As some of you know I have just returned from a week in Vienna, with a three day Avalon riverboat cruise to Budapest. We traveled with some very good friends who live in Sydney, BC, which is on Vancouver Island, a very beautiful part of the world, but far from us in West Palm, Florida. So it was doubly nice to meet up and share this wonderful vacation.
Vienna, the city of music, is everything that one expects it to be. Gorgeous architecture, clean, classy, one of the nicest cities I've ever visited. We enjoyed the operar one night, and although we didn't go to the main Opera House, we enjoyed the Golden Hall which you may have seen on PBS every New Years Eve. We dined on a fabulous and famous Vienna special--boiled beef, which is actually a very tasty stew. We walked and shopped, and toured the Palace, and our two days flew by too quickly.
Next we boarded our "ship" and were delighted with our spacious room, and the relaxed atmosphere and entertainment on board as we cruised the Danube, sipping on wine from the upper outside deck while viewing castles and breathtaking scenery on our short trip to Melk, then Slovakia, ending our journey in Budapest.
Melk was an unexpected treat. The Abby was worth the visit, and the small town was extremely charming. I would have preferred more time there and less in Slovakia but the cruise packed in a lot in the short time.
Budapest, with their castle, their stunning parliament buildings and elaborate monuments was an exciting city to see. I hope to share some photos with you, if I can figure out how to download them!!
I will most certainly try.
sweat the small stuff.
I joined the military when I was eighteen. This surprised everyone who knew me because I was rather quiet. But about a week into Basic Training at Fort Gordon, I realized I’d made the right decision. My quest for boldness had paid off. I saw myself succeeding in this orderly environment. It gave me a sense of control, something my life lacked. After I finished training to become a Telecommunications Specialist, I went to my first duty station. The Army’s philosophy, Be All That You Can Be, really inspired me, so I didn’t waste any time joining the post track team. I even set a post record in the two hundred meter hurdles. My love for the sport led me to mentoring a local youth track team. This was an experience I still cherish today. The teen girls were considered underprivileged, but boy, did they have heart and spirit.
He must be at least 22 and have the rank of Private First Class through Specialist
DEVOTION TO DUTY
Alexai Sultanov was born August 7, 1969. His father, Faizul Sultanov, was a cellist, his mother, Natalia Pogorelova was a violinist, and his grandmother was a well-known Uzbek actress. At the age of six, he began piano lessons in Tashkent with Tamara Popovich. Alexai made his formal debut at age seven.
In 1989, he competed in the Eighth Van Cliburn International Piano Competition. At the age of nineteen, he was the youngest in a field of thirty-eight. The prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition, created by Fort Worth teachers in honor of Texan Van Cliburn, was first held in 1962 in Fort Worth. Four years earlier, during the height of the Cold War, Van Cliburn had won the International Tchaikovsky Competition held in Russia.
During the performance, a piano string snapped but Alexai finished his volcanic performance of selections from Liszt, Prokofiev and Chopin. But his critics were divided. In a newspaper interview, Denise Mullins, the Cliburn Foundation's artistic administrator, said, "He took things to the absolute edge of the cliff, and it was very exciting to hear. He wasn't afraid to take a chance on stage, and there aren't a lot of pianists who do that."
Sultanov was awarded First Prize--$15,000 in cash, a recital at Carnegie Hall, a recording contract, and sponsored tours in the U.S. and Europe—in one of the wealthiest competitions in the world. His career was launched.
However, his originality and daring expression worked both for him and against him.
A video of Alexei playing the Appassionata is available on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xI4qFLfVmR8
In 1995, Alexei competed in the Chopin International Piano Competition. He was the audience favorite and Polish critic Piotr Wirzbicki labeled him "a great interpreter of the composer's work." The judges did not share Wirzbicki's or the popular view. The Jury declined to award a first prize.
Pianist and Jury Chairman, Jan Ekier stated, "The Chopin tradition has certain standards which must be upheld."
Sultanov retorted, "Give me a great review or a horrible one. If people agree with you too much, that means there's not much personality. The Polish jurists, on the other hand, wanted waltzes played in a slightly lovesick way for all the grandmothers who probably danced them in Chopin's own time."
Decrescendo - a gradual decrease in volume of a musical passage.
Later that fall, he suffered a minor stroke, later discovered by CAT scan when he had a severe stroke one tragic day in February 2001. Dizzy from the flu, he fell and struck his head. A week later, he walked into his neurologist's office, barely able to speak. He was suffering from a subdural hematoma and severe internal bleeding. The doctors were uncertain how the tumor-like clot (outside a blood vessel) had formed. The young pianist slipped into a coma, and a few days later when he awakened, he'd lost the use of his left arm and leg. In his last years, Alexei Sultanov continued to play with his wife Darce taking the left-hand parts. They performed at nursing homes, hospitals, schools and churches.
Wayne Lee Gay at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram wrote this epitaph: "Alexei Sultanov soared to musical heights that other musicians only dream of, and crashed to earth with personal tragedy that few have to bear."
His wife, Darce, said of him, "He was always at the center of attention, always fiery, brilliant. People loved him or hated him, but more people loved him."
