Tuesday, May 29, 2012

29 May 2012

We had a restful Memorial Day weekend here, but cold. Friday it was sleeting and raining, Saturday was more of the same. Sunday warmed into the 60's, and the children were able to swim in the pool we had been heating. Monday morning, the youngest was ready to go out swimming right away. I went down and worked on weeding the Virginia Creeper that is taking over, and all the little cottonwood and popular saplings trying to grow in the worst places. I also hacked down a remarkable flowering weed that started showing up a few years ago, but is so close to the bricked edge that it just overflows to the next terrace. It's tall and green right now, but dries to yellow sticks in the fall. I laid those tender vines over top my arugula plants, that are just barely showing up in the soil. I also repotted my tomatoes into the larger, outdoor pots.

In addition, I read two books this weekend: Dragonsong and Dragonsinger. I also practiced my viola, and then at night after the kids were in bed, I started watching the Revenge series which John purchased from iTunes for me. I can get through quite a few episodes when there are no commercial interruptions. It's amazing how fast it can be.

This morning I was talking to a mom at the elementary school. Apparently two of the teachers from the Immersion program have had enough, and got jobs elsewhere in the county. The older daughter's 5th grade teacher is one of these, and it's a shame, as she is one of the best teachers my daughter has ever had. This teacher had moved to the Immersion class two years ago, but there is a lot of criticism from the 3rd grade parents who don't believe their children are actually learning Spanish, so they are leaving the headaches behind. They would have had to deal with the same parents for another 3 years, unfortunately.

My friend mentioned how the parents don't really value homework, they don't volunteer in the class, and the children have a lot of athletic practices that can get in the way of schoolwork. I don't always value homework either, I must admit. Sometimes it just feels like it's meant to drill and keep you in practice, so can become like drudgery after awhile, although I do sort of feel the more you do, the easier it is. When I was in fifth grade, I remember doing pages of multiplying two 3 digit numbers, and the whole thing seemed interminable. I understood the principles, but I hated it. There is a certain amount of math I can do easily now, but I'd still be hard pressed to find any joy out of multiplying or dividing multi-digit numbers just to keep in practice. Still, I recognize it hasn't become rote with my second grader yet.

With the older one, homework was always necessary, so that her father or I could actually teach her the math principles she wasn't grasping. At one point, maybe around 3rd grade, I found myself trying to break down the explanation into as simple a one as possible, but she still wasn't getting it. I found myself resorting to yelling, "But it's base 10, it's base 10" because she didn't seem to grasp the simple concept of doing things in tens. Finally her father sat down with her and told her the story of Gorp, the caveman, who needed to figure out how to count berries, or some such thing. He broke it down farther than I had even thought was necessary, I guess, but it worked. Now, with Algebra, he can spend several hours working with her on that during the week. She tried going to algebra tutoring, but it was her working alone and having to ask questions of the teacher, and she didn't feel comfortable doing that, so she decided to stick with working with her dad.

I've noticed, though, that went it comes to athletics, they seem to trump all. They can get in the way of church, of family meals, of weekends together, of other rehearsals, of homework, of play. They are serious. You can't just go to school and try out for an athletic team; you need to have already been playing on the various community leagues and teams. So my kids will probably never play any sport at this point in their life in school, unless it's in a school gym setting. It would be nice if there was a way just to play for fun and exercise, however, just as you can sing in a community group mainly for fun. The children's choir only rehearses once a week, and even that can be too much for some people. During the time they were preparing for the World Choir Games in Shaoxing, the kids started rehearsing together twice a week. When I played in a symphony orchestra, we rehearsed twice a week, and then had a Friday night rehearsal before a concert weekend that had two concerts. The Sacramento Children's Chorus rehearses twice a week. To get serious about the music, I think we'd have to rehearse more, but everyone seems too divided with all the activities they have to do.

I wonder is it possible to have some community sports teams that are more about having fun together, and some community choirs that can take it to a new level of artistry.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

24 May 2012

Earlier this week, perhaps Monday, I walked the dog around 8:15 and I was struck by how warm it was. It felt humid and I expected the air to cool me, but it did not. I checked the weather widget on my iPhone and it said it was 72˚F. I didn't see how that was possible, so I checked Wunderground for the humidity, and found that the temp and humidity readings at the closest location to me were 75˚ and 30%. That made more sense. I also downloaded Wunderground's smart phone app.

