My different approach to NaBloPoMo this fall

I've done NaBloPoMo (posting every day) in November for a number of years.  By the end of the month, I find it frustrating because writing takes me quite a while, and I edit a lot (if it seems like I don't - you should see the posts before I do!).  I start NaBloPoMo in order to get back into the habit of writing, and, by the end of the month, I usually end up posting videos with a sentence or two - just to get it over with.  

I look at NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with envy - except that I don't write fiction.  NaNoWriMo is just to get people writing - you don't have to publish at all, just write a certain number of words.

I've decided to write a blog post every day, but only post the ones I like best on my blog.  I'll put photos on other days to keep in the spirit of NaBloPoMo.  

Checking in after a long time, and a look at what's blooming


I haven't posted here in so long.  It's been a busy, eventful spring year.  Here's a brief rundown:

  • Les Misérables was one of the best experiences of my life!   It was such a wonderful challenge, and the cast & crew were great!  I was going to blog more about it during it, but I was too busy.
  • I injured my knee the evening before opening night.  Since then, it's been up and down.  Some days, it would feel fine, and, other times, it would be really stiff.  I started doing Zumba again regularly, recently, and I've also been doing my physical therapy again.  This week, my knee seems pretty much back to normal - I'm even samba-ing again!
  • After four years of very hard work and intense involvement, daughter graduated from UNC-Asheville.  I'm so extremely proud of her, but I'll miss going to see her so close by.
  • (... so many Kleenexes...)
  • I had reflux for the first time ever in March & April.  It seemed to come & go mostly based on stress.  It was so bad that I was losing my voice.  I was eating meals half as large as usual to try to get it to go away.  I wasn't trying to lose weight, and when people complimented me I was polite.  However, I'd rather STAY THE SAME WEIGHT AND HAVE MY VOICE BACK!!!!!!!!!   I got my wish. For the most part, the reflux has gone away, and I'm back to about 3/4 of what I usually eat.  I'm close to where I started, weight-wise, which, I suppose, should upset me, but I don't care because - a few days before Seussical auditions, my voice was back to normal!!!!
  • I sang "All That Jazz" for the Seussical auditions.   I was trying not to dance it too.  However, after all the times I've danced it in two different Broadway dance classes (and performed it with one), I had to stay so tense to not dance that I danced the second half of the audition (I asked ahead if that would be okay) so that the singing would be easier!  
  • I'm a bird girl in Seussical!  We've started rehearsals, and it will be fun!
  • Seussical is being done by the community theater group I've been in during the summers.  I don't put the name in personal posts so my blog posts don't come up when people do a search for the group.  
  • My first musical with this group was five summers ago.  Younger son (15 yo) mentioned that I've been doing this for 1/3 of his life.  He's going to help me paint sets this summer.
  • Older son is doing some of the set design!
  • I did a mindfulness-based stress reduction class through UNC-Chapel Hill in March and April.  It's helped to lower my blood pressure and my stress, and I've really liked the changes I've made as a result of the class.   I've been trying to take an MBSR class for the last two years, but the program at the other university medical center in the area (which my doctor recommended) never worked schedule-wise (either vacations, my performances, or daughter's performances were on the same days).  UNC-CH's classes are more flexible - you can make up a session with the same session in another group, which worked out very well. 
  • Usually, I have seasonal depression in the darkest parts of the winter.  Being in  Les Misérables pretty much kept that at bay this year.
  • On the other hand, I was depressed in the later part of the spring.  That's almost never happened before.  Spring is usually my most energetic time of the year.  After reading a lot of different books in the first part of the year, I read very little in the late spring.  I got way behind on the photo blogs, and I've hardly posted here at all.  I took photos for May's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, but never even bothered to post them. I also watched more TV* than I've watched in decades.
  • Gardening did keep me going.  I think I did more gardening this spring than in many past springs.  
  • My mood totally improved when we started Seussical.  All of a sudden, I had energy again.
  • I think I might be show-dependent!

Here are some more of the photos I took in mid-May for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day:


This rose bush is doing unusually well this year.


