Archive | January, 2013

People first

14 Jan

ImageThe first week of January, someone told me that another hammered dulcimer player had moved to town. When I heard this news, I think I felt like some John Wayne-like cowboy– “This town ain’t big enough for the two of us. There’s only one paying St. Paddy’s Day gig in this town, and I don’t aim to let you have it…uh, yep.” Okay, that’s an exaggeration. Actually, what I realized was that I have gotten very lazy about learning new music. If you were to pull out an old Baptist hymnal, and name any familiar hymn from it, I could probably sit down and within a few minutes, work out an arrangement of that song on my hammered dulcimer and play it for you, even improvise a little bit too. When it comes to playing familiar tunes by ear, it is very easy for me to do. However, when it comes to sitting down and learning an unfamiliar tune written out in standard notation, it takes me much longer and my patience wears thin. Also, since the hammered dulcimer is an instrument that you have to play while looking at your hands and not a piece of music, then I feel like a bobble-head doll when attempting to learn written music. Look up at the music, look down at the hammered dulcimer to find the notes, look back up to the music, back down at the hammered dulcimer. It can be dizzying.

There has been one particular piece of music that I have wanted to learn for a long time, but I haven’t because I knew that I would have to sit down and WORK on it by reading and memorizing the music note for note. I have heard this piece several times over the years and every time I have heard it I have thought, “What IS that song? It’s so beautiful.” And every time I would check my CD to find the name of the song, I would see that it’s “Carolan’s Concerto.” The song is, to me, very beautiful, but not very memorable. Or maybe I should say it’s not very memorize-able. I have tried listening to it over and over before, to try and memorize the tune but it just did not stick in my head. Not like a Baptist hymn, anyway. So, I never bothered to attempt to learn it by the notes on the page. I just assumed that I would never be able to learn it because it didn’t make very much musical sense, in the same way that a song with words might.

“Carolan’s Concerto” is one of many songs written by Turlough O’Carolan in the late 1600’s and early 1700’s. So, now I’m going to take a detour here and tell you about him and something that does relate to the purpose of this blog. Several places that I have found with descriptions of Turlough O’Carolan, or Carolan, as he and his friends referred to him, describe him as a blind, Irish harpist. The noticeable thing about these descriptions is that he is labeled first as “blind.”  Actually, the most memorable thing about Carolan was that he was an outstanding and prolific composer. He was a better composer than a harpist, apparently. But, some of these descriptions that I have read put “blind” first.

There has been a movement for at least the last two decades in the world of disabilities to move away from adjective-first language (i.e., disabled person, handicapped person, blind person, deaf person, autistic person, learning-disabled person, etc.) and move toward people-first language (person with disabilities, person with visual or hearing impairment, person with autism, etc.) Apparently, this shift to people-first language has been controversial in some communities, because for some of these communities, what others may call their “disability” is for them a source of culture and pride (for example, in the deaf and visually-impaired communities.) However, the shift has been welcomed in some other communities, for example, those people who have mobility-related disabilities. Not everyone wants to be defined, for example, by what they cannot do. I can understand that. I don’t want to be defined as that “short, bowlegged limping woman.” However, if I were a criminal, that description would be very handy to the police who might be looking for me. I mean, after all, that is the first thing you might notice about me if you saw me out on the street. I guess the more polite thing to say about me if you were describing me would be “the woman with bowlegs, a limp and short stature,” to use people-first language. Hmm…actually, that’s not so great either, I suppose. If you see me out on the street, just ask me my name and strike up a conversation. Then you can describe me as “that woman who is nice and whose name I can’t remember.”

