Posts Tagged With: Arts

An Ode to Joy

How many times have you sung along to a song, not completely certain of the lyrics?  A few hundred at least? Yeah, me too. When you do find out the actual lyrics it sometimes changes how you feel about the song. Or it just makes the song make more sense.

Three and a half weeks after those first ominous days of uncertainty after her stroke, I watched my Mom sit down at a grand piano in a quiet wing of the hospital cafeteria. Her occupational therapist sat nearby as she put both hands on the black and white keys and played a simplified version of Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy.”

Surely orchestrated by some angel in charge of perfectly timed moments, for me that brief experience felt like serendipity!  That song played within an hour of arriving at the hospital, captured my emotions at finally, blessedly being with Mom after so many weeks of enduring the tug and pull of needing to be in her physical presence.

Page 12 (right) of Ludwig van Beethoven's orig...

Page 12 (right) of Ludwig van Beethoven’s original Ninth Symphony manuscript. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every time I’ve heard “Ode to Joy,” especially the final movement when the chorus joins the symphony and raises the roof with Schiller’s German poem put to music, my heart has soared.

Imagine how my heart felt then, hearing my Mother, a pianist all her life, play the piano again, albeit, hesitantly. Relief, at her ability to read music and have it translate from eye to brain to hand to ivory, flooded through me. Surely as more healing takes place, as more therapy trains and retrains synapses and connections, she’ll be able to sit down and enjoy playing the piano with ease and confidence again.

I’ve never known the translation of the German lyrics. I only knew that my head and heart responded to the music with a sense of exultation and energy.

Surely, I thought, as I watched Mom struggle through some other simplified piano music, the lyrics to “Ode to Joy” must be very powerful to lend themselves so strongly to the impact of the music.  Of course, I looked up the translation and wasn’t surprised.

Sorry to say it wasn’t a poem about the joy of a mother and daughter reunited. But it’s not far off. It’s a song of brotherhood, of relationships, of the joy that can occur because of those connections.

Honestly, the whole of humankind is a family. The potential for joy astounds when looked at that way. But of course, we personalize and take things in small bites. We learn how to interact in family groups and then let that translate out into the world.

That’s just my take on the music and lyrics.

But don’t take my word for it. I’ve included the English translation below.  And I also want you to be able to feel the joy in this music, so, of course, I’ve included a phenomenal flashmob link for you to click on. I recommend having tissues nearby.

Now that I know what the lyrics are, it changes how I feel about the music. From here on out it will remind me of my mother, of my family, of those most important of connections. Those permanent bonds of love and caring bring more joy than anything I know.

Joy, bright spark of divinity,
Daughter of Elysium,
Fire-inspired we tread
Thy sanctuary.
Thy magic power re-unites
All that custom has divided,
All men become brothers
Under the sway of thy gentle wings.

Whoever has created
An abiding friendship,
Or has won
A true and loving wife,
All who can call at least one soul theirs,
Join in our song of praise ;
But any who cannot must creep tearfully
Away from our circle.

All creatures drink of joy
At nature’s breast.
Just and unjust
Alike taste of her gift ;
She gave us kisses and the fruit of the vine,
A tried friend to the end.
Even the worm can fell contentment,
And the cherub stands before God !

Gladly, like the heavenly bodies
Which He set on their courses
Through the splendour of the firmament ;
Thus, brothers, you should run your race,
As a hero going to conquest.

You millions, I embrace you.
This kiss is for all the world !
Brothers, above the starry canopy
There must dwell a loving Father.
Do you fall in worship, you millions ?
World, do you know your Creator ?
Seek Him in the heavens !
Above the stars must He dwell.

Categories: Hope, Joy, Music | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Best Books Ever, At Least for This Week

Someone asked me for a list of my favorite books. Or maybe it was, “If you were stranded on a desert island with only three books…” I don’t know. They demanded a quick answer and I had none.

Happy Children Playing Kids

(Photo credit:

May as well ask a mother to pick a favorite child.

Apparently, I’m just a fraud, masquerading as a literary aficionado.

And yet if someone knew nothing else about me they’d need to know that I. Love. Books.

When we pack up to move, the book boxes outnumber the kitchen boxes. Surely I have a shelf of favorites. Actually, I have categories of favorites. And not just genres. Books are favorite reads because of character development, or amazing descriptive writing, or a compelling storyline. Books are favorites because I recognized myself and my quirks in a particular character, or because the writing felt familiar and comfortable. Favorites find their way into my heart through no reasoning whatsoever. Some are such masterworks of genius I read them just to remind myself that such art and perfection exists.

