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One major reason for my love of Vermont was that my daily environment was so soothing, centering, relaxing... my home, my commute and my workplace were all incredibly beautiful and peaceful. That did a great deal to sustain me during the last two years when my life was stressful in other days.

I don't have that here. Our apartment isn't bad, but there's no acre of land, and no river out back, nor deck and bird feeders. My new workplace/church is quite uninspired architecturally, and tends towards cluttery. And while there are beautiful spots along my commute, mostly it's urban and definitely not soothing.

Recently at a craft show I encountered Cynthia Schmidt and her "cranky cats." I treated myself to several of her notecards; and though cranky or scared cats are her trademark, I realized when I got home that I had chosen the few contemplative, peaceful images in the collection. My deep reaction to the pretty little cards made me realize how much I miss that peaceful surrounding. So I framed up my two favorites, and created a little meditation spot on my dresser. There's also a rose fashioned out of thin metal, my "Buddha board" and a teacup of water. (The board is fun-- you paint on it with water, and the painting fades away within a few minutes. I sketch or scribble something every morning while I'm getting dressed.)

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Pics

Jul. 1st, 2015 08:51 pm
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A lovely young deer on a recent walk.

Three more )

Stuff

Jun. 22nd, 2015 10:07 pm
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It's been a while.. what's been going on?

Last week the kidlet was offered her old job back, in Vermont. It was a tough choice, she spent days on it-- and decided to stay here in Albany. Main reason, in the end, was that she doesn't want to be a cook all her life, and the Vermont job is so comfortable that it would be hard to break away. Here she's got a less comfortable cook position, but forward momentum in a couple other areas of her life.

My arm is still healing, but there's still a little crater that hasn't closed. I see the doctor again tomorrow; he has mentioned the possibility of restitching it. It is small enough now to cover with a large adhesive bandage, which is a relief after a month of wearing a gauze pad held in place by a stretchy mesh tube (which my piano student calls my elbow sock). Saturday there was a large funeral at church, and during the reception afterwards probably a dozen people chummily linked arms with me as we talked! So the elbow sock is coming back for big church events for a while!

After months of planning and negotiating the church has a new sound system. It's been a very challenging process for me. Attempts to upgrade the system had been dragging on for years before I came, and there was a grim determination to get the job done this time-- and I felt deeply uncomfortable with the sound designer they were working with. Professionally, he's very invested in contemporary praise band style worship, and I felt he was pushing us towards the kind of system needed for that; and personally, he was very LOUD and longwinded, so that it was hard for me to even be in the room with him. I gave in to the inevitable, and just pressed to get everything I could possibly use added to the system.

Surprisingly, once he got the contract Sound Guy became a bit quieter and much less long-winded, and we began to have some decent conversations during the installation. And as he put the finishing touches on, he gave me a couple of real gifts. We decided to mike the piano, so that we can very lightly boost it in the front of the church; it sits in the back, in a really awful position, right in front of the organ pipe box (as the worst aspect of an otherwise improved arrangement back there). That boost vastly improves a not-wonderful instrument. And because of its location in front of the pipes-- we are actually doing some subtle magic on the organ, creating a hint of reverb where there is virtually none, and also boosting the rather wimpy bass (only one 16' stop).

Next challenge-- selecting a new electronic keyboard/digital piano for the church, and persuading my committee to actually go through with buying it. There's designated memorial money that's been sitting idle for FAR too long, and the keyboard will be truly useful.

Reading

Jun. 17th, 2015 10:54 am
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I've long eyed novels by Beverly Lewis at the library with a mixture of curiosity and revulsion. They are romances set in Amish society, often at the intersection of Amish and "Englischer" (non-Amish) folk. I rather assumed prettified versions of the Amish life. I finally picked one up last week, and then another (free) on Kindle.

It's worse than I thought. Lewis uses the setting to preach evangelical theology. In the first book I read she never explicitly condemns Amish theology, but does so implicitly through the way the plot plays out. The second book I chose actually depicts a schism among the Amish, with a large group of Amish discovering the wonders of independent Bible study and all coming to be 'saved by the blood of Jesus'-- and ultimately separating from their Amish congregation. The condemnation of Amish beliefs is more open here, with a second layer of implicit criticism that adds up to a pile of nastiness-- all still in that pretty setting of homey sweet-smelling kitchens and plain dress. I feel icky.

