Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind

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To Boston and Back

Trinity Church, Copley Square, Boston

I flew to Boston last weekend for a special event that I anticipated for weeks. I left Boston in 2007 for a new job in New Haven, a whole 2.5 hours to the south, but rarely went back even though it was close. But I’d missed it. I missed the history, the bustle, the traditions, my church and the choir, the weather. And then I moved to Texas; quick visits weren’t possible anymore.

So I was super excited to get an invitation to go to a 25th wedding anniversary party for two special people, having sung at their wedding years before. The bride was a member of our choir, and her father described the wedding as a “concert accompanied by vows.” I knew there would be many other choir friends present, and I’ve missed that choir like my right arm. I had to go.

Saturday night was magical, seeing my happy friends and meeting their talented, creative children. Catching up with those I hadn’t seen in years as though that time was just a blink of an eye. As one friend said, “It was like, ‘Yes, that’s you, I had you on my heart all the time’.” I had spirited conversations with spouses I’d never met, gave and received hugs, shared wine and song and delicious food with wonderful dinner companions I haven’t seen in ages.

And there was music. How could there not be, given how important it is to the happy couple? The band was fun, playing Motown and standards, for dancing and for the caberet songs that seemed spontaneous but weren’t. It was like old times – and then they called the Trinity Kwah alums up to sing two pieces that we sang at the wedding 25 years before (“Rise Up My Love” by Healey Willan, and “Ubi Caritas” by Durufle). And for other occasions, to be sure – we all knew the music by heart and hadn’t rehearsed, but the sound knitted together seamlessly under the direction of our fearless director. It was Magic.

Trinity Church Reflected in the
John Hancock Building, Boston

Sunday I went to church at my former church, the gorgeous and historic Trinity Church at Copley Square. And I was disappointed. It was not realistic to think it would be the same but in my mind, I thought it would be all that and more. Congregational singing was minimal which made me crazy because music was such a huge part of my life in that place. But in a way, it’s good that I wasn’t blown away because then I would be even sadder to have left it behind.

After church, I lunched on Newbury Street with a law librarian friend, comparing notes about her new job, cats, and Irish genealogy among other topics. The afternoon was an adventure on the “hop on, hop off” trolley which has graduated to buses instead of trolleys. I’ve seen the inside of all the historic places and walked the Freedom Trail dozens of times. What I really wanted was just to ride around and see Boston without trying to drive in it, to see the changes post-Big Dig – and boy, there were many. So much construction everywhere! A little shopping after, a lobster roll for dinner, and early to bed before an early morning flight home.

What I hadn’t really understood was that traveling itself would be very hard. I hadn’t flown in almost 4 years and plane seats – and bathrooms! – have gotten a lot smaller. My body is not in good shape and I traveled with a folding cane to provide extra support and balance. Hiking through the airports was exhausting. Walking through the city was slow and lumbering. My sciatica was in full force with pain up and down my right leg. I couldn’t walk far or long without stopping, short of breath and hurting. I felt like a cow. And I was actually ashamed to see how hard a time I had getting around. I have things to work on before I can consider taking another trip but at least I know what they are.

Trinity Choir at Salisbury Cathedral

Taking the trip, taking the time and expense to travel back for something as frivolous as a party, was important. And it wasn’t frivolous at all to be there. Thank you, Carrie and Jon, for the invitation. Thank you, so many choir friends, for connecting and for sharing a few things that you remembered that shone crystal clear once you spoke of them. You matter. You all matter. What we did then mattered, and how we are connected now does, too.


Beginning to Look Like Christmas

Christmas Music JukeboxMaybe it was the fruitcake baking that got me into the Christmas spirit.  No, actually it was Pandora Radio‘s holiday genre stations — folk holiday, jazz holiday, rock holiday, etc.  If you haven’t joined the Pandora band wagon, do it today – lots of music you never heard of but love when you hear.  About two weeks ago I started to hum and then burst into little bits of Christmas carols while  at the computer, then in the car, then puttering around the house.   Out shopping, I find my eyes meeting those of other shoppers as we sing along with the piped in music, and we smile.

Since I’m traveling for Christmas this year, I decided not to put a tree up.  There’s sadness in that, because I love my ornaments and the stories they tell me about people and places from years past.  But it just doesn’t make sense to put up a tree for 2 weeks only to go away for a week – and I don’t want to leave it up when I’m gone to be a temptation for the kitty to cause havoc.

