Sunday, May 24, 2015

Songs I Cannot Sing

Have you ever thought how the way we sing a particular song changes it's meaning? Not THAT it changes the meaning, lots of people think about that, but HOW it changes the meaning. 

I'd need to talk to some linguists, music therapists, and psychologists of varying specialties to get the exact answer, but I can tell you, it happened to me today. 

I was singing a song from the musical Matilda. For those unfamiliar, this musical is based on a story by Roald Dahl and was made into a movie that remember well. In the story, Matilda is a bright young girl from a difficult and less-than-amiable family, who feels she doesn't belong. She is constantly being told to, essentially, stop being so bright, to stop being a voice of change, and to simply fall in line with everyone else. 

In the musical, she sings a song titled "Quiet" (as a foil to the song sang earlier by her mother, titled "Loud," which for the record is also one of my favorites). She has a bright, front sound of a pre-adolescent soprano, and the lyrics that struck me are as follows. 
She starts with an intense, conversational tone, that slowly builds into almost frenzied anger.

Have you ever wondered--well, I have!--about how when I say, say red, for example-
there's no way of knowing if "red" means the same thing in YOUR head as "red" means in MY head, when someone says "red"!
And how, if we are traveling at almost the speed of light, 
and we're holding a light,
Well that light would still travel away from us at the full speed of light! Which seems right, in a way--
what I'm trying to say--I'm not sure, 
but I wonder if, inside my head, I'm not just a bit different than some of my friends!
These answers that come into my mind, unbidden! 
These stories delivered to me, fully written!
And when everyone shouts (like they seem to like shouting) this noise in my head is incredibly LOUD
And I just wish they'd stop! My dad, and my mum, and the telly, and the stories, would stop for just once!
I'm sorry! I'm not quite explaining it right--but this noise becomes anger and the anger is light!
And it's burning inside me would usually fade--but it isn't today!
And the heat! and the shouting!
And my heart is pounding!
And my eyes are burning!
And suddenly--everything, everything is---quiet. *

Her voice immediately drops to a quiet, thoughtful, childlike tone. 

Now, when I sang this song in a bright, frontal, British accent, I saw Matilda in my head. I was singing Matilda as we know her from the story. However, the song's climax is slightly out of my comfortable vocal reach, so I moved the melody down about half an octave. 

My mental picture immediately changed. 

I saw instead, in my mind, my cousin Em. All grown up, singing in the alto range to an audience only she could see. 
See, Em has autism. Like many young people in our world today.

She is one of the funniest, brightest girls I know, and she does well. Sometimes, her brain works very differently than the brains of the people around her. Things translate differently in her mind, and she processes emotions and sensory stimuli in a very Em way. She thinks about things that I don't think about, in ways I have never considered. She is a little bit different--just like the heroine singing the song. Sometimes, the noise in her head becomes too much, and it translates like Matilda's does. 

When that image of Em came into my mind, I stopped singing. It was one of those life moments that forever alters the way you think about people--a flash of what Em's world must be like, on the bad days. Then the song continues, in a quite, child like wonder: 

Everything is quiet--
like silence, but not really silence. 
Like the sound of a page being turned in a book, 
Or a pause in a walk in the woods. 

Quiet--like silent, but not really silent. 
Just that nice, kind-of quiet
Like the sound when you lie upside-down in your bed--
Just the sound of your heart in your head. 
(tone moves to quiet triumph)
And though the people around me, their mouths are still moving--
the words they are forming, cannot reach me anymore!
(softly)
And it is quiet, and I am warm. 
Like I've sailed into the eye of the storm. 


I wonder if that's how Em feels, when the noise quiets down, and the anger goes out, and the world is safe again. She is left to appreciate both the thoughts and analysis of the world around her, and to appreciate simple moments that I take for granted. 

And that half-octave transposition has left me with quite a bit of pondering to do. How many people do we see around us, having exactly the same tests, just slightly different details? How much difference is there, really, between the "gifted" kids and the "normal" kids and the "special consideration" kids? Is this something we adults have invented and exaggerated, just another way to sort people into categories? We are all here, having the same human experience. We are all singing the same song, just at different places. 
 