My yearly goal is to read twenty-five books. (That’s two a month plus one for we math illiterates.) That’s been going on for upwards of thirty years. And some years I read much more than that. Being conservative, that’s 750 books I’ve read as an adult. As a kid and a teen I read like most people breath and I didn’t keep track of them. A book a day during the summer, perhaps? Given that impossible to estimate number, lets round it up to a thousand books I’ve read. Narrowing that down to ten favorites seems impossible.

Just as a sort of point of honor, I read all of these before they became movies, or musicals, or whatever else they’ve morphed into.

Yet, in the spirit of answering last night’s book club question, here is a list of a few of my favorite books, in no particular order. (If they have a star, it’d be in my “deserted island” backpack.)

  • To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee*
  • The Thirteenth Tale – Diane Setterfield
  • Les Miserables – Victor Hugo*
  • The Book Thief  -Markus Zusak* (Surprising narrator)
  • Last of the Mohicans – James Fenimore Cooper*
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife  – Audrey Niffenegger
  • Charlotte’s Web – E. B. White
  • The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon (The best first lines of a novel ever!)
  • Out of Africa – Isak Dinesen*
  • Ender’s Game  – Orson Scott Card
  • Matilda – Roald Dahl*
  • The Whistling Season – Ivan Doig* (Stunning!)
  • The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck (Yup Mr. Beck, your favorite author made the list, aren’t you a proud teacher!)
  • Ella Minnow Pea – Mark Dunn
  • Treasure Island – Robert Louis Stevenson
  • A River Runs Through It – Norman McLean* (Better than a hike in the woods)
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens*
  • Banner in the Sky – James Ramsey Ullman
  • A Prayer for Owen Meany – John Irving
  • Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  • Little Women – Louisa May Alcott
  • Caleb’s Crossing – Geraldine Brooks
  • The Scarlet Letter – Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Talk Before Sleep – Elizabeth Berg (Beautifully heartbreaking)
  • Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe – C.S. Lewis
  • A Tale of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  • Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe – Fannie Flagg (Towanda!)
library shelves

(Photo credit: jvoss)

I feel like I’ve left hundreds of my beloved children behind. I also realize after reviewing my list that it’s all fiction. I do read non-fiction, they just don’t fall into my favorites lists apparently.

Simply reading the synopsis of each book will entertain you, I’m certain of it. Pick one or two that you haven’t ever read then get back to me about what you thought. I’d love a dialogue like that.

I ramped up my reading goal this year to thirty-six books. That seems reasonable. Three great reads a month. Okay, maybe they won’t all be great. But the more I read, I figure, the more likely I’ll find some real gems to cherish. I’ve read eighteen so far, so given that it’s the beginning of July, I’m right on track.

If you have a favorite you think I need to read or you don’t see here, I’d love to know about it. Please leave a comment so I can enjoy  and share the treasures you’ve found among the world of reading.

I’m always looking for another favorite.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Best Love Song I’ve Heard in Ages

Yup! That’s the way I’m calling it. The best love song I’ve heard in ages.

“The Woman I Love”

The first time I heard it was on Pandora, the live version of a simple guitar and Jason Mraz with his relaxed song styling.

Pleasantly surprising, refreshing.

But even more I found words and music that said what I’ve tried to explain for years.

I could be wrong but I think this is how most women want to be loved. Unconditionally, no matter what, regardless of our craziness, or our moods, or frustrations or tiredness or self-loathing. We just want what this song describes.

Well, I do anyway.

So I’m posting two versions for you to enjoy. First is the version I heard, live, just the guitar and Jason. The lyrics are there if you want to follow along. Or, you could close your eyes and just take in the song.

Then the second one is the official video with the backup band and visual interpretation. I prefer just to hear the words with the tune, get the meaning in my head, not someone else’s idea of what it means.

Either way, Thank you Jason Mraz, for a great love song in an era with so few really good ones.

“I’m holding steady, my heart’s at home…”


Categories: Love, Music | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What Are You Reading?

My Mark Twain collection

Someone else’s Mark Twain collection. Sigh. I’m a bit jealous.  (Photo credit: terryballard)

Here’s another elementary school find, lovingly posted above the library doors. Being the book addict that I am you can understand my liking for this quote.

