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Friday, July 26, 2019


Spent the day at Canobie Lake park to celebrate a nephew's birthday with the boys! It was a beautiful, sunny day (which is bad for me, but great for everybody else.) It was a great day of fun before our road trip tomorrow.
This was supposed to be an action photo. That mist in the right corner was a splash from a water ride. When I realized I was going to get soaked too, I had to move my phone:
There's that nice, wet, sunny day I was talking about. Also, welcome to New Hampshire.
We got drenched on that ride and after that ride. It was fun.
Just chilling out. Tim was with us too but he met a friend of his cousin and the two played together for hours. This was a quick walk between lunch and heading back to the water park. 
Incoming mail:
A nice map of Netherlands from Anita. 

From Donna in Florida.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

July 22/23/24

     This week has brought a lot of errands as we prepare for our trip. My least favorite of these errands was bringing my two cats to the veterinarian. Did you know I have 2 cats? Penny is 15 and Emmie is nuts. She's one and a half.  She was the one sleeping in the lunch bag in one of my other blog posts. This is Penny. She was not amused. She's had a cyst like thing in her mouth for a while and they think it might be cancerous. We'll wait and see.
   I have also finally sat down to write a letter. My friend Marianne sent this awesome envelope (with a great letter) a few months ago. I wanted to share since it was beautiful. 
     I hope I don't ruin her surprise but her birthday is coming up so I tried to send something cute. I kind of love it. Sorry for the post it note, I had written her address before I took a picture. Who knew I could draw little kawaii things?
      I received this postcard from Germany in yesterday's mail. I've always loved castles. ("Schloss" is "castle" in German. Sebastian, the Postcrosser who sent the card, wrote in German and I could clearly understand his message. I'm glad I'm taking the time to try to learn more this summer.

Monday, July 22, 2019

July 22

Incoming mail:
    This is from David at Brown University. I am looking forward to the barrage of postcards that come in after my Postcrossing binge a while back. Unfortunately a ton of the cards went to Russia, so who knows if they'll ever get there. Postcrossers- I switched my preference to allow multiple cards to the same country. Have you noticed a difference in the time it takes to get cards back?
     Also, I finished the book I gave myself until Friday to finish. It's about a girl named Sarah Hall who is an up and coming Wall Street Analyst/  Her story is alternated with the stories of other members of her previous co-workers who have been called to an emergency meeting at an abandoned building.  Once they arrive, they learn that the meeting is a team building escape room, with a bit of a twist.  I really liked the book. It was a quick read and I kept wanting to read to see what was going on with each character.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

July 14-18

    This summer I am taking any opportunity I can to grow as a person. I mentioned a few things I've been up to in a previous post- relaxing, eating well, brushing up on my German, reading, doing things that make me happy, etc. I've actually lost 5% of my body fat since the beginning of the summer. (You can't really tell, but the scale says I've gained lean muscle and lost fat. Eventually I'll be able to see that, right?)  When I got the opportunity to sign up for a conference for choral educators and saw that the clinicians were Andrea Ramsey and Rosephanye Powell, I knew I wanted to go.  If you don't know who Rosephanye and Andrea are, they're incredible composers. They are both charismatic, intelligent and very down to earth. I'm so grateful to have gotten to know them a bit.
       The conference was on the other side of Massachusetts, conveniently about an hour away from the Jason Robert Brown concert the week before. I booked a hotel room for the few days so I would have a place to work if I wanted, to relax and to even exercise. (I actually did one day, the other days went from 8am to 9:45 without much of a break.) The conference was on the campus of Smith College in Northampton. I hadn't ever been there before and it was beautiful. When I arrived at my normal "way earlier than you have to be here" time, I decided to take a walk. I explored the botanical garden.
That tree was massive! I think it was a ginko biloba.
My first cypress tree?
Apparently there's another garden inside but I didn't know I could just walk in.
If I lived here as a child this would've been my fort. The next 3 pictures are from within these leaves.
Looking up.
Don't often see cacti in the wilds of Massachusetts.
I feel like I'd seen these before but I don't know what they are.

