31 December 2011

Auld Lang Syne - Straight No Chaser

Tonight is my last video blog for the month of December.  Because it is New Year's Eve, it seems unlikely that is any song more appropriate of traditional to play than "Auld Lang Syne."  I know the song gets done to death each year, but I love this arrangement by my guys, Straight No Chaser.  It's good to switch things up every once in a while. 

I also consider Auld Lang Syne an appropriate song for today because it's meant as a farewell of sorts.  Farewell to times gone by, farewell to the old year, farewell to old friends even.  Literally translated from Old Scots as "old long ago," Auld Lang Syne is a song about love and friendships past, and toasting current friends.*  I am personally more than ready to toast 2011 goodbye.  It has been a year of medical mishap for me, and I would like to see the back of it sooner rather than later, with the hope that 2012, apocalyptic or not, involves less battering and bruising.  I would like to say farewell to old burdens and hello to new experiences.  I would like to say farewell to injury and hello to an occasional injection of excitement.  But mostly I would like to say farewell to the gift of a year, even a bad one, and hello to the blessing of a new year, full of potential and possibility.

I hope everyone has a safe New Year's Eve, and that the blessings and peace of tomorrow are made manifest throughout the entire year for each and every one of you.

Happy New Year--rock it like it's the end of the Mayan world!!

*Source:  http://www.carols.org.uk/auld_lang_syne_song.htm

30 December 2011

Twenty-Five: Silence is Golden But Duct Tape is Silver

Today is my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.  My silver anniversary.  This just seems highly improbable to me for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that I can't possibly be old enough to have a silver anniversary.

Twenty-five years ago I was sitting in my future in-laws' house, fielding a call from my fiancé's colleagues.  They were trying to get me to reconsider my decision by pointing out what an inadequate spouse he would make and by suggesting that he might not go through with it anyway, considering the dinner plate-sized sweat stains he was no doubt sporting under his arms.

Twenty-five years ago my nerdy fiancé and his old college roommates were occupying themselves outside of the church by rigging up flood lamps on boards outside the stained glass windows so that the windows would be properly illuminated inside during the evening ceremony.  No one had ever thought of doing so before.

Twenty-five years ago I was being told by family members whom I barely knew that I looked like Princess Diana.  I still don't see it.

Reddish hair + big nose = "Princess Di"

Twenty-five years ago my veil was nearly set on fire by a candle during the ceremony.  Given that I have always been a closet arsonist, there's an irony there I find nearly irresistible.

Twenty-five years ago my parents couldn't really afford to give me a big wedding, which was fine by me.  I've never been a big frou-frou, over-the-top sort of person anyway, at least not with anything other than my personality, so I was perfectly happy to have a relatively small ceremony instead.

Twenty-five years ago I was busily trying to coordinate a wedding with mothers in two different states and making bridesmaids dresses while trying to finish up my last semester of college.

Twenty-five years.  A quarter of a century.  More than half my life.   It just doesn't seem possible.

My actual wedding day twenty-five years ago was somewhat atypical.  Because my parents didn't have a lot of money, my fiancé and I paid for most of the wedding ourselves.  I think all my parents paid for was their own wedding attire, my bouquet (which my mother insisted on getting made) and travel from Indiana to eastern Tennessee.  I made all of the bridesmaids dresses, charging each girl only for the cost of the materials since most were poor college students like myself.  My future mother-in-law was supposed to make her own daughter's dress, but with all the excitement and other preparations she never quite got around to finishing it;  I ended up completing most of it two days before the wedding.  I also made all the boutonnieres and corsages, some of which, in retrospect, were truly hideous or at least ridiculously big.  I'd only been to a couple of weddings in my life, and both were when I was a child.  Also, I just wasn't the sort of person to spend hours devouring bridal catalogs.  I learned a few things while working in a bridal shop as a seamstress and figured that was more than enough.

I was wrong.

I quickly discovered that a Northern girl's wedding sensibilities were just not gonna fly in a small Southern town.  To her credit, my mother-in-law (an unfailingly kind, Pollyanna-sort of woman) was more accommodating than some of the extended family members and locals were, perhaps because she was afraid of scaring me away from marrying her very introverted and complicated oldest son.  In any case, my wayward and "wild" wedding ideas (or lack thereof) were carefully redirected into things considered more "appropriate" or traditional for weddings in the area.  Before the wedding day, I was forever getting calls from my mother-in-law about little organizational details, such as "can So-and-so be one of the servers/ushers/whatevers?" For the most part I didn't give a rat's patootie about all these details, because I considered them largely irrelevant--I foolishly thought that a wedding involved some fancy clothes, a few flowers, a little cake and some vows in front of a minister.  At least those were the only parts important to me.   I was quickly disavowed of my misguided ways.  I can remember spending a lot of time on the phone with my future mother-in-law nodding and blindly saying "Sure" to one random detail after another.  In fairness, much of this was necessary because I got married in her hometown; still, so much of it just seemed excessive to me.  As I said, I'm not generally one for a big fuss over things, so my determination to keep things simple made more than a few people twitch.  I found out years later that there had been a significant quantity of "blessing my heart" over the whole thing, since the Yankee girl clearly hadn't been raised properly enough to know how things are supposed to be done.  And for those of you who don't know?  "Bless her heart"?  Really not a compliment.

The downside to having my mother-in-law doing so much of the planning long-distance was that my own mother became sulky and petulant because she felt left out.  I decided long ago that weddings are not really for the couple getting married, but for the families of the couple who are busily trying to fix all the things they didn't get to do because their own families were busy dictating how their weddings should go.  As a result, there often end up being all sorts of ridiculous politics and placating involved in navigating the treacherous wedding waters.  In the end, I was able to placate my mother by asking her to address all the invitations, because her handwriting was so much better than mine.  Recipe for a wedding:  take a gallon of drama, stir in some damaged egos, add a pinch of kissing up and a dash of deference.  Bake in a hot oven and hope no one slams the oven door hard enough to make the vows collapse.

The day of the rehearsal dinner, I was given a new sweater and black wool pencil skirt, presumably because my in-laws didn't entirely trust me to wear something appropriate to the dinner instead of my jeans and sneakers.  While insulting, it probably wasn't far wrong given that I rapidly changed into my jeans for the rehearsal once the dinner was finished.  At the rehearsal everyone insisted it was bad luck for me to walk down the aisle so my mother stood in for me, which was just weird.  Watching my mother---who looked more than a little like Mrs. Claus--standing next to my intended and saying wedding vows was a more than a little disturbing.  Meanwhile, the best man was running around in a t-shirt emblazoned with "The bride never marries the best man," which no doubt would have been much funnier had I not just discovered that he'd had a crush on me for the last 2 years.  As if that weren't complication enough, my intended also invited one of his other old roommates and my ex-boyfriend.  Now I like to think I'm a fairly liberated sort of person, but at age 21 I just wasn't Noel Coward enough to cope with having an ex in the wedding party.  I refused to allow it on the grounds that it was tasteless (See?  I do have some sense of decorum...), so the ex was relegated to videotaping the ceremony which both gave him something to do and kept him out of my way.  As Jan Brady would say, "drama, drama, DRAMA!"  Weddings are little more than marital minefields.  Admit it...you know it's true.

"Hahaha--you're so funny!  Except not."

