Thursday, September 27, 2007

My dear friend, Leti, who I have known and worked with for several years, has taken a position with another agency. I am excited for her and glad that she is furthering her career, but I am also really sad. Oh, sure, I can call and email and drop by her house. She lives in my part of the world. But nothing compares to jetting across the carpet and popping into her office to share some random bit of nonsense I just saw on the web, just to make her giggle. Hearing her giggle was one of the highlights of my work day.

Maybe it is the spontaneity that I will miss. I look at my dayrunner, at how incredibly packed it is with appointments, and I realize just how little spontaneity we are afforded these days. I love spontaneity. I love the way little children just break into song and dance at the drop of a hat no matter where they happen to be. I love it when one of my cats walks gracefully across the room and then, for no apparent reason, leaps 10 feet into the air and lands facing the way he came. I love the look on people's faces when you surprise them with a kind gesture. I love to be surprised, like when the wind suddenly picks up and a gentle shower taps you on the shoulder. Or when you look up from the steering wheel and see a double rainbow arched over the highway.

Spontaneity's where it's at.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


I just found out that a young woman that attends my church died this morning after a valiant battle with cancer. The cancer was diagnosed about a year ago while she was pregnant with her first child. They delayed the treatments for the sake of the baby. She fought hard, and she will be remembered.

I learned yesterday that a woman who means the world to someone underwent an unsuccessful surgery. Hours on the table for naught. What do you do with this information? How do you help the hurting? What words do you use, what gifts can you offer? None, I tell you. None.

Saturday I received an email telling me that a mutual friend, a talented vocalist, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. She doesn't see the specialist or the surgeon until November. Apparently no one of any authority is in a hurry to get this thing out of her. It happens to be located in the speech center of her brain. Let me repeat - she is a vocalist. Since receiving this news I have struggled with the value of life without the ability to sing about it.

Death and illness. Seems there has been an awful lot of it in my life recently. Some of it expected, some of it not. All of it painful.

Angry am I.

Monday, September 24, 2007


I usually take the "live and let live" approach to life. But there are a few issues on which I will not be swayed. Here they are:

  • I don't care what the other parents let their kids do. Elementary school kids do not need cell phones.
  • MySpace is not for children. Heck, it's probably not the safest place for adults, either.
  • Life is too short to be treated like scum, even by brilliant college professors.
  • Everyone has been bestowed a gift, and it is a sin not to use it to it's fullest potential.
  • A girl may not get to choose her family, but she can choose her friends.
  • Tears cleanse. Faith repairs. Hope heals.
  • My father was wrong - it IS possible to kiss something to make it better.
  • Instinct, if you still own any, is the greatest meter of character.
  • You can't conquer that with which you have not familiarized yourself.
  • Humans need to be loved, and they need for that love to be affirmed through touch.
  • Mankind was put on this planet to work together.
  • Some illness can't be cured.

Friday, September 21, 2007


I have been accused of running, which I find immensely ironic due to my aversion to exercise and all things sweaty. I believe what my friends mean is that I am in a constant state of retreat from myself. I did not possess the insight to figure this out for myself, but I must admit that there is some truth to this.

As a child, I began running not from myself, but from some evils that lurked in my environment. I spent as much time out of the house as possible - at school, with friends, in extracurricular activities, in clubs, at church, anyplace that would find me in the company of safe and wholesome people. I would fantasize about these people being my real family, as if I had somehow been tragically given to the wrong parents at birth.

As a teen, music became my solace. I learned rather accidentally that if I closed my bedroom door and practiced my clarinet, not only would the real-life demons stay away, but I could shut out the demons in my head. I found that I was safer with the instrument than I was in bed at night. I spent an awful lot of time alone with the Ugly Stick. It became a lovely black and silver talisman that went everywhere I went.

In college I hired my first therapist - my voice teacher. She was a great listener. She heard every wrong note, every unsupported tone, every missed consonant. She also had eyes like a hawk. "Stand up straight. Breathe from the diaphragm. Make me believe you." She noticed every worthwhile thing I did, too, and she accepted no less than my best.