    If you're one of my penpals, I'd love to see some flowers from your region of the world. After going through the botanical gardens, I walked down to the boathouse and explored the river. It was a great walk before settling in for dinner.
     Fun side fact- After I got home from the first night of activities  (dinner and a sing through of the Brahm's Requiem), I went to charge my phone and realized I was missing my charger wire. Although I am a person who is generally content to live "unplugged," I was planning on using my phone for my clock, my navigation back home, my way to communicate with home and my Duolingo German practice. lol. I was freaking a little bit when I "checked everywhere" and couldn't find it.  So, when I returned to Smith the next day, I retraced every step. It was a long walk. I didn't find my wire until later that night. 
     On Monday, I took a few interest sessions about a variety of subjects- non-classical singing, middle school chorus, the difference between gospel/spirituals/ethnic anthems, a discussion with the composers with questions submitted by the conference attendees and a reading session of music from composers who are less known. I was singing in a chorus that was made up of conference participants and community members. We had bought the music ahead of time but put the repertoire together over 2 days. Monday had 4 hours of rehearsal.
     Tuesday I learned some fascinating facts about singing/neuroscience/ singing in groups, how to program repertoire and rounds/canons for all levels. We rehearsed for 3.75 hours and had a concert at the end of the night.  I wish I had recordings of our performance, but they would be illegal to post without permission. We sang Non Nobis Pacem, written by Rosephanye. She's so fun to work with. In one of the reading sessions we read through a gospel piece and I've never enjoyed singing gospel music before that moment.  We sang Kuimba- Victor Johnson, 1941- Andrea Ramsey, No Time- Susan Brumfield (LOVED this one), Get Busy- Rosephanye Powell, Keep Me Fully Glad- Andrea Ramsey, written in dedication to a music teacher from MA who recently passed away. We sang the world premiere. We ended with Draw the Circle Wide and were joined by Worcester Children's Chorus. Look up some of those pieces. 1941 really grew on me and has been stuck in my head. Here are a few really (unflattering) pictures of me with the composers and the room we sang in.

     It's always good to learn new things and stretch yourself but this conference was also a reminder to myself that I do important work. What I do as a music director really has the power to change people's lives and to create community. Honestly, this world is just filled with grossness sometimes and anything I can do to create beauty, pass along kindness or teach people how to work collaboratively is a win. There is something kind of magical when strangers come together to learn and perform as a choir. If you're not a musician, you may not directly understand, but most people have been emotionally moved enough by music to feel an inkling of what sometimes happens. It was a good decision for me to surround myself with people who have the same passion that I do.
     The last day was bittersweet and short. I took 2 reading session and a terrifying class about preventing vocal damage. (Which prompted me to get a referral to an ENT this week.) Sorry, if you don't know what a reading session is- we get a packet of music and we sight read (sing it without hearing it first) all of the songs. It's a great way to find new music and to hear what it sounds like with everybody rather than 1 line at a time. 
       You may have noticed in the month of posts that I've left out the 18th. The 18th I just hung out with my family since I was away for a few days. 
       This next week will be spent doing errands, doing schoolwork, preparing a paper for grad school credit, writing and preparing for vacation. Woohoo!

July 20

       Today was sweltering! In general, I don't do well with hot, humid weather- especially if I'm stuck in sunlight. So, what does David want to do on the hottest day of the summer so far?

    He literally had 4 customers over the few hours that we were set up. The kid's lemonade stand is fascinating to watch. There were many people who rode by, but I think there were less than 5 who didn't smile or wave. One guy flashed a peace sign. His first customer was a fairly young guy who handed him a $20. David told him that it only cost 50 cents and the guy said, "I know. Keep the change." David told him that he was the first customer. The guys replied, "Hopefully the best customer!" Then he smiled and left. Every person gave him more than his fifty cents. Seriously, watching how these people brightened his day made me want to either ride around with an extra pile of money in my car to randomly give kids at lemonade stands or to set up a table of free treats one day just to be nice to people driving by.
     Other than that, today was pretty low key. I hid in the air conditioning for a while and read.  Emmie napped in a lunch bag.
    We also received our Redditgifts Simple Pleasures gift. 
     As a family, we love games- especially me and David. Unfortunately we have Beat the Parents already, but it's the thought that counts. Maybe we will re-gift our original Beat the Parents since this one is from Canada and might be slightly different.  It's basically a trivia game that asks questions that the other generation should know. This swap was sent from Canada. Here's what I sent my giftee:
     The Pusheen mug is filled with tea. Then there are rabbit stickers (she likes bunnies) and a LUSH shampoo bar because I love them. The mug says "Catpusheeno" We were supposed to send something about appreciating life's simple pleasures. I'm also in an Arbitrary Day swap and a postcard exchange.  
       Last night we had the most incredible sunset. It was so beautiful that I jumped in the car and drove to the cornfields near me so I could see it better. People were stopping along the sides of the road to take pictures as the sunset changed.


Friday, July 19, 2019

July 19- reading

    Just a quick update today. I plan to write a little about the conference I attended earlier this week, but I'll get through this first. Today I realized that I am 8 books behind on my Goodreads challenge so I better start cranking out these books. Here's what I've read since the lat reading post.

