Friday, August 31, 2007


Now that you understand that music is what makes me tick, I'll reveal another characteristic:

My Music Of The Day on Fridays at work is a different genre than other days. Fridays call for lighter music. Channel 71 (Watercolors - jazz) or 73 (High Standards - jazz) streamed on XMRadio or the jazz playlist on my iPod. This morning I picked up my old SanDisk sansa mp3 player that I used before I invested in my iPod. There are two great CDs stored on this. One is Alison Krauss's "Now That I've Found You" and the other is Regina Carter's "Paganini: After A Dream", on which she plays the Paganini violin, "a once-in-a lifetime encounter between a jazz musician from Detroit and the most famous violin in classical music, Paganini's Guarneri."

Here's the story of Carter's relationship with this violin:
Perhaps the most legendary classical violinist in history, Nicolò Paganini, born in Genoa, Italy in 1782, had a technique so dazzling he was rumored to have sold his soul to the devil. When he died in 1840 he left his famous Guarneri violin, called "Il Cannone" or "The Cannon," to his beloved City of Genoa. Now it is kept in impeccable condition by the City of Genoa, and great violinists from around the globe make the pilgrimage there to play and record on it, but only under the watchful eyes of the conservators and two armed guards.

In December 2001, Carter, who had trained as a classical violinist but switched to jazz late in her high-school years, received an extraordinary invitation from the City of Genoa to perform on Paganini's violin. No jazz musician had ever laid hand on the violin, nor had any African-American. The idea of jazz being played on the precious instrument unleashed heated controversy in Genoa - until Carter held a press conference and charmed the Italian press by her gracious appreciation for the honor of playing the violin - and by speaking Italian! The press rallied around her, the concert sold out, and Carter received a standing ovation and became a heroine in Genoa.

Fridays, whether started with a tall skinny mocha (News flash: Starbucks has switched from whole to 2% milk. Now maybe I don't have to make it skinny.) or headphones and great tunes, are about smiling. And this music makes me smile.

Music is My Religion

For those of you who were a tad put-off by yesterday's statements about religion, I do want to assure you that I do feel. It just takes Fauré or Mozart or Lauridsen to engender those feelings.

This morning I'm listening to the Mozart Requiem and am, as always blown away my his incredible counterpoint in the fugue that is the Kyrie. (To say I love fugues is an understatement. They're so geeky!) The man was a genius. And I could cry every time I hear or sing his setting of the Hostias.

Hostias et preces tibi, Domine, laudis offerimus.
Tu suscipe pro animabus illis, quarum hodie memoriam facimus:
fac eas,
Domine, de morte transire ad vitam, quam olim Abrahae
promisisti, et
semini ejus.

Sacrifices and prayers of praise, Lord,
we offer to You.
Receive them in behalf of those souls
we commemorate today.
And let them, Lord,
pass from death to life,
which was promised to Abraham
and his descendants.

It seems everyone has a religion. The word just means different things to different people.

Some Things Don't Change

I'm sure you're dying to know what happened with Mr. Match last night. Or you're not.

As I mentioned yesterday, he had asked me to supper (as opposed to dinner -- dinner implies dressing up and spending a period of time across a table from each other; supper indicates meeting someplace on your way home from work and consuming food at the same time without lingering or spending inordinate amounts of money). In the afternoon he called and said he was going to have to work late. We agreed he'd call me when he saw things were winding down. He called at 8:00. I had been grocery shopping so told him to drop by and I'd feed him. Ever the consummate hostess, I had bought a bottle of his favorite white wine. He came by and we sat on the couch and sipped wine and chatted for 90 minutes or so.

The themes are never-changing. He talks about his work and the incompetency of upper management and the idiocy of some of his coworkers. I mention that I also have idiotic coworkers (i.e. welcome to the real world), talk about work I'm doing on my house, and brag on the latest accomplishments of my kids and grandkids. We're predictable.

But we're boring. Or at least he's boring. He calls every two-three-four weeks. This is the second time he's asked me out in six months or more. (We had coffee near the airport prior to my last trip to Ohio.) There's no flirting, no romance, no touching, no indication of anything other than a friendship. He still is heavily involved with his ex-fiance, and has no plans to change that. I'm really not sure why they broke up. He should have just rented the apartment next-door to hers and continued their lifestyle. That's basically what they have now.

