Saturday, February 26, 2005

But for the grace of God go I....

Things have been growing on my mind of late. There are a great many people who read my postings that already know differing fractions of what I'm writing of tonight, and there are also a great many people who know nothing of it at all. In such a post I will look first to those who know nothing of my situation.

My parents are both genuine Dutch stock. My mom was on the boat at a year old, and my dad flew over when he was eight years old. From the Brouwer side of the family came the red hair and freckles that my siblings all posses, and from the van Breda side came the blonde hair and tanned skin that I claimed. As the good "pure bred" Dutch that we are, we siblings have the typical blue(ish) eyes and long limbs. We inherited a lot from our parents: the Dutch money-sense (aka cheapness), the ability to worry over everything or worry over nothing (take your pick depending on which of us you're talking to), the inability to really excel at athletics, and the love for family.
There is something else yet that we have inherited through our dad, which is far from the "joy" of blonde hair or blue eyes, and yet is just as traceable: the 50% chance of having Huntington's Disease. At age 55 and after nearly eight months of waiting at the top of the list, my dad will be moving into a nursing home this Tuesday due to the wonders of Huntington's.
In 1983 or shortly around the time of my birth, my parents found out that my Oma had been diagnosed with a hereditary disease called Huntington's. Because my Oma and Opa lived in BC and the last time I recall seeing them I was four, I wasn't aware that my Oma had anything at all until I was in grade six. My dad had decided to get tested for various reasons: he couldn't hold a job for more than a short period of time; he became very poor with money-management and made several very bad investments; his personality and demeanor (while formerly cheerful, funny and happy) became quick tempered, defensive and almost rude; he was beginning to trip on things regularly. He tested positive, and the afternoon that he and my mom sat us down to explain this to us I had no way of comprehending what it all meant.
It did a lot to explain the beahviour and outbursts that we had been seeing from him with increasing regularity, the fact that this change had a name to it, but beyond that I was lost. They told us that each one of us now had a fifty percent chance of having HD (Huntington's disease) and that, if we wanted to once we were 18 we could be tested for it. Not very appealing for a 12 year old to think about.
I felt as if I had the weight of the world on my shoulders as I helped mom around the house, as my brother and I tried to be the soothing balm after the raging storm of my dad had passed through, always utterly upsetting someone in the house. I remember thinking to myself, they say that the teenage years are supposed to be some of the most difficult years of a person's life, how is it fair that in addition to all the normal events of anxiety that other girls go through, I have to deal with this, too? I wasn't aware at that point that other families actually had problems too. They all looked perfect.
I watched as my dad lost his driver's license, as he went of full CPP disability, and as he seemed to sink into a world where he was priority number one and everyone else, even his own wife and children, followed after. I knew that the cause of this was HD. What I saw was a full grown adult man picking fights with my mom and being more selfish than his teenage children. A disease like HD is a hard thing for a child to comprehend.
When I was in high school I did a project in our "death and dying" portion of Health in PhysEd on HD. I learned that it was a degenerative neurological disease, which basically means that if you have a certain repetition of something in your DNA, the neurons in certain areas of the brain degenerate, resulting in uncontrolled movements, loss of intellectual faculties, and emotional disturbance.
My dad falls a lot right now. He's got a wheel chair that he uses more and more, because it's becoming very difficult for him to maintain any balance. He has visible chorea (uncontrolled jerkish movements of the muscles) and is quickly losing control of his small and large motor skills. It is often very difficult to understand what he is saying when he speaks, and he chokes on most of the foods that he eats. He's still prone to fits of temper, perhaps now more than ever because every day life is becoming more and more frustrating for him to do.
Some people question the idea of putting a 55 year old man into a nursing home, and perhaps rightly they should: it is not a natural thing to do. However, in the questioning of such an action they should also endevour to understand why such an action is being taken, and then empathize with both him and the care-giver. It's time for my dad to be in a home; it's time for both him and for my mom, who has spent more of her life being a caregiver than not-- first her children and then her husband.
It then brings, once again, a new dynamic to our family life, but one that we shall adapt to in due time. By the grace of God we've survived thus far and I don't see that ending any time soon.

On a similar note, I have not been tested for HD and I should like to leave that for another post at a later date. This one is too long as it is.

Friday, February 25, 2005

A shout out

to the Mr Ben and Future Mrs Mylana Goheen, who just became engaged this past Wednesday night! Congrats, I'm so excited for the two of you!! (A note to all of you gentlemen reading this: go find someone who knows how Ben proposed, and take notes...)
Just another clue pointing to the fact that I'm in my fourth year and graduating soon: the list of weddings that I get to attend this summer is growing... It also calls to mind a great article that Naomi wrote some time ago now... I cut it out of the Crown way back when, and I think I still have a copy of it-- it was one of my particular favourites.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

News from afar!


