A little reading won’t hurt anyone

Thanks for your sweet comments. I’m excited. Choir starts tomorrow.

I’ve taken a hiatus lately from my political junkie habit, but I did read a good article I’d like to pass along.

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/17/opinion/17rich.html

You are well aware of the a tidy little story for the masses–that we know John McCain, the brave veteran and long-time senator, and we don’t know B. Hussein Obama–“Is he even 40 yet? Who IS this guy?” People keep putting out this message to create a sense of confusion and mistrust so we can make decisions on characatures of both created by talking heads, not on careful, in-depth study.

First, they are politicians, and mistrust should be par for the course either way.

Still, it’s time to share the mistrust. Maybe “POW Republican” is all you need to decide your vote, but here’s a little more well-researched background on the other guy we don’t know, Mr. McCain.

I have liked McCain for some time, although I still like Obama better. Until the general campaign began and everybody got to extreme pandering, I comforted myself knowing we’d be ok either way. But the man is forgetting basic facts, basic names, basic geography, let alone the details of our international relationships. It makes me very nervous.

Anyway, read it, you won’t die.

I’ve got to get back to tetrachords!

Breaking the Silence

I know I have been a very non-blogging blogger of late. Here is one reason.

When I went back to work, I felt inclined to begin voice study again, and started looking for a teacher more seriously. A short time into work, I got to know a coworker a little better who is also a singer–sings with the Tab, in fact. I have never sung in a (non-church related) choir, as I was a prideful little brat who refused to pay my dues way back in 9th grade and have regretted it ever since. I liked to hear about his choir experiences, but I am a lonely soloist who can’t sight-read on the spot, and, as I have always said, “am not a choral singer.”

A few days after I had more in depth conversations with this co-worker, I had a very strong prompting that I was to do more choral music. I blew off this prompting as an emotional response to the various choral CDs I had been listening to at work. A day later, I got a similar prompting. Again, attributed it to hormones.

Finally, the third time I felt it, I prayed about it, and decided I would move forward as if it were a real prompting, as that’s what it kind of appeared to be. I jumped in to learn what I should do to start, talking with my coworker about advice.

I looked into area choirs and contacted them about auditions. Almost all of them were completing their auditions within days of my first contact. It was with a lax attitude of “what the heck, I’m just following a prompting,” that I signed up for a few auditions, all to take place within the next 48 hours.

I spent the next two days doing crash sight-singing drills, and re-memorizing the words to Schubert’s “An Die Musik.” (Which, before this ordeal, was my favorite German lieder–not so sure now). It just so happened that my first trial voice lesson with my co-workers voice teacher was two hours before my first audition.

Having been without a formal teacher for 8 years, I have formed some bad habits, and that I knew. Although my time with this new teacher was short, I told him of my audition that night. He knew of the choir and knew the director personally. He worked to correct some major issues on the spot, told me what mattered most to that particular director and I left re-remembering how to sing quite a bit better (not just to please sacrament meeting audiences, but in the true Walkyrie sense–think viking horns).

I felt I gave about 50-60% at that audition. I was out of breath from racing there even as I began to sing, and it was just very loose all over the place, IMO. But, since I felt I was following a prompting, I felt fine about going and getting that experience. It’s good to be humbled, however uncomfortable it may be, if it makes me feel like working harder.

This first choir I auditioned for was the one I was the most interested in–all classical repertoire, good director to learn from and known in the community.

Well, four days after my audition they invited me to join one of their three choirs–the Women’s Chorus. I’m excited, and a little curious about why all the prompting and what the future is about. I’m getting all this sight singing curriculum this week and am just really enjoying it. A musical life would be my greatest dream, so I’m just really grateful that the Lord knows me and is sending me in this direction, putting the right people in my path and giving me just-in-time promptings–even though this specific path isn’t one I’ve previously considered.

So, sight-singing study and preserving the vast offerings from the garden have now taken up all blogging time. But I’m still aiming to keep my Sunday journal.

For me, it’s really, really exciting. I just got my acceptance email, so I wanted to share my excitement.

Excellent Spam

I may be the last person in the world to see this, but I got some spam from my Aunt the other day and it was remarkable because it was the absolute first piece of email spam meant to be inspiring that I actually found inspiring. For a variety of reasons, I have triathalons on the mind anyway, so that may have been part of it. Still, here you go, unedited spam. Forgive me in advance:

“A son asked his father, ‘Dad will you take part in a marathon with me?’ The father, despite having a heart condition, said ‘yes’ They went on to complete the marathon together. Father and son went on to join other marathons, the father always saying ‘yes’ to his son’s request of going through yet another race together.