This morning I got up and put on a long sleeved shirt, because I heard it was going to be cold. And it was! I whipped my phone out again and checked my Wunderground app, which proclaimed it to be 60˚ F. No way was it that warm, my nose and forehead were cold by this point. So I checked my iPhone widget which said 46˚ F. Then I checked the Wunderground website, and saw that it was 50˚ with 35% humidity. All the readings on the map overlay were from 45˚ to 51˚ F. The one aberration was the KNRV site which said 60˚--even the airport said 48˚. So having other sources to confirm what I already was feeling was useful. The sun was hot on my back, and it felt warmer than 50˚ by the time I got back, so what I'm feeling is so dependent on other things too. When I write in the middle of the night, I'm much more emotional and, I believe, more eloquent. If you don't trust what you are feeling, wait a bit, I suppose.

I've been thinking lately of the hate the sin, love the sinner maxim that has been making more of an appearance more these days. I'm trying to make sense of it. If sin is a vice, a bad habit, an unhealthful practice like not getting enough sleep, smoking or the overconsumption of goods and the resultant waste that engenders--something that probably should be changed whether the person is willing to or not, then I suppose I can hate the sin. Fat people & smokers may fall into this category. Gay people may too, for some.

If the sin is something worse, like drug use that causes the "sinner" to harm other people by both legal and illegal means, that's something else. But you still may love the person as much as you detest what is happening to them. Or you may not, you may write them off completely as unwilling to leave their destructive lifestyle in favor of treatment. Gay people and fat people may fall into this category, as well as substance abusers.

If the person has beliefs and practices that are detestable to you, it is still possible to love the person even as you hate their politics. Right wing social conservatives fall into this category for me for the most part. Actually, even fiscally conservative Republicans who think they are doing good fall into this category, the first group is trickier. It's harder when the beliefs are so divergent that you feel that they are hurting people and choosing to bring sorrow into the world. Bigots--the people who want to keep a system in place that benefits the status while denying rights and power to a large group of people, it's hard to actually hard to believe they are just misguided. I try to, I try to love racists, I try to see people as a composite of good and bad with the bad not tainting the whole person. Especially since so many of us are racists just by the fact that we don't examine the practices and structures which keep exploitation in place.

But finally I come to my main idea, the one that got me thinking on all of this. I have been feeling very angry towards the Catholic church. Almost as soon as I was thinking it, the love the sinner hate the sin idea came into my head. But I don't know that I can love or find value in institutions that perpetrate crimes on people. I've always thought there was so much, good and bad about the Church that the important thing was to keep the good, throw out the bad, honor what was right. Now I think that maybe the whole thing needs to be dismantled and burned to the ground, and then rebuilt. I feel that the foundations are so corrupt, it's not possible to keep shoring up the main structure at this point.

I was not actually able to finish my thoughts on this topic before I had to leave the house. Suffice it to say that I know my opinions would be offensive to people, and it seems that I'm throwing the baby out with the bathwater, which has always been the opinion I've had. Our history will always be our history, we can't change it, we can just acknowledge how it influences us today, and move away from some of that influence rather than embracing it. But sometimes it seems impossible to overcome the decay of many years, especially when people refuse to open their eyes to the problem.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

22 May 2012

Today the Nevada Arts Council Partner-in-Excellence grants are due, so of course I stayed up until 3 am, trying to at least get down my complete narrative. When I first started this process, the narrative section seemed easy, but I skipped around and chose which questions to answer, figuring inspiration would strike later when I returned to the questions I found dull or problematic. And inspiration did strike in the sense that I have a better sense of what I feel my organization is trying to achieve. The issue then becomes how do I make my narrative fit their questions. When fitting questions to your own agenda, it's important to come across as stealthily as a polished diplomat, not as glaringly obvious as a Presidential candidate. Attempting to take their questions at face value doesn't work, as either the questions seem repetitive or non-relevant. So trying to get my ideas across in a way that explains what we are trying to do while somehow trying it into the question being asked is crucial.

