Monday, April 30, 2012

Z is for ... Zydeco

How's my mental health today?

I don't know why, but I'm having a difficult time focusing today.

today is the final day of the A to Z challenge. I'm relieved we're not extending the alphabet like Dr Suess did in "On Beyond Zebra"

Zydeco - a folk music style that has its roots in the Cajun and Creole cultures in Louisiana. It is a blend of Cajun music, blues, and rhythm and blues. many other music genres influenced zydeco as it developed. I first heard Zydeco music at a music festival in the mid to late '90s. My wife and I heard zydeco music in the German movie Schultze Gets the Blues.

Instrumentation of zydeco music includes various combinations of accordion, washboard, guitar, fiddle, drums, and bass guitar.

For a detailed history and background of zydeco and cajun music check out:

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Y is for... Yodeling

How's my mental health today?

Today is shaping up to be a busy day. I don't have time to analyze how I'm doing?

A to Z is almost done - one more post after this one.

Y is for yodeling. My parents had some records of yodeling when I was a kid and it was fascinating to listen to, especially when the singer was in a location where echoes could be heard.

According to yodeling is to sing so that the voice fluctuates rapidly between the chest voice and falsetto. This style of singing is apparently used in many cultures. It's a style that's not appreciated by everyone.

In 2010 an Austrian man was fined for yodeling while he was mowing his lawn. His Muslim neighbours accused the 63 year old man of trying to mock and imitate the call of the muezzin. They were in the middle of their prayers when the yodeling began. The man was fined 800 Euro because the judges ruled that he could have been trying to offend and ridicule his neighbours.

Yodeling even made it into country and western music.

      “I can't stand to sing the same song the same way two nights in succession, let alone two years or ten years. If you can, then it ain't music, it's close-order drill or exercise or yodeling or something, not music.”
Billie Holiday

Friday, April 27, 2012

X is for ... Xanten

How's my mental health today?

Things are looking good - so far.

Te A to Z thing is almost done and the last few letters are a bit of a challenge. Today's letter is X.

X is for Xanten.

Xanten is a historic town in the North Rhein-Westphalia region of Germany with a population of about 22,000 residents. Xanten is built on the site of a Roman garrison. The town was mostly destroyed by bombing raids near the end of WWII but has since been restored.

Xanten is known for its Archaeological Park featuring Roman ruins. The centre of the town is also a tourist attraction because of its picturesque medieval buildings, the Xanten Cathedral and many museums. The town is visited by approximately 1,000,000 people every year. Its a town I haven't been to - yet.

Archaeology is the peeping Tom of the sciences. 
It is the sandbox of men who care not where they are going; 
they merely want to know where everyone else has been.
~~ Jim Bishop

Thursday, April 26, 2012

W is for ... Wieskirche

How's my mental health today?

The sun is shining brightly and I feel good. Now I need to get at today's A to Z blog.

W is for Wieskirche or Wies church.

In 1984 my ex-wife and I spent almost 2 months in Germany visiting relatives and being tourists. Prior to driving the Romantic Road in southern Germany my aunt told us to make sure we stopped at the Wieskirche. So we did.

At first glance the church didn't look like anything out of the ordinary. It was when I walked into the church that my breath was taken away. The interior of the Wies church is a masterpiece of the Rococo-Baroque style. The white walls and ceilings are covered with ornate paintings, marbled pillars and gilt decorations. The front of the church is predominantly golden, in the center of which stands a statue that was the primary feature of the Wieskirche.

The statue is a crude image of a chained and beaten Christ. The church was built to house this statue and is known as the Pilgrimage Church of the Scourged Saviour. Miraculous healings are attributed to this statue and many people come here to pray for healing.

The history and images of the statue and church are easy to find on the Internet so I won't repeat it here (It would make for a very long blog post).

For in their hearts doth Nature stir them so
Then people long on pilgrimage to go
And palmers to be seeking foreign strands
To distant shrines renowned in sundry lands.  
~~Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

V is for ... Victor Wooten

How's my mental health today?

I'm more focused on finishing this A to Z challenge.

