children, Life Talk, stories

Music and Story

Joy has started “bowing” (which I totally did not know was a word) with the violin, i.e. using the bow on the strings instead of simply plucking them, and thus far, anyway, the screeching has been at a minimum. I am very thankful for this. She is also improvising at the piano again, which means I get to hear a lot of the same three notes played over and over while she tries to figure out the next one. I do my best to endure this with grace, but I confess to occasionally saying “OK THAT’S ENOUGH NEXT SONG PLEASE.” These are the times a larger apartment would be nice.

She plays almost every single day, and is at the point now where I rarely have to remind her to practice. She loves both violin and piano, and usually will ask to play my guitar (which is way too huge for her) after she’s done with her two instruments. She’s also told me she wishes she could take guitar lessons, but I told her we probably ought to stick with just two instruments for now.

She has such an instinctive rapport with music. She doesn’t love to read the way I did as a seven-year-old; she’ll happily pick up a book if I suggest it, but she doesn’t usually think to read for herself. I’ll admit that I was concerned by that until I saw how lost she will get in music, making up stories and playing an accompaniment to them on the piano, composing her own little operas without even knowing what she’s doing.

She does have a deep connection with and love for story, something Carl and I wanted so much to instill in both our girls. She just expresses it through music more than through the written word. And that is just fine. In fact, it is better than fine: it is a delight.

(I suspect Gracie will be more of a reader. She already tends to get lost in books, even without being able to understand the words. Once she gets it down – yeah, my hunch is that she’ll wander around with her nose buried in a book more often than not.)

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Family, favorites, figure skating, God, humor, Life Talk, philosophy, quotes, Watch

To Live In Joy

This has been a really awful few days. The shooting in Ottawa hit me just like a sucker punch to the gut. Ottawa is the closest city to my hometown (yes, we were closer to a Canadian city than a US. REALLY rural, and REALLY far north in NY State); we are very familiar with it. It’s a beautiful, warm, welcoming city, and to think of such a horror being perpetuated in it was awful and personal.

The next day, I found out that the local college in my hometown – the school I attended for my freshman year before transferring to the state university the next town over – had to shut down because of threats on social media. MY town. MY school. Once again, the fury I felt was personal as well as abstract.

Today is the third anniversary of my grandmother’s death. And rather than continue to dwell on the things that make me angry, things I cannot change or stop directly, I’m going to do what Grandma would have done, and share some things that bring light, laughter, and hope to the world.

I’m certain I’ve posted this video before. Kurt Browning is one of my all-time favorite skaters – he is one of the greats – and this is a routine that never fails to brighten my day, no matter how bad it gets.

This song makes me cry. Every time. But they are good tears, tears of love for and pride in my grandparents and all those who choose joy instead of bitterness in the hardships of life.

Speaking of Patty Griffin … I love this song, too.


I snapped this with my phone last weekend on our mountain hike. Glorious beauty in the dying of the year.

Not a picture or video, but – we have started reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe to the kids before bed (Carl reads, I sit and quilt and surreptitiously watch their faces). They weren’t too sure about it at first, but last night the four children had supper with the Beavers, and neither girl wanted to close the book after that. They’re hooked.

“I heard the universe as an oratorio sung by a master choir of stars, accompanied by the orchestra of the planets and the percussion of satellites and moons. The aria they performed was a song to break the heart, full of tragic dissonance and deferred hope, and yet somewhere beneath it all was a piercing refrain of glory, glory, glory. And I sensed that not only the grand movements of the cosmos, but everything that had happened in my life, was a part of that song. Even the hurts that seemed most senseless, the mistakes I would have done anything to erase–nothing could make those things good, but good could still come out of them all the same, and in the end the oratorio would be no less beautiful for it.” -RJ Anderson, Ultraviolet

I love this quote.

In really, really good news from this week (well, the tail end of last week), my dear friend A.M. Offenwanger published her first book! It is a delightful read. The link leads to the Smashwords page, but you can get it through Amazon or Kobo as well, or as a print version through Createspace.

One final song:

There are some of my happy things! I hope that, whether you are having a wonderful week or a dreadful one, that at least one item in this post has brought a smile to your face.

Life Talk, philosophy

Come Down, Lady, Come Down!

I never used to have weird dreams. Nightmares, yes, all the time when I was a kid and teenager, but never fun, weird, harmless dreams. That changed when I got pregnant. I had the most bizarre dreams almost every single night. I thought the dreams would stop when the pregnancy hormones finally left my system, but they haven’t really. I don’t get them every night any more, and they usually aren’t quite as strange as the ones I had during my pregnancies, but they still come with great frequency, and they are … odd. Usually fun, too, though sometimes not so much.

