Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mr. Music Leader

I didn't want to believe it at first, but I suspected.
I suspected there was a moratorium, an age moratorium on singers.
On singers who have lines on their faces, traces of age.
Age formerly indicating wisdom, but not many care for wisdom.

I didn't want to believe it for years, but I suspected
I suspected that only the young get sung.
Pimples preferred over creases.
And then I heard it straight from the Music Leader. I don't think he realized it, but when I told him I applied for the job, he said, oh we give those jobs to the young guys. I heard it first person.

But I can't blame him on one hand,
because who wants to look at neck-strings and other hanging things?
Who wants to see bags and jowls when they worship?

Or 'snow on the mountain' during a pop song? Just doesn't fit.

A very talented man is learning media because they don't want 'snow on the mountain' on the platform. He can sing and lead a choir with finesse and gentleness.
He can lead a great choir.

But wait! There is no choir!

First it was real notes and three parts. Then 3 parts became 2 parts to sound more modern.
Then the notes were replaced by scale numbers. No need to read notes. Years of training are the same as none, now. Who needs staffs or rhythm or dynamic markings, or phrases or staccati? No one. We just listen and watch numbers to learn our
unison choir pieces.

The former choir now sings with the congregation to inspire them to sing, sitting next to them. Not a bad idea, but we do that anyway when it is not a choir weekend.

But, oh I miss the heavenly sound of voices blending in dissonances and harmonies and counterpoint.  And I think everyone else does, too. Why did we all go crazy with delight to hear the female quartet sing an accapella arrangement of The National Anthem? Why did we salivate at the  arrangement dripping with passing tones, suspensions and 4 part harmony? Because we are all starved for variety of timbre and musical texture. Dry toast gets old. Sometimes a buttery croissant is due. Choral music is soon to be a lost medium, or perhaps relegated to Presbyterians, a more learned denomination.

As is choir directing .
And the youth rule.
They look cool.

And the age moratorium alienates anyone older than 40.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Summer Daisies and Chrysanthemum Tea

I know it's Fall, not summer,  and daisies are not seasonal at the moment, but our house is currently full of both. It has helped cure my empty nest syndrome. Two Chinese girls named Summer and Daisy are being housed in the empty bedrooms our sons recently vacated.

Decorating in more feminine styles after decades of boyish blues, action heroes and alternative band posters was a pleasant change. Now the decor is shabby chic, distressed white with soft green hues. Asian flower panels adorn the walls.

The girls study, shop, cook, swim at the neighbors and otherwise add a sweet atmosphere to the house.

They are great gift givers. I've received an book on the Chinese Opera, a red coral necklace and recently two lovely canisters of chrysanthemum tea shipped halfway across the world.

I nearly cried when I saw the tiny cream colored miniature blossoms, dried and pale yellow in the canister. Memories of the graceful petals floating in my piano teacher's tea cup washed over me.
I was 19 again.  While playing Mozart or Milhaud, I would watch her pour the tea from a thermos and was mesmerized by the octopus-like slender petals floating in the yellow gold liquid.

The flowers are farmed in a special part of  China, on the top of a hill over looking an equestrian area. The climate is perfect and produces the finest chrysanthemum blossoms for tea making. Much like areas of California and France that grow premium grapes for great wines.

With barely contained excitement I fixed my first cup last night, of music, memories and a bouquet of buds pivoting and spinning in the silky sea of lemony green tea.

Something as elegant as chrysanthemum tea should be carried in a Lenox carafe or a silver tea pot.  But Miss Jennie Wong would bring it to the university in a common thermos. In between pieces she would pour the tea into the plastic cap or a stained mug. The graceful petals danced in the amber liquid to the music of Beethoven's Pathetique, and Brahm's Intermezzo in D.

Today I gave Summer, my Chinese guest, a piano lesson. I felt a sense of music legacy coming full circle. My Chinese teacher taught me the finer points of piano, and I am passing it on to another Chinese 'sister.'

I know it's Fall, not Summer,  and daisies are not seasonal at the moment, but our house is currently full of summery daisies, chrysanthemums and lots of music.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Cannabis Nation

With the legalization of Mary Jane on the November ballot, it's time folks.

