Posted in Children, Children's Music YouTube, Coronavirus, Music

Surviving the Pandemic – First Day Back in Classes

3 puppets

My husband teaches music and has many daycare and preschool classes. Today was his first day back, teaching in class. Only one center has opened at this time. He returned just as I finished my previous post, so I thought I’d share how his class went.

“I haven’t seen you for a very long time,” Mr. Sheldon told the class.

“No, but we saw you on the video. And you were talking on there.”

The class watched his videos during the past weeks when he was unable to go in.

“Mr. Sheldon, why are you wearing those garbage bags on your feet?”

He was wearing the blue slippers worn by surgical teams.

“Well, those turn my outside shoes into inside shoes.”

“Cause of the coronavirus?”

Yes, that’s it. Kids understand a lot.

The supervisor exclaimed that they were going to tell him about the slippers before he came but they were just so excited that Mr. Sheldon was coming back that they forgot.

Mr. Sheldon explained that he couldn’t give stamps today.

“We’re not supposed to have stamps because they touch one child’s hand and then another child’s.” He pointed to his hand and demonstrated. “I will keep the stamps for when we can do that again. But I’m not going to tell you which one it will be. It’s going to be a secret.” They never know what the next stamp will be.

“OK. But don’t lose it.”

“No, I’m not going to lose it. I will know exactly where it is for when we can do that again.”

He couldn’t “high five” the children at the end of the class, so he had them hold up one hand with the other and shake it as they said “Good-bye Mr. Sheldon.”

They were so excited to have him back today. Music day is the highlight of the children’s week. Many parents tell Mr. Sheldon that music day is the one day they never have a problem getting their children to go to school.

Posted in Children's Music YouTube, Coronavirus, COVID-19, De-stressing, Food, Food Security, Home, Marriage & Family, Music, sustainability

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 7 at Home

tsawassen Mills
Tsawwassen Mills May 3, 2020

Went to Tsawwassen Mills for our weekly social distancing walk yesterday. I realize now what I am subconsciously doing. I’m conditioning myself for the new normal. My brain feels like it is spinning, sometimes, like it lacks traction, when I try to imagine what we will be walking into in the next months, maybe years.

I read an interesting speculative article in the National Post. “We’ll have to reinvent ourselves,” futurist Nicola Danayov says.

Regarding the measures to control the virus, Danayov says, “when you’re selling survival you can justify anything.” He adds that the public will have to weigh in on these measures with “debate and discussion and a vote.” We will need to give careful thought to the best way to move forward, calculating the risks. As I mentioned in a previous article, I pray that we will come up with new, creative solutions.

One solution I saw this morning, in an article, was body temperature scanning at a liquor store. The concern, of course, is around privacy and the storing of information. Maybe the risk is minimal if there no identifying information attached, like when your speed limit is read back to you from a road sign. I don’t know anything about this technology, but it sounds like a possibility. You can go to Science World and have your body temperature scanned without submitting any information about yourself. Maybe it’s like that.

Looking ahead I picture there will be a lot of mask wearing. Airlines already require passengers to wear masks during flights. We will continue to physical distance. Sanitization and hand washing will continue. Full face shields might be required at public events.

We will need wise leaders to guide us into the future. People who are actually thinking things through to their logical conclusions. We’ve all seen knee jerk reactions that have not proved to be helpful.

Apart from keeping the food supply chain going, and people keeping their homes and having a means of providing for themselves and their dependents, my concern is that we not be trapped by fear. That is why I am traipsing about a little now. We went out twice this week.

I see meet-ups in parking lots, distancing by six feet. I see families doing “virtual hugs” with grandchildren after a social distancing walk in a park. Face-time and Zoom are great but we need to figure out how we can move forward in closer proximity with one another, with some degree of physical connection. I read that handshakes may be a thing of the past. Let’s find a way not to allow that to happen.

I’ve thought a lot about “essential services.” Never have lowly tasks been so highly valued. I think there is a lesson in this for all of us.

What is truly essential, I ask myself? Some businesses will collapse under the strain of protective restrictions and this has made me ask the question, “What is essential?” What could we reduce or even live without?

