What I Do For Love

“Use what talents you have; the woods would have little music if no birds sang their song except those who sang best.”

— Reverend Oliver G. Wilson

Tell me about something you love to do, but aren’t necessarily good at. Tell me about this activity in detail so I can love it as much as you do.

Comments

  1. Fran Stekoll says

    I love to sing; but I’m not necessarily good at it.

    This all started when I was 8 years old and started taking piano lessons.

    My teacher wasn’t very patient when I found it hard to read music and she would slap my knuckles with a ruler.
    I decided to listen to her play the chords and memorize them so when it was my turn to play I did it perfectly.

    Later in life I began singing lessons. I would listen to the records of songs I loved and memorize the music and the words. It got so I could hear a tune once and I knew it,

    Many times in my life I’ve tried out for choirs and knew the songs they would ask me to sing,

    I sang i school plays, Madrigal groups in College, Even got a scholarship to a Music School one summer. Today I still sing and I listen to CD’s memorize the music and love performing twice each year in the Spring and the Holidays. Still can’t read music, but who cares.

    • says

      Fran, I’m with you–I love to sing and am not very good at it. I joined a gospel choir in Santa Cruz a few years ago–but it folded when our leader went on to a professional career as a singer. I’ve been looking for another venue to sing, but so far my schedule hasn’t meshed with what’s available. I miss it, though!

    • Ilana says

      Fran- What a delightful journey you took us on. I love to sing as well, used to memorize musicals from the first to the last word. I really connected with the joy you took from memorizing music. I bet you are really good at it though. :) Ilana

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      I loved the back story on why one would be highly motivated to memorize music and where it led! I liked that something that could be a very bad experience led to something good–a future connected with music!
      : ) Lee

    • Hazel says

      Fran,
      We can almost hear you singing through this piece. It is so sad that piano teachers in our day thought they had to hit us on the fingers in order to make better pianists out of us. Thank God that era is over with. How joyful your voice is today!

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Judy says

      Fran, what a fun piece. I love the last line, “Still can’t read music but who cares.” My mom was a songbird and we grew up hearing her sing “Three Little Fishies” and “Hummm, Do you Wantta take a Walk.” Thanks for jogging those delightful tunes and memories.

    • Betsy S. Lee says

      SING–SING–SING!!!
      The passionate energy I felt inside of me wanted to burst through to the universe in song. That was one of my many loves. However, it was a love I would never for fill, except in private.
      Yes, I did have that great energy; however, for whatever reason I was not blessed with an ear for music. I even took singing lessons in the 70’s. Sometimes, for me to sing a song on key I would have to put my ear to the piano keys, play the note, loudly, the sound would go directly into my ear, then attempted to sing it.
      To sing properly you must have breath control. When I was a swimmer, as a young person, I learned to belly breath. For those who are not swimmers, belly breathing is when you take the air into your stomach and slowly release it.
      For singing, it’s quite different. You take a deep breath, so your diaphragm expands and bring the air up into your head. Then expel the air through your mouth as you sing. The deep breathing was easy; however, I couldn’t hold the air long enough in my head to be able expel the words to come out melodically.
      Being determined that I would learn to sing properly my teacher would have me take a deep breath, bend down and touch my toes at the same time. While still holding onto my breath I would slowly rise to a standing position. The air should now be in my head. Therefore, I should be able to sing the notes, properly, when I pushed the air out
      Well now, that just didn’t happen. As soon as I stood up and my body would reach where I was bent in half the air would disappear. Therefore, when I was perpendicular there was no air in my head to come out. Not good because the air would come from my nostrils and I would sound like a country singer. This was not what we were trying to achieve.
      My teacher was kind and patient. I practiced over and over. Once I did belted out some notes like Ethel Merman. WOW, I thought to myself, there’s hope. Yes, there is always hope, however in my case it would be like trying to turn my dark brown eyes blue without using contact lenses.
      I finally did quite. Nevertheless, I do sing in private. I’m a hopeless would be singer.
      Just an afterthought, looking back to when I was in high school and joined the Glee Club, that’s when I should have gotten the message, the teacher said, “Betsy, just mouth the words. No sounds please.”

      • says

        Betsy, welcome to the roadmap blog! I too am a closet singer. An icon on two, had a vocal director tell me just to mouth the words. And that was in elementary school! I’m glad you’ve persisted with your music. I’m glad you love to sing and do it anyway. Me, too!

        I hope you come back here again and again. I will look forward to seeing your voice and your stories in future weeks.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      It seems like there are many “closet songbirds” on this site. Who knew? Singing is another way to “word process” and perhaps that is why those of us with no singing talent whatsoever still persist at it. If I juggled as badly as I sing, I would stop juggling! Well, I feel I am in good company. No, I am in wonderful company. :-)

    • Wendy says

      Fran, thank you for reminding me about the process of learning music. I had forgotten about that seemingly automatic way of learning all these songs. It’s pretty miraculous, and I feel you really captured that in your piece.

  2. Kate Samuels says

    I love to take photographs, and I love to swim. Those are things at which I can admit talent. When putting them together, however, the passions collide with great amusement and the talent both blurs and floats away.

    A few months ago I purchased underwater housing (casing) for my DSLR camera. Yes, this is the big black expensive camera, and I decided that it would be a good idea to take it all out into the worst conditions that a camera can endure to see what I could capture.

    There is a joy of swimming in the chilly pacific with camera in hand waiting and watching the waves and learning and hoping how to capture images of those powerful waves. There is no wave just like the next, making my task all the more daunting, and all the more exciting.

    Before I don my wetsuit and bright orange fins, I leave my dry goods on the shore packed into a little bag: my phone, keys, eye drops, sunscreen, self doubt, responsibility of motherhood, and inner darkness. I also must leave any self consciousness, because I enter the water backwards as a conspicuous amalgamation of turquoise, black, and orange and carry a bright blue and most unwieldy camera- that no one would know is a camera. It looks as if I’m ready for a trip to outer space and not to the ocean.

    When I swim out to the waves, all I can think about is the tides, reading the waves, and where I need to position myself for what I can imagine as the ‘perfect’ shot. When the waves are coming in quickly I am on guard at all times, thinking and automatically moving my body as to not get put through the washing machine, making sure to duck dive and be ready for the next oncoming slam. On calmer days I float and swim down the shore and enjoy the colors, clarity and textures of the shimmering ocean and the occasional glassy waterfall- simply for their aesthetics. On calm days I get to know the surfers, as someone inevitably asks, “what IS that thing?”.

    When I get home, if I can wait that long, I view the images I captured, and if I have nothing great, which is usually the case, my perfectionist scolds, “You worked so hard to get nothing!” But then I remember the colors and textures and light. I think about the floating and laughing (sometimes at myself) and talking sometimes to the surfers or to the oncoming waves. I am just playing, and I could do this every day. In fact, I just about do.

    In a few years from now I may be writing about this a little differently, because when we chase what we love, and when we do it for long enough and don’t worry that we are the oddball space creature entering the ocean, maybe we emerge from the water one day with both joy and talent.

    • Ilana says

      Kate- You nailed this one! Laura challenged us to write so that the reader would want to do what we are describing. I swam in high school and college- synchro. And now have absolutely no interest in getting wet and cold. I shy away from cameras, both sides of them. Yet you made me want to join you on one of your trips.

      I was also touched by this paragraph, in particular, “Before I don my wetsuit and bright orange fins, I leave my dry goods on the shore packed into a little bag: my phone, keys, eye drops, sunscreen, self doubt, responsibility of motherhood, and inner darkness. I also must leave any self consciousness, because I enter the water backwards as a conspicuous amalgamation of turquoise, black, and orange.” What a delicious thought, leaving my responsibilities, motherhood, self doubt, responsibility and inner darkness on the boat with my sunscreen and keys. Thank you for this piece. I really enjoyed it. Ilana

      • beverly Boyd says

        Wow! Ilana. Thanks for reminding me about synchronized swimming! How I loved doing that for the brief time I had an opportunity.!

    • Hazel says

      Kate,
      I loved how you told of your entering the water and the vivid depiction of the waves. I am afraid of the water, especially of the waves, but you made me feel like joining you. Photographing moving things is such a challenge; humming birds, butterflies, dragonflies and waves.

      Your last line is so hopeful, so precious: “maybe we emerge from the water one day with both joy and talent.”

      Thank you for sharing.

    • says

      this was gorgeous. I want to go with you! I loved his paragraph, “Before I don my wetsuit and bright orange fins, I leave my dry goods on the shore packed into a little bag: my phone, keys, eye drops, sunscreen, self doubt, responsibility of motherhood, and inner darkness. I also must leave any self consciousness, because I enter the water backwards as a conspicuous amalgamation of turquoise, black, and orange and carry a bright blue and most unwieldy camera- that no one would know is a camera. It looks as if I’m ready for a trip to outer space and not to the ocean.” It’s so clear you’re doing it for joy–and I love the optimism of your ending as well. This piece–you–inspired me!

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      I knew this was a daring person when I read the part about wanting to try out the camera in the worst conditions! That perked my ears up and also so beautiful the details–the paragraph that others mentioned when the piece goes deeper…lovely writing. I enjoyed the ending as well and the hope/wish/observation of what happens when we chase what we love, don’t care how we appear and follow it through…
      Thanks for going there…
      I also loved that one could be good at two things separately but that combining them created a third thing–so beautifully explored here. A lesson in diving in? : ) Thanks!

    • Judy says

      Kate, this is wonderful writing with vivid details, images and sounds.. I was with you from the git go and love this line, “When putting them together, however, the passions collide with great amusement and the talent both blurs and floats away.” What a great adventure you shared with us. A great pleasure.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      I love the water too, and I was right there in the ocean with you sucking up all the energy and power of your wonderful waves. Great visual images here. I could actually smell the sea spray!

    • Wendy says

      Kate, I felt you took me on a journey. You have such a great attitude in this piece. I would love to see these pictures some day.

  3. Lori Cooley says

    I love to write. In the secret of early morning hours I gather my first dark, luxuriant cup of coffee, turn on my music soft and low, light my sacred candle and invite Spirit to come and envelope me in the comforts of her wisdom and insight. As I open the pages to my journal and see blank empty space, I know that She is waiting to talk with me.

