Opportunity for growth

If you've known me for long, you've probably already figured out that I'm not big on confrontation. Almost always, I would rather keep the peace than have things any particular way. Hence, I always hang back and wait for somebody else to take the lead.

Which turns out not to always be the best way to keep the peace. Balance is important, and there's a time to lead and a time to follow. Spinelessness doesn't work much better than bossiness for keeping the peace. The fact is, it isn't that important to Andy how the household is run... it's just important that it BE run. And not by him. Whatever thoughtful decisions I make, it'll probably be okay. As long as I actually make them, and manage to keep his involvement to a minimum.

I know all this in my head. And I know from experience just how badly my current m.o. works. But it's awfully hard to habituate yourself to new relational patterns that seem to go directly against deeply held values. The old habits don't really promote peace and harmony, and the new ones don't really contradict it... but it always feels that way in the moment.

At any rate, the role of matron of honor is stretching me. A lot. And the funny thing is, I really don't mean that as an euphamism for "nasty, unpleasant experience that I'm trying to make the best of."

I'm having a lot of fun. But I'm having to take leadership. Which is strange and uncomfortable for me--especially when I'm collaborating with people who naturally like to take charge. But there's a level of clarity that comes from the fact that none of this is about me, I am simply advocating the bride's interests. A whole level of second-guessing is eliminated, because I know I'm thinking clearly about all this. I'm not emotionally invested in any of the specifics, only in Sharon's happiness.

Of course, I'm still invested in smooth relationships for my own sake, and even more importantly, for Sharon's sake. But since I have a certain measure of emotional distance from the situation, I can think clearly about what decisions would best preserve relationships, make everyone as comfortable as possible, etc.

This is not easy... but it's good. I'm learning, and I'm growing, and it feels good.


The front stairs.

I was thinking surprise, not shock.

She assured me that it was nothing scandalous, just cutesie little hawaiian-themed boy-shorts.

That wasn't what I was worried about.

I didn't care if it was granny-briefs or bunny-tail thongs... a garland of underpants on the front steps was going a little too far.

I wanted to surprise the bride, not the neighbors.

I told her maybe putting the garland out by the pool would be a better idea. She was bewildered at my prudishness--after all, they were just cutesie little hawaiian-themed boy-shorts--but agreed to try hanging them along the back fence.

When the time rolled around for the party, we got onto the wrong freeway. Thanks to cell phones, we eventually found our way to Thousand Oaks... about 5 seconds after the guest of honor arrived.

Apparently she was surprised.

Very surprised.

But neither horrified nor humiliated... despite the fact that the underpants were hung according to original plan after all.

Along the bannister of the gracefully sweeping spiral staircase.

You know...

the front stairs.

Afterwards, I complimented Mrs. Harrington on the fun and creative decor. We had a good laugh when I explained my fears to her.

"Oh... I wish I'd thought of that!"

I'm glad she didn't.


How stupid can I get.

We just had a nasty argument over how best to structure our day.

We're doing things my way.

Which means I'm stuck doing all the nasty obnoxious errands.

Why oh why do I do this to myself?



That stuff about the oddly-shaped sanctuary? Fixed. I'm not entirely clear on how, not having actually seen the place, butsomehow they've arranged it so as to have everyone enter from the back.

Including Sharon. Especially Sharon.

So that means we can greet her with pealing bells and a violin cadenza after all.

I showed it to her last night, and her reaction was absolutely perfect. She loved it!

And that's the important thing.


There's a lot of formatting left to do. And when you're just starting to figure out Finale, that's no small thing.

But all the material is all there, and worst case scenario, I could print out a very unprofessional-looking score right now and insert the necessary markings by hand.

And there's still a month before the wedding!

I'll still dink around with it. Andy's promised to give me a bunch of time to compose during the month of July, and there's no lack of ways to use it. There's one measure that I'd like to alter a little bit, to make it a tad less repetative. And of course I want to get some feedback from fellow musicians.

It would be very lovely to lengthen it out such that the bridesmaids would enter ever 16 beats, as opposed to every 8, so that each would enter at the start of a new semi-phrase. It would be even more special if I made each variation somehow reflective of the different bridesmaids, so that it would be a Stacia-ish permutation of the theme while Stacia processed, and a Heather-ish one while Heather processed, etc, etc, etc. But with eight of us, I'm not so sure how practical that is... Besides the fact that making all the phrases of uniform length could have quite a stagnating effect. We'll see.

