmonious. Again, we all have good moments and bad moments. I think it best that we accept the reality and stop setting ourselves up for unavoidable disappointment. I’m sure my children, for example, have both good and not-so-good memories of the holidays with a mother who always worked through them.
What I’ve learned by being away is that by lowering the expectations of what I want the holiday to be, I can create new memories of Christmas present instead of being haunted by illusions of Christmas past. For me, that has been the most helpful, finding new ways to add something to the season–not in terms of pressure or extra obligations, but rather to reduce the reliance on what we did in the past and plan a holiday that expresses who we are in the moment.
So I invite all of you to join fellow themists, Eva, Johnny, Willow, Bear, D.S. Nelson, and Collaborator, and join in the festivities. Show us the music, clips, and other works of art that mean home and holiday to you. It will be fun to see what everyone comes up with.