I have just received an email from my long-lost travelling buddy, the dear Ms Tina Koopmans, who has informed me that she has made it safely to Osaka, Japan. Unfortunately, I didn't get the chance to see her before she left the province last week, so it shall be at least eight months before I see her again. Gambette, Tina! (I'm slightly envious. You're going to have a fantastic time!)

Beam me up, O'Brien!

It's official: my friends are geeks. And by mere association, they have made me a geek as well. Kenny and Nathan have (within the past three months) sought to undertake the project of watching the entirity of the Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, seasons one to seven. Kenny tells me that there are twenty-four episodes per season, and they have thus far managed to watch around thirty. So, I often come home to find the two in the basement or in the livingroom watching the latest antics of Jean-Luc and his crew... and more often than not, especially now, I sit down and join them.
I think that I myself have watched probably eight or ten episodes from the first season, and close to five or six of the second season, which we (see, I'm one of them now) are currently on.
I can't help myself. When they're watching, I must watch. Last night, I found myself complaining that Jean-Luc should get rid of the new Dr and get Dr Crusher back (which I know will happen in a later episode somewhere down the line). Most of all, though, I watch the show because of Data. Without fail, Data makes the show for me. He's hilarious, he's the comic relief in the show, he's more often than not also the hero of the episode. I haven't yet gone so far as to watch an episode when Kenny or Nathan has not initiated the viewing, so I don't think that I'm completely gone. I may be a geek, but I'm not a Trekkie. Yet.

Monday, February 21, 2005

A thought

I would give anything right now for one of those hot Magic Bags right now... You know, the long things that look and feel like bean bags, rice or grains inside a cloth covering.... Heat it up in the microwave and wrap it around your neck.... sigh. I think that would be an excellent investment to make. Sadly, I can't really make that investment at 11:24 at night. Too bad. My shoulders and neck would thank me for it, sitting here at the computer writing papers...

New Plan

I decided this weekend that I would very much like to fly to England and spend a week there visiting various people and from there fly to Tuscany, rent a little villa and spend three weeks there. (I just saw Under the Tuscan Sun on Thursday and the landscape made me salivate)
So, if I fly out tomorrow morning I don't have to write my paper due tomorrow night, nor do I have to write a midterm or present a seminar on Thursday. Seems like a good plan to me.

Yesterday I joined Anj and Brian on an afternoon/evening trip to Toronto to visit the one and only Mr Brink. We went out for dinner at The Hungarian Schnitzel House and walked out quite satiated. I'd never eaten schnitzel before, and had imagined it to be quite different than it was. Delicious, nonetheless. On the return to Hamilton, we ran into some very snow weather and had a bit of a run-in with the median on the Hwy at the Ford Plant but God was good, there were no cars directly around us, and no one was hurt. I'm often so amazed at how much traveling (in cars and other modes of transportation) I have done, and have never before been in an accident. I think my guardian angels must be working a bit overtime.

Anyhow. Papers to write, midterms to study for, seminars to prepare. Cheers.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Tour this year seems to have been cut short. Every year by the middle of tour, there are always bad concerts, sickness, grumpiness and general tiredness. Somehow, though, on last two days of tour, the choir reaches a point of amazing concerts and high spirits; the tiredness just seems to be lifetd. For me, that wasn't the case this year. I felt somewhat as if we cut the last two days off of tour. Don't get me wrong: tour was a lot of fun. It just wasn't amazing. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we'd devoted the past three full weeks (including weekends) to practices and OUCF, and we were already worn out before we left for tour. At any rate. There were some fun things about tour.

1. Several Aunts, Uncles, cousins and the children of the cousins came to the concert in Chatham. I love my family; I think they're pretty awesome, I always loved going to Chatham to stay at their places so it was a lot of fun to go back.

2. Annie and I got to stay at my cousins' place in Chatham. Art, Marsha and their children are so much fun, and it was a blast to just stay up late chatting around the kitchen table with Art, Marsha and Joel (their oldest son). I've always loved hanging out with these specific cousins, because my siblings and I are the youngest grandchildren, so when the rest of the cousins were busy talking to, hanging out and playing games with all the other married cousins, Art and Marsha always tried to get to know us some. You guys rock!

3. My sister Marya (and Jr) and her husband Eric came to our concert in Whitby. It was so much fun to see the two of them, I don't get to hang out with them nearly enough for my liking!!

