Hey, I Was In A Movie!

By | October 15, 2019

So: I’m a featured subject in a just-released documentary film.

For reals.

The documentary is titled “Orchestrating Change” and is all about Me2/Orchestra, the orchestra I’ve been playing French horn in since 2011. Me2/Orchestra was founded to raise awareness and fight stigma about the realities of mental illness. The members of the orchestra run the gamut of conditions — bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism spectrum, anxiety, and everything in between — but you don’t have to have mental illness to be a member. The orchestra is specifically “for individuals with mental illnesses and the people who support them” — so anyone who plays an instrument can join it. We form a model organization, in which people with and without mental illnesses work together in an environment of acceptance and mutual support.

Emmy-award-winning creators Barbara Multer-Wellin and Margie Friedman heard about Me2/Orchestra a few years ago and immediately realized that this group of amazing people would make for an equally amazing documentary. They spent several months (spread across about two years) visiting Burlington and Boston, spending time with the members of Me2/Orchestra Burlington and the newer Me2/Orchestra Boston — then went back to Los Angeles to do the hard work of compiling all the stories and pain and accomplishment into one incredible documentary.

It was screened here in Burlington at Main Street Landing Performing Arts Center the evening of October 12 and then was screened repeatedly in Boston over the following days. As one of the featured participants in the film, I was asked to be part of a roundtable discussion after the showing, along with the other featured members of Me2/Orchestra Burlington.

I wish I could share the whole movie with everyone I know because it really is a phenomenal, outstanding picture. In my opinion, it really tells the story of Me2/Orchestra in the way that we hoped it would be told — revealing the members as musicians, friends, people — showing that those who suffer from mental illness can still have prodigious talent and creativity. Since it’s not yet in wide release (they’re still working on that), I can point you to the website for Orchestrating Change, the film, which has a lot of nice resources including a few short scenes from the film and a printable discussion guide. There’s also a nice article in the Boston Globe that’s worth a look.

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Green Mountain Horn Club performance in North Hero

By | August 10, 2019

The Green Mountain Horn Club has been a thing here in Vermont for several decades, changing in membership over the years but always managing to come together every few months to put on fun French Horn-only performances for our legions of admiring fans.

We did a performance recently in North Hero, Vermont at a little roadside venue called Island Arts (North Hero is one of the town-sized islands in northern Lake Champlain). We had assistance from a piccolo player (for the “Stars and Stripes Forever”) and several drummers from the talented pool of Vermont percussion players. Four of our horn players also brought their Wagner tubas — brass instruments that look like skinny, stretched-out French horns — to use for three numbers. It was a fun evening and I’m grateful to our legendary conductor and organizer, Charles Mayhood, for putting the whole thing together.

Jay sat on a blanket in front of the band and did his best to film the performance on his cell phone, but predictably had a few “oops”-es along the way. Fortunately, a cameraman from Lake Champlain Access Television was also present, to film the performance for later broadcast, and just the other day the video went up on their website. Enjoy.

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Bear

By | July 9, 2019

Bear on my front porch this morning.

Yes, you’re supposed to take your bird feeders in during the spring so as not to attract bears coming out of hibernation. We’ve actually only had ours out for the last month or so.

Our reaction to the bear coming onto our porch today was “Hey, dammit, it’s JULY. Get lost. You’ve been awake for weeks.”

Parenthetically, it’s not illegal per se to have birdfeeders in Vermont. It’s generally accepted that you take them in at the end of the winter before bears wake from hibernation… but a lot of people put them back out again once late spring or early summer comes.

We checked the law, and the law says “it’s illegal to knowingly feed bears” — https://legislature.vermont.gov/statutes/section/10/113/04827a — and so that more or less translates to “if you know bears are raiding your birdfeeders, it’s illegal to leave them out.”

So, yeah, we’ll be taking them in until winter. It’s a pity, because our cats absolutely love watching the birds, but the law is there for a reason. You don’t want to train the local bear population to see human habitations as places to get a snack.

