This month, every Wednesday evening choir rehearsal has felt like a mini-Lent. We've been singing through the anthems for Lent, in order, so we go through the Lenten weekly themes, and the the Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil anthems. It's like a time lapse - seriousness, sorrow, and joy in a little over an hour. It's one of older son's favorite times of year because of the music, and it's one of mine too.
For whatever reason, for the last few months, I've been finding that I feel closest to God, not on Sunday morning, but on Wednesday evening. The short prayer before rehearsal starts really reaches me, and I focus on prayer through the words of the anthems. One evening, there wasn't enough sheet music for everyone so I sang When I Survey the Wondrous Cross from memory (I even remembered the second soprano harmony parts!). Because I wasn't looking at the notes, I really focused on the words
...See from His head, His hands, His feet, Sorrow and love flow mingled down! Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, Or thorns compose so rich a crown?
Were the whole realm of nature mine, That were a present far too small; Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.
I got teary.
I totally failed at Lent this year. The reactions I had to blood pressure medicines knocked out the Lenten things I was attempting. I've spent the last two weeks just trying to get everyday life back to normal. After writing the previous post, I actually was able to relax more on Thursday and start really enjoying things again. I should feel guilty for failing at Lent, but it's just not in me anywhere.
I wrote a long, depressed post last week, but never posted it. Here's part of the post:
Last Sunday was a lousy morning. Even though it's been in the 70's and 80's lately, the heat was on at church. In the choir robe, I was overheated* and just trying to get through.** I blew my voice out (my throat swelling isn't totally gone) singing too high during the rehearsal beforehand so I couldn't sing much in the service itself. Our seating was different than usual - I was way out on the end and couldn't hear the rest of the sopranos, or even the rest of the choir. The anthem was a cappella so you can't rely on hearing the piano. There were points where I didn't even try to sing in the anthem because I couldn't hear the other sopranos well enough to blend with them. We sang Amazing Grace during communion, which reminded me of the funeral I'd been to the previous week. I got through the funeral without crying too much, but singing Amazing Grace again somehow opened the spigots to full. I couldn't stop crying and totally missed the last three verses (and I wasn't even crying for myself, I was sad for his family (who are my family too)). I was sitting so far from most of the choir that there weren't many people to shake hands with during the Sign of Peace so I ended up just watching everyone else shake hands. That reminded me of the time before I joined the choir. During the Lord's Prayer, I missed holding hands with those next to me, like we did when we went with daughter to her Catholic church a few weeks ago. The service just made me feel very isolated. On the way home, I realized that I would have been just as happy to have gone home when the rehearsal was over before the service even started...
...Except for the Eucharist.
Today was totally different. I ended up in the middle of the soprano section so I could hear and blend (and shake lots of hands during the Sign of Peace). I was even able to be at peace for the eight measures that were too high and quiet for me to sing without straining my voice. I just joined in again when I could - without kicking myself for not being able to sing the whole thing! I mentioned this to older son, and he said that there are bass parts that he can't sing because they are too high. He loves it when the bass part is down in the basement.
I had the anthem going through my head all afternoon. I love the different musical colors of the three verses. The first one is more normal anthem-y, the second we all sing harmony with the soprano solo, and the third has very tight harmonies. It's like walking into a new room for each verse. Here is the Norfolk State University Concert Choir singing An' I Cry:
The attendance at the 11 am service varies lately. Communion is sometimes one hymn long, and sometimes two hymns long. Today, I was silently willing everyone to take a long time for communion because I really wanted to get to the second communion hymn. We made it! I had Lift High the Cross in my head a good bit this afternoon too. Here, it's sung by Trinity Episcopal Church in Fredonia, NY:
(Okay, I got teary the last verse again. No spigot, though.)
* Older son, who gets very easily overheated and is quite happy in 20 degree weather, said that he only remembered two things from the sermon - the part about the hike in the desert, which was very fitting, and the story about the rattlesnake.
** The title of the post involved the phrase: "Sing 'till you pass out" - a variation of my garden motto from last summer: "Garden 'till you pass out."
[I've been to Duke Gardens three times this week. Thursday, I had a good time there with my mother and younger son. I didn't want to slow them down too much so I restrained myself from taking too many pictures. Friday, I went back by myself and took too many pictures. Saturday, I went with dear husband, who had been in Atlanta all week and had listened to me bubbling over about how beautiful the gardens were.
The Terrace Gardens are filled with tulips in full bloom, and it feels like you're swimming in color.
