Cousin fun and virgin drinks

Tonight, we had family gathering time.  As usual, it ended up in a long music session, filled with guitar and sing-a-longs.  I love my family, and I love how musical we are.  However, that is not the point here.

The family time tonight reminded me of the first time all of us were together at once: my grandparents’ 50th wedding anniversary celebration.  At the party, my cousin Allison and I, and possibly also one or both of her brothers, took on the task of ordering unique drinks from the open bar.  You see, we wanted to take advantage of the open bar, as the rest of the family and attendees were doing, but we lacked the age to enjoy the alcohol aspect of it all.

And so, we improvised.  At ages 15 and 12 respectively, Allison and I took full advantage of the open bar in terms of experience.  We initially ordered a virgin beverage, because we liked the specific beverage.  However, we soon turned to our own game of coming up with ridiculous drink orders.  We ordered things like a virgin rum and coke, and a virgin bourbon water.  We just picked the drink we actually wanted, and found an adult mixed beverage that contained the desired drink, and then ordered it virgin.  That way, we were ordering drinks at the bar, the way a bar is designed to be, and we enjoyed all the regular fun of ordering special drinks at an open bar, with the added enjoyment of the puzzle and ridiculousness.

I sure do love my family.

Post-a-day 2017

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Family and music

I love my family.  And I miss getting to spend time with them.  I had somewhat forgotten the existence of one of my cousins, because I hadn’t actually seen him in so long.  I knew he existed, of course, but it was as though I had accepted that it wasn’t ever an option to see him.  And so, it was a wonderful surprise – though I knew in my head that he would be here ahead of time – actually seeing him and spending time with him tonight.

One of the things I love about spending time with him is his musical gift.  He can be given any instrument, and, whether he has ever played it before or not, can be playing lovely music on it within a maximum of a few minutes.  We always end up humming and whistling and singing beautiful music together, whether we have an instrument or not (though we often have at least a guitar).

Tonight was no different.  He pulled out one of my favorite songs, and early on in the visit.  Oddly enough, I hadn’t listened to or sung/played the song in years, and so it was a fun surprise.  I had to look up the words, because it had been so long, but it was too good of a song not to get all the words right (“White Man” by Michael Gungor Band).

As he fiddled around on the guitar, my mom and I sat with him on the porch, listening to him play, and working on our puzzle/mystery boxes we were creating for his brother’s wedding reception this weekend.  The kind of music he was playing reminded me of why I ever wanted to learn to play guitar in the first place.  I want to play John Denver and Jim Croce music, and other things similar in style.  It has always been my long-term, distant future goal, since it really isn’t the easiest music, but there are plenty of things I can learn as stepping stones (and I have learned a good bit of them).  I just don’t play when I don’t have the company of someone else’s music.  

When I am with my cousin, we almost always take the time to sit down and teach me something new and, of course, beautiful to play.  Now that we are back living in the same country, we might actually be able to set up semi-regular music meet-ups for the two of us.  We’ll see.

Gosh, I love my cousin.

Post-a-day 2017

St. Lucia’s Day

In third grade, my friend and classmate Kristin and I did a project together around Christmastime.  We were to learn a bit about how other countries celebrated Christmas, and do a sort of write-up, and then a little presentation for the class.  I imagine that everyone had different countries, and that we weren’t the only ones presenting something, but I really don’t remember.

Our specific project, as my mother and I recall, was over St. Lucia’s Day, a holiday seen as signaling the arrival of Christmastide.  It is a Catholic and Lutheran holiday, mostly celebrated in Italy and Scandinavia.  All I remember from what we researched was that the girls in a family traditionally wore white dresses, made rolls of bread early in the morning, and sang songs at home, while wearing this sort of crown-wreath on their heads, with candles on it.  We dressed up one of my little wooden dolls to look the part.  She had a green pipe cleaner head-wreath, with rolled up tissue candles, and a tissue dress.

Since we had talked about how the girls in a family would sing traditional Christmas songs, we were asked if we could sing one of the songs.  We confessed, however, that we didn’t actually know any of the particular ones sung for the holiday.  Someone asked us just to sing an English Christmas carol, instead, and we somehow ended up with “Silent Night”.  So, Kristin and I sang “Silent Night” to the class together.  The irony of singing a German song for a mostly-Scandinavian holiday struck me only in recent years.  😛

Post-a-day 2017

wind chimes

I love wind chimes.  I almost never get to hear them, though.  I don’t do much sitting outside in Houston, because there are so often bugs and/or extreme heat.  And we really don’t have much wind in the first place.  I’m currently thinking over an idea I have to set up my wind chimes (for the rest of my life) in front of the air vents.  That would have them tinkling and bonging their beautiful music often enough, I think.