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2019 ACDA “Gather at the River” Conference

By | July 2, 2019

I took part in the 2019 “Gather at the River” choral conference hosted by the Vermont chapter of the ACDA (American Choral Directors Association) this past weekend at Harwood Union High School in Duxbury (quack) Vermont.

I was part of the Hawaiian music “chamber choir” in addition to singing in the massed choir. I really liked the Hawaiian music we sang, and I got permission from our director, Jace Saplan of the University of Hawaii – Manoa choral program, to share the videos of our performance with you. (For more about Jace, see this article.)

(Jay was sitting in the audience recording and stopped recording at the end of the three-section Hawai’i Island Suite, not realizing we had a fourth piece — ‘Oiwi E — that we were about to do — but he turned recording back on as soon as he realized what was about to happen.)

We (the massed conference choir) also performed “Dona Nobis Pacem” by Ralph Vaughn Williams. We had two wonderful soloists and a great all around choir and I was more than happy to just be a member and enjoy being part of such a terrific group.

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Final fundraising push for the 2019 Twin Cities Susan G Komen 3-Day

By | June 27, 2019

Dear reader, we’ve made major strides against breast cancer mortality in the last ten years, but there’s still so much work left to do.

It costs money to treat patients, conduct clinical trials, detect tumors, and educate at-risk populations. Donations from my friends, family, and co-workers have helped more than one might realize — the Komen foundation has been at the front of most major advances in the war against cancer in the last decade, and it’s because of people like you that we’ve come this far.

Jay and I are signed up to walk in a month and a half in the 2019 Twin Cities Susan G. Komen 3-Day. In order to walk, I have to raise a minimum of $2,300. Right now, I’m at $1,408 — so I’m just shy of $700 to go.

You can donate to Komen and sponsor me here: http://www.the3day.org/goto/carole

All dollars raised through from now until July 8 will directly fund the national Komen Treatment Assistance Program. Join the challenge today and help us make breast cancer treatment accessible for more people across the country.

I would be really, really, really, really grateful if you could and would sponsor me again this year. If you’re so disposed, you can donate by going to http://www.the3day.org/goto/carole — that link will take you directly to my fundraising page where you can donate and get a receipt for your taxes.

Thank you so much, everyone!

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Aurora Chamber Singers Babylon

By | May 1, 2019

Hi, everyone! I’m a member of the Aurora Chamber Singers and our spring concert is coming up on May 11!

If you live within two days’ drive of Burlington, Vermont I hope you’ll mark your calendar and plan to attend.

This will probably be the single greatest, most exciting concert any of us will ever take part in, either as performer or as audience member.

Remember all those people who say they were at Woodstock, even though actual attendance was only 400,000 or so? If everyone who says they were there had actually been there… well, let’s just say there’d be a lot more 49-year-olds named “Flower” or “Sunshine” roaming around today.

The same is going to be true of this concert (we cannot guarantee an actual open-air “love-in”, but we can’t guarantee that this won’t happen, either) … and you want to be one of the people who can truthfully say “I WAS THERE!”, don’t you?

Of course you do. So please make plans to attend.

What’s on the program, you ask?

Crossing Borders

R. Nathaniel Dett Chariot Jubilee
Listen to the Lambs
America the Beautiful (Katherine Lee Bates)
Howard Hanson Song of Democracy (Walt Whitman)
David Conte Three Mexican Folk Songs
Frederick Piket Sea Charm (Langston Hughes)

The concert celebrates music with ties to Canada, the United States, and Mexico. The two 20th century cantatas by African-Canadian composer R. Nathaniel Dett represent our neighbor to the north. U.S. composer Howard Hanson’s Song of Democracy sets words by Walt Whitman, and Frederick Piket’s song cycle Sea Charm sets the deeply moving words of Harlem Renaissance poet, Langston Hughes. David Conte’s arrangement of Three Mexican Folk Songs completes the border crossings.

