Saturday, October 31, 2009

How I Am Spending Halloween

I am some sort of tavern wench or something from some other century.  (I cannot find my Wili veil.)

My spouse, Zorro, has gone out into the neighborhood with Black-robed Metallic Skullhead and friend Harry Potter in tow. 

Daughter, a.k.a. Elle Woods from Legally Blonde: the Musical, is at a Halloween party.

Giselle, Act 2, is playing. 

Butternut squash is ready for me to cut into chunks for a risotto inspired by this article on pumpkin eating and Halloween in France by Peter Mayle.

I am of course on call for the kick-off of NaNoWriMo tomorrow, but no matter - I am determined to get words on the page, and I have another creative project that's occupying a great deal of my attention (read, obsession) right now as well. Hence the patchy blogging.

I can't really complain.  Halloween ain't so bad. And I gotta admit - the kids coming to our doorstep are REALLY cute in their little costumes.  There's still nothing like a sheet over the head with holes cut out for the eyes and a big black-markered smile under them to make your day.


I hear it was magical out there - fast clouds rushing over an almost-full moon, balmy weather, people in good spirits, cute costumes (not too much gore).  A good Halloween was had by all.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

How To Cope With Halloween If You Just Can't Stand It

I've discussed this before.  I really, really dislike Halloween. I'm especially grumpy that I'll be missing out on the pumpking carving exhibit / interdepartmental contest at my old hospital.  [Click here and here for photos from the past two years.]

What can I say?  I'm a Christmas person.  Joy, light, hope, wonder, love.  I get no enjoyment out of death, decay, gore, monstrosity, and terror. Scrooge is to Christmas as I am to Halloween. Bah.

But I've got kids, and my kids (like most kids) LOVE this so-called holiday, so I'm stuck with it for another few years. Not wanting to be a total party-pooper, I try to play along a little.  This year my daughter is going to be "a creepy doll" and my son a metallic skull-head enrobed in black.  Last year he was an exposed cerebrum enrobed in black (see above).  The year before, a faceless phantom enrobed in black.

These are the things that make Halloween somewhat bearable for me:

6. Chocolate.  Bags and bags of chocolate.

5. Costumes.  I enjoy helping the kids create their alter egos for the night.  And yes, I dress up too.  Even half-heartedly getting in the spirit of things (mwa-ha-ha) takes the edge off. 

4. Music. Time to break out the Giselle: Act II CD.

3. Movies. NOT the scary kind.  I am a wimp - just reading about this year's blockbuster, Paranormal Activity, creeped me out. But I wouldn't mind something like Young Frankenstein, or a nice, benign ghost story, like The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, or even a slightly more sinister (yet somehow still wholesome) one like Lady in White (1988), starring Lukas Haas of Witness fame. Or maybe even Ghost this year, in memory of the late Patrick Swayze. And of course, there's the George C. Scott rendition of A Christmas Carol. Anything to Christmas-ize this.

2. Literature.  There are some great books out there for this time of year.  This year's big discovery for me was Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book. Clever, unique, well-written, right in the spirit of Halloween but somehow not scary at all. Perfect. Or maybe I should finally get around to reading Mary Shelley.  Seems criminal that a physician-ex-English-major hasn't read Frankenstein.

1. The virtual pumpkin carving activity Lisa of Anali's First Amendment led me to a couple of years ago. I could do this over and over and over.  This is at the top of my list of things I actually enjoy about this otherwise unbearable annual indulgence in our darker aspects.  THANK YOU, LISA!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Do You Hate?

"Hate is a strong word," parents often tell their children.  "You can say you dislike something."

The implication:  the word hate should be avoided. 

That's fine, but what about the sentiment?  Are we in denial that the sentiment exists?  Is it too much to ask for people to avoid the sentiment too?

Recently my daughter got into a discussion with some of the neighborhood kids in which she found herself in the minority. The other kids were saying that it was wrong to be gay, and my daughter was trying to assert, "No, it's not!" As the other kids looked more and more askance at her and got more vehement about decrying homosexuality, my daughter finally suggested they agree to disagree.  She didn't back down from her position, but she saw no use in further escalating a discussion that was becoming increasingly non-rational.

A couple of nights ago she attended her first middle school dance.  It went off without a hitch, much to my relief.  But something did happen to one of her friends before the dance.  A friend who happened to be one of the neighborhood kids in the discussion about homosexuality.  A boy came up to this friend at school and said to her, "No one's going to ask you to dance tonight because you're [insert name of religion here]."  The girl walked home to school in tears with my daughter.  My daughter tried to be supportive, telling her the guy was just a stupid, ignorant jerk whose opinion didn't matter.