To make matters more interesting, we didn't get married on a Saturday like normal people.  Because I had graduated early, it was a little more challenging to find a day not too close either to Christmas or New Year's but still before most of the attendants had to return back to school/college.  So we picked the 30th--a Tuesday (though secretly I wanted to get married on New Year's Eve at approximately 11:58 pm).  This wouldn't have been so bad except that the University of Tennessee was unexpectedly playing in the Liberty Bowl that year, which was local and to which my father-in-law and several others had tickets that they grudgingly had to relinquish.  While they were fairly good-natured about it aside from the odd chaffing, it still didn't stop them from bringing a pocket television to the rehearsal so they could follow the game between instructions.

"UT scores!!  Wait, what?  Of course I'm paying attention!"

The day of the wedding, after the aforementioned phone call from his work colleagues, my intended and his nerdmates spent most of the afternoon rigging up lights outside of the church to shine through the stained glass windows because they decided that darkened church windows were silly.  At least it kept them out of trouble for the day.  After a light dinner, all the ladies headed up to the church to begin the protracted primping.  I refused to allow my own mother in the bride's room, horrible person that I am, because I knew she'd spend the entire time making passive-aggressive comments while critiquing me and picking imaginary lint off of my every available surface.  My mother-in-law graciously avoided the bride's room most of the time too so as not to make my mom feel any more left out.  She was all about the treating people equally, was my mother-in-law.

Excessively white girl, evening wedding--thank goodness there are no sparkles
involved or everyone would have thought I was a vampire.

Receiving the Order of the Garter.
Geez, I miss those legs!

After the primptasm, we all walked around to the front of the church.  Even in the South, it can get a bit chilly in the evenings in late December.  And by "chilly" I mean "not 60 degrees."  Fueled by adrenaline and my Yankee insulation I was actually pretty comfortable though my face remained flushed for much of the day, causing my makeup to lean a little towards the prostitutional palette.

Mugging for the photographer, because I am shy and retiring, as always.

Because my in-laws' church did not have a center aisle, I had to walk down one side aisle with my father and up the other with my new husband.  This sounds like it should have been an easy enough thing, except that my father, who liked to pretend to be all gruff and macho and crap, was dissolving into emotional puddles faster than Jello in the sun.  The poor man, who was overcome with emotion and flustered by the militant bossiness of the "wedding coordinator" (and I use that term loosely because she was really just somebody's brother's cousin's wife or something), completely and utterly forgot how to do the wedding walk he'd practiced the night before.  So there I was, veiled and generally laughing my ass off at him while muttering under my breath "Right...together...left...together..." as we processed down the aisle.  I'm pretty sure I was holding him up far more than the other way around--no mean feat considering the man was 6'3" and well over 200 lbs.  I was told later, much to my sardonic amusement, that my new husband thought I was crying all the way down the aisle, overcome with emotion as I must have been.  Sorry, dude--wrong LaRue.  If my shoulders were shaking, it was only from the strain of suppressing my laughter at my father (bless my heart).

After successfully navigating the aisle with a slightly swaying father, I arrived at the front rail next to my groom.  The minister then proceeded to natter on for some time, making my supremely nervous and wholly unstable father stand while he did so until he  finally got to the part about "Who gives this woman" some 10-15 minutes later.  My father all but shoved my hand in the groom's direction, before escaping with all haste and colossal relief to his seat beside my mother.

The ceremony continued on about like one would expect, at least until it came time for us to kneel.  When we did so, my veil wafted disconcertingly close to the unity candle, staying within spark's reach of the flame.  For the wedding video, my ex positioned himself in the choir loft so he could see our faces during the ceremony.  As we were kneeling, you can clearly see my mother's face, eyes agape, slowly lean into frame around the side of my head so she could monitor the progress of my veil, just in case she needed to leap up and batter flames from my head (which knowing her, she probably would have enjoyed).  In fact, the danger was so obvious to most of the viewers that I'm pretty sure she wasn't the only one paying more attention to the potential disaster than to the prayer being said.   To this day I couldn't tell you what the minister prayed, focused as I was on peering out the corner of my eye at the edge of my veil and that candle.  I did manage to remain inflammable, though my veil did wave across the tip of the candle as I stood.  Everyone breathed a heavy sigh of relief, as did I.  That wasn't really the kind of "hot" honeymoon I had in mind.

The rest of the ceremony went smoothly enough, and we were pronounced "man and wife."  Afterwards, we did pictures, during which the atmosphere loosened up considerably; if memory serves, we may have even done the wave at one point.

I must have said something particularly obnoxious...the boy
doesn't smile that naturally in pictures very often.

It's official!

With my bridesmaids and the little cousin who would have been my
flower girl had I not adamantly insisted on no children in the ceremony.
Had I known this particular child ahead of time, I would have had her
in the ceremony, because she was (and is) awesome.
This is probably the only real wedding-related regret I have.

Seriously-how adorable is this child??

Following the formal photos, we went downstairs for the obligatory cake cutting and drink toasting pictures, after which we settled down to the serious business of eating everything from cake to the ubiquitously Southern cheese straws.  I am still of the opinion that the assorted photographers had a pact to wait till my mouth was full before snapping pictures of me; nearly every shot of me at the rehearsal dinner and reception are right after I'd taken a bite.  Eventually it came time to shoot the garter and throw the bouquet; the single women were pretty ruthlessly enthusiastic about diving for that bouquet, most notably my sister-in-law and my maid of honor; in the end, my husband's sister and brother ended up winning the free-for-all.

See what I mean about the smile?

Never come between a gaggle of girls and an illogical marital omen.

The victors, pleased with their plunder.

After the indoor festivities, we headed out to do the requisite "going away" shots.  When we got outside, however, we discovered that the car had not been painted up as per usual (someone's paint job had been recently damaged that way) but was instead filled to the brim with balloons.  The moment we opened the doors of the car, they all started flying from the back seat to the front seat, making it nearly impossible to get in the car.  This becomes important later.


Sitting on balloons all over car = Extreme Bubble Wrap Popping.
(And notice the balloon escaping...)

Eventually we were able to get around the balloons for the photo op, after which we went back inside to change into more comfortable clothes for the hour or so drive from the church to Memphis, where we were staying for our honeymoon.  Before we could leave, however, we had to do a second run-thru so that the participants could assault us with handfuls of birdseed, lobbed enthusiastically from close-range with all the force of a trebuchet.  The reason for this was that someone had recently read you weren't supposed to use rice anymore because then the pigeons and birds would eat it, drink water, swell up and explode.  Lovely.  Nothing like driving off to one's honeymoon with thoughts of birds spontaneously combusting all around one.  Projectile bird guts--quite the mood setter.

Attempting to dig out wads of birdseed.