We’re talking “total consciousness expansion” here, people.

I don’t want to see any of you sitting around on Sunday the 12th weeping openly because you missed this once in a lifetime experience. Mark your calendars now!

Once again, that’s:

Saturday May 11th, 2019 7:30 PM
College Street Congregational Church, Burlington

Tickets available via flynntix.com or at the door.

 

Be there, or be square.

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Weight loss update: Week 2

By | April 21, 2019

This is a follow-up to Weight loss update: Week 1

I did not lose any weight this week. However, I have decided that since I already eat a pretty reasonable diet — breakfast/lunch/dinner-wise, anyway, I’m going to focus on getting more physically active, and hope the weight loss comes along as a result of that.

This past week I walked from work to rehearsal of the Aurora Chamber Singers rather than driving, and walked back at the end to pick up my car. Round trip about a mile, but that’s something. And then today Jay and I walked 4.5 miles.

I really, really, really want to get back in the habit of doing a daily walk at lunch and to doing yoga classes after work. The reason I haven’t been is twofold: on Mondays and Tuesdays, when I could’ve gone to a class or something, I’ve been too lazy and tired after work to trudge the whole block to Sangha Studios on Pine Street in Burlington for yoga. And on Wednesdays and Thursdays I have rehearsal of musical groups I’m in. And on Friday, I guess I tend to want to leave that open for doing something with Jay. Of course, I could do yoga on the weekends.

“Concert season” will be wrapping up soon with concerts of the Aurora Chamber Singers on May 11 at the College Street Congregational Church in Burlington (information here) and Me2/ Orchestra at Lamoille Union High School in Hyde Park, VT on May 18. (information here). (There’s also a concert of Me2/ Orchestra in Montreal on May 11 but I can’t go because of the Aurora Chamber Singers concert the same night.) Once rehearsals wrap up for the summer, it’ll be a lot easier to get exercise in.

It’s also easier when Jay’s in town because he can guilt/harangue me into going to a yoga class after work or come by and drag me out on a walk. Burlington (where I work) has lovely walking trails, especially along the waterfront, and I work a block from the waterfront.

Then, too, I plan to start aikido lessons once the concerts are over. I’ve already got my gi (the white jacket and pants that you wear while out on the mat) and made connections at the local dojo on Pine Street (also a very short distance from my office).

So I do have plans. I just need to stop making excuses to myself and carry them out.

 

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Weight loss update: Week 1

By | April 14, 2019

My weight is down about 2 pounds from a week ago. Sounds good I guess, but I don’t think it’s anything to shout about. I’ve weighed myself several times this week, and I’ve seen the numbers go down a little, up a little, down again… I know that it isn’t really valuable to weigh in every day; I know that differences of a pound or two from day to day aren’t significant and that they represent the weight of water, undigested food, etc. I also know that net pounds lost only tells half the story, because a pound of muscle lost is worse than useless. I’ve got to pick up some resistance exercises to keep from losing muscle mass.

I haven’t been keeping an obsessive log of my food intake because I know that, for the most part, I eat healthy food and not to excess. Although maybe I should keep track; it’s hard to know how much over diet I go on a given day because of eating out once or getting free bagels at work. Free snacks, especially carbs (which is what most freebies are), are my weakness.

What I really need to change is my activity level. I have been trying to do that this week. Last Sunday Jay and I went for a 4-mile walk outdoors. On Monday I treadmilled for about 20 minutes. On Tuesday I rode the exercise bike for about 40. It’s hard to keep track of all these things, even with a Fitbit watch to record my activities…because for the most part, it doesn’t record them automatically. I have to stop and start the record. I nearly always forget. But I’ve started manually entering all my activities into Strava, in hopes that seeing a record of it will give me positive reinforcement. It’s been a good technique for me before.