4. I had an awesome tour buddy, Ms Annie (van)Ling(sma). Annie, you rock and I love you even though you kept me up for two nights with your snoring! :)

5. I got the chance to have some kick-butt "buddy-buddy-buddies"-- Ms Gayle Doornbos and Ms Laura Moelker are two more fantasticly incredible second years that I will be very sad to leave behind when I graduate. I think that we should just combine the second and fourth years.

6. Despite the problems with pitch that we had on almost every song in every concert this year, we did sing Song for Athene in Whitby (to quote Mr Ben Goheen) "the way it was meant to be sang." It was pretty sweet.

7. This one really has nothing to do with tour, per se, but before we left for tour Brian told me what my valentine's day present was... "the gift of the pink lung" as he called it. In other words, he's been smoke-free since Feb. 1. :) Isn't that an awesome present??! I'm pretty excited about it!

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Jiggity-jig

Choir tour has wrapped up once more, and I'm finally sitting in my own bedroom once again. My dearest Brian met me at the school as we were unloading the bus tonight, which I was absolutely thrilled about! :) I don't have the energy to actually describe the tour tonight, but I thought that I would post a quote before heading to bed. This comes from the pastor at First CRC in Strathroy:

"A secret's not a secret if it's not kept a secret."

Thanks for that. It was a stimulating sermon.

Saturday, February 12, 2005

Old faces, ...old places

Yesterday as I was wandering around our local Shopper's Drug Mart looking for a battery for my camera, I was almost run over by a young woman navigating her shopping cart around the corner. I appoligised, stepped aside, and then stopped.
"...Mel?!"
"Yeah?"
Huh. Fancy that! It was one of my dormmates from first year, Ms Melanie Dagliesh. This week, it's been exactly three years since I've seen her: she dropped out of school part way through second semester, moved out during reading break when we were all gone and I haven't seen her since. It was a rather strange situation, living with Mel, which also made bumping into her a strange situation. After I chatted with her for a few minutes, she says,
"I'm sorry, I know I'm supposed to know you from somewhere....but I don't know who you are."
Yup. That's Mel, alright.

Dr Loney (whom I have recently decided is my hero: what a fantastic professor!) is by now in England, wandering the streets of my former home town. Earlier in the week, he told Joel and Sam and I that we really should just come along with him.... if only! My jealousy is overwhelming. We toyed with the idea of flying to England standby...but I have promises to keep, and many miles to go before I sleep...in England... specifically, choir tour.

We leave at noon for our glorious little tour, we have a concert in Strathroy this evening and we sing at their church in the morning on Sunday. For Sunday evening, we shall be making our way to Chatham for the evening service at First CRC, after which I will be bunking at my dear cousin's (Art and Marsha's) house. This I am greatly looking forward to. A concert at Chatham Christian High, where John VanPelt, former QCHS teacher, is principle, will happen Monday morning. Barrie's the next stop, where we'll sing with the Barrie Christian High, all 18 of 'em, and then to Whitby, where we've got a concert on Tuesday night. And my sister shall be there!!!

So, a genuinely exciting four days coming up, especially since I'm the head of the garbage/lost and found committee. I can't wait for that part... Tata, all! Cheers!

Friday, February 11, 2005

LOST: Three years

I somehow lost three years yesterday. I'm not sure how one goes about doing that: it's not as if it was a five dollar bill that fell out of my pocket when I reached for something else, and I'm pretty sure I didn't just randomly misplace it. But I did lose it.
Yesterday as I was halfway through my Lewis and Tolkien class, I glanced down at my notes and read the date that I had written on the page: February 10/08. ...now some would say that Sam and Gollum are part of Frodo, as Jesus and the Spirit are part of God... 10/08?? February 10, 2008? I could understand perhaps if I had written February 10/2004: that would make sense. Just stepping back a few months. But jumping forward three years? Seems a little rash, if you ask me. I showed Joel the date that I had written, and he, in turn, showed me the date that he had written in Abnormal Psyc that morning: February 10, 1999. Something there is that doesn't like February 10/2005. huh.