V is for Victor Wooten.  Vic Wooten is an incredibly talented Bass player. He has performed as a soloist and collaborated with other musicians. I first came across Vic Wooten  while listening to Bela Fleck and the Flecktones. Wooten is the bass player in the Flecktones.

His improvisations are remarkable and his obvious enjoyment of his art is wonderful to see and hear. He is another very creative musician that I enjoy listening to.

Latin Groove

Amazing Grace

Slow Groove

Bela Fleck and the Flecktones (including Victor Wooten).

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve
not by the desire to beat others.
— Ayn Rand

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

U is for ... Underwear

How's my mental health today?

It's a good day; lots of sunshine which is always welcome.

A to Z challenge - I think it is time for some silliness. While browsing on the web I came across an Ode to Long Underwear.

Ode to Long Underwear
By Bernie Langer

My underwear takes many forms
Like boxers and a tee,
They’ve protected me from chafing,
And unplanned nudity.

I even have some lucky ones,
Print dragons in their lair,
But even those cannot compete
With my long underwear.

I was so skeptical at first,
No, “Underwear’s not long!”
But warmth and comfort would soon prove
How greatly I was wrong.

The cold Poughkeepsie winter months,
They froze me to a brrrrrr,
I tried my brand new long johns on,
And what a joy they were.

When needed a warm cuddle I,
Beneath my parka’s hood,
They hugged my body tightly then,
When nobody else would.

So I’m thermally protected
From ankles to the wrists
And I have hats and scarves and socks,
And mittens for my fists.

This layer will soon meet its end,
With spring comes sun and sports.
And in the summer they look strange,
Beneath my biking shorts.

But oh, ye cold ones, almost nude,
With chatterings of teeth,
The trick to winter happiness,
Lies one coat underneath.

Monday, April 23, 2012

T is for... Trio

How's my mental health today?

It's a dreary day which fits with how I feel at the moment.

A to Z challenge - T is for Trio.

When I went to Germany to study music in 1973 my music knowledge was limited to not much more than classical music. One of the friends I made over there invited me to a jazz concert. The performing group was the Play Bach Trio, also known as the Jaques Loussier Trio. A lot of their music is improvisations on music of J.S Bach. I got hooked on Jazz and have enjoyed it ever since. Youtube has a number of videos of that Trio.

If you have the time and interest, here's a complete concert at the St Thomas Church in Leipzig.

Incidentally, listening to this music has brightened up my day.

If it's too loud, you're too old!
— Barrythemod

Saturday, April 21, 2012

S is for ... Side-effects

How's my mental health today?

I feel good - tired, but good.

Heidi may have figured out the cause of my exhaustion. My doc had put me on a heavy vitamin program including a large dose of Vitamin D. Heidi went to the Internet this morning and looked up Vitamin D toxicity. It seems that side-effects of the accumulation of vitamin D in my body may be causing my exhaustion as well as the dry mouth and metallic taste I have been dealing with for several weeks.

I won't be taking anymore of that vitamin for a while.

Medication side-effects are an issue for me (and many others). Over the last 22 years I have experienced a small list of medication side-effects:

  • Kidney and bladder shutdown.
  • Interfered with my sexual function.
  • Anxiety sky-rocketed.
  • Caused more difficulty in sleeping.
  • Blank periods in my memory.
  • Double vision.
  • Deterioration of eyesight.
  • Parkinson's type symptoms.
  • Extreme sensitivity to sunlight and heat.
  • Non-stop hunger.
  • An anti-depressant that worked well for me was removed from the market when it was discovered that it could cause fatal liver problems.
Medications help me to manage the symptoms of my health conditions, but it is vital that I pay attention to their side-effects and deal with them.

I found a website that lists many anti-medication quotes, and though I find they are quite extreme, they make for interesting reading. See:

"The person who takes medicine must recover twice, 
once from the disease and once from the medicine." 
~~ William Osler, M.D.

Friday, April 20, 2012

R is for... Rest

How's my mental health today?

I'm quite aggravated at the moment. To be honest, I'm livid to the point where I'm shaking. I helped somebody out yesterday by accommodating their specific needs. Now that person is abusing my generosity. Suffice to say, I'll have a difficult time being generous and accommodating to that person from here on in.