But his actions did.

I didn't hear about all this till later.  When I did, I was livid, upset at the boy who would say such an awful thing, and at whatever elements in his life would signal to him or model for him that such thoughts and actions were acceptable.  While the girls were at the dance I knocked on our neighbor's door to see if my daughter's friend had told her mother about the incident.  I mean, if this were your kid, you'd want to know, right?  My daughter's friend hadn't said anything, and her mom was appreciative that I had come to speak to her about it. 

 "Of course," I said to her. "It's a hate crime and I totally abhor it.  Well, maybe not a CRIME in the legal sense, but it's hate speech. The kids should know we consider it very wrong, and a big deal." 

Hate speech. Toward a seventh grader.  A hate act.  Which leads to hate crimes or other hate acts. And worst of all, hate mentality.  And if it's starting this early, what does that say about how far (or not) this nation and world have come?  

I came to the conclusion long ago that disdain is the root of all evil.  Disdain, arrogance, and indifference to the worth of others.  We haven't come far enough to grow out of the propensity for scorn.

Do I hate? 


I hate the disdain of members of one religion for those of others.
I hate the disdain of believers for nonbelievers.
I hate the disdain of nonbelievers for believers.
I hate the disdain of men for women.
I hate the disdain of women for men.
I hate the disdain of white people for black people.
I hate the disdain of black people for white people.
I hate the disdain straight people have for gay people.

I do hate.

I hate disdain.

Why can't people just live and let live?  Is that so hard?  Really, is it?


A Hindu proverb passed along by Retta Blaney:  "There is nothing noble in being superior to some other person. True nobility is in being superior to your previous self."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

It's Coming...Are You Doing It?

I cannot believe I never knew about NaNoWriMo until just this month.  Where have I been for the last eleven years? (Thanks for the heads-up, Fizzy! I told my fellow-blogger friend K. about it, and I think we're in!)

National Novel Writing Month was intitiated by Chris Baty in 1999 with 21 San Francisco area writers.  Now it has grown to an international month-long write-fest, with over 15,000 participants this year in countries all over the world - Australia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, England, France, Germany, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Malta, Micronesia, New Zealand, Norway, Pakistan, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States.  

Everyone's talking about it.  Well, not quite everyone, but you can read about it
or here

if curious.

The rules of the game (and that's essentially what it is - a giant, worldwide game) are these:

Start from scratch - no pre-written pages allowed - and write 50,000 words of a work of fiction between 12:01 a.m. on November 1 and 11:59 p.m. on November 30.

You "win" NaNoWriMo by getting to the 50,000 word finish line.  You upload your writing to the site for word count validation between November 25 and November 30, then they purge it.  That's IT.  No one even reads it.

You don't win for writing well.  You don't win for making sense.  You don't win for writing in a particular genre of fiction (fantasy, thriller, mainstream, etc.).  All you have to do is make it to 50,000 words in the space of a month, and you can consider yourself a NaNoWriMo winner. The bar is set as low as it can go.  Quantity is far more important than quality.  No nudgy self-editing, censoring, re-writing - there's no time!  The point is to just crank it all out and worry later. (And no, I am NOT cheating with pre-written manuscript.  I'm starting with a blank page on day one - which isn't to say I'm not doing some pre-writing in my head...or even on paper...)

The whole exercise may sound pointless, but I hear it feels really great just to make it to the end and to have kick-started a daily writing habit with the pressure of a deadline but without the anxiety of having to produce good work.

So how about it - are you game? Want to NaNoWriMo with me? Eleven more days...

As they say on the NaNoWriMo website:  "Win or lose, you rock for even trying."  So I'm gonna try it this year and see what happens! 

Above image courtesy of the Parody Motivator Generator at

Monday, October 19, 2009

Faith and Work: Reflections On My Patron Saint's Special Day

Today is the Feast of Saint René Goupil, patron saint of anesthetists. Time for a saint cake! (Any time it's the feast day of a saint we like, my family and I try to celebrate with a special cake. Good excuse, right? :) )

From time to time I try to reflect on the intangible, even spiritual, aspects of my profession. I have come to be wary of this now-irritating word, "spiritual;" it means so many different things to different people. I write about faith and medicine, but that too leaves me feeling cautious; people sometimes equate the word faith with belief or religion, whereas to my mind faith is a more catholic term, signifying a way of relating to the world and one's life, based on deep convictions. By this definition, theists and atheists alike have faith - a way of approaching and living life, and a vision of what a person's life should be.