Every year, we go to the Texas Renaissance Festival, and one of my favorite spots to pause is the wind chime shop.  Just going through slowly, ringing all of the large wind chimes, I find myself fully content and at ease.  And the humongous on there, when I ring it, I can feel it all over and within, and I never really want to stop ringing it.  Mmm… I can hardly wait for next month.

I love wind chimes.

Post-a-day 2017

My real voice

In college, I spent a summer studying in Germany.  It was a language school setup, filled with foreigners, but in such a small town that everyone knew that we were studying German, and so everyone always spoke to us all in German.  I had already studied abroad a few times before this adventure, and I had learned firsthand about what works and what doesn’t work, in terms of language immersion.  I was dedicated to learning German, and so I made sure that I only spoke in German with others, even if they spoke to me in English.  This made friendships hard among the people in my program’s group, since they all used English together; I came across a bit snobby, but I was just really committed to learning German.

I made friends with other foreigners rather easily, though, and especially ones in higher levels of German, which was even better for me.  My German was improving immensely.  But this led to a unique situation one day.

One day, near the end of either my time at the school or my friend Paul’s time there (he’s British), I found myself faced with a desperate Paul, actually begging me to speak English.  Why?! was my repeated question to his pleas.

“Because I want to hear what you sound like!”

I don’t know if he was pleased or not by how I sound in English, but I spoke a little for him.  And it was way weird, using English with him, despite the fact that I’d heard him speak English loads, and that it’s our common native language.  I had just never used it with him.

And then this brought up a unique and interesting sentiment.  He wanted to hear me, and that meant speaking English.  I can guess that my native tongue was the one in which Paul believed my identity to lie.  I know that it felt like I was setting aside a sort of mask when I switched to English with him.  I even felt a little called-out… as though I had been hiding somehow, and it had been behind German.  The real me (I) lay in English, in the English part of me.

Yet, years later, here I am, missing the parts of me that belong to these different languages in which I have lived.  A part of me, true me (I), exists only on German, and others in French, in Spanish, and in Japanese. So much so that the real me (I) is this whole combination of languages – I feel a huge emptiness and feel not myself when I am using only English in my daily life.  I listen to Spanish-speaking radio when I’m in Houston, mostly because I don’t get to use Spanish often enough.  I read every night in French, and trade off an English book for a German one at times for my evening reading, too.  I regularly pull out a Spanish book to read, or my German audiobooks.  And I have noticed that I have been searching for a tolerably satisfying way to have Japanese in my near-daily life, too.  (For now, it has just been the occasional music, and a perpetual repeat of a certain song being stuck in my head.)  When I don’t have them all, it is as though a part of me is missing, and suddenly getting to speak with someone in them, almost reminds me of that mask I was setting aside in Germany with Paul… like I am again setting aside some mask I have been wearing.

Perhaps it is now a mask of monolingualism, pretending that I only speak English, while I long for the world to talk to me in several languages, all the time.

Anyway… I’m exhausted.  And I miss Paul.  He was studying opera, and was a really great guy.  I wonder if he’s been really successful with opera these past several years.  Maybe I can go see him perform one day.  That would be awesome.  🙂

Post-a-day 2017

An Evening of Moon River, and more

Moon River, wider than a mile, I’m crossing you in style some day. 
Oh, dream maker, you heart breaker, 
wherever you’re going I’m going your way. 
Two drifters off to see the world. 
There’s such a lot of world to see. 
We’re after the same rainbow’s end– 
waiting ’round the bend, 
my huckleberry friend, 
Moon River and me.

© 1961 Paramount Music Corporation, ASCAP

So go the lyrics to the beautiful song that is sung by Audrey Hepburn in the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, and which was written for the occasion.  They have been in my mind all night tonight.  I likely still will be singing them and humming the song tomorrow, and possibly the next several days or weeks, too, imagining Miss Holly Golightly sitting on her windowsill in jeans and a gray sweatshirt, strumming her small guitar, singing the song while her hair dries in a towel on her head.  That was her one genuine moment, where there were no airs put on and no facades blocking the view; dreamy longing and total honesty were there, coming to life in her music.