I wouldn't mind being remembered that way.
Oh, my God. I don’t want to do ____. I want to just____. You fill in the blanks.
How many times have you said this to yourself? Once in a great while? Once a month? Once a week? Every day?
I admit I've said I don’t want to at least once a month, and no, it's not concerning cleaning the bathroom. Something pressing (we’ll call something IT)... IT always comes up and for some unknown reason I’m the only one in the universe that can handle IT. IT pulls me away from what I really long to do, like write, read or spend time with my family. IT can and will ruin your day, if you let it.
I don’t like days that are unproductive. I’m not talking about lazy days. They’re productive in their own way—recharging your body and soul. I’m talking about those days where it seems you get nothing done because if IT, including IT. So how do I make sure IT doesn't ruin my day?
I’m a big list person. Not the biggest. There are days I get wild and wing it. But most days, I will sit down and write a list of things I want to accomplish. I’m realistic in making the list. I know my limits. Most days there is maybe five or six wants-to-get-done. And if IT shows up, guess where IT goes? Right. At the top of the list.
I face IT head on, even though IT might be huge and ugly, and in bold letters IT is the first item of the day. I rolled up my sleeves and tackle IT first. When IT is done and out of the way, my energy level always seems to skyrocket and I whiz through the rest of the items on my list.
(WARNING LABEL) If IT is so big and can’t be accomplished one day, that’s okay. You know it up-front. IT might be the only thing on your list for a day or several. BUT, when IT is finally done, it’s done, and you then can focus on what you really want to do. It’s all about attitude.
2008 Winner Preditor's & Editor's Readers Poll
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Won Book of the Week Five Times At LASR
Excerpt from May: (And this is where William S. comes into my post)
Our barnyard geese are enraptured, as much as geese can be, with all the grass. If there’s a lovelier place to revel in spring than the Shenandoah Valley and the mountains, I don’t know it. Narnia, maybe.
I could see the rocks on the bottom, some slick with moss, others brown-gold in the light where the sun broke through the leafy canopy overhead. Trout hid beneath big rounded stones or ones that formed a cleft, but the men tickled them out to flash over the flat rocks strewn across the bottom like a path. Drifts of hay-scented fern rose around the edges of the pool, warming the air with the fragrance of new-mown hay, and made the shady places a rich green.
I suppose I was nearly seven before I realized that Southerners were different, that they had customs and ceremonies which might seem unusual to the rest of the nation...such as the Mother's Day roses....
In the town I where I lived, we celebrated Mother's Day the way everyone else in town did: getting up on Sunday morning and having a big breakfast, then presenting Mama with her cards and gifts--some asked for, some unexpected, but all greeted with enthusiasm and appreciation.
Afterward, we would dress for church, in still-new Easter clothes, so lovingly sewn by hand and worn only a few Sundays previously. Soon we were all ready to go, Mama looking beautiful in a dress of her own making and my father--handsome in his navy suit with the thin white pinstripes and a burgundy tie. At that point, Mama would say, "Just a moment, we have to have our roses!" and she would take her shears from the kitchen drawer and disappear down the back steps into her garden.
Mama had an authentic Green Thumb. Flowers of every conceivable type and color flourished in her garden, camellias, azaleas, vines of wisteria dangling their purple flowers grape-like from the fence, golden forsythia, pink oxalis, and silver dusty miller--and roses--bushes, runners, florabundas, hybrid teas--everywhere. As I watched, she selected two red blossoms, half-opened and still damp with Easter-morning dew, clipped them, and stood there a moment, looking around hurriedly, before returning to where we waited.
"Surely there's some other white flower," my father suggested. After all, there was no law that said she had to wear a white rose, and as she returned to the garden, searching among the plants and shrubs, I wondered aloud the thought I had always accepted until now:
"What's so special about wearing roses on Mother's Day?"
My father smiled, as if he'd been expecting this and wondered why it had taken me so long.
"They're to honor our mothers," he explained. "If you wear a red rose, it means your mother is still alive, if you wear a white one, then--she's not."
I thought about that a moment. It made sense. My father's mother was still living--we saw her all the time, but I knew my mother's mother only from old photographs. She’d died the day after Christmas, in 1933. Most of the people at church who wore white roses were older people. Of course, their mothers wouldn't be alive, but I had seen one or two children wearing white flowers.
In a few moment, Mama was back, all smiles, returning the scissors to the drawer and pinning a spray of white English dogwood, with its sweet, sweet fragrance, like a corsage on her shoulder. Taking my hand and my father's arm, she went down the steps toward the car.
Many Mother's Days have passed since then. I became a mother myself and we moved to Nebraska, and when my son was small, I kept the traditions I had grown up with alive--a die-hard Southerner in the midst of the Great Plains. Each Easter, we had a frantic search for a red flower for him to wear, while I--well, I looked for a white one.
My son doesn’t follow that custom now. He doesn’t search frantically for a red rose and I doubt if he’ll worry much about finding a white one...whenever.
Nevertheless, every year, I remember...the day I learned the symbol of the Mother's Day roses and what having a mother really means. I wonder if he ever will?
Too bad I won’t be around to tell him.