Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Thoughts on conflict.


Part of life, it's how we handle them that separate the girls from the women, viz:

  1. Michael's school band camp is this weekend, and he signed up a couple of weeks ago to attend this four-day music-fest with his buddies from high school.  Then he got accepted into the Hannaford Youth Band and they have a camp scheduled at the same time.  He was very conflicted about which one to attend, and spoke with this HS music teacher last week who said "I want you at the school camp.".  So he declined the invite to the Hannaford camp.  On Monday, his school music teacher pulled him out a vocal music class and asked him how his first Hannaford rehearsal went, and how he had decided on which camp to attend.  The teacher then told him that he'd learn more at the Hannaford camp, and that while he wanted Michael at school camp, that he'd grow more with the university-aged kids and the higher level of performance.  

    Michael called the Hannaford leaders as soon as he got home from school and was slipped onto the roster at the last minute.  They'll have lots of playing and a chance to improve on the Eb tuba.  He'll also have a clinic with Glen Gould School tubist Sasha Johnson which should be terrific. Plus getting to know his new bandmates.  It means I'll have to drive him up Friday evening and pick him up on Sunday, but I'll also get a chance to hear them play Sunday afternoon which will be great.

    I am proud of the way he handled this conflict.  That he was loyal to his initial commitment, and able to make a good choice when released from it. 

  2. I wrote a letter resigning from a local choir.  I decided to be direct about my reasons because I really believe in the choir's mission, was leaving with some regret, and thought that my comments might be helpful.  I received a long note from the director outlining his frustrations, mitigating circumstances, and historical issues.  I was unaware of all of these things.

    I have reflected at some length on whether I was correct in sending the original letter.  My concerns still stand.  I might have been more gracious.  I'm not sure, at this point, but I replied with my heartfelt thoughts on the matter, with encouragement, and best wishes. 

I grew up in a family that didn't (doesn't) do conflict.  I married into one that does it loud and proud (and usually well).  As I get older, I am more able to express strong opinions and speak from my heart.  I am firm with my children, a reasonably good negotiator with my spouse, and consider myself to be straightforward with my friends and peers.  I'm past the age of caring what others think of me.  I hope that I ask questions that others are too shy to ask. My older son has inherited my (former) reticence, and my younger son is more like his father in that regard.   I have learned that it's important to be heard, but that grace and charity (in the Catholic sense) need to be present.


QOTD: Is music an important part of your day?

From Motherhood Your Way, a little questionnaire:

Do you listen to music all day, or just during certain activities?

I don't listen to music for much of the day.  If I'm not listening to an audiobook in the car, I have Jazz.FM playing, or a classic rock station.  However, my fifteen-year-old son loves to have music on, and it's usually trad jazz from his iPod through speakers, or classical. Sometimes alt-folk, or whatever The Tallest Man on Earth and the like would be, which is great because we have similar tastes and he has introduced me to a number of new artists. While I don't listen a lot, I love singing in choirs, listening to music in bars and cafe's, going to concerts of pretty much any kind including opera, and am very opinionated about music.  I just prefer a lot of silence. It may be an introvert thing.

What is your favorite type of music?

Classic rock (70s), jazz (leaning toward traditional but open to new experiences), choral (all types), renaissance/baroque, movie scores, Celtic, opera.  I'm eclectic. 

Do you find music distracting or soothing?

I despise music played in most malls and outside (I don't mean outdoor concerts here - I'm thinking of the outdoor mall near where I lived in Georgia).  When I have a headache, am down, or ill, and I can choose my own selections, it's great.  Singing choral music is incredibly soothing....kinda like tai chi or meditation. I find live music incredibly energizing.  If it's music that is forced on me or unpleasant, I either leave or use the mom-card to have it turned off.

Do your kids like music?

Older son (18) plays the guitar and listens to a ton of music that I am unable to describe other that with the tag "alt-".  Younger son (15) is considering music as a career. He plays tuba and bass trombone in numerous school and community ensembles and sings in two choirs. My father and brother were/are both brass-players and jazz-lovers, so it must be at least partly genetic, particularly since Michael never knew his grandfather and didn't grow up with a lot of jazz around him.

Do you keep music playing while you sleep?

The thought of music playing all night is appalling to me.  However, when I have had periods of insomnia in the past, I found that playing meditation music while falling asleep helped me sleep through the night.  But I always set my CD player to turn off after a set period of time.  I also used to enjoy waking up to music rather than an alarm.  Sadly, I have no more issues waking up in the morning and do not require an alert of any kind!