My personal faith is informed, but not defined solely, by my upbringing as a Catholic Christian. Sometimes I feel I am very much an agnostic, almost an atheist. But not quite. There has always been a part of me that is drawn to the hope and joy of Christianity. I have written about all this at length on this blog and won't rehash it now, but today's feast day calls to mind the way my faith enters into (or sometimes fails to enter into) my work.

My faith teaches me to regard every individual - patient or coworker - as sacred and endowed with intrinsic dignity, regardless of what he or she has done or experienced.

It teaches me that suffering, sin, and death are part of life - and that the face of each patient is the suffering Christ right beside me.

The clues I derive from Christ's actions in the Gospels - especially his acts of healing - suggest to me that suffering is not the will of God - if such a God as Jesus described exists - for the people of the world. That pain and violence are NOT what we're meant for. That we should spend our lives trying to reverse it, prevent it, heal it as much as we can (as Jesus did), and serve others, or we are wasting our time.

My faith defines love for me as the energy behind such work: a living, working affirmation of the dignity and sacredness of another. Being a good professional, an educated physician, a doctor with integrity, a reliable colleague, someone my patients can trust to care for them - these are all acts of love in my worldview. My faith.

My faith was criticized - attacked, even, I felt - on another blog's comment board a couple of years ago. I felt hurt by the narrow-minded and openly hostile attitude I encountered there. But after I picked myself up and dusted myself off, I decided that what I had described about my approach to medicine had to remain unchanged. I had a clear definition in my own mind of what I meant, and perhaps expressed it inartfully or too cheesily for others' comfort, but it was still true and I hoped it always would be.

I think it's all too easy to forget the meaning and spirit of service - the subject of the Gospel reading for this past week. Fatigue and frustration can make for lapses into cynicism or scorn or whiny complaint; I was engaged in the latter just this past weekend, when we had to be in the O.R. off and on all day and in the middle of the night, until about three in the morning. But I believe we're constantly supposed to try to work past that self-centered attitude.

I believe there should be reverence in every touch, word, look, and smile; this is the standard to which I try to hold myself. Competent medical practice and patient care are more than a duty; to me they are a way of living out the kind of love for fellow-human-being that our daily life and work should entail. I echo, then, the words we say at liturgy on occasions when we renew our baptismal vows: "This is our faith. This is the faith of the Church. We are proud to profess it."

Friday, October 16, 2009

Happy Ether Day 2009

Celebrating Ether Day by getting vaccinated against H1N1. :)

If you're interested in this historic occasion, please read my Ether Day post from a couple of years ago. It still expresses how I feel about this anesthesia "holiday."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Parenting 101

At my oboe lesson today Kyoko and  had a good laugh over the fact that a Baby Einstein video she saw recently introduces little kids to the instruments of an orchestra but does not include an oboe. 

"No oboe!  Can you believe it?"

"I guess they skip tuning altogether," I said wryly.  

"The wind section did have a saxophone and recorder, though," Kyoko recalled.

On my way home I started thinking about videos and television for kids. I do think these media get demonized a lot.  They're not all bad; some programs are quite good and well-produced, in fact.  I can still sing some of the Sesame Street jingles from my 70's childhood. I think it's excess or poor quality that should be criticized. 

That's one thing I have to admit I found annoying during Obama's campaign:  he kept telling parents to turn the T.V. off in a tone I found rather critical.  I whole-heartedly agree in principle that too much T.V. can be a bad thing - as can too much of anything - but I found such an unqualified imperative presumptuous. There are many things on T.V. my kids and I would not have wanted to miss enjoying together, just as there are things on film, in books, in museums, and in any number of sources that we would cherish as well. I didn't appreciate being judged for something that so far has not been a hindrance or a big problem to our children's development.

I have a couple of pet peeves when it comes to parenting advice.

On the one hand I resent the manipulative condescension of some parenting books, gurus, and medical personnel - those that claim to know what's best for children, assume that we don't, and proceed to tell us that we should do as they say, or else our children might not grow up to be smart, talented, successful people - the implication being, of course, that it's not enough to be an ordinary, hardworking, decent person; one must be smart, talented, and successful (whatever that means).