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    I suggested The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell for my book club because I kept hearing about it. I'm not usually a crowd follower with my reading, but I hadn't really heard anything negative from the tons of people I saw writing about it. The book is about a boy named Sam Hall, who was born with ocular albinism. (His eyes are red in color.) It follows Sam from his adult life back into his childhood where you see how the events of his past kind of make him the man he grew up to be. It talks a lot about family, friendship, and overcoming your circumstances. I really enjoyed it. The end was a little, I don't know, simplified? but I still enjoyed it. 

     I wanted to read this book to expand my horizons a bit. I didn't know anything about the Chinese poet Lin Zhao and I didn't know many specifics about Communist China. I was also interested in learning about Lin Zhao's faith as a Christian. I really didn't enjoy this book. Obviously, the story of someone who has been imprisoned by the Communist party is not going to be a happy story, but more so, I didn't have enough background knowledge to fully appreciate many parts of the book. I'm usually a fast reader but this took me a long time because I just wasn't invested. 
      Next up- another NetGalley ARC. I'm hoping to finish it by next Friday at the latest. (I also have book club next week so I will have a new book club book to read.)

    What are you currently reading?

Saturday, July 13, 2019

July 13

     The highlight of today was a church barbecue. I took some pictures but don't want to add them since they include people other than my family. We had a lot of fun. One of my favorite things about our church potlucks is eating the family recipes brought by other people. I tried a nice salad, a Korean noodle dish, some doughy ball things, plus a few new desserts. In other words, I ate way too much but enjoyed it, at least for now. We set up a volleyball net. People played volleyball, badminton, soccer, frisbee, jumped rope and just hung out and talked.  We had a few visitors who were pretty cool too.
     Tomorrow I am traveling back to Western Ma for a conference. I'll write more about it in the next few days. There are some aspects I'm eager about and a few times where I'm sure to be stretched outside my comfort zone. I wanted to stretch myself this summer so here's another opportunity. Have a great week if I decide to write when I'm home instead of while I'm away. 

Friday, July 12, 2019

July 12

Good news, it seems that my writing mojo is back. (This may be bad news if you follow me on Twitter and have gotten my million notifications of sending a Postcrossing card. Sorry). I spent some time yesterday and this morning writing thank you notes and writing some Postcrossing cards. I look forward to tossing them all in the mail today and then attempting to tackle my overwhelming "respond" pile. Thanks to everybody who has been patiently waiting. Postcrossing cards are being sent to: Russia, Germany, Canada, Japan, Finland, USA (California),Portugal, Poland, France, Netherlands, and Romania. 


  It will be nice to start receiving so many cards back once these ones are registered. I hope to have the maximum amount of cards traveling as I am allowed to. I think I'm up to 19 now. I have a few more to send tomorrow and then I'll be at the maximum.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

July 11

     I have mentioned a few times that I am involved with genealogy research for my family. Recently, I went to visit my Aunt Diane (I have 2- this one is on my mom's side.) Every line of my family seems to have some mysteries that I would like to solve. Since I have some time during the summer, I decided to bring a project home. We went through a large Tupperware bin of old photos, many of which were unlabeled. Today I spent some time with a few photos, trying to figure them out with the help of a few relatives and a few genealogy groups I'm involved with on Facebook. Here's what I've been researching today.

    We didn't know who the 2 boys were off the top of our heads. We also didn't know what the uniforms were. My grandfather was in the Army, but these kids seemed too young and that didn't look like his Army uniform that I had seen in other photos. These photos were labeled with a stamp from Alves Photo Service in 1939. After way too many hours of working on this, I think I have figured out that:
1) The shorter boy was most likely my grandfather. He would've been 15. 
2) These pictures were most likely from the Hyde Park High Cadets. My grandfather graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1941. 
3) When you're researching Hyde Park, make sure you have the correct state. In other news, the Hyde Park Alumni Association's Facebook contact in Chicago is delightful.
4) Still trying to figure out who the second boy is and what my grandfather is holding in his hand.

      The next photos (Labeled Monosson Photo), I'm trying to figure out who these people are:
   My aunt thinks the top one is my great-grandmother holding one of her daughters. I thought the bottom 2 were my grandfather's sister Dottie or his sister Eva and one of their husbands. (Probably Eva and Fred)  What do you think? This next picture shows all of them:

    On the left side: my great uncle Joe, his wife Dotty, my great-grandmother Carlye and my great-aunt Eva.  On the right, from front to back, my grandfather Ed, his dad Lawrence and his brother-in law Fred (who was married to Eva.)
      Has anyone reading ever tried to figure out old pictures like this? I'm sure I'll have more once I am finished with this batch. Do you have any suggestions for me/ All of these people have passed away. I'm talking with relatives of the younger generations, but we want to make sure we're correct about our guesses.