Last night I started out with an ordinary weird dream – hanging out in PA with some of our friends from back there, and Todd Eldredge, and all laughing and chatting and waiting for the wrecking ball to swing by and destroy the house down the street, and Todd found out and was picking on me for fangirl-ishly stalking him over the years (for the record, in real life, I’ve only seen him and asked him for a picture ONCE, and that was at the ’98 Worlds, and I was asking LOTS of the skaters for their pictures), and Colin Firth was singing this in the background.

(Just Colin and the guitar, though, No Rupert Everett and the piano, which makes me sad.)

Then the dream switched the that age-old stand-by: I had emerged from a long series of dark tunnels (which in real life would send me into a claustrophobic coma, but didn’t seem to faze me in my dream) and needed to get through a ballroom filled with people waiting for a wedding to start in order to reach the hotel lobby and complete my secret mission. And I was only in my underwear.

No, really. I had that stereotypical dream of being at a wedding in my underwear. I didn’t even have that dream when I was stressed out from planning my own wedding; I don’t know why I would have it now!

The really interesting thing is, though, is that I was not embarrassed or ashamed. I don’t remember the reason I was in my underwear, but whatever it was, it wasn’t my fault, and so I stood straight and tall and simply walked through that ballroom without even blushing. I got to the end, and everyone was whispering and shocked, and I spun around and announced “If it bothers you all so much, then maybe one of you could lend me a shawl or something?”

And someone did, so I wrapped myself in that and went to the lobby, delivered my message, was given some clothes by one of the guys there, said hi to Todd (who apparently felt the need to pop back into my dream just for a brief moment, thankfully after I had pulled on the jeans and black t-shirt), and then left to go help my dad judge swimming trials for the Olympics.

I enjoyed the entire dream, but I’m still pondering over me not being at all bothered by my lack of clothing in front of well-dressed strangers. I’m wondering if it indicates an increase in self-confidence? The fact that after two kids my sense of modesty has completely altered (hey, you try having kids wandering in and out of the bathroom while you’re on the toilet and not have your sense of modesty shift)? Maybe that I’m willing to be more honest in my writing and not worry so much about people misjudging me as I did when I was younger?

Or just the result of that glass of red wine I had with dinner?

influences, Life Talk


Thank you to those who commented on the last post! I was asking the question because I was stuck on figuring out a particular magical adventure in my MG fantasy, and I wanted to see what, if any, were some common threads that wove throughout most people’s childhood dreams. There was one, too! It was … flying, whether on winged horses, flying carpets, or just on one’s own. Pretty neat, to see how much so many very different people have in common from childhood.

And now on to today’s topic, which is, as the title suggests, music.

My sister and I were very fortunate, growing up. We had parents who refused to listen to, or allow us to listen to, bad music. So my childhood music memories include listening to Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf; making up dances to Bach; humming John Denver along with Dad; and taking naps accompanied by songs about phonics (“Apple, apple, a,a,a”) and Spanish-to-English translations of simple phrases, also set to music.

Awesome stuff.

Thanks to such a diverse and rich background musically (I don’t really remember listening to much kid’s music at all, except for Raffi, naturally, and Peter, Paul, and Mary, and the aforementioned tape with the learning songs on it – which I now have in CD form for my littles), I find that I still appreciate a wide variety of music. Different sorts for different moods or needs! I like:

Beethoven or Hayden for cleaning

Mozart-Handel-Brahms-etc. for relaxing

Bach for inspiration

And for just general listening, or if I need a specific kind of music for a specific kind of story: Owl City; Regina Spektor; Marina and the Diamonds (some); Lenka; Ingrid Michaelson; Kate Nash or Lily Allen (some); and, of course, Michael Buble.

And then there’s the Celtic music I like, whether instrumental or with vocals. And thanks to growing up with a string-pickin’ father, I’m a sucker for American folk music.

I’m trying to imitate that same sort of diverse background for my littles; we do have a bunch of children’s music, but it is all either Raffi (EVERY kid needs to grow up listening to Baby Beluga, which my Joy freely adapts into “Heaven above and the sea below, and a little white hi-ip-po – whee, whee, whee!”), or more folk music, adapted for kids. We are big fans of Elizabeth Mitchell and Lisa Loeb! More often, they listen to whatever Carl and I are listening to – which can be anything from instrumental hymns to Brahms to Michael Buble!

Do you have music that you listen to for specific tasks? When you write, do you have music playing in the background, or do you need silence, or does it depend on the story (it does for me – some stories I need to write in silence, while some require music to put me in the proper mindset)? What sort of music did you listen to as a kid, and do you still find yourself drawn to that sort of music now?

Disclaimer: I am not associated or affiliated with any of the artists mentioned in this post; the opinions therein are my own.