There's a fear-mongering tone in some of the patronizing "advice," almost a superstitious-ness: Oh my goodness, better not let your toddlers even SEE a television set before the age of two; they might grow up to be illiterate, violent pot-heads!  They might not become "worthy" of an Ivy League School!  Ack!  Don't let little ones crawl into bed with you when they have nightmares!  They might not learn to be independent!  Hmm.  An independent three-year old?  Isn't that an oxymoron, and isn't it SUPPOSED to be an oxymoron?  Isn't it better to console a fearful, tearful child and let him or her know there's someone to turn to for help, and it's ok to ask for it?

On the other hand, I deplore the equally manipulative messages of companies that market products designed (supposedly) to boost children's developmental capabilities, intelligence, or whatever else people think needs boosting.  There's magical thinking in such messages - an appeal to our superstitious side, the part of us that needs to try to control what happens in life.  Hey, folks - what we do now can make them geniuses later! Don't you want to do what's best for your child?

I am very much in the moderation camp.  What we do for, and more importantly with, our children has some impact on their future, but so does what our children are physically and chemically born with, and what they discover apart from our influence.  There's only so much we can control.  Mozart isn't a magic spell; sharing music with our kids, and really listening to it and each other, might be, though. 

Do I let my son play video games? Sure. I'm comfortable with that because he also reads at least two grade levels above his actual grade and voraciously devours books with curiosity and thoughtfulness.  Do I let my daughter watch T.V.?  Yup. We try to watch with her.  We respond to the shows she likes.  We also respond to the songs she composes and the stories she writes, the films she dreams of making, the shows she's in. We try to put nutritious food in front of them but we don't criticize them (or beat ourselves up) as if it were the end of the world if they have a slice of cake every once in a while.  Moderation.

There are a couple of things we do try to be consistent about.  We try to make sure we can answer yes to the following questions - 

1) Can our children perceive and be absolutely sure of their parents' unswerving love?   
2) Are we teaching them right from wrong? 
3) Are they learning, and motivated to learn?  and 
4) Are we spending quality time together as a family and with each of our kids?

Perhaps this sounds simplistic.  Perhaps it's a little smug of us not to read piles of parenting books and stick to a hundred little rules we and our babysitters absolutely must follow.  But here's the thing I can guarantee ANY parent, whether they fall closer to our style on the parenting spectrum or to some other style:  

Are you a terrible parent?  

YES, you are - sometimes.  

Am I?  Ditto.  

Are you a wonderful parent?  

YES, absolutely - sometimes.  

Am I?  I certainly hope so, at least some of the time.  

Will most of our kids turn out just fine even if we make a few mistakes along the way?  

I believe they will, barring any special problems or situations, provided we proactively teach them right from wrong, and they can perceive and be absolutely sure of our unswerving love.

That's my approach to parenting.  I didn't get it from a book, or from my master's degree in child development; I just try to take my cues from my kids and to be there for them when they need me.  I guess we'll see how that works out!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Memorable Manhattan Trip

Many Filipinos have tried to do their part to help victims of the recent, devastating typhoon catastrophe that, unlike other recent natural disasters in neighboring Asian countries, has been largely ignored by the international press.

In one correctional facility in Cebu prison inmates gave up their rations as a way of contributing to the flood victims.

This foodie and blogger put her cooking talents to the service of her fellow Filipinos during what she described as her "most memorable cooking experience."

And last night, our nation's very own world-class, Tony Award-winning Broadway star, Lea Salonga, who originated the lead role in Miss Saigon and also played Eponine and Fantine in Les Misérables, gave an intimate benefit concert at the Philippine Center in New York which raised about $20,000 (about 1 million pesos) for flood victims.  My daughter and I attended, and we could not have been more proud or more impressed.  

Lea looked beautiful and radiant and was totally spectacular.  Her musicianship is top-notch; her sound rich and moving, more so than ever - both lyrical and powerful; and her rapport with the audience more natural and comfortable than I've ever seen.  She is really at the top of her game - a mature artist whose interpretations are imbued with the depth of her experience as a performer, wife, mother, and woman.  

Accompanied on the piano by Larry Yurman, she sang

Orange-colored Sky
Promise Me
Hahanapin Ko
On My Own
Someone to Watch Over Me
Two Words 
Gone to Soon
A Whole New World
Everybody Says Don't
Encore: Imagine

I was blown away when my daughter went up on stage after Lea invited audience members to come and sing "A Whole New World" from the Disney movie Aladdin with her.  Boy, the kid has guts!  I could never do something like that. So my daughter and two random Filipino guys sang the prince's part, taking turns, and Lea sang Jasmine's part.  We're never gonna forget that!

