Thursday, June 28, 2007

Morgan's Music

When I was expecting my daughter I read an article suggesting that pregnant mothers sing to their babies. That way the baby would hear and recognize comforting sounds after she was born. I loved the idea and found about 12 songs I thought would be perfect. The Yellow Rose of Texas was on the list, but I also pulled out sheet music and shopped for more so that I could play the piano for her as well. I sang for her any time I was alone for most of the pregnancy. The advice turned out to be very helpful as she had colic and need the comfort of music and moving.

I sang her our baby songs but soon needed more. We started singing every song I'd ever known and some we made up. Before she could walk, we started playing piano together. Once she was able to get up to the piano on her own, she started to work out little bits of scales and simple melodies like "Twinkle, Twinkle..." This picture isn't very good, but I had the chance to take it one day while she was busy playing and didn't know I had the camera. In it she's two years old.

I didn't know she was unusual until she started kindergarten. Her teacher asked about her "music studies" in our first parent/teacher conference. Bill and I didn't know what the woman was talking about. She kept insisting Morgan was receiving music/piano lessons and we both said no. Finally, I described the kinds of fun things we did at home thinking there must be lots of kids who did the same things. Her teacher had a certification in music and felt Morgan was very gifted. I was so proud of her, but still thought her interests weren't all that unusual until our son was born and I got to know a child with other interests and passions.

We talk about our Scottish heritage often in our family. These people were highlanders. All hard working, serious, courageous, and pious, the Scots define us. But the other Celts, our Irish ancestors, have given us magic. This is my father's family, full of music, stories, art, dance. Full of what they'd call Blarney. They are all musicians in one form or another. (My dad had a rock and roll band during the 50-60's) They all play piano and sing. Many of them play several instruments and can't get together without eventually dropping everything to make music. These people share the stories of fairy rings and superstitions, stories of dancing girls with red hair and green eyes. These other Celts that gave us music are part of what makes Morgan so very wonderful.

Here's a picture from Tuesday night. We went to Dallas to see the Police reunion concert. The highlight of the night for me was Morgan's company. She sang and danced, laughed and cheered, clapped and stomped her way through the concert as if she were made to be wrapped in music. She made insightful comments on the performance, noted things she thought could be improved, and made friends with the row of librarians sitting behind us exchanging e-mails with one when it became clear they had many common interests. We are beginning to know the woman our daughter will become and are delighted by her. She is kind and generous, funny and smart, and magical. We're going back tonight for the Houston concert. She says she thinks this one will be even better because we will be at home. I'll write more after the concert.

(PS The black hair in this picture is from a bottle. She decided to dress up for the concert and wanted to change her hair too. She looks great, but I walked right by her in the crowd without recognizing her on Tuesday night!)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Jedi Carry No Spare Change

On occasion, teaching my own children gives me delightful glimpses of their thoughts and character. One of our favorite parts of learning together is having the time for real conversation. So here's a fun one from last week.

We were engrosed in a fairly deep, or so I thought, conversation about freeing oneself from the past to make one's own future. Since we are also total nerds, the philosophical merged naturally with the geekly and landed in discussion of Anakin Skywalker's decent from Jedi Knight to the Sith Lord. Yes, we really did have a very deep discussion of past and future running alongside our opinions of how Anikin Skywalker's life went so terribly wrong.

My son, sometime into the discussion, became quite solemn. He listened carefully to Morgan's insights and even looked up a few facts in one of our many "Guides to Star Wars." Suddenly he held up his hand to silence all further conversation. He sat-up straight, and told us both, very seriously, "I know exactly why Anikin turned into Darth Vader."

"Why?" we asked. I waited eagerly to hear what he had to say. He looked into my eyes and, with a gesture of his hand looking very much like Obi Wan, he said, "A Jedi carries no spare change." Morgan and I nodded along, quite impressed. Yes, a Jedi must free him/herself from worldly concerns, from the past, from personal attachments. We were very excited at the metaphor of "spare change" and thought it well represented all of the entanglements which destroyed the young man. We talked of the man's fears and how these were used against him and how we too have the experience of being limited by fear. At the end I was delighted, feeling very satisfied with the youngest child's progress. I found his ability to appropriate images from a modern repackaging of the heroic tragedy and use them meaningfully was quite impressive.