But I do have other Christmas things and today I dragged them out of my green and red plastic storage bins (color coded so I remember that’s where the Christmas stuff lives off-season).  I didn’t go crazy, those days are past.  But I have my large gourd-Santa that came from the Arts Festival in Park City, UT years ago.  My Spanish nativity scene bought in my college days, with the fuzzy sheep that are losing legs, shepherds with broken arms, and kind of nicked kings.  At 34 years old, they are a beloved part of my holiday.

Then there is a small gate with fake snow and greenery that’s a prop between some of my Byer’s Choice carolers.  I have four – 2 parents and 2 kids, representing my family of origin – but only put up the kids this year.   A red sleigh stands ready to hold Christmas cards, with a ceramic snowman sitting next to it, a gift from a Boston colleague years ago.  On the dining table are a red placemat with a glass bowl holding red and silver ornaments.  My door is decorated with a quilted stocking featuring a Santa face – just in case visitors don’t know what season we’re in.

The only Christmasy thing in the kitchen is a stained glass Christmas tree with presents underneath, standing on the window sill to catch the light that mostly I won’t see because I’m at work during the day.  But still, it’s tradition.  So is sending out cards, even though the number I’m sending now is very pared down.  I’ve weeded out some people from my distant past this year but there are still people I only really communicate with at Christmas – tho by including blog, Flickr and FaceBook information, the chances are good that even that small number will decrease by next year.

One thing I’m not doing is really shopping for presents and that feels just fine.  I’m not really finding anyone getting into presents as much this year, but then, most of us either are single or have older children.  There’s a peace in not getting frantic about it.


Christmas Music and Office Decor

Christmas Music JukeboxMy current favorite Christmas song is God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen/We Three Kings recorded by the Barenaked Ladies with Sarah McLachlan. I’ve added it to my iTunes both at home and the office, along with an assortment of other relatively soft Christmas tunes, where they play in “party shuffle” rotation while I’m working.

There’s something happy about plugging away on a project and hearing a few Christmas song every now and then in the office soundtrack. I’m already tired of the idea of all Christmas music all the time — it’s not even December yet, for heaven’s sake – but the occasional seasonal tune reminds me that this isn’t ordinary time.

We decorated at the office today, with people pulling out hoarded supplies of little trees, figurines, ornaments, and little wreaths. All of my office decorations were left behind when I moved so I need to find some new things that will work with my new space because I like the visual as well as the musical touches. My boss has an amazing collection of Christmasy frogs (who knew??) so our end of the office is already pretty festive.

You Are a Tree

You love every part of the holidays, down to the candy canes and stockings. And you’re goofy enough to put a Christmas tree ornament on your tree!

What Christmas Ornament Are You?

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What I Believe

Stained glass angelThe mother of one of my colleagues died last weekend. Although I never met her, J told me lots about her mom, both the woman she was and the medical problems she had been facing in the last months.

I went to the wake last night, a little wet around the edges since I went to water aerobics first, and paid my respects to my friend and her family. Wakes make me uncomfortable and are so stilted, yet they are the place where people talk with each other and share memories and verbal support.

This morning was the funeral. I have to admit that, as weird as it sounds, I like funerals. They have a place in the ritual of endings and closure and give the living a place to be comforted with structure and words of faith. Those who attend become The Church in a very concrete way.

When I lived in Boston, my choir sang for quite a number of funerals and I know that liturgy and words of the Episcopal service – but all funeral services are similar. In my tradition, death is named and not turned into euphemistic “passing” which doesn’t fool anyone. It’s important to hear and know both that death is real and that there is life after death.

That is what I believe – that this life is not the end of who we are, that there is a God who is loving and waiting for us when we die. There is no guarantee that life will be easy and being happy and content is up to us. God isn’t going to sit around to strew the path with roses, money and good health.

I believe in free will; God isn’t going to make me do anything or predetermine the choices I make. But He’s not going to prevent bad things from happening, either. What we are promised is that we will not be alone as we walk through our life – and we are not alone in our death, either.

Going to the funeral brought it home again. I was there to be part of the body of Christ, to support my friend and honor her mother. But I was also comforted myself, hearing the familiar words of the lessons and rituals, and singing with a full heart:

I am the bread of life
He who comes to Me shall not hunger
He who believes in Me shall not thirst
No one can come to Me
Unless the Father draw him

And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up on the last day

The bread that I will give
Is My flesh for the life of the world
And he who eats of this bread
He shall live for ever
He shall live for ever

Unless you eat
Of the flesh of the Son of Man
And drink of His blood
And drink of His blood
You shall not have life within you

I am the resurrection
I am the life
He who believes in Me
Even if he die
He shall live for ever

Yes, Lord, we believe
That You are the Christ
The Son of God
Who has come
Into the world

And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up
And I will raise him up on the last day

© 1971 G. I. A. Publications