Between this amazing benefit concert and our whirlwind visits to Rockefeller Center, Times Square, and our old stomping grounds in Tarrytown just 40 minutes north of Manhattan, we had an amazing mother-daughter trip that was well worth the missed day of work and school. New York has always been special to my daughter and me, and I plan on making memories there with her as much as I can!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Giselle: the ballet that gives us the Wilis

Last night I took my daughter to see Boston Ballet's world-class production of Giselle. It was superb - one of the best I've seen. The dancing and acting were first-rate, and Ricco Chicorelli's lighting - especially the spooky effects in Act II, in which the zombie-like Wilis really looked like they were specters rising from their graves and flitting eerily through the forest - made this production extraordinary and memorable.

The role of Giselle was danced by the talented Lorna Feijóo, who accomplished exactly what I hoped: a blending of contemporary ballet technique and virtuosity with the delicacy of the Romantic style, surely a result in part of her rigorous training at the National Ballet School in Cuba where, under the tutelage of the great Alicia Alonso, one of the greatest ballerinas of the 20th century and considered one of history's greatest Giselles, the discipline and artistry of classical ballet tradition has been passed on to generations of young dancers.

Let me try and explain what this ballet means to me. I have been haunted by Giselle since childhood. I have known the choreography by heart since the age of nine or ten, when I would watch a battered video of it at home almost every day and practice parts of it in the studio before and after my ballet lessons. I was quite serious about ballet then and even went to New York every summer for intensive training. Giselle was one of my dream roles - as it is for almost every young girl who wants to be a ballerina. I can probably hum Adolphe Adam's entire score from start to finish.

I had the opportunity to learn parts of the ballet directly from prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn during a master class she gave at the Joffrey Ballet School in 1987, arranged by my mom, who was very good friends with her. One of the last pieces I performed before going off to college was the peasant pas de deux from Act I for a group of elementary school kids, and the version performed by the Boston Ballet was almost identical to the one I performed in my youth - what a nostalgia trip! While I eventually gave up my ballet ambitions, Giselle will always have a special place in my life.

Giselle is one of the great classics - right up there with Swan Lake (1877) and The Sleeping Beauty (1890) - but is in a class by itself among the great ballets of history in part because it is the oldest of these, though not the oldest of all. It's like a living relic of an artistic period we can only imagine from its surviving music and poetry. It premiered at the Paris Opéra on June 28, 1841; ballet companies around the world have been performing it for the last 168 years. In addition it's been featured prominently in the films The Red Shoes, The Turning Point, and Dancers.

On the surface it is about a young girl named Giselle who has a weak heart but who loves to dance. She is in love with Prince Albrecht, who visits Giselle's village disguised as a peasant and keeps secret his noble identity and the fact that he is betrothed to another aristocrat. Hilarion, a villager who is in love with Giselle, exposes the truth in a dramatic confrontation; Giselle goes mad and dies of a broken heart. This is Act I. The fairy tale has gone horribly wrong. What else can there be? Why, ghosts, of course.

In Act II we meet the Wilis, the spirits of young maidens who have been betrayed by their lovers and who die before their wedding days. They lurk in the forest and take their revenge on the opposite sex by luring men into the woods to dance to their deaths. They murder the hapless Hilarion, who has come to pay his respects at Giselle's grave, and would do the same to Albrecht but Giselle protects him with her love and forgiveness and dances in his stead. Dawn breaks; the Wilis disperse; Giselle must go back to her grave; and Albrecht is left alone with his remorse.

It is quintessential Romantic Period stuff, complete with a score that would almost sound like the melodramatic soundtrack to a tragic and spooky silent film if it weren't so glorious. But the love story and ghost story are just part of what makes this ballet a classic; another beautiful facet of Giselle is that like the film The Red Shoes, it's a dance piece about the consuming power of dance.

Giselle is full of "classic" moments that ballet audiences recognize, and indeed look for, when they go to see it - Giselle's entrance and first dance with Albrecht; the hops on pointe across the stage during her solo; the famous "mad scene" - Alina Cojocaru's is the best I've seen; the crossing of the Wilis in Act II - a show-stopping moment (see here, time index 6:03) that usually garners applause for the corps de ballet, as it did in last night's performance; Giselle's high-speed promenades in arabesque for her entrance dance in Act II (see here or here or here); the pas de deux and Albrecht's two dozen entrechats toward the end of the ballet.