These strong emotions tax my mental health and it's going to take a fair of rest for me to et my equilibrium back.

So rest it is.

I'll be back tomorrow.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Q is for... Quonset Hut

How's my mental health today?

It's another good day.

After writing about my piano experience in yesterday's blog post, I started thinking about some of the weird places people put their pianos. One family owned a very small farm house, probably less than 650 sq ft. The lady of the house wanted a piano, and it didn't matter to her that her husband said they didn't have room for a piano and she should buy an electric keyboard instead. The woman persisted in her demands so they bought an old upright piano. When it was delivered the movers put it into their living room. The room was so small that almost nothing else fit into the room. I had been contracted (by the music store owner) to tune the piano after the move which I quickly did and then got out of there. The couple was still arguing about the piano purchase when I left.

A piano was brought into the shop where I did my apprenticeship by some movers. The piano had been in the basement of a house in another city and when the owners decided to renovate they built the basement rooms around the piano. When they decided to move  they hired a moving company to move the piano. Unfortunately the renovations made it impossible to take the piano out of the basement. The movers solved that problem by taking the piano completely apart, including furniture. The instrument arrived at our shop in pieces. All the boards (the furniture) came in unmarked as to how they fit together, and all the mechanical pieces were jumbled up in plastic bags - again, nothing labeled. My boss decided that I should put this instrument back together. It took several weeks before that instrument was back in working order.

The strangest piano placement I came across was on a farm owned by a single man who was in his late fifties or early sixties. He also had a very small house and decided he would put his recently purchased piano in his office. This office was located in his Quonset Hut where he stored all his machinery. It (the office) was built high up against the curved roof and front wall of the Quonset. This was another situation where I was tuning the instrument shortly after it had been delivered. (When I saw where the piano was I was glad I didn't have to move it up the rickety stairs). I learned the owner only heated the office when he worked in it and he had no air conditioning to cool it off in the summer heat.

It was obvious to me that tuning the piano was pointless because the extreme temperatures and humidity fluctuations the instrument was exposed to would quickly undo any tuning or any other maintenance it required. I pointed out the adverse conditions and their consequences for the piano, but the old man insisted that this was where he wanted the instrument. Since the tuning was part of the purchase deal, I went ahead and tuned it as best I could, but I had the customer sign a waiver that outlined the situation and stated that there was no guarantee on how long the tuning would last. I also informed the owner of the music store where the piano came from of the situation so they wouldn't get any comebacks on the deal.

The ten years I spent in the piano business never got boring.

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.
~~ John Adams

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

P is for ... Piano

How's my mental health today?

The sun is shining; my Wednesday 6 a.m. coffee meeting with a group of guys from church was great; today is shaping up to be very good.

I'm more than halfway through this A to Z challenge.

Day 16 (10 more to go) - P is for Piano.

In the early 1980's I did an apprenticeship as a piano technician. I learned how to gut a piano and completely rebuild it. This also included stripping and refinishing the exterior of the instrument. It was a great learning experience and job and I was able to be self-employed for a number of years. I had to give it up because of my allergy to wool (all the felts in the instrument produced a lot of wool dust) and the instability of my mental health inhibited my ability to concentrate consistently. Concentration is a "must have" when you are tuning a piano.

During the time I worked on pianos, I learned some useful things.

Prior to my apprenticeship I had worked in the music retail industry selling all sorts of musical instruments, including pianos. As sales staff we were taught that the major selling point of the piano line we sold was the lifetime guarantee on the sound board. According to the trainer, a piano was done if the soundboard cracked. When I did my apprenticeship I learned that a cracked sound board is an easy fix - all that was required was making certain that the soundboard was solidly connected to the ribs at the back of the board (on upright pianos - grand pianos had the ribs on the underside of the soundboard). If there was  a gap between the board and the ribs an annoying buzzing sound could be heard. The only reason the soundboard (of the pianos I sold) had a lifetime guarantee was because the board was a piece of plywood. Plywood does not produce the quality of sound that comes from a solid piece of spruce. The spruce would crack, especially if the temperature and humidity it was subjected to kept changing.