The following question seems like it should be simple enough: 1. Describe your community and include: (a) its location in the state, (b) relevant community characteristics, and (c) demographics of its population. If you cite census data, please relate it to your programming decisions. I had an almost boilerplate answer for this last year, taken from the grants from the year before. All I had to do was recheck the latest census data. And, of course, in answering a question about the demographics of a population, I must use Census data, what else would I do? Yet they seem to be asking a different question, one I can't quite tease out. Tell us about your community, and don't try and skate by on this question by citing Census data. If you insist on using it, make it relevant. But how are the demographics of my community really relevant? From casual observation, the demographics of our concert are similar.

Early this morning, at 3 am as I was brushing my teeth before collapsing into bed, I thought maybe they really do want to know very specifically what the demographics of our audiences are. Maybe they want to know if the demographics of our audience match what I state in the population of my community. Maybe they want a better idea of what my community is, they don't want me to cite data about the Reno/Sparks/Tahoe/Carson area at large. But that is our community. This is who we try to reach, this is who we want to reach. That is how we envision our community.

Part of my difficulty here is my own opinion of Reno, recently formed in the last few years, when I see big commercial music acts getting lots of press and/or acclaim, but choral music getting not a lot of attention when choral music is much more accessible to the community at large in terms of performance opportunities. And choral music can be such a varied and complex art. Choral groups are so big in other countries, and choral singing has been taken to new levels of performance with the standards and judging criteria being set by organizations like Musica Mundi. When Reno has a choral festival, who comes? Mostly people from other states and other countries. They come and stay in the hotels and eat dinner, and spend money, and they are their own audience, since such a small segment of this community actually attends these concerts, many of which are ticketed but free.

When the American International Choir Festival was here, the news came out and filmed my choir singing on state for a panel. I came home eagerly to TiVo the news, and was disappointed to find out that they were only playing it from the angle of, "look how small this is, look how much money was wasted, RSCVA debacle!" Reno's craptastic attitude is a major part of the problem in attracting new events and new tourists. It's not all about how many hotel room dollars events are going to bring in, how we evaluate the worth of an event compared to the cost of having it is more complex. I think that Reno did get screwed by the Interkultur, because in wanting to hold successful choir festivals in the US, they are perhaps not considering their audience. The cost of actually attending their events as a performing group are prohibitive, and if you're trying to get something new off the ground, something that already doesn't have status, you're going to have to offer a bigger incentive.

But Reno should also consider the question of whether an event enriches the area culturally by providing something to its residents, whether the residents will be supportive and make an event a success, and whether the combination of these things can help define the city as a venue for future world class events that may prove to be more lucrative. With the grant application, I'm somewhat disappointed that they chose to end with a very boring question, that doesn't seem to lend itself to a good meaty answer. I wish they had streamlined this process even more so that my narrative could read like an essay, and I could end with the question of why we deserve state funding, instead of having it stuck up near the top.

Monday, May 14, 2012

14 May 2011

It was a beautiful breezy day today. I went and sat outside with my dog, trying to figure out the new Nevada Culture Grants Online site, and discovered the grant proposal I'm writing is due sooner than I thought.

I took a brief afternoon nap with the wind blowing the tree against the house, which is a bit disconcerting although I've heard it so often. I think afternoon naps or rest time are what I'll remember most about this house--the afternoon sun coming in through the white blinds, making my room practically glow. Today is was more dappled and shaded with the blowing locust tree branches, and the room stayed cooler.

When I have time to lie and ponder things, I can feel stressed by all there is hanging over my head with this house. The thought occurred to me, as it often does, that I'm not really where I want to be, this isn't how I thought life would be. Simultaneously with this thought, usually, is remembering the hopefulness of youth when I knew I wasn't where I wanted to be, but there was always so much potential. So today I almost immediately asked myself where did I think I'd be at this point, and why, and why would I think I'm not in that place? I wanted to be married with children and a career, and here I am with at least part of that, right? I have a 13 year old and an 8 year old, they are doing well in school, I have a dog now to occupy my time, I have many volunteer opportunities, and I keep practicing my music.

