09 January 2015

How it turned out: A farewell to this blog

Just to close out this blog, which dealt with a part of my life that is now, I think, in the past, or at least has (thank the universe) turned into something else: tomorrow I am moving to Alabama. It's a strange move in many ways for this Yankee girl, but an excellent one in a lot of ways that I think will make it the right thing to be doing. Thanks to those of you who read this blog with a compassionate heart. Talk to you somewhere down the road...

19 February 2014


[Edited for stupidity.]

Anyone got any copy editor job openings?

20 October 2013

Jerry Enright and Sacred Harp: Mutual Love

Hey y'all. WOW, time goes by fast, especially, apparently, when it's time between posts in this blog. I have to get ready for boxing class (how's that for something Karen never expected to say?), but I wanted to post something I wrote about Jerry the other day.

Last week, Karen Rollins kindly asked me for some information about Jerry and his involvement in Sacred Harp singing for an article she was writing for the Sacred Harp newsletter (http://originalsacredharp.com/newsletter/) - being asked to talk about my favorite person, I was, of course, unable to stick to the original charge and got long-winded. Below is what I wrote. Not a day goes by that I don't think about my sweetie and miss him, miss him, miss him.

Jerry Enright first heard Sacred Harp singing in the late 1980s, when he came across an LP copy of White Spirituals from the Sacred Harp in a bin of sale records, loved it, but figured it was an old form that had disappeared. He liked to tell the story of his first actual singing, in 1989: that he saw a listing for a "concert" of Sacred Harp music in Chicago, that he went expecting to sit and listen, that Marcia Johnson told him he'd enjoy it more if he sang, that someone put a book in his hands... and that he was hooked. Jerry kept a record of every song he led in his songbook, first in his copy of the 1987 update of the 1971 edition, then in the 1991 edition, with the earlier entries transferred to the later book: the earliest entry reads "142 (Stratfield) 3-19-89 St. Paul's." And so it began, shortly after his 46th birthday: Jerry's life in Sacred Harp.

Jerry started out as a bass singer, later switching to singing mainly tenor, although vocally he was naturally more of a baritone. He went to his first southern singing, at Holly Springs, on June 3, 1989, having traveled with a group of Chicago Sacred Harp singers that had had their tickets arranged by Mary Rose O'Leary, who was a travel agent: Kris Richardson, a (female) Chicago singer, was unable to go as planned, and Jerry used the ticket that had been issued in her (luckily useable by both genders) name, in that more innocent time in air travel.

Beginning the very month he sang Sacred Harp for the first time, Jerry began the travels that he kept up until the end of his life: all over the country, in his native Midwest and beyond, and, more and more frequently, as he could afford the time and expense, to Alabama and Georgia. He loved to sit by traditional singers and learn all he could from them, both about their ways of singing (raised 6th's are circled in tenor parts throughout his book) and about their lives, and loved and respected the Sacred Harp singers he met along the way. I believe they knew the sincerity of Jerry's affection, interest and respect, and I believe they loved him in return. He was always doing whatever he could to keep Sacred Harp alive and vital. It might have been mailing out a flyer to every Alabama and Georgia singer listed in the directory to invite them to the 1994 United Convention at Emmaus, which he chaired (Walter Graff, in an essay published on the Sacred Harp website at fasola.org, describes the Convention's opening this way: "With only the briefest warning, Jerry Enright, with movements that look so natural and comfortable, 'calls us to order' by launching us into the first tune."). Or it might have been putting his carpentry skills to work to help build a new roof at State Line (the same weekend he caught bronchitis, and the same weekend he recorded a cherished interview with Barrett Ashley about his life and times). He cooked for many, many singings in Chicago, often making his best approximation of Coy Ivey's barbecue, among other dishes he'd sampled and relished in the south. He traveled all over, often with a cohort of Missouri singers, driving his well-traveled Toyota Camry up and down I-65 year after year, never missing the Lookout Mountain Convention, for which he became cheerleader and PR man, and by which he was adopted as one of their own. He would travel into Chicago after finishing up the workday out in the suburbs to help assemble mailings to promote Sacred Harp singings in Chicago, and assisted every year in organizing and running the Midwest Convention, which he chaired twice.

