Monday, March 31, 2008

Peace Corps

In my last post, I hinted that I had heard from the Peace Corps. They called with a few more questions on Thursday and said the invite was in the mail. I'm hoping to get it tomorrow! Anyway, I just thought I would share this letter to my colleagues and mentors, which gives a little more depth to my decisions:

In October I started applying for church jobs. I didn't receive many calls back, for the 5-10 jobs I applied for, very few even acknowledged receiving my resume. At the same time, I was dealing with some angst regarding the possibility spending the rest of my life as a church musician. Amidst all of this, two men from our sister parish in Kenya visited. They brought our community gifts- collection baskets, made by a women who died of AIDS; stations of the cross, crafted by a man who died of AIDS; and they spent some time with my choir, teaching them a Swahili setting of the Our Father, composed by someone who died of AIDS. This wasn't intentional - these were beautiful gifts, made by people who wanted to share them with our parish, but whose lives were taken away - to me - a sin of the world, the church, and the US.

I was starting to feel like there was an emptiness in my life, I need to serve people beyond what I'm doing now. I went home from church on the day they were leaving, and in my mail I received a post card, "It's not to late to apply for the Peace Corps." I had forgotten at this point (it was October) that in August, I had started to fill out an application to join the Peace Corps. Much had happened, I had ended a long term relationship, I was trying to figure out what to do with my life - and all at the same time - I was becoming angry and frustrated with the church.

I saw Peace Corps reminder as a blessing, an omen, whatever. I finished my application, and in the next week I was interviewed, and the week after I was nominated to an ESL program in sub-Saharan, Francophone West-Africa. Over the following months I spent much time and money jumping medical, dental, and mental hurdles. This past week, after questioning me for a third time about my vegetarian practices, sexual orientation, and religious practices (there's a combination!), I received news that my official invitation to serve will be in the mail this week. I'll be returning it signed as soon as it comes in.

The duration of service is 2 years, 3 months. Maybe I will come back to church work when it is, or, perhaps, I will find better ways to serve those in need. I leave this work with sadness- for what I've seen happen to it over the 10 years I've known many of you. I'm not just worried about translations and rubricism, I'm worried about the church's treatment of you all, as employees, I'm worried about the hierarchy's treatment of women and the GLBT community, and I'm not convinced that
the church can really ever free itself from a nasty political environment in the US that promotes fear and xenophobia. These feelings come from my experiences. I know there are many good churches, with good people treating one another well. My experience working for a parish has been rewarding, and I will greatly miss the work I do.

Anyway, I'll be in St. Cloud until June. I believe my program will start in late July. I hope to keep updating my blog - - over the next several months, and if possible, throughout my time of service. Of course, for now , I'll still be around, driving you all crazy.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Andy Warhol's Silver Clouds

Today I saw an exhibit I'll never forget. We went to the Loyola Museum of Art by Watertower Square in Chicago to see Andy Warhol's Silver Clouds. This is an exhibit that my travel companion, David, had at his museum in St. Louis. Here's a simple description, don't let it underwhelm you:
Created for a 1966 exhibition at the Leo Castelli Gallery, Warhol created an environment that included one room filled with Silver Clouds, helium-filled balloons which moved with the air currents. In addition to creating an ethereal, joyful atmosphere, they challenged traditional expectations by mingling with and touching the viewer.

It's incredible - it's uncomplicated peacefulness. These giant pillar balloons dance around the room, float to the ceiling, hang out in groups, come up to visitors to say hello, and occasionally try to escape into other exhibits. David had some business to attend to, and I spent about 30 minutes, sitting on the floor, taking deep breaths and enjoying the view. I've seen a lot of art in the last 48 hours, and after a long dreary winter, I feel the strong effect it has on me. Art is mood-altering, life changing -when I give it a chance.

Here's a little something I wrote:

in the clouds with andy
a dream's all i need to see
a gentle human dancing
spirits horses gods
bright light platinum cloud
wearing thick rimmed shades
taps me on the shoulder
"just passing by"
thought he would stop for a visit
(and stop by neighbors too
we share company)
rattling pillow sneaks it's way
to my kitchen and helps itself
to a cup of coffee
with a scoop of sugar
clouds need energy

= =

Oh. I got invited to the peace corps. :-)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chicago Greetings

I'm here in Chicago with my friend David. We went to see the new Spertus Museum
and then caught the impressionism exhibits at the Chicago Institute. The highlight of my day, was, of course the Georges Seurat painting, Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte:

Catch you later.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Why I love my friends. . .

Ok. I associate with really crazy people. This sort of thing is the result. My friend Ellen (no blog!) from Boston bought me a Christmas present in December and finally got around to mailing it this week.

She felt guilt, as well she should, for not sending it in a more timely manner, so every time a holiday would go by, she'd put in another card.
  • Christmas
  • Valentine's Day (A card that plays a josh groban sound, yeah, awesome.
  • My Recital (a card in the shape of Beethoven)
  • St. Patrick's Day
  • Easter (a card that plays a disco duck song and says to "shake my tail feather."
  • A "sorry it's late card."