The fantasies I had I still have, and they are for fun, they weren't any kind of life plan, honestly. I watched the series finale of Desperate Housewives last night, then I watched the last videos of my mom's time on earth. One of the characters mentioned that what is said about middle age is that your dreams for the future become your memories of the past. I had never heard that before. I've always lived with nostalgia for the past as well as dreams for the future. I'm not sure either one really has much bearing on reality, other than the reality of how I exist in my brain.

I had another thought yesterday, which is that people enjoy things that aren't pretty. When I think of the discordancy and noise of the music people find powerful and meaningful, beauty isn't a priority. Maybe that's why people do actually like me, although I am not beautiful.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

10 May 2012

A friend just posted on facebook about how someone called her a breeder. I was thinking of all the responses one could give to that, some of which are quite offensive. I'm capable of being quite offensive, I just try not to be most of the time.

Why yes I am...and you? -or-
Thanks! Sterile? -or-
Why bless your heart, sugar, did God curse your womb with barrenness?

this one could potentially lead to: I made a choice to to have children which you could follow up with I made a choice not to be an asshole, but we might have different priorities.

ohmygosh, Jack Russells, how did you know?!? squeal Are you a potential client? Do you want my business card?

with a disgusted air: You anti-choice zealots make me sick!

Yep. As were your parents. Did they make the right decision?

Yes, like many biological entities, I am capable of reproducing. Thanks for noticing something so obvious, I like remembering just how statistically normal I am.

Yep, and I breastfeed too--ask my about my reduced cancer risk, I can't wait to tell you all about it!

Thanks, but we prefer the term GIVER AND SUSTAINER OF LIFE!

My friend's response was that she is proud to be raising children who already have more class than she ever will.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

9 May 2012

I'm a Christian, let's get that clear right off the bat. I was baptized in the Presbyterian Church when I was 5 and 1/2. I was confirmed as a teen, and I've made a number of choices over the years to stick with Christ. I do love Jesus, so you can have my Christ when you pry him out of my cold, dead hands. But I'm the kind of Christian that feels like the Bible is too obviously influenced by humans, mostly males; the books that didn't make it in and did make it in influenced by humans, also mostly males. I tried reading the Bible as a child, and I always gave up. My husband read the Bible twice, first the King James and then the New International Version. He's not a believer, he's pretty much an atheist--maybe that's what reading the Bible through on your own gets you. He believes people can benefit from religious practice, as do I. And we both believe that religion can, has and will continue to kill. Religion is like anything other forms of humans attempting to organize, which is to say easily corrupted. The religion you have is almost always the product of your own cultural and tribal influences, or the result of trying to get away from those and being drawn to something that speaks to you internally.

I have core values, I know what I believe, and it *is* very important to me. And still I say I'm a Christian. People don't think I'm the right religion, so they tell me the good news of their own belief system. There are atheists doing atheist evangelism, telling me that if I don't believe everything the way it is written in the specific version of the Bible they quote, that I'm not a Christian. That I should give up the madness. There are other Christians telling me the same, but that I should repent and follow their truth. I've had LDS missionaries coming to my house for awhile, asking me to be baptized in their church, asking me to pray and God would show me the truth. I went to their church, it was nice, but when I prayed ll that happened was I dreamed that LDS missionaries were breaking into my house and coming in through my windows to try and kill me. It was a manifestation of the stress I felt, so I asked them to stop coming. I had Jehovah's Witnesses coming to my home for 2 years--that was how long it took me to get through the first book about what the Bible really teaches. I thought that by the end of it, I would either convert or become an atheist. But here I am, still a Presbyterian, understanding finally why the JW's have a problem with me.

So gay marriage: I wasn't raised knowing what being gay was. I amazingly didn't find out until I was in middle school, and kids were using it as a slur. I went home and asked my dad what being gay meant. He told me that it was when a man loved another man and or when a woman loved another woman. He said it in a way that I didn't mention sex, but left no question in my mind that he meant in a marrying way (although I didn't know it at the time, my father believed that if two people were living together and were having sex, they were married). I'm not sure I said anything other than I didn't know that existed. He didn't offer any further commentary. I have at least one friend who said he was raised knowing that being gay was wrong because of what it said in the Bible. Because he was gay, it was harmful to him as a kid. I told him I never picked up on the fact that the Bible said it was wrong.