Jerry even made it onto the small screen several times because of Sacred Harp singing. At his very first southern singing at Holly Springs, his visit happened to coincide with that of a camera crew working on Bill Moyers' documentary about "Amazing Grace" - and in the final film, you see Jerry approaching the table during the dinner hour. My own first visit to Holly Springs, in November 1998, a few months after Jerry and I met at Lookout Mountain, coincided with Matt and Erica Hinton's first attempt at documenting Sacred Harp singing, for Erica's documentary film class, and if you look closely, you'll see Jerry in that as well. He appears in the Sacred Harp-related extra features that were filmed for the DVD release of Cold Mountain, too, up there with Nicole and Jude and David and Rodney on the stage in Hollywood.

Jerry wanted the old singing recordings to be preserved and made available, too: his energy and love resulted in CD releases of singings caught on tape in 1968 on Lookout Mountain and in 1972 in Henagar. Kelly Beard gave Jerry his collection of reel-to-reel tapes, old minute books, and other Sacred Harp memorabilia, knowing they'd be in good hands. The collection has been passed on, now, to other singers who will treasure and preserve it. And Jerry purchased the 1911 James book printing plates for 442, one of his favorite songs, a fact which I discovered when I found the heavy metal plates while going through boxes in our house after his death. If he'd been able, I know he'd have bought the plate for 77t, too - it was, as anyone who sang with him knew, his "Sunday song," the song he loved best.

What did Sacred Harp singing mean to Jerry? I think his actions over the years say it better than I ever could in words. Sacred Harp brought Jerry joy, friendship, comfort, peace, purpose, and, to my eternal gratitude, me. Jerry brought Sacred Harp his energy, dedication, respect and love. The weekend we held a memorial for Jerry at Pine Grove, Bud Oliver told me that Jerry had always parked across the road, up the hill, and Bud had always watched him, "the little bearded fella" he always addressed as "Enright," coming down the hill to the church. We scattered Jerry's ashes up on that hill, in a place we knew meant the world to him. Those that knew him will never forget the little bearded fella who loved Sacred Harp and Sacred Harp singers.

14 July 2013

Dear Anonymous

Dear Anonymous,

I can't believe how long it's been since I last posted here. And starting a post at 11 pm when I have to get up for work in seven hours - probably not smart. So let me just say, first off, thanks for checking in on me all these months.  And second off, I'm still here, I'm still working (although, sadly, in some ways, the workplace is regressing back towards what it was when I left - perhaps it's the nature of the organization itself?). I'm still in my house and still dealing with the ongoing need for repairs (next up:   remodeling of the constantly clogging drain in front of the garage and replacement of the roofs on the garage and the house - waiting for an estimate for the former, already signed a contract for the latter, which will happen some time in September).

Emotionally? Still on the roller coaster. Still, after three years, feeling like I can't really be a widow. Still feeling sort of separate from the rest of the world, as if they're all living normal lives and I'm stuck in this widow's existence of loss and muddling through each day. It's not unrelenting pain and sorrow - but it still doesn't feel like life, somehow. I feel like I'm waiting for life to start again, although of course I realize this *is* life. And I still don't know where I'm going to end up.

And, of course, I'm also still, 24 hours later, stunned and furious and incredibly sad at the verdict from Sanford yesterday.

So that's the Karen Needs To Go To Bed quickie version. Possibly you've motivated me to post again, Anonymous. To be seen. But thanks again for caring.

16 February 2013

I'm busy

Of the past 48 hours, I worked 21.

Busy is good.  Idle isn't good.  Somewhere more approximately midway between the two of them would be nice.

Anyway... so far, so good with the job, love my boss, love the changes he's made at the organization, love seeing my friends regularly again, love the pictures I've seen of the newborn son of one of them (not to mention the five other newborns of various Facebook friends - one more to go!).  Anxious for winter to be over, for more sunlight, for more warmth, for no more ice and snow, for leaves on the trees.

Jerry would have been 70 years old next week.  I find that absolutely amazing.  When we met, he was six years older than I am now.  I never thought of him as "old," ever, and he never was, really.  And I still don't feel 50, whatever 50 is supposed to feel like.

Anyway, rambling.  Place to go, people to see, Sears repairman to await this afternoon, since the dishwasher decided to join the fun and leak last week.  Hoping for repair, not replacement.  Hoping for more sleep, and soon.