Thursday, it was moderately crowded. Friday, I got there early, along with Garden staff and a handful of other people taking photos. Saturday (photo, above), it alternately sprinkled and poured so there were very few people there.
"Mommy, there are white flowers starting to bloom outside your bedroom window!" younger son said to me, Sunday, with a meaningful look on his face.
We've always started our spring break from the formal part of our homeschooling when the dogwoods start blooming. It's the most beautiful time of year in central NC, and I'm usually really excited. We finish the break when the temperature starts hitting the 90's regularly. I noticed on Friday that the dogwood buds were starting to open, and I knew we'd be breaking soon.
It always feels strange to call it a "break," though. We're only breaking from the formal part of our homeschooling (grammar, and math). Younger son will still be doing plenty of reading, we'll be hiking, he's working on circuits in Minecraft (a game which has gobbled up the brains of three members of my family now), we'll be going to museums, etc. What it really means is more spontaneous time.
Usually, I look forward to spring break, gardening, and being outside more. I've found that I'm not this year, for the first time ever. I realized that, partly, it's because of how life has changed in the last two years. Last year was the first year that I was only homeschooling one child, but we still had plenty of things we wanted to do during break. This year, younger son is 13, or, as I put it, the hibernate-in-your-room age. I actually sometimes get more time to myself than I need now. Thinking about starting break this week felt like a huge void ahead, and that's not normal for me.
Sure, I have a list of house projects that I want to tackle, and I'm going to get started on those today,* but that kind of stuff doesn't excite me. Housework is what I do in the time squeezed around the interesting stuff. I'm also not as in touch with the outside as I usually am, probably because of having to focus so much on my body with the blood pressure stuff, so I'm surprisingly unexcited about the spring.
I went to Zumba this morning and came back to a quiet house. Younger son is up in his room doing Minecraft on the netbook. He says it's nice and cozy. Some evenings, the guys are all upstairs on computers, and I'm downstairs with two affection-deprived cats. They get really pushy. Lina is now sleeping next to me on the floor after I took her off of the keyboard a few times.
After years of homeschooling three kids - with someone always having something they wanted to do that involved me, either driving or doing things together, this feels like a vacuum.
I don't like it.
Dear husband and I talked about this on our walk yesterday afternoon. Younger son will still get plenty of time to himself, but I'm going to bring up things to do also. Yesterday, while older son and I were at church, dear husband and younger son went canoeing. Younger son had a wonderful time, particularly when he was challenging himself physically. This afternoon, we're going hiking nearby. We've been wanting to get back to the NC history exhibit at the museum in Raleigh. We're going to go to the zoo for the first time in years.
I'm going to stop at the garden center tomorrow to start some projects that will inspire me. I've been really missing learning choreography at dance classes so I'm going to learn the choreography in this video to Back It Up:
[That part was written on Monday. The rest I finished up Wednesday.]
It supposedly takes about three weeks to make a habit.
I was on the recent blood pressure medicine for almost two weeks, and, adding the week that I had side effects from it a few weeks prior, I've been dealing with the side effects for three weeks.
In those three weeks, I got very used to two things. First, pushing myself when I was exhausted, since I was exhausted all the time, and, second, just sitting and playing computer games when I wasn't pushing because I didn't care about reading, blogging, or, really, anything.
I've made both of those into habits.** I can't even tell normal tired anymore. When I was on the full dose of the med, I felt as exhausted as if I had the flu. When I was on a lighter dose, I felt like the day after the flu. But I didn't have the flu so I kept going and trying to do as much as I could make myself.
So the thought of taking a break? relaxing? - is very strange. Last night, I was exhausted at 11 pm. I did the dishes and the laundry and woke myself up enough that I couldn't fall asleep until 2:30 am.
There are times in your life when you have to push yourself, particularly when kids are little. Now isn't one of those times for me.
However, not pushing myself feels lazy. On the other hand, I think I might need to relearn how to relax, in some way that doesn't involve computer games, in order to try to get my blood pressure down.
So, it also doesn't feel like a "break" because I've gotten into the habit of just grimly forcing myself through the day.
* Anyone want a child-sized sleeping bag? Younger son grew out of it a few years ago.
** The other habit I got into was just sitting and staring at the table during meals while listening to everybody else talk. Even though the drug is long gone from my system, it's still difficult for me to get back into having conversations.
Because of the warm weather, there's so much blooming in the yard. I've even been able to eat breakfast outside and look at the flowers!
