February / March 2019

Wed. Feb. 27 

                         Grocery shopping with housekeeper
Work on Quarter Notes + own blog post
After lunch: drove Mom’s car to Walton’s
took care of low tire pressure
was informed – they also perform Volvo
My car – advised to wait until 75,000 mileage
Short nap at home
Took more pictures of bedroom for current blog
Next: outline this blog post

The above is a recent entry from a document I have on the desktop of my PC, which I titled “Daily Info Dump”, to help me recall of my daily tasks and compensate for my damaged short-term memory.  Besides keeping track of physical objects around me, I continue to struggle with recalling what I’d just accomplished each day, and keeping intact what I’ve yet to tackle.  You can’t see it here, but in a Word document on my PC, I list my completed tasks in black, while what I still need to do are in red.  Without something to help me organize it, daily life quickly deteriorates into utter chaos. 

Projects that I’d recently worked on tend to slip in and out of mind.  It takes a while each to resurface, and for me to recapture any progress I’d previously I’d made.  I encounter additional trouble recalling these tasks at the times when they are needed, along with the bits of information associated with them. Even when I jot them down on paper whenever I can, I later struggle to locate where I’d placed them.

That’s only the beginning.  While working on anything that involves a significant amount of thinking, my short-term memory fills up quickly and begins to overflow within minutes.  Then I feel the need to step away multiple times; move to a different setting, or shift to an unrelated task – to help generate additional “space” for new information, and bring back my clarity of mind.  This is why, most of the time, I enjoy running simple daily errands for my parents, or being assigned other menial tasks to perform by my colleagues at work.  Examples scattered throughout my “Daily Info Dump” document include: 

  • Trip to 3 local banks – deposit checks and withdraw cash
  • Pick up Mom’s prescription at pharmacy
  • Take Mom’s car out for oil change

During this time – as well as any other time I could grab or find alone — my mind goes to work, capturing all recent experiences by generating a constant flow of words. At the same time, I start shaping and molding these words into the form of phrases, then sentences, then rough paragraphs.  I fiddle with word choice, word order, and ponder most effective ways of presenting those words to others, if necessary.

Finally, I find time to pin them down on paper, or on the computer, for further refinement: grouping similar ideas and topics together, identifying causes, pairing them with their effects, and polishing my words until they begin to resemble the novel format that is familiar to my long-term memory.

This process is vital for the accurate storage and retrieval of my memories.

But each time I step away from a task when my memory becomes too full, whatever I’d been working on before also disintegrates into separate pieces — making it a challenge to recapture my previous momentum!   Other tasks and reminders also tend to surface at this time, and grasping them before they vanish into thin air can further throw my memories into disarray.

I attempt to prevent all of this by spend lengthy amounts of time organizing my daily schedule, often working late into the night to prepare the next day’s agenda before going to sleep.  For I still wake up on most morning to a mess of jumbled thoughts and impressions, requiring the organizational process to begin anew.

Keeping track of what I’d just accomplished day-in and day-out is a constant struggle. So is recalling the tasks I’d yet to perform for myself. Whenever I allow others to approach, I need to let go of this organizing process and shift my attention to fielding spoken words, which tend to wreak havoc on my memory storage and retrieval. Then, when others witness my resulting mistakes and misjudgments, it’s all too easy for them to assume my incompetence.  Their subsequent interference with my preferences, along with the methods I’d adopted, tend to exacerbate my emotional state of mind.        

The only way to make this process work is to severely limit all personal interactions, ruthlessly cutting them short when I’d depleted the words that I’d prepared for the occasion, or when my memory runs out of room to process new information. Then, the best conditions for my mind to organize everything is during time alone, while I am busy performing tasks that do not require much thinking.

One of the most attractive ways to refresh my memory, when stepping out of the house moving to a new location isn’t convenient, is, for a few minutes, to dive into the pages of a book whose subject matter is familiar to me.  Thus, I have collected plenty of these over the years, storing them on shelves throughout the house:

But another problem often surfaces: each time step away, I tend to have trouble recalling where I’d left off upon returning!  (The same happens after running errands.)  My memory is attracted to visual reminders. To compensate, I developed a habit of leaving paperwork, books, and other physical objects untouched while I step away to refresh my mind.

On a table close to my computer

Inside my bedroom

More often than not, people around me see this mess before I am able to pin down words for the material and file them into my memory.  Assuming my incompetence, they spew their criticism, assume that they know better how to run my life than I do myself, interfere with the methods I’d developed, and wreak further havoc on my memories and state of mind.

Throughout all of these processes that I’m describing, new thoughts – important or not – surface at random moments to vie for my attention.  Grasping onto any one of them, however, has the tendency to knock other chunks out of my mind. I spend countless hours throughout the day trying to unearth previous ideas, and, when they surface, attempting to capture and place them logically (physically and in my mind) , so that I can locate them later.

Hence my attraction to anything that provides a structure for me to follow.  This is the part that I miss the most from my years as a student – being given tasks to complete on a schedule, receiving feedback, and having classmates simultaneously undertaking the same experience to provide context.  All of these structures infused a sense that my life was going somewhere.  So, over the years, I’d enrolled in numerous courses, most of them on the writing process, and others to boost my general skills:

2001 ~ 2002 — Writing Your Life Story workshop — Torrance Adult School

2001-2002 — Novel Workshop — Writer’s Digest University (incomplete)

July through Sept. 2002 — Intermediate Course in Novel Writing — UCLA Extension

July 2003 — Product and Process: Structuring Your Story and Your Life —
UCLA Extension

August 2004 — Facing the Challenge of Memoir Writing —
UCLA Extension

September 2005 — Query Letter Workshop — Writer’s Digest University

Oct. 2005 through Jan. 2006 — Audacious Memoir —
UCLA Extension

July ~ Sept. 2007 — Meeting the Muse: Building a Writing Practice —
UCLA Extension

Oct. 2007 — Pitch, Publish, & Platform —
UCLA Extension

And I haven’t listed all of the courses that I’d taken online since then – after finding the costs and the commute of on-site courses too overwhelming!

Through the duration of each course, having to read and respond to other students’ assignments took copious amounts of time and concentration away from my own focus.  The feedback that others left my own work also tended to be careless, with no real effort exerted.  And course instructors
generally discouraged further explaining our written words to others, in favor of allowing our writing to leave their own impressions.   

Then, as soon as these classes reached their conclusion, the freshness of their content dwindled, along with my incentive to move forward with my own writing.  Eventually, it was their costs that deterred me from continuing on this path.

Only recently did I try another online course – this one titled:


One of the first lessons, titled “Time to Cut the Crap”, advised us to focus on our task at hand, cutting from my life everything else while writing.  The same mantra was taught by many other books I’ve read on the topic.

This time, I could identify my problem with it right away: shifting to other tasks outside of writing is what allows my mind to process, clarify, and retain what I write.  My problems are fending off interference while I am taking these breaks, keeping my trains of thought intact, and sustaining my momentum upon returning to my writing.

Daily schedules that I set for myself also have the tendency to slip and slide within my memory. To prevent others from interfering (however well-intentioned), I follow my instinct of keeping a safe distance from all people – severely limiting our interactions and cutting them off whenever my memory runs out of room.

Hence another habit of preparing for all face-to-face meetings beforehand, by anticipating the words I may have to express; capturing them on paper, taking hours, days, sometimes even weeks to process them visually; until a good portion of it has sunk into my long-term memory.  Then, I need to do more rehearsing, to make sure the appropriate words and ideas will surface at the times when I need them.

This still leaves my situation at home unresolved, for I am unable to obtain significant distance from my parents.  Not only do I need to translate everything into Chinese to communicate with them through speech; they lack the ability to understand me though my writing.  Even if I have this writing translated, I doubt that they would take it seriously – with all of my daily mistakes and miscalculations that they witness.