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Good Things Come

I am in the middle of a rigorous program right now, I have some big changes coming up, and I have some tough conversations panned for this week. I spent much of the late evening with my stomach in knots, trying to figure out how I was going to survive it all. I read, I wrote, I prayed, I drank a ton of water, and I talk to a friend who was having a rough day. Then this song popped into my head.

I heard it at a BYU Songwriter's Showcase once, and I loved it so I memorized it. I didn't write it, no idea who did write it, but it seemed very applicable to calming my fears. The fear isn't totally gone, but the song did help, a lot. No matter what happens, I am going to be fine. I can handle hurt and pain and stress. It's just going to pass through, and we'l move on to other things.

"The Journey In Between" (I think that's the title, anyway)
Standing at the edge, just trying to decide if you're
about to find, among the brush, a piece of the puzzle
you think you've been missing. You're just not listening! Stop this struggle.
Count to ten, take a deep breath, look left then right again
head held high, eyes wide--just begin now.

Take a leap of faith. You'll never learn how unless you just stop looking back!
Good things come to those who act--cross the bridge between the future and the past
you'll learn things you never ever knew.
Before you know it, you'll be on the other side, so stop along the way
just to say
from point A to point B, enjoy the journey in between.

I often say to myself-- "Will this get easy?"
Well, life's not meant to be a book left on the shelf.
We're meant to live until it hurts.
We were born to feel! And time will heal--
it's time you learned. We bleed, we cry, we fear--deep sigh.
Hold on, be strong, you're alive!

Take a leap of faith. You'll never learn how unless you just stop looking back!
Good things come to those who act--cross the bridge between the future and the past
you'll learn things you never ever knew.
Before you know it, you'll be on the other side, so stop along the way
just to say
from point A to point B, enjoy the journey in between.

I know you're scared to try-- I feel the pain you feel inside. 
I feel you going out your mind; just cross the bridge to the other side!
But, take your time. 

Take a leap of faith. You'll never learn how unless you just stop looking back!
Good things come to those who act--cross the bridge between the future and the past
you'll learn things you never ever knew.
Before you know it, you'll be on the other side, so stop along the way
just to say
from point A to point B, enjoy the journey in between.
from point A to point B, enjoy the journey in between
Point A and Point B--life's just the journey in between. 

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dietary Restrictions

SO, new diet restrictions were coupled with 5 days of eating nothing but applesauce, plain mashed potatoes, broth, bananas, white toast, crackers, and the occasional canned pear or tablespoon of peanut butter. I had a brief glimpse of savory when I consumed some contraband Chow Mien at Panda Express (because I wanted to spend time with a guy and my cousin and his girlfriend), but that was the whole of it.

I think, however, it is the doctors' way of helping me grateful that I can eat ANY food, rather than being sad about the next month or so without tomato products, dairy, anything fried or highly processed, only lowest fats and low sodium.
To be honest, I don't do a lot of fried or processed foods, anyway, nor do I eat high sugar or high sodium.
I will, however, miss my dairy--cream, milk sauces, butter, and cheeses are a huge part of my food life. Also tomatoes being gone is no fun, because I love tomato.
BUT, in the meantime, this gives me a GREAT opportunity to do the lactose-free and vegan sections of my Specialty Baking program! I've been needing to up my Vegan Cooking game, as well, so this will be a great opportunity to branch out a little.


Wild Mushroom and Sage infused olive oil + air-popped popcorn+sage +slight salt

I'm eating this right now. So yummy.


Thursday, January 22, 2015

Climbing Mountains

  • 2015; Pre-Assessment
    So when I put this blog together a few years ago, I made a life list of things I wanted to do or to learn (see the original list on the sidebar?) So I've been working on them. The ones in purple are things I've already done, and the ones in red are the things currently in progress that are accomplish-able in the next calendar year (for example, "be debt-free" is not highlighted because, while I am actively working on this goal, currently the plan will not finish out til 2017; "Watch movie in IMAX" is not highlighted because I have no plans for a specific movie at this time). Many of these things have been works in progress for a long time, and I'm excited that this year will see the "finish" of so many things! I have edited the list slightly, taking a more "goal" oriented approach rather than "things that I hope will happen" approach (thus, "get married" is not on the edited list, as that is something that requires the agency of someone else as well). 
    The first part is the whole list, and then after I break down this year's goals with a short description of progress and plans. Then the obligatory inspirational quote.


