This was one of the most life changing things I have ever done. When I was a junior in high school, the Oregon Bach Festival started the Youth Choral Academy. It started out small, probably only about 50 or 60 of us, all from Eugene. They got one of the best choral conductors in the country, Anton Armstrong from St. Olaf College, to come and lead us with the help of an amazing Dick Clark from the U of O. I imagine we were not that great the first year, but I can tell you that I left that week of the academy a much better singer and chorus member. We got to work with amazing singers on vocal technique, body singing and so much more. We went to the ‘camp’ during the day, but were free to get into all sorts of shenanigans at night.
The next year, the administrators wised up, and put us in the dorm to keep a better eye on us. We were also much better the next year, coming from all over Oregon. Dr. Armstrong expected much more from us and kicked our butts a little harder. I learned even more. Unfortunately, my college women’s choir was a huge let down after singing with the amazing singers in the OBFYCA, so I quit singing after my first term in the choir. I did go back as a chaperone for the YCA the next summer.
I was a very strict chaperone.
This year was the 15th anniversary of the academy, so they invited all 700 of the alumni back for a weekend of rehearsals, a luncheon and to since a couple songs with the current YCA (now called Stangeland Family YCA) kids. The concert was this past Sunday, and I have to say I had so much fun. Only about 35 alums showed up, but there were 4 of us from the original year. I took Alma to the luncheon and it was pretty fun to imagine her singing in the choir in 15 or 16 years. Oh, how lucky she would be to have an experience like singing in the SFYCA.
Nope, not the Alma you were thinking of. This Alma is a character in one of my favorite books. As a friend of mine pointed out once, I seem to like books with young protagonists or narrators. I had never thought of that, but once she said it, I realized it was true.
Alma is one of the main characters in The History of Love by Nicole Krauss. Really, Alma is many characters in the book because of the book-within-a-book situation. Alma is a teenager who is trying to help her mother find happiness and understand what life is all about (that’s a very simplified description of who Alma is…).
I love this passage, where the main Alma is telling about the Alma in the book:
The first woman may have been Eve, but the first girl will always be Alma… Maybe the first time you saw her you were ten. She was standing in the sun scratching her legs. Or tracing letters in the dirt with a stick. her hair was being pulled. Or she was pulling someone’s hair. And a part of you was drawn to her, and a part of you resisted – wanting to ride off on your bicycle, kick a stone, remain uncomplicated. In the same breath you felt the strength of a man, and a self-pity that made you feel small and hurt. Part of you thought: Please don’t look at me. If you don’t, I can still turn away. And part of you thought: Look at me.
Alma is a girl I wish I knew. Alma and I could hang out with Oskar. I think they could help each other a lot (I wonder if this was the idea… since History of Love and Extremely Loud and IncrediblyClose were written by a wife and her husband).
Echo is one of the best people I have ever met in my life. For reals. She is the funnest, funniest, prettiest, sassiest lady there is. Echo plays a lead role in most of my favorite memories from 1998- 2004. Summer nights with Echo were full of possibilities and usually led to mischief of the best kind. There were nights in parking lots, running around with a beach towel as my cape, there were nights dressed in black, stalking other friends’ parties, nights driving around town blasting Dave Matthews Band in my little Ford Escort, nights waiting for phone calls or something amazing to happen at Allann Bros., swinging at playgrounds, dancing anywhere and more fun than I could even begin to describe.
Echo and I haven’t seen each other much in the past few years, but whenever we do, I feel like we can pick up right where we left off. That’s a sign of a true, incredible, lasting friendship if you ask me.
Drew is the oldest of the next generation of my family. My sister Jen had Drew almost 4 years ago and it’s been so much fun to see how our family has changed since his arrival. Steve and mom changed from being parents to being grandparents – Jen and Kyle were all of a sudden parents – the rest of us became aunties and uncles. We have since added 3 more little people to our family, and it continues to amaze me how our relationships and identities are able to bend and grow so gracefully.
Drew is a goof. He is a silly little man with a snappy sense of humor. He can have an attitude at times, but I think it’s fun to watch him try on some adult-like mannerisms and see where they take him (I’m sure his parents feel a bit differently about this). Drew is a wonderful big brother (when he’s not trying to blame his mistakes on Logan) and quite a delightful nephew.
I often wonder what the rest of Drew’s childhood will be like – I’ve never seen someone grow up being the first of their family. He’s the first son, first boy, first cousin, first grandchild. It will be so interesting to see him take on the roles of protector, antagonizer, trail blazer, rule breaker…
Filed under Family, People
So, new year. Love it. I wanted to let you know that I haven’t given up on this 365 Days Until 30 project. I’m just going to change it a bit. I really want to complete this, but know that it will be very difficult to get it done before my birthday, so I’m changing it to 365 Days
Until of 30. So, during my 30th and 31st year I will write about 365 people and things that have affected me and brought me to where I am today. Revised goal, still a goal, still achievable.
Without further ado…
Jesse Robert Williams
Jesse has been my husband for 5 years, but we have been a couple for almost 10 (!). When I first met Jesse I was drawn to his humor and his zest. He is still one of the funniest and zestiest people I know. We don’t lack laughing and zestiness in our relationship, let me tell you.
The summer we started dating (2001). Gotta love the hair, Jesse.
Jesse is perfect for me. He is supportive, generous, tidy, loving, amazingly affectionate, wonderful. I can’t imagine spending the amount of time we spend together with anyone else. Even during Peace Corps when we were together almost 20 hours a day, I never got sick of him. I don’t think I would have made it through that experience without him. Actually, I know I wouldn’t have made it through without him.
Everyday I love Jesse more and more. We have our moments, but I’m always proud of how gracefully and gently we are able to handle each other during those times.
Jesse is now in his 30th year as well, so I figured it would be a good way to get back into the blog.
Filed under Family, People
I have already written a post about Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer, but I also wanted to write about Oskar Schell, the main character. He is a 9 year old boy, but oh so much more than that. There are so many things about Oskar that are incredibly endearing. He’s an inventor who invents things that will make all our lives easier. He’s a Francophile who is constantly describing his raison d’être. He only wears white and is always playing his tambourine. He is a brave little boy who travels far and wide to solve a beautiful mystery. He is a vegan and a pacifist. You need to read this book.
During grad school I had quite a few instructors. I took more classes than anyone else in my program (in addition to getting my Language Arts endorsement, I also got my ESL endorsement and a Cultural Competency Certificate… I think I ended up with almost twice the credits as my classmates) so I had the benefit of learning from additional talented teachers and professors. One of my absolute favorites was Val. While I learned a lot of things about education in most of my classes, I learned how to teach from Val. She had such a wonderful classroom presence and taught us in a very organic, hands on way. When she taught about a method, she actually used the method. This was a great strategy because we got to see how these ideas worked as students. This makes it so much easier to translate these ideas now, as teachers.
While Val was an incredible teacher, she was also a very lovely person. I would love to have the chance to work for her someday as she is also a principal in Springfield. I’m sure she runs a successful, respectful and fun school.