“The man who does not read good books

has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.”

– Mark Twain

Of course, Mark Twain would say something like this since he was an author, a brilliant humorist, a curmudgeon and a bit egocentric.

American writer Mark Twain (1835-1910) in 1909

The author, Mr. Twain, looking grouchier than usual for this photo, probably because he had nothing good to read that day.

I’m always a little taken aback, speechless actually, when someone tells me they don’t read books. The reason has never been that they can’t read. It’s that they have no interest in reading.

I stand there, mouth hanging open as if they’ve just transformed into an alien life form as I watched. How can one not read books? That’s like saying you don’t breathe oxygen, or eat food, or that you’ve given up sleep! At least it is for me.

Torture for me would be to put me somewhere with nothing, and I mean nothing, to read. I can entertain myself, if I have to, with the back of a cereal box, product labels, a newspaper, recipes, lists, rules, captions, advertisements. I just need words to read!! I can’t go very long without them.

But I prefer a good book. Literature. Thought provoking, inspired, well written. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before in past blog posts, at least a dozen times or more. For which I apologize. I’m a little obsessed. I’m sorry.

Lately I’ve been reading “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” which is eye-opening and surprising and wonderful and sad all in one. I’ve got a list of lighthearted novels to pick from after that. I need something to lift my spirits, make me laugh and shine some light into the darkness. After that I’m thinking of tackling “Don Quixote,” but I’m not sure. That may have to wait until summer.

Are you reading anything good?

Care to share with me?  Fiction or non-fiction. I’m always looking for my next good read!

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , | 9 Comments

Confessions of An Unrepentant Addict

Hello…   “hello.”

My name is Kami…  hi, Kami.”

I.. am… a book snob…    “Amen sister, tell it.”

Shelf of Used Books

(Photo credit: TheDarkThing)

It’s true.  I’ve been inhaling books since before I could crawl, at least I’m pretty sure of it. Every memory in my life seems to have one thing in common.  There is a book involved somehow.

Here’s what clued me in to my “problem:”

My hairstylist, (yup, you Jill) asked me for a book recommendation.

Easy! I’m thinking.  Then she adds a few restrictions.

Nothing depressing

Nothing deep

Nothing I have to think about once I’m done

No mystery

No worry

No drama

Nothing difficult

Something light, entertaining,

Like a sitcom.

That puts a bit of a challenge on the request.

I left an hour later having given her nothing but some cash for the lovely hairstyle.

I had failed at giving a book recommendation! How could I live with myself?

The closest I came to her requirements was a Young Adult book called “Faith and the Electric Dogs.” But it had been a long time since I’d read it.  It was probably too much of something.

Oh, the shame!

Dang it! Why hadn’t I suggested “Hunger Games?”

I had resisted reading those when EVERYBODY was drooling all over themselves reading them.  I was not going follow along blindly like those hoards of crazed lunatics reading “Twilight Books,” no matter how much my most respected bibliophiles recommended it.

About two years after the rush ended I gave in and read the first one.  Then I was like a kid three days after Halloween who’d vowed to make the candy last until at least Christmas.  You got it; I devoured all three of those books. Barely ripped the wrappers off for the speed I was trying to take them in.

Afterwards I felt like a book glutton. I had binged on the literary equivalent of fries, burgers and shakes. It was time for crunchy veggies and clear filtered water and home-baked wheat bread. I needed some classics; Hardy or Tolstoy or Steinbeck or even Dostoevsky to set the world back on balance.

Here’s the thing

I worked for a writer as a typist. (Back in the day, yes, in the dark ages before personal computers were in every pocket and on every flat surface.) This writer was a professor at the university I attended, but wrote under a pen name so as not to put the job at risk.  How would writing put a professor’s job at risk? Well, the novel was a Harlequin or Silhouette romance novel.  I use the word novel very, very loosely.

After submission the manuscript came back to the professor with a rejection form-letter, which included the basic equations for creating a book for their company. The heroine must be x,y,z but not d,e,f. The hero must have a,b,c but not j,k,l. The plot must….the story can’t….the characters need to….  It was so exacting that we considered trying to write a computer program that would write the novels.  They probably do use a computer program now.  Why waste real man hours on that kind of formulaic book?

