Sage Advice from an Elder

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My mother succinctly declared one day when
I was a teen that she found it difficult to fathom
why an adult child would declare a family elder as
incapable of living alone after a spouse passes.

A church friend who had reared her children
and run a household was told by her male
offspring that it was time for her to sell her
home and move into his house with his family.


Horrified at the idea that a son would tell
his mother she was no longer capable of
living independently, my mother added:
what is so wrong about dying in my own home?


I could think of no reason. As I mull over her question,
I too find it hard to comprehend having to move in
with adult children and their families. Yes, I love them
dearly and enough to let go and let them live their own lives.

Unless incapacitated or declared incompetent, I see
no particular reason to move in with family.
I laud those who downsize and move to a sunny
state and live in senior living or on their own.

Where is it written that we become unfit and
incapable of living on our own because of the
death of a loved one? While I realize each circumstance
is different, I relish my independence.


We have a lifetime of friends in our lives who stay
in contact and know what is going on. As a creative
artist, I value my own private spaces to meditate and
to create. I would not want to relinquish those

private moments to reflect, write, make music, read, travel
and the other myriad of activities I enjoy. Years later,
I have the answer to my mother’s question: there is
nothing wrong with living alone and dying in my own home.

Mom & Dad Niemczura CO 19860001


M A0001

Posted in advice, downsizing, independent living, senior living | Tagged , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Comforting Those Who Mourn


Flowers carried in and placed on the altar.

The casket was draped in white. Music began.

Choir sang.  Comfort offered to those mourning.

Last words by a family member. Tears.


Off to the cemetery with prayers graveside. Sometimes

music is the only medicine the heart and soul require.

My journey as a music minister began in my teens in

Colorado when I often did not understand the sadness.


Only years later when both my parents departed

their earthly life did I fully comprehend life’s meaning.

We are born and we die. We remember in prayer those

who have gone before us. Life’s journey is now complete.


We gather and celebrate the life of the deceased

loved one. My turn will also come.  I hope I

can say that I did my best to love and to serve others.

Music is the comforting medicine I offered today.



Posted in funerals, life's meaning, music as healing medicine, offering comfort, prayers | Tagged , , , , , | 26 Comments

Why Taking a Break Matters


Vacation time allows us to recalibrate.

We gain a fresh perspective on our lives.

Traveling and exploring new places and

meeting new people in other countries

always affords a new outlook on life.


Vacations allow us to spend more time

with family and other loved ones. We

de-stress, enrich our bonds. Life is short,

so it is necessary to set aside time

to connect with yourself and others.


Taking vacations keep us young! Chronic

stress accelerates the aging process. Even

mini-vacations restore and renew. We

create an inner peace of mind and relax.

Spend a week at the beach to see routines change.


As a retired educator, I find it is still necessary

to set aside regular time for that walk at the

lake or to sit on front porch and enjoy nature

right in front of my eyes. Rest serves the family

as well. Teaching was not only hard work,


it was also “heart” work. Being a music minister

can be taxing on many levels since singers

use their entire bodies. Most professions

involve multiple levels: mental, emotional, relational

and spiritual. So be courageous and rest.


We were crafted with bodily needs such as

air, water, food and rest; we learn to care for

ourselves by taking breaks from time to time;

we empower ourselves and become more

effective and creative. So, rest,  refresh and renew!




Posted in creativity and empowerment, taking a break, vacations | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Keep On Singing!

The appointed hour had arrived. More than 100 choristers from around the world converged in Baltimore at Goucher College for one week of rehearsals and classes.  It was as if I had returned to college when I opened my dorm room which was  home for the week.  A typical day started at 6 AM with breakfast from 7-8:15 AM.  From 8:30-10:15 AM we either had a rehearsal or sectional rehearsal.  Classes followed from 10:45-11:30 AM.  Lunch was at 11:45 and time to study, have private lessons or rehearse privately.  5:15-5:45 there were information sessions, a conductor interview or faculty entertainment.  Dinner was usually from 6:00-7:00 PM followed by the second rehearsal of the day from 7:15-9:30 PM.  Over the course of three days, we had a choice of three classes each day.  I opted for a private voice lesson with the soprano section leader.

At first glance it appeared a grueling schedule for the one week. We were expected to have learned the music prior to our arrival, and from the sound of what I heard, the choristers lived up to expectations.  Most of us had anticipated hot, humid weather and were surprised that the first two days were rainy and only in the 60s F.  I quickly learned my way about campus and which buildings to move to during the day.  For me, it was a brisk 15 min. walk.

Each time before we sang, there were warm-ups and sometimes the faculty or apprentices completed that task. How great it was to have so much expertise in one place.  This was my first experience singing with BCI.  Some have been doing this more than 30 years.  At the outset of our week living on the Goucher College campus, I was awestruck by so much talent in one place!  I remained on cloud nine during the jam-packed week of singing almost 5 hours daily.  I learned to pace myself and to sing lightly until the dress rehearsal and final performance.  At all times, our conductor and other leaders were cognizant of having us care for ourselves and our vocal mechanisms.  As singers, we know that our instrument is our entire body.

How thrilling it was to sing with such spirited individuals from around the world. I had many wonderful conversations with choristers from Singapore, the UK, Canada, Hawaii, California, Idaho, Colorado and many other states in the US.  We were a unique group in that we knew we would never sing together again, but our love for music was evident as we interpreted Haydn’s The Seasons which we sang in English for the most part.  Betsy Burleigh was our conductor, and her passion for Haydn was self evident.  Her Ph.D. dissertation was on Haydn.  Our score contained English and German words so I was excited to learn that we would sing certain passages in German.