In happier reading, I picked up two nonfiction books this week, in two of my abiding areas of interest-- theology and food. (My third major interest is nature studies, of course.) It turns out that they have a common thread: the use of words, and influence of language on thinking. One is wearing God by Lauren F. Winner, and it explores metaphors for God-- asserting, among other things, that most churches not only cling to masculine language about God, but to a very small assortment of images of God out of the many that can be found in scripture. The other book is The Language of Food by Dan Jurafsky. I'm only a couple of chapters in, but so far it's a very fun look at both names of foods and descriptions of food/dishes. For example, he points out that use of French words in high-end restaurant menus has been largely replaced with descriptions of the origin of the ingredients. I am looking forward to further reading in both books!

Pics

Jun. 16th, 2015 04:26 pm
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Pics from the last few days. Here's an amazingly happy-looking muskrat having a snack!

Four more )

Vermont

Jun. 10th, 2015 11:09 pm
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So, I've been to Vermont and back again. I had offered to play for funerals, schedule permitting, since I left, but there's a short list of folks whose services I particularly want to play; one of those passed on last week.

I made arrangements to stay with friends Tuesday night so that I could practice this morning. That meant I had time on the way up to drive around my old area for a couple of hours. I drove past the house, of course, but also visited a lot of my favorite nature spots. It was wonderful to walk at the places I love again, but very painful too. I love Vermont more than anyplace I've ever lived. Though I am enjoying exploring my new area, and am finding beautiful places, it's just not the same; way too many people here, especially.

I stayed with my beloved Plourdes, and had lots of time with the children. Lillian has gotten over being shy with me, and interacted with me quite a lot. The older girls had prepared my guest room, so I had Disney princess sheets, a Winnie the Pooh blanket, and the prettiest nightlight I've ever had.

The funeral was particularly intense for me because more than ever before, I was playing for the family. I am far closer to the widow and (grown) children than I was to the deceased; and they are music lovers, so I knew they were taking advantage of the speakers in their waiting area to listen even to my prelude. I was able to time things so that I played one special request as they were waiting to enter. And the soloist lost herself in the moment; it was amazingly moving.

Playing was really extraordinary for me in other ways, too. The wonderful instrument, marvelous acoustic, really amazing hymn singing... I lost myself for much of the service too. And... more than half of those in attendance were from outside the church, and had never heard me before... and I sensed that they were listening, far more than is usual. There was chatter, which I totally understand at such a gathering; but it was very quiet, and died away entirely as I reached the final moments of each piece, and while I started the next. I have a sense that my music was actually noticed, not just background... it's a nice feeling. And someone hummed along audibly when I played a setting of "Shall We Gather at the River."

Then afterwards, much time with old friends, and many hugs, and then the lovely drive home. Very tired now, very glad I went.
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1) Took my bike out for a short spin on Saturday, with my elbow well wrapped. Discouraged at how much condition I've lost in 3 weeks, but it was nice to ride again.

2) Did a full-to-overflowing worship service on Sunday. (I played the Sunday after the accident, and was in urgent care hours later; the next Sunday was a planned absence.) I had my usual full complement of hymns and organ music. But in addition it was "flash choir" day. I had invited anyone who likes to sing but can't commit to choir to join us an hour before worship, where choir and visitors alike would learn an anthem on the spot. I had all but two of my regular choir, and five visitors, and the anthem went beautifully, so I'm calling it a success! I also had several other people tell me they would have liked to make it but overslept, couldn't get kids moving, etc.

3) Went to the 3-church combined youth group meeting in the evening to work on music for an outdoor service next week. The kids have not been involved in planning, so are understandably unenthusiastic, but to my relief they are fairly good-natured about it.

4) Practiced today for a funeral in Vermont on Wednesday. I left a standing offer to come back for funerals as needed; but I also have a short list of folk for whom I'll proactively offer, and one of those died last week. It will be an honor to do his service, and a pleasure to see my friends, but I wish I felt better prepared and more recovered!
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So, when last we wrote, I had been to urgent care with a high fever, gotten my elbow unstitched, gotten new antibiotics, and the fever was dropping again.