05 January 2013


Thank you to my faithful Anonymous for nudging me to make an appearance here! Yes, life has been pretty damn full around here lately: I am indeed back in the work force, back at the same organization as before, but it's like a completely different place, and very much for the better.  It's hard to believe it has changed so much, but all hail the man who's now running the joint - it's an incredible relief to be working for someone who appreciates his staff, takes advantage of their talents, and is very invested in making sure they have all the tools and training they need to do their jobs.  I am even in the process of purchasing a style guide subscription and anointing myself style czar of the office, with the boss's approval and gratitude.  I have an office.  I have windows.  I am so far away from the main office phone that I don't hear it ring.  I get to see dear friends every day.  I get to edit!!!!  The only part that has me worried is the total amount of work I'm already having to do, a quantity that's only going to get larger when one of my friends goes on maternity leave for a few months and I assume most of her duties as well as my own, leading up to the organization's annual meeting in the spring.  I'm not complaining about having lots to do - it's more a matter of wondering how on earth I'll be able to get it all done by the deadlines for getting it all done.  But compared with sitting on my couch for days on end wondering if I should stay or go or sell or not sell, wondering what to do with myself... this is a far preferable thing to wonder about.

Oh, and having a paycheck again?  Yeah, that's good.

Other things: trip to NY went fine, and I actually didn't feel I belonged there - I sort of don't feel like I particularly belong anywhere right now, which is good, in a way - I can be where I am, and though I'm not sure it's home for more than a relatively short period of time, I don't feel out of place here any more than I do anywhere else... sorry, I think I'm being incoherent.  Kind of like, I feel less out of place here because I feel out of place... everywhere?  Not sure that's it either.  Eh, never mind.  Moving on.

December: Nets game at the new Barclays Center in Brooklyn; Bulls game back at the United Center. Christmas Day Bulls game I never made it to due to a case of viral gastroenteritis, but I managed to sell my ticket online, so I recouped at least some of the money.  Quiet New Year's weekend.  Next week will be my first five-day work week since I started back.

Emotionally?  Still not sure.  On 200 mg of Zoloft every day, I feel very numbed out, but generally think it's still a good idea to stay on it, for now at least.  I'll be back on the organization's insurance policy come February 1, which will make me feel more able to see the therapist again occasionally, which I think will be a good thing.  These days, I find remembering Jerry, remembering our day-to-day life together, remembering how he talked and how he just was, is incredibly difficult.  I see photos of him, of us, and I know I loved and love him, I know he was my sweetie, I know I wish our marriage could have lasted for many decades instead of just one - but that life, that marriage, that me - they all feel remote, like a dream, like someone else's history, like something I maybe saw in a movie or read about, something that happened to someone else.  Maybe this is a kind of self-preservation and is letting me function.  Letting me actually live something like an ordinary life in most ways.  I don't get to be deliriously happy, but I get to be okay - I get to have enjoyment in my life again, I get to look forward to things, I get to move past that place where I would have been just as happy for tomorrow to come without me in it.  And considering where I've been, I'll take it.

18 November 2012

Once and future

November.  November?!?!

OK, I see I actually did already do a blog post in November (I'm more surprised than anyone else might be at that) - but still, how is it November?  How has this year flown by even though I spent most of it floundering around in a state of indecision and unemployment?  By now I feel like I should never (ever, ever) announce an intention to do anything, because the way things have been going since Jerry died, I'm bound to change my mind entirely after making such a declarative statement and announce the polar opposite of whatever it was I just said I was going to do.  As this year has demonstrated, over and over again.

Soooo... yes.  News.  As of December 12th, I will be employed.  At the same place I worked last year. Yes, it's true.  See my previous post, as I just did (I was about to rehash the entire story).  I have no idea how the interview at the other place went from their point of view, but my gut told me it was just not a good fit for me (so did my mind, which wandered all over the place while the woman there was telling me about the job, the kind of thing where you realize a minute or two later that she's been talking the entire time you've been wondering about how you'd get from the interview site to the nearby shopping mall and she's still talking and you have no clue what she's talking about) (then you remember you're not employed yet, so you actually make the more sane choice and do not go to the mall).  I emailed them after accepting the job at the once and future employer and told them I had taken a job and was no longer available, thereby avoiding the knowledge of whether or not they were going to say yes or no or even get back to me at all.  I suspect they wouldn't have gotten back to me.

So now I have a month of what a friend called "funemployment," which is a great term and very apt, and will include a trip to NYC.  That trip is scaring me a bit, because, hey, I have to worry about something, and I'm worried that I'll get to New York and feel desperately that I don't want to leave it, which is pretty much what I always feel in New York.  And I probably will feel that, but I still also feel that what I'm doing - staying put, focusing on getting a job, focusing on what makes me feel less stressed in the moment, is the right way to go.  If someone could teleport me into a place to live and a place to work in a city somewhere and take care of all the logistics involved in that, I wouldn't object.  But for now... this is what is working for me.


P.S. I finished the copy editing certificate program.  I'm certified (certifiable, anyway).