After surviving the birdseed blitz, we once again got into the car and headed for Memphis for real.  Once there I went into the hotel bathroom to change into something less comfortable; while disrobing I discovered that I had yet more bits of birdseed stuck to my skin, giving me the inspiration for a short story I still have yet to write.  "Birdseed in My Bra" sounds like an excellent title, don't you think??  We stayed the night at the famous Peabody Hotel in Memphis, where we had the "Legendary Honeymoon" package, which basically meant we had a tiny suite, swish bathrobes (which we did not steal because my stupid new husband had scruples), and a bottle of Peabody Champagne and a small fruit basket.  The next morning we were treated to a champagne brunch in the room with more of the Peabody champagne (complete with the Peabody ducks on the label)--which tasted approximately like battery acid, in my humble opinion.  We kept the other unopened bottle under our sink for over 10 years at which point I finally threw it out, figuring that industrial solvent probably didn't improve with age.  We only stayed one night at the hotel; since the next night was New Year's Eve, all the room prices instantly doubled to take maximum advantage of drunken revelers, making the cost a little too steep for us.  It's pretty bad when you spend four of your first five days of married life with one set of parents or the other.  That's almost as romantic as flaming pigeon guts.

After we checked out, we went to the curb to wait for the valet to bring our car around.  The driver was a small Hispanic man who spoke almost no English.  By the time the guy got back with the car he was completely flummoxed by all the balloons and stood around half gaping, half agitated.  The head valet yelled at him, snapping him back to attention.  He opened the trunk of the car to put in our luggage, only to discover yet more balloons inside.  He started speaking rapidly as he loaded up the baggage, no doubt cursing vigorously.  When the suitcase hit the bottom of the trunk it created an updraft which caused one of the balloons to fly out.  The valet completely freaked out.  I don't know what on earth he thought was going on with those balloons, but he was absolutely horrified at the thought of losing one; he probably thought they held state secrets or something.  After standing stunned for a second, he started gesticulating wildly and hysterically, pointing towards the balloon which was now bounding across the parking lot.  We tried to assure him that it was okay, that we didn't need it, but before we could stop him he took off across the parking lot after the errant balloon.  We just wanted to leave but we could hardly go away with the poor guy all wound up like that, so we waited.  For over 10 minutes.  When the guy came back, he was more deflated than any of the balloons we'd popped the night before.  His abject horror at having lost one of our possessions had him nearly in tears.  We again tried to calm him down and convince him that it was not a problem for us when he suddenly stopped freaking out.  You could almost see the light bulb go off over his head. Before we knew it, he was screaming in heavily accented English "You no go--you wait here!  I be right back!!" and he was gone again.  We looked at each other and the head valet with bewilderment.  A couple of minutes later the valet came back, proudly brandishing a giant burgundy balloon imprinted with "The Peabody -- 1987" in white letters.  He'd climbed up to the first floor loft over the lobby and somehow reached into the large net beside the rail where hundreds of balloons were suspended in anticipation of a midnight release for New Year's.  The valet presented this replacement to us with no small flourish, quite pleased with himself for having successfully remedied his accidental loss and making us again whole and accurately ballooned.  The hubs tipped the guy generously for his efforts; his short little head bobbed up and down in our rear view mirror as he waved goodbye enthusiastically, justice served.

When we returned to my in-laws' house to collect all the wedding gifts for the drive home, we discovered that the hub's cousin had short-sheeted our bed and strewn a layer of rice between each sheet and blanket and in the pillowcases.  In the hub's rented tux shoes was another half pound or so of rice.  When I opened up my suitcase to pack, I discovered two balloons tied to the strings of my sweatpants and yet more rice, most of which was concentrated in the same corner as my stack of neatly folded underwear and which was helpfully layered between each pair.  I was still finding kernels of rice years later.  Turns out the cousin's own in-laws had a huge thing about the tradition of rice and she wasn't about to let us off the hook with mere birdseed.  Turns out we got off easy; it seems her own father had soldered a cowbell to the bed springs of her bed before she got home from her honeymoon.

Later that afternoon we were expected at the house of my husband's grandparents for dinner.  Did I mention that every newlywed couple should get to spend four of their first five days together with their parents?  Because hanging out with relatives is the first and foremost thing on every newlywed's mind, right?  Never mind that awkward moment when you first return from your honeymoon, however long or short, and have to stand around being peered at by any number of knowing faces clearly reeking of the smug thought "I know what you just did."  My new grandfather was the best about it, though.  During the ceremony the day before my husband's grandmother had fallen victim to a nasty coughing fit.  Knowing that we were videotaping the ceremony, she became agitated over it  and decided to leave, so as not to "mess up the movie," dragging her husband along in her wake.  She was most distraught over having missed the whole thing, but Grandaddy was much more sanguine about it.  After being subjected to my father-in-law's smirk when we came in, Granddaddy pulled me aside and informed me in all (seeming) seriousness that we "weren't really married" because he had not seen it happen.  I looked at him thoughtfully for a minute, then burst out "Too late!"  He just laughed.  I loved that man.  He was quiet, but had a wonderful, sly humor that I adored.

We stayed a couple of nights in Tennessee to visit and then loaded up the car and headed back to South Bend, IN, stopping a couple more nights at my parents' house in the Honeymoon Suite there (aka two sleeping bags zipped together on the living room floor).  Attempting to have sex in a parental home and in a public common area?  Score!  (Or not, as the case may be...)  I suppose I should have taken this significant lack of alone time for our honeymoon as an omen, because let's face it--shacking up in a hotel room for just one night, however nice the hotel, is ultimately not that different off from taking a hooker to a seedy motel with an hourly rate.  Still, at 21 I was hardly worldly enough to know the difference.  Anyway, after the excessive parental bonding time, we finally made it home and began our married life together.

Twenty-five years later we are still together, though I sometimes wonder how.  Like most couples, we have had our share of ups and downs through the years.  We have shared many happy times, many not-so-happy times, a couple of great times--such as the birth of our daughter--and have been through a couple of epically horrible times.  We have survived cancer, surgeries, job changes, job losses, financial difficulties and financial boons, undiagnosed Asperger's, multiple moves, 3 dogs, depression, travel, broken limbs, family deaths, car wrecks, child-rearing, and much, much more.  While the years have not always been kind to us, while our life together has taken turns and falls I never could have anticipated, and while so very many things have not gone as I might have either hoped or expected, I am still proud of the fact that we didn't give up (even though I personally considered it on more than a few occasions) and that we stuck it out.  In fact, at dinner tonight I gave my husband a gift.  He opened the box, pulled out a very large roll of duct tape, and sat there with a distinct "WTF??" face, trying to figure out what I was up to this time.  Then he saw a folded-up piece of paper in the bottom of the box and pulled it out.  It read:



1) It’s silver. (Duh.)

2) You stuck around when you’d often rather have gone.

3)  To assist you with continuing to attempt to mend what needs mending." 

He scanned the simple words, then bent over the box and the remains of his cheesecake and started shaking.  With laughter.  A few minutes later, when he had once again composed himself, he admitted it was very clever and more than a little apropos.  He even said it was as good or better than the Valentine's Day (1-2 weeks after he'd had just had surgery for testicular cancer) when I'd given him a card on which I'd penned "Roses are red, violets are blue.  I'll love you forever, with one ball or two."  He may get flabbergasted by my weirdness, but clearly he secretly he likes it.  At least I'm still surprising him, twenty-five years later.  Can anyone really ask for more than that?

I have Seen the Light

Though I used to sing this song as a solo years ago, it's really meant to be sung as a trio by three men, usually representing the three wise men.  I realize it isn't yet Epiphany, but considering I only have two days left in the month for seasonal music videos, I thought I'd try to squeeze this one in for today.  The song is pretty as a solo, but the harmonies of the trio, especially when done well, are beautiful.  Unfortunately, it's somewhat difficult to find a good video on YouTube of the trio that doesn't fiddle with the harmonies or excessively embellish them.  I've found one with a good tenor, and one with a good bass; sadly they aren't in the same video.  This video is the one with the good tenor; it's a little more countrified than I normally go for, but the harmonies are clean and effective, and the lyrics are still cool.