So I continue to battle parents’ ways of thinking, and struggle to overturn their negativity and resistance.  My father and my brother Jason have returned to Taiwan for the time being, but my mom still wears away efforts to organize my short-term memory.

After the departure of our housekeeper Livia, Mom had continued to reject the own simple meals that I put together for us at home.  So, for the first weeks of February, we fell back into a habit from previous years, before employing any help in our household: ordering take-out from local Chinese restaurants.  Without the interference of the male members of the family, I was encouraged to encounter some success on these attempts.

Fri. Feb. 8        New housekeeper arrived for interview with her friend

                         Mom found the conditions they demanded unacceptable (higher wages, all weekends & holidays off; plus paid transportation to & from the San Gabriel Valley on days off…)

Fri. Feb. 15      Another housekeeper was supposed to start work; never showed up – misunderstanding

Sun. Feb. 17    This latter housekeeper started working for us

Within days – her mother was hospitalized in a medical emergency;

Housekeeper quit

I arrived home from work the following day – Feb. 18 – to find Ms. Yang back inside our kitchen!  I couldn’t believe that Mom had actually allowed her to return.  But Mom was convinced that Ms. Yang had learned her lesson, and won’t repeat her previous behavior.

Then, hardly a day had passed before she was already demanding a higher salary from Mom! 

Despite her anger, Mom admitted that at least Ms. Yang was still familiar with all of our household procedures, and with mom’s preferred food preparation.

My own shackles were raised when this housekeeper promptly resumed her habit of talking on her cell phone late into the night, after I’d gotten into bed in my room next to hers. 

I’d recently gotten up and pounded on her door, then told her to move into the room across the hall from me if she wanted to continue.

The next morning, Mom criticized me after Ms. Yang claimed that I had disturbed her by making too much noise – when it was actually the other way around!

I encounter frustrating situations like these whenever I allow others to get too close.  Besides continuing to maintain distance from others when I can, I’ve shift attention to recording daily tasks that I’ve managed to perform successfully, however insignificant these tasks may be.    Forming words in my mind and recording them in my Daily Info Dump is a start.  I am also placing physical notebooks throughout my house, to keep within reach – so that they are within reach for me to update and refer to.

The current lesson on my PRODUCTIVE WRITER course is titled:

“Build Your Idea Handbook”

It’s a good reminder to view everything I encounter as material for my writing. (Giving the painful experiences a purpose helps soften their sting.)  Obviously, I still need to find better ways to organize & recall all parts of my ongoing experiences.  Perhaps this “Idea Handbook” lesson will help.

Anticipating the interference she is sure to raise, I still have yet to work up the courage to tell Mom about my plans to go to Europe with the LMU Choruses in June!   Maybe an opportunity will arise in another week or two.

January 2019 continued

Saturday evening, Jan. 26th

After dinner, I descended the fifteen steps from the kitchen to sit down at my PC and start typing up my disorderly thoughts, hoping to dispel my trepidation. Mom had just discussed with me her displeasure with our current housekeeper, Livia, and revealed plans to replace her with someone new, yet again. I’d wanted to escape before the carnage began.

Unfortunately, there was no door I could actually close between the kitchen and my computer in order to tune out interactions between the two of them, which were roared in sharp, biting words of Mandarin Chinese. Mom announced her decision and backed it up by pointing out a stream of Livia’s shortcomings: She had the tendency to forget Mom’s instructions seconds after hearing them, refusing to take them seriously by writing them down and referring to them; Livia insisted on using a harsh scrubbing pad to clean our kitchen sink and wash our pots and pans, damaging both by scarring their surfaces; she was careless when shutting off the faucet; leaving water dripping all night; she not only spent hours preparing each of our three daily meals, but insisted on following her own habit of eating just two meals a day, which skewed her emphasis to lunch rather than dinner, something Mom had trouble getting used to…

Livia loudly defended herself, pointing out that these were her habits; Mom was unreasonable not to accommodate them, when she herself was doing her best to accommodate Mom. She gave examples of other employers she’d worked for.

Mom then accused Livia of having no sense of propriety, asking to borrow thousands of dollars from Mom only hours after arriving for her first day on the job; then drove off to conduct her own business and failing to return for hours, when Mom refused.

“I was still getting used to your household, and your expectations,” Livia argued.

But Mom continued sharply, “And whenever I give you orders, you always say “OK”, but forget what I’d said the next minute, and refuse to write them down. That means you’re not taking your job seriously. How can I rely on you…”

To effectively stem the chaos that their argument was wreaking in my mind, I reached for a set of noise-cancelling earmuffs I kept nearby, just for such scenarios – when spoken words and interactions around me overwhelmed my short-term memory.

That night in bed, however, Mom’s & Livia’s words continued ringing through my mind, preventing me from falling asleep. I knew from experience that all incoming experiences, especially in the form of spoken words, will remain a HUGE mess in my mind unless I did something to control them.

So I deployed my own short-term memory compensation techniques:

1. Translate these Chinese words into English, reshape / put them into a coherent order, and identify causes & effects. This is a start, but not enough place them securely into my memory…

2. Capture words on paper, or type them out on the computer, in the form of rough outlines

3. While working in this way, my short-term memory becomes full in a matter of minutes, shutting down my ability to process any information. No new incoming words and experiences will stick, either. So…

4. When this happens, switch to working on other tasks – ones that don’t require much mental exertion – for short periods (a few minutes) at a time. Constantly step away; take frequent breaks / switch tasks; return to sorting out thoughts later.

5. In the process of switching tasks and taking breaks, it can be difficult to recall where I’d left off, to regain my previous momentum.

6. When family members / coworkers / others around me witness me floundering, they tend to feel that I should follow their methods, instead. I then have to fend off their interference, which again disrupts my memory.

7. Thus, I constantly lose track of my own time and priorities.

8. Keeping track of tools and objects that I use for each task can pose more problems:

a. I jot down information on bits and pieces of paper and notebooks whenever they occur to me, but simply finding a safe place to keep them could scatter my thoughts and derail my tasks
b. I’m attracted to books, whose words have already been organized for me. However, my eyesight, not to mention my memory, breaks down unless I limit each reading session to minutes at a time. Every time I put them away, though, I have trouble recalling what I was reading and where I left off. Thus my tendency to stick multiple bookmarks in them, scribble separate reading notes, and leave them in highly-visible areas all over the house.
c.. People react in a variety of ways when they see this mess, along my temporary confusion: criticism, derision, pity, interference, exasperation… All of which cause them to lose confidence in my abilities and to run interference, wreaking further havoc on my memory!

9. Even after all this, my ability to retrieve the right bits memories when I need them later is still not secure.

10. Keeping track of my own schedule / appointments, etc. – also constantly slips in and out of memory.

11.  So I need to identify the causes behind what I perceive, and make sense of them by pairing them with their effects.  Capture all of it with more words.  Organize and shape these words visually on paper, or on the computer, until they resemble the structure of fiction (novels) that are locked firmly inside my long-term memory. 

This is how I prevent daily life from overwhelming me.

Mon. morning 1/28:

Mom discovered that the glass turntable inside our kitchen’s built-in microwave had cracked in two, straight down the middle. She immediately questioned Livia, who claimed not knowing nothing about it.

Mom later said viciously to me, “She’s lying. Who else would break that plate? Livia must be acting in revenge for my firing her. It’s dangerous to have someone so evil-hearted in our home…”

To stem both her words and her negativity, I focused on ordering a new microwave turntable online, and hauling into the kitchen an old mini-microwave I’d used 20 years ago while in college. We could use it while waiting for my order to arrive.

Next, Livia had agreed to depart at the end of January, but wanted to be paid her full salary for the first day she’d worked for us. Mom refused, arguing that Livia didn’t work the full day, driving out of the house for several hours. Another loud argument ensued, wreaking havoc on my memory once more.

