Friday, April 29, 2011

What a Wonderful World

Yesterday I had my last class of the first year of my master's degree program.

Even though I still have a ten page paper (subject: Roy Harris and the Cold War) and a jury (repertoire: Paganini Caprice #14, Brahms Sonata No. 2, Bach Fugue from the C Major Solo Sonata), I can't help feeling like vacation has arrived.

Which means that even though I need to be studying and practicing, I can't help wanting to start all the projects I've been wanting to do, like sewing cloth napkins, going thrifting, and organizing the upstairs.

Today I compromised: I worked out, practiced, taught lessons -- and still found time to go for a walk with camera in hand.

The world is so beautiful right now.

On my doorstep:

In my backyard:

And in my front yard:

I meandered around the neighborhood. The trees are explosions of color:

The sky was the bluest blue today:

Yes, it was the kind of day where even weeds looked beautiful:

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Easter: In Retrospect

Easter was different this year. For one thing, it was the first Easter in five years that didn't involve being at the church where Nathan worked; since he resigned from that job earlier this year we've been attending a new Anglican church and loving it. We're both singing in the choir there - and Nathan's brother Andrew, too - and have gotten to sing some really lovely repertoire. Holy Week meant about 15 or more hours spent in church all told, and while it was time-consuming, it was also more than worthwhile. It was my first Easter Vigil ever, which I think bears mention, and I hope I never forget the glorious Alleluia proclamation and the way the whole church rang with hundreds of handbells, every person in the church ringing joyfully with all their might. Afterwards there was chocolate, chocolate, and more chocolate for everyone and people milled about like one big family. And then the next morning - more church!

We had about a dozen people here for Easter festivities and dinner, and I'm really grateful for the help of Andrew in cleaning the house for the occasion. He's seen this house at its worst, at times when I've been far too busy with school and work to stay on top of household tasks, and he's never judged me for it; on the contrary, he's always willing to lend a hand. What a good brother-in-law.

This year I decided to make cakepops for Easter. I'd seen them on Bakerella's blog, and subsequently pretty much everywhere else, too, and I'd really been wanting to make them. They're just so darn cute. Sadly, I was too busy being busy to take any good pictures; I just snapped a few really quickly.

Oops, I'm getting ahead of myself. Before the cakepops there were appetizers, and then there was dinner food: homemade rolls, herbed potatoes, fresh green bean casserole, salad, and the obligatory ham.

And along with the cakepops, I also made my Mom's carrot cake recipe and a two-layer coconut cake. The coconut cake marked my first time making a "seven-minute frosting," a frosting with an egg white base. It was pretty easy. All in all I used my Grandma's old double-boiler at least a half-dozen times in my Easter preparations - including for this icing - and I was really glad to have it. After she passed away, my brother and sister-in-law packed up some of her kitchen things and sent them to me. It's fun having not only the special-occasion kinds of things I inherited, but also the double-boiler, the spatulas, and other everyday memories in my kitchen now.

Again, too busy being busy to take good pictures. Oh well.

In the end, everything was devoured.

Well, almost everything.

What was left, Nathan has since devoured.

And that was Easter 2011.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011


Some thoughts I have had over the past year or so:

You see
not so long ago
I decided...
that instead of wishing my nose were straighter
or my neck were more slender
Instead of wishing that my shoulders were narrower
or that my body were more 'proportionate'
[by someone else's standards of preferable ratios]
Instead of wishing my stomach were flatter and my legs were longer
I would be grateful
that my physical features tie me very concretely to my family.
To my parents
and to my grandparents
and to generations beyond that.

If I were taller I might feel more elegant.
But Grandma was about 5'3" or 5'4" like I am.
I guess I don't mind it so much after all.

My quirky eyebrows?
Those are my Mom's.

And that very light brown birthmark on my side
matches the one my Dad has in the same place.

My Grandaddy once told me with a twinkle in his eye,
"A girl without broad shoulders just doesn't have that special something."
Of course, I got those broad shoulders from him,
so he's biased,
but I don't mind.

I got my wide feet from him too, and from my Mom.
They tell me that those feet are our "firm foundation" in life.

My dark brown eyes are my Mom's,
and they remind me of my Dad lovingly calling her his "Big Brown Eyes" for 32 years now.

My teeth are straight and never needed braces.
[I'm not sure who I got that from, but thank you.]
And people tell me that my smile is beautiful
[because all smiles are beautiful, of course.]

My brown hair is not as dark as my Mom's
or my sister Emily's or my brother Jonathan's...
it's more like my Dad's and my brother Christopher's.

My eyes squint when I smile - not as much as Mom's or Jonathan's - but some.
I've actually been asked - more than once - if I'm part Chinese.
Nope! I'm part Sawtelle - my Mom's side of the family.