I could see these pansies from the window next to the computer.


I often eat breakfast while sitting on the front porch steps.  This was the view.  The daisies in the background escaped from the bed behind them years ago as did the purple mazus in the grass on the right.


A close-up of the daisies and the mazus



The mountain laurel is one of my favorite bushes.


I took a number of photos of the columbines.  This is the only one that came out well.  They're hard to photograph.


Mountain bluet


Yellow flag iris


These daisies have escaped from the bed into the drainage ditch between our house and the neighbors'.


This columbine photo turned out well.


 I'm so happy to see the fairy wand (Chamaelirium luteum) blooming!  I've always loved seeing it in the Mountain Habitat Garden at the NC Botanical Garden in Chapel Hill, and I was able to buy it there two years ago.


 Coreopsis "Jethro Tull" - a perfect plant for me since I play the flute!  The only large pop/rock concert I ever went to was a Jethro Tull concert in Boston in 1980.

* The Blacklist, Agents of Shield, and Boston Legal - all three are good, but, usually, I can't even keep up with one show, much less watch two current ones and one older one.

Lent this year

A few weeks before Lent started, I read a comment on a religious discussion board that said that people with allergies and asthma should just endure their reactions to incense (no matter how severe) in order to fulfill their religious duties.  Basically, incense was too important to change its use for a bunch of whiners.*  

Since I have asthma (back under control now, but it was really bad in November & December) and it was the height of seasonal depression, my first reaction was that maybe God just doesn't like asthmatics (& other people who have reactions to incense).

My second reaction was that I needed to stop reading things that made me feel like I couldn't be a Christian.  That's what I should give up for Lent!  

I've never seen the point of New Year's Resolutions - if you want to make a change, make it!  Why wait until New Year's?!  The same with this.  A few weeks before Lent, I gave up reading things that looked like they would make me feel like I couldn't be a Christian.  Basically, this means that before I start reading articles or discussion boards, I pause and really think about the possible results of reading them.  

This was so useful that I'm also doing the same thing with articles & boards that have nothing to do with religion.  Is this article really going to give me any useful new information or is it just rehashing the same arguments?  Does it give a new perspective?  I read far fewer articles now.

The wonderful thing is that I'm reading more books.  

I also decided to try reading more things that actually encourage my faith!  While this seems like a fairly obvious thing to do, I've spent lots of time reading things that other people recommend because they encourage their faith.  I've never tried to focus on thing that will help my faith because that seems like cherry-picking - maybe I'll only focus on the easy stuff.  However, with my bout of not-being-sure-of-what-I-believed a few years ago,** I decided that it would be good to nurture my faith for a while.  I've been listening to Father Phillip's homilies online, and I've been reading Inspiration from Pope Francis.

The thing is, unlike the usual Lenten changes, I don't see a reason to change back when Lent is over.   

*  I tried to go back and find the link, but my internet history doesn't go back that far.  

** During the Nicene Creed, I would mentally add "I would like to believe" at the beginning of every section. 

[The photo is of the mother and baby dolphins that we watched in the harbor in Charleston, SC a month ago.  The photo is only loosely connected to the post (I bought the book about Pope Francis from the Pauline bookstore in Charleston).]

Bookshelves and The Ikea Song by Jonathan Coulton

We have a lot of books.  There are these two bookshelves in the library (there used to be more, but we moved the piano into the library and the bookshelves into the playroom, and we added a CD cabinet):



and these three bookshelves in the playroom:


and these stacks of books on the floor in the playroom.  They're from the last trip to the used bookstore in Mebane - their most recent 4-paperbacks-for-$1 sale:*


 Most of the paperback shelves are double shelved, and the science fiction/fantasy section is triple shelved:


We're thinking of making the wall that the three bookshelves are on into a wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling bookcase - something like what Centsational Girl does in From Billys to Built-Ins, except going all the way to the ceiling.  We looked very seriously at what she built.  She uses Ikea Billy bookcases and then builds around them to make them built-in.  It turned out very well, and she says it only took a weekend and less that $400.  We would want the larger shelves on the bottom for large books - and we could maybe even get our record collection out from the floor of our closet!