    Nothing feels better nor looks more natural to me than a pen in my hand. I know it will take me places I could never have imagined and return me safely to shore. The pen in my hand looks confident. I wish I could transfer that confidence to telling the stories of my life; where I’ve traveled and who I’ve become on my return.

    My morning writings are playtime, yet I learn so much. I want to accept what Spirit has been telling me. If I take my time and step out of my own way, I will surely land on the shore of my belonging.

    • says

      Lori, Welcome to the Roadmap blog. I love your description of your muse. My favorite line was, “I know it will take me places I could never have imaged and return me safely to shore.” And this, “If I take my time and step out of my own way, I will surely land on the shore of my belonging.” Just gorgeous. Thank you! I hope to see many posts here from you in the future.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Ooh, love the parts about the pen how it looks and feels, the pen felt like it was becoming a character almost…I was intrigued by the mystery–who is the “She”? What is this spirit?

      And I like that the pen seems to have the confidence and the wish to have that…thank you and welcome!

    • Karla says

      I love reading about the ways that other writers work. The satisfaction and connection to yourself that you feel when you write comes through loud and clear. That last sentence is a total knock-out as well. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Ilana says

      Lori- Beautiful description. You made me want to cancel my day, make a cup of coffee, light a candle and have at it. Ilana

    • Hazel says

      Lori,
      Your piece makes me want to get up early and write to. I really liked your paragraph about your pen.

      Thank you for sharing.

      Here is a poem that I wrote about my pen:

      WRITING STICK – 2

      “The moving finger writes
      and having writ moves on”*
      but I must use an instrument
      to scribe upon white-bond.

      Just like the flute forms
      music from the air,
      thoughts flow through the writing
      stick and quickly take you there.

      Spoken words drift off on wind
      into the ether gone;
      when written down come back
      again as if by magic wand.

      Note scribbled out in haste
      upon the desk resides,
      left there for you to see that
      my love still abides.

      You read the lines above or
      my adventures on the sea
      but, without a writing stick
      what would you know of me?
      11/5/00

      *Edward Fitzgerald – (1859)
      The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayydm

    • Judy says

      Lori, this piece is so lovingly crafted and lyrical. In these three paragraphs you convey your love of writing with clarity and engagement. I love this line, “I want to accept what Spirit has been telling me.” Thank you for sharing and please come back often.

      • Lori Cooley says

        Thank you all for your encouraging words and kindness towards me. I have enjoyed reading your responses to the prompts Laura provides and look forward to continuing on as part of this community!

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Lori~
      I am so happy that you honor your muse first thing in the morning. I bet that sets a perfect rhythm for the day. I will keep this in mind as I am doing everything but writing, waiting for for the muse, rather than inviting her in! I look forward to your posts here.
      ~Adrienne

  4. Mary Bucklew says

    In my family, we each had subconsciously assigned strengths and talents. I was the writer, my next sister was the crafty, earth Mother, my little sister was ‘the artiste’ and baby bro the athlete. And well into our 20s and 30s, we maintained those strictures. I did branch out a bit to photography, since I was a neophyte photo-journalist for DoD in a former life, but writing was the main course.

    When I was nearing 40, I met a younger woman who was high on creativity and insisted that I had more to offer than words on a page. So I began to dabble in water colors, charcoals, acrylics, piano, book binding, and collage. Over the next 10 years I took several classes in each of these and found a new lightness in expressing and experiencing my world. I even attended one of Julia Cameron’s workshops on The Artist’s Way when she was in DC in the late 90s, and she delicately disabused me of any remaining notions that any of us are always and only one dimensional talents.

    Today, scattered around the house and in this office/studio/warren in which I gravitate to create, the vestiges of all these trials and errors and magical successes surround me. Beautifully bound (empty!) books, watercolors, framed photos (a few prize winners among them), and in the bedroom is hung a large framed charcoal drawing of a nude model from a class I took at the Corcoran. I am humbled every time I see it.

    In the dining room is a full blown Korg electronic piano that mocks me and laughs at me because regardless of my most fervent wishes to the contrary and countless agonizing lessons, I can’t seduce even one melody out of it with my hands.

    Nevertheless, I give thanks to that young woman 20 years ago who insisted I spread my creative wings, and I thank all the teachers, healers, counselors and good mirrors who encouraged me and helped me silence (or at least keep at bay) the censors in my head along this creative journey.

    Because what is true is, while I now enjoy many creative, artistic pursuits that have added texture and color to my life, especially in retirement, I AM STILL THE WRITER.

    • Hazel says

      What an interesting journey through creativity! Your last line seems to be said with some emphasis and tells us the direction you will be taking forward “Because what is true is, while I now enjoy many creative, artistic pursuits that have added texture and color to my life, especially in retirement, I AM STILL THE WRITER.”

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Ilana says

      Mary- This is such a libreating piece to read. It made me feel free to do whatever I want, regardless of what anyone else might think. I love the beautiful array of interests you looked at in this piece. It was very effective to start with the belief you were disputing, that everyone has one talent. I also enjoyed how you remained true to yourself and did not drop your writing just because it was the talent that your family accepted about you. Nice job! Ilana

    • beverly Boyd says

      I loved you admission that you can’t seduce even one melody out of your Korg electronic piano.

      I too, resonated to “I AM STILL A WRITER. For me though, I am finally a writer. I have always written but the responsibilities of raising seven children, showing up for a job and other interests always crowding in have kept me from really doing it. Now, at this time of my life I try really make my love of writing be my priority.

      • Mary Bucklew says

        Beverly, I’m thinking you already are a writer. If you think like a writer, visualize like a writer, reason like a writer, and ache for the opportunity to write and write at every opportunity… Well, in my book, you are a writer.

        And thank you so much for your generous words.
        Mary –

      • Mary Bucklew says

        Laura, we are still very good friends, we still do collaborative art projects across the miles (Seattle vs Delaware) and she is still very much my Muse.
        Mary–

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Love how this piece came full circle and went from the family label to a personal felt solid bold label of writer. Seems almost more the writer after trying everything else! I enjoyed all the details of the journey through and back…back or maybe to a new place (?) so strongly! Thanks!

      • Mary Bucklew says

        Lee, the bold statement was a love letter to my gift. I am a writer and always have been. Writing was my bread and butter during my first real job as a civilian photo journalist for DoD, and it enabled me to have a wonderful career as a speech writer in DC when I jumped ship and started working for the Metro Transit system. Most gratefully, my writing enabled me to retire at 55 and move to the beach.

        Through the years, I’ve written press releases, speeches, magazine and newspaper articles, editorials, congressional testimony and all manner of corporate and government hackery. For someone else. In retirement, I finally have the time and opportunity to write for myself!

        I cosset my writing and I try never to take it for granted. It has been my confidante and confessor, my friend and ally, my ever constant companion.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      I loved you descriptin of your adventures through many ways of artistic expression and then came back to writing. It was actually my art teacher who encouraged me to write. It was she who got our creative juices flowing by having us write about verbal or visual imagery. She always praised my writing more than my painting, and now she is one of my best writing critics. Truly, as Laura states, the arts cross-pollinate each other! Thanks for sharing your story!

    • Wendy says

      Mary, thank you for reminding me about creative roles. I liked that you were willing to challenge them. I liked that, through it, all, you were true to you writing.

    • Judy says

      Mary, ah the creative life. I love this piece and your vivid portrait of your life as a writer and artist. This is such a delightful graph, “…..insisted I spread my creative wings, and I thank all the teachers, healers, counselors and good mirrors who encouraged me and helped me silence (or at least keep at bay) the censors in my head along this creative journey.” Well done, thank you and look forward to more of your posts.

  5. Hazel says

    Kate,
    I loved how you told of your entering the water and the vivid depiction of the waves. I am afraid of the water, especially of the waves, but you made me feel like joining you. Photographing moving things is such a challenge; humming birds, butterflies, dragonflies and waves.

    Your last line is so hopeful, so precious: “maybe we emerge from the water one day with both joy and talent.”

    Thank you for sharing.

  6. Wendy says

    I also first thought of singing.

    One of my favorite memories as a child is when we would drive to the shopping center, which seemed so far away then. I wonder now if it was even an hour’s drive. We were in our station wagon, and my mother and sister and I would sing show tunes. (I asked my mother recently if my brother also sang. She said no. I wonder if he made faces, just shut us out, ignored us, enjoyed it? I can’t remember him even being in the car, but he had to be there.)

    I am the type of person who, when I’m in Trader Joe’s, I sing to the music. I dance down the aisles. Sometimes I don’t even know that I’m doing it. I catch myself in mid-note, mid-shuffle, and then I might look at the other people around me. They don’t even seem to notice. Perhaps they’re just being kind. Perhaps they’re just lost in their own world.

    I don’t know if I have a good voice. When I was in my thirties, I took voice lessons, and I ran into trouble. When I started, my teacher was surprised at my voice. She didn’t expect that voice to come out of me. I can’t even tell you right now what that voice was. I do know that I was happy to be singing that I think I sang too much and I strained it, and then I just wouldn’t stop. It felt to me at the time that I had to sing. I went to doctors. I was diagnosed with TMJ. My teacher was concerned. I projected disappointment on to her. We eventually started swapping out singing lessons for piano lessons, and eventually I just studied piano all the time.

    I don’t really know if I have the personality to be a singer. In my mind, a singer is brassy, confident, an overtly sexual person. A singer takes no prisoners with her pipes. My logical mind says that a singer could be anybody. I think of the girl in the station wagon adding her croon to “Edelweiss.” I think of how to this day a song can get stuck in my head and I will sing it around my house when I’m alone. I still love to sing.

    • says

      There are all kind of singers. Most importantly, there’s the kind of singer who is you! I’d love to hear you sing. And that imagine of you singing and dancing down the aisle of Trader Joe’s was priceless. Maybe the people around you were enjoying it and wishing they felt free enough to join you.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Love the images–in the car and especially at Trader Joe’s and I got all focused in when the writing went to talk about the singing teacher who didn’t expect a certain voice to come out. Intriguing!

      Also love the contrasts of what a singer can be–in the mind, logically, and then ending with the Edelweiss station wagon singer image–enjoyed this!

      (PS As a singer and performer who also gets nervous and at times anxious about performing, I find myself loving the stories about performers who also get anxious or nervous–it makes them very human and it makes me think that I am in good company–also, it is not very sexy–something that puts my mind at ease. No I don’t have to perform, feel at ease, and be sexy–it’s just too much. I’ll settle for being in the moment, focusing on the job at hand and doing what I can to create comfort for myself.)