In my youth we were not wealthy. Most of the time our family lived very frugally. One advantage we had was that we lived on a farm and were pretty self-sufficient in terms of fruit, vegetables and meat. We bought our milk from a neighboring dairy farm. We still purchased staples at the grocery store.

I think of the list of non-essentials we did not spend money on back then because we could not afford them. A lot of businesses would close today if people lived as we did back then.

I spent a number of years in the Philippines and was impressed by how well people could do with so little. I was touched by their sense of gratitude and joy, too. My parents grew up in poverty. My mother told me that her family was able to write a letter once a month when they tore the page off the calendar and wrote on the back of it. Often when I see junk mail in my mailbox I think about the fact that not once did we receive a flyer of advertising in the Philippines. The average citizen could not afford a newspaper.

What would our society look like without non-essentials? Jesus admonished us to be content with “food and clothing.” That’s really paring it down to essentials. Analysts are saying that we will be spending less on non-essentials in coming months and maybe for years. What will that look like? Can stores reopen and stay open with the restrictions imposed on them? Will there be customers? How many people will hesitate to go out? Will their spending habits change?

As I said previously, in one of my updates, I am troubled when I look at high rises. I wasn’t sure why, but I am beginning to get some clarity. They are the exterior symbol of prosperity, of modernization. But when we really think about it, they are a visual of how people are treated like a commodity. They say, all you need is a box to live in, a space from which you can go to make money and then go to all the places where you will spend your money. You are needed to keep the economy going and the more of you we have in a small space, the more money will be spent.

The economy is reeling. But suddenly the economy is taking second place to life itself.

Where I lived in the Philippines life centered around harvest, not the economy. Essentially life centered around procuring food. A good harvest provided food and a little money for essentials. If you had a job or a business, your aim was to make enough to buy food. Unlike Canada, the focus was not on bringing in as many immigrants as possible to boost the economy.

I read today that the coronavirus will affect enrollment of foreign students in Canada. Why is this a concern? Because International students contribute C$21 billion annually to the nation’s economy, according to government data.” International students “are crucial to Canada’s higher educational institutions as they pay higher fees. They make up more than a fifth of the post-secondary student body and bring in close to C$6 billion ($4.3 billion) in tuition annually, according to a Royal Bank of Canada report.” (see article)

It is essential to train students in Canada so that they can then stay and work here, which means we are draining the best resources out of developing countries. Of course, the U.S. has done the same to Canada, head-hunting our most skilled. I read recently that Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) send home money equivalent to one tenth of the Philippine GDP. I have witnessed mothers separated from their children for years on end. One mother’s young son died while she was working as a nanny in Canada.

flag

These are thoughts that run through my mind as I ponder our future and the future of the whole world.

Tomorrow we will create another Music With Mr. Sheldon episode for the children. My husband is doing a few domestic things these days. Here is the kombucha he bottled this week.

kombuchaMy mom is somewhat improved after her I.V. so this is good news. My sister’s cancer surgery is scheduled for Thursday. She will not be allowed any visitors during one week of hospitalization. As difficult as I find it not to be able to fly out and be with her at this time, it must be even more challenging for her family. She has been isolating from them for three weeks now.

While some send cheers, thoughts, sighs and best wishes, my deepest comfort arises out of the knowledge that my concerns are brought before the throne of God in prayer. The same God who pays such intricate attention to every detail of creation will care for me and those I love.

On a final note, I know families are struggling relationally while being isolated in close quarters. There are ways we can approach these challenges that can actually draw us closer together if we have a long term vision for our relationships. Show a little faith in each other. Speak words of support. Your kids and your spouse are trying. Give love room to grow.

Posted in art, Children's Music YouTube, Coronavirus, De-stressing, Health, Home, Music

Surviving Coronavirus Isolation – Week 6 at Home

latte
Latte delivered to my “office.”

I missed my weekly distancing walk on Sunday with family. I was sad about that, but it’s OK. I’ve been having some minor health issues, not coronavirus related. My system has always been sensitive and requires a delicate balancing act.

This past week I celebrated a birthday, in isolation, as many of us are these days. The day before I was a bit down about this, but then I told myself I would make this day great! And I did! Our son and daughter-in-law gifted us with Skip the Dishes so my husband set up the app and we ordered a meal. Another new experience!

skip the dishes

For breakfast I requested that he make us waffles. His first time.