Happy (early) Epiphany!

I Have Seen the Light

I was a seeker for light in a dark world,
I looked for truth but settled for lies.
I had been blinded, I couldn't see
Till the Star in Bethlehem's sky opened my eyes.

I have seen the Light shining in the darkness,
Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.
I have seen the Light whose holy name is Jesus,
His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven's throne!

There in a manger, an innocent baby;
Who could believe He was the One;
I can believe it, I know it's true;
He changed my life; He is the light; He is God's Son!

I have seen the Light shining in the darkness,
Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.
I have seen the Light whose holy name is Jesus,
His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven's throne!
We must tell the world what we`ve seen today in Bethlehem!
He`s the promised King; we bow down and worship Him!
Worship Christ The King!

I have seen the Light shining in the darkness,
Bursting through the shadows, delivering the dawn.
I have seen the Light whose holy name is Jesus,
His kingdom is forever; He reigns on Heaven's throne! 

29 December 2011

Belleau Wood - Garth Brooks

While I love most types of music, I've never been a big fan of country, or at least not "old-school" country.  I do like some of the crossover artists, though, or occasionally I'll like a particular song from a country artist, even if the artist himself or herself is not high on my list.  Such is the case here.  Garth Brooks is okay; he's not my favorite but I do like a couple of his songs, especially this one.  I would love the lyrics regardless, but I'm a sucker for a song with a real story behind it.

Belleau Wood is a section of land in Picardy, France, near the Marne River; in 1918 it was part of the Western Front in World War I and the site of a nasty battle between the Germans and the US Marines, which ultimately the Marines won, though not before sustaining nearly 10,000 casualties and taking 1,600 Germans prisoner.  Though well-known for this battle, Belleau Wood has become far more famous for the Christmas Truce of 1914, largely because of Brooks' song. 

Long before the US joined the war or before Belleau Wood, British and German Soldiers had fallen back to the area to maintain defensive positions after the first Battle of the Marne.  In the months leading up to Christmas 1914, there were several largely unsuccessful attempts at establishing peace initiatives, most notably by Pope Benedict XV who, on December 7, 1914 (apparently December 7 has an even longer history of unusual things occurring than most people realize) begged the opposing governments "that the guns may fall silent at least upon the night the angels sang" (Harrisondaily.com), a request which was refused.

In spite of the unsuccessful attempts at securing peace, some 100,000 British and German troops ceased hostilities in an "unofficial" truce carried up and down the Western Front, beginning on Christmas Eve of 1914, when the German soldiers began lighting candles along their trenches and singing Christmas carols.  The British responded by singing their own carols, and before long both sides were hesitantly meeting in No Man's Land to exchange small gifts of food or tobacco and to exchange souvenirs such as hats or coat buttons.  Wounded and slain soldiers from both sides were retrieved during the unspoken truce, after which a joint burial service was held.  Afterwards, many of the soldiers from both sides engaged in a friendly game of football in the middle of No Man's Land.  No artillery was heard the whole night.

The Christmas Truce at Belleau Wood lasted throughout the night, though at other spots along the front the truce lasted longer, even up to New Year's Day in some places.  The British commanders were furious over the truce and demanded that all troops cease friendly relations at once; a young German corporal named Adolph Hitler is also said (unsurprisingly) to have disapproved of the truce.

Co-written by Joe Henry, Brooks' song "Belleau Woods" was released 1n 1997 on his album Sevens.  Though not a big Brooks' fan as I said, I still purchased the CD years ago (before iTunes was readily available)--just for this song, which beautifully commemorates the Christmas Truce. 

The lyrics are as follows: 

Oh, the snowflakes fell in silence
Over Belleau Wood that night
For a Christmas truce had been declared
By both sides of the fight
As we lay there in our trenches
The silence broke in two
By a German soldier singing
A song that we all knew

Though I did not know the language
The song was "Silent Night"

Then I heard my buddy whisper,
"All is calm and all is bright"
Then the fear and doubt surrounded me
'Cause I'd die if I was wrong
But I stood up in my trench
And I began to sing along

Then across the frozen battlefield
Another's voice joined in
Until one by one each man became
A singer of the hymn

Then I thought that I was dreaming
For right there in my sight
Stood the German soldier
'Neath the falling flakes of white
And he raised his hand and smiled at me
As if he seemed to say
Here's hoping we both live
To see us find a better way

Then the devil's clock struck midnight
And the skies lit up again
And the battlefield where heaven stood
Was blown to hell again

But for just one fleeting moment
The answer seemed so clear
Heaven's not beyond the clouds
It's just beyond the fear

No, heaven's not beyond the clouds
It's for us to find it here

I hope all of you had a peaceful holiday of your choice, and that this peace continues to carry you through to New Year's and into 2012 before the dogs of war (or at least life) are once again let loose.

Sources:   http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Belleau_Wood

28 December 2011

Toetally Hosed

[I wrote a draft of this entry nearly two weeks ago, but then got distracted by the crush of holiday preparations and never actually posted it.  Lucky you--you get to see it now.  Misery loves company, after all...]

Everyone occasionally has a bad day, a bad week--even a bad year.   With everything that's happened since we moved here, I'm starting to feel like Georgia is trying to reject us like my body might reject an organ transplant.  Maybe Georgia has figured out that I am a dyed-in-the-wool Yankee (or "damn Yankee," which is what I'm told you call a Yankee who moves here and doesn't leave) and is rejecting me on general principles.  All I know is that stuff keeps happening to us.  Since we've moved, my daughter has broken her ankle, we have had a thermostat stop working (which is pretty bad considering that through a fluke of realty we ended up in a brand-spanking new house), causing us to go through 3 thermostats before the issue was resolved, we have cracks that are starting to appear where the 3-ish story house is settling, I have broken a wrist, then a toe (crushed it, actually),  my daughter has sustained multiple injuries (though to be fair most were during fighter practice for the SCA and in NY), my husband's Miata (or as I like to call it, his "sports p*nis") has been dinged twice in a parking lot--once on each door (it's important to coordinate these things),  and my mom van has been rear-ended by a student (negligible damage, though I now have the outline of her front license plate holder imbedded into my bumper).  As if all that weren't enough, I also had an appendectomy right before Thanksgiving, which was followed a week later by a badly infected toe (the result of part of my damaged toenail--from the break 6 months earlier--coming off and allowing bacteria into my nail root) and subsequently an adverse reaction to antibiotics which smelled suspiciously like Satan's farts, or at least like how I imagine they would smell.  Let's just say sulfur smells tasty by comparison.  The past 16 months have been nothing but one mishap after another.  Maybe I'm just being pessimistic, but if that's not Georgia trying to exorcise me from the premises, I don't know what is.

