Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Strappily Ever After

'After all, says etiquette expert Letitia Baldrige, a bride is supposed to look beautiful, not like a babe, when she walks down the aisle.'

No offense to friends who wore or plan to wear strapless for their wedding, but I do find this article very true!

When I was wedding dress shopping, it was nearly impossible to find a dress with any sort of strap or sleeve whatsoever. Women at bridal shops thought I was crazy to even want sleeves! When I would explain that I preferred that style, and that it seemed more appropriate for a wedding in the dead of winter anyway, they'd say, "Oh, you're getting married outdoors?" Oh good grief...In JANUARY in Erie, Pennsylvania?! No, I just want sleeves please!

I think the article hits the nail on the head for several different points. First of all, very few people actually look their best in a strapless gown. Secondly, if you're having a traditional wedding and people over the age of 40 or 50 will be present, it's likely that a number of your guests will think you're a skank rather than a blushing bride; baring your shoulders and back freely is a relatively recent trend for brides. I chose a lacy sleeve not only because it was what I wanted and thought would be most flattering, but also because I considered it more appropriate.

But wow, it is sure hard to find anything other than strapless these days. I ended up wearing a strapless gown with a lacy jacket over it. And I still had to hold the dress up with double-sided fashion tape, as my alterations had not been done well enough.

Keep in mind that I'm not saying it's a terrible look for everyone! I've seen a few people look stunning in strapless. But it wouldn't have worked for me.

Hat tip to Jessica for the link to the article!

Monday, February 26, 2007

I have a crush on music!

Yesterday someone accused me of not loving music.

"M___ and I were talking about you, and we think it's so sad that you don't love music."

Apparently this guy and a mutual friend sat around talking about me during the past week, making assumptions behind my back. They were wondering, he asked me... why do I even bother to play? Why did I major in music?

Ouch. Having two people who have heard me perform on numerous occasions accuse me of not loving music hurts. It makes me wonder if they're saying my performances didn't speak to them; if they're claiming my love of music doesn't show through in my playing.

I spent yesterday afternoon thinking a lot about the claims of these two guys. Of course, it's obvious that they're wrong, and that they don't know me very well. I love music like I love breathing - I simply can't imagine my life without it. It's interwoven in all my memories, my thoughts, my happiest and my saddest moments and experiences. It brings me closer to my friends and family, and it envelops the most memorable times in my life.

The reason these two fellows decided I must not love music is because of some statements I made about finding certain pieces boring and frequently finding myself disinterested at some types of recitals or other performances. I'm not afraid to admit it (although perhaps I ought to be, if people are going to judge me accordingly). I do find some music quite boring. I even believe that people can and should make value judgments about music: some music is better than other music. Of course, one person may find a piece charming that another person finds tiresome, but I believe that to some extent it is possible to make black and white statements about music. That said, I also believe that it's perfectly acceptable and normal for individuals to differ on their personal opinions and experiences with specific pieces of music. It's because music is both objective and subjective - objective as an art, I think, and subjective as a language that speaks to individuals.

I wonder about people who assume that if they do not see an expression on your face, a tear in your eye, a catch in your voice, then you must feel no such emotion. How presumptuous.

I would no more share the depth of my love for music with acquaintances than I would declare the personal feelings of love I have for FavoriteBoy. It's personal. Not only that, but I don't believe that a true love of music can be put into words. This is why I found it so odd when this guy challenged me, "Okay, if you say you do love music, then tell me why. Tell me what you love about music." I was truly bewildered. As Victor Hugo said, "Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to remain silent." Mahler put it this way: "If a composer could say what he had to say in words he would not bother trying to say it in music." (I believe the same holds true for all musicians; not only composers.) How then could I express my love for music in words? "I love music because it is beautiful"? In such a statement, it has immediately become trite, cheapened. The only thing I could think to tell this person in response was, "I don't know how to tell you in words why I love music. There aren't words for it; that's why I play."

Music is what our deepest feelings sound like when they don't have words. It lifts our wordless prayers and brings tears to our eyes when nothing else could have moved us to expression. There is a magnificent universality about it: I have my own joys and sorrows, thoughts and feelings, hopes and loves and yearnings, and music speaks to me in all these things. Yet the language of music is all-encompassing. It speaks to these experiences and feelings of mine while simultaneously speaking to those of a million others.

It is easy to profess to be a lover of music. Upon thought, however, I venture to say that anyone who declares that I do not love music because I have discriminating tastes perhaps does not understand the nature of love. I love FavoriteBoy all the more for knowing the ins and outs and quirks that make him FavoriteBoy. I love God the better for reading His Word and seeking to know Him better. I love music by working at it hard, practicing my skill on my instrument, and developing educated and discriminating tastes in music. Anyone who proclaimed love for a person without knowing that person would be thought a fool. Similarly, if I declared myself a passionate lover of Russian literature, a true connoisseur would laugh if he discovered that I have never read Anna Karenina or War and Peace and had no educated opinions on the subject of Russian literature. Knowledge is an integral component of love for anyone or anything.

My love for FavoriteBoy, God, and music is all far from perfected today; it's part of a process of learning them all better. I've come to the conclusion that someone who thinks that love of music is defined by loving all music and never being bored by any music may think himself a great lover of music, while in fact he merely has a crush on music. You know: infatuation, seeing all the perfection and none of the flaws. It's under-developed at best.

I'm still not afraid to admit it. I think Beethoven's 'Tempest' Sonata is a bit dull and repetetive. I'm not thrilled by a restrained performance of Schubert's F minor Fantasie for piano four hands. But I find Beethoven's Violin Concerto sublime, I think Brahms' G Major Sonata for violin and piano is indescribably beautiful, and I doubt you could find a person not moved by the Andante from Bach's A minor solo sonata.