      Thanks!

      • Lee Xanthippe says

        (Also, I write songs and have found it really fun to try to write about what is difficult–about the images in my mind about what I am supposed to be vs. who I actually am. This usually brings out much humor for me…)

    • Ilana says

      Wendy- I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. As I read I imagined myself singing as I go about the business of shopping, taking care of the kids, cleaning house, etc. It’s something I do a lot but as I read your piece it was like an invitation to join you. Thanks for posting this! Ilana

    • Shellie T. says

      Shuffling down an aisle, lol yes I do that too and the surroundings fade away for me, I wonder what those people think if they are even in the same world as I am, I liked this so much. Shellie

    • Hazel says

      I love these two sentences: ” A singer takes no prisoners with her pipes. My logical mind says that a singer could be anybody.” This is a truism. There seems to be no reason for you to stop singing especially since, “I still love to sing.” Your passion shows all the way through this piece.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Your story made me think back to my many trips to Trader Joes to see if I would remember ever seeing you there, and I don’t even know where you live! Great imagery. I have the feeling you have a terrific voice. I too would love to hear you sing! ;-)

      • Wendy says

        Adrienne, thank you for the kind words. I think I have an average voice. But I do find myself singing a lot even when I’m not consciously aware of it. At this point I would be terrified to be in a situation where I sang by myself and others listened in a purposeful way. But it would be fun to sing with others, I think.

    • Judy says

      Wendy, this is such engaging writing. So vivid. I love this line, “I am the type of person who, when I’m in Trader Joe’s, I sing to the music. I dance down the aisles. Sometimes I don’t even know that I’m doing it.” Have you see the Trader Joe YTube piece and the opera group that breaks out in song? Verdi, I think. As others have said, I’d love to hear you sing.

  7. beverly Boyd says

    I’ve always loved music and actually been above average in my abilities. I have played, even taught piano. I’ve plucked on guitars and ukuleles, sung in trios, quartets and choruses, even directed a few.

    In high school I played clarinet and oboe in the band, I only practiced enough to get by without making glaring mistakes. Three of my band mates, who were serious musicians, would recruit me to play fourth quartet for the music competitions held in New York State. The part was mostly easy whole and half notes, but I always practiced. I didn’t want to let them down.

    Many years later, when I visited my hometown, I saw Andy, who played first oboe. He told me that the three of them used to talk about what a great musician I was.

    “But, Andy, I never practiced!”

    “I know,” he said. “But we thought how great you would be if you did!”

    In recent years I have avoided being involved in choirs because I know it is a big commitment. You can’t just sort of show up when you feel like it. The director and your fellow members count on you to be there, holding up your part.

    When the start of a singing circle class was announced at my church I was interested. It was a class/workshop that would last for nine weeks. We would learn two songs and sing in church at the end. This seemed perfect. I could willingly commit for nine weeks.

    But there was a catch. This was gospel music, and modern gospel at that. I had never sung gospel music, though I always enjoyed hearing it. I had never learned music using only a lyric sheet without even information about the chords. Even though we had cassettes and I played them anytime Iwas in the car, I was having a hard time even hearing my part. The harmonization was so different than anything I had learned in the past. Many folks in the circle, who had much less musical training and experience seemed to be learning the parts easily, while I struggled. Instead of being the one that people beside me were leaning on while they learned, I was doing the leaning.

    To help myself I went to my piano and, listening to the tapes, picked out my part and wrote it on a music sheet to help me learn. I needed that visual to be able to get it.

    It was worth it. Since then, I’ve sung in many singing circles and ended up joining the choir for a few years. I’m quite good at singing gospel now and am quite often the one who others listen to when they are still learning.

    Though I still enjoy the music of earlier years, I love the gospel music; the space to improvise, to get caught up in the flow and following the lead of the director or others I am singing with. It isn’t about faithfully following the exact notes, timing and dynamics of the measure but letting the spirit in the moment lead the way and that is so much more fun!

    • says

      Lovely, Beverly. I was in a gospel choir for a while with Tammy Brown–but it folded. It was lovely and I’m not much of a singer and gospel isn’t my traditional music either, but I loved it.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Loved the “learning” and the “leaning” and the places this piece took me–the oboes and the realization of others later who said, “But we thought how great you would be if you did!”
      And being in the new or different genre of gospel and learning that…and the interesting process of trying and the visual being what worked…and the “enjoy” and “love” in the last segment. Thanks for taking us on that journey!

    • Ilana says

      Beverly- Nice job. I loved watching your talents grow as you experimented. It was clear how much you enjoyed the music. Ilana

    • Mary Bucklew says

      So much agree with just letting the music move you and you responding in kind… I call it “body music” and when you are so into it that all inhibitions drop away, you are singing it, sister!

    • Hazel says

      Very nice journey through time and your world of music and I think it would be fun to sing with you.
      Thank you for sharing.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Thank you for teaching me about gospel music. I love to hear it, and never realized there was so much ebb and flow, and improvisation among the singers. But now I think that is exactly what makes it so appealing. It is a collective work of spiritual art.

    • Wendy says

      Beverly, I loved how you took us through a process with a really great ending. You were able to see both sides of the equation and became a teacher, leader, and participant. Thank you.

    • Judy says

      Beverly, I love this piece and cracked up with these lines, “But, Andy, I never practiced!” “I know,” he said. “But we thought how great you would be if you did!”. ” Thank you for a delightful piece filled with joy and spirit. Oh, and putting on that great one, “I Know a Place” right now!!

  8. Nancy Qualls says

    I always strived to be the very best wife and homemaker possible. I made superior efforts by ironing everything, giving my husband a choice of meals each night, I cooked all weekend to prepare for the week. But I feel kids are not educated on how to be a wife or husband, when it comes to the technical aspects of marriage like finances, childrearing, distribution of duties and learning how to compromise. I didn’t know how to be a good girlfriend in that I was a victim of that time between the white picket fence era and women burning their bras and breaking through the glass ceiling. I expected the boyfriend to (want to) be with me all the time. From high school I was on the marriage gravy train. I have actually sent my high school sweetheart an apology for putting such pressure on him and guilt if he was not when he was not with me.

    I loved my profession in medicine. I prided myself on treating my patient’s with as much knowledge as I could hold, and I was proud of how I treated them as people. That is my badge of honor. So how did I fail? Simply, with each moment someone suffered and every life lost, I failed. Certainly, there are the maladies we cannot control but, nonetheless, I always wanted to be better.

    • says

      Hi Nancy, I love the juxtaposition of your love of homemaking with the pressures and intensity of medical practice. Do most doctors feel they fail when someone dies? Isn’t death the natural end of life for all of us?

      • Nancy Qualls says

        Hi Laura,
        No, most doctors/medical professionals do not feel they have failed when someone dies. There is so much education we have to take, and the technology available is amazing. We don’t actually fail our patients, I over-dramatized our feelings of disappointment…but it is not disappointment…and it isn’t really failure…it is a feeling so hard to describe. We walk away from death with sadness for the family and that we could not save the patient, although in many cases the death can be a God-send for something we mortals cannot save.
        One thing I wanted to describe was the difficulty women of my era, 1960′s/70′s, have. Our mother’s bring us up to believe we will have the house and family, and our husband’s will take care of us (so we really don’t need to get a degree) versus society expecting us to get a degree, have a career AND successfully run our home and children. We were sitting right on top of the white picket fence.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      Wow, very interesting–the way this piece went through the different eras in a way–the different roles for women and how the roles impact men in that first section–enjoyed the openness of the detail of wanting the man or boyfriend to be there all the time.

      I felt the trying in this piece, the succeeding–the badge of honor, and also the pain of not being able to do more while trying to do more or do better.
      Thank you for posting this piece!

    • Ilana says

      Nancy- I love how you hold up your medical career and your career as a homemaker next to each other. It’s hard to do that without judging one or the other but you managed it. It was sweet how you ironed everything and gave your husband a choice. Very romantic. Ilana

    • Hazel says

      Thank you for sharing this beautiful comparison of time and career. You did an amazing job of it. I believe that as true humans we always want to do and be better.

    • Mary Carlson says

      Ah, my heart pings a little reading this. I hear a striving for perfection in both paragraphs: perfection in homemaking, and perfection in medicine. That common thread comes through clearly…

      And the tragic aspect of this is that your striving to be the best feels very marred by inevitable “failures.” Being a good wife meant you weren’t the “good girlfriend.” A patient’s suffering or death becomes a sign of failure.

      I would love to see you expand this, and really examine the cost of perfection. Ok, I feel a lot of projection on my part happening here….and I apologize. But, wow, can I identify!

      • Nancy Qualls says

        Thank you, I am humbled by all the responses I am receiving here.
        I will write a more detailed piece. I have always wanted to write more about the era I grew up. Our grandmother’s and mother’s were homemaker’s. They lived within the ‘white picket fence’. Then we had Women’s Lib and suddenly we were expected to have a degree, a career and a home. The first half of my life was within the ‘white picket fence’ and then I was caught sitting on it.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      As a physician myself I could identify with much of what you say here in terms of being caught between two worlds as women emerged from homebodies to professionals very quickly. I too was caught on that cusp and did not mange to balance things nearly as successfully as you seem to have. However, I can not relate to your feeling that you failed with each moment someone suffered or lost their life. You are taking on way too much responsibility for that. You clearly did your best and I hope you don’t let those feelings tarnish in any way how you look back on your career, which was otherwise you badge of honor. Thank you for sharing your heartfelt story.

      • Nancy Qualls says

        Dr. Drake,
        Happily, I was not tarnished by, what I described as, an obsessive tendency to worry about everyone’s pain. When I was at work, I definitely was focused on all my patients, all of the time. And, like you I am sure, I wanted to take care of all the pains and maladies. But I did feel bad when I was not successful.
        When I retired, I left knowing that I did the best I knew how…that I educated myself ad-nauseum. When I left work…I left work. Well…okay…there were the times I would call the ICU in the middle of the night to check someone’s blood gas results…I couldn’t help it, I had to know so I could go back to sleep.
        Now days I am happily retired, beta-reading and working on my first book.

    • Wendy says

      Nancy, this felt like this could be a book. There was so much information and feeling in these paragraphs. I wanted to know more. Thank you.