“I gave you the opportunity to do something special for my birthday,” I smiled at him as we were in the living room later that evening. He smiled, a little tentatively.

“I had never made waffles before.”

“It’s really not that difficult. The only thing you have to do is be willing to stand over a waffle iron and know how to beat egg whites,” I told him.

The waffles and the latte (above) were his “gift” to me. We used bacon drippings in the waffles and had them with eggs. The drippings gave the flavor of bacon and eggs. It was delicious!

During this time we are trying not to waste anything, however, we pulled a glass container out of the fridge today and neither of us were able to identify what it was. It was green and furry. Well, we try.

I just finished my part in the production of Music with Mr. Sheldon. My husband has gone down from full-time work to about five hours a week, but he is a trooper. I’m glad I live with someone who insists on being optimistic. This morning when I awoke feeling really off, he had to take over the filming on his own, for the first time.

Guess what I did, after I rested today? I got out my guitar and started singing. I even printed three new songs off of Ultimate Guitar. I want to put a plug in for the site. It is one of the best investments I’ve made. Lately I’ve learned to sing Tennessee Whiskey, Chris Stapleton. Never thought I could do that, but it’s amazing what you can do if you try!

For about twenty years I stopped listening to the old Rock’n’Roll music I used to love. I think music was my surrogate parent and taking a break was actually a good thing. During those twenty years I was a worship leader. Last week I organized all of my worship music. I have a huge collection. Now, strangely enough, I’m picking up some of my old secular favorites again. I can’t say why a lot of the worship music just does not appeal to me at this time in my life. It’s not like I’m having a crisis of faith. But I am re-evaluating a lot of things.

After singing for awhile I decided I might as well put my adrenalin to use editing and I finished the Mr. Sheldon video in the bedroom, with a latte–did I mention my husband roasts his own coffee beans? He stayed in the living room to teach a couple of groups of students in a school that has gone online. Earphones come in handy these days.

I noticed flags near our place are at half mast this week. I haven’t seen any news report on this but between the coronavirus and the shooting in Nova Scotia, we have reason to give acknowledgement. Yesterday we met a lot of people applauding health care workers with bells and other noise makers during our walk, around 7:00 p.m. I became teary-eyed because I had just got off the phone talking with our son who is a health care worker in the U.S. Three people died in his dementia unit this week, but not of the coronavirus. I could hear his heartbreak over the fact that relatives were unable to visit in the past month and only came in during the final hours to be with their loved ones, outfitted in protective gear from head to toe and not allowed to touch their family member, but needing to remain six feet away. I do hope there is more leniency for seniors to have visitors soon.

One bit of good news is that my sister’s cancer is localized, so she will only require one surgery. We are so relieved that it has not spread. We are still working at stabilizing my mother’s electrolytes, with family taking her for weekly lab tests and an intravenous intervention that left her feeling unwell this week. She is a very stalwart and positive person of faith, so I read between the lines when she said, “I’ve had better days” and seemed eager to get off the phone to rest.

paintings

This week I finished a painting I’ve been working on. Two paintings, actually. I’ve recently tried my hand at acrylics, after painting watercolors for years. It’s been a challenge. Here is another painting I did this year.

roses painting

We haven’t dug out the puzzles yet. Still time for that. Cheers!

Posted in Church, faith, Music, Worship

Are You Listening?

hand-to-ear-listening

The ear is a very delicate instrument. Hearing loss can happen after long or repeated exposure to sounds at or above 85 decibels. The louder the sound, the shorter the amount of time it takes for noise induced hearing loss (NICL) to happen. Below 75 decibels is generally considered a safe sound level.

I have hearing loss in one ear and occasionally find it frustrating when I miss the end of a phrase or have to follow someone’s lips to try and make out the words. It’s the softer or higher frequency sounds that are muffled. I frequently have to move nearer to the person speaking in order to hear.

I cringe when I overhear the younger generation talk about how their ears are still ringing the next day after attending a concert. My husband is a music instructor and he carefully guards his ears from excessive volumes of noise because he knows how important it is nothonouring the elderly 2 only for his teaching, but for his musicianship and personal enjoyment to be able to hear.