But in any case, I can safely experiment around with all that, secure in the knowledge that I have something ready in any case.

It's a good feeling.

(I can't believe it. My music is actually going to be performed. At my best friend's wedding. As the processional, no less. In case you hadn't noticed, I am very, very excited.)


Our Cat

He weighs approximately half a ton. He takes up half our driveway.

And the resulting mess... is exactly what you'd expect from a beast that size.

We love our Doopah-Mobile. Really and truly. He's a blessing straight from heaven.

A heaven-sent blessing that leaked a LOT of power-steering fluid.

But, you don't look a gift horse in the mouth, and you don't look a gift van in the steering system. You just faithfully place a cardboard box under the leak.

Except when you forget.

The van mysteriously stopped leaking right around the time when we finally ran out of boxes from the move. It had been bad, very bad, and getting progressively worse every day. And then... it stopped leaking altogether. We found this a bit disturbing... but that's another one of those blessings that you just don't question. If you can't complain about the leaks in a free van, surely you can't complain when they fix themselves.

Anyway, the leak hasn't really been a problem for a while now... until last week. Last week, the management did an inspection of the property, and gave out notices to everyone with excessive oil stains. Clean it up by Monday morning, or be charged for the professional cleaning.

So after church on Sunday, Andy doused the driveway with dishsoap. It took about half a bottle of Dawn to cover all the stains.

Economy size.

That's a lot of dishsoap.

Andy scrubbed, and rinsed, and soaked everything up in five pounds of kitty litter. Then he put a long barrier of kitty litter around the perimeter of the stained area. And I scrubbed, and rinsed, and swooshed the water down into the kitty litter, while Andy went to Stater Bros. to buy more kitty litter.

It was looking really good. Much to our astonishment, the oil was actually coming up. The part underneath the kitty litter was a big swath of gookiness, but the rest of it looked amazingly good. Soapy, but good.

The super-odor-eating stuff was on sale, so that's what Andy got. And boy, was it pungent. So strong, I almost wanted a cat, so as to neutralize the odor.

One hundred pounds of extra-odour-control kitty litter later, we finally decided to give up on trying to soak it all up. We just hosed the driveway down and let the soapy water all run down into the street.

And back down into our driveway again.

And up into the neighbor's driveway.

Apparently, we have no drainage. Whatsoever.

After a good hour of spraying, our lawn is well watered. The neighbor's lawn is well watered. And if you believe in home remedies like that, you can be sure we won't be having any insect problems for a long time.

The driveway is still very soapy. I hope and pray that it was good enough to pass their inspection. It would be terribly ironic to work so hard to clean up the oil, and then have to pay them to remove the soap.

But on the other hand, the whole experience rather put things into perspective.

$150 for driveway cleaning?

Major bargain.

The other thing I learned was that I'm really not interested in cat-ownership.

Come on, now...

Isn't ANYBODY going to inquire about our cat?


A pile of kitty litter does not a sandbox make.


An eye-opening conversation

Nathan has been babbling in complex sentences for quite some time. His intonation is perfect, if a bit exaggerated, and I love listening to his well-modulated voice. He's quite the engagingly pedantic lecturer.

I never could catch a word of what he said, but he spoke with such authority, I wasn't entirely sure if that was because it was nonsense or because his obscure metaphysical distinctions and acute insights into quantum mechanics were just a touch beyond my understanding.

Whatever the case, either his diction or my understanding has been improving tremendously, and we're beginning to understand one another. It's a strange and marvelous thing to start to see a little deeper into that noggin of his.

It was quite a shock, the first time I actually understood one of these discourses. He was tugging at my pants asking for a "koo-kee." I told him no, but we'd be having dinner in a few minutes. Up to this point, the exchange was quite typical and ordinary, just what you'd expect.
But then, on pondering my verdict, he waxed eloquent.

He nodded sagely. Clear as a bell, and without the slightest trace of judgment one way or the other, he remarked "I'll be a glutton."

I kid you not.

Anyway, yesterday morning Nathan and I had a wonderful conversation about eyes. He has eyes, Mama has eyes, Bubba has eyes, Tembo has eyes... we tried counting eyes, but that didn't work out so well. He kept counting two noses on his own face.

After a long, contemplative pause, in which he struggled to remember, he finally pronounced that Dadders has eyes.

