Haiku Friday

It seems silly to restrict haiku to Thursdays. When the muse strikes, I pay attention, and this morning I experienced seventeen-syllable inspiration during an unusually easy drive to work.

If you’ve ever commuted in the DC area, you know the times when traffic is likely to be heavier or lighter than usual. I would not have expected to glide through the city this morning at the height of rush hour, arriving at work earlier than on a typical day. I guess everyone else has already begun their Thanksgiving break? Why didn’t you tell me?

Hello? Can you hear me? Is this thing on??

#HaikuThursday

 

In the genes

YESTERDAY, I began the process of genetic testing to assess my risk of several kinds of cancer. Thanks to medical research, it is possible to have your blood analyzed to determine whether or not you carry a gene that predisposes you to developing cancer. Knowledge is power, and if there’s anything I can do to prevent cancer, I want to know.

Diseases aren’t the only things that can be passed down through genes. I think there are other traits, too, that can be inherited.

Last night, I was talking to my mom and mentioned the testing. Then, the subject of French onion soup came up (as one would expect). I had made some for my mom last time she visited, and she talked again about how good it was. I replied, well, it could have been better, because the cheese didn’t melt the whole way through.

I set a high standard for myself, and if the things I make don’t turn out exactly as I want them to, I’m critical. To a fault, I’ve been told. But I come by it naturally: My Grandma Losch was the same way. As Mom tells it, she’d make a pie that was so delicious it brought tears to your eyes, but she’d usually offer it up with a disclaimer, such as, the meringue is a little weepy. As if that mattered.

I do it too. Perhaps it’s genetic.

And if being a self-critical cook is a genetic trait, so might be the inclination to get crafty. I learned crewel embroidery, needlepoint, and counted cross stitch from my mom. My Grandma Sara always had a needlepoint project in process. And if I’m not remembering Grandma Losch in her kitchen, where she spent a lot of time, I’m picturing her rocking in her rocking chair, her hands busily crocheting something.

So naturally, when I found myself in Michael’s on Sunday, I gravitated towards the yarn, and when I saw a bulky, fluffy skein, variegated in the exact colors of my living room rug, I knew I needed to transform that yarn into a throw blanket. I purchased four skeins and started crocheting last night.

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Sometimes, the idea of a craft project ends up being more exciting than the reality. (Which partly explains the popularity of Pinterest.) Alas, I have not been a consistent finisher of projects. I get super-excited to start, but I don’t always have the self-discipline to complete. When I moved earlier this year, I tossed more than a few incomplete projects, not only admitting defeat to myself but also freeing myself to begin anew.

Could “failure to complete” also be a genetic trait? I believe so, and as proof, I submit a discovery made when going through Grandma Sara’s house after she died. I opened a dresser drawer that contained several incomplete needlepoint projects! I had an AHA! moment right there: I come by it naturally! My own grandma had trouble finishing! This explains so much about me!

I don’t know if Grandma Losch ever failed to complete a project she started. I am, however, determined to finish my blanket project. Crocheting in front of the TV makes me feel less like I’m wasting time than if I sat idly on the sofa. Plus, there’s a certain cool factor when you tuck in for a nap with a blanket you made.

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If you compliment me on my completed blanket (and in writing that, I’m making myself accountable here), I’m almost guaranteed to point out its flaws. Please know, it is in my genes to do so. But do feel free to politely tell me to knock it off and just accept the compliment.

Even more than the genes they handed down, I’m feeling grateful for having had parents and grandparents who took the time to share things with me that, all these years later, still reside in my soul. These are truly priceless gifts.

 

 

I sing

I AM ALWAYS HAPPIEST functioning behind the scenes, away from the spotlight. Not that I’m hiding; I just don’t much care to be the center of attention.

I have said of my job, you’ll know I’m doing it well when you don’t know I’m doing it. I could say the same about singing. I have sung solos (and not just karaoke), but mine is really not a solo-quality voice. But that doesn’t make me a soloist, any more than having skied a few times makes me a skier.

I am a choral singer. I read music and sing what’s written, adding interpretation according to the director’s guidance. I don’t improvise. I’m at my best when I’m blending with others who are singing the same part, or harmonizing with those singing other parts.

I am an alto. We altos approach our supporting role with the quiet confidence of those who know they are able singers, yet don’t need to sing the melody in order to prove it. (Don’t take offense, sopranos; I mean no disrespect. We can’t sing harmony if you don’t cover the melody.)

I am also an instrumental musician, I guess, though I’m a much better singer than I am an oboist or pianist right now. Frankly, that’s because I wasn’t driven enough to keep practicing my instruments once I maxed out my natural ability and things got hard.

(Kids, please – keep practicing.)

But singing, I’ve been doing for my entire life. My mom nurtured my sister’s and my love of music from our earliest years, teaching us how to hold the melody while she sang harmony, then the reverse. She could tell we had “an ear” for it. I have sung in choirs large and small through high school and college, and had singing roles in musical productions. (That time when I was Rose in “Bye Bye Birdie” and forgot the words to one of my solos is probably a big reason that I now prefer the company of other voices.) I learned many important skills during my years with the college-community chorale, including punctuality, NOT EVER TALKING during rehearsal and always, always carrying a pencil to mark music.

In my early years in DC, I sang with two different local choruses. Once the kids came, I limited my singing to my church choir. While I enjoyed being a part of leading worship through music, I came to realize that it wasn’t quite scratching a musical itch I’d developed.

15002474_10154490298515944_992126786823873657_oAnd that’s why, when a friend suggested I audition for the National Philharmonic Chorale two years ago, I jumped at the chance. It’s a large group, and we sing choral masterworks, usually with the National Philharmonic Orchestra, but sometimes unaccompanied. It has been a great thrill to be part of productions presented at the Music Center at Strathmore, in my home county, near Washington, DC. And, it’s been just the challenge I was seeking.

As a behind-the-scenes supporting type, I’m not given to self-promotion, but I do want to share something with you: We have a concert this coming Saturday night. Here’s a link to the page that lists all National Philharmonic shows this season, through June, including Handel’s Messiah in December. Some are orchestra-only, with soloists, and for some, the chorale also takes the stage. If you decide you want to come see us, send me a message – I can hook you up with a discount code for tickets and answer all your questions.

I cannot imagine a world without music in it, let alone one where I’m unable to sing along. I believe there is real magic whenever any group makes music together. I know singing does not come naturally to everyone, but it’s in my bones, deep in my soul. Music is a lifelong gift, and I’m so grateful for it in all its forms. I get to sing with a whole bunch of people who feel the same way. Please, come hear us!