    Write a song
  • Watch movie in IMax and/or 3D
  • Take a chemistry class
  • Take a calculus class
  • Take a graphic design class
  • Swing dance well
  • Successfully perform a scat solo
  • Run a 5K
  • Read the Wheel of Time series
  • Read The Screwtape Letters
  • Read the Book of Mormon in another language
  • Read Dante's Divine Comedy
  • Play Ultimate Frisbee
  • Play the piano: hymns, jazz
  • Play the Harmonica: Bb Blues
  • Play the Guitar
  • Play French Horn
  • Perform "Dress Has Always Been my Strongest Suit," from Aida (or comparable piece) 
  • Own a pet dog
  • Own a house, with LAND
  • Memorize 314 digits of pi
  • Manage finances very well
  • Make Creme brulee
  • Make a blouse
  • Learn to Knit
  • Learn to cook Indian food
  • Learn to cook Chinese food
  • Language: Spanish
  • Language: Russian
  • Language: Italian
  • Language: ASL
  • Language: Arabic
  • Kiss in the rain :-)
  • Hike the Y
  • Have a picnic in a random spot on campus
  • Graduate with a bachelor's degree
  • Go to Yellowstone
  • Go to Thanksgiving Point Gardens
  • Go to New York
  • Go to a beach
  • Go rock climbing
  • Go east of the Mississippi River
  • Crochet Professionally
  • Graduate from culinary school
  • Go to bakery school
  • Memorize The Living Christ
  • Be debt-free


    Graduate from Culinary School: WorkingonthatportfolioRIGHTNOWgraduationisFeb7IamSOCLOSE! *breathe* 
  • Go to Bakery School: I actually ended up doing Bakery school the same time as Culinary School (same college, totally different program), so, graduation is ALSO on Feb 7! I've also started an advanced bakery technique certification program, focusing on special needs diets. I'll be finishing that program late summer or fall of this year. So excited!!
  • Run a 5K: My friend and I just decided to do the Rex Lee 5K at the beginning of March. Early-bird registration ends Jan 31, so we are getting our group together. We go to the gym together frequently, and it's super fun to have a goal, friends who also have goals, and feeling like I can I actually REACH those goals!!
  • Read "The Screwtape Letters": I seriously have like 15 pages left. That's for this weekend; gotta finish this portfolio first. 
  • Memorize "The Living Christ": I now have the document on audio (Thank you, Gospel Library app!) and will be listening to it as I run inside this week. I listen to audio tracks the way some people listen to music (during workouts or studying). Music registers a different part of my brain, I guess. BUT I memorize really well by hearing things over and over, so it's a good start!
  • Play the piano (hymns): My friend is graciously letting me use her piano until I can finish paying for it. I have been blessed with a few guyfriends who are good at fixing things and they are fixing the base so I can set up the piano in a playable place (my front room). Another friend is super good at sight-reading, and is willing to teach/hold me accountable for practicing (which is really the bigger issue). I have the coolest friends.
  • Perform a favorite Broadway piece: I modified this goal to make it flexible to perform what I really want to do. I haven't decided what that is, yet, but I've been working on my pitch accuracy, my belt voice, and my stage movement. Right now I'm working Queen's "Somebody to Love," Hairspray's "Big, Blonde, and Beautiful," Carrie Underwood's "Before He Cheats," and Aida's "Easy As Life." I'm hoping that as I work on this goal, and my racing goal, I will be better able to dance and the two will combine into a "Perform in a Broadway style show" goal. #longtermvision
  • Hike the Y: Lived here 7 years, never hiked it. That just needs to happen. 
  • Rock Climbing: I've never successfully been rock climbing, even on an indoor wall somewhere. I'm going to focus on my races and graduating and stuff, but I'm working on coaxing my cymbal muscles back into definition. I have to be really careful with my upper body, but by summer/fall I should be ready to go.
  • Take a graphic design class: I have always been interested in typography, the psychology of color, and other design topics. Now that I'm putting a website together, it makes a ton of sense to take a class or two. Thanks to Lynda.com, Coursera, Skillshare, and other avenues, this can be my graduation present to myself. 
  • Play the French Horn: I got my horn back, so I'm starting back up and getting my embouchure back. I want to be able to play a personal arrangement (piano/horn/etc) of "Come, Come Ye Saints" for the 24th of July celebration this year. 
  • Learn to Knit: a friend of mine is teaching me basic knitting stitches, and I've been practicing. I am picking it up pretty fast, but I still don't know how to cast off yet. Or shape things. Or do cool designs. But I'll get there. 
  • Memorize 314 digits of Pi: 3.14.15 is THIS YEAR...so...#kairos. I haven't looked at this goal in a while, but I downloaded the Pimorize app this morning, and without any studying or mistakes I got to 85 digits. So, this my year. (3.1415926535897932384626433832795028841971693993751058209749445923078164062862089986280...3... something. But I've got 85 down without thinking; 314 will be here before I know it! Yay muscle memory and a 10-key!)
  • Language: Arabic: Brushing up my spoken Egyptian Arabic, refreshing vocabulary cards, practicing my handwriting. Ten minutes a day can conquer the world. 
  •  So there's my outline for 2015. It feels good to think that I can choose what I want my life to be, and then work on making it happen.