Monday, September 27, 2010

Weekend Update.

'Twas a fun-filled (for the most part) couple of days this weekend. I'm realizing that my schedule remains too full and some things are going to have to drop, but I may feel differently after Z goes back to work next week.

On Saturday, one of my choirs had a gig singing at a wedding.  It was at a downtown church, my first time in that beautiful space.  The wedding was lovely, small, orthodox, with a wonderful homily and terrific organist.  Sadly, for reasons unknown to me, we had a very poor turnout in the soprano section of the choir.  One showed up, on time, an hour before the wedding was scheduled to start, but she is not a strong singer and wasn't able to carry the section.  Our warm-up run-through of the music were not great, and this was exacerbated by a leader who gets, to put it kindly, anxious under pressure.   The other soprano showed up 10 minutes AFTER the wedding started, which was one hour and twenty minutes after call time.  No excuses.  Well, traffic, or something.  The anxiety at the top left me and some of my fellow singers jumping between annoyance and amusement.  At age 50 (it still seems weird to say that), I have no patience for this kind of lealdership, particularly in a volunteer activity where our work is to the glory of God. 

We ended up not singing before the wedding, which we had been contracted to do.  The rest of the mass went smoothly, particularly since someone stepped up to cantor at the last minute, and we had a chance to run through the Psalm before it started.  But it was an experience that left me with a very sour taste in my mouth.

On a happier note, my Mom arrived from Ottawa for a visit.  Z picked her up at the train station after dropping Michael off at his Jazz.FM band practice.  We had a nice visit Saturday evening, with a quickly whipped together meal based on a delicious Beretta Farms BBQ chicken picked up at my local Loblaw Great Food, and I introduced my mom to Republic of Doyle, one of our fave shows from CBC that's returning this season.

Sunday dawned cool and bright, with a full day ahead.  It was our parish choir's first Sunday back in the new year and we had a great turn-out!  Easing in to things, our director pulled out some familiar work.  We Mendelssohn's Grant Us Thy Peace during the offertory and Sing My Soul by Ned Rorem, a gorgeous a cappella piece with sophisticated harmonies.  Our space is so beautiful for singing; we're in a loft at the back of a large neo-gothic church and the sound just rings.  It's my third year at this parish and I'm still stunned by the difference in sound between our rehearsal space and the church itself.  

Right after mass, Z drove Michael and I to the subway where we headed downtown.  I accompanied him to his first Hannaford Youth Band rehearsal and I spent the next couple of hours at the big book love-in at Queen's Park, Word on the Street.  I picked up a copy of Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto by Shawn Micallef and tracked him down to have it autographed, 'cause I missed his time in the signing tent.  I've been following his tweets (@shawnmicallef and @strollcity) and have the mag he edits (Spacing) in my feedreader, but I'd also wanted to subscribe to the hard copy and got in on the WOTS deal this year.  It was a great festival once again, and I enjoyed being there on my own, able to wander around and look at things that interested me without worried about whether my companion(s) were getting bored!

Michael was done at 4 and we headed home on the subway with his new-to-him Eb tuba.  I whipped in to party mode and at 5 pm, welcomed my brother and his family, and my two aunts (and mom) over to celebrate the birthdays of my niece Emily (1) and nephew (and godson) Will (3).  Most of the food had been prepped and Z had done a lot of work laying things out.  We had maple-orange glazed salmon, lemon-celery rice, a green salad, plus cold appetizers and cheese, fruit, and cake.  It was lovely to see everyone, but I was pretty wiped from being on my feet for a good part of the day!

This morning, my mom headed north to visit a friend for the day, and I'm making a batch of applesauce with some of the apples my brother gifted me with from an apple picking excursion he went on with his family.  He gave us Spartans (great for applesauce), Cortlands (baking, eating), and McGowan's (eating) so I see some pies and crisps in my future (although given my diet, I won't be eating them!)

A busy week ahead.  More to come.

Friday, September 24, 2010

In Japan, Even the Barcodes Are Well Designed


This is so cool! As the accompanying text says, every inch of real estate on product packaging is valuable, Why not make it say something to your customers, and not just to the scanner.

Seven Quick Takes - The Paleo Edition

It's been a while since I did one of these posts, but there's been a lot on my plate, so here goes.


The Paleo diet is going pretty well!  I've stuck to it (at least the version that allows alcohol) and I'm down 2.5 pounds since Monday, which is nothing to sniff at.  Best of all, I feel good, not deprived, and merely wondering what I'll be eating for take-out Friday tonight.  


