O Death


Within the past month or so, one of my choir buddies lost a grandmother. Within the past week or so, a college friend's father died, my choir director had a relative die (I *think* it was her mother), a livejournal buddy's grandfather died...
Not to mention, I've been forced to face my own mortality because this weird heart issue...

And this evening, my paternal grandmother died. (1/31/1917 - 2/24/2011)

She'd been in a nursing home since for at least 6 years (2x the normal duration, apparently). Almost every day, my father or my mother or one of my sisters would visit her...and if no family could go, often a friend of the family would go see her.

She'd initially gone there after a serious stroke, but she had already had a number of health issues including type II diabetes.
She has since also had heart problems and, since last year, carcinoma in her intestines.

I spoke to my mother this afternoon to give her some good news, and she and my father were at the nursing home. My grandmother was no longer eating or drinking. She was unable to swallow, and they weren't giving her any fluids or anything because, back when plans were being made and she still had her faculties, she had requested that she not be resuscitated nor any fluids or extras be used to keep her alive.

She was on a low dose of morphine to keep her comfortable. Her eyes were closed all the time and she no longer spoke, although she responded to her hands being touched/massaged and family members still spoke to her and visited her.

My mother told me that, now that she wasn't eating or drinking, it was only a matter of time, but they didn't know how long it would take before she would go.

Just a little while ago my mother called me.
My parents had arrived only 5 minutes too late- but luckily my father's sibling had been able to get time off and had come from New Hampshire and was with her when she died.

My mother told me that my father was doing okay now, but that he'd been crying for most of the day because he knew it would happen soon. My two older sisters are also there, and my younger sister and I spoke on the phone a little while ago...

The funeral will be on a weekend- maybe next weekend but I don't know yet.

Of course it is a relief in a way- she had suffered for so long, and we suspect she'd struggle with depression for much longer. My grandfather, her husband, died when I was around 2 years old, and I know she missed him so terribly. We moved to a house that had a separate apartment on the bottom floor when I was 5 so that she could live with us.

But, she lived an incredible life, having been born while her parents were refugees, and later, she and my grandfather escaped from Latvija to Sweden during the night so that he would not be arrested (he was being looked for- he'd helped Jews escape Nazis)...and they raised their two children in Sweden until my father, their eldest, was 11...and then they family came to the United States.

She helped us girls learn Latvian and supported us, financially and in other ways, when we wanted to pursue music. She funded our family's annual Cape Cod trips when we were growing up, and would always bathe her feet in seawater.

Our relationship with her was never much of a cuddly one, but we appreciated and loved her very much.

I am also sad for my father- he took as much responsibility for her care as he could for many years, being the good Elder Son and all- I know he must be relieved but at the same time, he has lost his Mother, his only surviving parent. I know he is grieving. (And his birthday is in two days, for heaven's sake.)

Their relationship was never a mushy one, either, but I do know that they did express their love for each other back when she was still able to speak.

O Death. I'd ask you where your sting is, but....I still feel it.

What A Week (and then some) It's Been!


Friday, Feb. 11: My parents flew into Pittsburgh. We hung out at our place that evening.

Sat, Feb. 12: We went to Foxburg, to the Steffee Estate, to help with maple tree tapping along with many members of Nate's family.

Sun, Feb. 13: We had a Pittsburgh day, going to liturgy at St. George's Cathedral in Oakland (which my dad was happy about since his name is the Latvian version of George), we had a brief lunch at Panera, went to the Fort Pitt Museum, Phipps Conservatory/Botanical Gardens, had dinner at an Indian restaurant, and my parents bought us dominoes on the way home so we could play a few rounds that evening before bed.

All that weekend, I was feeling a little stuffy but hoping I wasn't getting sick.

Mon, Feb. 14: We got up an hour early to take my parents to the airport.
I had choir practice that evening. I felt like I'd over-sung, and my throat definitely was hurting that night.

Tues, Feb. 15: woke up with a severe sore throat and other discomforts. Took a sick day, but still went to choir practice that night.

Wed, Feb. 16: went to work, and then choir practice, still dealing with a sore throat and some minor congestion.

Thurs, Feb. 17: Went to work for 5 hours, then left at lunchtime because I had a cardiologist's appointment that afternoon- and got scheduled for a transesophageal echocardiogram. (still having a sore throat and being a little stuffy)
Then the concert was that evening.

Fri, Feb. 18: went to work, and finally got to relax that evening.

Sat, Feb 19: sore throat gone, but very congested and sneezy.