This leaves me with quite an unsightly mess on my elbow. I lost some skin in the accident, the surgeon had gently pulled edges together to stitch. Removing the stitches early, to clean out suspected infection, let some of the edges pull apart. So we are in a wait-and-see state right now, hoping that the arm will manage to heal across the gap. Otherwise I'll probably be having a small skin graft.

The next news was that the sample from the wound was completely negative-- no MRSA but nothing else either. Which means the source of the fever was internal and is still unknown, and I was still supposed to finish 2 weeks of broad-spectrum antibiotic because of the still open possibility of MRSA.

I continued to muddle along... arm hurts quite a lot, plus I thought I was slow recovering from the fever (which was quite scary high). Then Sunday I felt quite ill. Monday I woke up feeling really good-- and 90 minutes after taking the antibiotic I was miserable. Really nasty headache, stiff neck, fatigue, and depressed to the point of tears over feeling so awful. Called the doctor, and that qualifies for "stop taking it right away."

Looked forward to waking up finally feeling better today but no... the effects of 3 weeks of antibiotics finally caught up with my digestive system, despite faithful use of probiotics. Yet another miserable day, but I am hoping I've turned the corner now, after 12 hours.

I'd really like to get a pass on at least one side effect or complication, please! Maybe send lots of good thoughts for NOT needing a graft?

Pics

May. 29th, 2015 09:21 pm
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Native wild iris- purple flag. Yellow, which is non-native and invasive, is far more common, so this was a cheering sight.

Five more )

choir

May. 25th, 2015 09:42 pm
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My little choir at Delmar Prez is just 10 regulars, but they can do amazing things. We keep a calendar where folk can mark anticipated absences so I can plan music accordingly. Even so, when I realized that Pentecost fell on the holiday weekend, I made a point of specifically asking; 9 out of 10 said they could and would sing. I loaded up with more music than we normally do, to make rehearsal worthwhile, as this is the last time they'll sing.

When I got injured, early on Wednesday I sent email around asking folk to be as prompt as possible to rehearsal... and heard crickets for more than 24 hours. Then three people cancelled for practice. I had four women for rehearsal, and learned of one more cancellation for Sunday.

By Sunday I wasn't feeling well, and arrived at church very discouraged, expecting only the four women and one man. My husband doesn't sing parts well, but I told him I was desperate for support on the two passages that were supposed to be men only so he agreed to sit in. I told Pastor Karen how discouraged I was when I arrived, then went on about preparing... and the next time I turned around, Irene who thinks she is a natural baritone (probably isn't, but for Sunday it was fine) was sitting with the two men; Karen had recruited her. Then one of the cancellations showed up after all, and at the end of warmup another walked in, and they sang their hearts out, and even got applause once.

I also was helped out by a talented teenager who played a prelude on violin and postlude on piano with only a few days' notice. So in the end I felt well supported, despite some bad moments.
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So, recovery seemed to be going well until Friday. I felt very washed out on Friday and registered a very slight fever in the evening. Saturday my temp still ranged around in the 99 point whatever range. I phoned the plastic surgeon and didn't even get an answering machine; phoned my GP's office but never got a call back from the on-call doctor.

Sunday morning, more of the same-- and I discovered much later that I never took my morning meds, which may have contributed to the downward slide later. I played for worship, which will get its own post. When I got home my temp was over 100, and after a nap it hit 102 so we headed for Urgent Care. It was a comfortable place and not at all busy, so about as comfortable as such a visit can be. The doctor took the stitches out, took a sample for culturing and redressed the wound. He also changed my antibiotics. I did have a wait before the nurse came to discharge me, and felt increasingly miserable. When the nurse came in, he took one look and said he wanted another set of vitals. He took my temp over and over, and checked my chart, so of course I asked... 104.6. He left, and got authorization to give me a megadose of ibuprofen and my first antibiotic on the spot (and was muttering a bit about the doctor).

My temp dropped steadily the rest of the day; I felt truly dreadfully ill for several more hours, and then began to revive a bit. Today I'm mostly back to where I was on Saturday-- fever between 99 and 100, not doing much but sitting or sleeping. Tomorrow morning I see the plastic surgeon again, and might get results of the culture and a more targeted antibiotic. I am a bit nervous because the Urgent Care doc mentioned the dreaded words 'antibiotic resistant' as a possibility.