    • Judy says

      Nancy, interesting piece that show the difficulty of ‘walking between the worlds’ of homemaker, devoted wife/mother and demanding career of medicine. Thank you for sharing.

  9. Ilana says

    Just One of The Bunch

    My brother, Matty, I mean Matt, is an athlete. His first and true love is cycling. Even now, as an adult and an expectant father, he puts his training and races above all else. In high school he competed in everything from swimming to track and field to gymnastics. Matt could hone his body to any sport in months and compete as if he’d been doing it for years. I’m not like that. If you looked at all of my high school yearbooks you’d see my photograph with one sport and one sport only, synchronized swimming. I gave it up after college and now I don’t get in the water unless my children push me to.

    I guess what I’m trying to say is, I am not an athlete. Still, I am awake and pulling myself out of bed before my alarm even goes off at 4:30am. Every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I go to the gym. The ritual really starts the night before with the anticipation. I make sure there is a muscle milk shake and a bottle of water in the car. The CD player is set with whatever book on disc I am currently listening to. My work out clothes are laid out in the bathroom and last but not least, the protein bar. This is my reward for making it through the work out. Because sitting in the car all night the bar will either melt or freeze, depending on the time of year, I put it under the nightlight in the sitting room. This way the route down the stairs is lit so I don’t fall and I don’t forget the treat.

    I love getting into the car and driving down the quiet, empty, roads while the world is still asleep. A story is being read to me as my children’s school, the supermarket and Target sail by. I don’t have to go to those places right now. Right now is ‘me time’. I’m early and the gym isn’t open yet. I sit in the warm car and enjoy my breakfast, still listening to the story. A small crowd gathers at the doors waiting for the staff to let them in at 5:00am. Not me, the story is part of the experience. Only when I see them start to walk in do I get out of my car. I take a second to look up at the sky and appreciate the stars overhead. Then I check in, lock up my stuff and go to class. Monday and Wednesday it’s spin (cycling) and Tuesday and Thursday, circuit. I love them both.

    My classmates, most of them regulars who know me, slowly gather at the door until a smiling Judy approaches us. “Good morning. Today you will need a set of medium and heavy weights and a matt.” She watches us go get the equipment. “And don’t try getting those baby weights. I know what you’re capable of.” A few people jokingly complain about how hard she pushes us. “You know I love you.” Is the cheerful response.

    Circuit means she gives us several exercises to do in a row. When we finish we go back and start all over again. Today she has divided us in half. One group holds a plank while the other does ten burpie push-ups. That’s a push up where you stand and jump before going on to the next one. We’ve got to hold the plank until the last person is done with his or her burpies. Then, we switch. Back and forth until everyone has done 50 burpies. “Keep going. You got this. I know this sucks but it’s almost over.” My beloved teacher shouts encouragements. “Keep those butts down. No cheating!” Oh, and corrections but always with a giggle in her voice. Next, one group does 10 squat jumps with the heavier weight while the other sits on the wall. That’s not as easy as it sounds. You’re leaning up against the wall in a sitting position but there is nothing under you. Try it. You’ll see what I mean. “My wall sitters, use the medium weights to do bicep curls.” When the last person is done with the squat jumps we switch and you guessed it, back and forth until everyone has done 50 of them. “Okay this one is fun. You’ll love it.” I never can tell if she means it’s really fun or hell. This time it’s the latter, L stands. I’ve got to do a hand stand facing the wall. My feet are flat against it so that I’m bent at the waste, making an L. Just out of my view the other group is doing ten V-ups. You lay flat on your back and then bend at the waste, lifting both chest and legs until your hands and feet touch. I’ve got to stay in this L until the last person finishes all ten and again, until we’ve all done fifty. Brianne and Helen are showing off. They’ve got only one foot on the wall and the other is pointing straight up. A few of us cheer for them and Judy takes photographs with her phone. I can’t stay up the whole time but each time I fall I get right back on the wall. “Nice job, Ilana. You’re getting better at these.”

    I won’t bore you with the other two routines she put us through but they weren’t much easier than the ones I’ve described. All the while Judy is shouting encouragements, corrections and jokes. I’ll never forget the time I was doing donkey kicks and I heard from behind me, “Check out Ilana. She looks great.”

    “Those are some beautiful donkey kicks.” Brianne agreed. Then there was the time Ricky was losing steam so I high fived him between sets. His smile came back and he was equally supportive of me.

    Finally, we’re done. We put away the matts and the weights, thank Judy for an awesome work out and say goodbye. Once in the locker room, Brianne approaches me. “You looked really good out there today. I can tell you’re getting stronger.” I admire Brianne so her encouragement means that much more. I thank her, grab my purse from the locker and head back to the parking lot. We’ve just reached the time of year when the sky is still dark and starry at 6:15am. I steal one more second to appreciate moon. It’s beautiful today, a bright sliver that fills me with awe. Then I get into the car and turn on the ignition. Immediately, the story resumes and I chew my protein bar as slowly as I can. It tastes wonderful. I’ve worked hard and I’m so hungry.

    At home I wake up the kids and jump in the shower. Once I don’t stink anymore I get back into bed for a quick cuddle with my husband. “How was your workout?” He asks.

    “Good. Hard, but good.”

    I’ve still got a lot of room for improvement but the work outs and healthier diet are starting to pay off. Zander asked me to consider buying a bikini for our family getaway this October. I’m enjoying the attention from him and I’m enjoying the exercise. But what really gets me up in the morning is the sense of belonging. It’s the support I get from a group of friends who have never seen me with makeup or without sweat streaming down my face. We all look sweaty and gross. Here, I’m just one of the bunch.

    • says

      Ilana, thanks for this. I hope it encourages many would-be exercisers to go to the gym! I go three times a week myself. It’s a great routine and a treat to myself.

    • Lee Xanthippe says

      What a fantastic piece–all the details of the ritual from home and the rewards oh, and the language, the lingo the “muscle milk shake” and the “burpies”–I felt like this piece really captured the details of the workout and also the camaraderie…and also the time of day–so very early. I felt the incredible discipline it would take to do this–wow!
      Lovely details–thanks for slowing down and letting the reader in so generously!

    • Karla says

      Ilana, I really enjoyed this piece. I so admire the way you skillfully described your ritual and the exercise class routine. I have not done any of those moves at the gym, but there was a lush visual landscape in my head from your writing. I also appreciated the carefulness that the reader sees in how you go about preparing to get to the gym and back before your family wakes up and your responsibilities for them begin. It communicates how important this is to you, and denotes a loving self-care. You take such good care of yourself in so many layered ways here– by preparing the night before so you can sleep as much as possible, by making sure that the experience is as rich in sensory pleasures as possible–the story on the car stereo, the drinks, the protein bar, the cuddle with the hubby–, by including the experience of community and connection as part of the exercise. Fantastic piece!

    • Ilana says

      Oh, thank you all. I forgot how good it feels to post and get these supportive responses. I’m so glad I’m back.

    • Shellie T. says

      Your teacher sounds great! It all surrounds that teacher, if they love what they do and have a gift of sharing it, you can just live there in class, huh? loved this. Shellie

    • Hazel says

      Ilana, Thank you for sharing your wonderful exercise class. Nicely done with the comments by the instructor. Your closing paragraph where you talk about a sense of belonging is very good. I’m sure you will look so beautiful in your bikini!

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Gosh, Ilana, you make exercising at the gym sound like great fun. Perhaps I will try it (again) someday. On second thought…. Nonetheless, your descriptive voice made me feel like I was actually there doing the work myself (from the comfort of my chair!)

    • Wendy says

      I love this piece! it is very inspiring. I love all the details. You really made me feel like I was there in your world. I wish I was. It sounds ground.

    • Judy says

      Ilana, love your discipline as well as your vivid writing. Thank you for this telling, but I’m out of breath and gotta go hug a pillow. :)

  10. Karla says

    It’s very primal. They are so soft, irresistibly cuddly, with just the right amount of give when I gently squeeze them. I nuzzle them against my neck, pulling back just slightly to breathe in their scent—an earthiness that smells like the beginning of time. I close my eyes.

    One in each hand, I admire the gorgeous contrast of colors—the deep wine fading into teal blue and sea green, running back to shades of pink and purple. The jewel tones are spaced perfectly but not rigidly—the way that hand dyed yarn should be. I know that when I knit these skeins into the most luxurious socks some lucky person (maybe even me) will ever have, they will stripe like fuzzy soldiers lining up for duty.

    I like to knit socks two at a time, following a simple pattern that has three parts: 1) knitting the cuff; 2) turning the heel; and 3) decreasing to the heel. My fellow knitters at the local yarn store kindly mock me for what they see as a compulsive routine. You don’t understand, I explain to them, because if I finish a sock and have to face the possibility of knitting another one, I just won’t even begin. The distance between the finished sock and the sweet, soft ball of yarn is just too great. This is practically science and it’s called O.S.S. (One Sock Syndrome). The only difference between me and those who suffer from it is that I Plan Ahead.

    What I love about knitting is that it gets me out of my head, at least in the moment where my hands are doing the work.. Although I have enjoyed the challenge of knitting complicated garments in the past—intricate lace shawls, for some of the women I love, my son’s cloth diaper soakers when he was a baby, a cabled hat for my husband—now I just revel in the rhythm of the needles and the tactile sensations of the most beautiful yarns I can find. Just “plain” knit suits me just fine, and allowing the evolution of the yarn to work its magic across a project is enough excitement for me. Much of the joy in knitting is to see a skein that I didn’t have any plans for transform to a wearable work of art and love. There was the variegated bright green skein of yarn, with shades of lime and grass and hunter green, that I made into a ribbed ski mask for my son—who looks like a demented ninja when he wears it. The rhubarb colored yarn that I handspun and knit into a triangular scarf for my dear foodie friend for her wedding. The fingerless mitts I use during the winter when I write in my drafty home office. I’m not a very precise knitter, I make many mistakes, and I’m rarely willing to fix them to make something look perfect. The definition of handmade is not flawless. That is probably worth the price of the yarn—learning to live with my mistakes, and the wearables that result from the knitting are just a bonus.

    • says

      wow, would I ever love a pair of those luscious hand-knitted socks. you make them sound so wonderful. I love the sensuality of your relationship with the wool. the first few lines, i was sure you were writing about a kitten!

      my favorite part was this: “The definition of handmade is not flawless. That is probably worth the price of the yarn—learning to live with my mistakes, and the wearables that result from the knitting are just a bonus.”

      just stunning, karla

      • Karla says

        “the first few lines, i was sure you were writing about a kitten!”