I probably just offended everyone in the known world. May as well keep going…

But before you all judge me harshly hear me out.  I’ve read westerns, in fact, I love me a good Louis L’amour or Zane Grey once in a while.  I’ve read Michener and liked it. A mystery occasionally is good for variety.  I dig into memoire from time to time. I peruse non-fiction with some regularity.  And, I count historical fiction as part of my ongoing educational pursuit. I even check out a NY Times bestseller from the library on occasion. I even imbibe in Science Fiction if it’s well done.

I don’t always confess to reading them on my Goodreads account though.

Would a chocolatier confess to eating Hershey’s when his palate has the Swiss and Dutch equivalents of nirvana to compare?  Would an affineur, a cheese expert, admit to imbibing in processed cheese on a burger? Would a vintner chug a box of ten-dollar wine and then brag about it?

Not likely, but it’s possible.

When the words of language masters have danced through your head, played on the fields of your mind and painted landscapes across your memory, nothing else fills the need anymore.  Once you’ve had the good stuff, the literary caviar, then flat characters and simple plots with predictable endings or gratuitous anything just doesn’t cut it anymore.

I need the straight lines, the pure stuff, the real talent.

Yes, I am a book snob. I admit it.

And I don’t care if I ever get over it.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

Oh, Sew What

It’s Gratituesday! Today I’m thankful that my mother taught me how to sew. Can’t tell you how many times that’s come in handy. I swear I’ve sewn a zillion buttons, a thousand hems, a million tiny tucks here and there and prom dress alterations out the wazoo.

Then there’s all those costumes; pilgrim, cat, a pig for the play Charlotte’s Web, a scarecrow, a pirate, a fairy princess for a Shakespeare scene, witch, ninja, monster, angels, shepherds, devil, beauty queen, pumpkin, butterflies and bugs. Don’t forget all those princess dresses, a cowgirl, a cowboy, an Indian, 50’s outfits galore, and a genie. I could go on but I won’t.

I’ve sewn curtains, and pillows, valances and purses, puppets and stuffed animals. I even made my kids clothes when we were a really young family barely able to scrape a couple of pennies together. What a challenge but so satisfying to make something out of almost nothing.

A patchwork quilt from random scraps.

A patchwork quilt from random scraps.

My favorite things to put a needle and thread to is a quilt.  For me, there’s something therapeutic about combining small pieces of seemingly useless fabric together into something beautiful and useful.  What’s more comfort giving than a quilt, fluffy and colorful, warm and embracing. Mmmm.

I created m first quilt from a box of scraps and a few old pieces of clothing I didn’t want to throw away. Then a baby quilt, which required the acquisition of more fabric. Next, a log cabin pattern  that led me on a month’s long search for all the perfect colors. Many more have followed. My one small box of scraps grew into a mountainous collection of fabric that I may never summit.

Teaching me the ins and outs of sewing must have taken more patience than anyone can imagine.  A gift that truly keeps on giving is one that teaches a skill like this. I hope it isn’t becoming a lost art.

Such a basic ability shouldn’t be taken for granted, I can clearly see that now. Thanks, Mom, for passing on your talent, your patience, your gift, your love.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, parenting | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Writer and Reader: A Work of Heart

English: Picture of an open book, that does no...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I have come through this many of my allotted days, watched the passing of life on earth, made something of it and nailed it to the page. Having written, I find I’m often willing to send it on, in case someone else also needs this kind of reassurance. Art is entertainment but it’s also celebration, condolence, exploration, duty, and communion. The artistic consummation of a novel is created by the author and reader together, in an act of joint imagination, and that’s not to be taken lightly.” – Barbara Kingsolver, from “Careful What You Let in the Door” in her book of essays High Tide in Tucson

I love hearing that an author has respect for and interest in her readers. Maybe that’s why all the books I’ve read by Barbara Kingsolver resonate me with, regardless of the topic. She trusts her readers to bring thought, wisdom and intelligence with them when they open her book.

There are many authors whose works I’ve read that left me with a similar sense of collaboration. Surely that’s where the sentiment of “the book is always better than the movie” comes from. No movie maker can duplicate the combined imagination and interface of writer and individual reader. What happens in the space called reading is uniquely personal and potentially magical.

As solitary as reading appears to be on from the outside, surprisingly, it’s actually a relationship and an alliance. Thanks to authors like Kingsolver and many, many others, there are countless opportunities to be part of of such creative adventures.

Long live the written word!

