Saturday Linky Love

I know — it’s Sunday, not Saturday.

We had a busy day yesterday with a funeral and some touring in an area we don’t often go to. The wind was blowing and it was a beautiful sunny day. I tried to catch the movement in these flowers.

But I’ve been saving up some fun stuff for you to look at. I’m linked up today at Vanderbilt Wife; I hope you enjoy reading these curated lists of goodies!

  1. The post most likely to make you make some changes in the way you spend your days: “How to Carve More Time Into Your Day”
  2. The post most likely to make you feel inadequate, boring and/or stupid: List of 21st Century literature written by women that you should have already read.
  3. The post most likely to make you read a book and eagerly anticipate its movie: Top 12 Fall Movies Based on Books
  4. Most ridiculous claim of the week: Prends Moi perfume will help you to lose weight. Don’t forget to click into the Enorme link. ūüôā
  5. Video of the Week: Miami University (my Ohio alma mater) Men’s Glee Club performing Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah.
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Writers’ Workshop: A Case of the Nervous Knees

Did you ever notice that both nervous and knees start with the same vocalization and they are spelled differently? No wonder English language learners have a problem with English. That’s my plug for why we need ELL teachers in our schools. I’d really like the people I encounter in life to know the difference between nervous and knees. And know, for what it’s worth. If you have the opportunity, vote for initiatives that allow dedicated teachers to continue to integrate non-English speakers into the mainstream of our schools and society. I’m just sayin’… it’s important, and it’s worth spending your tax dollars on it.

Commercial over. Let’s talk about nervous knees.

A little known fact among most of the people who know (there’s that pesky word again — twice) me these days is that I was a voice major in college. Now I teach English.

Music majors have to give recitals in addition to writing papers and taking tests, and from thence comes my story for today.¬†I will never forget that recital my freshman year at Miami University; it’s indelibly etched in my brain. As music majors, we were required to perform once a term; it was just one song at 11:00 on Thursday mornings. We all had to attend the recitals, even if we were not performing ourselves, and on that fateful day, pretty much all of my friends were in attendance.¬†I stood on the stage in my very fashionable mini-skirt and started to sing. At the same time, my knees started to quiver. Picture it — in a small auditorium, my knees were pretty much at eye level with the audience — and they were shaking as if I was having my own personal earthquake. I finished my song, and tried not to disown my classmates, who were doing the best they could not to laugh out loud. After all, this could happen to them, too. I vowed this would never happen to ME again.

Once thing I’ve learned about singing in subsequent years of performing is that the old adage of “never let them see you sweat” definitely applies. Never let them see you shake, either. After that recital, I learned to wear long dresses when I sang in public. Your face can be a serene as a calm lake while your knees are rattling under your long skirt. As I continued to sing for church and events, I also learned that the lectern, podium, or even the little fence around the choir can be your friend.

These days, I’m pretty jaded. My knees no longer shake, but my beginning-to-be-an-old-lady-voice sometimes does. It’s a new kind of fear. Will my always reliable voice do its job? Have I vocalized enough to hit the high and low notes? It’s almost as scary as it was back when I was a naive freshman in college. Unfortunately, now I know my limitations. I’m no longer invincible, as I thought I was when I was eighteen.

The good thing is, I also play the saxophone. There’s no shaking knees in saxophone playing, unless one is stupid enough to try to march at Alumni Weekend, and that’s a story for another day. I can play the saxophone until I die, or they kick me out of band, whichever comes first.

There’s a reason why there’s a maxim that talks about “shakin’ in your boots.” Been there, done that.

It’s been a while since I’ve linked up with Mama Kat. Please visit and enjoy the work of other bloggers.

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21 Days of Christmas 2011: It’s not Christmas until the band plays Sleigh Ride

I admit it; I’m a band nerd. I didn’t get a slushie in my face during high school because my principal would have shoved the miscreant up against a locker and scared the crap out of him, but I loved band then and I still do. In contrast to what one sees on television, being in band in high school and college at Miami University in Ohio was a wonderful thing and allowed me to create life-long friendships and meet fun-loving, fabulous people. And, according to the studies¬†(and I want to believe), playing multiple instruments also made me smarter.

Image via trexandme.wordpress.com

Watching my college band play in the Macy’s parade on Thanksgiving just makes me cry with happiness and nostalgia.

We weren’t quite as cool as Miami’s current band when I went to Miami, although we did get to go to the other Miami to march in the Tangerine Bowl parade. This photo shows the second generation of the Miami Marching Machine that was built to fit over our band director’s Volkswagen bug. Yeah, I know. We chose to perpetuate our nerd stereotype and we were proud to wear the emblem. (I just realized that the Marching Machine has an image of a reel-to-reel tape. Can I date myself anymore than that? And is that Dr. Nick in the plaid pants?)

I still love band and one of the best things about Christmas is playing holiday music on my saxophone.¬†At the ripe old age of — I’m not saying how old, but old enough –, I joined a concert band again after an absence of way too many years. I haven’t played in a full concert band with adults since college, and I’ve missed it. I encouraged my beloved husband to make a midlife instrument change and got him to play the trombone and euphonium, never imagining that his obsession with all things brass would shut me out of most of his musical groups. I’ve been a brass ensemble widow for years, and I didn’t like it very much. Because alto saxophone players are a dime-a-dozen in the northwest suburbs of Chicago and everyone is looking for lower brass players, it was difficult to find an ensemble in which we could play. Finally, we joined a band in the southwestern suburbs that needed both of us. As you can see from the photo, it’s a group that welcomes “experienced” bandsmen and women. It’s pretty easy to pick me out — I’m the only mature woman in the saxophone section, and as always, the saxophones are playing second fiddle to the trumpets.

