>> Thursday, March 27, 2008

Have you ever had one of those days? months? years? Mind you, I'm not complaining. In fact, I remain amazingly optimistic after the month that we've had. It's just sometimes I have to let off a little steam.

This month, thus far, has presented the following challenges:

1. My most faithful and loyal voice student has been out for the entire month because she had a baby. I had significant income loss as a result.

2. My youngest student, whom I teach in her home, has been out the entire month due to illness, (both hers and mine), and the fact that their living room is being remodeled, (and that's where the piano is). More significant income loss.

3. My newest, (and probably most talented), student has been out the entire month due to illness. Yet more significant income loss.

4. The kids' Dad, thinking he had mailed the child support check, realized that he hadn't because it had slipped between the seats of his car. (Not blaming him, he really thought he had mailed it.) The check was late and my bank account was overdrawn, resulting in a $22 overdraft charge. (Thankfully I have overdraft protection. My bank makes good on it, but charges me for it.)

5. Steph receives a monthly annuity check from an account that her now deceased uncle set up several years ago. Because he is now deceased, the check continues to come to us but we can't deposit it into our bank directly. We have to send it to our attorney who takes his fee out of it, deposits it in Steph's trust account and then drafts a check from that account. This month the check didn't arrive. Finally, after it was about a week overdue, Steph called our lawyer, who in turn, called Morgan Stanley to learn that they had "forgotten" to cut the check. As of last Friday they were going to cut the check and put it in the mail that afternoon. The check still hasn't arrived. I had to pay the bills anyway. My bank account has been overdrawn several times over. I now have about $120 in overdraft charges...and counting. I don't get my paycheck from work until tomorrow, and then I won't be able to deposit it until after I get off work. More charges will probably come through before I can get my check deposited.

6. If you read my earlier entry, you learned that the Bradford Pear trees are prolific this year, causing me much distress resulting in a nasty case of bronchitis that teetered on pneumonia. I was out of work two days. I don't have sick leave. More significant income loss.

7. Early this morning Steph and Joel left for California, where Joel is treating Steph to a nostalgic trip to Disneyland. He has been planning this trip for months and paid for it out of his own money. Micah drove them to the airport in our on-its-last-legs Ford Contour,(against my better instincts), which we have been praying would make it through until we can get into a better financial position to buy another one. The car broke down and died in Guthrie. Steph and Joel had to take a cab to the airport in Oklahoma City, and Joel paid for a cab for Micah to return home. I have a van that is old, but in good shape but won't start due to some electrical issues involving the security system and the starter. It has been sitting in the garage for several months waiting for me to get my tax refunds back so that I can have it towed to the garage and repaired. In the meantime we are going to have to use Micah's truck to get Heather to school and me to work and the car is stuck in a Love's station parking lot in Guthrie until after Steph and Joel return from California.

8. I just learned today, when inquiring with the IRS regarding the status of my tax refund, that they are withholding it because they don't have record of my 2004 returns! I was told by my accountant that I didn't make enough money in 2004 to file a tax return, (I only worked part of the year because I was in graduate school). Apparently he was wrong. That means more delays until I have money in my bank account to purchase the 2004 edition of TaxAct. (It's only $12.95, but remember, I'm in the hole right now.)

Someone shoot me!


The World's most beautiful music: Mama Cass, Dream a Little Dream of Me

>> Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Cass Elliot (September 19, 1941 – July 29, 1974), born Ellen Naomi Cohen, was a noted American singer, best remembered as Mama Cass of the pop quartet The Mamas & the Papas. After the group broke up, she had a successful solo career, releasing nine albums. Elliot was found dead in her hotel room in London from an apparent heart attack after two sold-out performances at the Palladium.

Her signature song, Dream a Little Dream of Me, has been a favorite of mine since childhood.


Where is your focus?

The secret of abundance is to stop focusing on what you do not have, and shift your consciousness to an appreciation for all that you are and all that you do have.

~ Wayne Dyer


The curse of the Bradford Pear

>> Monday, March 24, 2008

Bradford Pear trees...some of the most lovely blooming trees around and Stillwater is literally covered with them. But unfortunately for me, they equal allergies and asthma. Once again, I've been struck down with the curse, after I had been doing so well, too. I have a doctor's appointment this afternoon because I literally cannot breathe.



I just returned from the doctor who said that I have bronchitis that is teetering on the edge of pneumonia. She gave me some high-powered antibiotics, an Advair inhaler, and and told me to go home and rest.

3/25/08 A.M.

I awakened after a better night's sleep than I have had in a few days. My breathing is better, although still a bit labored and shallow. I didn't go to work this morning, but I'm hoping that after another dose of my antibiotic that I'll be ready to go back tomorrow. Steph has been very sweet and attentive, setting the vaporizer up on my side of the bed and taking Heather to work and picking her up so that I could rest. It's the little things that aren't so little that mean so much!