Let's talk about pot.

There's no more ignoring the big green elephant in the room.

And it's BIG. 

The left coast, Washington State and California, my beloved home state, have led the way with Colorado following. Now Florida will vote on the issue before we can say, "Whoa! That's some bad stuff!" (Picture stupified look behind a billow of smoke).

There are so many questions to ask about this issue. The first one is Why is the seedy substance is in such demand?

For medicinal reasons, some say. Medical Marijuana is the biggest justification for decriminalization. Pot is management for chronic pain. The magic weed could cure cancer and so many other heinous diseases. Did that many people just get sick all of a sudden? If it's purpose is for medicine only, why doesn't it stay in the doctor's office or pharmacy,  instead of popping up in every little head shop along the side streets of LA?

No, marijuana is the heinous disease upon our nation; our Cannabis Nation.

Can't argue that it is a pain reducer. It eases the aggravation of daily life for so many. We can feel good for a moment with less chance of addiction, side effects, and physical risk than using harder drugs.

But that's a Lie.

The moment's escape from our soul's ache doesn't cure its problem.

Pot is a window drug. After a while it gets boring. We look for the new high, the new drug of choice; a harder drug. The universal law of Diminishing Returns applies.

Pot is an ambition killer. That's bad for personal and economic productivity.  The pot head's vocabulary is boiled down to 3 words.  "I Don't Care." With maybe a "Whatever, man!" thrown in.  Because you don't care. You don't care about anything but the next buzz.

I wish I could say I never experienced the mind-numbing wave that wafts over your brain at the first ecstatic toke. But I do. And I did. Inhale. Swept up in the teenage culture of the 70's, I tried and partied with the stuff. It's delights were known and appreciated.

My boyfriend did harder drugs and wanted to take me out to the desert to take more serious substances. Thankfully that never happened and I was rescued by Jesus out of that culture.

But the boyfriend? He was in and out of drugs his whole adult life. Even after marriage and buying a home, he was arrested for cooking methadone on his driveway at age 39. Afterwards he lost his house and separated from his wife. His grown son runs a marijuana dispensary in California.


That's not the occupation I would wish on any of my sons. But it's lucrative, some argue. In fact I read an article stating 12 reasons why we should legalize pot and they were ALL monetary.

If money were the object of life, then we would all be prostitutes, pimps and pushers.


Personal economics is not the only criteria in choosing a career. Benefit to family and community should be a consideration. Our jobs should contribute to society, not tear it down. Life isn't all about the money. God save us if it is.

Pot has dark side that no one seems to want to address. It's not a harmless drug that will reduce drug related crimes. Yeah, you might argue, look at Prohibition. Crime thrived during Prohibition, so if we decriminalize pot, crime will go down. Has it? Has drug related crime shrunk in those states?

Is America escaping from the plague of depression? Why are we all so messed up? Is it the emotional wreckage that broken families have caused? Why are we all clamoring for quick relief?

Feeling good is not an objective. It is a by-product: a result of doing good, of righting wrongs, of mending relationships. When we pursue feeling good for the sake of feeling good, it usually ends up in destructive behavior, adding to our discomfort rather than reducing it.

Jesus took the pain and righted all our wrongs. When we lay it on him, should we not feel better and free-er and happier?

It seems so simple. Yet, there are chemically deficient people who really battle depression solely from imbalances in levels of dopamine and other enzymes that produce the feeling of well being. We all get tired and it feels like depression, the blues, being down.

But pot is not the answer.

Let's debate and consider the long term implications of our national attraction to weed. Let's wrestle the facts before we vote rather than just float on the sweet smelling cloud of popular opinion.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Seven Swimsuits

On a recent beach trip, I volunteered to take the little ones to the restroom. Waiting for them to finish their business, a young girl emerged from the stall and complimented me on my bathing suit. Her friend called her Cloe and she had bright blue hair. Stunned I thanked her and couldn't believe that someone young enough to have blue hair would compliment a middle aged woman' s one piece.  Not sure what caught her eye, but the print was a bright pink hibiscus pattern on a lime green background.

Cloe with the blue hair made my day! She liked my swimsuit.

