Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Interview... please pray!

Today I had an interview and it went very well, which was encouraging, as I'm seriously starting to lose my mind here.

So, to those of you who pray, please pray; those of you who think positive thoughts, please think positive thoughts.

It'd be really nice for something to work out. Really nice. Especially before the voices get louder and the colours get brighter.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Hand-Knit Psychadellic Socks!

This weekend, Eleanor gave Bizarro Mom and me some hand-knit socks, knit by Eleanor, the Master Knitter, herself. She's so good that she can simultaneously knit without looking, listen to a sermon, talk and eat chocolate. Talk about talent. :)

Aren't they lovely?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

On Improv Jazz Lessons and Music

Last Tuesday, I had my third Improvisational Piano Lesson, which was as fascinating as the first couple of lessons. Entirely new doors are being opened up in the Music Realm.

With classical lessons, the goal is to play exactly what's on the page. Playing forte instead of piano, refusing to play staccato, adding notes, removing notes, changing the rhythm, etc. is unacceptable.

But this time, during my first lesson, Fernando asked me what types of songs I want to play, how I want to play, and how I want to sound. *scratches her head* Basically, everything's open. Craziness. This week he brought me only the melody of a song and we worked on filling in the jazz chords. He showed me a couple of different ways I could play the piece...

Fernando: "Eh, play whatever chord you want... depends on what you like and what you feel like."
Mary: "Wow, ok. I think I like Amaj7 better than A7."
Fernando: "Me too... though there's really no wrong way to play it."

There's no wrong way. And in jazz, you don't even stick exactly with the original melody.

How can something so technical be so beautiful?

Improv reminds me of mathematical formulas, in a way: you have your basic note and chord patterns and scales, and when you follow these certain patterns and progressions, you end up with a lovely piece of music. All you need is to know the code and how/when/where to apply it. It's as if beauty can be broken down into mathematical-esque formulas.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


It's nice when patterns develop and the Unknown slowly becomes the Known, which is what happened this weekend when I went to Hohegrete for the second time. Last year was great, as was this year.

Here are some high-lights from this year (if you're not sure who someone is, check out the List of Characters):

- getting to know everyone even better

- good talks with various people

- having strangers ask Bizarro Mom and Mr. P if I'm their daughter and having them kind of look at eachother, consider it for a moment, then answer with a semi-yes. :)

- taking walks through the woods

- taking a looong walk with Daisy into a neighboring town, which included fighting our way through private gardens, muddy fields, raging rivers, tunnels, and strange people-less neighborhoods, all in the dark of night. :)

- knitting a scarf with Eleanor

- building a campfire and singing praise songs with Huckleberry, Daisy and the Little Rascal

- interesting, practical seminars

- laughing hysterically about everything from the youth's crazy shenanigans to Eleanor's off-the-wall comments to Bizarro Mom's table manners (or lack thereof). :)

- taking black-mail photos, muahahaha!

- noticing that my age and my immaturity are inversely related... that is, being more immature and free and playful than I've ever been in my entire life. I guess I have to somehow make up for that paranoid-stressed-out-self-conscious child/teenhood.

- observing people and realizing how important body language and the way you carry yourself is in communication

- having excellent examples of God-following-and-fearing people

- sneaking away to play the piano

- finally matching names and faces

Unfortunately, there were a couple of negatives this year as well...

- excruciating stomach ache due to multiple causes

- the fact that Syd stayed home to study and such... even though we missed you, you made the right decision. :)

'Twas a lovely weekend; I'm truly blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

When you wish upon a star...

I think I might have seen a shooting star* this evening while standing outside on the balcony. A little something shimmered, streaked downwards, trailed for a second, then disappeared. It all happened so quickly that I didn't really even have time to make a wish.

Can you wish upon a star post-facto? Is that allowed?

I decided to give it a try, but then I couldn't decide what to wish for, as there are about two or three current wishes (plus, I'm horrible at decision making). After pondering a moment and attempting to somehow prioritize my wishes, I realized it was most likely too late by now; the star had died out a few minutes ago. Or, a few weeks/ months/ years/ whatever ago, depending upon how far away it was.

What if the actual time of shooting was last summer, when I used to make wishes on dandelions* when no one was looking? Wouldn't it be a strange coincidence if the shooting star shined its last shimmer just as I watched the last dandelion seed dance away in the summer wind? Maybe those summer wishes will count double and come true after all. :)

Do you have to wish upon a star at the actual point it shoots, or at the point where you see it shoot? Because there's quite a time difference there, though time is relative.