Time stood still when we sang and worked on various passages. The days flew by and then Saturday morning arrived and dress rehearsal with the orchestra.  Our performance on stage at Kraushaar Auditorium was 7:30-9:30 PM followed by an after the concert party.  The entire week, snippets of words, melodies and passages go through my mind.  I still find myself singing Haydn all the time.  This special time was now over as quickly as it had begun.  I plan to return next summer for another BCI session.


Posted in Baltimore, Berkshire Choral International, Conductor Betsy Burleigh, Goucher College, singing, The Bay City Symphony, The Seasons by Haydn | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

The Wonderful World of Music!


It starts with learning the music:
tempo, dynamics, practice at home
and in rehearsals. Weeks of
preparation and driving to and
from rehearsals including dress rehearsals.
Count, breathe, phrasing, self-correction.

An endless list of individual work
in private lessons; group work
in rehearsals. Prescribed music
folder, black attire or black and white.
Concert attire for the stage and rehearsals
with the orchestra. Then performances.

Singing choral music is rewarding and
challenging at the same time. We learn
to listen to others and come in at the
precise moment: not early; not late.
Our reward is the satisfaction of a
job well done. The audience applauds.

Years of piano practice and choir
singing and individual music lessons
have paved the way and prepared me
for the BIG moment when it all comes
together. The same holds true for
vocal recitals. This language of the

soul called music nourishes me. It
makes me happy and others too.
The next chapter will be in Baltimore
where the Berkshire Choral International
performs The Seasons by Haydn.  Eat,
sleep, live, breathe and sing!


Posted in Berkshire Choral International, concert attire, dress rehearsals, Haydn, performances on stage, singing, The Seasons by Haydn | Tagged , , , , , , , | 27 Comments

Until Next Time: Auf Wiedersehen!


When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.
Acceptance and coming to terms with your lot in life
is key to moving forward while remaining positive.
My glass continues to be half full. The German expression
auf Wiedersehen (until next time) is less final than the


English goodbye. Knowing this did not make my annual
leave-taking with graduating seniors less bittersweet.
They received a handshake or hug and were
asked to remain in touch while some tears were shed.
Often I had taught students for more than three years.


We had become family. As tough as this leave-taking
was annually, it prepared me for my own turn when I retired.
With multiple interests and hobbies, my retirement brings joy.
These days I can be found rehearsing, performing or singing
in community groups locally and out of state.


Sometimes words are unnecessary.
Goodbyes are but temporary.
Outstretched arms, hugs, smiles and
pats on backs suffice. A silent tear shed.
Hopes and fears merge. Until next time.

Posted in auf Wiedersehen, German, handshakes, retirement, teaching German | Tagged , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

On Owning a Home


Maintenance is an key part of owning  a home.  We fell in love with the corner lot with mature trees affording abundant shade and surrounding cul-de-sacs.  Our children were young, and it was safe to play in the streets.  Cars slowed down for others in the neighborhood.

After our adult children moved on to their own lives, we decided to make improvements i.e. new windows, roof, insulation, siding, etc.  Soon the landscapers will return for a new walkway and patio in the backyard.

Having good neighbors is important. We chose to be close to our supermarket, to doctors and hospitals and reasoned that living in the suburbs worked for us.  Neither of us wanted to live in a large city but having access made sense. And playmates were plentiful. Art museums and a symphony were added bonuses plus good schools and several nearby universities.


Occasionally it is necessary to have appliances repaired. We normally relied on word of mouth recommendations for reliable repairmen or found them from the manufacturer.  Better Business Bureau has helped over the years too.


So, after two outrageously expensive and unnecessary service and labor charges from a suspiciously unprofessional repairman, I had a hunch that something was amiss. It’s a gut instinct sort of thing.  I can usually size a person up in a matter of seconds.  I was not on guard as I should have been.  It was the ice maker in the refrigerator.  Who walks in and assesses that I need a new ice maker within 5 minutes instead of investigating the reason why it was not making ice?  The answer is someone who is lazy, greedy and looking to take advantage of others.  Lesson learned the hard way.  It was easier for him to put a new one in.  But was it new?  Just like the new motherboard installed on the return visit which was not in original packaging.  I normally watch and question repair people who are in my house.  This time, for whatever reason, I was distracted and did not.


How did I discover this? I phoned the local company which sold us our washer and dryer.  These days their showroom is gone, and they only do repairs.  After the washer was repaired, I mentioned the ice maker and the repairman who overcharged us. I showed him the two bills and my husband and I had a pleasant conversation.  Without a further charge, our ice maker was removed because of an ice buildup, and it was back and running.

Apparently the other repairman is known as a rip-off artist and is considered less than honest and qualified.   Lesson learned the hard way.  This person will not darken  our doorstep again. Next on the agenda will be to report him and his practices to the Better Business Bureau.  And to speak to our lawyer son.


My faith in the goodness of others remains. There are a few rotten apples along the way, and sadly, we encountered an especially bad one.  Now focus on the positive and beautiful weather for a long holiday weekend.

Happy Memorial Day! Our flags our flying in remembrance!



Posted in good neighbors, home ownership, maintenance, Memorial Day | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments