Friday, May 30, 2008

A is for...

Here is the first entry in my Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life.

A is for Adulthood: It's way less scary, and way more fun and wonderful than I ever imagined it would be. (I think a lot of that has to do with the guy who's sharing my adult life with me.)

A is for Aunthood: On April 8, 2005, my first nephew Jonathan was born and I became an aunt. Since then my second nephew, Thomas, has joined Jonathan, and my third nephew is due to arrive in September. I love my nephews and I love being an aunt. I only wish that I lived nearer to them - Massachusetts is rather far from California. You can see pictures of my cute nephews (and their wonderful mother, my sister Emily) in this post on Emily's blog.

A is for Aging: It's happening. I'm turning 25 in a week and a half, and 25 seems very old. I started feeling my age when I turned 22 and realized that after 21, there are no more things to look forward to with the advent of a specific age. At sixteen, I could get my driver's license. At eighteen, I was an "adult." At twenty-one, I could drink alcohol - not that I do very much anyway. From here on out it's just plain getting older. In a week and a half I'll definitely be in my "mid-twenties," leaving my "early-twenties" behind me. Over the hill, here I come!

A is for Art: In middle school and high school I used to draw a lot. A LOT. I think I wasn't bad at it. I still have spiral bound books filled with animals, plants, people, and cartoons from those years of my life. Sometimes I think I should pick up my sketchbook and pencils again - I might enjoy it.

A is for Autometrix: My Dad's awesome company. He designs and builds automated plotting and cutting machines and writes software that interfaces with the cutters. Seeing these systems in action is always impressive!

A is for Aneurysm: My Mom had one in her brain, which burst a year and a half ago. She was in a coma for a long time, and today her recovery is an ongoing process. I blogged about her condition and her recovery at Sandy's Recovery for quite a while. Now, nineteen months later, Mom is doing so well! She never gives up, always setting new physical goals to achieve. It's difficult, though - she is too young to be going through this; she shouldn't have had to re-learn things like walking and climbing stairs, but she has had to. When a baby is learning to walk, and to bend over and pick up an object, and to co-ordinate his muscles, he occasionally gets quite frustrated if his body won't behave the way he wants it to. But imagine the frustration if you once could do these things - could do them without even thinking about them - and suddenly you can't, and you have to learn all over again. Mom is very brave. I'm not sure if I could have handled a situation like hers with as much grace, dignity, and humility as Mom has shown.

A is for Alimony ...Just kidding!

That's all for now.


After lunch today I had a "cookie" - a no-bake cluster of combined soymilk, peanut butter, carob powder, oats, wheat germ, flaxseed, protein powder, and agave nectar. With no refined sugar, these "healthy" cookies were fun to make and are something I can actually eat. The peanut butter and carob are sweet enough on their own, and I only needed to add a little bit of agave (a low glycemic, natural sweetener that doesn't aggravate my headaches).

After eating lunch and the cookie, I entered the foods into my SparkPeople nutrition page, bringing my calorie count for the day thus far to: 666.

I guess even "healthy" cookies are of the devil.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Les Miserables and Left Hands

Last night I was in a rehearsal for an upcoming pops-type concert featuring choirs and soloists in mostly broadway numbers. Midway through the folder of music was One Day More from Les Miserables. When I was in high school, I loved Les Miserables. I saved my precious pennies and bought myself the three-disc complete recording, and I knew every single word to every single song backwards and forwards! It's been, let's see, seven years since I graduated from high school (!!), and at least as long since I've listened to those CD's... but as I played that piece last night, every word came to mind like I had listened to it yesterday. Isn't it amazing how the human brain can store information like that, dormant for years, and then bring it back? In fact, as a kid I could memorize entire movie scripts by watching a film just once or twice. Sometimes I wonder how much of my brain space is wasted today because of that charming habit...

More interesting still, a woman from the second violin section approached me during a break in the rehearsal last night and asked where I went to school. I answered, and she replied, "Of course! I knew it! You studied with J____ B_____; I could tell the minute I saw your left hand, just by watching you play. He is the most incredible violinist. I went to New England Conservatory, but he wasn't my teacher. But I still go to all his recitals to this day. You play like a student of his!"

Pretty interesting, huh?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Strings And Things

According to a note jotted on a slip of paper in my violin case, the last time I replaced all four strings was one year ago. Since that time I have swapped out an unwinding A string for a new one, but the other three are past their prime, to say the least. It's just that with strings being so expensive, and the fact that I don't do much solo playing these days, I kept putting off the inevitable.

