Tuesday, ShoesDay!

Happy Tuesday, Friends! 👠

Do you have a favorite pair of shoes? Do you remember slipping them on for the first time? Did an angel chorus sing? Or did your fairy godmother squeal with delight?

Were you sad when they finally wore out? Were you upset when they were discontinued? (I’m talking to you, 9west.)

This is the pair that comes to mind when I think about my favorite shoes. Baby pink patent leather chunky heel Mary Janes. Behold.

I had these in my mid-twenties, in the 90s. I remember I felt so confident in them. I was not really a shoe girl, but I had my favorites. This was a perfect mix of whimsy and sensibility. They were playful, but not reckless. I had just earned my graduate degree, and I still liked Hello Kitty, thankyouverymuch.

The picture above is very close, but truth be told mine were more pink/ less blush, and had a round toe. These babies took me from my bookstore day job to my evening choir director responsibilities. I wore these with a pink skirt/ white top combo, or jeans, or my favorite spring dresses. I recall one Easter dress that was mint with pink flowers: cap sleeve, v neck, fit-and-flare midi. Perfect for conducting the choir and musicians. I never felt like I would topple over, as the heel was nice and sturdy.

My then-boyfriend, now-husband, didn’t appreciate them. (He is a trained mechanical engineer.) He had even discussed them with his mother. In a rare motion of solidarity by my future mother-in-law, she made sure to wear all pink, including pink tennis shoes, next time he visited her. “Nice, Mom,” he said, and smiled.

The pink patent leather became worn and scuffed grey. Sadly, mine went away with donation.

But soon after, I would get them in white for my wedding. And my bridesmaids got them in velvety midnight blue. I still have my sister’s pair, which I wore for my 40th birthday recital with a wide strap sleeveless blue velvet sweetheart neckline hi-lo midi dress. I stood center stage and sang, but I could also rock out at the piano.

And last year I picked them up in gold. More about those in a future post.

What about you? Tell me about your favorite shoe.

Inspired by the book Love, Loss, and What I Wore by Ilene Beckerman.

Friday Friends: Mo Quintana & tomiandcleo

Happy Friday, Friends! On Fridays I like to feature creatives and entrepreneurs. Allow me to introduce you to a very special friend: Mo Quintana from tomiandcleo ❤️ I met Mo in the eighth grade, can you believe it? She had the best book recommendations. I’m so excited to follow her successes and adventures. Read on to meet Mo~ and at the end you will find a link to her Etsy shop as well as a special discount code for my readers. Thanks, Mo!

  1. So, what have you created and produced? 
I am a designer of things. I was trained as a graphic designer, and in college (and after) got into designing for live theater, specifically lighting, costumes and sets. And a little more than a year ago, left a corporate job to design and make art jewelry.
Currently I make jewelry in small batches from polymer clay and sterling silver.
2. What subjects & causes are near and dear to your heart?
I feel strongly about animal welfare. Art and music education are essential to a well rounded human as well. Not to mention continuing education and practice keeping that human sane and engaged.
3. Can you tell us a bit about your creative process?
My creative process follows two paths. If I’m designing for either a client or a theatre production, it’s mainly about problem solving. For instance, designing a set for a production of “Cabaret” is very collaborative. If designing and building costumes for the same, then there is much collaboration with not only director and producer but also actors, prop designers, musical directors and choreographers. Theatre design begins with research, drawings, mood boards, production meetings, then build and making changes. It’s pretty satisfying to see a production I’ve worked on. It’s also pretty fleeting. Live theatre productions (amateur) only last for maybe 2 months. I will usually work a show making repairs if I did costumes, but otherwise, what is created doesn’t live long.
The second path is creating something by myself. This is interesting for me, since I’ve worked collaboratively for most of my working life. This path usually starts with research. I decide what I’d like to create, make sketches and do research, then plan out the pieces, get supplies, make the pieces, fix the pieces or scrap them if they aren’t turning out well and finish them. Then I either wear, give them away, or sell them.
I found when doing the graphic design for my own jewelry brand that I badly missed having the feedback of other designers. The worst part of design school and indeed working as a designer was the critique. When others tell you that what you’re doing isn’t working, that becomes stressful and causes anxiety. However, to be a good designer, you can’t work without it. So I found some colleagues to give me feedback. Talk about growing up.
4. What do you like to do for fun?
I like to crochet, read fantasy books, and watch special features in my favorite movies, over and over and over. I like to sing and play Sims 4.
5. What is one unusual thing about you?
I’m very organized. Since I’m an artist, most people will think I’m the messy creative type, but everything in my world is alphabetized, color coded, and sorted by size and use. It’s helpful when one has a bajillion beads and too many art supplies. I spent a lot of time in my previous job figuring out how to produce many things in the most efficient way possible, and that has permeated every part of my life. From baking to painting to making lots of post earrings, there’s always a workflow exercise involved.
6. What music inspires you?
Normally I play chill vibe music on Pandora when actually making things. I prefer ambient music without lyrics for creating. If i’m producing things and doing repetitive work, I’ll listen to big band, pop music, funk and R&B, and usually sing along.
7. How many books did you read last year?
Probably, counting audio books, 30+.
8. Ranch or Blue Cheese?
Ranch for most things, blue cheese for buffalo wings.
9. What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a new type of earring set design which is gender neutral. I’m learning how to make post earrings so that they won’t break when adhering sterling silver to polymer clay.
Next up is making some larger statement pieces, necklaces/pendants, and bracelets
10. What tv shows/ movies are you watching these days?
As for TV, I normally wait for whole seasons to come out. I also rewatch shows multiple times. 
Some of those are:
The Great British Baking Show, Battlestar Galactica, Scandal, Sanctuary, Eureka, Person of Interest, Travelers, Game of Thrones, Marvel’s Agents of Shield, and anything about science and history. And castle building. 
I’m looking forward to the Episode 9 of Star Wars, and to Mortal Engines.
11. Do you have a theme song?
Great question! I probably have several. Looking at my favorite playlist, what jumps out are:
Harder Better Faster Stronger, Daft Punk
Happy, Pharrell Williams
Make Me Feel, Janelle Monae
I Like it Like That, Pete Rodriguez
Jump In The Line, Harry Belafonte
Amado Mio, Pink Martini
Sing, Pentatonix
Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars
Everybody Needs A Kiss, Benny Benassi and Sofi Tukker
12. What is one thing you would tell your younger self?
Definitely that critique and feedback are painful but necessary.
13. Is there anything else you would like to share with us today?
I think that having a creative outlet is more important than ever. It helps keep you sane and hopeful. It matters not one bit if a person thinks they need to know how to draw or whatever. It’s never too late to start creating things.