Sun, Feb. 20: same as Saturday.

Mon, Feb. 21: went to work, blew nose and sneezed all day. also, it started snowing around lunchtime and kept snowing until midnight. My normal 25 minute commute home lasted almost 2 hours...and, going down a hill after a stoplight, I lost control of the car and hit the median. I wasn't going very fast, but some damage was still done.

Tues, Feb. 22 (Today): Nate braved the still crappy roads to take me to the hospital for my procedure.
They had trouble getting my IV inserted and the sedation barely worked, which meant I had a rather uncomfortable time, but the end-result seems promising. Also, I got a yummy tuna sandwich once I was allowed to eat and drink.

Spent the afternoon/evening feeling a little tired and drinking tea and eating soup and hanging out with Nate. Had a nice conversation with my little sister (Nate had called my mother earlier since it was hard for me to talk), watched some Casebook of Sherlock Holmes, updated the rest of my family via e-mail...and I have a sore throat again, for an entirely different reason from before.

Nate took the car to a local place to see if its condition could be improved, and they said yes, so the hood and the front passenger side door will both hopefully work properly after tomorrow.

Any questions?

Whew. I am posting this without proofreading it, because I'm tired. :)

And, Done!


Today is the last day of November, 2010.

I somehow managed to post every day this month! I honestly wasn't sure I'd keep it up.

Thanks to Lisa and Pete for reading and commenting (and thanks to anyone else who stopped by)- I didn't expect anyone at all to be reading this thing. :)

Now it's onto Project December, in which I try to survive on less sleep and less time at home while preparing for concerts AND somehow getting Christmas shopping done while not getting cranky.....and hopefully I'll avoid taking any of the aforementioned difficulties out on poor Nate!
He's a trooper :)

Actually, getting the shopping done is not so bad once I get the gift ideas- I'll do almost all of it online and have it shipped directly to my parents' house.

And of course, this December isn't as crazy as last year's, since I only have two concert weeks instead of three AND we're not gearing up to travel to another country after we visit my family.

Of course I kinda wish we WERE going on another trip - hopefully we will within the next year!

Meanwhile I do miss Costa Rica with its warm air, open air restaurants, huge plants, and hammocks everywhere (just to name a few perks!). I definitely hope we can go back someday!

In some ways, life becomes simplified during the weeks in which I have so much concert-related activity. My life gets distilled down to just a few things: eating, sleeping, working, driving, singing (and reading during breaks at work, or at choir if I'm not talking to any of my alto buddies).

Bonus points come in the extra moments with Nate...I so appreciate how he supports my involvement in the MCP.

Well, I'd better get to bed...long day tomorrow and I won't be at home until late at night.

Buenas noches, Ar labu nakti, and Good Night!
looking up

Almost Done!!

Well! My independent Nablopomo is almost finished.

I'm a little surprised that I actually kept up with it!

I'm also a little surprised that December 1st is this Wednesday. I'm SO not ready, even with the Advent calendar from my mom (which came in the mail today! :).

And tomorrow...well from tomorrow evening through Saturday evening, I know where I'll be- Heinz Hall in Pittsburgh. I'll also be there Sunday afternoon.

Sadly, I will see a lot less of Nate because of all this. I have time to go home tomorrow between work and choir, so he's going to take me down to the city.

After that, for the rest of the work week, I won't have time to go home because I'd just have to turn right back around and head south.

Of course, I'm a little stressed but we don't always get kept in rehearsal right up until 10pm every night...I'm hoping that will be the case this week as well.

Next week we only have one rehearsal- our last Holiday Pops rehearsal. The following week, Pops craziness.

But the nice thing is that there is still almost a week between Pops and Christmas, so I'll have time to catch my breath and get ready for our trip to MA. That DEFINITELY hasn't always been the case, so it's quite a relief this year!

Anyway. I've got to get a little more done tonight, so I must away.

Accomplishments and Dreams

Well! It's not even 7pm and I feel rather accomplished. I guess it's because I updated our checkbook and financial spreadsheet, checked my info with the info our bank has online, and got some bills, etc. ready to be mailed tomorrow.

I often have trouble starting a task I don't want to do, especially if I have some catch-up to do. I normally do our finances every Thursday evening but, due to aforementioned schedule weirdness, I'd fallen out of that pattern. I managed to get some done this past Monday but still had a ways to go!
I'm glad it's done! Now, we still have most of the evening ahead of us.