One of the most frustrating situations I faced as a piano tuner was when a customer told me their piano was of exceptional quality because they had not needed to tune it for X number of years (sometimes decades). That was a piano I didn't want to touch because it would take 3 or 4 tunings within several months to get the tuning stabilized. The longer the piano stood without tuning, the more the strings wanted to return to the tension it had been at for so long. Unless the customer accepted that information I declined tuning the instrument because I knew I would get nothing but grief from the customer when the piano went out of tune very quickly.

I advised my clients to get their pianos tuned at least twice a year or more. The change of seasons would bring about changes in humidity and these changes would affect the piano. When the humidity is high the soundboard expands increasing the tension of the strings, when the humidity is low the board dries out reducing the string tension. The movement of the soundboard changes the tuning. Even if the piano was kept at a stable level of humidity, it is best to tune the instrument annually.

Some people saw the tunings as an undesirable expense and would avoid it as much as possible. A piano is a mechanical instrument; mechanics that require regular maintenance. A lack of regular maintenance decreases the quality and value of the instrument. Pianos are pricey; looking after them is the only way to protect your investment.

Many people, new to owning an instrument, for the first time, 
feel that having paid their money the instrument will last forever, 
without regular service. They don't!


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

O Is For... Oberammergau.

How's my mental health today?

I'm doing quite well, although I got a good workout this morning and am huffing and puffing at the moment.

On with the A to Z challenge.

Oberammergau is a small town in southern Bavaria best known for the Passion Play staged there every ten years. The villagers had prayed that they be spared from the Bubonic plague and in return they vowed to stage a play every ten years depicting the life and death of Jesus. The play involves over 2000 residents of the town as musicians, performers, and stage technicians, and is performed repeatedly over a five month span.

My ex-wife and I were in Oberammergau in 1984 for the 350th anniversary of the Passion Play. At that time it was a two day production running from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m with a 1 hour break for lunch. The play is now 7 hours long and has been revised to be more politically correct; removing any and all traces of antisemitism in the production.

What we found most striking in Oberammergau were the frescoes on the outside of the buildings in the village and the many displays of woodcarvings in shop windows. The whole town was dressed up for tourism; everything was clean and tidy, and everybody in town was friendly and helpful. approximately 500,000 people come to the village in the years the play is performed, providing an economic boost that benefits all residents.

Visiting Oberammergau was an experience that doesn't fade.

I found a Youtube video about Oberammergau. I don`t care for the music track but it does provide a glimpse of the town.

A vow is a purely religious act which cannot be taken in a fit of passion. 
It can be taken only with a mind purified and composed and with God as witness.
- Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, April 16, 2012

N is for...

How's my mental health today?

I don't know. I'm feeling a little brain dead today.

I've been contemplating my "N" blog post for at least 3 days and have come up with Nothing. Heidi suggested I write about Normal, but Nothing comes to mind. I considered writing about Names - still Nothing. I came across the term Nanotechnology in a book that I'm reading. I had no idea what Nanotechnology is so I looked it up on the Internet. I still don't know what it is which means there is no point writing about it. The significance of Names seemed a possibility - Nothing again!

It seems today is going to be a Nothing day. I can live with that.

“I love talking about nothing. It is the only thing I know anything about.”
~~ Oscar Wilde

Saturday, April 14, 2012

M is for.... Music, Music, Music

How's my mental health today?

My head is ringing with music. Last night I went to the Trans Siberian Orchestra (TSO) concert with a group of friends and two of my kids. What a show! Almost 2 1/2 hours with no breaks. The featured show was 'Beethoven's Last Night'. Lots of classical pieces performed in TSO's driving rock style. Lights, smoke, pyrotechnics and a stellar dramatic performance by the narrator of the story; all enhanced the efforts of the musicians.

As I watched and listened I began to wonder what some of the great classical composers would have created if they had access to the instruments, electronics, and other components of the show we saw last night.

One composer in particular came to mind; Richard Wagner. Wagner is known for his operas. He employed every art form to stage his operatic extravaganzas. What would he do if he had access to the electric instruments, effects pedals, keyboards, drum sets, light shows, stage sets and pyrotechnics we just saw? Would his creations bear any resemblance to the show TSO put on? Would his operas get even longer? More complex?