        This cracked me up. Do you squeeze your kitten until it gives? ;)

        I was attempting to write a story in the not-well-known genre, Yarn Porn. Maybe I’ll do better next time.

    • Ilana says

      Karla- Awesome piece! Absolutely delicious! I love how you kept me guessing in the beginning. I made myself slow down and savor the mystery of what it was you were cuddling. Your descriptions are so complete and made me feel indulgent. I don’t knit but I was able to see everything and hear the click of the needles. Such a comforting sound. Thanks for posting this. I’ll probably come back and read it a few more times just for enjoyment. :) Ilana

    • Shellie T. says

      I thought you were talking about a guinea pig the first few lines until the colors of them started to come in, lol. I loved this writing and the love of the yarn with it’s different uses. I would love to see that ski mask of greens! Your writing makes me want to go make use of the skeins I bought yesterday to make bookmarks with plastic canvas! Shell

    • Hazel says

      Yes, by all means these are porno socks . . . I want a pair; are you selling them?

      I know what you mean about knitting. I love it also. Although, I must admit I never have thought of it in the same terms as you have. It is mesmerizing. Your mind can go anywhere while your fingers keep the rhythm stitch after stitch. The tactile feel of the wool sliding through your fingers becoming socks as it moves. Love it.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      From the beginning of the story to the end of the comments all of you ladies had me laughing out loud. Loved the sense of humor!

    • Wendy says

      Karla, I loved how you explained everything to me. I am not a knitter, but while reading this piece, I felt that if I had a good teacher (like you) that I could do it and that it could be fun. Thank you.

    • Judy says

      Karla, this is simply luscious. I was swept up in the vivid descriptions of the yarns and your process. I’d have to copy and paste the entire piece to point to one favorite graph, but will simply say thank you for writing so lovingly of something that gives you and many others great pleasure–the luxury softness of those sumptuous wearable’s.

  11. Lee Senior says

    Just what you need. Another I can’t sing!

    I frequently wonder how many children grow up to be non-singers
    because someone laughed or made fun of them when they were young.
    I am one of them.

    Because of this I am appalled when I hear little children singing in their
    squeeky, untrained voices and are greeted by adults telling them they
    can’t sing.

    When I was four years old, I sang “America the Beautiful” at a family
    gathering. My relatives all laughed. I really felt hurt and the belief that
    I could not sing has stayed with me throughout my life. It is particularly
    difficult for me, because I have spent many years as a performer and
    entertainer. I still don’t sing (except in my car or when I am home alone).

    However, I grew up as one of the many children who have been told
    at school or camp or other group events, “Just move your mouth and
    pretend you’re singing.” Well, I’m pretty good at that!”

    When I was sixteen years old, I went to a dancing school in New York
    where although dance was the prime focus, we were, as a group,
    expected to sing in the main studio before dancing. I did my standard
    mouth movements.

    Eventually, the head of the school began teaching a class in how to
    put over a song and dance. I decided to take it, although it was mostly
    little kids. The first time I went the teacher asked me to sing the song “Slowpoke.”

    “I told you I can’t sing,” I said. “I want to do patter.” I thought I could do
    this.

    The teacher ignored my request. He had two students stand one on
    each side of me and sing the song into my ears. It didn’t work.
    Then he sent me to a piano teacher. I went. She pounded out the
    notes and I tried to sing them. I couldn’t do it. Eventually, they allowed
    me to do patter.

    I was going to audition for a musical stock company and my dancing teacher cum singing coach (well his wife, not him) worked on a song and dance along, of course, with the pianist. It was a Gertrude Lawrence type song and combined talking and singing. I would sing a little and talk any notes I could not hit. It didn’t come out too badly and I went to the audition naively believing that because they would not know the song they would not know whether I was singing it wrong.

    I went to the audition convincing (and calming) myself with these thoughts The room was packed with auditionees and the first two I heard after I entered sang opera. You can imagine how I felt, but, again, I convinced myself they would not know the song, therefore, would not know whether I was singing it right. When I finally performed, I sang my song and then did my dance. As it turned out, the pianist was a volunteer from the audience who said she’d play, the the hired pianist did not show up. The volunteer did not know how to accompany dance. I finished my piece and was told to come to another audition.
    When I left the studio and headed for the dressing room, two young men
    were leaving the dressing room next door. “We liked your song and
    dance,” they said. “It was musical comedy, wasn’t it.” I thanked them
    and asked what they had done. They had sung “pop” and did not have
    much faith in it going anywhere. I didn’t think they knew very much if
    they liked my song.

    A short time later, I went to the second audition. The man from the first
    audition was in charge. I began to sing my song. “I heard the song,”
    he said. “You can sing!” Now let’s see the dance.” I couldn’t believe
    he thought I could sing. The man from the audition was the director and had been an opera teacher in Europe.
    I was accepted into the company. The first show was “Kiss Me Kate.” I was in the chorus and danced in the opening number with a partner and was to do a solo dance in another number. In that number, there were several performers and we each had to sing a sort of operatic line. I couldn’t/ wouldn’t do it. The director sent me to the pianist and told him to play while I sang. There was no way I was going to sing an operatic line. “If you don’t sing, you will not be in the number. I refused to sing. I was not in the number.

    Over the years, things have not changed very much. A few years ago
    I was performing at a community theatre. In a conversation with the director of the show, I informed her I could not sing (I don’t remember how singing
    came up.) In any case – at a rehearsal she put us all on stage and asked
    us to sing a song – any song. Everyone was singing at the same time.
    While they all sang, I kept repeating, “She promised not to do this.”

    It was not that I could not hear music. In 7th grade I came out the highest
    in a test where we students had to recognize rhythm, pitch, etc. When
    I raced home to tell my parents, they said, “They must have made a
    mistake.”

    Well, I never considered a singing career. Actually, my sister was the
    singer in my family.

    However. I loved to dance. I began taking dancing lessons at age 10
    and didn’t stop until I was seventeen. But sometimes the two talents are
    expected to go together.

    (

    • Hazel says

      Who needs to sing when they can dance? I was captured by your inability to sing even though you were determined to keep trying.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Sometimes the power of a parents voice stays with us forever and I congratulate you for your persistence in performing despite any negative messages. I kept thinking this story might end with someone actually telling you you had vocal talent, and that when you believed it yourself, your singing took off. Nice work.

    • Wendy says

      Lee, I thought this story was fascinating. There were so many twists and turns. It really made me think. Thank you.

    • Judy says

      Lee, I was with you from start to finish. Like you, I took dance lessons from 5 till 17 (tap, ballet & acrobat) but no singing–loved every minute of it. I greatly admire your skill to figure out how to do both and write of it with such vivid and engaging words. Thank you.

  12. Kira says

    “Twang!”

    The instrument seems to whine and moan in protest as I painsakingly strum out one of the notes from my Banjolin lessons. My little ChiPoo Banjolin (found on the streets of LA around the same time as a wrecked version of the instrument) is not impressed with my playing. Flattening her ears, she sneaks from the room with her tail tucked between her legs, searching for a safe place to hide from the hideous noise being emitted from her namesake.

    Having been a musician in one form or another for most of my life (singer, flutist, amateur songwriter) one would think that I would pick up the instrument and immediately create an approximation of the effortless thrumming and purring that my Mandolin Teacher manages to coax from the beautiful Banjo-Mandolin hybrid but unfortunately that is not the case. While the music dances and giggles in his hands it merely groans in mine, becoming a stiff and heavy thing in my hands. My fingers cramp trying to restrain the cords in proper position and my thrumming hand stumbles strumming the cords.

    Despite all of this I still gaze at the honey wooden support and cloud-like surface of the drum from my bed at night and then longingly pluck at the notes when I am alone. It is small and compact with a proud neck rising from its base, Looking at it gives me the sense that all I need is a shoulder strap, a tune and a napsack to be magically transported to a time and place full of freedom, joy and adventure. Together with my two Banjolins I could journey the world capturing the essence of laughter in the song under my fingers and the dancing and twirling of my little dog.

    I pluck at the strings again, concentrating on the fingering of the last cord, finally managing it with proper technique. At last I am able to play the first song in the book without complete ineptitude. Outwardly, I can see that my dog is still cowering in her bed, ears flattened despite my beaming grin. Inwardly I am beaming with pride, hearing the beautiful, laughing music that I will someday play on my Banjolin.

    • says

      Kira, welcome to the Roadmap blog. I loved this piece and your great love for your instrument. Your passion and excitement really poured through this piece. I was reminded of one of my all time favorite videos about how hard it is to be creative beginners. If you haven’t already watched this, I really suggest you give is a try: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PbC4gqZGPSY

      And please keep coming back!

      Laura

    • Karla says

      Hi Kira, thank you for sharing your writing here. I was completely engaged from the lovely details in the first paragraph. I think one reason why that paragraph worked so well is because I literally saw the movement of your little dog scooting out of the room, and the piece instantly came alive for me. I enjoyed it all the way through to the end.

    • Shellie T. says

      Kira, I loved reading this and it so reminds me of myself and my meager attempts to learn a few instruments myself, including the Mando too! What a great way of expressing your love for the remix of an instrument! I loved this piece, it makes me smile big.
      Shellie

    • Hazel says

      Kira, your story made me smile. I think the banjo is one of the hardest instruments to play that has ever been created. I was right there with you as you struggle to play your Banjolin. A very long time ago my husband along with my children bought me a banjo for Christmas. It took me until the next Christmas to learn one song that I could play well. It definitely is a recalcitrant instrument!

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Mary Carlson says

      What a beautiful dance you’ve created between your banjolin playing and your dog. I enjoyed the picture of your yearning to play effortlessly, like your mandolin teacher “thrumming and purring,” juxtaposed with the image of Banjolin, your dog, cowering in bed or fleeing the room. Great images, here. From one musician to another…a very nice description of the frustrated artist! Thank you!

    • Adrienne Drake says

      You have so much passion and love for your music and your instrument that it almost seems secondary whether you master it.. the joy is in the journey and you made me feel that!