I can’t do much about people in my immediate household. But I can follow my instincts to maintain a careful distance from all people.

As the LMU choruses continue to prepare for a European tour this coming June, I focused on how to reveal my touring plans to Mom without her panicking.

To prevent a similar kind of havoc from invading my memory and bungling my own relationships, I had kept safe distance from other choir members: including Angie, the lady who had, last semester, agreed to share a hotel room with me on this trip.

Then, at a rehearsal in mid-January, Dr. Breden pulled me aside to inform me that Angie had changed her mind, no longer wanting to share a room. This obligated me to pay several hundred dollars more to room by myself.

It was far from the first time people had altered their plans to exclude me, without so much as consulting me – leaving the consequences for me to deal with.

During the sleepless night that resulted, I pondered: was my keeping too much distance from her the reason why Angie had opted out of sharing a room with me? Why hadn’t she discussed it with me directly, rather than simply thinking of herself and leaving me in the lurch?

Even more troubling – I haven’t yet figured out how to tell Mom that I planned to go to Europe for a week and a half in June. She obviously relies on being able to control the people and circumstances around her; every new situation / change / unexpected incident causes her anxiety to flare and her health to spiral downward. The prospect of switching to a new housekeeper is already spiking her nerves and upsetting her stomach throughout each day. And I haven’t yet begun to describe what’s going on with the other half of my family – my dad and brother! I don’t know whether Mom’s current state of mind can withstand another prospective shakeup.

By not telling Mom about my plans now, though, was I doing the same kind of thing that Angie had done to me — delivering a shock to her after she’s no longer able to do anything about it? But I am even more afraid of the ruckus Mom is sure to make, and the havoc it will inflict on my short-term memory. Should I protect my state of mind now, maintain its clarity, and deal with Mom later? Or would it be better to face Mom’s reactions to my Europe trip now, to prevent shocking her later and risk plunging her into a state of mind that’s even worse?

At least time is still on my side. For now, I will wait a month or two, and pray that circumstances will change to help her state of mind improve.

Finding my identity

A piece of reading I once encountered describes the experience of daily life as ‘chaos’.

“The artist is comfortable only with going back to the way chaos is first encountered – that is, moment to moment through the senses,” the author stated.

“Then, selecting from that sensual moment-to-moment experience, picking out bits and pieces of it, reshaping it, she recombines it into an object that a reader encounters as if it were experience itself: a record of moment-to-moment sensual experience, an encounter as direct as we have with life itself.

“Only in this way, by shaping and ordering experience into an art object, is the artist able to express her deep intuition of order.”

—Judith Barrington, Writing the Memoir

“Chaos” is pretty much how I would describe my everyday experiences.

To maintain my sanity, I need to control that chaos, while taking into account the state of my memory at the same time. And this involves finding words to pin down these experiences – then spending time alone to organize and reshape these words, identifying causes and pairing them with effects, until they resemble the format of fiction that is familiar to my long-term memory.

2019 ushered a brand new housekeeper into my home.  The one we previously used throughout 2018 – Ms. Yang – had long since taxed the patience of both my mom and myself.  Not only did she ignore most of our guidance after making mistakes, she defended herself by spewing back streams of barely-intelligible Chinese words. Then she got on her cell phone to vent her grievances to her friends, keeping me awake half the night in the bedroom next to hers. More than once, threatened to quit unless Mom raised her salary.  At Christmas last month, Mom hoped to placate her with a $500 bonus.  Ms. Yang reacted by demanding a $1,200 bonus, instead, with the threat that she was quitting at the end of the year unless Mom complied.

This latest demand finally breached any level Mom could tolerate.  Mom got on phone with several family friends to plot how to get rid of and replace her with someone new.

Mom waited until the morning of December 30th to mention to Ms. Yang offhand, “When you’re all packed, make sure your bedroom is clean and tidy for the arrival of our new housekeeper!”

Having obviously expected Mom to give in to her demand, Ms. Yang was dismayed.  A few hours later, I found her kneeling at the foot of Mom’s bed, loudly sobbing her apologies and begging to stay at our home, all while Mom was trying take her short afternoon nap.

Too little, too late.

What is the matter with these people, I thought. I stepped into the doorway and sternly reminded this housekeeper of her previous threat to Mom, adding firmly: “While my mother is resting, you are NOT to enter her room and bother her.  Go.”

Ms. Yang departed on New Year’s morning, to be replaced by a much more preferable (in my opinion) lady who’d been raised in Taiwan, named Livia (short for Olivia).  But Mom, ever the perfectionist, has immediately zeroed in on her shortcomings – including a tendency to forget bits and pieces of Mom’s instructions.  While I tried to placate them both and defuse potential arguments, I also accompanied my mom to her doctor’s appointment, helped provide translations between English and Chinese, and deflected Mom’s further dissatisfaction with this new doctor.

I also drove to my own appointment for an annual checkup and procedure – only to hear that the technician administering it needed to postpone that procedure for two hours, and had left a message on my voice mail the previous day.  When I called home to tell Mom not to expect me back until later, she chewed me out for failing to check my messages and causing her more anxiety.    

I looked forward to my own planned activities for some relief.

I’d arranged to have lunch together with Mrs. Lee (my former high school English teacher, now a close friend), followed by attending a movie.  I also anticipated resuming choir rehearsals at LMU for the spring semester.

As I finished my early dinner on Tuesday night, Jan. 8, said good-bye to Mom, and headed out the door, she yelled after me that choir rehearsal started the following week (the 15th).  Then, a couple days later, I’d called Mrs. Lee to confirm our plans for the following day… only to be told I was a week too early again!   Mom pummeled me with new torrents of criticism on the shortcomings of my memory, blaming me for shocking her while she already had too much to worry about.

            Clearly, I need to focus on improving my short-term memory in 2019.

In order to maintain my sanity, past experience tells me that I need to capture everything through words.

To help me bring some structure to these words, & prevent futility from overwhelming me, I purchased and started a new self-study course online, titled The Productive Writer.

Course materials include extensive presentations on the mindset, habits, and schedule that a typical writer must learn to keep.  A lesson under the “Mindset” category included the following document, titled “The Writer’s Affirmation”.  I’ve adapted the wording to my own situation, printed out multiple copies, and taped them onto the walls of several rooms around my house as a constant reminder:

In case there’s lingering doubt in anyone’s mind:  This is my identity.






Withdraw and focus

In my last blog post, I had briefly addressed techniques I’d adopted for working with my short-term memory.

Unfortunately, these techniques are invisible to people around me.  And the closer I allow others to approach, the more they tend to trample over all of them.

Besides the numerous daily errands that I usually run, the start of the year is when my family members and I schedule checkups with our various doctors.  Neither Mom nor Dad drives anymore, and both would rather avoid my brother Jason’s ill temperament. That left me to coordinate all of these appointments around my work schedule and navigate driving directions.

sports car

During his college days, Jason had bought a posh Mercedes SLK sports car with my parents’ money – which he kept in a storage facility and never drove.  (He later told Dad that he was waiting for it to appreciate in value, before selling it as an antique!)  Last year he had it shipped home and parked it in my parking space in the garage.  I learned to squeeze my own car in between it and my Mom’s larger sedan – but, because our garage is situated at a right angle to the street, backing out from this new position can be tricky.  In separate incidents, I’d previously knocked off the covers of both the right and left door mirrors on my car, which I then temporarily re-affixed with clear industrial tape.  Recent rain in our area, however, caused that tape to shrivel up, inciting Dad’s harassment about their ugliness.  I subsequently had trouble locating just the specific new covers needed, without spending hundreds of dollars replacing both mirrors as well.