Unfortunately, in the past year the prices have gone up. The four strings that used to cost me $60.00 are now going to cost me $82.36! Sigh.

Frugality just doesn't seem to go hand in hand with owning and maintaining a reasonably nice violin. (My former teacher used to urge me to upgrade to a nicer violin that would "only" cost me about $40,000 or $50,000.)

Monday, May 26, 2008

Spark Stuff

I recently discovered that offers a wonderful set of tools that you can use to track your eating, your exercise, and even to find some tasty, healthy recipes. And membership is free! It's just a terrific and helpful online community. So naturally, I joined. I've actually been keeping track (on charts I made on the computer) of everything I eat, what workouts I do, and how I feel for the past year; SparkPeople just makes it easier. One of the tools is a Nutrition Tracker and Meal Planner. The site has millions of foods in the database, so when I select, "Strawberries, frozen, 0.5 cups" and add it to my smoothie ingredients for breakfast, it automatically adds the calories, grams of fiber, percent daily values of everything, and more. In the beginning stages it can be time-consuming to use the program, but I'm creating my own "Recipe Box" of things I make the most often - mostly smoothies and a few other favorite dishes. Once I've entered the recipe in my recipe box, I don't have to add each ingredient to my daily food list; I can just add the recipe and the program totals up the ingredients for me. Also, any time I use a SparkRecipe another user has shared (and there are lots of great ones to try!), I can click to add that to my meal, and again, the website does the work for me. At any point in the day you can see your caloric total and make sure you're staying within a 1,200-1,300-ish range (or whatever you select as your own optimal intake).

In the Fitness Tracker and Workout Planner section, you can select to add your own workouts or to be inspired with a new workout idea from SparkPeople. Lots of popular kickboxing and other workout videos (including some of the ones I own) are already in the database with information like average calories burned, etc. Tell the site what tools you have available (whether you have free weights, an exercise ball, or a whole gym at your disposal) and it'll limit suggested exercises to things you can easily do.

I'm still in the early stages of my SparkAdventure (I'm so clever), but so far I think this site is going to be a great tool in my ongoing pursuit of a healthy lifestyle. You should give it a try, too!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Still Sick

As I mentioned in my last post, Nathan and I both came down with colds on Tuesday. It is now Sunday. He is all better, and I still have a sore throat, a cough, congestion, and a general feeling of weariness and ickiness.

My Dad pointed out to me that obviously Nathan's dietary choices are better for healthy living, since Nathan is consistently in better health than I am, succumbs to illness less frequently, and when he does succumb, recovers more rapidly. Maybe I should give the pizza and chocolate way of life a chance...

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Battling Colds

Thanks to a piano student who recently showed up to her lesson with the words, "I have a bad cough, and my throat kills!" (What are some parents thinking?!), FavoriteBoy and I are both nursing sore throats, runny noses, and coughs today. Because Nathan is such a great husband, he stopped on his way home from a rehearsal this evening to pick up a bag of oranges for me to juice.

While vitamin C is my weapon of choice when going to battle with a cold, Nathan has a different method. After handing me the bag of oranges, he pulled out the items he picked up for himself: chocolate milk, chocolate pudding, and pizza rolls.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Boys Will Be... Succinct

As FavoriteBoy and I continue sorting through his old papers from high school, I find myself occasionally wondering how that tall, literal teenager found himself successful, loved by all his teachers, and a National Merit Scholar to boot. One of his History Study Sheets asks the question, What did Hus mean when he said, "To rebel against an erring pope is to obey Christ?" Nathan's answer:

"This is a literal statement, and the meaning is obvious."

We were so different in our approaches to school work! I remember that in high school I would never write just one sentence if thirty would serve to better explain a topic. Obviously Nathan took quite a different approach!