From opera training I moved into the world of barbershop. Not as different as some would think. Barbershop introduced me to overtones, and from the first chord I sang with a chorus I knew I would never be the same. A perfectly aligned chord will set every cell in my body on fire. I've since learned that Pythagoras studied this very phenomenon of musical energy and the effect it has on the human body. Of course, many people thought he was crazy. I figure I'm in good company...

Serious singers eventually end up on stage. Performing is a glorious thing. In those moments, I can be anyone I want to be, someone other than myself. I am beautiful and desirable. I am not damaged or broken or flawed. Beware: This form of running is addicting. It gets in your head and in your blood and in your soul. And if you are not careful, you forget who you are altogether.

My counseling buddies Rusty and Connie, astute observers of human behavior that they are, suggest that the reason I fill every moment of my waking life with some sort of demanding activity is that I am running from myself. I pretend to be astounded by this revelation. But of course they are right. Being alone with myself terrifies me. I'll take the stage any day.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Fourteen Years

September 18th is my wedding anniversary. Mikel and I have been married 14 years. At times it feels like the years have flown by, other times it feels like they have crawled. I've often wondered about that - how time seems to flux and bend and race and sometimes even stop. But since I am not a physicist, I will leave such musings for another day, when my brain is leaning a little more to the left.

To say that marriage is a challenge is a gross understatement. Sometimes it seems that we will never be in sync. One is feeling ambitious while the other wants to slow down. One wants to plan a future while the other is perfectly content with the here and now. One wants to take on the world while the other prefers to avoid it all costs. One wants to face adversity head on while the other wants to shut down. Let's not even go into the differences between men and women. There have been volumes written about those, and John Gray is a wealthy man because of them.

But every now and again things are perfectly in sync. You agree on a favorite restaurant. You stand together against an enemy called "children" and hold the family together. You set a goal together. You reach it. You laugh together after days of crying. It is those moments for which I live. They laugh in the face of the others, and I laugh with them.

Good night, reader. And thank you, Mikel, for two fabulous children and 14 fascinating years.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Jet Lag

I've spent the day (well, the part of it that happened after we got home from church) napping, watching football, and watching the Emmy's, in that order. Seems I am a little worn out from my recent trip to Cincinnati. Woke up this morning with a headache that won't give me a break. Wouldn't even step aside during my solo this morning. Ah, well, pain reminds us that we are alive. I sang well despite it, and interpreted (dynamics, etc) on the fly. I guess I was inspired.

The trip was really good. I would post pictures if I had any. I am quite possibly the only Asian person in the world that can't remember to take a camera when I leave the house. Will have to ask my traveling companions to share theirs.

The part of Cincinnati I saw was quite pretty. Neat old buildings and lots of reason to be outdoors. In the midst of the downtown area is Fountain Square. It is a big square with - you guessed it - a huge fountain in the center of it. But the kicker was the giant screen hanging above the Macy's that aired sporting events. I sat out there one night watching West Virginia play Maryland. Not because I really care about either of those teams in particular, but because 1) I enjoy college ball and 2) I wanted to be able to say I had watched college ball on a giant screen TV next to a huge fountain in a big square. I was only approached by one panhandler.

I could see the Ohio river and two ball fields from my room on the 22nd floor. There are lots of cool bridges over the river, and one of my traveling companions walked to Kentucky. Granted, it was only a few blocks and across a bridge, but it is still cool. Cool happens to be the word of the trip. The weather was beautiful, and it was downright chilly at times for this Southern gal. I froze my patooties off most of the trip. And then I walked out of the DFW airport into the sweltering shock of a lingering Texas summer.

We ate in large groups. It is always a little tough for a large group to agree on a place to dine. I am probably the easiest person to please when it comes to food. But I put my foot down when someone suggested Mexican food. I simply do not eat Mexican food north of the Red River. Call it TexMex snobbery.