I also struggled to coordinate my own daily tasks while fitting in the demands of other family members. Mom and our housekeeper burdened me with a never-ending stream of groceries to pick up and errands to run; Dad wanted to tag along and have a meal out either beforehand or afterward, then mess up the clarity of my mind by pressuring me to follow his whims.

The start of each year was also the time when all family members got our annual doctors’ checkups.  While I coordinated all of these appointments around my work schedule, Mom & Dad both tried to dictate times of day I performed various tasks, and, on outings, the timing of each segment of our trips.  I had difficulty guarding my own time for reading, writing, and trips to the library and gym – priorities important to my state of mind, but superfluous to my parents’ mindset.

Meanwhile, some new regulations implemented at work in December caused some supervisors to give me trouble about techniques I’d adapted to accommodate my short-term memory limitations.  Throughout the eight years I’d worked for this company, I’d mostly fended off complaints and dissatisfaction by giving in to others’ demands: trimming my work days from 3-4 days a week down to two, limiting my the tasks I performed while at work, enduring muscular aches and pains when office furniture didn’t fit me; moving to alternate desks within the building when the heater or air conditioning bothered me.  But now I was informed that the law allowed part-time workers such as myself no rest breaks throughout the day.  Even my lunch hour was cut in half.

To save time, I packed all of my lunches to eat at the office, and gobbled them up as quickly as I could.  But it still took closer to 40 minutes for me to finish them.  I was warned that if this continued, that extra time was going to be deducted from my paycheck.

Then, during the work day, whenever I my memory got stuck, I was reprimanded for browsing some non-work-related sites on the Internet, then for reading a few personal emails I’d forwarded to the office from home, and even for flipping through a book that I’d checked out from the library. The law, I was told, did not allow part-time workers any breaks during the work day.

I finally said, “Okay, I don’t know whether you are aware of another law that applies to me: it’s called the Americans with Disabilities Act, passed by Congress in 1990.  It requires that all employers provide reasonable accommodations for employees.”

At that point, I was told that no action can be taken until they received verification from my doctor.

At a subsequent appointment, I handed my family doctor a full outline of the points I wanted him to cover in his letter.  He was very supportive, and his righteous indignation on my behalf soothed much of my own sense of wrongness.


But then Dr. Lin was out of the office with the flu for two weeks, while I continued to receive pressure at work.  Next, his promised letter arrived without his signature on it, and was rejected by my supervisor.  At my subsequent phone call, the receptionist wouldn’t let me speak to the doctor, telling me this was now a matter between him and my employer only.

Shortly after, I was driving home from work one afternoon when a big semi-truck on my right moved into my lane without leaving enough room between our vehicles, scratching up both the front and back passenger doors and completely breaking off my right door mirror in the process.  The semi driver failed to stop at all; I followed the vehicle until it turned into a parking lot a few blocks away.  Then he claimed that I was at fault for not seeing that I had his turn signal on.

The driver gave me his personal driver’s license and his phone number, but in my frazzled state of mind, I hadn’t thought to ask for his vehicle registration, nor jot down the license plate of the semi he was driving.  At home, I had to fend off criticism on this omission from both my mom and the insurance agent who took my report over the phone.

Mom wailed in despair that she was already plagued by foot pain and bad eyesight, but trouble just kept coming.  I fended off her waves of negativity by concentrating on scheduling repairs for my car; then ordering, picking up, and delivering parts to the repair shop using Mom’s car.  But I also had trouble cramming all new bits and pieces of information into my memory – and keeping portions of each incident from slipping and sliding in and out of my mind.

This is why my instincts tell me to keep my distance from all people, and to cut short all interactions: because it’s impossible for them to see my memory at work.

The closer I allow others to approach, the more they trample over the processes I’ve developed to accommodate these memory deficiencies.

Thus I resort to MY way of making sense of it all; taking into account how my long-term & short-term memories work:

  • Stay busy, and cut short all interactions by putting distance between myself and others
  • Allow words to surface – use them to pin down all experiences, then identify the causes behind them
  • Organize these points through writing – in order to successfully affix them into long-term memory
  • Effectively restore balance to my state of mind

And finally, follow the advice from one of the many books on writing I’d collected over the years:

“To have a writing life you have to do two things: Withdraw.  Focus.”

–Heather Sellers

Page After Page, p. 66

Trials and frustrations to start 2017

Over the years, I’d made numerous attempts at sustaining a something similar to a blog, even before I’d actually set one up online 3 years ago. I seemed to have more and more trouble staying in touch with friends and acquaintances as I grew older, and thought that a blog would be an ideal way to stay in touch with others. I could then I take more time to piece together some meaning from daily existence.

That was before I realized that recalling and keeping track of recent activities as each day passes is a struggle in itself! The same with keeping track of plans that I intend, but have yet to carry out.

Keeping in mind that I learn best by trial-and-error, I had created a folder on my PC at work some time between 2011 and 2012, simply titled “Work Completed by Date” – breaking down all tasks that various colleagues assigned to me, typing them up in a list, and organizing them by year, month, and date.

That way, when colleagues ask me for some piece of information, explanation, document, etc., I could locate it much more easily.

In July of 2014, I started a similar document at home, which I titled “Daily Info Dump”.
As time progressed, I modified this list by jotting down what I’d managed to accomplish each day in black text, and reminders of tasks I’d yet to do in red. At the end of each day, I would review all of my activities, switch newly completed tasks to black, and leave uncompleted ones in red to come back to for the near future. Tasks that became unnecessary would be left intact, but crossed out (so I could recall them later, if needed).

The next coloring doesn’t show up below, but here are a couple of recent entries:

Daily Info Dump

Thurs. Jan. 12

Worked at U.S. Jaclean
Letter from Dr. Lin forwarded to colleagues at office
Write “Thank you” card to drop off for Dr. Lin some time next week
Pumped gas on the way home, but forgot to buy milk
Prepared for Dr. Yeh’s appt. tomorrow with Mom; unable to locate frame from broken sunglasses to use for new extra eyeglasses! 🙁
Watched on TV: “Great American Baking Show” finals, then “White House History”

Fri. Jan. 13

Appointments with Dr. Yeh (Mom + me) 11 a.m.
Driven to his office by Jason
Lengthy wait + eyes dilated
Did not arrive home for lunch until nearly 4 p.m.
Work on my blog post – plan to post on SUNDAY
Latest draft saved as Word document
http://www.writersdigest.com/online-editor/7-steps-to-creating-a-flexible-outline-for-any-story saved in READING folder; yet to go over
Catch up on CYLL online course!!


I’d long since been aware of, and frustrated by, the trouble I have organizing my daily tasks and keeping track of passing time. Only recently was I able to pin down that my struggles have to do with the permanent damage my short-term memory.

So I developed another procedure:

After every few minutes of new incoming information – to step away, perform other tasks that don’t require much thinking at all.

(This allows my mind to filter the information, make sense of it, and find the right words to pin it down.)

Then, take time to organize these words into writing before they evaporated from memory.

However, this process is far from perfect. Even during the process of “stepping away”, bits and pieces of thoughts become mixed up, or disintegrate altogether. The ones that I manage to retain still tend to slip and slide within my mind; various details frequently get lost, to give me trouble making sense of the whole picture that they fit into.

Jotting reminders down on paper only works up to a point.  Unless I take time to immediately figure out the right places to store and file them away, papers pile up so that I get all of the information on them mixed up.  While typing them up on my PC, other thoughts interrupt and disturb my recollections.  Such interruptions coming from family members and phone calls, distractions from weather conditions — all can wreak havoc on my memory storage process.

Then, RETRIEVING the appropriate memories at the right times involves constant preparation: going over all the recent information I’d put into words, figuring out how they fit into past contexts already in my memory, and finding ways to link together relevant portions so that they will surface when needed.

All of this takes time and effort.