And if two people cannot see or hear my love of music in my playing, well, there are two hundred others who have said they can.

Yes, I love music.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

He's a Keeper

This morning my wonderful husband dashed out the door about ten minutes before we needed to leave for church, saying, "Be right back!" By the time I had finished drying my hair and was ready to go, he was back. He handed me my spare car key, and I went outside to find my car waiting for me, all warmed up, and with a full tank of gas. My husband is the best!

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Sneaky Wife

As some of you know, my FavoriteBoy has a hard time eating things that are good for him - namely, any and all fruits and vegetables. The texture makes him choke or gag. It's so sad; even things I've always thought of as 'treats' - strawberries, raspberries, watermelon, mmm! - are abhorrent to him.

Well, I want him to be healthy and live forever, or at least another 70 years with me, so I try to encourage him to try things whenever possible, and sometimes I even resort to sneakiness. Tonight, FavoriteBoy ate about a cup of steamed broccoli and red and green peppers.

I cooked it all, blended it up in my Magic Bullet, mixed it thoroughly into our spaghetti sauce, and served it up over whole wheat pasta with spicy chicken Italian sausage on the side! The broccoli changed the overall color of the sauce just slightly. As soon as Nathan had a bite, I asked him eagerly, "How is it? Does the sauce taste okay to you? Does it taste normal?" He said it was all delicious and tasted normal to him. So of course, I confessed my trickery since husbands and wives shouldn't have secrets or sneakiness between them. He still ate the whole plateful!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

An Update - In List Form

1) My second nephew entered the world on February 10! Go to my sister's blog to see some pictures. He is really beautiful. He doesn't have that typical new baby look... you know, the kind where you say, "Oh, how cute," but really mean, "Wow, I hope he improves with time..." Unfortunately, I probably won't get to meet little Thomas for a while, because I'm in Massachusetts and my sister is in California. This is sad, and if I were rich I would visit my family more often.

2) Pimples?! PIMPLES?! What am I, seventeen years old? It's this horrible weather. It's so dry I get a nasty shock anytime I touch anything. If I brush against FavoriteBoy's stereo equipment, it zaps me and crackles loudly. It's so dry I have to put tons of lotion on at least once a day. And I still itch all over. And the result of the dry skin/excessive lotion combination is... I look like a teenager. Wasn't that supposed to be over at least five years ago?

3) My parents aren't doing well. Mom went back to the hospital last Wednesday. She got really sick while at home, and couldn't keep her meds down eventually... meds that helped control anxiety, depression, pain, etc. Poor Mom. Poor everyone at home, really. When she went back to the hospital, the doctors thought they had discovered another bleed in her brain. It turned out that everything was okay, but... scary time period. I didn't know about it until after we knew things were all clear, but Dad did, of course. He's doing better now than he was for a while, but he's pretty discouraged. Mom's sort of relapsed - she's not moving much, and she's getting more confused again. And I hate to sound childish, but I can't help thinking, "It's just not fair." Hasn't she already had all she can deal with? Haven't we all?

I really miss my Mom. I know that probably sounds morbid. She's not really gone, after all. But I used to call several times a week and we'd just talk. I'd ask her how to make a certain recipe I liked, or tell her what I'd made or done or organized recently. She kept me up-to-date on news in her homeschool co-op and in our community, and was a great listener about my life and thoughts. Now, every day I look at a picture of my parents up on my bookshelf and think how strange it is that things can change so quickly. I can't quite wrap my mind around it, this happening to my Mom.

Three and a half months ago, a good day was good lessons for my students, a good practice session on my violin, a good day at co-op for Mom, a good day at work for Dad, an evening spent with FavoriteBoy, a good chat with Cara or Melissa or Emily. Now a good day is Mom moving her arm a little further than yesterday, holding herself up in a chair a few minutes longer than last time, remembering what happened earlier in the day. A good day is Dad staying in reasonably good spirits and me not wanting to cry every time I think about my parents.

I don't understand God.

Tuesday, February 6, 2007

Roller Coaster

My Mom is continually in need of prayer. She was recently transferred home from the hospital, and the transition has not gone as smoothly as we had all hoped it would.

Think of my sister, too, who is overdue to give birth to Thomas, and needs rest and strength to prepare for labor whenever it finally begins in earnest.

Jenn's grandma died recently, and I'm sure her family seeks comfort as they miss her and feel the loss of her presence in their lives.

A few weeks ago it was discovered by a nurse in the hospital where my Mom was that my Dad's blood pressure was through the roof - "a stroke waiting to happen." He went to the ER and was monitored for a while and eventually put on medication to treat the problem. Certainly the strain of my Mom's condition has Dad, her primary caregiver at this point, under a lot of pressure. It's really hard for all of us, but Dad does the day-to-day work of helping Mom. I know that Emily, Jonathan and I miss her and want to be with her and wish we could help...I've never felt as torn as I've felt these past three months. Mom and Dad need me... Nathan needs me. We could consider moving back to California when Nathan finishes his final semester of piano lessons... but my parents don't want us losing all that we've established here in Massachusetts - jobs, students, teachers, opportunities, friends.

Anyway, it was really scary to hear that about Dad. Every child knows that someday her parents will most likely need some kind of care, but I never imagined I'd need to grapple with these questions and issues at the age of 23. And my Mom is only 49. Too young for all this.

Obviously, things are rough for my family right now. It's strange: I feel like a pendulum swinging back and forth between great joy and great sorrow. My life is a roller coaster of emotions right now. I spend the evenings with Nathan feeling blissfully happy; I call home and want to cry. And of course, we all exult in Mom's overall progress, but are also constantly aware of the long road ahead.