This coming week I'm back to a normal work schedule, but I'll be in Pittsburgh a lot in the evenings. Verdi's Requiem is worth it! It is! But....it's at times like these that I wish we lived closer to, or actually in, the city. To bad I can't rent a teensy apartment there every December or every concert week!
Of course, I'd still have to drive back closer to where we live to work...but at least I could go to bed without having to drive 40 minutes home late at night!

Oh well. Of course, if I didn't have a day job it WOULD be more feasible...sometimes I fantasize about actually making money by singing...there are some people in the choir for which music does provide their income- they sing with the opera, in musicals, and/or get paid to sing in church choirs as section leaders or some such. Many are like me, though, with absolutely non-musical day jobs, and some have a middle path by teaching music during the day.

Well, I have some ideas that might lead to making a little money singing and/or writing some day, but boy do I have some work to do first! Hopefully I'll be able to get started in 2011. We'll see, of course. There's a part of me that says "if you haven't done it by now, you never will, so just give up, you're too lazy, you're not motivated enough." Another part of me says, "...but...no. I will not give up. I just have to get my butt in gear. I can work hard enough to pull my own weight in the MCP, so I CAN work hard. I just have to learn to work under my own direction."

We'll see which part wins out, I guess.

Advent circle, here I come! :)
ears winter 07-08

Almost Advent

Early this afternoon we spend close to two hours cleaning...and we have done many loads of laundry with one more to go.

But we've also played video games and eaten pizza, so we still did Saturday proud!

Tomorrow we're going to our regular parish since I'm on the schedule to read the epistle.
And of course we'll sing with the choir, like usual.

Tomorrow is also the first day of Western Advent. Technically, Eastern Christians began observing Advent on November 15th, which is when the Nativity fast officially begins. Of course it's really difficult to not eat meat on Thanksgiving...we were undecided as to whether we'd try to follow the fast much at all this year, but I decided I can at least abstain from meat upon the beginning of Western Christianity's observance of Advent and continue until we arrive at my parents' house close to Christmas Eve (which is when we always have our special Christmas dinner).

Truly, I love Advent. My family, every year, would celebrate the 4 Sundays of Advent by lighting the candles and quietly listening to Christmas music (often of a more mellow or contemplative nature) for about a half hour. When we were little, we girls would bring some favorite stuffed animals and blankets to cuddle with when we all piled onto the couch, and we were always excited when it was our turn to light the candles, which were placed in an old Swedish painted wooden candle holder which, as far as I knew, was made specifically for that purpose.

My mother always bought us simple Advent calendars as well. When all four of us lived at home, each pair of sisters received one calendar, and we would take turns opening the windows every morning. They were the kind of two-layered calendars- the top layer was tougher so that the door flaps could be opened, and the bottom layer with the pictures that would show through the windows was thinner so that if we taped the calendars to our bedroom windows, which we always did, the sun would shine though the already-opened windows, illuminating the pictures within. Sometimes the door-flaps themselves would have Bible verses printed on their undersides. The scene on the calendar would usually be a Nativity scene, often with sparkles to represent some kind of snow or sense of mystery. My mother told me just recently that she was going to mail me (and Silvija, my other sister who doesn't live near the rest of the family in MA) my own calendar this year. I am excited about it- sometimes she remembers, sometimes not (and in those case I've used an old one that I've kept or trid to find one myself, although I've never found the simple design from my childhood).

One of Nate's and my wedding presents from an old family friend (of my family) was an Advent candle holder- circular, bordered by vertical black metal cut like old Jerusalem-type buildings that casts interesting shadows when the candles are lit- it holds votive candles- four around the circle and one in the middle. I still celebrate the candle-lighting on my own (or with Nate if he wants to participate) with soft Christmas music.

One thing I admit I was disappointed about regarding Eastern Orthodox Christianity was that they don't do any special candle-lighting during Advent. Other things are done, of course, including the color of the vestments, candles, etc. changing appropriately and the verses that are sung or chanted naturally begin to anticipate Christ's birth.
But, no 4 special Advent candles.

I don't know why this one family tradition is my favorite, but it definitely is...and still participating in the traditions of the calendar and candle-lighting, even though I'm a "grown-up" now, is special to me. Maybe it's because I miss my family. Maybe it's because Advent always caused such a sense of innocent excitement and anticipation, and part of me is still able to recapture that, to feel that, although I'm obviously no longer looking forward to hopefully receiving some special toy...hearkening back to simpler times of childhood beliefs and pleasures definitely helps one cope, somehow....and yes, I still connect to those same beliefs now, though sometimes I don't really know why. There's still some magic, though. Some joy in waiting, some pleasure in slowly reaching and uncovering the unknown (yet, of course, ultimately already known) is still felt, is still a wonder.