Find Mo’s creations at tomiandcleo on Etsy

Click here to go to tomiandcleo on Etsy

Here is the special coupon code for my readers: DEEREADERS25

Music Monday: I am not throwing away my shot!

Happy Monday, Friends! I started writing about music on Mondays, as music is so important to our lives. Join me as I reminisce on music and music-making.

Hamilton the Musical by Lin-Manuel Miranda is returning to San Francisco. I’m in a virtual queue to buy tickets for the family as I write. There’s likely 100,000 persons in line waiting for a chance to buy up to 4 tickets. 30 weeks of 8 performances of hundreds of seats each. I’ve been in the queue for 90 minutes and there’s still 40.8 thousand people ahead of me. Wish me luck!

I was so lucky to catch the show last summer. Turns out, it was Pride Week in San Francisco. And you know what, it was the best time to see Hamilton. The cast is so diverse and inclusive. They brought out a rainbow Pride flag at final bows. I was moved to tears.

I hope to bring the family this time. Such a moving experience. My kids already know a lot of the music.

I hope that in the future, a filmed version will be shown in the theaters, as Allegiance has been shown on exclusive one night engagements.

But for now, I Wait for It!

For more on the Hamilton phenomenon,check out Who Tells Your Story? and The English Teacher’s Guide to the Hamilton Musical by Valerie Estelle Franklin.

Monday Music: Psalms & Olives

Happy Monday, Friends!   I started writing about music on Mondays, to get me blogging regularly again.  Music is such an important part of our lives.  And I always have something to say about music. Don’t you? 

This past weekend I had the opportunity to cantor, that is- songlead, at church. The Psalm setting of the day was one I had learnt last minute at my sister’s wedding, eighteen years ago.  Her friend and cantor had come down with the flu suddenly, and although I was also the Maid of Honor, I was called upon to sing for the entire wedding Mass.  I had heard the song one time only, during the wedding rehearsal.  But as it was also my profession as a church musician, I knew I could step up and sing.  It was like my entire life had prepared me for that moment.

I hadn’t heard it since.

As I sang the refrain from the ambo, I remembered singing at my sister’s wedding.  I had liked the psalm so much, I chose it for my own wedding which was only twelve weeks after.  As I sang the second verse, I looked out at the congregation and saw my two beautiful children sitting in the third pew.  And I realized, as I sang the blessing “Your children flourish like olive plants” that indeed, here are my children and how we’ve all flourished!  I saw my mother, and realized that as her child, we are all part of her olive branch.