  • "You don't climb mountains without a team, you don't climb mountains without being fit, you don't climb mountains without being prepared and you don't climb mountains without balancing the risks and rewards. And you never climb a mountain on accident--it has to be intentional."-- Mark Udall

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Pictures to Paint 1.4

Songs of Innocence 
My lover smiles and holds me near—
The morning’s wedding vows still new—
He holds me close, and in my ear
He sings me songs of innocence
At first I smile, a fond embrace
As love’s first blossoming unfolds
And then my thoughts begin to race—
I’ve heard this song of innocence
The mem’ries flood, I pull away—
My father’s twisted face I see
When with a touch, oh poisonous day,
He seized my song of innocence

My mind’s eye blinds me to the touch
Of cherish’d lover’s sweet caress
And changes them instead to such
That steal the songs of innocence.

I cannot breathe—I choke, I die
And from my lover’s arms I flee
I wilt; with flaming tears I cry
And mourn my song of innocence.
©Sabina M. S√§fsten 2012

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Pictures to Paint, 1.3

The Night I Lost the Music

The music, always coming, always flowing
The lifeblood of the soul, forever playing
I lived for keeping, growing, sharing, knowing
all about the gift that’s almost praying.

And then, with one fell dose of Caesar’s illness
I shook, I trembled, foamed, and flailed about—
And when I woke, I noticed first the silence.
The music! gone!—replaced with frightening doubt.

The man in white, with nurses standing by him
Told me the silence might be here a while
And if it ceased, the music still be dimmed—
                     I wept.

I wept, and still, the tears were only water--
no minor chords; melismas all at rest.
Is this how people think and talk together?
With flimsy words and empty sentiment?

My life has been immersed in music study
but more than this; my spirit speaks it clear--
and now that I have only words to pray with

I wonder, Lord, if you can even hear?


writtensometime2008-2009/december2014edit


Note: She had full recovery from the seizure and the music eventually came back.

Pictures to Paint, 1.1&1.2

I do not have a brush,

pencils, paints, or 
Adobe Photoshop. 

But I do have
pictures
to be painted.
.
.
.
Night Routine

When night comes and she starts to sleep
The mask comes off--she cannot keep
her brave face on when conscious mind has slipped away

Her broken body fights for air
Her slumping face shows signs of wear
Her voice, in daylight so controlled
contorts in whimpers, tears my soul

I sit for hours, minutes, days
And silently I count, the way
she taught me to when Child Me was scared.

When consciousness comes back again,
returning her to worlds of men,
Her once bright eyes straining to see--
they flit around, and land on me

As recognition starts to dawn,
she weakly smiles--I fake a yawn
So she doesn't know I was awake to hear her scream.

 "Oh, sorry to wake you up," she says,
But before you head on back to bed,
-------Would you get me a bowl of Cheerios?"



october2013draft/december2014edit