Regardless of what Wagner might have done; it was an evening of great music presented in a spell binding story. I hope TSO comes back to Winnipeg again to perform this show.

If you're not familiar with TSO you hear a sampling of Beethoven's Last Night here.

For another introduction check out this Youtube video.

I'm sure I'll have this music ringing in my head for the next few days. And when it dies down I'll just listen to the album again.

“Whatever my passions demand of me, I become for the time being 
- musician, poet, director, author, lecturer or anything else.”
 Richard Wagner

Friday, April 13, 2012

L is for ... Ladysmith Black Mambazo

How's my mental health today?

Better than my hands and wrists. I had a mishap while riding my bicycle yesterday; the bike stopped faster than I did sending me flying over the handlebars. I managed a three point landing; my hands and chin. I spent 5 1/2 hours in the waiting room of an Urgent Care Centre before I learned that no bones were broken. I do have some major contusions, especially in my right hand and wrist which means that I will have to employ my left hand for a while. There was a good side to this experience - I had lots of time to read while I sat in that waiting room; and for contemplating the L theme for today's blog.

Ladysmith Black Mambazo. The first time I heard this group sing was in Paul Simon's Graceland concert (1997). Their unique sound, harmonies, and the joy they displayed while performing grabbed my attention.

Their music touches your heart if you let it.

The curious beauty of African music is that it uplifts even as it tells a sad tale. 
You may be poor, you may have only a ramshackle house, 
you may have lost your job, but that song gives you hope.
~~ Nelson Mandela

Thursday, April 12, 2012

K is for ... Kölner Dom

How's my mental health today?

Other than feeling physically and mentally exhausted, I'm doing OK. I just have to push myself a little harder, especially when it's time to write my A-Z blogs.

Today is the K day and my word for the day is Kölner Dom. I know it's not English, but I didn't see anything in the guidelines against using more than one language in my post. So on with Kölner Dom known as the Cologne Cathedral in English.

I have been in Köln (Cologne) twice; the first time in 1969, and then again in 1984. The 1984 visit to Cologne was brief stop. We were on our way to Amsterdam and had to switch trains which meant we had to wait a couple of hours. Since the train station was across the street from the Cathedral, we went for a quick look.

In 1969 my sister and I traveled to Germany for a ten week stay. It was the first time we went to Germany (where we had a lot of relatives). One of our aunts took us on a trip to the North Rhein-Westphalia region of Germany. We stopped in Cologne for a tour of the Cathedral. There were two things about that visit that have stuck in my mind.

As we were walking to the Cathedral we noticed construction almost all around the "Dom". We learned that Cologne was building a Subway system and one of the stations was planned very near the Cathedral. As the excavating began various old ruins were found.

Archaeologists were called in and the construction on the subway was suspended until the old ruins had all been unearthed. The archaeologists put up signs labeling the various discoveries so all pedestrians could see what the dig had revealed. The two signs at the front of the picture identify ruins from the Middle Ages and Roman times.

We went into the Cathedral and walked around. My aunt suggested we climb up the stairs into one of the bell towers. We didn't know what we were in for. Five hundred and nine steps up a narrow spiral staircase. As we went up, others came down on the very same worn stone steps. Going up we were on the wide part of the stairs; coming down felt more treacherous because the steps were so narrow and worn that a slip would have caused mayhem. When we got to the top of the stairs we were assaulted by the bells that started to ring; marking the noon hour. It was loud; and the bells rang for what seemed a long time. It left a lasting impression on us.

View from the bell tower. I tried taking a picture of the bells but it didn't turn out due to the lack of light.

A view of the ornately decorated flying buttresses at the back and sides of the cathedral.

He who has seen one cathedral ten times has seen something; he who has seen ten cathedrals once has seen but little; and he who has spent half an hour in each of a hundred cathedrals has seen nothing at all.
~~ Sinclair Lewis

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Brought to you by the letter J

How's my mental health today?