Anyway. I look forward to lighting the first candle tomorrow. Happy almost Advent, everyone!
Li Paint

Child's Mind

Blather blee bloooop....hrm.

Whelp. It's Friday night. We've spent most of our time on the couch. Or in the kitchen getting snacks, which we've then eaten while sitting on the couch.

Right now Nate is trying to find the extra stars in Super Mario Galaxy just for fun...his love was rekindled after he played Super Mario Galaxy 2 with his nephews watching yesterday evening at his brother Mike's house.

I might play some Wario Smooth Moves later. It's been YEARS since I've played it- and I never quite unlocked all the mini-games.

I've spend QUITE a bit of time wandering the inter-tubes, and it's probably time for a change of pace.

Next week is a concert week. We'll have our Conductor and Piano rehearsal on Tuesday, Orchestra rehearsals Wed. and Thurs., and then performances during the weekend (I *think* one each on Fri. and Sat. nights and then a Sunday matinee. I have to check my choir calendar to be sure, though).

I listened to the old Bill Cosby routine about Noah (as in Noah and the Ark) yesterday evening and it STILL makes me laugh out loud, even though I know every background noise and every nuance of his voice. My parents have this old vinyl L.P. called "The Best of Bill Cosby."
It has a photo of young Bill on the record jacket and he's holding a cigar- but when I was of an elementary school age I thought he was holding a chicken leg. For YEARS I thought that. I didn't know what a cigar was, and he's holding something brown and oblong that reminded me of chicken, and I think there might be a shadow in the palm of his hand that is round and suggests the shape of a drumstick piece.

Well anyway. It's still funny to look back and realize how we as children tried, imperfectly, to understand the world through our very limited known references! I often assumed things based on what little I knew. I think it's a survival mechanism. There are so many unknowns when one is a child and one needs to at least believe one knows what's going on, at least I know I did. We try to figure things out or act/think based on building blocks we have that might or might not be appropriate.

Usually the end result is simply amusing...It ends up in an adult conversation when you finally take yourself less seriously enough to laughingly admit the funny things you thought, or thought you knew, when you were a child.

Thanksgiving 2010

Random things I'm thankful for (in random order):

Inspiring and talented people
the MCP
Freedom to practice (or not practice) religion
Nate's job
My Heritage (esp. Latvian and Scottish :)
Counter-protests of Love :)
Laughing Out Loud
The smell of Hay
churning butter 08

Sense of Time Skewed

My sense of time is all skewed. I guess I mean that where I am in the week does not compute. This is, of course, because of my taking Monday off last week for my embassy appointment, people staying over Thursday night (which caused another late night and which would usually happen during a weekend), celebrating with people on Saturday, not going to church on Sunday, staying up too late reading on Sunday night, staying up Monday night with Grace and Blake, and then choir practice was last night instead of tonight because of Thanksgiving.

The combination of taking bits of time off, late nights (and more in succession/frequency than usual), and things happening at odd placements within the week, serves to completely and utterly discombobulate (which is a great word, by the way).

Tomorrow's meal is around lunchtime, which will hopefully mean that I go to bed at a reasonable hour that night so I'm not too tired at work on Friday.

Anyway. Not much more comes to mind to write at the moment.

I still love Verdi's Requiem, and I don't love the song "We need a little Christmas," which keeps getting stuck in my head.

Also, even though we're not performing the Messiah this year, I keep getting snatches of THAT piece in my head. I think it's because after doing it for three years in a row, my mind is now just used to going over it around December. Which is kinda funny. But I do miss it. I really love performing it.
Elijah April 2008

A Quick Post Before Choir

We had a great time hanging out with Grace and Blake last night.

Topics of conversation ran from vertical farming to whether or not Mr. Rogers was ever a sniper for the Marines (he wasn't :).

We didn't get to bed until around midnight...but Nate and I both slept really well on our new mattress, so that's encouraging. All we need now is a platform bed to put it on (since right now it's on the floor).

I have MCP practice tonight. Nate is driving me down and then going to a coffee shop like he's done a bunch of times this season. He thought it especially might be good for him to do tonight since I'm extra-tired from our late night last night.

He's right...but I would be fine driving, I think. I'm glad I don't have to test that theory, though! :)

Anyway. I'd better go take my contacts out.