The Joy of Life!

>> Sunday, March 23, 2008

Remember the things that gave you joy as a child. Incorporate them into your life now. Find a way to have fun with everything you do. Let yourself express the joy of living. Laugh. Rejoice, and the Universe rejoices with you!

~ Louise Hay


The World's most beautiful music: Mozart's Ave Verum Corpus

>> Saturday, March 22, 2008

The first time I sang this motet I wept. In typical Mozart fashion, he has taken a simple, yet tender melody and woven it in such a way as to move a person to the very core of the soul.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's setting of Ave verum corpus (K. 618) was written for Anton Stoll (a friend of his and Haydn's) who was musical co-ordinator in the parish of Baden, near Vienna. It was composed to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi and the autograph is dated 17 June 1791. It is only forty-six bars long and is scored for choir, stringed instruments, and organ. Mozart's manuscript itself contains minimal directions, with only a single sotto voce at the beginning.

Mozart composed this motet while in the middle of writing his opera Die Zauberflöte, and while visiting his wife Constanze, who was pregnant with their sixth child and staying in a spa near Baden. The piece was used as a trade to pay the rent for Constanze's apartment at the spa. It was less than six months before Mozart's death.

Sung here by the Vienna Boy's Choir, you'll hear why I regard it as some of the World's most beautiful music.


Which came first: the bunny or the cross?

>> Friday, March 21, 2008

Today I was privy to a conversation that took place in the office over the "true meaning of Easter". In this conversation I overheard one woman complaining about how her family celebrates Easter, that all it is to them is the Easter bunny, candy, and colored eggs, and that they needed to get back to the REAL meaning of Easter and about how it's about Jesus' death on the cross and his resurrection. It took everything I had not to blurt out with a belligerent, "Are you kidding me?" But I bit my tongue, swallowed down hard, and kept my mouth shut and decided to save my rant for a blog entry.

Easter is a pagan holiday. It is nothing but Pagan through and through, no ifs, ands, or buts, about it. Christians can't even claim exclusive rights to the idea of a god/man born of a virgin who dies and then is resurrected from the dead. That's right, folks! The pagans thought of that one long before the Christians! If Christians want to get a little further away from the pagan origins of Easter, (even the name "Easter" is pagan), they would celebrate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus at Passover, and not during the Spring Equinox, when the pagans celebrate the return of their gods and goddesses.

Read this from Religious

Many, perhaps most, Pagan religions in the Mediterranean area had a major seasonal day of religious celebration at or following the Spring Equinox. Cybele, the Phrygian fertility goddess, had a fictional consort who was believed to have been born via a virgin birth. He was Attis, who was believed to have died and been resurrected each year during the period MAR-22 to MAR-25. "About 200 B.C. mystery cults began to appear in Rome just as they had earlier in Greece. Most notable was the Cybele cult centered on Vatican hill ...Associated with the Cybele cult was that of her lover, Attis (the older Tammuz, Osiris, Dionysus, or Orpheus under a new name). He was a god of ever-reviving vegetation. Born of a virgin, he died and was reborn annually. The festival began as a day of blood on Black Friday and culminated after three days in a day of rejoicing over the resurrection."

Wherever Christian worship of Jesus and Pagan worship of Attis were active in the same geographical area in ancient times, Christians "used to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus on the same date; and pagans and Christians used to quarrel bitterly about which of their gods was the true prototype and which the imitation."

Many religious historians believe that the death and resurrection legends were first associated with Attis, many centuries before the birth of Jesus. They were simply grafted onto stories of Jesus' life in order to make Christian theology more acceptable to Pagans. Others suggest that many of the events in Jesus' life that were recorded in the gospels were lifted from the life of Krishna, the second person of the Hindu Trinity. Ancient Christians had an alternative explanation; they claimed that Satan had created counterfeit deities in advance of the coming of Christ in order to confuse humanity. Modern-day Christians generally regard the Attis legend as being a Pagan myth of little value. They regard Jesus' death and resurrection account as being true, and unrelated to the earlier tradition.

Wiccans and other modern-day Neopagans continue to celebrate the Spring Equinox as one of their 8 yearly Sabbats (holy days of celebration). Near the Mediterranean, this is a time of sprouting of the summer's crop; farther north, it is the time for seeding. Their rituals at the Spring Equinox are related primarily to the fertility of the crops and to the balance of the day and night times. Where Wiccans can safely celebrate the Sabbat out of doors without threat of religious persecution, they often incorporate a bonfire into their rituals, jumping over the dying embers is believed to assure fertility of people and crops.

Pagan Origins of the Easter Bunny


The answer lies in the ingenious way that the Christian church absorbed Pagan practices. After discovering that people were more reluctant to give up their holidays and festivals than their gods, they simply incorporated Pagan practices into Christian festivals. As recounted by the Venerable Bede, an early Christian writer, clever clerics copied Pagan practices and by doing so, made Christianity more palatable to pagan folk reluctant to give up their festivals for somber Christian practices.