As Jaci says to me near the end of every single freaking relationship or near-relationship I enter into, "He's just not that into you."

The day will come (again) when I ask him what he wants. I question whether either of us are getting anything out of this non-relationship.

He broke my heart once. He's a very poor risk, and I'm not letting him break my heart again.

I'd rather be single with a scarred but unblemished heart.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Changing Perspectives

This morning's long post stirred up lots of thoughts in my brain. Then, as I was walking back from the microwave at noon, I realized I had not even looked at the ring finger of the nice man with whom I was speaking while nuking my lunch.

What's happening to me?!

Keeping Track of Blogs

Tyler wrote an excellent post today explaining how to keep track of the various blogs you read on a regular basis. I loved the photo he used to demonstrate the craziness of trying to keep track of so many things.

But note that RSS feeds only work on blogs that are open to the public, not password-protected. So you can't set a feed on my blog. But you can on public blogs. And it sure saves a lot of time if you're used to clicking around to see who has said something new.

Old Flames

I've been reading "My Boyfriend's Back", written by Donna Hanover. After divorcing Rudi Giuliani, she met up again with her high school boyfriend and they have had a happy life together. Her book memorializes a number of famous and not-so-famous people who have reunited with romantic interests from previous times in their lives.

As I started listening to the book, I was thinking back over all my past flames and wondering what possibilities might live in that list. There was one guy, Dave, from high school who is a musician and geek and dearest friend. We had been keeping in intermittent touch for about nine months prior to our 40th class reunion in March. I fully expected something to come out of that re-meeting, if nothing less than more regular contact. Alas. We spent maybe five minutes in conversation the entire weekend. His life is moving in a very different direction that involves woods and forests and mountains and solitude. Clearly, that new direction does not include me.

I reviewed the list some more - Tommy from 1st grade (no idea where he is now), Danny from 4th grade (happily married to a his second wife, a fabulous organist and really neat lady), Ernie from 5th grade (again, happily married to his first wife who has chronic health problems that consume him), Buddy from 6th to 8th grade (whose foster mom decided I wasn't good enough for him), Donnie from summer after 8th grade (happily married to high school friend after bad divorce from previous high school sweetheart), Jim from 11th grade (physician in Tennessee, put on lots of weight, not going there), Mike from USF (oooh, would I love to find him again but I think he's married).

But as I think back over these guys, it doesn't matter how close the connection was in the 50s and 60s, forty years have passed. I've been associated with Adventists, chandelier-swingers, Lutherans, Mormons, Roman Catholics, Jew/philosophers, and golfers. If I never pass through the doors of a church again for anything other than a concert, I will be a happy church-goer. Too many evil and hateful things have been done to me in the name of Christianity for me to want to have anything to do with those people ever again. (PianoLady, you're exempted from this statement.)

When Dave and I were talking about going to the reunion and I was saying I doubted I had anything in common with any of those people anymore, he objected. He said we probably all had much more in common than I could imagine. And yet when I was back there, there seemed to be a lot of the high school "kids" who were still practicing Adventists, despite the makeup and jewelry in evidence.

So back to 6th-8th grade Buddy, whose real name was Edwin. He and his two older sisters all went to Orlando Church School with me. I never knew their family situation; we never talked about that. They had been split among three families, all of whom lived within about three blocks of each other. One sister, Norma, as I recall, used her foster family's name and the other, Lucretia, kept the birth family name. Buddy used the foster family's name but I always knew his real name.

I adored him. My childhood was horrible, to my recollection. I never felt like I fit in anywhere. My mother was harsh and critical. The only thing I knew how to do and ever did well was to play the piano, so all my energy was poured into that. I adored my daddy, but he worked seventeen-hour days, so he wasn't all that present in my life. I don't remember how Buddy and I got together. He was a grade behind me in school. I don't remember at all who approached whom, but I do remember the first kiss behind the sports equipment shed on a Saturday night after we had been boyfriend-and-girlfriend for about a year. At some point he asked me to go steady and gave me his ID bracelet to wear. I wore it proudly until Mother realized it was not a boy's watch turned around with the watch face to the inside. When she realized it was a bracelet (Jewelry! God forbid!), I had to give it back to him, which broke my heart. I had no more identity as being his steady girl. (Explanation for the non-Adventists reading here: when a boy asked a girl to go steady, he gave her his watch to wear. Adventists were only allowed to wear "functional jewelry", i.e. a watch or pin. So there were no rings to exchange. Only watches.)