Hence these tracking documents I’ve created – otherwise, I would never be able to recall what I’d accomplished and what I’ve yet to do!

Even then, finding meaning in my daily existence involves another process that I continue to experiment with.



My plan for 2017 is to take my daily record-keeping one step further by producing a blog post (such as this one) twice a month: draw meaning from weekly experiences by pairing them with past insights.

As soon as my alarm went off at 6 a.m. on January 1st of this year, I immediately got out of bed, showered, dressed, and headed to the living room with ample time, I thought, to watch the start of the Rose Parade broadcast on TV.

But Mom was already up, and spewed her usual contempt. “You fool! Today is Sunday. Don’t you remember? The Rose Parade has been moved to tomorrow!”
I gave myself a proverbial kick in the pants. I’d only reminded myself of this circumstance several times throughout the past week. But still… Did Mom have to be so condescending on the first day of a new year?

So I refrained from making any response. Instead, I busied myself tidying my bedroom and doing a fresh batch of laundry, while speaking to no one, so that words could surface within my mind.

A few hours later, I came upon the possible cause behind Mom’s mood. My brother Jason, who hadn’t stepped foot in the house for a couple of days, had flown out of town again without a mention to anyone in the family. Dad stood peering at the kitchen calendar, on which Jason had circled several dates and written:

“Dec. 29 ~ Jan. 4: San Francisco to visit friend”

Then came their loud complaints (approximately translated from Chinese):

What kind of son was this? He lived at home free of charge, but balked at helping out when his own parents needed assistance. He ate all of his meals out – God knows what he’s filling his stomach with. When he needed money, we had generously provided it without hesitation. All we hoped for was a little respect, and consideration, from him. Instead, he continues to betray us…

In all of my interactions, my first instinct is to take whatever action necessary to dispel this kind of negativity, and replace it with approval. Over the years, however, such actions have only encouraged numerous people to trample over me!

So this time, I firmly reminded myself:

I need my memory to work, first.

And to do that: I have to withdraw. Gain distance from others. Identify CAUSES behind the effects. Form words to pin them down. And make sense of how these causes and effects work together.

In other words, create a narrative, and liken it to the FICTION that’s familiar to my long-term memory.

Then, channel everything into writing.

After a good night’s sleep, I rose early once again on Jan. 2nd with my full optimism. Before heading into the living room to catch the Rose parade on TV, I strolled into Mom’s bedroom to wish her a cheerful “Happy Birthday”.

Mom immediately snapped at me for even mentioning it, and continued to be grumpy the rest of the day. As she did with every birthday, she insisted that we tell no one, and that there be no celebration whatsoever.

While I was inclined to follow her wishes (it was her birthday, after all), Dad wouldn’t listen. A few hours later, after Mom had retreated to her bedroom, Dad pestered me to drive him out for lunch, then bring home a cake (which I knew that Mom wouldn’t touch).

Dad and I dined at a Marie Callendar’s restaurant not too far from home. There, I managed to convince him to forgo a regular cake (all of whose icing Mom would no doubt scrape off and discard) and try bringing home a pie, instead. We had a good meal and I selected my favorite custard pie – whose flavor, not too sweet, I hoped Mom just might find agreeable.


It was fortunate that I kept my caution intact.  Mom refused to even touch the pie.  She further chewed out both Dad and me for wasting money on something so fattening and unhealthy.

I focused on tuning out both her words and her attitude as I placed the pie into our refrigerator.

Keeping in mind the calories, I enjoyed a very thin slice that pie for dessert after dinner that evening, while Dad helped himself to a big chunk.

When I checked again before going to bed that night, half of the pie was gone – gobbled up by Dad while the rest of us weren’t looking.  The following morning, the rest of the pie had disappeared – even before I had a chance convince Mom to sample it!

Although I wanted to grind my teeth in frustration, and yell accusations at Dad, this situation did not surprise me in the least. In my family – it’s the female members who possess any self-control, while the male members are utterly lacking!

Rather than risk another spike in my frustration level, I immediately decided to do the smarter thing — and channel all of this into my writing.

Starting anew in 2016

Happy 2016!

My first resolution for this New Year is to start this blog anew.

When I’d initially begun this project two years ago, I had planned to post new profound insights and updates from my own life here, to share with friends (which I’d previously done in the form of lengthy letters soon after graduating from college).  Unlike Facebook, which accommodated only a few lines per post, I’d imagined that a blog would allow me to go into much more detail.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how long it would take for me to prepare each post.  Month after month would go by before I satisfied with a meaningful chunk of information that constituted a “post”.  In the meantime, the previous news that I’d shared very likely grew cold in my readers’ minds, and I had trouble figuring out how much to remind them of where I’d left off.  And also, how to sustain their interest over time.

My new insight: Blog posts are designed to be short and frequent – not unlike Facebook posts, but with some more room to accommodate details.

Hence my new plan: twice a month or so, I shall attempt to post new information here on what’s going on in my life, or whatever else has caught my attention.


My first week of 2016 began with a simple event that brought me much joy, as do nearly all events associated with the LMU Choruses – a group very dear to my heart ever since I’d first joined it over twenty years ago.

In February of 2015, all of us singers held a big event on campus – a French Cabaret show paired with a silent auction – to raise funds for our Summer 2015 concert tour to Paris and Normandy.  At that auction, I had donated a “Student Writing Support” package, offering unlimited guidance on writing assignments for a semester.

My friend Ann, also a longtime LMU choir member, won the highest bid for her son Nicolas (an eighth-grader at the time).  I then helped guide him on writing his very first research paper – the topic of which was something very familiar to me – Chinese food.

So, when I discovered that a very nice Asian buffet restaurant had opened its doors in the city of Torrance, close to my home, I invited both Ann and Nicolas down to sample some authentic Chinese cuisine with me.  And since Dr. Breden, our LMU choir conductor, also lived nearby, I invited her to join us.



We had a wonderful time, and joy continued to keep my spirits high throughout the following day (Monday, Jan. 4) back at work.

Monday night, though, I awoke in the dark feeling unbearably hot.  Come Tuesday morning, severe muscle aches developed along my neck and shoulders, and just looking at the hot bowl of noodle soup my family’s housekeeper had prepared for lunch caused a nauseating sensation.  It went away after I slept for a few hours, but was back on Wednesday morning.  I discovered that I was burning a low fever, and feared I might’ve caught the flu.

flu image

Not the flu, a couple of friends informed me after I’d posted my condition on Facebook, but something I’d never heard of – Norovirus:

Norovirus is a very contagious virus. You can get norovirus from an infected person,
contaminated food or water,or by touching contaminated surfaces.
The virus causes your stomach or intestines
or both to get inflamed (acute gastroenteritis).
This leads you to have stomach pain, nausea, and diarrhea and to throw up.
Anyone can be infected with norovirus and get sick.
Also, you can have norovirus illness many times in your life.
Norovirus illness can be serious, especially for young children and older adults…


The best way to beat this virus, I’m told, is to drink a lot of fluids and get plenty of rest.  So I took a number of naps each day throughout the rest of this week, and did not attempt to resist my body’s weariness.  (It was very fortunate to have happy memories of lunch with people from my choir to keep depression at bay!)

As you can see, my New Year did not start off on the best footing.  This hateful virus derailed my first two New Year’s resolutions: to shed some weight by working out at the gym at least once a week, and to diligently work on my writing every day.

But I shall NOT allow this setback to spoil any more of my new year!  I’ve since replaced resolutions #1 and #2 with the following:

  1. TAKE CARE OF MY BODY!!!  Remember that illness and discomfort will throw any other plans and activities into disarray.
  1. Break down my writing projects into short chunks, and share them often. This should help me stay in touch with others and better motivate to make further progress.

This post is the first product of resolution #2.  Please help me keep it going my posting your comments here.  (Your encouragement does wonders!)