A friend and I have been remarking on how incidents like this shed light on the way illness and injury are portrayed in 19th century literature. If I am this miserable now, where would I be without those antibiotics and ibuprofen? Also the feeding of invalids. Yesterday I ate almost nothing; and even now, anything too rich, or a normal serving of anything, causes misery.
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Carol Scott:
well, what you really need to know is that i felt worse this morning, and really worse after church, and we are in the process of deciding about urgent care, maybe after i nibble somehing
MaryAnn:
Oh, Christ.
What kind of bad?
Carol Scott:
fever is up a bit too high, very sleepy, occasional mild chills
MaryAnn:
Oh, man.
Thank God for antibiotics.
Carol Scott:
*nod*
MaryAnn:
I'm not sure whether I'm glad that you made it through service.

Carol Scott:
heading out... fever 102, mild chills, slightly elevated blood sugar
MaryAnn:
I am holding my thumbs for your speedy recovery and general comfort.
Carol Scott:
hope, have already had starter drugs
MaryAnn:
*still clutching*
Carol Scott:
so i arrived at church feeling discouraged after yet another cancellaion, leaving me with one man
bless Karen, she went and recuirted Irene who at least thinks she is a natural baritone... and I recuited David who doesn’t do parts well but can do melody, and one of the cancllations showed up
and a soprano who was a maybe came, so i had a pretty good group
i think the morning was a bit purgatorial for Irene who wants to do things RIGHT but i am grateful for her willingness
MaryAnn:
Oh, thank goodness. I had been wondering about pick-up possibilities, but expected you were, too.
Carol Scott:
we got applause for the offertory :)
MaryAnn:
Hurrah!
Carol Scott:
may i cut and paste that later/
MaryAnn:
Please!
Are you able to stay sitting up?
Youo sound wan.
Carol Scott:
i am a limp dishrag... i’m reclining, with a cold pack on my horhead
MaryAnn:
Oh, good!
Carol Scott:
i really can’t remember feeling this bad for a long time
MaryAnn:
*nod* Road rash is really terrible stuff, and can kill you.
Carol Scott:
it’s not the road rash, it’s the laceration
MaryAnn:
I include that as part of it, though I suppose it doesn't technically count. The whole thing is a very large serious injury(ies).
Carol Scott:
yup, but the road rash is nearly healed now
MaryAnn:
Already! Wow, excellent!!!!

more pics

May. 22nd, 2015 06:24 pm
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My beautiful boycats, Oscar and Felix

Two more )

Pics

May. 22nd, 2015 05:52 pm
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Nice to spend some close-up time with a heron!

Four more )
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A longtime online friend (LJ, then FB) posted about a concert that would be held at her church-- a fundraiser for restoration of their 130 year old pipe organ. It was about 2 hours away (at least by the direct route), and the weather looked promising, so I decided to go!

Of course I didn't take the direct route; I went wandering through the Berkshires, bought asparagus and jam, and took pics which I will eventually process and post, and arrived at the concert a few minutes late. But I only missed the opening bits, and throughly enjoyed a concert of not only organ music but also other local talent.

Afterwards all were invited to come see the organ and even go into the surprisingly large pipe room, and of course I did. After my turn among the pipes, I hovered around the console while another audience member made many comments and asked many questions and took up the prime spot behind the console. The organist who was demonstrating finally asked if he would like to play, at which the visitor said "Oh, no no no" and backed off... so I said "I'd love to, if I may!" So I scooted in and started checking it out. The person guiding folks through the pipe room leaned out, looked startled to see me there, and then asked, "Could you play something on the manual please?" So I did, and then on the pedals, and then operated the swell pedal, and in short did the entire demo, and had a blast doing it. What a treat!

Then my friend and I had dinner together and a nice chat, and I headed home by the faster route (after plucking a parking ticket off my windshield-- oops!).
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Last night I made arrangements for my husband to leave me his SUV, with bike rack on, so I could go riding a new stretch of bike trail. This morning-- can't find my SUV keys, so I went out on the close-by trail instead. Had a lovely time spinning around, 8.5 miles... and then, on a downhill stretch, hit a large bump and lost control. Obstacles on this path are supposed to be painted, and this one had been, but was very faded. Went down hard on my right side, but don't seem to have hit my head; need to check my helmet for scrapes (in which case I will replace it).