Anyway, there has been a lot written on people-first language. Just Google that phrase and you’ll find many articles. The ones that I read were all very interesting. I understand the reasoning behind it all. People should be people first and their “otherness” should be secondary to the obvious fact that they’re human beings created in the image of God first. I also understand that there are some communities whose “otherness” defines who they are as people. I had a good friend many years ago who was deaf and was thrilled to invite me into her world and her culture of deafness and even more thrilled when I asked her to tutor me in her language. Her identity as a deaf person was very important to her. And while I do have an identity as a person with XLH, it is certainly not the defining thing about me, and it probably isn’t for many folks in that particular community. We are people with many talents and gifts and many characteristics. Yes, we have all those physical traits that come with the territory of having XLH, and it has probably influenced who we’ve become as far as personality is concerned (compassionate comes to mind) but who we are certainly is not limited to our medical diagnosis. That goes for all people, too. We are not solely defined by our professions, our race, gender, age, etc. We do love categories in the U.S.A., but hopefully each of us is way more multi-faceted than some box we check on a survey or census form.

So, back to the hammered dulcimer and Carolan’s Concerto. I found an arrangement of the song that I like, started learning it and within three days, I was playing the song. I discovered something new about myself in the process. The song turned out, for me, to be very memorize-able as long as I didn’t just limit myself to learning it solely by ear. I realized that there was a kind of three-legged stool necessary for me to learn this song, each leg being equally important. In addition to listening, I had to read the written music and also pay extra close attention to the visual patterns of the piece as I played it on the dulcimer. Now I am working on getting the piece up to speed. I needed to take a multi-faceted approach to learn this song, rather than limit myself to trying to learn it solely by ear. I found it sort of ironic that I really had to rely so heavily on the visual aspects of learning it on my instrument rather than my usual aural approach, when it was a song written by a composer who was blind. I’m rather pleased to discover that I am not nearly as impatient as I had judged myself, either. So, now I’m thinking I need to learn one song each month this way. I need to not be so lazy, and push myself to learn something that may require more brain power (and discipline) than normal. I guess I had sort of subconsciously self-labeled myself as music-reading challenged or rather, a person with music-reading challenges. Thank you, Turlough O’Carolan for a beautiful song that is worth the extra work to learn it. Now, I will be ready for that St. Paddy’s day gig. Uh, yep.

Copyright 2013-2018, S.G. Hunter and Banjogrrldiaries

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Numbers

6 Jan

Tucker sleepingTucker thinks this blog is about him. He is bowlegged like me, but I am not a beagle. He, however, sometimes thinks he’s a human, with all the rights and privileges that accompany that. He is wrong.

I had the opportunity to spend some unexpected extra time with my brother and his family in late December. I spent the night at their house…he is married and has two teenage children. I also learned something new about my niece, his daughter, who is 16 years old. We were talking about math, of all things, and more specifically, calculus. She is taking a calculus class at the local state university and when we got into a discussion of how school was going, she said, “That class is killing me!” Now, not to brag or anything, but this kid is SMART. I remarked to my brother once that I thought it should be the goal of every parent to make sure that their kids turn out smarter than their parents. I commended him for his success in that! He agreed but wasn’t exactly sure if it was also a rather backhanded compliment.

Anyway, my niece said that she had really enjoyed algebra, but that calculus was a bit of a mystery to her. I’ll call her Algebragrrl. I told her that I had taken calculus in high school and did not do well in it at all, but I had always attributed that to the fact that I moved to another city right in the middle of high school (11th grade) and the math classes at the new school didn’t really match up to the classes I was in at the old school, and I never really got back on track with math, although I had also loved algebra. My math chat with my niece was a very nice moment for me…realizing that we both had a love of algebra. When she was a young kid, I didn’t really feel a connection to her and so, making this connection with her a few days before Christmas was a really nice feeling. It was an early Christmas present. Then she surprised me even more.

Algebragrrl: I like to count things, too. Do you?

Me: Why YES, I DO! I count steps. How interesting. We must be related. (Snicker.)

Algebragrrl: (Grin.) I also like to put things in alphabetical order. All of our DVD’s are in alphabetical order.

Me: ME TOO! All of my DVD’s are in alphabetical order. I used to want to be a librarian. You would like my coin collection.  I have coins from all over the world, organized in notebooks, in alphabetical order, and also in order of ascending value within each country. I’ll have to show you sometime. I started this collection when I was about 8 years old.

Algebragrrl: (Eyes wide.) Okay!