I don't know how to answer that. the last time I saw my doctor we agreed to make minor adjustments to my medications. Now I have to to deal with a medication side effect I haven't experienced in a long time - dry mouth. My mouth is very dry and everything tastes metallic. My creativity also seems to be paying a price. I'm finding it very difficult to focus and write - is that another side effect? I know that psych meds can inhibit one's creativity; and now I'm wondering if this is a temporary situation or is another medication change necessary.

Only time will tell.

Back to the A-Z challenge and today's feature letter - J for Justice; specifically Social Justice.

Where is social justice today? Are we doing as much as we can for the downtrodden; the social outcasts; the poor; the homeless; the disabled; the chronically ill; and those with mental and cognitive disorders? Are we getting involved or are we sitting back and leaving it all to the government, churches, and social agencies?

The disparity between rich and poor continues to grow. As we drive around our city we encounter an ever increasing number of panhandlers. Do we ignore them? Do we dismiss them because we have made the judgement that these panhandlers are going to spend whatever we give them on liquor and/or on drugs? Do we do or say anything when we see an injustice happening or do we keep going because we don't want to get involved.

The Old Testament prophet Isaiah said" Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow's cause". (Isaiah 1:17)

Jeremiah tells us, "Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place".(Jeremiah 22:3)

In Proverbs 31:8-9 we read, "Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy."

What would our world be like if we all worked for social justice?

Am I doing enough?

History will have to record that the greatest tragedy
of this period of social transition 
was not the strident clamor of the bad people, 
but the appalling silence of the good people.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

I is for... Impressionism

How's my mental health today?

I feel mentally, emotionally and physically drained. The reason for this is beyond me. All I know is that I'm sleeping a lot more and still feeling tired. I've been exercising almost everyday and even that hasn't helped.

Coming up with a theme or topic beginning with the letter I has been difficult. In fact, I still haven't decided on a focus even as I'm writing this. Is it indecision? Perhaps it's because ideas go flitting by but don't hang around long enough for me to grasp onto them.

One of the ideas I had for a theme was Impressionism - a school of painting that came out of France in the late 19th century.

I first came across Impressionism when I was writing a paper on Maurice Ravel and Claude Debussy. Apparently neither of these composers wanted anything to do with the Impressionism label on their music. As I researched for this paper I came across the painters of the Impressionism style - one which was scoffed at by the public.

I looked at artwork by Claude Monet, Pierre August Renoir, Camille Pissaro, Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Vincent Van Gogh and more. The compositions of these artists and others of their time hooked me and Impressionistic art continues to be among my favorites.

Pierre August Renoir

Vincent Van Gogh

Camille Pissaro

Claude Monet

An art which isn't based on feeling isn't an art at all.
Paul Cezanne

Monday, April 9, 2012

Ooops... another H

How's my mental health today?

The last few days have felt like I'm on the end of a yo-yo string because my mood and energy levels have been going up and down. That's the reality of my life with bipolar disorder.

Sticking with the A-Z challenge is both easy and difficult depending on what my mood and energy levels are. I realized late yesterday that I had gotten ahead of the schedule when I published my H is for Hallelujah blog post on Easter Sunday.

That left me wondering do I skip blogging on Monday (today) to get back on track? Maybe I should write something else not connected to A-Z? Another option is to write another H blog post.

I decided to stay in the groove of writing every day and another H post wouldn't hurt.

So today H is for History. Why history?

First of all I love history; always have as far back as I can remember. My favourite subject in school was history. Most of my classmates had no use for history and objected to having History as a mandatory course. I soaked up the history; in fact I usually finished reading my history textbook within the first two months of school. I borrowed history books from the library and consumed them. Now I'm busy putting together my family history.

There are stacks of notes, documents, and sketches of stories around me. I know that there are historical gems in these documents and stories just waiting to be discovered. Researching and recording this family history is fun, it's fascinating,and enlightening. It also reveals when and how significant historical events touch my own family history. For example; my mother told me how, in late 1938, her father had been transferred to Gleiwitz which was a small German village very close to the border with Poland. The whole family was moved to that village and shortly afterwards all the women and children were evacuated to another place because border tensions between Nazi Germany and Poland made that place too dangerous for them. My mother, who was 8 years old at the time, recalls her father telling her mother that is was all chicanery. After several months the families were brought back to Gleiwitz until war broke out.