However... I've been looking at the room at various times over the last week.  The playroom has two windows on the front of the house.  Compared to most of the other rooms, particularly the living room, it seems like a bit of a black hole.  It's darker than the rest of the downstairs, and it almost seems to absorb light.  


So, I mentioned to dear husband that it would be nice to have a window in that room, and build bookshelves around it.  I've always like the look of built-in bookshelves around a window.  

That would be a lot more expensive, though.  Adding a window actually doesn't cost as much as I expected, but it does add a lot to the price.  The shelves would have to be totally built so we couldn't save by using already made Ikea shelves.

We also talked about putting a garden window in, but that idea quickly disappeared once I found out how expensive they are.  

We're still discussing.

We've passed Ikea stores before - up North and while driving through Charlotte, but we've never been in one (the Charlotte one is two hours away, and we've never had a reason to go there).  However, I do enjoy this Ikea song (to buy, go to his website and page down to the song) by Jonathan Coulton:

 [Note:  If you're the sort of person who clicks on the photos in order to see what books are on the shelves (I am), please leave a comment.**]

* Plus older son has 2 bookshelves and many stacks worth of books in his room, but that's not MY worry!

** If you did look, the book is The Joy of X - it's a MATH book.



The poor aren't on the barricades in Les Mis so I had a free evening last night.  Dear husband was worn out from a few long days at work, and younger son had insomnia the night before.

It was a very quiet evening for me (which, with all the rehearsals the last two weeks, felt very strange!).  I ended up trying to organize photos on the computer - something I don't do often enough.  I finished May, 2010 last night (told you).  

I have many posed photos (please stand by this lake... in front of this river... in front of this mountain, etc.), which I'm glad I have - particularly as everyone keeps changing.*  However, I have a special love for unposed photos.  They bring me back to a time in the way posed ones don't always.  

In May, 2010, we went to Marblehead & Boston for vacation.  It was right after older son finished his first year of college and daughter finished high school.  We haven't all had the time to take a distant vacation like that again.  Younger son wasn't taller than I am yet. 

The photo above is one of many I took of everyone else wandering around on the rocks by the ocean in Marblehead.  It brings me back there again better than any of the posed photos I took - the sound and smell of the ocean, the temperature and humidity, etc.  

IMG_0343csDo you ever hang back so that you can see what everyone else is doing?  The island was lovely, and the sunset was pretty, but I remember this moment - enjoying their enjoyment.  Here's a close-up:


Older son is looking down at shells, etc.  Daughter is telling younger son about something.  I love these brief glimpses into the past.  

 That's one thing that I envy about parents who are just starting out now.  With digital photography, you can take as many photos like this as you want.  There's almost no extra cost - not like having to develop all the photos.  I took photos of my kids when they were little, but I'd have taken many more if it had been as cheap as it is now - just little bits and pieces of daily life.


* That being said, two out of three of my kids hate posed photos for being fake.  

Rehearsals (written a month ago)

I am having a fantastic time at the rehearsals for Les Mis.  Everyone there has been very friendly, and I'm working hard at trying to learn people's names - which is difficult for me because I'm usually paying so much attention to people's personalities when I meet them that the names go in one ear and out the other.  The Facebook group for the musical has been good because then I can look at the photos and the names every day.  

It's funny - I usually am starting to feel really gloomy at this point of the year because of the short days, but I don't feel that way this year (for the most part - there are some bad days).  Rehearsals make everything seem sunnier even if the sun went down two hours before.  Even though I'm much busier, and have spent all my free time some days learning music, I feel like I have more energy and enthusiasm for everything.  I used to wonder about some of the people I know who seem to go from one performance to another.  How did they have the energy?!  I think I'm beginning to understand.  

I'm amazed at the rate at which we're learning the music.  Most of the people in it seem to be able to read music so we don't spend a lot of time on the notes.  We spend lots of time on the rhythms and the enunciation - you need to be very precise when over 60 people are singing a fast song together.