Why, you ask, is all of this on my mind?  Well, because of just that.  My cousin makes jewelry from guitar strings.  (I do a little, too, but not to the same degree.)  Since that particular scene had Holly being simple and honest, showing her core, she loved the scene.  Since it included Holly’s playing the guitar, it became relevant to my cousin’s jewelry.  You see, this neat art gallery in Galveston decided to do an “All About Audrey” exhibition, in which all of the selected pieces were submitted by various individuals in the community.  The only requirements were that the art be vegan and be somehow about Audrey Hepburn.  So, my cousin used guitar strings and fake pearls to construct her own version of the famous “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” necklace (with the aforementioned information taking part in creating the idea).

Tonight, the art show had its opening, and my cousin’s piece was part of the show.  So, my mom and I attended the opening.  The opening happened to be a costume party, with the theme being ‘your favorite Audrey’.  I genuinely liked the honesty moment in “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”, and the fact that it directly related to the reason we were going – to support my cousin’s guitar string jewelry inspired by that scene – made it an easy preference for my attire for the event.

And so, I put together the clothes, had my mom help me with a white hand towel on my head (I had to take out the seams to make it long enough to tie correctly.), and looked up “Moon River” chords.  I only have a full-sized guitar with me, so I figured my ukulele would do well for the completion of the outfit.  Since I was going to be carrying around my uke, dressed as a character who sings an incredibly famous song, I figured it only fair that I make an effort to learn to play the song myself.

And it was a good thing I did!  Not only was I requested to play, but I was asked to play three times.  The third time was the coolest, because the second time had already been a sort of sing-a-long for a lot of the people at the gallery, but the third was everyone.  I was on my way out of the gallery, heading to dinner with my family who had been in attendance, when a lady at a table complimented my outfit and asked me to play.  The man at the table asked if I could play, because, of I could play, he could sing.  And so I started up playing, singing with him, only to be joined after only a few seconds by the entire gallery.  It was so beautiful, it was almost spooky.  People had all different reasons for being there tonight, but we all shared the experience of true bliss and community as we sang together tonight.  Reasonably fitting end to the week that included International Peace Day (Thursday), I think.

There are two other fun aspects to this.  The first is that we the went to dinner, all of us dressed in our various outfits.  Most everyone looked to be in normal-ish attire for our current life and times, and it was even somewhat high on the classy side, and all black and white.  My mother, however, was in a genuine formal 60s dress that is just about the color of Tiffany’s boxes, and is floor length, polyester, and very 60s.  I was in jeans and a sweatshirt, and had a towel on my head.  Just imagine seeing our party at a casual restaurant – what on Earth would you think?

The second fun aspect is that this isn’t the first time we’ve done something like this.  For the 100th anniversary of the Titanic, we attended a tea and luncheon that was tied to the Museum of Fine Arts’ temporary exhibit on the Titanic.  The idea was to experience tea like back in the day at an actual teahouse in town, and then gonover to the exhibit.  We did exactly that, but dressed in period-appropriate attire.  Aside from the servers at the teahouse, we were the only ones dressed up.  At the museum, someone asked to sketch me (and did), people took pictures of us, and we had several inquiries about whether we weren’t part of the exhibit.  It was a grand old time, and felt somehow totally normal to me.  I guess that’s just how we roll in my family.  Cool, huh?  🙂

Post-a-day 2017

Books for Previews

I read books in the movie theatre.  It’s true.  I really do.  Not during the film, of course, but beforehand, and sometimes even during previews.

It all started when a friend of my dad’s gave me a book called Staying Alive in Year Five.  I think it might be an Australian book.  Whatever its origin, I loved reading the book.  I remember being so excited to see what happened next that I took it with me everywhere, so I could read whenever I had the chance.

This, naturally, included the movie theatre.  We always get to the film early in order to get good seats, and then the movie itself never starts at the specified time, anyway.  So, I sat down in my seat by my family members, and I opened up my book and read.  I was excited for the film, but I was also disappointed at having to stop reading, when it got to the beginning of the film.

Nowadays, I still read before a movie, if I’m there at all, of course.  There hasn’t been much to spark my interest lately, so I haven’t often been at the cinema.  And Japan was different, simply because I wanted to learn as much Japanese and Japanese culture as I could, so I watched all the previews and everything rather avidly.  Aside from those specific circumstances, I read.  I almost always have a book with me.  Living in Japan meant that I ended up always having my Kindle, since hard copies of books in not Japanese weren’t so easy to come by.  I would read at work, on the train, and at home.  While walking around (once I bought earphones I could wear again [Thanks, Korea!]), I listened to audiobooks.  Occasionally, I listened to music, but typically not.  I just love books.

Post-a-day 2017