So what was the present? A sequin decorated icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary!!!!!!!!!

And here's everything else:

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bad weather? Rock on!

A few days ago, I was making fun of Minnesotans in a post:

People take pride in being mobile in horrific weather. More people will show up to church if there is a fresh foot of snow on the ground. . . On a beautiful Sunday in May, don't expect any of them to show up.

And sure enough, I'm expecting 3-6 inches of snow over Triduum (three days).

So awesome, right? I could have the biggest choir turnout for Triduum, EVER!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Take this one to heart. . .

Introducing Deliberate Peace

My dear friend Genevieve, in a fit of jealousy, has decided she too should have a blog; this is part of her life long endeavor to be as cool as me.

She's a brilliant woman, full of spirit and joy, I think you'll enjoy what she has to say.

Deliberate Peace:
click here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Minnesota March: the Hangover

"March in Minnesota was created so that people who
don't drink can experience a hangover."
-Garrison Keillor

I went into the cities to visit Eikon and catch the last weekend of Prairie Home Companion last night. I had a really nice time. As my time in Minnesota comes to a close, I appreciate more and more what GK has to say about Minnesota. It's not just is observations about the weather, he explains the people really accurately too. . . I love Minnesotans but there's something very different about them. Here are a few examples. Many of my observations come from church. I hope the one choir member who reads my blog (Hi Teri!) isn't offended.
  • At church, very few people compliment me directly, or criticize me directly. I get all of my feed back through messengers.
  • People take pride in being mobile in horrific weather. More people will show up to church if there is a fresh foot of snow on the ground. . . On a beautiful Sunday in May, don't expect any of them to show up.
  • People mind their own business, even if it means not warning you of danger or risk in every day life. The other day at the Y, I was trying to get a treadmill up to running speed. The machine almost threw me off, and the woman next to me said, "That one doesn't work."
  • Terrible drivers. . . when a red light turns green, you might easily miss the light, waiting for the drivers in front of you to accelerate. They're not interested in yielding to bikers or pedestrians, so you have to stand up for yourself.
  • More later?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Why I hate the economy

I'm not going to lie, I'm a bit nervous about the economy. It seems that inflation is happening all around, and anytime a business raises a price, the cause conveniently goes back to one product.
That product, my friends is CORN. A grain that, in essence, has kept my homeland alive for quite some time. Now it seems that farmers are doing quite well. Demand for Ethanol, usually made with corn, has driven up the cost of corn per bushel. Great for farmers, not so great for anyone who wants to eat anything at a reasonable price.

You see, the other day, my gas station, Holiday Gas (ok, I'm not proud that I buy coffee at a gas station from time to time, but this coffee really is pretty decent) decided that they needed to raise Coffee prices because of an increase in cost of. . .

Right, so whether or not I put dairy in my coffee (ok, I do, so it's not a good argument), I should have to pay more for my coffee, which is not a dairy product. This is for you city people, you might not realize this, but milk comes from milk cows.
And guess what cows eat? Corn? So, if the price of corn goes up, the price of cattle feed goes up, and the price of dairy goes up, and then the price of my coffee goes up from 89cent to 99cents, whether or not I decide to use the various creamers. . .

Of course, the number one ingredient in the creamer products is not milk, but probably. . . corn syrup.

So here's my challenge to myself and to you. Next time you see that a price has gone up. Find out how many "degrees" away from corn it is. . . Scary stuff.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Dancing in the Fields

Eli dances in late winter corn fields. It's nice to come home to Iowa every now and then. 

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Ta da! It's over.

I've officially completed all course work necessary to receive my Masters of Arts in Liturgical Music. Here are a few reflections on last night.

I had a nice group of about sixty people-- friends from school, church, and my lovely and
ever expanding family.

Now that I'm a seasoned recitalist (yeah right, three recitals in my life),
I'm starting to understand how my progress as a church musician, has effected
my recital/concert singing. Nerves aren't an issue anymore, I'm so used to
getting in front of people and making them sing, that I felt a bit
underwhelmed sitting in the studio, waiting to hit the stage! Too, I'm
starting to find that shades of my "liturgical voice" are helping me to
lighten up my "classical voice," thus keeping it happier and healthier.

At the same time, the dynamic is so different.

Those who know me well, know that I have some identity issues (and that I
thrive on attention and compliments, go figure ;-) ). I have to say, that the
absolute love and respect I received from the attendees was the best part. No
one wanted out (well, maybe my 2 year old niece), no one came up to me after
the recital complaining about tempi or the theology of the songs. . . I'm not
saying that I'm going to pursue a life as a recitalist, but this kind of
success is nice once in a while, when you spend the rest of your musical life in
the church trenches. I'd like to find a way to isolate that sort of love
and respect in my church community. I know it's there, it's just that the
missteps, rotten agendas, and silly issues here and there bring me down.

The winner for the night - "Take My Mother Home" a composed spiritual from
Hall Johnson - Jesus on the Cross, begging his disciples to take his mother
home. I heard over and over how emotional and heart wrenching the song was
(we'll give the composer credit for that). There were even some tears, I'm told.

Anyway, pictures, sound, video to come.