We drive back and forth to the rehearsals in Burlington by driving through Graham, which is decorated for Christmas and is very pretty.

 [I wrote this on Dec 5, but then got so busy with rehearsals and Christmas shopping that I never got back to it.  We started the staging in the theater this week - it's so much fun!]

This is the third night...

... of starting a post with "I'm too tired," but I am.  It's been an emotional and tiring week - with the audition, having to change my song at the last minute, other inter-personal things which I'm not writing about, etc.  Yesterday, I finally got the flu shot, which hasn't been a good time for me the last few years.  I get light-headed about five minutes after I get it, and someone else has to drive me home.  This time I got it at my doctor's office, and you should have seen the nurse when she came back in the examining room fifteen minutes later and found me lying, all curled up, on the examining table.  Her eyes were like saucers!  I felt better enough to leave about ten minutes later - well, better enough to walk to the car; older son drove home.   This morning, I was still pretty wiped out and had a difficult time taking a walk.  

Then I bounced around all afternoon.  Older son and I both got into Les Misérables!!!!!!!! - which I am going to now refer to as Les Mis because there will be a lot of posts about it.  

The first cast meeting is Monday, and rehearsals start the Monday after Thanksgiving.  The final performance is March 2.  In NC, daffodils are in bloom by then.  My winter is going to be Les Mis - and, of course, homeschooling, relaxation exercises/yoga, the usual chores & errands, and Zumba - but not a lot else.

I'm still going to blog, but I'm not doing NaBloPoMo anymore for November.  There are some things I want to finish up around the house before I get into rehearsals.

We also went to the John Gorka concert at the ArtsCenter in Carborro.  It was wonderful, and I was going to blog about it, but we didn't get home until almost 11 pm.

A fun audition! and "A Man Could Go Quite Mad" from The Mystery of Edwin Drood

I've spent the day either being really nervous about the audition (which I wrote about yesterday) or being excited after it or being exhausted after it - which is where I am now.

Here's my Facebook post from right after I got home:

Even if I don't get into Les Misérables, I had a WONDERFUL time at the audition. I got to act Princess Puffer (Mystery of Edwin Drood) for one verse and chorus onstage!

It was sooooooo much fun!

I really threw myself into the acting for the song.  I think doing Zumba has helped me loosen up as far as physically acting things.  I also used a Zumba move for the line "Then you sluts to cop some sleep!"

I wasn't sure how my voice would do since I've been hoarse.  The song I sang is an alto song, and I don't usually sing very loudly in that range.  I was able to belt it out though!  I was worried that they wouldn't hear me over the piano accompaniment.  

I barely heard the piano.  I think she followed along.  

Older son did A Man Could Go Quite Mad, also from Edwin Drood.  He did it in a disturbingly intense fashion.  Here's the original Jasper, Howard McGillan, singing it in concert:

Older son sang right before I did which made things interesting.  During the line "... or choke each bloke who/Throws a smile your way..." he clenched his hands so much that the muscles really stood out in his forearms.  I hadn't seen him act this song before so it was really interesting, and that moment stands out in my memory.  While I was really excited to watch his audition (we went in in groups of about ten), I was also really nervous about mine at the same time.  I had a wonderful time singing onstage, and, as soon as I finished, my hands started really shaking.  I've heard of people getting the most nervous after their audition, but I'd never experienced that myself before.

At our usual community theater, I know lots of the people auditioning.  It was strange to not know very many people - except from seeing them onstage in other productions.  

The drive there was so long, and the same drive home went so quickly.


"Wages of Sin" - Cleo Laine's and Chita Rivera's versions

At heart, I'm not a soloist.  Of course, I performed a number of flute/piano pieces when I majored in music in college, but it's actually not what I enjoyed the most.  I love playing in ensembles - chamber ensembles, orchestras, etc.  I enjoy figuring out how and when to blend and when to pull away a bit - all the back and forth of playing with others.  With the singing I've done the last five years, both in musical theater and choir, I enjoy the same thing.  My favorite thing to sing is second soprano.  It has enough melody to be interesting and enough harmony to be fun.