Michael was offered a position in the Hannaford Youth Band, the top level of the three Hannaford Youth programs.  It's (apparently) mostly "university students and advanced high school students"  so as a 15 year-old kid in Grade 10, he was pretty happy!  He reported on a very interesting discussion during the audition about what it takes to be accepted to study music in university (grades, piano, theory, etc) and he was pretty pumped up about this opportunity.  Between this and the Jazz.FM Youth Big Band, he's going to be a busy boy this year.


I haven't really blogged about the Toronto International Film Festival.  This was my first year getting my own tickets and I had a marvellous time.  I had four tickets for films on my own (one of which I missed) and three that I saw with Zouheir on the second weekend.  All the films were sold out early (or "off sale" as tiff says) and I was happy with all my choices.  I saw:

  • Waiting for Superman (doc on education with panel featuring Bill Gates, educator Geoffrey Canada and the director and producer)
  • Brighton Rock (based on the Graham Greene novel, but set in the 60s)
  • The Human Resources Manager (wonderful film from director of The Lemon Tree and The Syrian Bride)
  • Easy A (See it!  It's in theatres now!)
  • Super (Low budget, comic-book-gory film featuring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon ...)
  • Love Crime (French thriller)

I've bought a membership to the Lightbox and we've got our first screening coming up which brings me to ....


Next week, at the Lightbox, they will be screening the number one film from their Essential Cinema list of 100 movies.  The Passion of Joan of Arc is a silent film by Carl Theodor Dreyer from 1928 and it will be screened with accompaniment (well, it's really more than that) of the Toronto Consort and Choir 21 performing Richard Einhorn's Voices of Light.  We got tickets from the second (no food) screening and I'm very much looking forward to this.


Wilson has been relegated to the kitchen at night as Z doesn't like him in our room.  So he's been a bit of a morning barker these days, particularly when the newspapers drop.  It's still meant that I've been sleeping later than usual, and am not up until about 7:30 am, which is at least an hour after my former rising time.  It kind of throws my whole day off and I may start setting my alarm to get up earlier.  I don 't like looking up from my coffee and papers and it's already 10 am.


Zou is doing well.  It's two weeks post surgery and he no longer feels the incision in his back when he moves.  He still wears and bandage on it, but he's feeling good and wants to start doing a bit of exercise.  Thanks once again for all your thoughts and prayers.  You can shift them over to me so that I can cope with him being at home all day (just kidding!).


This weekend will be busy.  My non-church choir is singing at a wedding at St. Michael's Cathedral Saturday afternoon, my mom arrives for a few days late Saturday, and Michael has his second Big Band practice that evening.  On Sunday, church choir starts back up (yay!), and then Word on the Street is in the afternoon.  Michael has his first Hannaford rehearsal that afternoon where he'll get an Eb tuba to play, and start learning to read the treble clef.  That evening, we're hosting a little birthday party for my niece and nephew. Cleaning and Costco are up for the rest of the day!


For other quick takes, visit Jennifer over at Conversion Diary!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Day One of Paleo Diet

Other than a massive headache, it went okay.

I'm not sure whether the headache was due to lack of caffeine, lack of sugar, too much Angry Birds on my iphone, or an act of God, but I couldn't make it to choir last night and only managed to watch two episodes of Weeds and one of Mad Men before retiring to the kitchen sofa with a book and promptly falling asleep.

Here's how the food portion of my day went:

Breakfast:  two scrambled eggs, two mini cucumbers, two large black plums, tea with honey

Snack: almonds

Lunch: tuna salad with real mayo (no dairy) and pickle relish, two plums, two mini cucumbers

Snack:  cashews and raisins

Cocktail:  arak with water

Dinner:  large spicy sausage with mustard, steamed broccoli with dijon-honey dressing, strawberries, two plums, plain tea

Snack: mixed nuts

My digestive system has felt a bit wonky, but better this morning.

I also decided that I'd make coffee and drink it black, because I have a meeting this afternoon and didn't want to risk another headache.  I actually quite enjoyed the coffee and realised that I'm not ready to give it up, even without cream. 

This morning, I made a mushroom and two-egg omelette, and had an orange and two cups of java.  Larabars look suitable for the diet, so I'm going to start carrying a couple in my bag for those times I need to eat and suitable fare isn't available.  And a bag of plain, raw almonds.