In second century Europe, the predominate spring festival was a raucous Saxon fertility celebration in honor of the Saxon Goddess Eastre (Ostara), whose sacred animal was a hare.

The colored eggs associated with the bunny are of another, even more ancient origin. The eggs associated with this and other Vernal festivals have been symbols of rebirth and fertility for so long the precise roots of the tradition are unknown, and may date to the beginning of human civilization. Ancient Romans and Greeks used eggs as symbols of fertility, rebirth, and abundance- eggs were solar symbols, and figured in the festivals of numerous resurrected gods.

Pagan fertility festivals at the time of the Spring equinox were common- it was believed that at this time, when day and night were of equal length, male and female energies were also in balance. The hare is often associated with moon goddesses; the egg and the hare together represent the god and the goddess, respectively.

Moving forward fifteen hundred years, we find ourselves in Germany, where children await the arrival of Oschter Haws, a rabbit who will lay colored eggs in nests to the delight of children who discover them Easter morning. It was this German tradition that popularized the 'Easter bunny' in America, when introduced into the American cultural fabric by German settlers in Pennsylvania.

Many modern practitioners of Neo-pagan and earth-based religions have embraced these symbols as part of their religious practice, identifying with the life-affirming aspects of the spring holiday. (The Neopagan holiday of Ostara is descended from the Saxon festival.) Ironically, some Christian groups have used the presence of these symbols to denounce the celebration of the Easter holiday, and many churches have recently abandoned the Pagan moniker with more Christian oriented titles like 'Resurrection Sunday.'

So which came first, the bunny or the cross? It would appear that the hare wins this one.


It's all about perspective

When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

~ Wayne Dyer


The art of loving oneself

>> Wednesday, March 19, 2008

When you are at peace with yourself and you love yourself, it is virtually impossible for you to do things to yourself that are destructive.

~ Wayne Dyer


The World's most beautiful music: Danny Boy

>> Monday, March 17, 2008

Most often it's in the music of the people, or "Folk music", that the most serene and haunting beauty can be heard. That is most certainly the case in this beloved Celtic tune, Danny Boy. Sung beautifully here by Celtic Woman, (whom I'm not generally fond of), in a very traditional, and gentle rendition, it's no secret why this melody is so popular.

Happy St. Patrick's Day everyone!


A concert weekend

>> Saturday, March 8, 2008

I love concert weekends! For the past several weeks the Stillwater Chamber Singers have been rehearsing for our Lenten concert which we will present this weekend--tonight in Oklahoma City at St. John's Episcopal Church, and then again tomorrow afternoon here in Stillwater at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church. We will feature the Pergolesi Stabat Mater which he composed the last year of his life, (he died in 1736 at the young age of 26, of tuberculosis), and the Buxtehude motet, Der Herr ist Mit Mir. Featured with us will be the Stillwater Chamber Players on strings and continuo.


Living for today

>> Friday, March 7, 2008

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon - instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.

~ Dale Carnegie


The World's most beautiful music: Mozart Piano Concerto No. 23, K 488

>> Saturday, March 1, 2008

The Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major (K. 488) is a musical composition written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It was finished, according to Mozart's own catalog, on March 2, 1786, around the time of the premiere of his opera, The Marriage of Figaro. It was one of three subscription concerts given that spring and was probably played by Mozart himself at one of these. The concerto is scored for strings, one flute, two clarinets, two bassoons, and two horns.

It has three movements:

1. Allegro in A major and common time
2. Adagio in F sharp minor and 6/8 time
3. Allegro assai in A and crossed common time.

The first movement is mostly sunny with the occasion melancholic touches typical of other Mozart pieces in A major.

The second movement is impassioned and somewhat operatic in tone. Formally this is a sonata form, the piano entering immediately with a theme that has unusually wide leaps; and also as with many such minor-mode sonata movements with Mozart, we hear and effective device where the major-mode secondary material in minor in the end. It is the only movement by Mozart in F sharp minor.

The third movement is a rondo, shaded by moves into other keys as is the opening movement (to C major from E minor and back during the secondary theme in this case, for instance) and with a central section whose opening in F sharp minor is interrupted by a clarinet tune in D major, an intrusion that reminds us, notes Girdlestone, that instrumental music at the time was informed by opera buffa and its sudden changes of point of view as well as of scene.

(Source: Wikipedia)

The movement I have featured here is the Adagio in F sharp minor--probably my single most favorite movement of any of the Mozart piano Concerti. It has a rather "moody" tone about it, moving from a melancholy, minor A section into a rather vibrant and playful, yet still tender, B section in a major key, and back again to the original theme.

The artist featured here is Hungarian pianist and conductor, Zoltán Kocsis.


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