“One day, the son asked his father, ‘Dad, let’s join the Ironman together.’ To which, his father said ‘yes’ once again. For those who don’t know, Ironman is the toughest triathlon ever. The race encompasses three endurance events of a 2.4 mile ocean swim, followed by a 112 mile bike ride and ends with a 26.2 mile marathon along the coast of the ‘Big’ Island in Hawaii. Father and son completed the race together. Please view this:

http://www.godtube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=8cf08faca5dd9ea45513

pics

Despite the bee concerns, it seems every flower in the garden has a bee in it. This is a round zucchini plant, yummy for slicing and frying or for stuffing.

Children in the Corn: here’s Noah, but this pic is a few weeks old, the corn is much bigger now.

This is about a standard harvest every 3 days, in order L to R: Italian striped zucchini, round zucchini, hot peppers, yellow squash, cucumbers, lettuce, chard, red potatoes.

Here’s that pie I made way back when we picked the cherries

Ben, tie and pie.
The farm business really does help the kids learn to work–here they are shelling peas–they did a great job harvesting green beans on Saturday (about 4 gallons–my aunt picked the same amount last Saturday, and they are supposed to have a second batch of beans come on before the season ends.

Here is our stew pickings we foraged for on that Sunday a few weeks back, and below, the stew.


Yesterday our friends the Mosses came over for dinner. Carrie and I picked green beans, zucchini, yellow squash, basil, onion and potatoes and then came in and had pork chops (David’s contribution), smashed red potatoes, a zucchini/yellow squash/basil/onion/tomato stir fry, fresh white nectarines and creamed green beans. We never eat like that for some reason, it was truly amazing–and except for the pork, all from the garden. Next year it will be al of it, because David and two neighbor men are going to raise pigs. Hm. Oh, to hear one of my favorite songs ever, just go over and visit the Mosses blog.

Things are great–enjoying work, went to the gym every day during lunch, kids doing ok–I think a little unsettled again going from the week together camping to having everyone back to work.

I’m scheming and dreaming as usual, focusing on the goals I want to reach before 40 (3.5 years away), but the schemes are now ridiculous enough I can’t even blog about them. 🙂 I like aiming absurdly high–it’s exhilarating.

Tomorrow is the day all our major financial stress is supposed to end–everyone gets paid and the budget from here on out is positive–that’s definitely exciting, although it does sound like famous last words, doesn’t it?

Family night tip of the week–wow, we see so much better results if we have FHE during dinner! Everyone is quiet (eating), and relatively listening. Our last FHE was the first one I can recall where we actually felt the Spirit and things went like they are “supposed to.” Ben gave the lesson–it was just great.

I’m nervous for school starting–four kids in four different places–the homework thing. We’re starting some music lessons and sports on top of everything. But, I’m trying to prepare and live in the now. Still haven’t nailed down a school for Noah, but everyone else is pretty much taken care of.

Despite the FISA and the retarded Cap-n-Trade plan my Obama shares with McCain, he’s still my favorite. I realized when I got mad about FISA and took him off my blog some thought he no longer had my vote. ‘Tis not so, I’m still reading heavily on it all, and I guess he can’t please me on everything.

David taught Gospel Doctrine today and topic was war–he did such a great job. I thought it would be more touchy than it was, but he was able to make some good, scripturally-based bipartisan points. There were a few wacky comments, but overall it was a great meeting and everyone gave great feedback. I realized today that on the days I don’t have to play for primary I enjoy the ward and church better. I’m grateful that it is an alternating week schedule, because I also like playing piano.

Tonight I finished my very first hymn arrangement–a duet of “In Humility” (272). My cousin wanted to sing it together in church and I’ve never seen an arrangement of it. I am so happy with how it turned out! Turns out it probably doesn’t have arrangements around because that particular song doesn’t allow stuff like that without permission. I just may send it in and ask for permission to post it free on the web, however, I don’t feel bad just using it for one Sac. Mtg. It was very rewarding and educational for me.

Sorry this is random. Anyway, hope you enjoyed the pics I’ve been promising for so long.

xoxox

What a difference six days makes!

I can’t believe how much the garden exploded while I was gone! Much thanks to my dear mother for keeping plants and chickens watered and cared for.

I keep promising pictures, they’re piling up. I have over 6′ corn, squash plants taking over the place, and a tree full of white nectarines almost ready to pick and freeze–a few are perfectly ripe but most are almost there. Tomatoes are just starting–it was two yesterday, six today. You know where this is headed, I have over fifty tomato plants…

Much thanks to Carrie for lining me up with an arsenal of canning jars.