    • Judy says

      Kira, thank you for this delightful telling and welcome to the Roadmap. What an engaging piece. I look forward to reading more of your post. Love this sentence, “Together with my two Banjolins I could journey the world capturing the essence of laughter in the song under my fingers and the dancing and twirling of my little dog.”

  13. Shellie T. says

    Clogging Conventions!

    I love going to Clog Dancing Conventions as much as my kids do, and we go twice a year on two different weekends. We learn different steps of clog dancing all weekend in class after class. They start out with such charge in the air, everyone is joyful arriving at the hotel who holds it in the conference rooms.

    Everyone in greeting mode, some having not seen each other for months at a time. People come from every part of California just to come to these events and we see them only at these events. They have literally watched my sons grow up before their eyes every year since they were both in Kindergarten-1st grade. Tim a few years before Trenton.

    After settling for an hour or so in our rooms, we grab our clogging shoes and off we go, heading to the first get together of the weekend to be. We have Cuers/Teachers that stand up on a platform type stage and tell us in the mike how to clog a dance, step by step. It’s a lot like square dancing in that each step has a name to it and can be arranged in any number of ways in a song.

    There are songs we learned back in 2001 that were popular so they cue those for us and we all join in the fun and clog through them for about an hour. Once a song is choreographed with moves, it is usually left that way for years, so people from all over the US, and other countries like Australia and New Zealand, can dance it the same way we do, that way they can visit and we all know the same choreography and dance it together.

    We then split up for classes to learn new songs, in Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced classes being in separate rooms. You can attend any you feel up to trying. I love clogging as your feet are your own percussion to any given song! I love to feel the beat under my body while scuffing stamping or tapping on the floor underneath me. Even the sound on the names on individual steps sound like the beating of the drums, Try this outloud:

    “Double step double step double step rock step”, that fits into
    “and a one and a two and a three and four”

    See how fun that sounds? Our feet hit the ground within those sounds and we beat the music out sort of speak.

    That round of words or four count step is simply called a Triple step, so when you hear the Cuer/Teacher say Triple, you say in your head double step, double step, double step rock step, and you have the step done. Cool huh?

    Try some more…

    “double step, double step, rock step, rock step, double step, touch right, touch front, touch right, rock step and chug.”

    That is called “ Fancy Double with an Outhouse Rock Chug.”

    Now do you feel like dancing? I do, I think I’ll go to clog class tonight and get back into it, as I’ve taken a few months off, and it’s time to learn Christmas songs for our Christmas performance in December. I hope I gave you a peek at something new in a fresh way, and you enjoyed it as I do. I may not be the best at it, but I love it, and have a great day!

    Shellie :) The happy clogger

    • beverly Boyd says

      Shellie,
      Take me to your leader!
      I’m sure I’ll be hearing “Double step double step double step rock step and a one and a two and a three and four.” all day, though my seventy six year old knees won’t be able to co-operate!
      this was delightful.

    • Hazel says

      Shellie,
      You are certain in love with clogging and your piece is infectious. I have never been able to keep a beat or dance a step in my life and I feel like signing up. Your enthusiasm shows. You got us.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Karla says

      Pure fun, the joy rings through in your words, such a lovely, loving look at a world I know nothing about, but want to. Thank you!

    • Shellie T. says

      Wow! Thank you all…I do love it, and writing about what it is I love about it has brought it back to me after taking that time away because of attitudes of a couple that spoiled it for a while. I must return with this new perspective, my old perspective is still alive, thank you all for the encouragement. :) I do smile when clogging.

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Don’t ever let anyone’s bad attitudes spoil your own, wonderfully sensitve joy that is so effortlessly expressed here!

    • Judy says

      Shellie, did you say clogging? Love clogging and was there with you every double step. My dad would clog when we were kids so thank you for the lovely memory. And yes, I can hear that delightful sound! Nice writing when you not only see a picture painted in words but have a soundtrack as well. Thank you. :)

  14. Hazel says

    To be able to take pictures of the little things that are so interesting but that I can never seem to bring into focus, that is what I would love to be able to do. They always seem to move so fast and I move so slow; things like dragonflies, butterflies, beetles and even toads and humming birds. I don’t really have the equipment to do super splendiferous photography but all my life I have been taking pictures and trying to take pictures of things that my camera was not really capable of.

    I had my first Kodak “Brownie” camera when I was ten and went to camp. I was told to be judicious in picture taking as the cost of film and developing could take all my allowance for many weeks or months to come. But, I took the pictures I wanted to take anyway and was disappointed that they turned out to be black and white and seemed flat; I wanted crisp, clear, living color. You can’t imagine the relatively exorbitant price of color film back in the day.

    In high school there was a photography class taught by one of the shop teachers. We had a dark room and there didn’t seem to be any limit to the amount of film we could develop (in black and white, of course) so I did a lot with enlarging and printing from my photographs and those of my friends as long as they gave me the “negatives.” I also learned to “tint” portraits. I took several of the portraits that I had tinted in that class to the local photography store and was hired to tint portraits for them for a year. As I said, this was before very much color photography was being done.

    When I am able to capture a preying mantis in the act of devouring one of the hated bugs that has been destroying the lettuce in my garden, it is very satisfying. The picture of the toad that hangs around the pond shows it is 4 ½ inches from nose to tail and that means that toad is nearly 20 years old. In the first place it is amazing that toads would be able to avoid being eaten by something else for that long and secondly it gives me goose bumps to think I have held this miracle in my hand and talked to it; that I have taken his picture several times. I see him year after year in my garden happily eating insects. Does he know that I love him? I hope so. When I am able to stop the cosmos from swaying with a snap of my camera and there it is with its perfect petals at a rakish, flirty angle it makes me smile. To look into a rose and freeze its opening at just the right moment, the peak of its freshness, gives me early summer all year long; I smell that rose-smell whenever I look at that picture.

    I wish I were a better photographer! On the 19th of this month I will be participating in yet another photography class to learn more about my digital camera and to refresh my mind on how to take better pictures. I can hardly wait!

    • says

      I love the passion you express in this piece and the exquisite love. In fact, I have to say I love this prompt in general. It’s so lovely to read about what people love–rather than what brings them pain. It’s nice to have a lighter moment here on the blog–one that pulls on our strengths, rather than bringing up back in touch with our deepest struggles.

      • Hazel says

        Laura,
        Amen! I like the upbeat mood of this prompt. How about more like this?

        Thank you for your comments on my writing.

        • says

          I agree, Hazel. Actually the truth is, these prompts are all preset a few months at a time–so the choices are all made between now and the end of the year, but after that–definitely I’m going to mix them up more. I’d like to vary the emotional intensity of the blog and the responses more–and this is one way to do that. So look for a more varied tone in 2014.

          • Hazel says

            Thank you. I think that will make for more interesting writing. I love this safe writing space.

    • Karla says

      Hazel,
      There is such a humbleness and a wisdom and a connectedness with nature thing in this piece, the combination of these things is like the small miracles you photograph. These are my favorite two sentences:

      “When I am able to capture a preying mantis in the act of devouring one of the hated bugs that has been destroying the lettuce in my garden, it is very satisfying.”

      “When I am able to stop the cosmos from swaying with a snap of my camera and there it is with its perfect petals at a rakish, flirty angle it makes me smile.”

      I saw you scampering about your garden (yes, I know you have a bum leg but you still scamper in my imagination) snapping these pictures, and it made me happy. It seems like you become more vibrant while engaging in your photography.

      • Hazel says

        Thank you Karla. I love to take pictures of the things I think most people miss. I am very connected to my garden; in fact, I just came in from planting more perennials so I won’t have to do so much planting next year. There is sort of method to my madness and don’t be surprised if one of these days you find a slide show in your e-mail. lol

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Your story brought me back to the days of my first Brownie camera and the 12 pics to a roll of B&W film, and how precious each picture was. Fast forward to the digital camera days. My head is spinning. Thank goodness you can “stop the cosmos from swaying with a snap of my camera”. We all need a way to do that and I am glad you have found yours!

  15. MaryL says

    October 1, 2013 – Today’s Writing Prompt:
    Tell me about something you love to do, but aren’t necessarily good at. Tell me about this activity in detail so I can love it as much as you do.

    The most exciting family game for us is bocce (lawn-bowling). You can learn about the history of the game, and memorize all the rules, but anyone – from the toddler to the eldest member – can play.

    No, I am not very good at the game, but I love it! It’s so much fun! Imagine this – two teams, all relatives, one tiny pallino (ball), and a couple of sets of bocce balls. Back and forth, on the untreated lawn – no need for mowing before or after – we take our turns, or forget and throw out of turn, though someone is always there as “keeper of the faith” to be sure there is no funny business.

    The game starts out slowly, almost leisurely, but you can feel the tension building. We are noisy during the high excitement of the game, unlike our usual sedate manner. We threaten to quit, or switch over to the other team; we promise there will be no dessert for the “losers,” and we laugh – big, fully laughs …. No matter what we are dealing with in our other life off the court.

    There are always disputes. Here are the official rules from http://www.ibocce.com/rules.html: “Disputes: The teams playing will referee their own game. Any dispute which cannot be resolved by the team capos shall be decided by one member of the Martinez Bocce Federation Board of Directors agreed to by both capos. Upon his/her decision the game shall continue.” We don’t know who these guys are, or if they have cellphones, so we just make educated guesses about who is right and who is wrong about the distance between two bocce.

    If a player or more is starting to get a little too intense, we have an out. Sometimes we will make a decision to stop once a tie score is reached – so that there won’t be any teasing at the meal – this is outside, and awaiting us is a sumptuous barbecue with salads and bread and watermelon (including the pit-spitting contests, usually won by an intense five-year-old.)

    One of the last and best pictures of my Mom was taken when she was with us for Labor Day and we were playing bocce. Someone asked if she wanted an arm to lean on. She snapped back, “Get… out … of … my … way!” You see, even fun has a serious side.

    My kids bought me a set, and I was supposed to be teaching the grandsons. They are already better than I am, except for a few wild shots now and then (mine, not theirs). They dutifully count the balls, return them to the sack, and tuck the pallino deep down, so it won’t get lost. I think they believe you just have to cancel the game if you lose it.

    • says

      I loved this, MaryL, because I’ve always seen bocce ball but never really known how it works–thanks for the primer and for sharing your love of the game. This is fun!

    • beverly Boyd says

      Maryl
      What great of a family having fun together. I loved the playful bickering of the bocce ball game and Grandma’s “get..out..of..my..way!” You tell it so well!