Then I shared the wonderful story with my spouse. He stopped me saying, "I've heard his idea about Anakin before. " I prattled on awhile more and he said, "Yes, yes, I know he's concerned that the Jedi didn't have any extra emergency money."

"What??? He didn't mean that the Jedi needed more money. He was speaking metaphorically. The "change" was a representation of how our past can drag us down. You just don't understand, husband. My boy's a genius; nerdly as we all are, but a genius." (I glared some at that point and gave him the teacher stink-eye."

"Ask him," was his arrogant reply. I did.

The boy's not a philosopher blending modern and ancient mythology into a metaphor for our own lives. The boy's a capitalist. He really did mean the Jedi should go about with more money. In that way, Anakin could have bought his mother out of slavery. She wouldn't have died. He wouldn't have descended into that whole "fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to the dark side" thing because he could have bought himself out of the problem. My son. Not a good Scots for nothing.

Happy Father's Day weekend. There will be large amounts of beef in our celebration, but otherwise I'm not sure. I'm up to the full, horrible, deadly dose of methltrexate now and will likely be in the fetal position on the bathroom floor for about 48 hours, but I did find a cool gift. Hopefully wondrous combination of cool gifts and food will compensate for my lack of visible signs of life.

Gratuitous Sting Trivia: This time two weeks from now, we will be seeing The Police in concert for the second time that week. Morgan and I are totally obsessed. My new favorite Police number is Next to You from Outlandos d'Amore. I wouldn't have tolerated this song in my teens, but Morgan has had her way with me and I'm more and more open to the loud boy rock star stuff.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Girl Drama

We canceled all of our premium cable channels several years ago. We had HBO and there was some serious sex and violence. I found out on late night that they show some serious porn. I have an adolescent boy and don't want him getting the wrong idea from the porn. So much of it is female exploitation that we just don't want him getting into this mind-set.

But, we got HDTV in February and upgraded our cable service. We went with Showtime because they had the new series on the Tutors. (Yes we are geeks, get over it.) We found some other wonderful stuff too. There's a police procedural "Dexter" with the most amazing twist. I won't give it away, but it is so worth it. Then I started watching "The L Word," and got completely addicted. They are showing season four, and I watched it all in two days. Then Bill got the earlier seasons from Blockbuster for me. I've just finished season two, and boy did I have the wrong idea about some of these characters. Those women are so not in the same place now where they were in the first two season. TV just never takes the time and effort to do this kind of character development. Bill won't watch it with me because it's a "chick show, " and I can't let the kids watch it with me. Even so, I'm a huge fan-girl now. Even though I enjoyed the show, I pretty much figured all the huge drama was strictly "tv magic."

Here's what I found in the last week. There are straight women out there with crap going on that makes the stuff on "The L Word" look like a women's Bible study group by comparison. There's such a generation gap between me and all the females under 30. Way back in the olden days, when one of us was having a problem we all got together drank ourselves sick, told evil stories about every man we'd ever known, and went home to kick our husband's ass just for good measure. Evidently now, we vent our frustration and disappointment on each other. WTF? We're supposed to gather as sisters, drink, eat ice cream, and trash every man that ever lived. If we're feeling really low, we play the blues. But, the men are the enemy, and we hurt them hard.

I've never been on the receiving end of the "hell hath no fury" stuff before. When I got home, I shook my husband's hand and thanked him for 32 years of taking my crap. I don't know how they do it: PMS, we kick their ass; bad day at work, we kick their ass; we're worried because the dog is sick, we kick their ass. Holy crap! The man has lived with this s*%t for 32 years. I don't even want to think about what happens when two women in a committed relationship need to vent on someone. Oy!

Gratuitous Sting Trivia: This is a cross post as I left it as a comment on Isorski's Musings, but here goes.