What a cute kid. I can’t believe she’s 16 years old either! And I was just thrilled to make this new connection with her. (I also found out recently that she likes photography, too.) And what a strange, quirky connection…math, algebra and counting things.

After all the Christmas travels were over, and the calendar flipped over to January, I received an email report from WordPress with my first annual blog summary report. It was chock full of numbers…I loved it. Apparently, WordPress likes to count things, too.

Here’s what I learned: People from 64 countries have viewed my blog, which I began last May. (Gosh, I wonder if I have coins from all of those countries? Better check that out…) The report said I had over 2,300 views of my posts in 2012. My busiest day was last September 18, 2012 when I had 63 views of my blog. My most popular posts were the ones on the leg braces. It must have been the photos of the cute bird feeder that I made with the braces that made it so popular.

I just read all that stuff in the report and thought, “Why?” Then I laughed. Why in the world would someone from clear across the world want to read this? I really have no idea. It could have been accidental. One of the tags is “XLH” which is also some kind of motorcycle.

Anyway, all those numbers do fascinate me. (And, who, by the way, is counting all of those views? Hmmm…)

Here are some more fascinating numbers that I have been thinking about lately, unrelated to the report:

There are over 7 billion people in the world (and this information comes from http://www.worldometers.info). I have something in common with over 7 billion people…I am a human just like they are humans.

There are over 315,000,000 people living in the U.S.A., which is where I live. I share something in common with over 315,000,000 other people…I reside in the U.S.A.

Approximately 51% of those people living in the U.S.A. are women. So, I share something in common with 160,650,000 other people here in the U.S.A. I am a woman. You won’t see that same percentage in Congress or in the prison system, but overall, we are the majority, slightly.

Okay, and now for my fellow XLH-ers, which is the whole reason I started this blog last May: According to http://www.xlhnetwork.org, which is our online support group, 1 in 20,000 people (and I am assuming they mean worldwide) have XLH. That’s 350,000 people in the WORLD and 15,750 people in the U.S.A.  with whom I have something very unique in common. Very unique, indeed! I find that to be a little miraculous, actually…that I share the same quirky, weird genetic mutation as 11 other people in my city, 462 other people in my state, and 15,750 other people in my country, and 350,000 other people in the world. How’d we all do that very same thing…mutate on the X chromosome and end up with this thing called XLH? What a mystery!

I also find it odd that I have all these genetic “relatives” and I’ve never met a single one of you in person. (We’re still not sure about my mother…) I’ve “met” some of you through this blog (ah, the internet, another miracle!) but I’ve never stood face to face with another XLH-er, even though there are several of you out there, 11 of whom reside in my city. (Wanna meet for lunch?)

I have enjoyed the mystery, though. I know you’re out there…I’ve been thrilled to connect with some of you through this blog. It’s been a comfort to think there are some folks out there who might read a post and think, “Yep, I know what she’s talking about!” I’ve enjoyed the connection with my mystery readers and the readers with whom I was already friends and who are only reading this blog because they love me, which may be another disorder altogether. I even have a relative who read my blog and he says it inspired him to start his own blog.

So, here’s to 2012. Thank you, readers and subscribers, for reading my ramblings, making comments, and hitting the “like” button. I feel very honored that you have taken the time to read some of my posts. And, being a little partial to the XLH-ers, sometimes I say an extra little prayer for your well-being. I know you’re out there. I have numbers to prove it.

Yes, 2012 was a good year. And when I woke up on January 1st, 2013, and my feet hit the floor and my butt did NOT hit the floor, I thought, “Yep. This is starting out to be a good year, too!” I wish you all a good year in 2013!

Coins

Most of these coins are from my childhood collection, as you can see the childish handwriting on some of the holders.  My dad started me out by giving me Canadian coins that he had found in his change. Then, as I got older, friends would bring back some from their travels. The one from Pakistan was the first coin I ever purchased. I bought it already in a cardboard holder, at a flea market for 10 cents, when I was about 10 years old. The memory is worth way more than 10 cents.

Copyright 2013-2018, Banjogrrldiaries and S.G. Hunter