When I look back at that relationship, through the lenses of my life with John and all that was right about that relationship, I realize that one thing Buddy and I had in common, one very important thing, was our abandonment. Neither of us fit in where we were, but we fit in together.

<Sidebar On>
This is what I have always felt was the value of Interlochen Arts Academy. Those extremely talented and smart young people stand out in their normal high schools in a not-the-norm manner. They're pretty alone in their regular high schools. But when they get to Interlochen, they merge and feed off each other. A synergy develops that is almost too powerful to be believed. I believe Tyler is who he is today in a large part because of his experience at Interlochen. He learned to think for himself in a manner that never would have occurred in his conservative evangelical Christian father's home or in his sheltered, naive mother's home.
<Sidebar Off>

As I was thinking about Buddy and John and life and being alone and sad at 57, I realized that one cannot presume anything about friends from the past. Just because I've become cynical and think raising a child as a Seventh-day Adventist should be a misdemeanor, I cannot presume that those people I was friends with 40 and 50 years ago feel the same way. As handsome as Buddy was, as much as I loved him at 12 and 13 and 14, he's probably still an Adventist, probably happily married, and probably hasn't thought of me in 45 years.

Then I listened carefully to Donna Hanover's words. Maybe I already had my second-time-around. John and I always said how lucky we were to have found each other again. Maybe that was it for me. Maybe that two-and-a-half years of happiness is all I get. I don't like that thought. It makes me feel like I have no purpose, no goal. But maybe my purposes and goals are yet to be developed and will be more successfully accomplished if I am able to focus on them solely rather than diluting my life with the energy it takes to maintain a relationship.

I've said for four years that I wanted someone to enhance my life. Would that person only dilute my life? Oooh, that's a harsh thought that's never occurred to me until this very moment of striking keys to express these thoughts.

<For What It's Worth #1>
I did some creative Googling last night and determined that Buddy now is a successful electrician whose two sons work with him in his commercial electrical contracting business. In Hendersonville, NC! The town in which my mother lives!
<FWIW#1 Off>

<For What It's Worth #2>
Mr. Match called last night. Twice. I ignored the phone the first time. (I've set a distinctive ringtone to his number, so I know when it's him.) Half an hour later he called again, which surprised me. We had a nice conversation. And he asked me out to dinner tonight! Whatever.
<FWIW#2 Off>

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Readers and Writers

I find it interesting that my sons and I have all gravitated to writing. Tyler and I actually write for a living, and TJ enjoys many literary pursuits when he can find the time. We are all readers.

If you are also a reader, please visit Tyler's blog today and read about the new book written by a Youngstown friend of his.

Monday, August 27, 2007


Tucson Chamber Artists presented two stellar concerts this weekend featuring music of hopes and dreams. It was all 20th century music with lush, tight harmonies performed exquisitely by these 30 talented singers under the direction of Eric Holtan and included the first TCA commission. Simply fabulous concerts.

At the Sunday concert I suggested to the Board chair/singer/Pi Phi friend Kay Wiley that I make the "please silence your cell phones" announcement that we made regularly last year.

Then I said to David Galbraith, another Board member, that I was going to make "the announcement." David replied, "What? 'I'm mad as heck and I'm not going to take it anymore'?"

I laughed and replied, "No. 'I'm available and I can't find a good man.'"

Alas. I minded my manners and just asked the audience to turn off their cell phones and not shake their jingly bracelets.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

We Are the Creators

This morning I went to the preliminary meeting of a group that's putting on a musical revue in October for which I have been asked to be the accompanist. The group is an outgrowth of St. Andrews in the Foothills United Methodist Church.

When you take my varied religious background and modify it with the strict Adventist take-no-prisoners approach to religion to which I was exposed as a child, the result is someone who views all religion with a touch of cynicism.