Found my glasses and sunglasses, both undamaged, did a quick self-assess. Not dizzy, no extreme pain, but lots of scrapes, and my right elbow bleeding rather impressively. Luckily I had carried more water than usual, so hosed off all the wounds quickly, then wrapped the elbow. Called hubby for a ride home. While I waited, peeked at the elbow, and realized it needed to be cleaned out by a professional, at least, so called my doctor. (Also assessed my bike-- wrenched the handlebars sideways, and bent my basket frame so that it interferes with front wheel. Looks like wheel itself might be okay.)

Doctor said come right in. We stopped at home, where I changed out of my gory shirt, and hubby covered the wound and strapped on a cold pack for me, as it was hurting quite a lot. He went back to work, I drove myself to the doctor (not very far). When the doctor unwrapped it, her eyes got a bit big, and she looked worried. She numbed it, irrigated it, picked out some of the debris, and then said "have you ever seen a plastic surgeon?" Well, I hadn't before, but 20 minutes later I did! The surgeon removed the new bandage, and smiled and said "I love this stuff!" He also checked my other wounds, which GP hadn't done, and cleaned up my bloody toe.

He went to work, more lidocaine and irrigation and tweezers, and then six stitches. The cut is apparently fairly deep, and about 1/4 inch from bone, so I'm glad I went in. Afterwards I grabbed some lunch, as it was 7 hours since breakfast, did some hasty grocery shopping (including a BIG tube of neosporin + pain relief) and came home. Now quite achy, watching bruises bloom, and trying to find out where my electronically sent antibiotics prescription went, as 'to my pharmacy' seems to not be the answer.

All in all, I'm very lucky-- no concussion, nothing broken (including glasses), nothing that will interfere with playing. I will probably have a scar, and will not bother about it; the plastic surgery part was reconstructive, not cosmetic. I was wearing a helmet and gloves, as I always do.
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First I have to introduce you to Irene. Chronologically she's somewhere around 80, but she is determinedly Not Old. She is insanely active, nearly always cheerful, and 100% committed to everything she does, and she has a crazy sense of humor.

On Thursdays Irene comes to the church and sets up the handbell tables, 8 of them, by herself. (Yes, I said she's 80.) Then she drives across town to volunteer at an after-school program for disadvantaged children, and then back to church for handbell practice. She has at most 15 minute to eat in between those last activities so she packs a small meal... except that last Thursday she forgot. And when she was setting up the tables, she noticed that refreshments for the AA meeting that day were being provided by the men of the group. So when she saw a package of small muffins on the counter, unlabelled, she assumed those men had kindly left some leftovers for us folks at the church, and she ate two. (I bumped into her after she ate the first, and was a bit concerned, but since the deed was done I didn't tell her that I wasn't so sure about her reasoning.)

Time came for the handbell practice... and the handbell director came out of the kitchen shouting "who ate my muffins???" Irene was mortified, and kept quiet, and suffered all through rehearsal. So in the morning, she confessed via email, and copied me since I knew about it. As I said, she does everything 100%, so it was an incredible, moving and funny and abject apology, and of course the director accepted-- with an almost equally moving and funny and abject response. He also mentioned that he had assumed I was the culprit, so I'm glad Irene confessed.

But the happy postscript is that, next time I saw Irene, I pointed out that she and I and Pastor Karen all too often end up at the church with no food and no time, and then we do terrible things-- buy horrible junk food at the convenience stores on the corner, or go hungry and be irritable at our meetings and rehearsals and then binge.. or eat someone else's muffins. So we brought Karen into the conversation, and agreed on a short list of healthy shelf-stable snacks to keep handy, plus apples which at least keep for weeks on end. And enthusiastic Irene went out and bought them all, and now we-- and anyone else-- can eat something healthy and quick and tasty in those short minutes between things.

The beauty of it is that I don't think it would have worked if there weren't three of us. I'm selfish enough that I have wanted something like our pantry for months, but I think Irene and Karen are going along with it mostly for each other's sake and mine.

Pics

May. 10th, 2015 09:05 pm
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Catbird along my evening walk.

three more )

pics

May. 9th, 2015 10:05 pm
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Lovely winding CCC-built wall in Letchworth State Park (New York).

Four more )
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