I heard about the unplugged work (for the Police reunion) too and am totally excited I've often wondered why Sing never went there. He could so kick Clapton's ass in that venue. At his first solo concert, here in Houston, his first encore piece was "Message in a Bottle." He came out in total darkness, then bamm, he's standing there, alone, stripped down to nothing but a pair of black pants and black army boots, with an acoustic guitar and a single spotlight. (Yes ladies, I said stripped down to nothing but his britches.) I was totally blown away. There has never been a rock star, in my experience, perform with that level of virtuosity. I was more impressed by that single song than by the entirety of Plácido Domingo's performance as Othello.

New Setlist from Isorski:
Set List:
--Message in a Bottle
--Synchronicity II
--Spirits In The Material World
--Voices Inside My Head/When the World is Running Down
--Don't Stand So Close to Me
--Driven to Tears
--Walking on the Moon
--Truth Hits Everybody
--Every Little Thing She Does is Magic
--Wrapped Around Your Finger
--The Bed's Too Big Without You
--Murder By Numbers
--Dee Doo Doo Doo Dee Da Da Da
--Invisible Sun
--Walking In Your Footsteps
--Can't Stand Losing You/Regatta De Blanc

encore one:
--King of Pain
--So Lonely

encore two:
--Every Breath You Take
--Next To You

Friday, June 08, 2007

More Sting Than You'd Every Want, The Joys of Arthritis, Atlantis Launch and Hubble

For the one or two e-friends who actually care, go Isorski's Musings for a great review of the Police tour and an updated setlist. It was cool to hear from a real-live musician about the concert. Morgan continues to master the guitar bits for all the songs on the setlist and even Billy has started singing. He's growing into a lovely tenor. All the Irish side of the family are musicians, but my poor geekly rocket scientist husband is tone deaf. It's a thrill to be back to living in a house with real musicians. I got out my clarinet Thursday night, and Morgan and I jammed on guitar, piano, flute and clarinet until about 3 in the morning. We are so psyched. Those of you who visit me for other stuff, hang in there. It will all be over at the end of June.

I'm on my second week of methotrexate. I've stopped the oral iron, but I'm still sick as a dog. I'm so praying it's not the methotrexate. I got an anti-emetic from the hematologist that's doing the iron injections. It's helped some, and he's got other treatment options since he's primarily in oncology. Maybe I just need some time for the damage done by the oral Fe to heal? There's an option to get the methotrexate by infusion, so I could try that if the oral med. is the cause of all the nausea. So far, the only thing that's made a dent in the pain is the prednisone and narcotic pain medication. Neither is a long-term solution.

Please take a moment today to pray for the Atlantis crew, the beautiful vehicle, and the success of our mission to further the construction of the International Space Station.
To the left, the crew of STS-117 pose for their official portrait. From left: Expedition 15/16 Flight Engineer Clayton C. Anderson, mission specialists James Reilly II, Steven Swanson, Commander Frederick Sturckow, Pilot Lee Archambault and mission specialists Patrick Forrester and John D. Olivas. (Image credit: NASA) These good people are our neighbors and coworkers willingly putting themselves in harms way to serve their country and further the progress of science. This is a scary launch for me because of the hail damage done to the external tank. NASA believes this has been resolved, but we are in uncharted territory. We didn't have the luxury of swapping out the ET because of the damage done at Stennis Space Center during Katrina.

I'm afraid that the rollback of this launch has pretty much doomed the possibility of a Shuttle service flight to the Hubble before her orbit begins to decay. For so many of us, she's a dear friend and represents a lifelong dream. We hate the idea that she will meet her end breaking up on entry. She deserves better. NASA hasn't made any kind of announcement canceling the service flight, but we have a very limited time frame to complete the station assembly, and a delay in any launch means we will have to establish priorities. To the right, "Pillars of Creation" columns of cool interstellar hydrogen which will be the incubators of a new star systems. Released in 1995, this is a Hubble image of the "Eagle Nebula."