Tag Archives: christmas

For My Middle School Choir Teacher

15 Dec

When I was a kid, I was pretty sure I was going to grow up to be a world-famous singer. My parents’ record collection was almost entirely Broadway musicals, and I spent hours acting them out in the living room. I was doubtless the only kid at my elementary school that knew every single song from “West Side Story,” “Oklahoma,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Fiddler on the Roof” by third grade.

(I also knew all the songs on “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” when my mom went through a country music phase, but unless you want to go to “Fist City,” we won’t talk about that.”)

I was just waiting for my big break.

Then in 8th grade, which is probably the most awkward year of life for anyone, I switched schools to a private school where everyone else had known each other since kindergarten, it seemed like. It was a miserable, bumbling year. During spirit squad tryouts I kicked with the wrong foot and whacked another would-be cheerleader in the head. I got in trouble all the time for having a messy locker. I told my parents I wanted to go back to my old school.

But, there was choir. And one day, the girl who was supposed to be singing a solo in some song we were doing was out sick, and our choir director needed someone to fill in so we could practice the song. I volunteered.

I wish I could tell you that when I opened my mouth to sing, the angels themselves fell silent to listen.

But something went really, really wrong. I came in on some note not found in nature, and the choir director stopped the song and said:

“Some people are just not meant to be soloists.”

He picked someone else. Class went on.

Even 30 years later, I can still feel that moment in the junior-high choir room where my cheeks got hot, and I blinked hard not to cry, and decided maybe, I wasn’t going to be a singer after all.

And when it came time to sign up for electives the next year, I didn’t pick choir.

Oh, after a couple years, I went back to choir, then sang in my school’s small ensemble which was most memorable perhaps for our matching shaker sweaters from the Limited.

1980s Shaker Sweaters

I'm seventh from the left. There's some super-serious singing for Jesus happening here.

And yes, I even sang a few solos here and there. I’ve sung in friends’ weddings, and still sing in my church choir every Sunday.

But sometimes, I still hear that middle-school director.

Last year, when Neil from Citizen of the Month invited bloggers to participate in a virtual Christmas concert, I really wanted to do it.

But I remembered, “some people are just not meant to be soloists.”

So I didn’t send anything in. But  I watched all the performances of these people having a great time, some singing like angels, some definitely human, and realized something.

We are all meant to be soloists.

So, the night of the deadline for the concert submissions, I hid in the bathroom with my iPhone, in the dark, and recorded my song. Twice. Because the first time I was shaking so hard I sounded like I was singing on top of a washer on the spin cycle. The second time, I thought it was ok.

You can click here to hear it:

In The Bleak Midwinter

And then, go and, listen to everyone!

The Fifth Annual Blogger Christmalhijrahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!

Neil, thanks for putting this together.

Merry Christmas, and sing as loud as you want.

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Of Christmas Pictures and New Year’s Resolutions

4 Jan

Yes, still here.

So, uh, Christmas vacation and children home and present-buying and finals, you get the idea. Nice to see you again.

Let’s start with a little season wrap-up.

Like, the Christmas Card picture of my beautiful family.

They’re all so good-looking, aren’t they? Smart and sweet as your grandmother’s divinity. And if your grandmother didn’t make divinity, I’ll just explain that it is pure sugar mixed with corn syrup. VERY sweet. And usually full of nuts, which may just explain our family perfectly.

Striving towards divine. But in the meantime, divinity.

When I proudly showed people the Christmas card photo, of course no one said “How precious!” They all said “why aren’t you in the picture?”

Well, three things.

First, I am the one in control of the camera.  We often come home from family outings, and as we’re looking through pictures, my husband will say “Oh look, another outing with no evidence of you whatsoever.”

Honestly, y’all, I think he should be grateful for this. When I accidentally back off a cliff and fall to my death trying to get the perfect shot someday, my husband will be able to remarry without having to cut me out of any family photographs so his second wife doesn’t feel awkward. I am trying to be thoughtful. I’m sweet as divinity that way.

Reason 2 is a little more specific. As I was getting ready for his big corporate holiday party, I got frustrated with my hair.

Very frustrated.

And lo, it came to pass that there were scissors in the bathroom. And an angel not of the Lord whispered “behold, I bring you tidings of great joy. Cut your own bangs.”

Uh, yeah. That worked out AWESOME.

So I kind of look liked an escapee from the Island of Misfit Trophy Wives for the party. Which was fine, because my husband didn’t go anyway, because he was on a work trip. So I went with one of the ladies he works with. Because that’s how cool his corporate parties are. I want to go to his parties even when he can’t be there. I mean, REO Speedwagon was the party band, for crying out loud.

I Can’t Fight That Feeling, I had to go. Although I have to say this. The high-def Jumbotron screens? Not your friend any more, Kevin Cronin.

Although I’m Gonna Keep On Loving You.

Because you know, time has not been super nice to me, either. And that brings us to Reason Three I am not in the Christmas Card picture.

We didn’t want to pay extra postage for the panoramic shot that would have been required to get me in it. Because hello, Fatty McFatterson here.

Which segues nicely into the latter half of the title: New Year’s Resolutions.

I’ll be joining with RecipeGirl and about a zillion other people in the “Ten in 2010” challenge to make healthier choices for the next 10 weeks as we get start off a new decade.

I’ll explain more tomorrow about my specific resolutions, but really, they’re pretty simple. Cooking at home at least 5 nights a week, and putting my new EasyTone Reeboks* to the test with walking at least 10 miles a week this month, and 15 a week in February. And I’m not eating anything sweeter than divinity.

Unless nibbling on my family counts.

Happy New Year.

*This is not a sponsored adventure with the EasyTones. I bought them myself, FCC.

Away From the Manger

7 Dec

I have a conflicted relationship with Christmas.   

I love the idea of it all, the decorations and lights, caroling and cocoa, candlelight services and matching plaid pajamas. But the reality of pulling it all off leaves me overwhelmed. At my core, I am a type B person with type A expectations.   

And then, there’s my fingernails-on-the-chalkboard-level annoyance with one of the great travesties of the season.   

Kneeling Santa.   

I know you’ve seen it.   

There’s a book.   

Bald Santa says "Hats Off for Baby Jesus!"

Ornaments by the zillion.   

"Please, Baby Jesus, heal me from the metal hook in my head."

Nativity Scenes.   

"Dude, thank goodness you're here. The wise men's gifts sucked. Got a 'Tickle Me Elmo' in that bag?"

And of course, the holiest of holies. Yard art. 

"Uh, Baby Jesus, your diaper is glowing. I'm going to go find Mary."

Look, I get the thought behind Kneeling Santa: that the trappings and gifts we spend so much time on are not at the heart of the season. But then — “Oh the irony!” We package up that anti-commercial message in a clever little package and make MILLIONS selling tacky tchotchkes.   

Search “Kneeling Santa” and you get hundreds of thousands of matches, many of them all yours for the low, low price of $19.99. Act now and at Easter, we’ll ship you a limited edition ornament of the Easter Bunny crying at the foot of the cross.   

Just no, okay?   

Santa didn’t come to the manager on his sled. Rudolph’s red nose didn’t illuminate the angels as they appeared to the shepherds. There were no stockings hung in the stable. Frosty didn’t tip his top hat to the King of Kings. The Grinch brought no Roast Beast.   

That night in Bethlehem is already the ultimate mix of holy and human, when God became flesh and dwelt among us. You don’t need to shove Santa in with the Savior and hang Christmas lights on the manger to make it more compelling.   

But, I must admit, that motion-activated recording of  “Oh Come, Let Us Adore Him?”   

That’s a nice touch.

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