At the very least, I'd settle for having a do-over of the last seven days.  The chaos started last Tuesday (December 6).  I had an appointment to get my hair cut with good old Ricky, which I'd never gotten around to canceling after the mini-mullet debacle.  Since it was also the day of my concert and I need a trim, I figured I'd give him another chance, mostly because I'm lazy and it was just easier than finding someone else in one day.  Besides, I figured his errors were still 100% better than the other couple of cuts I've had down here.  We had a long chat about my mini-mullet, and while it's still iffy, he did blend it slightly better.  However, a week later, I still have stubby hair around my ears that gets hung on my glasses; meanwhile, my bangs are already too long because I forgot to remind him I don't like hair in my eyes.  Sigh.

Anyway, later that Tuesday afternoon, because I am a moron (who should know better) I started fiddling with the damaged toenail that is still in the process of growing out from when I broke my toe.  It's been six months now--the actual bones have long-since knitted, and I've had a new nail attempting to grow under the old, damaged nail for some time.  This process has caused the old nail  to contract as it dries, pulling in the sides of my nail bed along with it.  This has also necessitated occasional trimming and angling of the nail to relieve the pressure between the two nails and at my cuticles, as well as to assist my toe in resuming something remotely akin to normal shape.  I know I should have just left well enough alone, but I just can't stop myself most of the time.  Knowing full-well it was a bad idea to mess with the toe right before I had to stand around in new dress shoes for hours, I fiddled with the nail anyway, popping out one side of the older nail out of the cuticle in the process.  Okay, that's wasn't so bad.  It didn't even hurt.  Of course, that also meant I was left with a semi-attached nail saluting me from the ground.  Yeah, that wasn't gonna work.  So I pulled it off.  It bled a little, but didn't hurt too much.  After a little cleaning and bandaging, I got ready for the concert; I was at least clever enough to wear flip flops for rehearsal and bring the dress shoes with me to wear for the actual concert.

Before Tuesday, I had never been on the UGA campus, so of course I overshot the driveway for the Performing Arts Center and had to wind around the road for another 5-10 minutes before finding a good place to turn around.  I found my way into the relevant parking garage and got out, helpfully leaving my bottle of water in the car.  Instead of following some random guy dressed in black through a back door (that would have been too easy), I cleverly figured I could walk around to the front of the building and find my way in.  Except the doors of the building were locked, and it was starting to rain, so I went to the next building, which was emblazoned with "Hodgson Hall." I figured that was okay, since that's where the concert was supposed to be.  Unfortunately, I did not realize that the music department is also called Hodgson Hall, in addition to the concert hall in the first building I attempted to access.  After touring the music department for a few minutes and almost invading a completely different recital, I ended up walking all the way around the original building, ending up at the stage door the random guy had used 15 minutes previously.  Fail.  I did manage to arrive at the rehearsal on time (barely), though I was out of breath, sweaty, and waterless.  Not good.

Shortly after I climbed to the back of the risers the rehearsal started, complete with burning stage lights to amp up the sweat factor; we stood for the entire program's worth of music, merely a half hour before having to do it all over again.  Awesome.  Meanwhile, I was standing all in black and baking under the lights, having never had a chance to cool down from my campus tour.  There's nothing quite as special as singing beautiful music while sweat gushes down your legs as though your water had just broken.  Quite the interesting experience, that.  We had a couple of extra chairs along the top row, so when we finished rehearsing someone came along to remove them.  As we spread our remaining chairs apart to close the gaps, one leg of my chair started to go over the edge of the riser.  I quickly stood up and my neighbors helped me catch the chair and re-situate it saftely.  All I could think at the time was not that I was about to fall over backwards and break yet another who knows how many bones, but that my other choir director would kill me if I injured myself again.  One has to have priorities.

After the rehearsal we all got a sack dinner of sandwiches and chips and were given about 20 minutes in which to wolf it down.  Once finished, I changed into my dress shoes, only to discover that the left shoe had not been adequately stretched because a couple of my toes were badly pinched, even without the now ouchy big toe.  Needless to say, as soon as we processed into the auditorium and got to our places, I slipped my shoes back off.  No one was going to see my feet from the top row anyway.  The concert itself went well, though we still made a few mistakes here and there, but as the piece was in German, most of the audience never knew the difference.  We got a small break 2/3 of the way into the concert while some soloists were singing.  There was a men's trio that was particularly outstanding.  When I sat down for the break, I noticed some water spots on the riser from where the sweat had rolled down my legs, making it look like I'd peed myself.  Special.  I erased them as best I could with my stockinged feet.

When the program was over, I went to chat with some friends who'd come to see the concert.  My husband missed me, so went to wait in the lobby.  He ended up leaving without ever having seen me afterwards.  We always seem to be missing each other in one way or another.  Sigh.

Not surprisingly, my toe was tender for the next couple of days; I kept soaking it in warm water and trying to squeeze out any ickiness that was oozing, but it didn't seem to help.  By Friday night it was swollen and angry-looking, so red that it could easily lead Santa's sleigh in place of Rudolph's nose.  Just breathing on it seemed to make it hurt.  Clearly it had become infected and it wasn't clearing up after a couple of days as such things usually do for me.  So Saturday morning I headed back to the Minor Med here in town, where once again I was seen by the F Doctor who had sent me to the emergency room three weeks previously on suspicion of appendicitis.  I asked if he'd missed me.  He asked how my appendix was.  I told him "gone," and he just nodded and smirked.  I really like this guy.  He has my kind of humor.  He checked out the toe, agreed it was badly infected ("Cellulitis," he called it), and prescribed thrice-daily soaks in Epsom-salted water and the antibiotic Keflex.  I also got some more narcotics (me and the drugs this year are like this), only this time it was Lorcet (Hydrocodone) instead of Lortab.  He told me to take two of the Keflex per day for 10 days, and that if it wasn't getting less red in a couple of days I'd have to come back and have the toe numbed so he could remove the nail and "cleanse" the entire nail root area that I'd gotten infected.  I didn't hear most of what he said because I was too busy doing the "Ewwww, GROSS!" oogy dance to listen.

I got my meds and some groceries from Publix, then went home and sat around the rest of the afternoon in a drug-induced stupor.   That night I felt vaguely dizzy and queasy, so I ate a little and fell asleep.  Gotta love narcotics.  Who doesn't enjoy feeling like your brain has just been soaked in bleach?  On Sunday I went to church, though I was sensible enough not to narcotic up before driving.  When I got home I downed another of the hydrocodone and again started to feel very out of it and vaguely nauseous.  I ended up napping for a couple hours, which I considered a fine alternative to hurling from unbalanced brain, before having to head back to church for a kid's program which featured the adult choir.  I made the hubs drive, though, because I didn't trust myself to think straight and because I was still slightly queasy.  By the time the program was over,  my head had mostly cleared.  At this point my toe had already faded some and my whole foot was no longer pale pink, nor did the toe hurt just from me looking at it, so I stopped taking the Lorcet and switched to Advil.   I even went to bed before midnight (okay, maybe 2 minutes before midnight), which I am pretty sure is one of the signs of the Apocalypse.

On Monday morning I had to get up unpleasantly early to go to my post-op visit with the surgeon.  The nurse actually made me get on the scale which, like most women, I abhor.  Usually I can get away with just telling them how much I weigh, which is only marginally less embarrassing than seeing it in living technicolor, because the scales at the doctor's office never weigh the same as the one at home does.  The disparity is often so great, in fact, that I have decided in future I'm going to any and all weigh-ins stark naked since my clothing seems to have been woven with weight-enhancing magnetic threads or something, making it weigh an additional 50-60 pounds.  There can be no other explanation for the number on the scale.  I'm just sayin'.