But not Grampa.


Perhaps I should call home to make sure he doesn't know something I don't...


Small chocolate shake and directions, please.

I know that there ae scarier things than being lost in the shabbier parts of Orange, late at night after all the shops have closed.

Having forgotten both cell phone and Thomas Guide.

Knowing every minute that you're gone, your already frazzled husband is struggling vainly to console a hungry baby.

Somewhere in my head, I know that there are scarier things. But I'm still shaking.

Thank God for In-N-Out.



My mind is scattered in a million different directions, running full force in each of them.

It really has been a productive day so far. All sorts of matron-of-honor stuff. Much planning, much coordinating of schedules. Everything is tidily organized and falling into place.

Except for my own mind, and the day at hand.

I feel like a warehouse, not terribly overfull, but entirely lacking in shelving. I can't put two words together into a coherent sentence without tripping over all the clutter scattered through my mind.

I just put the boys down for a quiet time, and I'm nursing Tembo down for a nap.

Then I'm going to take a shower, read a few Psalms, and sit down to map out the rest of the afternoon.

But maybe I should put in the pizza dough first.

Because if I've learned anything from this morning, it's that you really musn't let details like that slip through the cracks.

For violin, piano, handbells... and boys choir

As I sit at the computer, listening to the software mechanically spit out exactly what I wrote, with brutal precision, the boys gather round me. We're all huddled together, their arms around me and one another, and they sing.


I'm not quite clear on the articulations... but oh, it's a sweet sound.



I've always had a mild distaste for articulation symbols.

Probably this comes from playing much baroque music, where the balance of power between the composer and the performer is heavily tipped in the performer's favor. Which is awfully nice when you're a performer. Of course, I played from modern arrangements, filled to the brim with slurs and staccatos and trills and other such migromanagerial markings. But I bought several editions of the the Bach Sonatas, compared the respective interpretations, and came up with my own, treating the scratching on the page with an imperious disregard. Indeed, if I'd had the money, I would have played from the version with no extraneous markings whatsoever. But somehow when it comes to baroque music, the fewer the editorial comments, the higher the price tag.

But now that I'm the composer, putting in the articulation markings is my favorite part of the whole process. The music is there, and it is mine. I am simply trying to define and emphasize its shape, its life, its soul. To make it sing.

But of course, I cannot possibly define the thousand tiny nuances that I hear in my head. How do you define life? All I can do is suggest a few shapes, and hope that in that way I can help Jessica to see what I hear and make it her own.

So that maybe...

just maybe...

You'll hear it, too.


Back to the drawing board.

It was a mercy the way the conversation went. There are no doors at the back of the church, you see, so the whole bridal party will have to come in through a side door, process to the back of the aisle, turn and process to the front.

When she told me this, I envisioned everyone processing the wrong direction down the aisle, away from the altar, so that they could then do a 180 at the back of the church and go right back up to the front.

And I was horrified. Absolutely horrified.

When we finally got it straightened out (spatial descriptions are difficult over the phone!) I was hugely relieved to discover that the side door is, in fact, in the back. Just not in the center.

There's nothing absurd about it at all. Everybody will process straight from the door to the altar in quite a dignified manner, and it will be lovely. There's nothing the slightest bit unseemly about 90 degree turns. It will work beautifully.

Just not with the music I wrote.

The fourteen beats it necessatates between each bridesmaid will double the length of the piece. That's okay. I think. In theory I should be able to do that... in less than two months. If not, they'll just have to play it twice.

But the whole piece centered around one moment, where the music flutters restlessly to a rest, only to alight once more, skimming along, modulating from scale to scale, faster and faster and faster, until the doors open, and there is Sharon in her pure white gown, on her daddy's arm. Sunlight streams behind her, and the bells begin to peal as she approaches her beloved, in slow, stately, measured steps. The same slow, stately, measured steps as all her bridesmaids, except that now there is twice as much music between them.

That moment isn't going to happen.

It will still be a beautiful wedding. And the processional will still be lovely. The theme is good, I think, and it is a tribute to the deep friendship that we've shared and the journey of her soul. None of that is changed by the shape of the church, even if the unfolding is no longer exquisitely proportioned. Hopefully I will still be able to time it so that the flower girl processes at that little spot where the music gently opens up, sprinkling sweetness.

And people get married in churches shaped like that all the time. I'm sure that there's some way to make musical sense out of it.