Hyacinths in the front bed
The yellow and light purple pansies in the center are some of my favorites this spring.
Hyacinths, pansies, and daffodils
I love the little daffodils at the bottom of the stairs in back.
Leopard's bane is one of my favorites. It's starting early this year.
Anemone (early blooming too)
Tulip (early bloom)
We don't usually plant bulbs in the pots on the deck, but I love seeing them out the kitchen window!
The pansies in this bed haven't done so well the last few years, but they're doing wonderfully this year.
Epimedium - this is really early this year. I went back and looked at previous March Bloom Day posts, and usually we still have crocuses in mid-March (ours are done), and the tulip buds are just coming out of the ground.
[This part written Monday afternoon] I feel so wonderful today! I got up, went to Zumba right away, talked to a bunch of people before it started, came back and homeschooled younger son, started laundry, cleaned the shower, rescheduled doctor's appointments, organized my desk, and there's still more day left!
Oh, I'm off of the latest BP medicine as of two days ago.
[This part I wrote Sunday night so it's calmer:]
Although I'm a night owl, morning is my best time. That's when I have my best energy and I feel the most creative. On the most recent BP medicine, I lost the mornings. I'd be exhausted from about 20 minutes after I took the medicine through the next afternoon/evening.
Today, I got the morning back for the first time in two weeks. I put together two blog posts and had all sorts of energy.
Oh, and I didn't go to church. I couldn't sing yet because the swelling in my throat hadn't gone away. Friday night, about an hour after I took my medicine, my throat started swelling. 1/2 teaspoon of Benadryl slowed it down, but only slightly. 1/2 an hour later, another teaspoon - and so on until I'd taken 3 teaspoons total by 2:30 am. I never need more than two teaspoons of Benadryl for anything, and I usually take 1/2 tsp.
By 3:30 am, my throat had loosened up enough for me to not worry about going to sleep, although I did have my epi-pen next to me, just in case.
Fortunately, dear husband woke up at 2 am. For the first few hours, I was able to stay busy and calm, but by 2 am, I was starting to get a little panicky. There isn't anything online that tells you exactly when, with an allergic reaction, you should head to the emergency room. I don't want to be over reactive and run there when I don't need to. You can't call the doctor and ask in the middle of the night, and there are no 24 hour Urgent Care centers within an hour's drive of here (I Googled that).
One teaspoon of Benadryl puts me to sleep so I had to be really panicked to still be awake on three. With both the exhausting BP medicine AND six times my normal dose of Benadryl all in my system, I wasn't really totally awake and alert the next morning until about 11 am - when we got to the Transportation Museum. Dear husband drove while I dozed.
I have had a difficult time making myself take the BP medicine because I know I'll feel lousy, exhausted, and depressed about 20 minutes after I take it. Sometimes I can't make myself take it until 1 am. Last night, I didn't have to dread taking it.
That was really nice.
[On to Wednesday because I've been too busy to get back to this:]
I'm amazed at how much I can get done when I'm not on medicines. As a bonus, the weather is beautiful, warm, and sunny. I feel like I'm on another planet compared to the way I felt last week. I went to one of my favorite Zumba classes last night and loved it (oh, and talked to people I didn't know)! Two weeks ago, while med-strangled, I went and wondered why I bothered. It wasn't fun at all. I was considering stopping.
I'm so glad that I didn't try BP medicines before daughter went to college. I wouldn't have wanted to miss that time. Currently, older son is really busy at college, and younger son is in that early teen hibernate-in-his-room stage. It does bug me that I've been feeling lousy when dear husband is home rather than being able to enjoy that time. I get to enjoy the rest of the week, though, since I have to clear the last medicine out of my system!
It's been difficult to go to bed because, compared to the drug-induced exhaustion, normal tired doesn't seem tired at all! It's so easy to get up in the morning now.
What's strange to me is that, when I'm on BP medicines, then I'm supposed to be healthy even though I feel lousy. When I'm off of them, I'm supposed to be unhealthy, even though I feel great.
Oh, and now that I've been of the BP medicines for half a week, the BP upper number has gone down by about 20, and the lower number has gone down by about 10.
Dear husband will be traveling on and off for a few weeks so I can't try another one until he's home for a decent amount of time again. I'd been on the last one for almost two weeks when I had the allergic reaction so he needs to be here for a while in order for me to try one. In the time until then, I'm working even harder at changing how I eat, making sure I do yoga (adding half an hour of yoga is nothing now, compared to all the time I lost on the drugs), and, most of all, de-stressing.