Working with my Memory – Part 2

During my first week as a college student at Loyola Marymount University back in 1992, one professor opened his class by calling out:

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
“Ah, isn’t that a lovely sentiment?” he continued, then paused to let his words sink in.
“But what about ‘out of sight, out of mind?’”


The speaker above was  Professor Shanahan, and his class was titled “Philosophy of Human Nature” — part of ‘core curriculum’ of classes required by all freshmen whose majors fell under the broad College of Liberal Arts.
This professor was no doubt trying to point out very different ways of approaching any single situation.
I remembered it very well because of how the phrase “out of sight, out of mind” described the state of my short-term memory – the part of my brain that had sustained permanent damage from my surgery in 1988.

On a previous blog post, I’d started to describe how I store new information into my long-term memory.

Here, I address dealing with the much more complicated portion of my working mind: my short-term memory, along with how I compensate for its permanent damages.

“Short-term memory, also known as primary or active memory, is the information we are currently aware of, or thinking about.

In Freudian psychology, this memory would be referred to as the conscious mind.

Most of the information kept in short-term memory will be stored for approximately 20 to 30 seconds, but it can easily be less than that if rehearsal or active maintenance of the information is prevented.”

— www.psychology.about.com

Has someone ever spewed at you a stream of words in a language that’s completely foreign to your ears?

How many syllables did you catch?

Can you repeat what you’ve heard five seconds later?

Five minutes later?

What about five days later?

That’s your short-term memory at work, when you don’t have a context in your long-term memory into which you can make sense of, and store, this new information right away.

After undergoing brain surgery at age 14, my short-term memory capacity was whittled down to not 20-30, but 3-5 seconds – at best. This not just involves foreign languages, but all new incoming information. All the time.

Furthermore, if two, three, or four distinct pieces of new information arrive in rapid succession, I’d count myself lucky to capture just one or two of them. Hence: “Out of sight, out of mind” suitably describes my short-term memory.

While many of our short-term memories are quickly forgotten, attending to this information allows it to continue on the next stage: long-term memory.

— www.psychology.about.com

memory 1Hence the compensation techniques that I need to constantly practice:

a. find some way to make sense of incoming bits of information by constantly forming words in my mind to describe them, and grouping similar pieces together before they disappear

b. after each short span of time (within minutes):
capture these words in writing, so that I can view them visually, and review them when needed

c. take time to organize and link worthwhile bits of this information into a structure that’s already inside my long-term memory.

It helps for me to be aware of what I can count on inside this long-term memory:
* the structure of fiction, where causes and effects are always balanced out — formed by my voracious reading of novels throughout my childhood
* the gathering new information through the written word
* the structure of classical music, through many years of playing the piano and the violin

Now, two insights gathered immediately after college, during the late 1990s:

1. The graduate coursework that I’d taken toward obtaining a teaching credential presented the idea of TOP DOWN vs. BOTTOM UP ways of learning:
The first concept focuses on providing students with an overall concept or idea, immersing them in the big picture, before working down to the finer details of that concept or idea. A “bottom-up” approach, on the other hand, presents small chunks within a topic, piecing them together, then builds up to the larger picture.

So if you wanted to teach the English language to someone who is first learning it, a “top-down” approach would be to place him or her into an environment where only English is used to communicate. After he or she becomes a bit familiar with his surroundings, then introduce the elements of grammar, mechanics, usage, and the like.


In contrast, a bottom-up approach would start by presenting a student with key vocabulary words and phrases, building up to sentences and paragraphs. Some rules of grammar, usage, and verb agreement will be worked in along the way, eventually arriving at how the language works overall.

If you were teaching fundamentals of music to a class, a top-down approach would have students listen to sample pieces to familiarize them with major compositions, before presenting the genres the fall into (symphonies, concertos, sonatas, etc.) and details within how they were put together (notes, intervals, tempos, types of chords, rhythmic meters…)

A bottom-up approach would start with elements such as scales, key signatures & key relationships, notes & rhythms, then building melodic lines, harmonies, chords and chord progressions, etc., before fitting everything together to present major works of music.

TODAY, to make my memory work:

Individual elements simply do not stay in my short-term memory; I must first locate a context within my long-term memory to hold new information right away.

Two contexts already secure inside my long-term memory are the two examples I’d just given – both of which were very familiar to me as a child:

THE WRITTEN FORM OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE, the structure of FICTION in particular, in which causes & effects could be clearly traced

CLASSICAL MUSIC from piano and violin lessons, workshops, evaluations, performances, etc.

Ever since, I am able to retain information that fall under these two categories without much effort – even after my brain surgery had inflicted its damages.

2. To receive all other information successfully:


In other words, I need to to anticipate as accurately as possible, before each interaction / undertaking / new experience takes place, what to expect.
Otherwise, everything becomes a mess in my mind, and I retain nothing.

Then I rehearse words to describe the possible topics I may want to express, and any responses that may come in handy.  In my mind, I try out these words, expand them into phrases, sentences, and paragraphs. I brainstorm likely scenarios that I may encounter, come up with more words, and place them into a coherent order – much as if I were writing scenes for a story.  Only after this preparation can I be fairly confident in making a fair impression on others.

Immediately after each new experience, I take time to reorganize everything into writing – and in the process find words to describe what just took place, unearth the causes behind each part of the experience, balance them with their effects, and place these words and sentences into a coherent order.

All of this to liken the new experience to the structure of fiction inside my long-term memory.

Only then can I accurately retain the incident, at the same time keeping any associated emotions under control .

So: the next time you see me silently distancing myself from others while they chatter away, you’ll know what’s going on inside my mind. The same if you see me taking a long, solitary walk in the neighborhood.  Or putting together a meal in the kitchen by myself, then doing the dishes while family members watch TV or talk on the phone.

Quiet times such as these play an essential part of my ability to function.  So does keeping all personal interactions brief.

Organize 1

When I feel the urge to express something important, I condense that information into a few relevant pieces, recording a few words to describe each on paper or on the computer.  I wait a while as new insights, often in bits & pieces, surface.  On paper, I experiment with putting them into a coherent order – with all of the previous reading & writing experiences from my long-term memory to draw upon.  (At this point, consulting a thesaurus and the Internet becomes helpful to locate the words and phrases that convey my desired impressions most effectively.)

Then I leave behind what I’d written for a short time, returning to review and tinker with it multiple times.  (Each time I will notice something new that I hadn’t caught before.)  This process also serves to drive the new words I’d constructed into my long-term memory.  Only when I am fairly satisfied do I send it out for others to view.

As you may have already inferred from what I’d described above, interacting directly with other people is NOT something I can draw from my long-term memory to rely on.  The closer I allow others to approach, the more havoc they tend to wreak on this entire compensation process that I’ve developed. I will further explore the experiences in this last category, along with how music works with my short- and long-term memories, in my next post.

Quarter Notes Late Spring 2015

Quarter Notes 

An informal newsletter of the LMU Choruses

 Late Spring 2015

50 Years of Choral Excellence

Fifty years ago, the Choruses of the recently-established, co-educational Loyola Marymount University assembled to begin a glorious tradition.  For all of us singers, the Spring Chorale has marked the culmination of hard work throughout each academic year of vocal training, performing on our campus, and touring both nationwide and abroad.  To celebrate this Golden Jubilee, the present members of the LMU Choruses are preparing an exceptional Spring Chorale to perform on Friday evening, May 1st.   Please be sure to join us!
50th Annual Spring Chorale

8:00 p.m. Friday, May 1, 2015
LMU Sacred Heart Chapel

          Front Nave      $20 Regular

                                               $18 Students or

                                                  Senior Citizens

                Middle &          $18 Regular

                              Rear Nave       $15 Students or Senior Citizens

For more information, or to reserve tickets, please contact:

Cleo Huang               (310) 619-1639

Dr. Mary Breden     (310) 338-5154

LMU ticket office       www.lmucfa.com

Program Details

Consort Singers1   Women’s Chorus2 Concert Choir3 Combined Choirs4

During the first half of our concert, we will share with audiences a selection of our favorite short works, which we plan to perform on a concert tour in France this June.