How is it that despite the fact that I know this ballet so well, and have seen it literally hundreds of times, I was still on the edge of my seat not only awaiting these classic moments but also at every thrilling turn of the story, as if I were seeing it and worrying about the characters for the first time? I KNEW Albrecht would get found out, but still my heart beat faster when Hilarion was about to blow the hunting horn and expose the truth. I KNEW Giselle would grab the sword during the mad scene and try to stab herself, but still a voice in my head warned the other villagers, "Uh oh, don't let her take that! Better get it away from her!"

I think Adam's expressive score (which, of course, has lots of great oboe parts in Lanchbery's arrangement of it) has a way of pulling us into the story time after time, allowing us to forget for a moment that as adults we're probably inclined to consider this a silly story. Instead, with the open-hearted suspension of disbelief children like my daughter still have - children who can believe in falling in love in a flash, in dying of a broken heart, and in being haunted by Wilis - we enter into the story and identify with the characters: Albrecht who wants to have his cake and eat it too; Hilarion, for whom life is not fair; Giselle who wants to believe in true love, but whose disappointment literally kills her; the Wilis who, having been betrayed by love, both fear it and hate it - two sides of the same coin - and allow their bitter vengefulness to destroy their very souls; and again, Giselle, whose love protects her beloved and whose forgiveness is redemptive.

I was browsing old ballet footage on Youtube a few days ago, rekindling my Giselle obsession, and one of the oldest clips I found was of Olga Spessivtseva dancing the title role in 1932. This is just a little bit past the halfway-mark between the first performance of Giselle and today's, making it a link to the Romantic Period, a clue to how not only this ballet but also ballet itself have evolved over the last several decades. What I wouldn't give to transport myself back in time for a while to watch Carlotta Grisi in the 1841 premiere! Giselle has withstood the test of time, and I have a feeling it will continue to haunt us for centuries to come...

Giselle at the Paris Opéra, 1867

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Back to Orchestra!

At last, at last, I have returned to the little orchestra of adult beginner musicians I had started to play with a couple of years ago.  Our first rehearsal was tonight, and we worked on a couple of really enjoyable pieces:  Vivaldi's Concerto in C Major for Violin, Strings, and Continuo, and Ginastera's evocative Impresiones de la Puna - a challenging work filled with "crunchy chords" and interesting rhythms and moods.

I can't describe adequately enough how healing it can be to make music with others.  There's something almost hypnotic about it - the way we have to listen to each other and to ourselves, blend our rhythms and harmonies together, use sound and time, mathematics and physics, to evoke images and feelings and give life to a composer's musical ideas.  It's a kind of consubstantiation; there's something almost sacramental about it, a moving of breath and light through the small community we form every Thursday in our little room at a local college.

There was such disharmony at work today that I really, really needed a rehearsal like that to recalibrate my mind and spirit.  Opportunities like these confirm for me that despite my inability (for various reasons) to make the progress I would like playing the oboe, the effort to stay connected to it is entirely worthwhile.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fine Art Friday: My First Guest Post

I have long admired my friend K.'s blog and was so honored and delighted when she accepted my post for her wonderful series, "Fine Art Friday."  

This week I expanded a small piece I wrote for my "shadow blog" (Sundays in Paris) about the artist Suzanne Valadon, mother of Maurice Utrillo, model for some well-known paintings by Renoir and other famous French artists.  If you enjoy fine art, or are fond of "all things French," please come on over to K.'s blog and check out my post for Fine Art Friday!

Top image:  Nude with Striped Bedspread, c. 1922
Photo: Suzanne Valadon, c. 1926
Photo source:

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Hello, October!

October is one of my favorite months.  

October is cinnamon and allspice in the kitchen,
pumpkin bread in the oven,
a pleasant chill in the air with the smell of snow or firewood on it,
weather still warm enough to let us walk without coats to school
(which is well under way and off to a good start),
fiery colors emerging on the trees,
Christmas coming,
apple picking,
cookies and pies,
orchestra starting up again,
festivals and fairs,
scrapbooks and writing projects in front of a warm fire on weekends,
the promise of visits with family and friends,
a season filled with lovely sights and smells and feelings and sounds.

I love October.