Hadn't I read the story of Sodom and Gomorrah? Well, yes, many times. I never knew it had anything to do with same sex sex. In fact, this was the part of the Bible where I often gave up. Lot offers up his virgin daughters to the rampaging crowd. Then later his wife gets turned into a pillar of salt? What the heck? And if a woman is raped in town, she gets stoned to death. That was where I actually threw the Bible down on the floor in a huff. I was about 12 at the time. Yes, I read Sodom and Gomorrah a bunch of times, and the fact that the men wanted to have relations with the angels didn't seem strange to me. And from the Jehovah's Witnesses, I found out that angels did have sex with human women, and that's where the Nephilim came from, and God prohibited that from happening again. So the fact that humans and angels would have sex was a big no no however you sliced it.

As a teen, I still knew nothing about homosexuality, other than I knew I didn't want to be that way and was thankful that I wasn't, especially as a fat teen who felt completely exposed and hated. I was somewhat sympathetic to people who were, because I didn't see it as their fault, but I only thought there were 2 guys I knew who fit that description. AIDS became big news in the mid-80's, and network news magazine type shows did segments on flamboyant queers who had sex openly in parks. I was not impressed, I didn't get the need for anyone to flaunt any sexual activity.

In my second semester of college, 1985, I had to do a research paper for a writing class. I ended up doing it on gay rights. The material in the Alderman stacks was somewhat dated, but I learned a lot of things I hadn't know neverthelss. I read about the Stonewall Inn riot and the Rev. Troy Perry of the Metropolitan Community Church. He went around marrying gay couples within that church. At that point I decided that if people can have religious commitment ceremonies tying them together, then there was no reason to deny them the legal right to do this. Our civil law shouldn't follow one particular set of religious beliefs, especially if they were discriminatory. And that's really how simple it was for me. I wasn't even sure I liked a lot of the people I was reading about. The last thing I read was a poem where the author wished the reader was gay so we could see what it was like to crave the flesh of our own sex. Annoyed, I shut the book with finality and returned them all to the library, wrote my paper where I basically came down in favor of gay rights including marriage.

Later I went home and asked my sister if she supported gay rights, and we talked about it. We had never talked about gay issues before, but we decided we should raise our kids knowing that some people are gay and that's not a problem. And that's what we've done. I've never tried to assume that heterosexuality is the only option for them, even though the majority of human beings are. I became active in gay rights protesting in school, and mainstreaming was my thing. It often wasn't for my gay friends. Gay marriage wasn't usually the leading point, although the clear evidence that same sex couples lacked basic human rights because of not having something like marriage.

Nowaday gay marriage is a big issue, and many people aren't afraid to come out in favor of it, at least on the Internet. Meanwhile the rest of the people are busy passing amendments to state constitutions trying to ban it. And because of that, our President said that he is in favor of it. Ultimately it's a good sign, it's a sign of change happening that people don't like, and people pulling out last gasp efforts to keep things the way they were. But eventually, those of us who raised their children to believe being gay isn't a moral failing will have a bigger and bigger influence, and the unthinkable will become possible. I'm just sorry it won't help the people who need it now.

2 May 2012

This day was my elder daughter's 13th birthday. I was driving to the hospital for a breastfeeding coalition meeting, wondering if the hospital had any bulletin boards where I could post a flyer for her choir concert. I was thinking of the power the choir has to make me cry, not necessarily because of the subject matter, although that is part of it, but because of the sweetness of their voices working together. The fact that they come together every week to practice, and they work at it, and learn their song, and learn their parts, and cooperate with one another, and blend their voices, and make something beautiful that is greater than the sum of the individual parts. And, for the most part, my daughter doesn't even have an awareness of this. She often doesn't like going to choir rehearsal. She feels annoyed if people do a part incorrectly. She doesn't like the dress, she's not necessarily a performer. But she interprets the songs with the facial expressions she thinks are proper. She doesn't cry when she sings the songs, she thinks about what she's doing along with the other children, and then those who are lucky enough to be listening can hear the totality of it. I wish more of Reno could value hearing them.