Have super fevered kids the past three days–Noah almost hit 105 today. Looking forward to having health insurance in 20 days.

I am very grateful to a nice family who talked in church today. Sundays bum me out because, unlike life in Pasadena, I don’t look forward to going to church at all, and have onery thoughts much too often. I didn’t feel well myself today and wanted to stay home with the sick kids, but couldn’t find a sub for the primary piano. That was the Lord getting in the way, because this family with five kids under ten with two working parents were truly kindred spirits. They were open about their trials and experiences and reminded me that the Lord loves and guides each of us individually. When we’re open with each other about what we’re going through, it really helps other people feel less alone. I’m usually the open person, but today I was the “less alone” person.

Not a vegetarian yet,

Valerie

Rafting

We had a super fun time on the Snake River in Jackson, I think we did 12 runs total, Ben did 8 of them and had a fabulous Big 9 birthday. I did five or six runs I think. David and I did one of them in a two-man canoe (seen above with David and Ben).
I went into the river involuntarily three times over the course of the week, two of which were respectable falls (one was an eddy). The river wasn’t too cold so voluntary dunks were pleasant.

Self-reflections

We had to harvest a chicken yesterday because she (a fryer) broke her leg. It was generally uneventful, unpleasant but not traumatic, and not that messy, really.
Well, it sure set me to thinking.

There may be some of you who think I’ve taken on all this farminess due to an overly idyllic view of farm life, because the old ways were harder and dirtier they must be better. While hard and dirty does have it’s benefits to keep us working and humble (and healthier), I didn’t go into this thinking it would be fun and games. I wanted to see if I could do it, especially when it came to animals.

I’ve been carrying around this notion that if I can easily eat animals every day as long as they are neatly refined down to a perfect fillet of protien and wrapped like candy, that I am not being honest with myself. Forget everyone else, for me, I just wanted to look it in the eye and face it and say, “I’m going to eat you.” And, if I couldn’t, then I think I need to seriously consider eating it, even when someone else does the dirty work.

Take fish. I can catch a fish with a hook in it’s face, pull it out of the water, hit it on the head with a pair of pliers, slit it’s belly with a knife, scrape out it’s guts, fry it in a pan, and eat it up right there–no problem. I feel perfectly at peace with my fish eating. Whatever my line in the sand is between people, pets and food, fish are squarely on the tasty side of it.

So now I understand first hand what it’s like to kill a chicken, I know what it is I’m doing when I order an enchilada or a chicken caesar. But it’s likely the chicken in those entrees didn’t have a carefree life in the backyard up until the last second. They were in a body-sized cage and/or debeaked, living in chicken hell right up until they were sent to chicken heaven.

Now, chickens are dumb. I’ve been caring for my chickens for almost three months now, and I will give you that. But they are dumb in a sympathic way for me. And dumb doesn’t mean you deserve mistreatment. If you are a living thing created by God, some respect is due.

But, in some ways, they are not dumb. For instance, I sometimes come out later than I should to shut the door, and the ubiquitous escaped hen or two is asleep outside the fence. The main rooster is not inside asleep with the others, he’s outside in the fenced yard as close as he can get to her, waiting for her to come in so they can go to sleep.
Or, say I pick up a chicken to inspect it. All the other chickens freeze and stare at me, “What’s she going to do?” You may think they’re worried for their personal safety in the moment. No. They’re watching and observing with whatever cataloguing ability those tiny little brains can offer.

Yesterday I went in to get the injured fryer, they all freeze. I take her out of the hen house and around the yard. They all come out then freeze in place, staring at me. I walk away several yards and look back. All staring at me. The crazy telepathic thought comes into my head, “Where’s she going with Betty?” Even worse, maybe they have millenia of genetic memory going on in there and they’re thinking, “Oh-oh, Betty’s got a broken foot, she’s dinner tonight.”

And here’s an interesting observation. Up until yesterday afternoon, they had gotten relatively comfortable with my presence, sometimes escaped hens even letting me pick them up and put them back. Not today. They scattered in a snap when I came in this morning to get as far away as possible. They’re not 100% dumb, just 95%.

Yes, and who cares? So chickens have little chicken feelings. It is our God-given right to eat them. Man has been given “dominion” over the animals, who are to be enjoyed “with prudence and thanksgiving,” albeit “sparingly.” “It is pleasing” to the Lord that they should “not be eaten” but only used “in time of winter or famine,” or to “save your lives.” (Let me just sloppily paraphrase four books of scripture on the topic.) Animals are ours to do with what we will, but it pleases God when we won’t take a life that we don’t need to.