"Life Partners"

FavoriteBoy is going through old schoolwork and records as we try to reorganize our second "bedroom" (which we just use for storage). This evening he came across all his schoolwork from 9th grade health class, which has provided both of us with a great deal of amusement. "Activity 12" from a workbook asks, "What Do I Want My Life Partner To Be Like?" Nathan laughed when he came to this and declared, "Let's see how you measure up, babe!" Here's what he had written:

Personality Characteristics: friendly, funny
Educational Level and Goals: fairly intelligent (I hope I meet this nominal expectation!)
Interests and Hobbies: music (I'm pretty sure I "measure up" in this category at least...)
Views on Religion: Christian
Political Opinions: Republican
(Check, check)
Appearance: clean, not ugly, etc. (This is just awesome.)
Health Goals- Attitude Toward Fitness/Nutrition: healthy, not too obsessive about fitness or nutrition (Oops; does going to the gym five days a week and eating things like spinach smoothies and garbanzo bean sandwiches qualify as "obsessive" about fitness and nutrition?)
Attitudes About Life and Leisure: good to have fun, watch TV, etc. (The season finale of Bones is on tonight at 8:00, and we'll be watching it!)
Financial Goals and Objectives: successful, well-off, not "Bill Gates-rich" (As two musicians, I doubt we'll ever have to suffer by being "Bill Gates-rich.")
Attitudes About Having Children: positive (I like children!)

We both got a kick out of reading that. Nathan also came across a paper on which he had written down everything he ate over the course of three days. The list includes things like "Four English Muffins," "Three servings of spaghetti," "A package of chocolate chip cookies," and "Pizza." It's nice to know that his values and habits have been so consistent over the years.

Friday, May 16, 2008


This morning I had an MRI. I had never had an MRI before, so it was fascinating to me to be slid into the tunnel and hear all the (extremely loud) buzzes, chirps, and whistles while the machine took images of my brain. After about ten minutes of lying there, the technicians slid me out to inject contrast dye into my veins before more pictures were taken.

Now, every time anyone has to stick a needle in me, he or she tells me how my veins are so small and fragile and evasive and generally difficult to stick. Today was no exception, but at least the guy doing the stabbing was humorous! After needling my right arm and digging around this way and that for a while, he gave up and tried my left arm. With this one, before inserting the needle he slapped his hand on the inside of my arm several times. He grinned at me and said, "I've seen them do this on ER. Let's see if it works!" I replied, "Is that how you received all your medical training?" "No," he answered, "I also watch House."

The other notable part of my trip to the Magnetic Resonance Imaging Center was that I got to wear scrubs, and I discovered that they are quite comfy.

Now I have in my possession a CD with dozens of images of my brain, which I get to keep forever. Cool! I think I will post one of the pictures so you can all see what I look like. Ha-ha.

Here I am:

Now I ask you, doesn't that brain look large and powerful? Yes?

I think so, too.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's a Small World

Listening to this just makes me smile!

And here's another cute one...

You can thank me later for bringing back all those wonderful, happy childhood memories.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

Two of my blogging friends, Melodee and Ashleigh, have done a wonderful blogging idea called An Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. Ashleigh got the idea from Melodee, who evidentally got it from a friend of hers, who got it from a book by the same name (which I've never read).

I'm a little late to the game, but I've decided to do my own Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life. Look for future posts on my everyday life and experiences from A to Z!

If you're a blogger and you decide to start your own Encyclopedia, leave me a comment - I'd love to come read yours.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Awards Celebration

This evening was "awards night" for the beginning children's orchestra I conduct as well as all the other orchestras within the organization. The executive director of the orchestras prepared certificates for each child, honoring their year of participation in the orchestra. In addition to these certificates, I made awards for each child in my orchestra, celebrating them for accomplishments like "Outstanding Musical Achievement," "Attention to Conductor," "Cheerful Attitude," and "Exemplary Behavior." As I was trying to think of an award for each child, I was worried that an "Exemplary Behavior" award might seem disappointing compared to an "Outstanding Musical Achievement" award... but then, if everyone were outstanding, then it wouldn't be outstanding, would it?

My fears that an award for good behavior might be a disappointing one were put to rest in a very touching way. Phillip, one of three recipients of the "Exemplary Behavior" certificates, came forward to accept his award with teary eyes. His mother explained to me later that, as an energetic kid, he had gotten into trouble in school lately and his teacher deemed him a "trouble maker" sort of student. He was so thrilled to be acknowledged for the effort he made to sit quietly in rehearsals and pay attention.

I hope the other students' awards meant half as much to them as Phillip's meant to him. From the most overall outstanding students to the ones with good posture, good behavior, or cheery enthusiasm, I truly appreciated each student's contribution to the ensemble, and I meant each of those awards from my heart.

Along with the giving of awards, we also had a pizza party. I was very happy to see that all the kids from my ensemble eagerly crowded around me to talk, or urged me to sit down at their tables, or asked me questions about my life. How wonderful that the fact that I am their conductor, and the enforcer of rules, did nothing to prevent the kids from wanting me to be their friend as well. If anything, I believe that insisting on an environment with high standards of behavior does more to help the students thrive and be happy.