What my mother didn't know was that Hitler staged a border incident at a radio tower in Gleiwitz to justify invading Poland. That was the outbreak of WWII. Until I gave this information to her my mother was completely unaware of how close she had been to a major historical event. It leads me to wonder how many times has history brushed up against me and I'm still not aware of it?

What will my children and future grandchildren discover that will closely link us to other major historical events? Will I be aware of how closely connected I have been to history?
Our access to news from around the world brings us in touch with events all around the globe - but we are usually safely distanced from those events and we fail to recognize how these things impact our own lives and the lives of people around us.

History is more than a collection of stories - it is what has shaped our world, our country, our communities, and our families. Writing my family history is something that I feel called to do. I want to pass on the information of who we are, and where we came from to my kids and the generations to come.

The research and writing continues.

History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; 
it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance 
in daily life and brings us tidings of antiquity. 
~~ CICERO, Pro Publio Sestio

Sunday, April 8, 2012

H is for ... Hallelujah!

How's my mental health today?

It's Easter - the highlight of the Christian calendar. There will be lots of music, praise and worship today. G.F. Handel's 'Hallelujah Chorus' will be sung and heard by many.

The church I grew up in has developed the tradition of inviting everyone in the congregation to come up to the choir loft and participate in singing the Hallelujah Chorus to conclude the Easter morning service. It is a stirring celebration of Christ's resurrection.

I wonder how many people know what hallelujah means. I went online and found many lengthy definitions and word origin explanations. Here's one that I got from:
Hallelujah, Halleluyah, or Alleluia, is a transliteration of the Hebrew word  (Standard Hallluya, Tiberian Halllûyāh) meaning "[Let us] praise  Yah ." It is found mainly in the book of Psalms and has a similar pronunciation in many, but not all, languages. The word is used in Judaism as part of the Hallel prayers, and in Christian praise.
I have been involved in performances of this Chorus many times; as a violinist and violist in orchestras accompanying choirs, and as both a tenor and a baritone in choirs in High School, at church, and at Bible College. I have also found many renditions of Hallelujah that I enjoy. My favorites include the three below.

Leonard Cohen wrote his own 'Hallelujah'. Kelley Mooney wrote her own lyrics to Cohen's tune; lyrics more fitting to the Good Friday and Easter story.

Popular Christian singers presented a more contemporary version of Handel's Hallelujah in an album called 'The New Young Messiah'.

Andre Rieu also includes Hallelujah in his traveling show's repertoire.

Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!

For the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth.
The kingdom of this world is become 
the kingdom of our Lord, and of His Christ; 
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,

Saturday, April 7, 2012

G is for... Garden

How's my mental health today?

It is more stable now than it was two weeks ago although yesterday evening was a bit of a challenge. I'm not sure why but I had a down day. I was struggling to decide what my G post was going to be, and went through several ideas that didn't grab me.

As I was looking through the image files on my computer I found my topic. Gardens. Specifically our garden in 2008. Heidi's flowers added colour to our property and our vegetable garden delivered a bountiful harvest.

I asked my daughter Lora, who's now in South Africa, to take lots of pictures of our garden and flower beds. So she did.

I hollowed out the stump of a maple tree so Heidi could use it as a planter.

Red Currants

Lora took great pride in photographing the insects too; in this case potato bugs.

Poppies grew randomly in the garden.

There was much more. In the six and a half years of living there we enjoyed the fruits of our four apple trees, strawberries, carrots, zuchini, spaghetti squash, cucumbers, yellow and green beans, cabbage, kale, brussel sprouts, asparagus, corn, kohlrabi, spinach, lettuce, peas, pumpkins, canteloupe, watermelons, raspberries, and rhubarb.

We sold the house because it had become too much for us to manage. We miss sitting in the back yard, enjoying the fresh fruit and vegetables, the beauty of the flowers, and watching the squirrels race along the fence top and jumping through the trees.

We don't miss the work.

The best place to seek God is in a garden.
You can dig for him there.
~~ George Bernard Shaw