I listened to a blue grass band called Catch and Release that was pretty good. I thought to myself, "I'm really close to Kentucky. I should take in a little culture and hear a blue grass band." Joke was on me. They were from Washington state. But they did a lovely little instrumental version of Isle of Inisfree that felt as if it was meant just for me. At one point I looked around and realized that my companions had abandoned me, and I was sitting there listening alone. Intimate.

I attended a few really good workshops at the conference. Learned a lot about how to deal with clients who were in crisis, and had my reservations regarding current trauma intervention validated by knowledgeable people. I love it when I find myself in agreement with knowledgeable people.

The Hilton treated us very nicely. My room was huge, and the bed was very comfortable. There was this great smelling lotion in the elegant-yet-totally-impractical bathroom. The mirror was too far away for me to see well enough to put on eye liner. And the shower head was one of those that had settings, if only you were tall enough to reach it. But, hey, it beats the heck out of the kind of places I can usually afford to stay.

It is great to be home with Mikel and the girls. They met me at the airport with a dozen red roses and smiles and dimples and flashing eyes and tales of their activities. They all seemed to get along just fine without me, and that makes me feel confident in their self-sufficiency. Seems I haven't done such a poor job raising them after all.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Play Ball

This weekend wasn't all about leotards and tights. I watched a fair amount of sports as well. Overall it was a winning weekend. The Horns beat the Frogs, the Rangers beat the A's, and the Cowboys whupped the Giants. Even my high school alma mater won.

Unfortunately, my college alma mater lost. Again. Yeah, yeah... I know it's not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game. But the truth is, Stephen F Austin State University, ranked high in the state academically, just doesn't play the game well. You would think that a bunch of guys called the Lumberjacks would be motivated to prove themselves. Especially when the fans are cheering, "Ax 'em, Jacks!" I'm just sayin'...

The school officials must have had a sense of humor when they decided on the mascot. When I was there, rather than a drill team or dance team, SFA had a entire squad of baton twirlers. They were called - brace yourself - the Twirl-o-Jacks. Bless their little pea pickin' hearts.

I have absolutely no regrets over my choice of colleges. I was accepted to several. I chose the one that offered me a scholarship. Hey, I'm no fool! All kidding aside, I came from a small town. A big university like UT or Baylor would have eaten my lunch. I flourished in the intimate environment of SFA. And Nacogdoches is quite beautiful. Nope, no regrets.

Hot Time in Azle

Today Mikel and I took our tiny dancers to Azle to perform in their annual street festival. It was the Little One's first public performance in the dance company. She was excited, and we were very proud of her.

A side note here - Mikel is the best dad in the world. For the past two years while I have been in school or seeing clients, he has taken the girls to all of their classes and extra rehearsals, learned to put their long hair in ponytails and buns, and noted all the details of performances without one word of complaint. He has never missed a performance. He sat through two entire days of dance contest last Spring, and he actually watched the dancers. He is working overtime this weekend to pay for costumes. He is proud of his girls, and he says he is quite comfortable being a ballet dad.

It is policy for the dancers to arrive 30 minutes early for a performance. The talent line up was running behind (typical), so we all ended up waiting for quite a while for our girls' turn to shine. It was HOT. As in summer in Texas hot, not Paris Hilton hot.

Let me tell you something - anyone out there that doesn't think dance is hard work is just dead wrong. These young ladies, ages 8 to 18, were out there in sweltering heat, squinting from the glare off the concrete, with nothing but a thin layer of suede between their feet and said concrete, smiling even though salty sweat and mascara were dripping into their eyes, to an audience that consisted of mainly their parents. They leaped, they twirled, they lay and rolled on the ground, they kneeled, they lifted one another. And they did all of that with pure grace and professionalism. For no money. And without kneepads.