The kids weren't the only ones who left the party with something in hand; the parents chipped in on a gift card for me. Even better, they put together a frame with three pictures of me and the kids from our concerts, and the kids all signed the matte. It's something I'll treasure, a reminder of the first year with the first kids in the first orchestra I conducted - the first of many years to come, I hope.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

A Letter to My Nephew

Dear Jonathan,

Today marks an important day to remember – the day you were baptized into the Christian church as a child of God. Today at my church here in Massachusetts, we celebrated Pentecost, Mother’s Day, and the baptism of a baby girl named Hope. As she was baptized I thought of you, and of hope – the hope your parents have in God, and how they earnestly pray for you that you will follow Him always. Pentecost – what a wonderful day to celebrate your baptism and the Holy Spirit in you. I thank God for you – for your healthy body and your inquisitive mind, and especially for your spirit, which I know your parents are carefully nurturing as you grow up and learn what it means to be a member of the body of Christ. I love you, Jonathan Phineas. I’m so glad you’re in my family, and even gladder that you’re in the family of the Church.

Aunt Sarah

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Anything Goes

Over the past week I got to play in the pit orchestra for the Cole Porter show "Anything Goes." Playing the swinging rhythms of 1930's music in the middle of a big band was a new experience for me - and I loved it. With three trumpets, three trombones, five reeds, keys, drums, percussion, guitar, and bass, I felt a little out of my element as the lone violin in the ensemble, but what fun it was!

I told my Grandma and Grandpa about the show in an email, asking if they knew the tunes - songs like "It's De-lovely," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "You'd Be So Easy to Love," and "You're the Top." They wrote back,

"That's our kind of music. We know all of them. Now that is music."

(I want to do it all over again already.)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Two Concerts

The children's string orchestra I conduct had two concerts over the past two days. They played a nice arrangement of Ash Grove and a fun arrangement of Can Can. The concerts, I suppose you could say, marked my "debut" as a conductor. (My only prior conducting experience was in a course in college.)

I have really enjoyed directing this group, and I've learned a lot about how children and rhythm often don't go well together without a lot of hard work! On Sunday I also learned that sometimes even with four months of hard work, you can still encounter difficulties when mixing young children and rhythm. In the first of the two concert performances, the cellos and first violins actually pulled so far apart during the first ten measures that I had to stop the ensemble and have them start again from the beginning. Of course I beamed at them all reassuringly as if this were the most normal thing imaginable, and the first attempt had been a mere warm-up. (Inside I was dying of embarassment and desperately praying that we could make it through the piece with a fresh start!) We started again and made it through, with repeats and first and second endings and dotted rhythms and eighth notes and everything! There was another slight rhythmic problem near the end; this time I just kept going and hoped the audience wouldn't know that the first and second violins were supposed to be together during those two measures, not echoing each other.

The Can Can, being a relatively simple piece for rhythm, went noticeably more smoothly.

The good news is that third and fourth graders can do no wrong in the eyes of an audience. As I raised my hands for the children to stand when they finished playing, we enjoyed a roar of applause and encouraging cheers as we bowed together. Who cares if the cellos can't count or the first violins were dragging the tempo? They are all just so cute!

The second concert, held yesterday afternoon at a senior center, went a bit better - no stops and re-starts were required. Again, the audience (a room full of appreciative senior citizens) loved seeing and hearing the kids play.

I'm really going to miss those kids over the summer. I love that job!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Two Hours With a Drip

My Mom recently underwent surgery to remove a bone that had grown embedded in her muscle as an unusual after-effect of the stroke she had over a year ago. The surgery went well and has already helped her mobility a lot, but she came down with an infection, and now she has to have antibiotic treatments dripped into her veins twice a day at the hospital.

Last night I talked to my Dad on the phone, and he said, "We won't be able to go to church tomorrow because we'll be doing two hours with the drip." Without thinking, I laughed and replied, "That sounds pretty similar to some church services to me!"

My Dad pretended to be appalled at my cynicism, but in truth he knows I got it from him.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Bizarre Compliment

"Every time I hear you play your violin, I go into a trance."

- A Woman at Church

(I'm not sure that's the effect I hope to have on my listeners, but I suppose one can't be picky when it comes to compliments.)