The chicken did not die as fast as we’d hoped. Our knife was not as sharp as we thought. Although it felt like an eternity, it was really only a few extra moments. I held the chicken’s feet with her head down in the cone and could tell when she was cut, when she was not yet dead after being cut, and when she was dead. I could feel the difference in her muscles between the tension of pain and the nervous dead twitching that would propel the running around headless should we have chosen that method.

I instinctively went to not watch when David made the cut, but I reminded myself that this was the point of the experiment. “If I can’t do this, if I can’t take it, I don’t eat chicken.” I won’t be the person who can do as I wish as long as I am not faced with the reality of it. I don’t want to be a person who will happily wear my $5 Wall-mart t-shirt simply because I don’t have to look in the face the starving 7-year-old who sewed it for me.

I had to watch, and realize what a sissy my ancestors would think I am.

I’m not about to go running around judging people on this, because our very way of living in our time and place has wide ramifications and negative impacts on incalculable people past, present and future, and it is frankly an impossible, crazy-making downer to live that way, and immensely hypocritical to look outside oneself on that. But just for me, I needed to know, I want to live consciously as best I can without being incapacitated and alienating everyone I know. If I find out that how I live is at another’s expense, I don’t want to hide from that.

Now, let’s be practical here. That chicken was hurt and in pain and it wouldn’t serve anyone to let it sit there. What, would I take it to the vet? Seriously! David and I both agreed that it was good that we had the one to do by itself before “harvest day,” so we’d know what to expect and what we want to do differently. The chicken had to go down.

This time, I just skinned it and gutted it, rather than the scalding and the plucking and the singeing, so it was faster. Still, as flint-faced as I went into the thing, I found myself rushing to get the chicken into a familiar state–headless, footless, featherless, hollow and ready to roast–then it wouldn’t be the chicken I carried out of the henhouse, it would be just like the pre-wrapped protien products at the store. Then I would feel better.

Then I went to the store later and saw the meat section, but in my head were visions of whole flocks and herds living mostly horrific lives, not enjoying the full amount of their creation, but masses being bred inhumanely to feed insatiable gluttony and waste. I realized then that I may be in for some changes.

The experiment is still inconclusive, but definitely is productive, regardless of the ambiguity. The fact is, at this point, it seems wasteful that I must kill something else to feed myself when I live in a time of plenty with so many other healthy options. And now at least I know I would not be able to stomach harvesting a mammal, even though I read all the chapters on it in my Country Living book and tried to mentally go through it to see if I could deal. That answers that question right there–no.

If it takes denial to do it–if I have to hide myself from the truth of it to make it comfortable to me, then, well–I shouldn’t be doing it, right?

Good Day

I found out there is a brand new county gym just mile or so from my work that charges $20 a month for a membership and includes a pool! I went today and it was pretty easy to do on my lunch hour. I’m excited. I’m not joining until after Jackson, though, since we’ll be out for a week. So excited!

Tonight I was on my nightly mosquito massacre (the swamp grass juice was making a mess of my walls and is only good for 36 hours before it reeks), and was thinking about how I went to bed at 1 a.m. and got up early and worked all day, doubled what I’d hoped to accomplish there, and worked out at lunch, came home and hung out with the kids and taught a voice lesson (love it!) and how I physically haven’t been feeling so great and that I should be miserable.

Yet, I feel like I could keep going for another four hours (and probably will), and am not sobbing in a pint of ice-cream as generally is my wont. I’ve been like this all week, and more like this over the past month. It is so curious. It could just be that I have a good job and have hope and enjoy how I spend my time, but I also was reminded of the blessing I received just before I started this job, that I would be given an extra measure of strength and shouldn’t underestimate myself. I can definitely witness to the truth of that–I’m a whole new person.

My co-workers were excited about being recipients of my spare zucchinis today. They are nice people. We’re all writers and designers and don’t need to collaborate much, so everyone just sits with headphones on all day in the dark (there are windows, but no one wants overhead lights because especially the artists need contrast of the screen). But sometimes we chat briefly, and they are all just really good people. Everyone I’ve met has been surprisingly normal and cool.

Every day I listen to hours of my favorite opera singers, and every day at some point I’m weeping over the gorgeousness of it. But it’s ok, because my desk faces the corner. Music is true ecstasy sometimes.

It feels good to be happy, and I know I have the Lord to thank for it. Of course we’re supposed to be able to be happy regardless of our circumstances, but for me, a little change in circumstances has made a huge difference.

Plus, my sweet friend Jen’s husband passed his dissertation defense this week–even with jerky and unreasonable professors! The Lord truly answers prayers!! Yay Jen, on to NH!

xoxoxo