Know what else they did? Rather than high-tailin' it outta there when their routines were finished, they stayed and watched one another in the horrible heat, clapping and cheering for one another, no matter how many mistakes were made. The little dancers marveled at the older dancers, no doubt imagining themselves "dancing like that" one day. One group got out there and stuck a pose, frozen in place for some time until it was discovered that their music didn't make it to the performance. They graciously filed off the staging area, heads high, smiles wide.

Some of the parents staked a little claim to the few patches of shade to be found. I chose to stand right out there in the sun while I watched. It was the least I could do to honor these young ladies who graced Azle, Texas with a little culture and poise today.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Brief Commentary

You absolutely MUST go see Mr Bean's Holiday. Must. Grab your wallet or purse, pack the kids in the car, get your ticket, buy some popcorn, and GO! Oh, back up... maybe you should wait until the theater opens.....

I was unsure of what to expect. The previews looked sort of funny. I've seen the TV show, thought it was humorous. What a pleasant surprise! Don't worry, I couldn't possibly ruin it for you. I can't begin to describe it. As Mikel says, you have to see it to understand it. At on point I realized I was laughing so hard I couldn't breathe.

This I will say about it - it is G-rated. I mean, it is G-rated by this overprotective mom's standards. There is very little speaking, hence no foul language. No rude bodily functions or noises, no lewd body language, no innuendo. No one gets maimed or killed. I can't even say that about half the Disney flicks my girls watch.

Go see it. It is the best therapy I can prescribe to date.

Friday, September 7, 2007

A Bit of Wisdom from the Not-All-That-Wise

These are some things I know:

Chocolate is good for the soul.

Dancing is a natural stage of development - lots of little kids dance before they can even walk very well. (The Not-So-Little-One rocked out to Aretha Franklin in her car seat before she could walk.)

It is possible, with enough scrubbing, to wash that man right out of your hair.

My mother was right every time she said, "Stop that before someone gets hurt." Someone always got hurt.

Sex appeal is not all about physical beauty.

I don't care what the Not-So-Little-One says - not everyone in the 5th grade has a cell phone.

It is the younger sister's job to annoy her older sister.

It is all children's jobs to embarrass their parents in public.

It is a parent's job to retaliate in front of their children's peers.

Everyone should commit to memory one great Italian aria, complete with the full gamut of emotion and range and dynamics, to sing at the top of his/her lungs while driving down the freeway.

Petting a cat is relaxing, right up until the cat turns inside of his skin to bite the heck out of the very hand that is petting him, for no apparent reason.

Dogs don't care what your hair looks like, and they find you fascinating when you are smelly.

It is absolutely possible to rise above one's circumstances.

Children do learn what they live, but what they learn might really surprise you.

Drop me a line and tell me what you know.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Another Farewell

Farewell, Luciano. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Immersion Therapy

Counseling students are compelled to study countless theories and techniques of therapy, and at some point in their educational journey many are asked to identify with and adhere to a theory for the duration of their counseling practicum. I found this to be endlessly challenging because there were aspects of many theories that resonated with me and yet no single theory that spoke directly to me.

This past weekend I willingly subjected myself to my own newly conjured therapy - immersion therapy. Having recently suffered from an intense case of "plumb out," I decided to plunge right into a few things that have been known to make me blissfully happy - shopping, seafood, chocolate, and really great singing. (At some point during the weekend I dreamt that I was swimming with white dolphins. An immersion of another sort and a topic for another post, perhaps.)

I spent nearly the entire weekend immersed in exceptional vocalization, with a few momentary lapses into Disney pop music to satisfy my tween girls. Chloe, Orla, Lisa, Mairead, Meav, and Hayley (Celtic Woman) reminded me how much I miss tight harmony and innocent vocal purity. And Andrea Bocelli soared right into my heart, with the tenderness and intimacy and strength of a lover.

I find it quite difficult to turn off my critical listening skills, so I had to listen to everything twice to truly enjoy myself. What a hardship... I know, I know. And you know what? As I opened my mind and my heart to the gifts that these artists brought, I felt cleansed from the inside out. Thank you, thank you, dear ladies and Sir Andrea. I plan to take a dip again soon.