I wish I knew what it was.

And I pray I find out in time.

And Sharon, I wasn't going to actually publish this post, but somehow as I bring my thoughts and dreams for this music into the light, the truth of what is infuses them, and I begin to see the possibility of change.

Like in 1 John.

And everything connects back into everything else.

Just like it always has, my dear.


Date Night

You know, come to think of it, I love it when the boys dip their brocolli in their apple juice, and flick it around the room...



"...because, well, running in the circles that we do--"

"You get dizzy?"


Drink a car?

When Nathan was small, we were sure he was born to be a painter. His greatest joy in life (aside from milk and kisses) was to stare at the light. So much so, in fact, that we took to referring to lights simply as "Meepo spots." Church was his favorite place in the world, and he would happily stare at the candles throughout the service. And we thought, surely this child is destined for the visual arts.

But as it turns out, it's Isaiah who loves to draw meticulous designs on his magna-doodle, concentric circles and spirals, and mommy, please won't you show me how to draw a duck? He was even very careful to color in the lines when he got a hold of a ball-point-pen and a library book...

But Nathan is mostly into music. Sometimes he and I will sit together at the piano, and I find that it's a great excercise to try to improvise around the notes he plays. And I can actually do that, because it's not random. There's little skill in what he does, but much intention.

Last night we downloaded the Jerry Garcia Acoustic Bandversion of Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. The song is amazing. I've always heard it slow and poignant. And I love it that way. But the joyous abandon of this rendition, the utter jubilation, untainted by the slightest hint of wistfulness or regret... It's the sort of thing that suddenly shifts life back into focus, reminds you what matters.

Meepo liked it too, and he curled up on the couch, head leaning on the armrest, and stared rapturously at the computer. Just soaking up the music. When the song ended, he did his best to keep the music going himself. "Lo-ow! Chay-yuh!"

This morning he was wandering about singing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. He does that a lot, and with remarkably good pitch. But this was the first time the words were actually clear enough that I knew for certain that he was singing Twinkle Twinkle, not the alphabet song or Baa Baa Black Sheep. Actually, I always know he's not singing Baa Baa Black Sheep, since I don't actually sing that disturbing ditty to them, but the other two rhymes are quite muddled together. You see, I'm pretty sure that he initially learned the tune from a little electronic school bus that sings the alphabet. But whenever Andy or I joined him in his singing, we would unthinkingly wind up singing Twinkle Twinkle. I'd been a little curious as to which set of words he'd eventually pick up. This morning, when I heard him singing MY set of words, so clearly and distinctly, my soul swelled with triumph. What a superb role model am I, my son chooses to imitate ME, even over his favorite toy. Then I remembered that the singing school bus had fallen victim to a pouring experiment some weeks ago, so maybe that wasn't so significant after all.

At any rate, as he was singing, he approached me, clutching his empty cup, now drained of chocolate milk. He stopped, held the cup out, and looked up at me quizzically. He resumed his singing, slowly, emphatically, and questioningly, maintaining eye contact all the while, and punctuating each beat with a little bounce of his side-turned head.

"Drink a drink a... Drink a car?"

I thought maybe he was hoping I could explain the meaning of these bizarrely nonsensical lyrics, but Andy was pretty sure he meant to say "Drink a cup," except that the force of the rhyme required him to end in "ar." And indeed, why shouldn't he request a refill in this manner? After all, that's the sort of thing Andy and I do all the time, tweaking the words to silly songs, or making up our own, to say whatever it is we mean to say.

In any case, I went over to the fridge and fixed Nathan a second glass of chocolate milk. But by the time it was ready for him, he was busy at the computer.

Looking for Jerry Garcia, I expect.


Headbangers Ball, Vol. 2

I've always been under the impression that WalMart was a family-oriented sort of establishment. So when I searched walmart.com for a backyard wading pool, I was a bit surprised that only one result came up.

I was even more surprised at what it was.

Then I saw that the search engine had interpreted "kiddie pool" as "kid die pool," and I was surprised that anything had come up at all.

You know what?

I don't even want to know.


Happy Donut Day!

Don't forget to stop by Krispy Kreme for your free donut... no strings attached!


I'm sure there's a reason...

...why they always put all the elevator buttons well out of reach of toddlers.

Except the emergency alarm.

I'm sure there's a reason.

I just have no idea what it is.