*shrugs her shoulders*


Monday, February 12, 2007

The Boy Update Post (or, Aidlinger Schwestern, Here I Come!)


Mariposa is currently studying and living with a well-known group of German nuns, the Aidlinger Schwestern, and I'm seriously thinking that becoming a nun is a decent idea. Here are the benefits:

- nuns don't have guy drama

- guys generally don't stalk nuns

- nuns live together

- nuns are like communists, except better

- nuns don't have to worry about what they wear

Liz*: "Mary, we just need to get away from guys."
Mary: "I know! Sometimes I want to pull my hair out!"
Liz: "All of this is just BLAH! Paul was right."
Mary: "Yeah, we should start a Nunnery."
Liz: "Having a Significant Other can distract us from GOD."
Mary: "Can I start calling you Sister Lizzy?"
Liz: "Yes! I like the Nunnery idea. My new motto is,
'No Boys, No Problems.'"
Mary: "I once saw
'Boys are mean. Throw rocks at them.' on a t-shirt."
Liz: "I'm going to get a bull-dozer and get a huge stone to throw at them! A boulder!"
Mary: "YEAH! Me too! Or I'll bake a nice Arsenic Cake."
Liz: "When I think about us girls doing girly stuff together, I feel better."
Mary: "Yeah... too bad we're so far away from eachother now..."

I'm going to start a Nun Revolution, baby! I'm going to be the craziest, most eccentric nun ever. I'm going to be a jazz-piano-playing-Jesus-loving-hookah-smoking-bilingual nun with an amethyst nose stud. Make way, Aidlinger Schwestern, here I come!!!

*my old roomie's younger sister, who's also one of my dearest friends :)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

All you need is Music*

The more experience I have with music, the more I realize just how lovely, important and powerful it is. For exapmle, it has a way of bringing people together, of evaporating barriers between people, of bridging the generation gap.

A perfect example was at Huckleberry and Mariposa's grandparents' house last weekend. There was a certain song their Grandma really wanted me to play, which I managed to learn rather spontaneously. As she was singing it, I think she even had tears in her eyes. The power of music and lyrics never ceases to amaze me.

The other day at church, I was amazed by the intelligent conversation I had with an 11 year old about music and such. He's been taking piano lessing for a while and plays classical music absolutely beautifully, but his mother wants him to be able to improvise. So, we talked and shared stories about piano lessons, practicing, motivation, and the general direction in which he wants to develop. An 11 year old!

Friday afternoons, I'll usually play the piano at church when the kids are having youth group. They'll often stop by and talk with me or ask me to play a certain song or simply listen. Some of the kiddos are pretty rough-around-the-edges with your typical "cool" facade, but they'll come and talk or hang out with me when I'm playing the piano.

All that to say... music has a way of connecting people and bringing them together and it's wonderful.

*sung to the tune of All you need is Love by the Beatles :)

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Adventures of Huckleberry, Scaramouche and Mary

Sunday evening was seriously one of the craziest and funniest evenings ever. After visiting Mariposa in southern Germany this weekend, what should have been a 4.5 hour drive home with Huckleberry turned into a 7-or-so hour crisis. 'Twas but a fun and entertaining crisis.

It all started out peaceful and innocent enough... driving through the lovely German country side, talking, eating chocolates and listening to music. By the way, The White Stripes is probably the only band whose sound is actually improved when listened to on old, trashed-out car speakers. But when we decided to switch drivers at the next gas station, Scaramouche wouldn't start up. After trying practically everything possible, including being helped by a mechanic with jumper cables, Huckleberry wiggled a few cables around and she miraculously started.

Normal people would have simply driven home at this point; the story should have ended here. But are we normal? And did it end here? No and nooooooo. Of course not. :)

Huckleberry: "We're getting close to Siegburg, where I was in the military last year... do you want to see the barracks?"
Mary: "Yeah, definitely."
*thinks it'd be interesting to compare it to Paris Island, where Dad was in the military*
Huckleberry: "It'll be about a ten minute detour."
Mary: "Ten minutes... that's not bad. We have time."

Ten minutes. Hahaha. Little did we know.

Instead of simply driving by the barracks and looking, we took a detour from our detour and drove to a place called Michael's Platz Berg, which is on top of a little mountain where you can look out over the city. Scaramouche made it up the mountain; we wandered around and looked down at the city; it was all fun and lovely until we got back to the car...

Huckleberry: *looks at me with a funny face* "Oooh, the car won't start."
Mary: "Stop it! That's not a joking matter."
Huckleberry: "No, it really won't start."
Mary: "Das Leben..."

