Voice Recognition

On Thursday night, after a 10-year break, I re-joined my church choir.  

On the way to rehearsal, the butterflies in my stomach were working overtime, and I kept wanting to turn around.  The two years I’d spent in the soprano section in the late aughts had carried some stress, which I now realized was enabled if not initiated by the leader of the group, the former music director.

As a composer, arranger, and performer, he was brilliant; as a manager, he had shortcomings.  The music he composed and/or arranged for us to perform was magnificent, we rehearsed relentlessly, and we sounded great.   But there was always at least one elephant in the room any rehearsal or performance, an elephant unrelated to the reason we were there – to produce choral art.  Sometimes it was internal bickering or drama, sometimes a section lead who would build himself/herself up at the expense of his section, there was often political bickering or sniping (both choir/church politics and bipartisan politics of the usual kind) – none of it was ever acknowledged.  It festered, and from time to time, it caused internal mayhem, division, and loss of members.

He was a perfectionist, which was fine, but he didn’t always correct us softly when we strayed; sometimes he got frustrated and I felt like he thought we deliberately weren’t trying or were being lazy, which was never the case.

As someone without great range, a soft grasp of reading music, and a strong dependence on my section leader and the others in the group to help me contribute my voice to a part (I can only follow, not lead), I often felt like an imposter, a poser, a pretender.  I left for other reasons (increased responsibilities elsewhere) but I left with some relief that I wouldn’t have to feel that way for a voluntary gig again.  

I’d braced myself to deal with some of this stuff this time around.  A decade full of life events and lessons makes a big difference to perspective, so I was optimistic that this time would be different.

And it turns out, I was right. I found no drama, no harshness, and no judgment – only love, laughter, and acceptance. That’s down to leadership.  Our music director is also brilliant and talented, but she leads with humor, humility, compassion, respect, and recognition of the value that each member brings.  And that makes all the difference. I don’t feel judged; I feel that my contributions (even if they aren’t spectacular) have worth, and that I should stick around and keep contributing.

It’s said that people don’t leave jobs – they leave managers.  The flip side is that people treasure jobs or commitments that are well-managed – and they keep coming back.  This has been true for me for the past four years at work, where staff are treated with kindness and respect and their contributions and unique voices recognized.  Now I’m grateful for another commitment to keep coming back to – for compassion, and for recognition of a new voice.

 

 

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Zena the Warrior Princess

Zena is a warrior, a destroyer.  Of toys.  

She’s never met a dog toy she couldn’t kill in 15 minutes or less.  Cheap ones take five minutes – from pristine with the tag just pulled off, to a hollow, gutless shell with a dead squeaker and white fluffy toy guts strewn all over the house.  It’s mayhem on a daily basis, perpetuated by us because there is always a new toy in the closet when an old one dies.  Confession: we enable her toy-a-day habit.  We’re not bankrupt because most of the toys are bought in bulk online or at dollar and discount stores.

For the record, she also loves socks (especially retired ones with squeakers tied in a knot inside, but really any socks will do), and any form of paper but particularly used napkins and Kleenex.

Zena was taught her craft of mayhem by Beggs, the original toy hoarder and killer,  during the first three years of Zena’s life which were also the last three years of Beggs’.

Beggsy in 2010

The problem then was that all the toys in the world belonged to Beggs, in the world according to Beggs.  The word “share” was not in her vocabulary.

Dogs know this already, but Zena was reminded in those years that you have to seize every opportunity and enjoy the time you have with it – both the ones you’re gifted and the ones you have to steal from your big sister.

Beggs with Boo-Boo, the One Toy that Lived

We love our middle child Zee-Zee and her endless capacity for love and play that reminds us when opportunities for love or play appear, grab em’. Give em’ a good shake, and then dig in.

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No Place Like Home

Our home, while not humble, isn’t fancy either.  It’s a two-bedroom upstairs unit in our four-unit building.  

On a wet, blustery day like today, it’s heaven on earth as I hear the rain buffeting the windows, occasional gusts of cold wind, and the sounds of car tires on the wet street.

A few minutes ago, I put on my rain boots and my hooded raincoat, grabbed the dog leashes, and opened the door.  Red the Beagle took one look out at the cold wet everything and retreated back into the house.  I couldn’t agree more, and told her no worries.

No matter what the weather brings, we are warm and dry, and we have this place for retreat and the comfort of family.  I am grateful; I try not to forget that we are fortunate while many are less so.

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Community

I’m thankful for my church, the place I go to share my time, talent, labor, and dollars for the good of the community.