The Greeks were the first who recorded wearing swim suits. They made two important contributions to our society: A Republic form of government and bathing suits. A brilliant civilization! With the President's monarchical (dictatorial?) reversal of laws void of congressional due process, it appears our republic may be crumbling. Good thing one of the Greek contributions still stands strong: Bathing suits! Alive and well on our golden shores!

I used to think owning more than one swimsuit was excessive.

Until I moved to Florida.

Swimsuits are a lot like like shoes. You have to have more than one pair;  a pair for every occasion in multiple styles for multiple functions. It's a fact for water wear and footwear alike. Here are the wardrobe must-haves:

1. A skirted suit to play with the kids.

2. A husband-suit (bikini) made of the least amount of fabric.

3. A church-suit, one piece which uses the most fabric.

Ha! I'll never forget at a pool event after church, one African American mom sent her daughter to call home for her bathing suit. After her daughter had left a good distance, she hollered after her in earshot of us all, "Make sure dad brings my church-suit!"

4. Board shorts and surf shirt for kayaking and volleyball.

5. A fashion suit for resort wear and cruising.

6. A bandeaux for optimum tan lines.

7. A tank-ini for family beach days.

And then of course, one must have coordinating cover ups and flip flops for those spontaneous strolls down West Atlantic to browse the art galleries or pick up a cup of Starbucks.

Maybe seven swimsuits aren't enough.

Much like shoes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Endless Beach Day

We arrived just before noon, deposited our $4.00 in the meter for two parking hours, anticipating the dependable afternoon thunderstorms would chase us off the beach by 1:30.

Laden with umbrellas, a pack 'n play, towels, baby in stroller, beach chairs, a cooler and 2 rambunctious boys yanking at the end of our arms, we finally made it to the sand.

The walk was worth every heavy step as Lake Worth Beach greeted us in it's mid-summer glory: aquamarine waters, gentle waves, low tide with a nice flat sand bar for the kids to play on and a pulsating blue sky.

Ahh! This is what summer should be like.

Sitting in a chair, massaging the sand with your toes in the shade of your Tommy Bahama umbrella.




Except eating lunch and  baby-talking to the most beautiful 9-month old baby Charlotte, who was happily content in her pack 'n play.

And jumping in the 78 degree water to teach your g-sons how to catch a wave on their boogie boards; quite a feat on the east coast, compared to the waves in Huntington Beach I grew up with. The waves break weakly, disorganized and scattered. A few managed to take the boys all way to the sand.

1:45 came, but the showers did not. Took a trip to the meter to pay for another 2 hours. Did I mention we got a great spot right by pier. The planets were aligned - for a while anyway!

Applying more sunscreen, we decided we would stay all day, invited the uncles, their girlfriends and  and g-pa to come after work to have pizza on the beach for dinner.

3:45 came and we added another $4 - a small price to pay for our beautiful day at the beach.

The boys snacked on ice cold mangoes, the syrupy juice dripping down to their elbows. A quick rinse in the ocean took care of the gooey golden mess.

My back on a sand chair,

a book in hand,

the sea is stretched out to the sharp horizon like a cool 400 count bed sheet

in graduated shades of aqua deepening to dark teal, inviting me to dive into the watery bed,

spinning, rolling in its soft caressing folds.

Wish I could take these liquid linens home to my sleigh bed to loll in their creamy

current every night.

Uncle Brandon joins us after work.

Seldom is a day perfect. Every holiday has its hitch.

Like the time we lunched in Old Town, San Diego while every stitch of luggage was stolen from our minivan. Or the time son, Elliot broke his finger playing capture the flag in his uncle's back canyon and we spent the afternoon in emergency while everyone else watched baseball at the Padres' stadium. Or the time a July hurricane tangled up the flights so badly we missed our connection and slept in the Atlanta airport - me with 5 kids on a hard carpet, trying to make pillows out of lumpy backpacks with security warnings blasting every half-hour.

On the walk to pick up pizza to feed ourselves, we forgot to feed the meter for the last time and found a parking ticket awaiting us. Our twelve dollar parking fee jumped another twenty-five bucks. (Sorry, April). 

Oh well, other than that it was a flawless day.

Too bad it had to end,

just like summer did.

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