The first time Scaramouche acted up, we were at a nice, lit-up gas station and could easily get help... but this time, we were at the top of some semi-secluded mountain; his cell phone battery was practically dead; I had 88 Euro Cents on my cell phone; and wiggling the cables around didn't seem to help.

We managed to roll the car part-way down the hill under a lamppost, and thanks to Mr. E, we knew approximately what had to be done. At one point I was even under the car, tinkering around, while the motor was running (Dad, are you proud or what??). Huckleberry decided to give it one last try, but when things started sparking, metal pieces started flying, and it looked like he was electrocuting himself, I kind of freaked out and told him we ought to call it an evening.

Huckleberry: "Looks like we're going to have to take the train home... but trains are fun."
Mary: "Ok, let's get the important stuff out of the car..."
Huckleberry: "And let's roll it to a legal parking space..."
Mary: "But first, let's try to turn it on once more."
Huckleberry: "Sure, why not?"
*turns the key in the ignition*
Scaramouche: "I'M ALIVE!"

Yes, she started up again. Just like that. It was the strangest thing.

This time, however, we unanimously decided not to stop the car... no matter how many interesting sights there were to see on the way home.

When we reached the Moers-Huelsdonk Exit*, which looked especially bright and beautiful that evening, he suggested we drive around a little more just for fun, but it was pushing 1 AM, the CD was coming to an end, and we were both pretty dirty and tired.

'Twas quite the adventure.

Here are some pictures... enjoy. :)

*our exit for Neukirchen-Vluyn

Monday, February 05, 2007

Back home!

Well, Huckleberry and I made it home after visiting Mariposa in southern Germany this weekend. And it was a miracle that we made it home. I really ought to get some sleep, so I'll write about our little adventure later... but here's what it involved, to give you a preview:

- jumper cables

- really dirty (and cold) hands

- Huckleberry almost getting electrocuted

- lots of laughing

Hehe, life is never dull here.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Sad Duesseldorf Experience and Thoughts on the current work situation in Germany

I had an interview in downtown Duesseldorf* today and had quite a sad experience.

As background information, let me just say that the general work situation here is very different from that of the States. German employees are more protected than American employees in the sense that it's difficult for an employer to lay someone off. Because of these employee protection laws, employers are much more reluctant to actually hire people because they know that once someone's on board, it's next to impossible to get rid of them. Although it's much more difficult to find a job here than in the States, at least you know that when you do have a job, you're relatively secure. Ok... my situation is different** in that the company went bankrupt and doesn't exist anymore. But as long as the company exists, it must take care of its employees.

As a result, there's been a practically exponential growth of temp-agencies*** over the past decade or so. Of course, this is great for the employer: they can test people out before hiring them or can hire someone temporarily. And it's great for the temp-agencies, as they deduct a hefty chunk of your salary. And for your Average Jobless Joe? Not so good, folks. He's gets a temporary position and earns half his salary.

Back to the sad moment in Duesseldorf today. With my suit and high-heels, I must've looked half-way grown-up and professional because I was approached by a sad-looking and somewhat shabby lady.

Lady: "Excuse me, mam?"
Mary: "Yes...?"
Lady: "I'm looking for work... do you need help with cleaning or taking care of your household?"
Mary: *not sure if she's heard correctly* "Excuse me?"
Lady: "I'm just looking for work and am wondering if you have anything I could do."
Mary: "I'm sorry, but I really don't..."
Lady: "Do you have sweet children? I could help take care of your children."
Mary: "No, I'm sorry, I don't... I don't have any work..."
Lady: "I'm just a musician, looking for something else to do as well..."
Mary: "I'm sorry... I can't help... I'm really sorry."

What do you say in a situation like that?

I was so taken aback that all I did was apologize.

When thinking about it later, I realized how deceiving outer appearances can be. She assumed I was older, had things together, was somehow established, had a house, maybe had kids, would be able to hire someone, could somehow give her a job. No! Wrong! Just because I can parade around in a stupid stuffy suit in the downtown business area doesn't mean I have things together. Not at all. I'm young (well, age is relative), don't have things together, am not established, am frequently confused, am not a homeowner, don't have kids, don't have the means to hire someone, and am looking for work myself.

I wanted to give her a hug and tell her that we're on exactly the same level and that I wasn't actually on my way to work, but on my way to another interview... but I was so taken aback and then she disappeared. So I just stood there and could have kicked myself.

Life is so freaking sad and weird sometimes.

*a huge German city with an international airport, about 35 km away from my little town

**as always... me and my situations being weird/different... the Story of my Life. But hey, at least it's rarely boring.

***Zeitarbeitsfirmen, Personalberatungsfirmen