It’s a place for shared ideas and embraced differences, open doors and open arms.

It’s a haven for reflection and optimism.

It’s extended family and expanded home.

 

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It’s a Good Thing We Have Humor

When the world gets chaotic and crazy, sometimes the only thing we can do is laugh.  Merchants of chaos hate that worse than anything, as they take themselves dead seriously.

So I read satire and rudely brilliant comics, and I watch spoofs and sitcoms.

The joker and the straight man

I particularly adore and appreciate people who give the world humor as it’s something I myself can’t pull off well.  Occasionally, completely by accident, I will say or do something funny, but I can’t do it on command or when the situation demands it.

So, thank you madly, creators of funny.

 

 

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20 Christmases

The tree came down today; as did the lights, the woodland creatures, and the snowman by the front door.  Another holiday season is behind us.

We celebrate the winter holiday season with a tree and presents because those are the traditions with which we were raised, no longer as a religious observance although the message of love, hope, and peace weaves its way through our consciousness this time each year.

Christmas 2017 was the 20th my husband and I have spent together. We’ve been married 13 of those years.

As long as we’ve known each other, dogs have been part of our family: first Tommy, then Polly (Border Collies), then Beggs (Beagle 1).  When Tommy and Polly died, Beggs was joined by Zena, then Jessie (Terriers).  Finally, a few months after Beggs passed away, Red (Beagle 2) joined our family.  So, this Christmas, Jessie, Zena, and Red shared our holiday meals.

As I put away the tree decorations, I smiled at the pictures and tags we’d kept of all six of our furry friends, the pictures that anchor their memories to the season.

I’m thankful for family and traditions that keep us grounded and together.

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A Toast to Health

Today I’m appreciative for good health at a level that lets me run.

I’m not fast, and last year I wasn’t at all consistent.  In 2017 I ran twice instead of the four times I’d managed for years up to that point.  I ran the LA Marathon (my 10th) in March and the San Diego Holiday Half Marathon in December.   I told myself that that was enough and that I should save my energy.

The rest of the year I ate more than my share of sweets and refined fake food.

About three weeks ago I finally figured out how to break the bad eating habits and I’m happy to say I’ve lost 5 pounds over the holiday season instead of gaining the usual holiday 5 (hey, does that mean I lost 10 pounds?)

Near the Bunker Hill Drum Line March 2017

These days I use food for fuel instead of comfort and to cater pity parties.  I feel better, I have much more energy, my clothes are starting to fit better, and I find myself looking forward to – instead of dreading – the LA Marathon coming up in March.

Because toenails are overrated.

 

 

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Laughter

I have to keep reminding myself to not take myself too seriously.

The gift of humor is welcome not only during a stressful or underproductive holiday season but all year round, especially in these troubled times.

A few days ago I started down the sometimes thorny path of memories as part of a quest to find what led me here.  I’m doing my best to keep it light and I’m going to keep putting it back through the rinse cycle until I clean off any hint of seriousness, pomposity, or self-aggrandizement.

Sea lions in Ensenada February 2015. Because they can’t help it – they’re just funny.

To live brighter, to love better, we have to laugh more.  Without directing meanness at others, we have to keep seeing the sunny side of situations, how we got ourselves into the pickles in which we find ourselves.  We don’t learn anything from the easy days but from the tough ones; we don’t get better because we reacted angrily.

So, I’m going to smile more, laugh more, see the humor more, because a sunny perspective brings coaxes away the shadows.

 

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Meaningful Work

Today, back to work after the long weekend, I am thankful for the opportunity, the will, and the ability to perform meaningful work every day.

It’s great if you love your job, as I do – that love will carry you through a challenging day, week, or year.   It’s particularly heartwarming to be able to trace the cause (your labor) to the effect (an essential service, a positive difference in lives around you).

Still, no matter what job I’ve had – and some of the work I’ve done has been, er, unusual – every single one has improved lives in some way.  I’ve made a difference; and, here in this country, we all do.  We just can’t help it.

What we do to make a living matters to more people than you and me and our families.  Even if we’re just working for the weekend, we’re still making a difference.

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Digging Out

With a new year here, it’s time to dig past the shock and depression of the political nuclear winter of 2017 by practicing gratitude and embracing greater personal growth.

No matter what else I do, no matter what else I write, I will remain grateful for the many supporting friends and family and the countless blessings I enjoy.

Today I’m particularly thankful that I have this way to express and to share my appreciation for safety, comfort, and support of home; an oasis during times of uncertainty.

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