Opening and closing this portion of the evening, respectively, will be two joyous selections conveying unrestrained praise of God.  Sing Unto the Lord4 was arranged by Bob Burroughs, a composer and arranger of church music from the American Southeast.  With text taken from Psalm 96, it will be performed a capella.  In contrast, Ralph Vaughan Williams’ O Clap Your Hands4 takes on a more proper, British manner of expressing joy.  Organ accom-paniment will add to its festive ambience.

In between, compare and contrast the Salve Regina1 of Alfred Desenclos with the Ubi Caritas 4and Tota pulcra es2of Maurice Duruflé, both 20th century French composers. Desenclos was a self-described “romantic”, whose sacred music belongs to the tradition begun by Saint-Saëns and continued by Fauré, while Duruflé’s works link Roman Catholic liturgy with his formal training as an organist.

Three secular works celebrating the power of music follow: compare Handel’s baroque setting of Music, Spread thy Voice Around4 with the verses of You are the Music2, composed by Joan Szymko (b. 1957), a composer from the Pacific Northwest.  The romantic style of If Music Be the Food of Love3, set to music by Minnesota choral conductor and composer David Dickau (b. 1953), is yet another contrast.

Next, compare the ambience of Sometimes I Feel1, a Negro spiritual with a contralto solo, with the familiar folk song Oh Shenandoah1,3, performed with all male voices.

Another selection from the folk song idiom, Unclouded Day4, combines a gospel tune, traditional bluegrass stylings, counterpoint and fugue, all to conclude in “a roof-raising eight-part chord on the phrase in the city that is made of gold”.

Salvation is Created4, sung entirely in Russian and supported by the dark, rich tones of the male voices, sets yet another stark contrast.

A professional orchestra will join us to perform the second half of the concert.  We will offer two more appealing short works: French composer Gabriel Fauré’s familiar Cantique de Jean Racine4 – accompanied by strings and harp, and Norwegian composer Ola Gjeilo’s The Ground4 , based on the chorale of his Sunrise Mass– accompanied by strings and piano.

Finally, sit back and enjoy the world premiere of Paul Gibson’s Te Deum4, celebrating our 50th year of performing this annual gala concert. The entire work draws largely from Gregorian chant, a specialty of our founder Paul Salamunovich.

Gibson himself experienced his first liturgical music – Latin hymns and chants – in the local parish church of the small village of Chitray, France, near the base at Châteauroux where his father had worked for the U.S. Air Force.  Years later back in the U.S., he developed a fascination for Medieval and Renaissance music as a student at Mount St. Mary’s College, coming under the influence of Salamunovich while he sang both in that school’s choir, and later in the L.A. Master Chorale.

Although we singers struggled with learning the intricate Latin texts within this new work of seven movements, its musical style is indeed very familiar to us.  I include, below, a brief description of each movement and an English translation of its text:

  1. Te Deum laudamus (God, we praise you)

This first movement begins quietly, as if in awe of God while singing His praises.  However, each subsequent verse grows bolder, until reaching the line ‘Lord, God of hosts’.  Then the music broadens, and all parts come together in unison – as if rising from obscurity into a brilliant world crowned by God’s glory.

We praise you, O God, we acknowledge you to be the Lord

  All the earth praises you, the everlasting Father.

  To you, all angels, to you the Heavens and all the Powers,

  To you, Cherubim and Seraphim – with unceasing voice proclaim:

  Holy, holy, holy

Lord god of hosts

  Full are the heavens and the earth with the majesty of your glory.

To you, all angels, to you the Heavens are all the Powers,

To you, Cherubim and Seraphim, with unceasing voice proclaim:

Full are the heavens and the earth of the majesty of your glory! 

  1. Te gloriosus (You, the Glorious)

Each of the first four lines below are initially proclaimed by the sopranos, then echoed by the rest of the choir in homophony (the same rhythms, but with different notes), finally broadening majestically to join in unison upon reaching the final lines of text.

You the glorious chorus of the Apostles (praise).

You the praiseworthy number of Prophets (praise).

You the white-robed army of Martyrs, praise.

You throughout the whole world are acknowledged by the Holy Church 

Father of immense majesty, who is to be worshipped,

 your true and only Son;

Also the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

Movement 3: Tu Rex Gloriae (performed by the Women’s chorus)

The texture of this movement has been kept simple and pure to match the virtue and dignity of Christ’s mission here on Earth.

You are the King of Glory, O Christ.

You are the everlasting Son of the Father.

You, when you took upon yourself to deliver man,

did not abhor the Virgin’s womb.

You, by overcoming the sting of death,

opened to all believers the Kingdom of Heaven.

You, at the right hand, in the glory of the Father.

Movement 4: Judex Crederis

This movement showcases the orchestra, with singers offering support and commentary in the background through a technique called a mensuration canon, popular in Renaissance music.  Like a regular canon, the leading musical phrase is imitated later by subsequent voices – but, in this case, at different speeds.  The tenors will intone each segment of the melody in quarter notes, while the other voices support them with the same melody in whole notes:

Our Judge, we believe that you will come to be.

You, therefore we ask: help your servants,

whom, through your precious blood, you have redeemed.

Eternally make us with the saints

in glory to be outnumbered.

Movement 5: Salvum fac Populum

The light, buoyant musical lines of this movement are paired with rhythmic precision and numerous syllables of Latin text:

Save your people, O Lord, and bless your heritage.

And rule them, and lift them up forever.

Day after day we bless you;

And we worship your name forever for all ages.

Movement 6: Dignare, Domine

This slow and prayerful movement keeps its texture simple and ends with a soprano solo on its last line, to be handled by the Women’s Chorus:

Vouchsafe, O Lord, this day, without sin

Have mercy on us.

Let your mercy, O Lord, be upon us

since we have placed our trust in you.

In You, O Lord, I have trusted,

May I not be confounded, forever.

Movement 7: Alleluia, Amen

This final movement begins with sense of mystery and obscurity – almost creating the feel of being underwater, before rising out of it through a series of rhythmic “Alleluias”.  Each subsequent line in the piece is interspersed by a new set of the words “Alleluia, Amen”, paired with new and distinct tones and rhythms.

You, O God, we praise.

Amen, Alleluia.


Holy, Holy, Holy

Lord God of hosts.

You, the eternal Father,

You, the King of glory, O Christ

And the Holy Spirit, the Comforter.

In you, O Lord, I have trusted,

May I not be confounded, forever.

The entire work closes with a final series of jubilant “alleluias”.

Immediately following this Spring Chorale, please join us at a special reception to meet the composer of this work in person and enjoy some light refreshments.  Simply walk across the Sunken Gardens in front of the chapel to the auditorium inside St. Robert’s Hall on campus.

Quarter Notes Early Spring 2015 issue

Quarter Notes

An informal newsletter of the LMU Choruses
Early Spring 2015

Upon returning to campus for rehearsals this Spring semester, the LMU Choruses immediately busied ourselves getting ready for two colossal undertakings: the celebration of the 50th annual Spring Chorale in May, followed closely by our third European concert tour in June, this time to France.

Although this France tour will replace our regular mid-semester travels to Northern California, we have plenty of activities to keep us busy. For the concert program that we will perform overseas, we are bringing back a number of our most appealing short works – along with a variety of other pieces we have not encountered before. Their musical styles encompass the Russian tradition centered upon the deep, rich tones of male voices; an American gospel piece sung in an 8-part a capella arrangement; the works of French composers Gabriel Faurè and Maurice Duruflè, and everything in between. Current rehearsals are focused on refining and shaping the nuances within these pieces. We will present a pre-tour concert in Santa Monica immediately before our departure to France. Please mark your calendars and plan to join us!


