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So, last Wednesday we got an offer on the house, but it was terrible-- we would almost have lost money. We sent back a rather high counter offer, and really expected to hear no more. Much to our surprise, last night we got another counter offer, somewhat better.

My husband ran up a spreadsheet, and we actually sent back two different offers. They came out almost exactly the same on our end, but required different amounts of cash up front from the buyers. And we shocked our realtor by telling her to add a personal note-- that we would leave them our riding lawn mower.

This morning she phoned us again, utterly shocked. They took one of the offers... "the lawnmower did it!" Which makes the second time that riding mower has closed the deal. Seven years ago, when faced with a counter offer that was just a bit more than we wanted to spend, we jokingly asked if the sellers would throw in the lawn mower, since otherwise we'd have to buy one right away. Our realtor shared that, and they agreed, and that's how we ended up here!


Jul. 26th, 2014 11:09 pm
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My own audition/interview processes, and one described by a friend in a comment today, have me pondering the process. I've auditioned for church musician positions 4 times (I got one job without any audition), and only one of those processes has made sense (CLC, my current church; Delmar came close).

Nearly all churches are looking for someone versatile-- able to play both piano and organ, in a variety of styles. What have they asked me to prepare? ONE organ piece, ONE hymn, sometimes ONE piano piece. CLC didn't care about piano or multiple styles-- Bach on the organ was enough. In all three other auditions, they asked for only one organ piece and one hymn, and Faith also asked for a piano piece. (I gently insisted on playing two organ pieces at each of my auditions this summer.)

And then there's sightreading. Is sightreading really a part of an organist's job? Possibly reading a basic hymn, if the church likes to do spontaneous hymn sings. But one of my auditions, and the one my friend shared, involved being asked to sightread extremely complex material-- in my case an accompaniment to a choir anthem, with crazy meter and multiple key changes. The only reason for asking me to sightread such a thing as part of my job would be that someone failed to prepare adequately, either me or a director. (At my advice, CLC sent a likely-unfamiliar bit of liturgy to candidates a week ahead of the audition, a much more reasonable test.) Rev. P. at Faith did ask me to sightread, but she was specifically testing my willingness and ability to work with a particular style. Sightreading is crazy stressful, and I doubt if most committees learn much by forcing someone to attempt to sightread something complex.

What would make more sense to me? Inviting candidates to prepare a 10 to 20 minute program (depending on the level of the job) of pieces or excerpts that best demonstrate their skills; ask them to prepare one or two specific hymns; and perhaps sightreading of a basic hymn, in an easy key and common meter.


Jul. 25th, 2014 09:37 pm
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I was waiting in line for a haircut this morning. I had already turned my phone down, so after a bit I checked it, and there was a voicemail message from my contact at Just Right Presby. There was still someone ahead of me so I slipped out and returned his call. After the opening greetings, he said "I'd like to offer you a job!" I said "oh, please do!" and he laid out the details-- about 20% more than I'm making now, 5 Sundays off per year. I accepted on the spot, having already decided that this was best for me and my family.

Things that make me especially happy:

Being a Presbyterian again, after 30 years a Methodist and nearly 6 years serving Lutherans.
A genuine choir, a dozen folk capable of singing in 4 parts, even willing to attempt a cappella.
12 hours later, I've gotten 'hello' emails from the pastor and 2 committee heads.
The title is Minister of Music-- a title I've actually never held.

I've emailed Too Big Lutheran telling them I'm withdrawing my application, and phoned Too Small Methodist. That was hard; they don't have another candidate, and there's a lot I found appealing about them. In fact, I even said that if there's any way I can help with some of the outreach ideas Rev. P. has without stepping on the toes of whoever they hire, I would love to do so.

I got it!

Jul. 25th, 2014 12:28 pm
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Just Right Presbyterian called this morning with an offer, and I accepted on the spot; I start September 1. Can't stop smiling. More later!
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Just Right Presbyterian called at least one of my references yesterday. I'm rather enjoying imagining the conversation, and praying I can live up to whatever she said about me!
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Recently I played Bach's Prelude and Fugue in E minor (sometimes called The Cathedral). As I was working on it I turned to the editor's notes to see if there were any helpful suggestions. I was a bit startled to read the first sentence: "This Prelude is frequently tortured by performers." More tidbits:

"It is incomprehensible how some performers can, 'for the sake of variety,' play off the great and second manuals against each other from measure 14 on.... Equally at fault are those others who, on special keyboards with solo stops, whisper out measures 18-25.... Are modern musicians so lost to all sense for solemn grandeur that they are unable to discover it even when it confronts them in the creations of a period long past?"