Monday, February 07, 2005

14 20 3 6

The weekend has come and gone, as has my voice. By the time that I arrived home last night, I was thoroughly exhausted, and as I fell into bed I had a three part harmony going on in my head (the tenors just got lost somewhere...): basses: there is a ba-alm--in Gilea-ad, there is a ba-alm--in Gilea-ad; Sops: Make me who-ole, heal my so-ole; altos: my sooole, will heeeeal, I feeeel it.... What good times.
We started out at the crack of dawn on Saturday morning: ok, so it was already 8:30am, but when you get to sleep at 2:30 the night before, it might as well be the crack of dawn. Anyhow, the choirs of McMaster, Guelph, Brock and Redeemer gathered in the Auditorium (where it seemed as if they had the air conditioning turned on) for a mass rehearsal of The Coronation Anthem No.2: The King Shall Rejoice. I must say, I was skeptical as we were singing. There was always one part that was frightfully behind the others, and despite the fact that there were over two hundred choristers, the sound fell hung dead in the air. It soon occurred to me that both of those unfortunate events were due to none other than the glorious acoustics of the Auditorium, and I relaxed.
From 11-3, we all participated in three workshops and lunch. Our first workshop presenter was Howard Dyck, of CBC Radio Two Choral Concert fame. He gave a fascinating 45 min lecture on Bach's B Minor Mass. I could have sat through another two sessions with him. The main topic that his lecture was concerned with was Bach's references to the numerical alphabet within the Mass. The numerical alphabet assigns each of the letters a particular numerical value, such as A=1, B=2 and so on, except that I and J have the same vaue as do U and V. For example, the numerical values of the letters of "CREDO" add up to 43. Within the Credo movement, the word Credo is repeated 43 times between the two soprano parts, the altos, tenors and basses. It gets much more exciting than that, but this post would go on for quite some time if I were to repeat the whole lecture.
For the second workshop, our group went back to the frigid Aud, where each choir (except for Redeemer) got to teach the other three choirs a selection of what they would be singing on Sunday. We had a chance to sing "O Fortuna" from Carmina Borana with the Guelph choir, which sent shivers down my spine. What a powerful piece.
The final workshop for our group was a gospel music lesson, directed by Karen Burke of the Toronto Mass Choir. After 45 min with Karen, we, a gaggle of white university students, were almost able to pull off several gospel pieces! The afore referenced "Balm of Gilead" was one of the three songs that she had us swaying to by the end. She's good, but she wasn't good enough to help me out with the coordination: singing, swaying, clapping and doing actions were a little more than this dutch girl could handle.
After a mass rehearsal at the church in Westdale, we all went our separate ways to dress for the banquet. As Brian and Joel were DJing for the evening, the three of us not only arrived on time (gasp) but quite early, in order for the boys to set up all the sound equipment. The meal was quite delicious, the dessert of Crepes, ice cream, whipped cream and strawberries being my favourite course, and the company at our table was quite nice. Two ladies from Guelph and a first year from Mac were especially charming and fun to chatter with. The dance was much fun: good music, good friends, good--well, fun dancing.
The concert the next day brought excellent music. It's not everyday that a person gets to sing at a concert where they also have the privilege of hearing three other choirs perform. I love choral music concerts, but I just had a blast at this particular one because the music was so varied from one choir to the next that there really was little chance to become bored or even unfocused. I was particularly impressed with Brock's choir- their director has them whipped into shape that our choir could only dream of right now. The mass choir singing of the Coronation Anthem went over very well, much much better than in the Aud, and there was a very decent turn out for audience.
Overall, I'm very pleased with the weekend. More so now that I have gotten eleven hours of sleep straight last night. What a difference that makes. But now: Once more unto the choir room! Tour is this weekend, and we shall not be going to Sarnia as afore mentioned, but rather Strathroy, Chatham, Barrie and Whitby.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Those were the days...

It occurs to me that, while I love the independence/quietness of life off campus, every now and again I'm ever so envious of those campus dwellers. My first taste of envy hit me in the lazy days of September. Now, I don't think that it was due merely to it being my first year away from the dorms: I moved into The Shack back in May, and am comfortable enough here not to miss the creaky floors. The envy smacked me in the face one afternoon when I was walking from the Rec centre to the academic building and there were blankets spread out on the lawn and lawn chairs set out on the porches, there were people out playing football, playing catch, riding bikes. The grass was green, the sun a brilliant yellow and the sky had not a cloud in sight. It was the kind of day that just seeped into the evening and then the night without anyone noticing. I, in the meantime, had to find a ride home or catch the bus to meadowlands in order to find myself some supper. My neighborhood is not so much the kind where we can spread out blankets on our front lawn, or even put lawn chairs on the back porch and bask in the sun, "reading" for whichever class that's coming next.
I began to feel the same pangs just yesterday while walking with Kenny out to the Rec centre. The weather was mild, the snow damp and perfect for a snowball fight that doesn't require the heavy winter coats or touques. In only a month, students will start to emerge from hibernation and cover campus grounds once again with lawn chairs and blankets, making the pretense of studying but more often than not just enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Spring. And I shall be looking for my ride home.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

A sign in our esteemed library reads:

"CD's to be shelved."

It's nice to see that even though our library doesn't have many book's or even video's, they do invest in CD's.