This week I had a senior woman approach me in church and express her concern about the volume of the music and the possibility that babies and young children could be suffering hearing loss by being subjected to the worship music. I had never really thought about this before. I know that I have been in worship services where the decibel level of the music would require safety gear in an industrial environment.

Although I have a concern about the babies, I am actually more concerned at the moment about this dear woman. She was clearly distressed about this matter and had not known to whom she should turn. Here is a “mother in Israel” speaking from her heart, yet no one is listening.

On an occasion when I spoke to a pastor about the volume of the music his response was simply, “The young people like it loud.”lift-hands-to-worship

One Sunday I commented to an usher that the music was loud this Sunday. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a packet of earplugs and handed them to me. This is how we are to cope with our discomfort in worship services.

I have brought my own earplugs, but find it awkward when I have to remove them to greet people or take them out during prayer and then have to put them back in again. It’s something I don’t really want people to notice me doing.

There is a difference between preferring it loud, and finding the volume physically distressing to the point of needing to use ear plugs to get relief. On more than one occasion I have had to leave the service because the beat of the bass caused my heart to lose it’s natural rhythm and I feared I might end up in Emergency. Thankfully my heartbeat returned to normal shortly after I left the sanctuary.

Some attendees solve this problem of uncomfortably loud music by coming to church after the singing. A woman told me that her husband, who is an usher, has seen many people walk out because of the volume of the music, even newcomers to the church. The sad thing is that some never come back.

Posted in Music

Making Music

I learned an interesting lesson before Christmas. I don’t have to have a complete plan in place before I initiate something.

A friend and I get together on occasion and play some music. One day in early November I made a suggestion. Why not practice a set of Christmas music and see if we can find places to sing? The idea was surprising to my friend, and to tell you the truth, I surprised myself. I didn’t know if this would go anywhere, but we could begin by trying.

We met nearly every day for a week to work on our set list. We chose all the popular songs we loved, like White Christmas, Silver Bells, Mary’s Boy Child, and a collection of traditional Christmas carols. Then we practiced for up to ten hours a week.

IMG_2424Once we began to sound pretty good to ourselves we thought we should see if we could get a few gigs. We came up with a name–SweetClover, designed a promo brochure, recorded a short demo and contacted a list of seniors homes. To our amazement we soon had a few bookings. Through a friend of mine we were even invited to be the featured guests at a Salvation Army Women’s Christmas Tea.

Now we had to fine-tune our show. We started to practice by setting up just as we would for a performance. I had a portable sound system we were able to use. We recorded and timed our songs, so that we knew we were within the time frames we were given. We had a nice mix of faster and slower songs.

When it came to our first performance we were ready. A seniors home requested that we sing a short, fifteen minute set for each of their units over the lunch hour. We didn’t need our sound system for this, but it meant picking up and hauling our equipment down the hall or up an elevator three or four times. We did this two afternoons. It was a great breaking in period.

IMG_2399The highlight of the season was the Salvation Army Tea. The women who organized the event had decorated every table uniquely with its own Christmas theme and special tea settings. The church looked very festive with trees and lights, an over-sized open Bible on a podium, large poinsettias, and life-like figurines of Mary and Joseph.

This was our first time with a sound system and there were a couple of snags to work through but we had given ourselves plenty of time so as not to feel under pressure. The large decorative arrangement at the centre of the stage blocked the view from half of the room so this had to be moved, which then in turn required us to rearrange some of the other decorations. In consultation with the person in charge, we were able to get the stage set with time to spare.

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and were very well received by an enthusiastic group of about eighty women. This did a lot to boost our confidence.

At the end of the season we looked back in surprise, almost disbelieving what we had done. It all began with a suggestion to put together a set of songs and see what would happen.

Posted in Music

Music in the Park

We were in Beacon Hill Park when I observed an elderly gentleman sitting on a bench with his violin. The strains of his music floated through the gardens and no one appeared to pay him much mind. But his presence stirred me. Aged and mellowed he played his instrument with the grace and confidence of years. Youth is vibrant and attractive, like the mulit-colored flowers in the gardens. But only the passage of time can create the quiet shelter and shade of a towering tree. To me this man was no transient busker. He belonged, just like the tree next to which he sat.cropped-dsc02976.jpg