Oh yeah, I also did a few exercises with barbells on Friday. Bicep curls, deltoid extensions. I need to get more systematic about that and add a whole range of exercises.

 

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Wherein: We Are Fat

By | April 8, 2019

Jay and I are fat.

We’re suffering from the same fate that afflicts a lot of prosperous First World people with demanding jobs and insufficient get-up-and-go: ample “padding” and clothes that don’t fit any more.

It doesn’t help that:

  1. Jay suffers from major depression
  2. I suffer from depression and a certain amount of media addiction (translation: I watch way too much TV)
  3. We both suffer from seasonal affective disorder to a certain extent — we tend to cocoon during the long dark winter months and get almost no exercise
  4. Jay travels for work and isn’t here at the end of the day to kick my ass and get me to exercise
  5. Jay travels for work and so he’s not here at the end of the day so I can kick his ass and get him to exercise
  6. We snack too much
  7. We’re both really, really, really good at making excuses

Thus, we’ve decided to take the dramatic and possibly futile step of publicly sharing our attempts at losing weight. We’re planning on posting weekly weight and exercise updates … hoping that sharing our progress with the world will keep us honest.

We have every app in the book (MyFitnessPal, MapMyWalk, Strava, Fitbit, Google Fit, MyRally, Mindbody). We have Fitbit Ionic smartwatches with GPSes. We have a smart scale that syncs our weight automatically to four of those apps. We have a treadmill. We have a stationary exercise bike. We have actual bicycles that we could, you know, use once in a while. We have kayaks for when Lake Champlain gets above 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Jay has fitness centers in all the hotels he stays in. We have free weights — dumbbells and mini dumbbells in various sizes.

None of those make a bit of difference if we don’t use them.

We know diets can work if you have enough willpower. Back in 2009, Jay got … a bit zealous and dropped his weight from 238 (or so) to 178. He did this by strictly limiting his calories to about 1400 a day and spending an hour on an inclined treadmill at 4.7 miles an hour. Obviously, that’s kind of extreme. And it led, in Jay’s case, to a slow rebound back up, via various plateaus every ten pounds or so, to where he is now. Neither of us expects to repeat that kind of monastic discipline; we’re ten years older and have ten more years’ worth of bad habits. But still…

I’m not going to say what I weigh now. Let’s just call it X. My goal is to get down to X-30, ultimately. And X-10 this year, preferably by the end of the summer.

Jay told me to go ahead and share his actual weight – as of this morning he’s at 251 pounds. He’s 6’2. He wants it to be noted, furthermore, that based on his height and weight he’s got a BMI of 32.2 and that means he’s obese. If we wants to be out of the “overweight” zone on the BMI scale he’s got to get his weight down below 195. (Yes, we know the BMI concept has its flaws.) So that’s Jay’s goal long-term — to get back down south of 195. And in the short term, he wants to get back down below 220. So, a loss of 30 or so pounds for him as well.

We’re both planning on walking the 2019 Twin Cities Susan G Komen 3-Day in mid-August and we’re planning on doing as many training walks as possible. We did a four-mile walk yesterday on a chilly, but not cold, day. We’re going to increase our distance week by week until we’re doing 13 miles and 15 miles and so on. Last time we jointly did a lot of training (again, back in 2009) I got in much better shape. So that’s the ace in our sleeve – we’re going to do a crazy amount of walking.

We apologize in advance if our posts about our weight loss progress become annoying — but it seems like holding ourselves publicly accountable is the only option we have left. Thanks in advance for your understanding and support.

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Another Year, Another Marauding Antediluvian Saurian Bearing Angiosperms

By | February 14, 2019

I think Champ is really obsessed with me. He came by my office for the second year in a row to wish me Happy Valentine’s Day!

Doesn’t he look bigger than last year? The handler who brought him in, said he’d been eating a lot of hot dogs. I dunno, I heard he’s been eating a lot of kids. 😉

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