When the surgeon came in, he glanced at my chart and commented that I wasn't "normal."  I thought, "Well, gee, that's a little rude, even if it is true."  Of course he meant that my appendicitis hadn't presented normally, what with the unimpressive pain for several days and the not ralphing on everyone constantly.  I considered that a good thing.  But whatever.  Doctor (don't call me) Shirley inspected his handiwork and seemed pleased enough with it, though he noted there was some redness around my navel (which there hadn't been a couple of days before).  I was then told not to worry, that sometimes the sutures irritate the skin and that if I saw any white threads sticking out, I should just pull them out with a tweezers.  Nice.  Now I'm gonna go home and obsess over the dental floss sawing through my belly button for the next 5 days.  Thanks, Doctor Shirley.

The surgeon went on to tell me that my hernia wasn't currently any big deal and then told me what to look for so I'd know if and when it was becoming an issue.  Lastly, he said I was pretty much released officially, including from weight lifting restrictions, provided I didn't go doing something stupid like lifting 100 pounds.  I love how he looked me straight in the eyes as he said this, almost like he knew me well enough to be suspicious.  Hmmm....

By the following Tuesday, I was still not feeling "normal" (apparently because I'm not); whenever my stomach was empty I felt queasy, my head was just as fogged as it had been on the painkillers (yay, narcotics! ) and I generally felt crappy.  My dear Posse girlfriends convinced me I was having an allergic reaction, in spite of the fact that I hadn't burst out into hives or started vomiting on people (I guess I'm just too cool ever to do that).  I called to see about getting my antibiotics changed and was told I'd have to see the doctor again.  I also discovered that I'd been taking half the required dosage for the previous 3 days because I am apparently too illiterate (or too hopped up on narcotics) to accurately read the prescription label.  Woot.  When I got to the Minor Med, the nurse showed me to the same room I'd had before; we decided that I might as well move into it to save time, given the way the last three weeks had gone.  Doctor F halfway made a face upon seeing me again, and I was told for the second time in two days that I'm basically not normal.  (Yes, and your mother smelt of elderberries.  Geez.)  This time it was because the antibiotic I'd been given rarely causes reactions, so clearly I'm just "special."  Still, to the guy's credit, he didn't blow me off.  Instead, he listened to my nebulous symptoms and figured out another medication to try.  As I was leaving he told me that I could stop the Epsom salt soaks on Thursday, and that if the toe became inflamed again, it was "Cuttin' Time" and that he had a knife all ready and waiting in his pocket.   Weirdly enough, that's a lot of why I like this guy.  I need people with bent senses of humor in my life because that sort of humor diffuses my tensions.  I get that sort of humor.  Heck, I am that sort of humor.

Off I went with a new and improved prescription.  For the most part it appears to be working, and while I wouldn't say I'm 100% back to "normal" (or at least my own version of "normal") my brain has at least cleared enough now to be mostly funtional and, other than knocking a bottle of lemonade all over my piles of Post-It notes yesterday and flinging oatmeal around my desk today, things seem to be improving.  Which is a good thing, because I only like sharp and pointy implements when I am sewing and am the one in control of said implements.

Edited to add:  Christmas has now come and gone, and I still have a toe (and nail) attached.  The toe in question has mostly returned to normal, though there is still a hump of old nail trying to climb up and off of the nail bed at an inexorably slow pace.  At this rate, it will be a year before my toenail looks like it did before I broke it, if indeed it ever does.  Still, at least it's no longer glowing red and is no longer sensitive to the merest touch.  Small favors, right?  Nevertheless, I am looking at my calendar at the four days remaining in 2011 and wondering if I can make it to the end of the year without anything else happening to my rapidly deteriorating body.  This year cannot be over with quickly enough to suit me.  I am desperately hoping that 2012 goes better, medically-speaking, at least.  And, if not, I'll only have to make it to December 21, at which point the world will end anyway, so it won't really matter one way or another anymore.  So that's something.

The 12 Days of Christmas - Straight No Chaser

 Now that we are legitimately in the midst of the twelve days of Christmas, I would like to share as promised the original Straight No Chaser video of the Twelve Days of Christmas from 1998 -- the one that started it all for them.  After graduating, the founding members left IU and began jobs and families.  Because of the campus group's ongoing popularity, IU decided to hotst a 10th anniversary reunion show for the original members.  One of these members, Randy Stine, posted an some old videos, including "12 Days", which were intended as nothing more than a walk down memory lane before the 2006 reunion.  At first, not much happened beyond the odd view here or there. Then, in 2007 alone, the "12 Days of Christmas" video went viral, garnering more than seven million views.  Some Atlantic Records representatives saw the video and rapidly signed the group to a record deal.  Though there have been a few lineup changes in the intervening years as original members have left to pursue other opportunities or spend more time with family, five of the original founding members are still together singing and touring, along with five other SNC alums from subsequent years.  To date, the original "12 Days" video has had over 13 million views, and the groups cumulative YouTube views have amassed more than 25 million views.  That's quite an impressive feat to pull off for a bunch of guys who'd gone their separate ways for a decade.  Still, there is no denying the group's appeal--intricate and close harmonies form the basis of the group's success, particularly when paired with entertaining mash-up arrangements such as in "12 Days."

Here is a video of the reunited group performing the same arrangement ten years later.  Not much has changed--they are as silly as ever and just as awesome!

You gotta love these guys--how many groups have you ever seen ENCOURAGE use of video or taking of pictures during a concert?  They remember how they got their start, and they celebrate that ever-widening fan base's support, even going so far as to bring up house lights after intermission so that they themselves can take pictures of their audiences while on tour, which are then posted to their Facebook page.  And that's just really cool.

Happy 4th Day of Christmas, everyone; hopefully you won't have 4 birds calling you--unless you're in Britain, in which case that might be a good thing...

Source:  http://www.sncmusic.com/bio/

27 December 2011

Gloria -- Dan Goeller

Three years ago, I was privileged enough to participate in the debut of a new work of music entitled The Word Became Flesh, composed by Dan Goeller.  For several months, my church choir, our youth choir, and a couple of other nearby choirs learned the music for this new cantata.  Many of the songs were new arrangements of familiar Christmas hymns, while others were original pieces written and orchestrated by Dan Goeller and his wife, Heidi.  Several churches chose to perform the work in 2008, but because we were the first, Goeller himself came to Bartlett (Memphis) to conduct us.  The music was already beautiful, but the opportunity to learn musical nuances directly from the music's composer was  uniquely memorable and inspiring.  After spending a couple of days in rehearsal with Goeller and the orchestra, comprised largely of members of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and a few talented musicians from our church, we performed The Word Became Flesh in early December with Goeller wielding the baton.  To this day, that concert remains one of the most amazing and exciting musical experiences of my life; I've been a huge fan of Goeller's music ever since.  He has an intriguing knack for taking music and making it sound epic and majestic while keeping it very accessible for both singers/musicians and the audience.  I wanted to share a video of the finale of this piece, but I couldn't find one, so instead here is a home video from this debut concert, with my choir singing "Gloria In Excelsis Deo."  I am one of the teeny-tiny faces in the back row, just to the left of the left-side door.