My sense of humor is a combination of both my parents I suppose
with some of Grandpa mixed in, too
and my siblings and I love to joke around together...
we are a family that loves to laugh.

And you know
even the weird brown spot on my left underarm...
Well, that is my Dad's too,
and when I think of it that way
I don't mind it so much anymore.

When I look at my hands, I see both my Mom's hands and my Dad's hands in them.
I'll never forget the way those two sets of hands look;
I suppose because I've watched them used in selfless service -
for each other,
for me,
and for my siblings -
for so many years.
May my own hands become so quick to help others.
And when I use them to prepare meals,
to clean up messes,
or to squeeze someone else's hands in my own,
I guess it doesn't matter so much that my fingers are short.
When I put my hands to good use,
I think of my parents' hands:
Dad's hands guiding mine when he taught me to use power tools,
and Mom's hands over mine on a rolling pin as we made pie crust together.
Dad's hands scribbling equations when he helped me with math homework,
and Mom's hands giving me my first piano lessons.

I guess the point is,
I love my family
and I decided to love the fact that I am connected with them.
in the kind of person I am
in my character
and my way of talking
and the things that make me laugh
and in the way I look.

I like knowing that I carry their genes.
It's cool.
Amazing, really.

So a while ago,
I decided to try to stop complaining about these things about myself -
the things that sometimes make me insecure -
and instead, to start remembering that they connect me to people I love.

You see,
this is me.
I'm not Natalie Portman or Penelope Cruz.
They are beautiful, for sure.
But I am Sarah...
I am my mother's daughter
and my father's daughter
and my grandparents' granddaughter.
I am my siblings' sister.
I am my nephews' aunt.
This is me in all my genetic quirky me-ness.

I am myself,
but I come from a long line of people I love
and I owe my birthmarks and freckles and squinty eyes and funny-shaped eyebrows
to people who came before me.

These inextricable links that tie us together
are pretty special.

So next time you look in the mirror,
instead of thinking
"I hate that bulge"
"my nose is crooked"
or maybe
"I wish I had curves in certain places"

You can think
"Hey, I look a little bit like so many of the people that I love."

And that
is really something.

Not The End Anyway

A couple of weeks ago I played for the memorial service of someone who must have been quite a lady. I never knew her; she was the mother of a really kind woman I know from the church where Nathan used to work. This woman had asked for me to put together a string trio and had specifically requested the sprightliest selections from The Four Seasons during the prelude time. I felt a little bit uncertain about playing such cheery music for a memorial service, but when I read the following quote in the program my mind was immediately put at ease.

From a taped letter to her daughter, May 1975:

"Don't you kids ever keep me alive on treatments... or anything like that. Let me die in peace. And also, when you get around to the funeral for me, don't you dare play dreary music, and don't you dare be dreary. I want you to play Glenn Miller and do the Charleston down the aisle and play Fiddler on the Roof and Godspell and... You can cry because you're going to miss me, but for Heaven's Sake - whenever - I've had a helluva good time and that's how I'd like it ended. Be cheerful! 'Cuz I have a faith, you see, that says that's not the end anyway. So... it's the beginning of something else. Make it fun! Emphasize the fun things that have been going on around here."

She was an actress, a mother, and a grandmother who loved to sail and had, by all accounts, a very adventuresome spirit.

The beginning of something else. I like that.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

"She Was Not Very Tall..."

When I saw this photo of the two of us, I thought of Sheldon Vanauken. So I took a picture of his words, and put them next to the picture of us.


Monday, April 25, 2011


Dear Maria,

Thank you for bringing me a pack of sour patch kids at today's youth orchestra rehearsal. Those two loud boys who kept misbehaving really had me at my wits end, and you made my day brighter. Of the kids in the orchestra this year, I have three favorites. You're one of them. Shh, don't tell the others.


Friday, April 22, 2011


We sang a wonderful hymn in church this evening. The text is by Carl P. Daw, Jr., who Nathan happens to be taking a hymnology class with this semester.

How shallow former shadows seem
beside this great reverse
as darkness swallows up the Light
of all the universe:
creation shivers at the shock,
the Temple rends its veil,
a pallid stillness stifles time,
and nature's motions fail.

This is no midday fantasy,
no flight of fevered brain.
With vengeance awful, grim, and real,
chaos is come again:
the hands that formed us from the soil
are nailed upon the cross;
the Word that gave us life and breath
expires in utter loss.

Yet deep within this darkness lives
a Love so fierce and free
that arcs all voids and--risk supreme!--
embraces agony.
Its perfect testament is etched
in iron, blood, and wood;
with awe we glimpse its true import
and dare to call it good.