    • Adrienne Drake says

      There is something wonderfully solid feeling here about this family tradition that will be passed down through the generations. I kept waiting to hear the soft “click” of the bocce balls as I read along.

      • MaryL says

        Adrienne, thanks for your kind note. It’s three years since my mother died (Oct.17th) and remembering those special moments is deeply sensual … you know, visual, auditory, etc. That click is in my treasure box, which is tucked into my heart. MaryL

  16. Kat says

    I love to paint faces, even though my hands usually make a colorful blurred mess.

    It brings me back to a clear day in a small town, wide eyed and wielding a little tin of water-crayons with my friend Sarah. We stumbled in to a carnival festival on the shores of Lake Titicaca, and while the town danced and twirled, erected and then cut down a tree covered in pots and pans, ate and drank, we sat in the plaza and painted face after face. First the kids; butterflies, parrots, batman, snakes, stars. The shy adolescents who asked their arms be painted instead of their faces. A grandmother in a full skirt and round hat. Some very drunk men. I smudged a lot of flowers and made a lot of crooked butterflies, but I loved being part of the celebration rather than an observer.

    Studying someones face carefully, wetting the crayon, painting. It’s intimate, it’s soothing and it’s playful.

    Even though I create lots of dark smudges, it makes my heart giddy.

    • says

      Kat, welcome to the Roadmap blog. I loved your description of face-painting. And the joy it brings you. That seems to be the consistent theme in all these responses–what brings us joy. And it clearly doesn’t have to be synonymous with any particular level of aptitude or talent.

      I loved this line, “I loved being part of the celebration rather than an observer.” I think as writers, we often have a tendency to watch, rather than to dive in. I’m so glad you dove in.

      I hope to see a lot more of you up here, Kat. Welcome to our community.

    • Karla says

      This was lovely. The sense of taking advantage in the moment of an unexpected event, immersing yourself in it, the description of how you painted the faces, all of it was fabulous. And this: “it makes my heart giddy” as a closing phrase– wonderful description! Thanks for posting.

    • Hazel says

      Kat,
      What a lovely picture you have painted with your words, thank you for sharing. I particularly liked your statement: ” It’s intimate, it’s soothing and it’s playful.” It makes me want to come paint faces with you.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      I can see from your story how painting someone’s face can be an intimate and joyful way of connecting with a complete stranger. Thanks for sharing this lovely moment in time.

  17. Judy says

    WHAT I DO FOR LOVE

    I love life’s small stories—the everyday, common, often unnoticed miracles of the little urban events in my city by Lake Michigan. I love observing the interactions of different cultures, ages, economic, and the sheer variety that surrounds me. I’m reminded of the Jane Jacobs quote, “After all, the point of cities is multiplicity of choice within overlapping points.” I especially love writing about them—for me it is a form of loving practice.

    Traveling the Silk Road has been a dream of mine since my fingers traced the ancient trade routes of Turkey, Persia, India and China in the atlas my parents bought in the early 1950s. Swept away for hours imagining different peoples, shoppes, foods and spices—I would trek exotic lands on camel and elephant. Nearly forty years later on assignment as convention stage manager in India, I rode an elephant in Agra, albeit in a parking lot near the Taj Mahal. That’s as close to the Silk Road as I got and it exceeded expectation—next time, my feet will catch up with my fingers.

    Chicago is known as a city of neighborhoods with richly textured ‘small towns and villages’ where ethnic groups in diverse locales are linked, in many ways, like the Silk Road. So for now, I’m eager to be a tourist in my hometown. Instead of four legged creatures like camels and elephants, my mode of transport will be a diesel fueled 36 Broadway bus—which, to the chagrin of its users—too often travels in packs not unlike elephants in the sub-continent. I’ll travel north to Rogers Park, to Devon Avenue, then circle back south to Wells and Harrison, through the south Loop, and finally home to East Lake View on my Silk Road.

    I board the bus at Broadway and Cornelia along with a familiar neighborhood regular: Nomad John. We get on the crowded bus and I move to the back while, John, a harmless traveler, and man ‘without address’ stands in front of several people seated in the senior citizen seats near the driver. I know these things of John’s life because he gets his diabetes meds from the corner drugstore where my friend Kitty works. In his youth John must have resembled Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the famous pro basketball player and later Oriental rug scholar. His usual industrial sized black garbage bag is in his right hand as he clutches the strap above with his left. A handsome gray haired man offers Nomad John his seat but he politely declines. He holds the man in his gaze for a few seconds then says in a slow cadence, “Your Momma raised you up good.” Then, John leaves the bus at Waveland, two blocks north. .

    No wonder Carl Sandburg called Chicago the City of Big Shoulders.

    Four blocks east of Broadway is the Beaux Arts building that houses a French elementary and middle school—worthy of further exploration I make a note to check it out later. An eleven-or-so-year-old-boy, in a navy blue school uniform, must have run the four blocks from Marine Drive to board the 36 bus. He’s out of breath as he sits behind the driver. “Pardon me, madame,” he says with a French accent. He adjusts his backpack bearing the school’s logo. I notice his large brown eyes are heavy and his head bobs at each stop and start of the bus. Within minutes he’s asleep.

    The bus is getting crowded with people packed in the front who refuse to move to the back, ignoring the bus driver’s plea. It is very stuffy; these new diesel fueled buses are hermetically sealed. Are there no more buses with windows that slide open, I ask myself.

    At Argyle Street, the gateway to Chinatown North, three Chinese women of a certain age attempt to get off at the front– making it exceedingly difficult for a very large African woman– resplendent in a long dress and intricately wrapped matching turban, to get on. Besides the toddler tucked under her left arm like a sack of potatoes (most busy moms know this move), she is burdened with a full grocery cart. One of the Chinese women offers to hold the toddler, and the African woman accepts, smiling broadly as she passes the baby and slides the car into a slot reserved for wheelchairs. When she turns to take the toddler back, she reveals a surprise: a sleeping child wrapped in a fabric papoose hanging from her back. An elderly Korean man offers her his seat and the three Chinese women get off the bus—laughing.

    Meanwhile, the French school boy continues to snore gently, oblivious to all the activities taking place in front of him.

    At Edgewater, a tall, stately, elderly woman with an empty shopping cart gets on and sits in the wheelchair seats across from the African woman, her full cart and children. The woman personifies faded aristocracy. Her face is broad and her eyes bright blue. Her hair, a mixture of blond and gray, is tucked into a barrette tilted to the right. Her lips and cheeks are red, her posture impeccable. I fantasized her family as White Russians who immigrated to Paris preceding the Revolution before the Romanof’s were assinated. (My Russian friend Michel tells stories of his family fleeing to France around that time.)

    She snarls at an old man who bumps her shopping cart and then at the African woman sitting across from her. While stopped to pick up more passengers, the bus driver says very clearly to the stately woman, “We behave politely on this bus, madame. I’ve told you before; you can’t treat other passengers badly.” It’s obvious: they’ve been through this before.

    With the flick of her hand, she dismisses the driver, the old man and other passengers; then she stares out the window until she exits at Foster, mumbling something under her breath.

    In the meantime, a woman who got on with me at Broadway and Cornelia also notices the French boy snoozing behind the driver. As she exits the bus with the stately woman, she mentions the boy to the driver. She wonders whether he has missed his stop and suggests that the driver keep an eye on him.

    That prompts the driver to lean slightly out of his eat, tap the boy on his knee and say, “Wake up, son, wake up.”

    The boy appears somewhat startled, rubs his eyes, yawns, and says, “OK, OK.”

    “What’s your stop, kid?” the driver asks, and the boy says something and looks out of the windows, apparently assuring himself that he hasn’t missed the stop.

    As the French school boy exits the bus at Balmoral, a tall slim man in a Cubs baseball cap and a backpack with a Second City logo, gets on. After sliding his pass through the electronic fare counter, he tucks it into a slot in his fabric computer bag. While surveying the bus he announces, “Ladies and Gentleman, I am a travelling bard—allow me to recite that most off quoted speech by Mark Antony in the play Julius Caesar by Will Shakespeare.”

    As he recites the familiar, “Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears,” in a well projected and articulated baritone, heads pop up, smiles flash, and our eyes move first to “The Broadway Bard” and then the bus driver, who adjusts his mirror, but says nothing.

    While this master thespian moves toward the middle of the bus, we captivated passengers watch and listen in silence. We are spellbound by his lilting voice as he says, “….Brutus was an honorable man….” continuing slowly to the back door. When he finishes, there is a long pause, as when a symphony ends and the audience absorbs the pleasure of the musical moment. Then, one by one, my fellow travelers begin to clap until it builds to full applause, and someone shouts, “Bravo!”

    With that, our Broadway Bard doffs his baseball cap with one hand and pulls the stop request cord with the other; pushes the door open; and, wishes us fond adieu before he jumps off at Granville. Laughter fills the bus as the uninitiated board, looking quizzical.

    So there it is: my love story with a city where tiny miracles are found daily and I get to write of them–warts and all.

    • says

      Judy, this piece was divine and I just slurped it up. You made me want to ride the bus! I was able to nurture this observer’s mind when I was traveling this past summer in Bali and Scotland–I find it harder to do at home when I’m caught up in “my life,” but you’ve inspired me to try.

      I loved this line, my favorite of many wonderful lines, ” So for now, I’m eager to be a tourist in my hometown.”

      • Judy says

        Laura, you made my day with your response, thank you. There is more to the piece–my walk around Devon Avenue. What wondrous sights of the ordinary: like the young mom, walking swiftly from the grocery story, pushing her baby carriage, bundles laced to its sides, her bedazzled silver tipped tennis shoes flipping the hem of her berka. This juxtaposed with three your woman (possibly Rama) musing at a sari store as a gaggle of grade school children walk by pointing at the woman in the berka.

        The wheels on the bus………..

    • Karla says

      This was amazing and I loved the connection with the idea of the Silk Road. I think your ability to both observe and be absorbed in what you observed and then write about it later– it leaves me in complete awe. This piece was brimming with life, and love. I’m going to be in Chicago this weekend and this makes me want to spend some time riding the city bus (not my usual tourist activity). Thank you!