While I can't show you the video for the finale, I can provide a link for the audio of "We Have Seen the Glory" on Dan Goeller's website, which my current choir sang for Christmas this year.  Most of Goeller's anthems have audio on the website...click around and listen to some of them.  They are wonderful! 

26 December 2011

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

For me, no Christmas season would be complete without a little of Handel's Messiah.  True, I already presented some lampooned versions of the Hallelujah Chorus, but that's not really quite the same.  There are so many glorious pieces from which to choose, not the least of which is "For Unto Us a Child is Born."  It's beautiful music, plain and simple, and I am in awe of the baroque-style runs throughout, perhaps because I suck at singing them.  I do well with more lyrical pieces, Broadway music, folk music or spirituals, but getting the hang of baroque ornamentation has always been a struggle for me.  I suppose my own voice is too heavy for the light, dancing flights of musical notation which Handel so masterfully scores.  Here is a clip of Sir Colin Davis conducting the London Symphony Orchestra and Tenebrae Choir in Handel's "For Unto Us a Child is Born."

And, just because it's Boxing Day, here's a bonus video of Sara MacLiver singing Handel's "Rejoice Greatly" with Anthony Walker directing the Orchestra of the Antipodes.

Happy Boxing Day!

25 December 2011

Joy to the World - Mannheim Steamroller

Today has been a lovely Christmas.  I got up early, successfully sang Gesú Bambino for a solo at church before watching my daughter play her flute in a trio with two bell ringers, then came home and made a brunch of strawberry muffins and scrambled eggs with ham and cheese.  We cranked up the Christmas music for the day, then my family then opened gifts and goofed off for a while, after which I made the big meal which I couldn't make for Thanksgiving.  We stuffed our faces, cleaned up, and then watched a little television while waiting for the Doctor Who Christmas Special.  When the show was over, we played one of our new games--the Big Bang Theory Fact or Fiction board game.  Not that we're nerds, or anything.  With just the three of us here it's been a pretty quiet day, but the peace and relative calm has been nice, particularly after a year full of mishap and broken Gingerness.

As I sit here enjoying my pieces of both chocolate and banana cream pie, I am once again watching the Doctor Who Christmas Special and thinking of how, even in the quiet and calm, this has been a joyful day:  joyful sharing time with friends, joyful sharing music this morning, joyful sharing food and love with friends, joyful just sharing time with each other, and joyful for the true meaning of this day.  I hope yours has been equally as joyful.  I can think of no better way to celebrate the spirit of the day than with a little "Joy to the World" from Mannheim Steamroller.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

24 December 2011

Joseph's Lullaby - MercyMe

In recent years I have become enamored of the song "Joseph's Lullaby," performed by MercyMe.  The melody is simple and lovely, and the lyrics poignant and beautiful.  I really love this song, and I wish I could perform it myself.  Technically speaking, nothing in the lyrics would prevent me, but the text is such that it is just more meaningful coming from a Joseph.  It's a very touching song, and I thought it an appropriate one for this Christmas Eve.

Joseph's Lullaby (MercyMe)

Go to sleep my Son
This manger for your bed
You have a long road before You
Rest Your little head

Can You feel the weight of Your glory?
Do You understand the price?
Or does the Father guard Your heart for now
So You can sleep tonight?

Go to sleep my Son
Go and chase Your dreams
This world can wait for one more moment
Go and sleep in peace

I believe the glory of Heaven
Is lying in my arms tonight
But Lord, I ask that He for just this moment
Simply be my child

Go to sleep my Son
Baby, close Your eyes
Soon enough You'll save the day
But for now, dear Child of mine
Oh my Jesus, sleep tight 

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace."  Isaiah 9:6

Happy Christmas Eve.

23 December 2011

Suo-Gân (Welsh Lullaby)

Another one of my favorite Christmas songs, especially to sing, is "Suo Gan." Featured in the movie The Empire of the Sun, Suo Gan is a traditional lullaby from Wales.  In fact, when I first sang the song in my choir, it was an arrangement by K. Lee Scott entitled "Welsh Lullaby."  It's a beautiful song.  Here is Chanticleer performing it in the original Welsh:

I realize, however, that most of you don't speak Welsh, so here it is again in English, performed by the Iowa Wesleyan College Choir and Mt. Pleasant Chorale.

The English lyrics are as follows:

Hush, my dear one,
Sleep serenely,
Now, my lovely
Slumber deep.

Mother rocks you,
Humming lowly,
Close your eyes now
Go to sleep.

Angels hover,
Ever nearer,
Looking on your
Smiling face.

I will hold you,
Close enfold you
Close your eyes now
Go to sleep.

Lovely darling,
I will guard you
Keep you from all
Woe and harm.

Slowly, gently,
I will rock you,
Resting sweetly,
On my arm.

May you slumber,
E'er so softly,
Dream of visions
Wondrous fair.

I will hold you, 
Close enfold you.
Close your eyes now
Go to sleep.

May you slumber, 
E'er so softly,
Dream of visions
Wondrous fair.

I will hold you,
Close enfold you.
Close your eyes now,
Go to sleep.

22 December 2011

Carol of the Bells - David Foster

For me, no Christmas would be complete without David Foster's exciting arrangement of the "Carol of the Bells."  Also called "Ukranian Carol" for its Ukranian origins as a folk chant, this song has been covered (and parodied) hundreds of times over the years.  Foster's rendition is still my favorite instrumental version, though, with its fiery, pulsating ostinato.  I hope you enjoy it, too.

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carol_of_the_Bells

21 December 2011

Gesu Bambino

I love Christmas music.   But then I suppose that's probably a little obvious by now, what with the daily music offerings for December.  However, I don't just love listening to Christmas music; I also love singing it.  One of my favorite songs to sing this time of year is Gesu Bambino--in fact, I will be singing it in my church Christmas morning (or maybe Christmas Eve).  Originally an Italian carol written by Pietro Yon in 1917, it was later translated into English.  In honor of that provenance, I'll offer a video in both languages.  The first features the amazing Carla Maffioletti singing Gesu Bambino in Italian.

Next, the fabulous Jessye Norman sings it in English:

Beautiful, no?  And, lucky for me, no one (to my knowledge, anyway) will be playing these YouTube videos before I have to sing the solo.  While I know I'll never compare to these dynamic divas, I can at least hope that my own rendition would not embarrass them.  Wish me luck!

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ges%C3%B9_bambino

20 December 2011

Peter, Paul and Mary - Light One Candle

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah, so I decided to post a video in honor of all my Jewish friends.  While I like a good game of dreidel as much as anyone, I didn't want to be all obvious and post the Dreidel Song, nor did I want to go the parody route (for once in my life) and post Adam Sandler's Hannukah song (though I think it's funny).  Instead, I decided to go with a song called "Light One Candle," which was written by Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul, and Mary.  Yarrow, a political activist, penned the song after receiving the "Peace Begins With Me" award from the Light One Candle Children's Education Fund in 1997.  Yarrow dedicated the song to the members of the organization before performing it with Peter, Paul, and Mary at a concert preceding the 1997 Peace Awards in San Antonio, TX.  Yarrow said he wrote it because he wanted to "write a song that would be...a call for peace and reconciliation."

Happy Hanukkah, everyone.