Dare to call it good. Isn't that a wonderful text? So full of poetry and alliteration, and even an Othello reference: Chaos is come again.

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?" which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And some of the bystanders hearing it said, "Behold, he is calling Elijah." And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down." And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, "Truly this man was the Son of God!"
- Mark 15:33-39

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I suppose it was only a matter of time until my interest in yard sales, thrift stores, and "old stuff" turned in the direction of fashion.

I've suddenly decided that what I want, what I really want this summer, is a 1950's bathing suit.

So, since I've found this urge to channel my inner Marilyn, I decided to use Polyvore to show you just how fabulous 1950's-style swimwear can be.

( case you didn't already know.)Modcloth Swimwear
Esther Williams Swimwear
Fables by Barrie Swimwear

You can click through each of the above sets to see where you can buy these suits. Unfortunately, they're a little on the pricy side. Glamour like this doesn't come cheap I guess.

There's also this fabulous suit:

And this one, which I love:

And if you're looking for the real deal, this vintage Jantzen yellow gingham suit is available on eBay right now:

And this vintage red suit is currently available on etsy:


[Don't you?]

Accident Waiting To Happen

Nathan: So, the other day I was carrying my ladder by standing underneath it, and I got pretty freaked out when I realized my hammer had been right on top of it while I was carrying it. Directly above my head.

Sarah: Be more careful! You could have died!

Nathan: I don't think I would have died, but I might have only been able to play in the key of C Major after an accident like that.

Monday, April 18, 2011


Every time I think about the coming summer - which is all the time, actually - I get positively giddy. Yes, I said giddy.


I can't wait.

Please, summer, come quickly.

Please, finals and juries, go away.

This summer I want to:
plant a big vegetable garden like I did last summer
keep working on my flower beds
get back to practicing yodeling (yes, really)
learn German
buy a ukulele and learn to play it
get better at using my wonderful camera
try lots of new recipes
sew more cloth napkins and other useful things
go thrifting and antiquing and to lots of yard sales
go to the beach
explore a different nearby town each weekend:
Harvard Square,
maybe even Kennebunkport, Maine...

This summer I'm also going to 'band camp' (my name for any and all music festivals, even the most hoity-toity ones) for the month of June. Unless I back out and stay home. Why would I do that? Well, because right now the thought of doing more orchestral playing [even good rep at a program that will look good on my resume and to which I get to go for free] is seriously cramping my style.

I'm trying to think positively about how band camp will be such an enriching experience instead of thinking of all the things I'll be missing out on doing with Nathan and friends here at home.

I mean, band camp is well and good, but I've got to be gardening and taking pictures and practicing my yodeling and learning some new ukelele skills! I have vegetables to grow and towns to explore and thrift stores and yard sales to visit!

I said I was trying not to think about all the things I'd be missing out on while I'm at band camp. I didn't say I was succeeding.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


This Japanese cell phone commercial is probably the most unique commercial I've ever seen. The star of the 3-minute video? Bach's Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring, unlike you've ever heard it before.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Thrifted Skirt

A while ago I bought a plaid wool (?) skirt at a favorite consignment store on Newbury St. I thought it had potential.

This morning I cut about six inches off the length of it and hemmed it, and promptly decided to wear it for the day.

I'm wondering when it might be from. Is it 70's? (It looks a lot like the second skirt here, from the 70's...)




What do you think?

Actually, I really like it.

But I have plans to further improve it -- it has a lot of gathers at the waistline and I'm thinking that by making the waistband slightly bigger and having it fall a bit lower on my waist (it's currently very high-waisted) I would have more material to spread the gathers over. We'll see.

[I hope it's not some legitimate vintage piece that I'm ruining with my hack-job sewing.]

I think it will be great to wear in the fall.

The Morning Cup

Chai tea. Raw spun honey. Almond milk.

"Spread The Light..."

Monday, April 11, 2011


Talking to the children's orchestra I conduct, the following really happened:

Sarah: Do any of you know what "chamber music" is?

Dennis: Is it music you play in a chamber pot?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Thoughts On Prayer

Lately I've been reading through some of my unpublished blog drafts from the past few years, deleting some, wondering why I never published some, and musing on some of the more pensive ones. I think I know why I never published this particular one; it seemed too personal and too incompletely formulated at the time.

I no longer feel worried about having written it... it's just thoughts of a girl from almost three years ago. I don't even know if it's what I think or feel on the matter now, but nonetheless, I find my former thoughts interesting. [Maybe only to me.]

Written on June 19 of 2008, shortly before the death of my beloved Grandpa:

Sometimes I think that in my family we are always waiting for the next medical bomb to drop. In this state we are happy and content, but also a tiny bit tensed, like your arms when you know something heavy is about to fall into them. There are my Dad's ongoing health problems, then my Mom's brain aneurysm, then my Dad's diagnosis with a degenerative muscle condition, and of course my own small unsolved health problems.