"The Fugue shared the fate of the Prelude.... It was broken on the wheel and torn asunder."
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Plans for my final Sunday are shaping up.
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The view up a side canal near the Champlain and Erie canals.

Four more )
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So, I spent part of the drive home pondering the two churches, and what other questions I should ask to help with a potential decision.

Too Small Methodist-- they simply have to expand the job, and thus the pay, from what they're envisioning (and the pastor already knows that). They're currently offering a 9 month position with 3 unpaid weeks off-- so work and pay for only about 38 Sundays. I'm looking for 6 or 8 Sundays off, but not 15!

Just Right Presby-- I want to ask them more about the church/congregation at large. I've seen their "mission statement", but how are they living it out? What local missions, what outreach?

I expect to hear from Just Right early in the week, Too Small not until Friday at the earliest.
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An army of invading juvenile ducks!

Four more )
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Sudden burst of energy began last night. After dinner I bought gas for the mower, and then emptied, hosed out, scrubbed, dried and refilled both cat boxes.

Today's practice was really good. I'm feeling reasonably ready for Sunday and for my auditions tomorrow and Friday; but even better, the Bach D Minor is beginning to feel really good. I need to spend a couple of hours smoothing out the rough spots, but most of it flows really well. I'm taking it slower than most recordings, not because I can't play it that fast, but because it feels right to me slower; I can hear shapes and flows that I've never heard in the "wow, look how fast I can play!" recordings.

I also went to Trader Joe's this morning-- I'm becoming a serious fan. This evening, after cooking dinner and cleaning up, I packed two boxes of books, and loaded them and a small bookcase into my car. I figure every small load I move now will make the actual moving day a bit easier.
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Cedar waxwing.

five more )


Jul. 12th, 2014 09:24 pm
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Amazing tree trunk! What probably happened here is that a mighty pine tree was cut, maybe more than a century ago. Suckers grew up around the outer ring of the stump and have meshed together over the years.

Four more )
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...another trip to Albany. Brought down a bookcase and box of books, and started rearranging the apartment to hold all three of us in a month.

Choosing the books was interesting-- a sort of variation on the usual desert island question. What books do I want here, what do I still want in Vermont, what will I put in storage? My selections were also affected by how recently I've read some favorites. What I settled on was all of my Dorothy Gilman, Margaret Coel and Zenna Henderson, plus a bird identification guide, and some other random odds and ends. Still space to bring down at least one more box full.
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Can you find mama wood duck and three chicks?

Three more )


Jul. 9th, 2014 10:41 pm
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I occasionally watch one of my former pastor's services (at his new church) online. Recently he used quotations from commencement speeches as a starting point. He quoted Bill Gates at Harvard in 2007, urging graduates to 'choose one issue and become an expert in it.'

That struck a chord for me, as I feel a deep urge to give back, to make the world better somehow-- but have never found a focus. Sometimes a project will suck me in, but mostly every issue and project interests me and pulls at me, until I feel completely scattered and ineffective at anything. So I've been pondering the quotation, and considering which of those many tugs at my heart are strongest.

Environmental issues are dear to my heart, but I've come to realize they're actually in second place. The stories and occurrences about which I am most passionate always involve-- children. Specifically children with some kind of special challenge-- differently abled, poverty, etc. (Remember Peace Partners?)

So, while I'll continue to read and ponder any issue that catches my attention, I think that as I begin to build my life in the Albany area, I'll be especially looking for some way I can help children with special needs, and some environmental project to get involved with.

Day of rest

Jul. 7th, 2014 09:21 pm
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I had intended to practice today, but woke up feeling sluggish. After a couple of hours of putting off practice, I realized how badly I didn't want to go-- and this week's pieces really aren't so challenging that I had to. So I mostly stayed home and got local stuff done; eventually I drove to a grocery store half an hour away for some specialty stuff.

We still have one cat here, Laura's tortoiseshell Nala. Nala is desperately clingy after being alone for two days.

Tomorrow I have to get back into practice, and teach several lessons. Hopefully another good night of sleep will have me ready for that.
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Seven new pics, including a rose breasted grosbeak and several shots of a beaver.
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