I was so overwhelmed by this sensation that indeed, we have all been blessed.  I may have inadvertently changed the words at this point, I mean, who says “Olive plants” ?  Olives come from trees, with branches.  Right?  And then, I raised my arms to invite the congregation to sing along with me, and I sang “Happy those…” instead of “Blessed are those…” I guess I was happy.

That’s one thing I like about music ministry. The lyrics are prayers. The congregation is so forgiving. How can I keep from singing?

Happy Anniversary to my sister and brother-in-law! Olive you!

 

olive you

olive you

Five Fun Facts about Me

1. I have zip-lined through jungle and along the beach on the island of Guam.
2. When the hired singer for my sister’s wedding came down with the flu at the last minute, I sang the entire mass including Schubert’s Ave Maria without any rehearsal.
3. I can sing Joy to the World to the tune of Amazing Grace and vice versa– this is way harder than you think: try it now. Probably the most fun thing I learned getting my MA in Liturgical Music (yes, there is such a thing.)
4. When I am mad at someone, I imagine them karaoke singing a sappy disco ballad, poorly. It makes me smile again.
5. Sometimes I roller skate backwards in my head, to relax. I can feel the tension disappear from my shoulders and I feel like am fifteen again.

Have you been zip-lining?

Did you try to sing #3? 

Leave a comment to let us know!

Wednesday Wellness

This month is already flying by!  Are you feeling it?

I have to make extra effort to SLOW DOWN.  Otherwise this crazy month will run me over like a train.  The consumer chaos is such the antithesis of Advent, which is a quiet season of waiting. Nowadays I make a commitment to practice mindfulness and self care, especially during the month of December.

One of the ways I practice my Advent is by listening to music.

I have been listening to my favorite Bach piece: the Magnificat.  This is a classical piece using the text of the Canticle of Mary, which is found in the Gospel of Luke (LK 1: 46-55).  Mary has always been very special to me.  Growing up post-modern Catholic, I often felt a disconnect with the church leadership, but always felt that Mary understood me.  Thus summer I had the opportunity to visit the Blessed Virgin Mary room in the Vatican Museum, and was moved to tears.

I adore this setting because it is so delightfully classical:  many soloists and a chamber orchestra featuring lovely instruments as the flute, oboe, and clarinet alongside the lovely soprano and alto arias, lilting melodies with beauteous descending phrases and waves which seem to never end (I’ve performed two of these arias, it’s hard to find the right place to catch a breath in some of these songs!)  And yet there are still the bigger chorus numbers with excitement and syncopation and tympani.

Here, my friends, is a lovely scrolling score, if you wish to enjoy the magic that is Bach’s Magnificat. Bach’s Magnificat score on youtube

Peace,

Denise

Angels in Stereo

I am often struck by the miraculous timing of music in my car. Radio, cd, shuffle, they all seem to play exactly the right song when I need to hear it. I call this musical synchronicity.

Earlier this week I heard an old favorite of mine on the radio: “Babylon” by David Gray. I enjoy this mellow subtleness of this song, the acoustic guitar against a tick tock. The lyrics have always struck me as being about a change of perspective. Friday night the lights are changing green to red, Saturday the lights are turning red to green. Where you are is where you are going. Are you with me? “Let go your heart,/ Let go your head…” So I took this as a sign from the universe that I needed a change in perspective.

My family has been enjoying Sheppard’s song “Geronimo” since the inspiring Noah Galloway danced to it on Dancing with the Stars. I downloaded it and added it to my daughter’s birthday playlist. This is a fabulous upbeat song: the rhythm of the strumming guitar and the pulse of the taiko drums are infectious. I love the positivity of the lyrics. I became obsessed with this song. The “curtain of the waterfall” is perhaps the most poetic line I’ve heard in modern lyrics, and so effectively used here, as we sing about breaking through the threshold of perspective. The rhythm of the chorus is very catchy and singable, with just a bit of syncopation to keep you on your toes. The “Can you feel…” line is subtle and smooth, then the “Bombs Away!” is just at the top of my alto range but impossible to sing subtly, you simply must channel your inner Kelly Clarkson and belt it out. To sing the lyric otherwise would just be silly. And the choir of voices sings the brief but punctual “Make this Leap!” Why wouldn’t you, after listening to this song?

The parts mentioned above are layered and remixed in counterpoint near the end in a mosaic symphony. Reminds me of the polyphony we have heard in Sugar Ray, and in Chumbawumba’s “Tubthumping” (yes it was brilliant- listen for Jeremiah Clarke’s Trumpet Voluntary in the background at the end). This music mama loves all things polyphony and counterpoint. And, of course, breakthroughs.

What song has just reached out to you? What did it mean for you?