Spring & Summer Events 2015

Sat. 2/14 – Sun.2/15

Vive la France!
Musical Review & Silent Auction
LMU Murphy Hall

Fri. 5/1

50th Annual Spring Chorale
LMU Sacred Heart Chapel

Fri. 6/19

Pre-Tour Concert
St. Monica’s Church
Santa Monica

Sun. 6/21 – Tues. 6/30

France Festival Tour
Paris, Versailles, Rouen, Caen


Our more immediate concern, however, involves raising funds to help pay for this concert tour. Multiple bake sales and “all-you-can-eat” fundraising dinners on campus have been scheduled throughout the semester. Although these earnings don’t seem like much by themselves, they can become significant when accumulated.

Our biggest fundraising event, Vive la France!, will take place over Valentine’s Day weekend, Feb. 14-15. An informal concert of individual student performances will take place on both days, with a silent auction held during the Saturday event. We had initially planned a French Cabaret theme for the concert, but have since opened up the program to all types of performances. It will be general venue for choir members to each display their individual talents. At this time, auditions are still in progress, and all members of the choruses are busy collecting donated prizes to auction off at the Saturday event. More details are forthcoming as they develop. Please contact me if you are interested, either with donation ideas, or in attending the event itself on our campus.

And don’t forget about our 50th annual Spring Chorale on May 1st! We will premiere a brand new work written especially for this occasion. Paul Gibson, its composer, was a graduate of Mt. St. Mary’s College who had also worked closely with Paul Salamunovich. His new work should embody the same musical approach that has become a hallmark of the LMU Choruses.
Once we receive this score (or portions of it as it is being composed), this composer will likely adjust and refine it throughout our subsequent rehearsals, according to what works best for our venue and our current combination of singers. In the future, when the piece is published and distributed to the rest of the world, it will not only bear the name of our choruses, but also bits and pieces of our distinctive musical character and style.

Eiffel tower
Please save all of these dates, join us at our Spring performances, and help make our fast-approaching France tour a reality!

To order tickets, or more information, please contact:

Cleo Huang
Quarter Notes editor
(310) 619-1639

Dr. Mary Breden
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Working with my Memory – Part 1

As I’d alluded to in a previous blog post, my sensitivity to criticism and negativity was what had caused me to immerse myself in the world of fiction early in my life. In this world, negative people and events were still present; however, I could always count on the major problems to be resolved, and their causes and effects to be clearly traced through written words – a format that I could count on to make sense.

Then, in my early teens, major surgery inflicted permanent damage on my short-term memory. I recently came across these examples in a library book I’d checked out:

1. Short-term memory:

  • “the active, working, need-it-to-function-on-a-constant-basis” kind of memory, i.e.:
  • who just called on the phone a moment ago
  • where you put your keys when you came in the front door

2. Recent memory:

  • What you had for lunch yesterday
  • what you watched on TV last night

3. Long-term / Remote memory:

  • the name of your first grade teacher
  • incidents from your childhood

human brain - memory picture

On a constant basis in my life today, I need to deal with categories 1 and 2 above by immediately finding ways to link incoming pieces of information to what I have securely stored inside category 3, formed before my short-term memory was damaged.

So what’s inside my long-term memory?

As a child, my sensitivity prevented me from ever feeling at ease interacting with others around me. In school, I’d preferred to hide from my peers rather than fend off their constant taunting and snide remarks.

Instead, I spent my free time inside libraries, immersing myself in novels written for children. I used my imagination to put myself within the settings of these stories, and made up fictional interactions with their characters. I would even use to create new problems we would encounter, which I would use my own talents to help them resolve. I would earn the respect and admiration of these fictional friends of mine, which then eased the ordeals inflicted by real people in my life.

Securely lodged within my long-term memory:
• Gathering information through the written word, in the English language
• All details involved with the written word that are overlooked in speech: grammar, vocabulary, spelling, punctuation, syntax (sentence structure & phrasing)
• Making sense of life through fiction: having cause and effect to balance the positive and negative aspects

But I couldn’t escape being around other people altogether . I actually enjoyed being placed in settings among my peers,  performing the same kind of activities that we were all assigned. Those activities that stirred my interest and made me feel alive had a definite structure that I could easily understand and follow – allowing me to measure my own progress by observing how others around me performed the same tasks. They included workshops and enrichment classes for kids (PC learning; math, science, and vocabulary building); lessons in sporting activities (swimming and diving, gymnastics, tennis); and, of course, classical music (private instrumental lessons, workshops, recitals, auxiliary lessons in music theory).

So I could add the following to I have within my long-term memory:

• Performing tasks that others assigned to me
• Having a structure to follow that had already been defined
• Engaging in the same activities as others around me; giving me a point of reference
• Many aspects related to classical music

This is why, even today, I feel comfortable with gathering and imparting information through printed and written words. Why I am drawn to the school environment, to taking classes on topics that stimulate my interests wherever I can find them. And, this is why I continue to find joy singing with the LMU Choruses.

Let me add something else trained into my long-term memory: an Asian upbringing based upon the teachings of ancient philosopher Confucius:

• Wisdom lay in the elders of one’s family and society
• Obeying one’s parents is the duty of sons and daughters
• Obeying authority figures is the duty of common citizens


Now note the structures that have NOT been firmly lodged within my long-term memory; skills that I’d never mastered as a child:

• Communicating and negotiating directly with others through speech
• Organizing a coherent series of daily tasks for myself to perform
• Organizing a coherent series of tasks for others to perform
• Keeping track of the tasks just mentioned above
• Maintaining my orientation and sense of direction in unfamiliar settings

So whenever I encounter anything that falls into this last category above, and I have trouble determining how to proceed, following the opinions and guidance of others seems so much easier. However well-intentioned this guidance is, though, it rarely takes all of my circumstances into account.  Blindly following orders had landed me in some very painful situations in the past.

Today, to counter that tendency, I hoard every free moment I have by myself, in order to put all that I experience into words. I then rearrange those words within my mind, placing each portion into narrative order, and building sentences and paragraphs to describe them. Next, I come up with more words to identify and describe cause and effect. Only after transforming each experience to closely match the fiction that is familiar to me can I successfully attach the entire experience into my long-term memory, while keeping any emotions that arise under control.

All in order to give my memory a fighting chance to retain and process this new material.
Even with all of these efforts, I still make plenty of mistakes. And when others express their frustration, or disparage my ability to succeed in the future (the latter of which my parents seem to specialize in), I must find ways to channel all of that negativity into something productive and meaningful, which also fits into a framework within my long-term memory.

Between the years 2001 and 2003, when depression had caused my mother to hide from all activity and interactions with others, I’d channeled my own helplessness into a novel for middle grade readers. In subsequent years I submitted it to various writing contests, to publishers of these books, and then to literary agents. I attended local classes and writer’s conferences to obtain more insight into the publishing process, and to improve my own writing skills. But after receiving numerous rejections and little or no interest, I’d shifted my attention to other forms of writing, temporarily placing the publication of this novel on the back burner. I would instead concentrate on building this blog, continuing my Quarter Notes newsletter for the LMU Choruses, and drafting manuals and web content at my day job.

Then I spotted a free “Dear Lucky Agent” contest online, asking for the first 150-200 words of any unpublished middle-grade novel:  http://tinyurl.com/pwbds3q.

I shrugged. Why not? I’m not getting my hopes up, for my chances for winning and landing an agent are still slim to none. But this could perhaps be the first step in getting me back on track with my fiction writing, which feels the most comfortable to my instincts.