Categories: Books, Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

It’s Gratituesday! Musically Reclined, Inclined, Realigned

Piano pedals on a Grand Piano.

Piano pedals on a Grand Piano. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hey, guess what?  It’s Gratituesday!

One of my earliest memories is pretending to play the piano on a wooden shelf while one of my mother’s piano students banged away at a song in the adjacent room.  I was an extraordinarily gifted pretend piano player.  When my mother played I became a prodigy of the imaginary keyboard in front of me.

Later, I graduated to playing my own compositions of rainstorm, the high notes, and thunderstorm, the low notes, and tornadoes, running my hand up and down the keyboard.

How anyone tolerated this noise is miraculous to me.

Mom taught me the basics.  “Here we go, up a row, to a birthday party,” became my favorite song for a few months, because I could play the entire song.  Even if it was only eight measures and one hand.  When I learned to add the left hand to make a harmony with my right hand, I was ecstatic.

English: Photograph of bust statue of Ludwig v...

Photograph of bust statue of Ludwig van Beethoven by Hugo Hagen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My favorite cartoon character wasn’t Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner.  It was Schroeder, the piano playing, wise man of the of the Peanuts gang.  I longed for a miniature piano with the range and ability Schroeder had.  I wanted my own Beethoven bust overseeing my progress.  I was sure if I mastered the piano I would be master of everything and, even better, that boys would flock to me.  I didn’t really pay attention to the fact that Lucy was the only one drawn to Schroeder and she was a bit nuts, a bully even.

For a couple of years I had a piano teacher that Mom and Dad paid for.  I suppose that was helpful.  I was probably more disciplined about practicing for someone other than a relative.

For as long as I can remember, Mom always taught piano lessons in our home.  Every day after school, and every morning during the summer, students would file in and file out, filling the house with what passed as music.  It was the theme music to our lives.  If any house had a soundtrack, ours surely did and it was filled with stops and starts, hesitation and things played off-key.  But it was a weird, joy-filled music.

Mom’s income helped pay for all kinds of “extras” and let her be a stay at home mom, still caring for us kids. She was always there for us if catastrophe struck, still there for us if a sibling was being unfair, still there for us if we needed the reassurance that she was there.

I’m sure it wasn’t easy.  We probably drove her crazy with near constant interruptions, too much noise, too many questions.  But she taught a gazillion kids the piano, and she taught me the piano.  She also taught me and patience and persistence.

She also gave me the gift of music.  I’m not a concert pianist. I quit lessons as a teenager.  But I can plunk out a kids  song, accompany a choir, and play for enjoyment.  I am blessed beyond measure by this singular gift. How grateful I am for my piano teacher mom.

Categories: Gratitude, Gratituesday, Music | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gratituesday Thoughts From a Dreamer of Words

It’s Gratituesday!

Today I am thankful for those who have encouraged me in the pursuit of one of my dreams.

Surely to most people I am just that, a dreamer.  I appear to be one of those individuals that imagine a utopia but have little means to bring it to pass, or a daydreamer whose thoughts find little substance, or an idealist with no real grasp of the limitations of this life. Some see my pursuit as a nice hobby, like knitting or needlepoint, but this pursuit is much more than that.

Writing Apparatus

Writing Apparatus (Photo credit: Kazarelth)

Luckily for me, there are those who believe in my dreams, who share my idyllic views, who see potential in imagination and creativity.  You see, I belong to a writer’s group.  To the uninitiated, that is akin to saying I belong to a coven of witches or a to a society convinced the world is flat.  But no, I’ve found this group of generous, well-grounded women more stalwart than any paid advocate could ever be.

They have emboldened me, told me they won’t give up on me, expressed concern that I might give up on myself, have listened with kindness, been patient with my varying schedule and shared their own carefully crafted works of art and heart.  Together we’ve found beauty amidst ashes and hope and immense joy in our medium of words.

There are many others who have encouraged me in my writing. Several professors saw potential and kindly shared their positive critiques.  MSH has been like a cheerleader in spite of the time my obsession has commandeered.  Friends and family express interest, ask about progress, share praise.  I feel lucky in that supportive framework in more ways than I can count.  I know that not everyone who pursues a dream has such encouragement.

I am a writer. As I find words to match thoughts and search for meaning among chaos, I feel blessed and buoyed by many. For that, today and everyday, I am grateful.

Categories: Gratituesday, Writing | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

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