      • Judy says

        Karla, thank you. Thank gawd for high school shorthand classes which certainly aided in jotting down the observations (too bad I can’t read the rest of them LOL). ANY 36 bus ride is brimming with life and especially that day. Locals often quip that it leads to ‘that place off the map.’ Have a wonderful weekend and see you back on the Roadmap soon.

    • beverly Boyd says

      I loved this tour of Chicago on the 36 Broadway!

      If I picked what I liked I’d have to put the whole piece in quotes. I particularly like ” a harmless traveler… without address”. The rich descriptions of the landmarks and passengers and their interactions was so well done. I felt like I was right there on the seat beside you.
      You are a great tour guide. I was sorry when the trip was over!

      • Judy says

        Beverly, thank you for your kind comments. I learned the phrase ‘without address’ when volunteering at the local food pantry (a truly humbling experience). I’ll try to finish the ‘walk about’ on Devon Avenue and my Silk Road adventure south to Greek Town so the trip isn’t over just yet.

    • Hazel says

      Judy,
      The fact that you love Chicago comes through this piece loud and clear. I was so honored to be able to hop on the bus with you for this tour of the “silk road.” Everything about it shows just how familiar you are with your subject and also how much you really do love Chicago. I particularly liked the man giving the performance, the master thespian, what fun.

      Thank you for sharing.

      • Judy says

        Hazel, you would have loved the Broadway Bard. He moved from front to back of that bus with such grace and ease and didn’t skip a beat. That next to another experience of a two woman getting on at the university stop, one struggling with her walker, as the first woman straightforwardly asked, ‘okay, which of you lovely young people wants to give up your seat for this fine senior citizen?” Two sides of the front of the bus stood up to offer their seats. Simply makes you smile, yes?

    • Adrienne Drake says

      I loved the telling of all your tiny miracles. What a rich story of the human condition. A wonderful recounting of individual personalities. Your story makes me want to wake up and be more observant of my own life.

  18. Betsy S. Lee says

    SING–SING–SING!!!
    The passionate energy I felt inside of me wanted to burst through to the universe in song. That was one of my many loves. However, it was a love I would never for fill, except in private.

    Yes, I did have that great energy; however, for whatever reason I was not blessed with an ear for music. I even took singing lessons in the 70’s. Sometimes, for me to sing a song on key I would have to put my ear to the piano keys, play the note, loudly, the sound would go directly into my ear, then attempted to sing it.

    To sing properly you must have breath control. When I was a swimmer, as a young person, I learned to belly breath. For those who are not swimmers, belly breathing is when you take the air into your stomach and slowly release it.

    For singing, it’s quite different. You take a deep breath, so your diaphragm expands and bring the air up into your head. Then expel the air through your mouth as you sing. The deep breathing was easy; however, I couldn’t hold the air long enough in my head to be able expel the words to come out melodically.

    Being determined that I would learn to sing properly my teacher would have me take a deep breath, bend down and touch my toes at the same time. While still holding onto my breath I would slowly rise to a standing position. The air should now be in my head. Therefore, I should be able to sing the notes, properly, when I pushed the air out
    Well now, that just didn’t happen. As soon as I stood up and my body would reach where I was bent in half the air would disappear.

    Therefore, when I was perpendicular there was no air in my head to come out. Not good because the air would come from my nostrils and I would sound like a country singer. This was not what we were trying to achieve.

    My teacher was kind and patient. I practiced over and over. Once I did belted out some notes like Ethel Merman. WOW, I thought to myself, there’s hope. Yes, there is always hope, however in my case it would be like trying to turn my dark brown eyes blue without using contact lenses.

    I finally did quite. Nevertheless, I do sing in private. I’m a hopeless would be singer.

    Just an afterthought, looking back to when I was in high school and joined the Glee Club that when I should have gotten the message when the teacher said, “Betsy just mouth the words.”

    • Mary Carlson says

      Aaaugh! I’m a music teacher and this is killing me! No one should ever mouth the words! Betsy girl, you sing if it gives you joy!
      So here’s my deal: everyone has a vocal instrument, and gets to exercise it without judgment from others. The Lumineers have a great song: “Ho Hey” in which there is a chorus of singers just huffing on the words “ho” and “hey”. They provide the background for a lovely little melody. There is a place for everyone, and I hope you sing–or huff, with or without good breath control– in public, if it gives you joy!

    • beverly Boyd says

      Oh, Betsy, I’d love to take you under my wing! I have sung all my life, solos, small groups and choruses (also directed choruses and coached in that context). I have never heard a teacher advise breathing into your head. I also studied speech therapy in college so I understand the mechanism for producing vocalized sound.

      With all due respect to your teacher I believe your swimmers belly breath is closer if not the same as the deep sustaining breath for singers. I would suggest the next time you are in the shower, or where ever you feel comfortable, try taking a belly breath and then singing “ooh” on any note that comes out, letting the breath out slowly. When you get comfortable with that, sing the “ooh” with little or no unvocalized breath escaping. It is the breath passing over the vocal chords and making them vibrate that creates the sound.

      And I ditto every thing Mary said in her response! Keep on singing energetically and with joy.

    • Hazel says

      Betsy,
      I am looking at your writing and I love the way you tell the story of the teacher who wanted you to hold your breath while touching your toes. (Did they ever try that? Hmm!) Your story reached a place in all of us, where we wanted to fix the damage the teacher had done to you, so your story is a big success.

      We may want to empathize with you, but all of us in our own voice want to sing with you.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Adrienne Drake says

      Betsey, I loved watching all that air move around. I also love how there is a small amount of laughing at yourself going on here, so I could smile too!

  19. Mary Carlson says

    Hey, man, I love to dance. And when I do, I look a little like I’m giving birth. For some reason, I always have to spread my legs and kind of squat. I completely embarrass my music students, and don’t get me started on on 15 year old daughter.

    Twenty years ago I had a boyfriend who was a big fan of ballroom dance. I, of course, also became a big fan of following him around–simpering little female ornament that I was–to his ballroom dances. I learned to really like ballroom, and at the time, I never squatted at all. But my boyfriend kept glaring at me, saying “Frame!”

    Well, he married someone from Russia who never went ballroom dancing with him. And I moved to Nevada and became a music teacher, who squats when she dances as she teaches music, and mortifies her students, and doesn’t care at all.

    I never, ever, say to myself, or to anyone else, “Frame!”

      • Mary Carlson says

        Thanks, Laura! I’m loving these prompts, and the variety. Light, dark, deeply introspective…

        This is such a good discipline for me, and so satisfying to know that there is a small audience for one’s thoughts.

    • Hazel says

      Mary,
      I have never been able to dance. My body just can’t seem to get it together all at the same time to make the right moves, so I’m thinking of taking up “squat dancing.” lol

      I loved this piece it shows you being you, how refreshing. Your writing came alive and I found myself wanting to “get up and dance” with you. Thank you for sharing.

      • Mary Carlson says

        Hazel, I so appreciate your comments! It’s amazing how one’s personality comes through in writing. I feel like I know you…and would be happy to demonstrate the squat anytime. :)

    • Adrienne Drake says

      I loved the self-confidence you project here about your body. I am glad you simply squat when the spirit moves you. It just sounds so freeing and uninhibited. Thank you for this lighthearted sharing!

  20. Adrienne Drake says

    My first love was, is and always will be the study of medicine. To know medicine is to know the human psyche. Your joys and sorrows, traumas and passions are written all over your body, soul to surface, bones to brain. Nothing is hidden from your body. The body knows all. Each cell could tell your story, for everything is stored there, and nothing is ever forgotten.

    As a physician I am a detective. I unearth your past. And what I discover depends not only upon my knowledge, but also upon what you are willing to tell me. Make no mistake about it, eventually the body will speak. In the end, the body pays all the bills. Medicine is my passion. I am an archeologist of your archetype. I want you to reveal everything. I am not a voyeur. I simply can not help trying to figure you out.

    It took me a long time to realize that my professional privileges do not extend to the parlor where I find my probing questions are often met with surprised stares. In the real world knowing another person often takes a lifetime. I am learning to savor each layer as it is slowly revealed to me. However, in the sacred container of the exam room that trust assumes an immediacy. Perhaps those hallowed moments, those heartfelt sudden intimacies, are what I have always loved most about my craft.

    We can all become healers. That is part of our purpose. We are all capable of compassionate witnessing. In the connections forged in deep listening to another, transformation occurs. Herein lies the mysterious alchemy of life.

    Now that I am retired how can I keep my passion alive? Perhaps I will start to write about what I know. Maybe my writing will inspire others to take a deeper look at themselves in good ways. So be careful what you tell me. You may read about it someday!

    • says

      Adrienne, what a beautiful portrait of what medicine can be. It’s such a contrast to the 7 minute per patient sleepless model of medicine. I especially loved this part: “It took me a long time to realize that my professional privileges do not extend to the parlor where I find my probing questions are often met with surprised stares. In the real world knowing another person often takes a lifetime. I am learning to savor each layer as it is slowly revealed to me. However, in the sacred container of the exam room that trust assumes an immediacy. Perhaps those hallowed moments, those heartfelt sudden intimacies, are what I have always loved most about my craft.”

      Thank you for this profound sharing.

      P.S. I think you meant hallowed, not hollowed–so I took the liberty of correcting it.

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Thank you for your correction
        for those moments are so the opposite of hollowed!!! ;-) .
        I try to keep an open mind about what is happening in medicine. There are no easy answers.

    • Hazel says

      Adriennne,
      Your passion shows all throughout this piece. I liked that you are a detective and can ferret out the information you need from the body.
      “The body knows all. Each cell could tell your story, for everything is stored there, and nothing is ever forgotten.”

      As a former OT I know how difficult it is not to engage in the “detective parlor games,” even after many years.

      Your statements: ” Perhaps I will start to write about what I know. Maybe my writing will inspire others to take a deeper look at themselves in good ways. So be careful what you tell me. You may read about it someday!” seem hopeful from your point of view and give us readers something to look forward to.

      Thank you for sharing. I wish you were my doctor!

      • Adrienne Drake says

        I think once you have been involved in any aspect of caring for patients, you may retire from your occupation, but the medical bug never leaves. Perhaps that is why we chose our medical professions in the first place.

  21. Bobbie Anne says

    I love to sing, but I’m not as good at it as I’d like to be.I sing when I am at church. I like to sing there because other people are singing too so it doesn’t matter how I sound. I don’t think others are judging me there,
    and I actually feel safe enough to sing my praises to God.

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