Sources:  http://www.lightonecandle.org/default.asp

19 December 2011

"Alviiiiiiiiiin! Stop Being Grinchy!"

There are only five days left till Christmas, and I haven't gotten bupkis done.  Okay, I've just about finished my Christmas letter and cards, but still.  My daughter gets here in 3 days (YAY!) and I still have to clean house, wrap presents, and run a few errands.  Normally I would be a lot more stressed, but after having to give up control over things at Thanksgiving because of my surgery, I'm a little more circumspect about things.  Still, I figured it's about the time of December when everyone who is still stressed could use a little levity.  So tonight I thought I'd offer a little Alvin and the Chipmunks.   You know you love this song.  Admit it.  Who doesn't want to listen to some guy with so much time on his hands that he decides to record his voice multiple times at different speeds to mimic some humanized rodents?  That's comedy gold right there.  Also, interesting bit of trivia--the guy who did the Chipmunks also is the comedic genius behind the Witch Doctor song.

I also figured since it's fun video night, I'd do a two-fer.  Here's another holiday classic, which I love expressly for the pleasure of listening to the incredibly scary-deep bass voice.  Sunday night I got to hear this same song performed by my Straight No Chaser boys, who have a couple of pretty spectacular basses of their own.  But here's the original "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch."

And here's another interesting bit of random trivia for those of you old enough to remember the original Fame movie from the '80s and subsequent TV series:  the guy who played the music teacher, Mr. Shorofsky?  He wrote the music for this song and indeed the entire show.  Well done, Albert Hague, well done.

Just for kicks, here's a video of my guys doing Mr. Grinch.  Enjoy!

18 December 2011

Jesus Christ the Apple Tree

Until last year, when the choir director at the church I was visiting for Advent coerced me into performing it with her and the accompanist, I'd never before heard the carol "Jesus Christ the Apple Tree."  Originally a poem, the words were first set to music in the 18th centuyr.  If you listen only to the deceptively simple melody, the song seems pretty basic, but the tightly interwoven harmonies take it to a different level.  Once I got past my apprehension at having to sing an unfamiliar song with only a couple of days' notice, the music started to grow on me, and I ended up enjoying it when all was said and done.

This morning I once again performed this carol with the same director and another lady of the choir who was kind enough to sub for our voiceless (though still amazingly talented) pianist.

There's actually an earlier version from the King's College Singers that I prefer, but as usual YouTube is being particular about what it offers me.  You can find that other version here.

Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Christ_the_Apple_Tree

17 December 2011

Thankful - Josh Groban

I admit it.  I am also a fangirl of Josh Groban.  I've loved his voice ever since the first time I heard it when he was maybe all of 17 years old.  It's rare to hear a young person with such a natural, well-developed voice.  Sure, there are the Jackie Evanchos of the world, and they're good, too, though I often wonder how long they'll stay that way when 8 year old or 10 year old vocal cords are being pushed to perform in a way they haven't yet matured enough to perform.  But perhaps that's just me. 

Over the summer I had the pleasure of seeing Groban in concert; he started the performance on a raised platform partway down the arena floor--less than 20 feet from us!  That was very cool.  I gotta give the man props--he does know how to perform! 

Anyway, though I enjoyed Groban's album Noel when it came out a couple of years ago, the one song on it that most struck me was called "Thankful."  Say what you will about Groban himself, but the lyrics of the song touched a chord with me and have stuck with me ever since.  So now you're stuck with them, too.  Besides, how can anyone not love something that has David Foster and Carole Bayer Sager stamped all over it?  Enjoy.

Thankful (by David Foster, Richard Page & Carole Bayer Sager)

Some days we forget
To look around us
Some days we can’t see
The joy that surrounds us
So caught up inside ourselves
We take when we should give.

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be.
And on this day we hope for
What we still can’t see.
It’s up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There’s so much to be thankful for.

Look beyond ourselves
There’s so much sorrow
It’s way too late to say
I’ll cry tomorrow
Each of us must find our truth
It’s so long overdue

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And every day we hope for
What we still can’t see
It’s up to us to be the change
And even though we all can still do more
There’s so much to be thankful for.

Even with our differences
There is a place we’re all connected
Each of us can find each other’s light

So for tonight we pray for
What we know can be
And on this day we hope for
What we still can’t see
It’s up to us to be the change
And even though this world needs so much more

There’s so much to be thankful for.

Source:  http://www.lyricsmania.com/thankful_lyrics_josh_groban.html

16 December 2011

Wizards in Winter - TSO

Another one of my many favorite holiday songs is "Wizards in Winter" by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, first introduced on their 2004 album Lost Christmas Eve.  I find it virtually impossible not to bounce around in my seat every single time I hear it.  It's a very jam-worthy tune.

In 2004, a guy named Carson Williams set up a light show in his front yard, synchronized to the music of Wizards in Winter.  An electrical engineering wizard himself, Williams took over two months and 16,000 lights to make the display.  A video of the original display was put on YouTube, as well as a later, more polished video, which has been circulating consistently since then.  In 2005, Williams amped up the voltage by adding more lights, bringing the total to 25,000.  The display proved so popular that it was featured in a Miller Lite commercial; it's popularity also resulted in a traffic accident in Williams' neighborhood as a result of the increased traffic congestion around his home, after which Williams disabled the display.

The video is cool, though--it's pretty entertaining to watch the lights winking on and off in time to the music, though I'm convinced the two lighted wreaths on the upstairs windows are staring at me.  Seriously.  They are.

I couldn't load the exact video I wanted, which is essentially a closeup of this one and in color, but you can find that video here if you're interested.

Sources:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wizards_in_Winter

15 December 2011

I Need a Silent Night -- Amy Grant.

It's usually right around now that everyone starts feeling the holiday pinch, if they haven't already.  People are baking for parties, trying to pull together teacher gifts, finish up last-minute shopping, wrapping, cleaning, attending programs at school and church, and generally going crazy as they wonder if they'll ever be able to finish it all.  Chances are they won't.  And that's okay, because as exciting as all that is, it was never really the point.

Amy Grant is not necessarily my favorite artist, though I do like a lot of her stuff, but I love the sentiment expressed in this particular song. 

The lyrics, as penned by Grant and Chris Eaton:

I've made the same mistake before
Too many malls, too many stores
December traffic, Christmas rush
It breaks me till I push and shove

Children are crying while mothers are trying

To photograph Santa and sleigh
The shopping and buying and standing forever in line
What can I say?

I need a silent night, a holy night

To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

December comes then disappears

Faster and faster every year
Did my own mother keep this pace
Or was the world a different place?

Where people stayed home wishing for snow

Watching three channels on their TV
Look at us now rushing around
Trying to buy Christmas peace

I need a silent night, a holy night

To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night

What was it like back there in Bethlehem

With peace on earth, good will toward men?

Every shepherd's out in the field

Keeping watch over their clock by night
And the glory of the Lord shone around them
And they were so afraid

And the angels said fear not for behold

I bring you good news of a great joy that shall be for all people
For unto you is born this day a Savior, who is Christ the Lord
And his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Prince of Peace

I need a silent night, a holy night

To hear an angel voice through the chaos and the noise
I need a midnight clear, a little peace right here
To end this crazy day with a silent night
To end this crazy day with a silent night