When my Mom had a brain aneurysm a year and a half ago, I found myself occasionally too numb to actually pray; tired of repeating the words, "Please, God, please, God, please, God," the thoughts coming so fast they tripped over one another. And at times I had no knowledge of whether the prayers made a difference.

Of course, they did make a difference. But in those days I found myself thinking a lot about the purpose of prayer. I knew the basics; I was not so naive as to think that because we pleaded for Mom to recover, she would. I did not think that hope, or faith, or trust would automatically bring about Mom's full recovery. When other Christians said to me, "I know your Mom will recover fully, because we are in constant prayer for her," the words seemed trite and almost made me angry. One only has to read the headlines each day to know that prayer does not effect immediate healing, recovery, safety, and health for everyone.

As it happens, my Mom did live, and is making a wonderful recovery. I believe that God heard our prayers, and I believe that He cares about every person in the world, as overwhelming as that is. But I also believe that Mom could very well have died, and that if that had happened, I would have needed to find a way to continue to believe that God cared and that His nature had not changed. God is no less Himself in the midst of suffering or grief. I cannot say that God answers prayer because my Mom lives and turn a blind eye to the friend whose parent died, the friend whose mother has cancer, or the family members who have suffered from disease and looked death in the face.

What I believe about prayer is simple, and perhaps many Christians would say it is wrong. But it is what makes sense to me in light of a God who promises to reward faith, trust, and hope; a God who says He is with us to the very end; a God who allows suffering and does not always "answer" our heartfelt prayers with anything close to understandable.

Prayer is, perhaps, mostly for us. Prayer doesn't do God any good, although He loves for us to pray and to be in fellowship with Him. He would still be God if we never prayed, would still allow suffering to take place, and, sometimes, effect healing.

As it is, we do pray, and whether it "changes God's mind," or "was always a part of His plan," or has no effect whatsoever - those are questions far beyond the grasp of a poor pilgrim such as myself. Perhaps God's sovereign plan is carved in stone, or perhaps He can indeed be moved to the action of healing by the pleas of His children. What I know is that prayer changes me, and I wouldn't be surprised if that were the point of it all. When I prayed, "God, heal my Mom. But not my will, but Thine be done, O Lord," I didn't need to say that because I knew that God's will would be done, and that everything was completely and terrifyingly out of my hands. But the more I said that, the more my will became conformed to the possibility of a future that wasn't what I wanted or thought was best, but a future that was still held in the hand of an omnipotent God who would still love me. When I prayed, I entered into God's presence and could experience His peace. The benefit of prayer was not that God granted a specific request - although, in the end, my Mom came out of her coma and began a process of healing - it was the praying itself that met my most basic need: the need to be in communion with my heavenly Father.

In this sense, God answers all our prayers in the very moment that we pray, because in that instant the purpose of prayer is fulfilled as we are drawn into the presence of the Lord through the blood of the Son and the intervention of the Holy Spirit. As I pray, "Heavenly Father, comfort my friend..." I gain a deepened sense of compassion myself. If I pray that I might be a better wife, daughter, sister, friend, perhaps I am already becoming such by my earnest desire and the action of praying. How could time in God's presence not serve to better a person and make her more Christ-like?

And whatever we're praying for, whether it's a six-year-old's yearning for a bike or a twenty-three-year-old's yearning for a mother to recover fully, it's really, beneath that, a yearning that we might have life, and might have joy, and might have it abundantly. And THAT, we have already been assured, God will grant to each of us in truly unique and eternal ways.


So I asked today, as I do so frequently these days, "Lord, thank you that I could see him again. Please take him home soon, and release him from his suffering." But I knew that it might be soon and with minimal suffering, or it might be long and with much. We are told that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much, but I am righteous only through the shining pureness of Christ, and common sense and the history of mankind both remind me that many more righteous than I have not had their prayers answered in ways they might have hoped for. What I do know is that by speaking that prayer, the purpose of prayer was fulfilled as I entered God's presence. And, more importantly, perhaps the man I prayed for also speaks a feeble prayer as he knows he will soon see God face to face. In doing so, he spends a moment in God's presence, and becomes that much more fit for eternity.

Grandpa died on June 24, 2008. Oh, what a difficult summer that was - the first death I experienced in my family, and someone I was so close to and loved so much. And now, three years later, I still find myself thinking of things I wish I could ask him, or tell him, or talk about with him. I miss him.

Saturday, April 9, 2011


"You should have a podcast, because your blog is so funny. A Sarah Marie podcast would be really successful!" -Miriam