This has always made auditions strange for me.  I have to sing a solo in order to sing with an ensemble.

I've been quite happy to sing in the chorus in musical theater.  Tomorrow, I'll be auditioning for Les Misérables.  I love the chorus parts in there, and I'd be so happy singing them.   I prefer singing them to any of the songs the leads sing.

There are only two musicals that I can think of that I would try out for an (approximately age-appropriate) main role in (I don't have the acting experience to actually get the roles, but they would be fun to do).  Interestingly Chita Rivera has played both parts.

One role is Princess Puffer in The Mystery of Edwin Drood.*  I've listened to the original soundtrack so much that, as I realized when listening to it today on the way to Broadway Dance, I not only know all the notes, harmonies, etc. - I also know where they take each breath.  

Cleo Laine has been one of my favorite singers since high school when I heard her version of Julie in the soundtrack to the British stage version of Showboat.  I love her version of Princess Puffer in Drood.

The other part of this post is that our weather has been like a roller coaster the last few weeks.  Really - if you look at the weather graph on WRAL (Raleigh TV), it's gone constantly, and dramatically, up and down.  We'll have a day in the 70's, like today, and a day around 50 (tomorrow).  The weather's effect on my sinuses, plus really bad allergies the last month, have done a lot of harm to my singing.  I started going hoarse this weekend, which knocks out both of the songs I've worked on for the audition.  When I go hoarse, I lose the top part of my singing range first so they're both too high now.  

I was very depressed about this yesterday.  I looked up "alto audition songs" because I can still sing in that part of my range (though I don't usually sing alto).  I considered All That Jazz, but I've danced that one so much that I can't sing it without dancing it too.

I'm even more nervous about auditioning than usual because this isn't the same community theater group I've been in before.  It's a totally new group for me (though I did see their Fiddler on the Roof in September).  They're going to have lots of people auditioning so I think my getting in the chorus is really a long shot.**  

Back when I decided to audition, though, part of the reason I decided was that I need a new challenge.  I haven't had this kind of a challenge, or one that made me this nervous, in years - possibly since my first musical theater audition four years ago; although I have had lots of challenges in the musicals.

No, actually, I taught the adult chorus the music the second summer I did musical theater.  That was as much of a challenge.

I decided last summer that it was time for another good challenge - whether I get in or not.

This morning, I was nervous and without a good audition song.  I needed something in the alto range that I knew really well and that I could act.  

I had joked a few weeks ago that Wages of Sin would be a good song to act, but I wasn't going to use it because it didn't use all of my range.  Well, I don't have all of my range now so it's a good choice.  

Here's Cleo Laine's version, which is the one where I know every note and phrasing ...

The Wages Of Sin (Princess Puffer) from Cleo Laine on Myspace.

... which is a little bit unfortunate because she changes some of the notes - like THE FIRST TWO!...

...which is why I've listened to Chita Rivera's version from the recent revival over and over again today:


*  I'm leaving the other for another post.  

** I think older son will get in because they'll need a lot of guys for this musical!

NaBloPoMo (again)

I've done NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month - post every day on your blog) in November for the last few years.  Usually, I start out pretty well but barely make it through the end of the month.  Last year, I just threw YouTube videos and flower photos on the blog during Thanksgiving week (and this is how I felt by the end of the month).

This year I thought, "Why bother?"


...there's a blog that I've been looking at, almost daily, about as long as I've read blogs.  I don't even remember how I found it - Woolgathering by Elizabeth Perry.  She draws one picture every day.  Some are very simple, and some are more complex.  Here's how she started:

She says:  "Draw every day, don't erase, don't criticize."  

One out of three isn't bad.  I can blog every day.  I'll be erasing (or, in my case, deleting).  Not criticizing myself?!  I don't think I could possibly do that.  

One down, twenty-nine to go (I just erased "29" and typed "twenty-nine" instead because the two numbers should be in the same format).