We played a concert that included a series of medleys featuring pretty much all of the secular music that we hear in the malls and on the all-Christmas-all-the-time radio stations. I’ve gotta say — it was fun even if it was sappy.

The grand-daddy of all secular Christmas music transcriptions for band is Sleigh Ride, written by Leroy Anderson in 1948 and first played by the Boston Pops Orchestra under the baton of Arthur Fiedler. As far as Christmas music goes for me, Sleigh Ride is right up there with the songs from White Christmas, and I was pretty disappointed that we didn’t play it this year for our concert. Fortunately, thanks to the miracle of youtube.com, we can all hear the Boston Pops with John Williams conducting.

Of course, you can always go to your public library and pick up a copy of the CD for your listening pleasure at home and in your car!

Finally,  if you want to read what I had to say last year at this time, check out my 2010 21 Days post. See you tomorrow!

For Mary Lee: Love and Honor to Miami

My first-cousin-once-removed-in-law is going to start her college years at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, on Sunday. Her parents are driving her and her stuff to campus and will be leaving her there to begin the rest of her life. Her mom will cry and her dad will carry on with a stiff upper lip. Normal behaviors — an important passage in every family’s life. So why am I writing about this?

Although I can barely remember the drop-off part, in the fall of 1970 a relatively naive eighteen-year-old from West Milton, Ohio, was delivered to the hallowed doors of Oxford College by her parents. Oxford College for Women had been converted into a Miami University dormitory in 1902 when women were first admitted to the university. In those days we didn’t come to college with microwaves and refrigerators. It was pretty easy to carry my meager possessions up the stairs to the second floor of Ox College, which at the time was 120 years old with windows and electricity to match — and no air conditioning. But the beautiful old building was picturesque and had a ballroom, for goodness sake! It felt pretty darn cool.

I remember the rest of it as if it were yesterday. I moved in early for band camp because I was going to be a music major and planned to be in the marching band. I didn’t know that the band was known as the Stumbling 100; I thought I was going to be spelling out script Miami on the football field and my high school friend Belinda was going to dot the “I” with her sousaphone (my parents went to THE Ohio State). I met the other two girls in my dorm who were also going to be in the band, and we trudged across town carrying our instruments for our first big day at band camp. Unfortunately, nobody had told us that we were supposed to request South Quad dorms if we were in band. Ox College was more than a mile from campus and going back and forth to classes and activities involved crossing through most of uptown and all of campus. The trek to campus became our six-times-a-day routine.

My younger readers are probably asking why we had to do this six times a day. You don’t know how good you have it now. In the olden days, there were no such things as meal cards and open dining halls. Students had to eat all of their meals in their assigned dining hall unless they had made elaborate arrangements to be a guest in another dining room. Linda, Nancy, and I had to go back and forth between campus and Ox College just to get our meals. Frankly, it was brutal, but that wasn’t even the worst part.

The only other women in the dorm were the counselors and the girls who were going through sorority rush. In those days, Greeks rushed before school started, and it was quite different from what it is today. Young women who were rushing still wore tea dresses and heels to rush parties and it was a pretty formal system.

Are you getting the picture yet? It is still crystal clear in my mind. During band camp, we would march in the hot August sun for 3-4 hours in the morning, return to our dorms for lunch, come back for four more hours of marching, and then go back to our dorms again. The dining hall ladies would hold dinner for the three of us as we straggled in at 5:55 pm with sweaty hair and lime up to our knees. The girls participating in sorority rush avoided us like the plague, and rightfully so.

It is here that the story gets better. Being in band was one of the best decisions I ever made. Although I’ve lost touch with Nancy, my first friend in band is still one of my best friends and lives a half-mile from me. Linda and her husband travel with us, and there isn’t much she doesn’t know about me. My friend Susan and I can have a phone conversation after a six month hiatus without missing a beat; she sometimes calls just as I am about to call her because we have this uncanny connection. I’d like to think these enduring friendships were forged in the cauldron of the southwestern Ohio late summer.

As for the Stumbling 100, we were blessed with new grad assistants and a new commitment to move past the label and become a better band. We quickly became involved with band leadership and we were all elected to the band honor sorority, Tau Beta Sigma, which was okay with us having lime on our legs and wearing shorts instead of tea dresses. We built the Miami Marching Machine, a wooden tank-like structure that we put over Dr. Clay’s Volkswagen bug and brought it on the football field with us. We got over (kind of) our envy of the people living in the brand new air-conditioned dorms that were just south of the marching field and the music building. We met men and other women from the band who understood our passion for music and our love of the¬†camaraderie¬†that comes from shared experiences. We learned that first impressions are just the beginning and we became friends with the lovely women who lived in Ox College. And we changed our living arrangements in our sophomore year to better suit us — the young adults that were growing up in the palms of Miami’s mentoring hands.

As Mary Lee starts her time at Miami and becomes a member of the Miami Marching Band, I want her to love it as much as I did. I’m pretty sure that she will quickly become involved and will also meet new people who will become lifelong friends. Miami is a special place; she already knows that because her parents have long-time friendships with people they met when they were students at Miami. It’s not the same university I went to, and it’s not the same university that Kevin and Sandy went to. It’s now Mary Lee’s university, and it’s an environment that will mentor her just as it did us. There will be a huge temptation to stalk her on Facebook, but I have learned that most of the time it’s not appropriate for her old relative to comment on her wall. I promise, Mary Lee.

And since I have you readers as my captive audience, I want you to know an important truth. It’s NOT Miami of Ohio. It’s Miami University, and we were a university when Florida still belonged to Spain. Don’t ever make that mistake again when talking to a graduate of THE Miami University!

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