[Okay, this has been sitting up on the computer all evening. I'm getting too bored with the subject to even post it!]
On the way back from the NC Transportation Museum, we stopped in Greensboro to have dinner at Elizabeth's Italian Restarant, which is less than a mile from Edward McKay's used books, CDs, and other things. We couldn't resist.
However, we had a 20 minute time limit, which younger son strictly enforced, even though one of us spent all her time in the CD section and never got to the book section at all...
Here's what I found (all $8 and less):
Diana Reeves sings jazz
Four part harmony jazz
My Amazon order also came today, including:
I'm happily listening while waiting for the guys to get home for dinner. The taco parts are ready, the chairs and tables are set up outside, and the sun is still up at 6:30!
I have spent countless hours over many years wandering the back roads of North Carolina. Mary Chapin Carpenter's song, I Am A Town, is amazing in the way that she captures Carolina small towns:
I'm a town in Carolina, I'm a detour on a ride For a phone call and a soda, I'm a blur from the driver's side I'm the last gas for an hour, if you're going 25 I am Texaco and tobacco, I am dust you leave behind I am peaches in September and corn from a roadside stall I'm the language of the natives, I'm a cadence and a drawl I'm the pines behind the graveyard and the cool beneath their shade Where the boys have left their beer cans, I am weeds between the graves My porches sag and lean with old black men and children My sleep is filled with dreams, I never can fulfill them I am a town
I'm a church beside the highway where the ditches never drain I'm a Baptist like my daddy, Jesus knows my name I am memory and stillness, I am lonely in old age I am not your destination, I am clinging to my ways I am a town
I'm a town in Carolina, I am billboards in the fields I'm an old truck up on cinderblocks, missing all my wheels I am Pabst Blue Ribbon, American, and "Southern Serves the South" I am tucked behind a Jaycees sign on the rural route I am a town I am a town I am a town
I had I Am A Town in my head all of yesterday (older son and I sang it at one point).
We spent the day at the NC Transportation Museum. One of the first things you pass on the way in to the museum, is a silo with "The Southern Serves the South" painted on it.
"The Southern Serves the South" was the slogan for The Southern Railway (merged, in 1982, into Norfolk Southern). In southern trains, you can still see boxcars painted with the slogan. The museum (more on that later this week) has one of The Southern Railway's diesel engines in the roundhouse.
For this post, I tried to find out anything about how Mary Chapin Carpenter wrote this song so I Googled "I am a town" and "writing." Along with posts about her, I found that a number of writers like to listen to this song while they write. I also found an interview where she said:
...a song that I wrote years ago that started out as a poem. It's called I am a Town. And I had the complete lyric for that for months and months and months and I never could find the right music to go with it and then one day, just kind of stumbled on this very circular kind of moody thing and I knew that I had it. But it was constructed, you know, very separately. Music and lyrics very different times but then they found their way together.
...A song that, for whatever reason, at the end of the final fade, allows you to somehow be more ready than you were before to face the next moment, the next day? It’s a miracle that we ever find one...
Usually, I think of flowers as being some of the most ephemeral aspects of nature.
The dogwood buds have started to loosen up. Usually, there are about two weeks between the flowers starting to look really flowerish and most of the "petals"* falling to the ground. I realized, recently, when older son and I were taking photographs at Duke Gardens, that, for me, tree skeletons are also ephemeral. This sounds strange since, here in NC, we have tree skeletons from mid-November until mid-March. Four months is not ephemeral.
I used to think that I only enjoyed tree skeletons in late February and early March because of seasonal depression. This year, however, because of the warm winter, I've been able to be outside a lot more. There have been days when I've talked on the phone, read books,and eaten lunch outside. My seasonal depression has been far less for most of this winter (except for a few rainy weeks). Still, that day at Duke Gardens, I realized that I was enjoying the tree skeletons more than I have in the rest of the winter. It's not because my mood has been better lately. My mood has been worse in the last few weeks because of medicines.
I'm enjoying the tree skeletons more because of the brighter sunlight. We're far enough away from the winter solstice that the sun is as strong as it is in early October. The tree skeletons seem to glow by this time in the late winter/early spring. I find myself telling the leaves that they can wait a while longer. They'll be here all summer, and I'm not in a rush because I'm enjoying the tree skeletons.
* Really, they're bracts, but that's not what this post is about.