I'm off to Canadians Connected 2010 this afternoon down at the Westin Harbor Castle.  It's a Symposium and the AGM for CIRA (Canadian Internet Registration Authority), of which I am a member, owning a couple of .ca domains. Terry O'Reilly and Mitch Joel are two of the speakers and it should be an interesting afternoon. Hashtag is #cira2010 for those of you on twitter and interested.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

I need to shock my system

I have been incredibly lethargic these past few weeks, probably a combination of stress/grief/anxiety....and unbridled consumption coupled with not-so-much exercise.  I had the old "I'll just cut back on portion sizes" talk with myself, but apparently I wasn't listening.

A random tweet crossed my iphone this evening that took me to this blog post, and I found myself thinking that this might be the ticket.  Something to try for a month and see how I feel.  The Paleo Diet.  Lean meat, seafood, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds. (Or maybe not seeds.  TBD.)  No added salt.  Honey or maple syrup for sweetening. No dairy (cheese!  coffee cream!). No grains (bread! pasta! rice! cookies!).  

Now you medical people amongst my friends and family are probably shaking your heads in dismay, but if I'm able to drop some weight and feel better in apparently many potential ways, I think it will be worth a try.  My main issue will be cooking for my men, but I'll just have to do the layered thing that I did when the boys were toddlers, except that I'll be the one not eating some of the food. 

I start tomorrow.  

Friday, September 17, 2010

Didja miss me?

Stuff happened in the 21 days since my last post, so here's a quick recap of life in the fast lane:

  1. On Auguat 22 we had a mass said for Zou's mom in Montreal at the Syrian Catholic Church (St. Ephrem).  The following week was full of appointments, lessons, and various back-to-school type things for Michael and Alex.  I went with Zou to his pre-op appointment at North York General.
  2. Got Michael off for a week at National Music Camp up near Orillia (Camp Wahanowin).
  3. Got Alex back to Queen's and into his house.  He's sharing with five other students in a house in a great location...close to the main drag and five minutes by foot to campus. Did some shopping for him and then we had dinner at Le Chien Noir.
  4. Headed up to Ottawa to hang with my mom for a few days.  Saw my sister and her family, and had a lovely lunch with her at Taylor's Genuine Food and Wine Bar in her 'hood.  Took my mother to visit my father's grave and had lunch with her at Bella's.  Had lunch with my good friend Ian at Infusion Bistro and then headed back to Toronto via Kingston to drop in on Alex again and ate at Atomica.  And I wonder why my trousers don't fit.
  5. On September 5, Zou and I headed up to Music Camp to hear Michael play with his ensembles.  It was a great day and wonderful to hear him play!  He worked with William Carn and Scott Suttie and had a fabulous time at camp.  He's looking forward to next year already!
  6. School started for Michael on September 7th and he is really happy with all his teachers.  After a little timetable fiddling, he got all his requested courses (Enriched Math, Science, Canadian History, Civics, Latin, English, and three music classes: Band, Vocal, Repertoire).
  7. On Friday the 10th, Zou went in to hospital to have a big kidney stone removed via percutaneous nephrolithotomy (through-the-skin-stone-removal, literally). It was a big one, and very hard to break up, but they got it out. They did the procedure using a scope, so the incision was tiny.  He was in hospital for five days and is home for a few weeks to recover.  His surgeon advised him to treat this like a significant kidney injury, to lay off the exercise and take it easy.
  8. I got an short extension on my summer online genealogy course and finished it up with another 100% exam.
  9. The Toronto International Film Festival started on the 9th and I ended up getting single tickets for four films the first week as I figured I wouldn't have a date (and I enjoy attending these types of things on my own.)  Zou and I will attend three films this weekend if he's well enough (which is looking good at this point).  We've also got the Toronto Palestine Film Festival coming up next month.
  10. Michael auditioned for the Jazz.FM91 Youth Big Band last Saturday and got accepted (on bass trombone)!  He is thrilled, and will start rehearsals this Saturday down at the station.  Saturday morning, he's also auditioning for the Hannaford Community Band (on tuba).  So far, it looks like he can do both without a problem, so if he's accepted there, he'll be a busy boy!  He'll be in at least five ensembles at school as well. He's starting to talk about a music career...
  11. I've joined a GoodReads book group and am participating in the Fall Challenge.  It's going kinda slowly, but I'll pick up steam soon.  My reading list by task category is here....I'm hoping to get through a lot of things on my bookshelves so that I can give them away and make room for the piles that have not been shelved as of yet.

I hope to be back in my blogging form going forward.  It was just one of those things that had to drop over the past three weeks as I was kind of overwhelmed with life.  I have a couple of new courses in my genealogical studies that have just started, and I need to pick up my quilt again.

Talk to you soon.  Promise.