The pastor/leader/minister/what-have-you of this church is a delightful gentleman named David Wilkinson. Robert Encila, who leads this theatre troupe, asked David to open the meeting this morning. In his prayer or thoughts or comments, David summoned the spirits of art and music and the spirit of the Christ and the creativity that is within all of us, stating "we are the creators." I was somewhat taken aback by his 'prayer.' That statement, "we are the creators," really struck me as a new way of looking at the world and spirituality and religion and Christianity and all those other "ity"s.

I guess I need to learn the lesson I tried to teach my sons as they were growing up, "there is more than one way to live your life."

- - - - -

Some very nice compliments were paid to me this morning as we discussed the upcoming program. Robert said it was imperative that we worked on music that we all knew because of the limited rehearsal time and the performances in mid- to late-October. Todd Luethjohann distributed a CD containing most of the songs we'll be performing, and Robert noted that the keys and arrangements of the songs weren't necessarily the arrangements we'd be using or the keys they'd be performed in. He said that this was why he was so excited to have me involved in this production: he knew that I could play anything in any key and not tie them to set arrangements.

I'm also very excited to be working with the singer Lissa Staples, with whom I worked earlier this year in Christian Youth Theater. Lissa and I hit it off the moment we met and have similar approaches to music.

Maybe the preparation for this revue will take my mind off my depression about life as it currently exists for me in Tucson.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Questioning Long-Held Beliefs

There was an interesting piece on the Today show this morning about Mother Teresa. Her diaries are to be published next month and they reveal that she questioned the existence of God.

I love this statement:
Il Messeggero, Rome's popular daily newspaper, said: "The real Mother Teresa was one who for one year had visions and who for the next 50 had doubts - up until her death."

That kind of makes me think of myself. I had one good 2.5 year marriage, and I keep looking for another good marriage, or at least relationship, all the while doubting that it will ever occur.

No no, I'm not equating myself with Mother Teresa. Just looking for a clever analogy to bring you a grin on a Friday.


Thursday, August 23, 2007


Today's Dilbert struck me as very funny and totally pertinent to my life. I'm not sure why, but then I've always had a sense of humor that could be considered a little odd. (Some might say inappropriate.)

Part of why I like this was the "fabric-covered box" and the fact that I love fabric—touching it, working with it, holding it and dreaming about what it could become.

The other part was the "women don't like winners". The Professor and I had had a few discussions about my accomplishments and the fact that I tend not to reveal all of who I am and what I've accomplished when I meet a new man. Past therapists had endorsed this practice, affirming my sense of scaring men away. The Professor's take is that the man I really want is one who won't be scared by how strong and accomplished I am but will, rather, be turned on by it.

I have now changed my way of thinking to match the Professor's on this issue. No more hiding and concealing. Now if I could just meet a man on whom to practice this new philosophy.

And speaking of accomplishments, I applied for an editorial job at the Youngstown Vindicator yesterday and got a nice note back this morning from Todd Franko, the newspaper's editor. Before saying that I had a very impressive résumé that he'd like to explore, he said his first reaction was "why so many jobs?" Good God, I'm 57 years old. Life happens. I did state in my response to him that the first several years after law school was about trying to find the right position, and the part in 1996-2000 was about balancing my husband's illness and death with my career. And I told him I try to consider it "broad-based experience."

I've read research lately that the young people just now graduating tend to stay with jobs an average of one year. Just think, twenty years from now everyone will have two-page résumés! And yet I do envy the people who find the right position and are able to stay there (no layoffs, no terminated contracts, no caregiving for a dying spouse) for their entire career.

The right man, the right job, the right house . . . . What a long and tedious process.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Learning to Say No

Months of the year I dread: December (as a musician), followed by August (as a volunteer). In August of each year I update the database with the information sent from Pi Beta Phi headquarters, then I prepare the fall newsletter and dues form, then as the dues forms are received, I must update the database with any changes. That's looming this week and I've procrastinated as long as I can. To this set of chores, I have added media liaison for Tucson Chamber Artists, and I'm absolutely feeling overwhelmed and guilty that I'm not doing enough.

My mind is totally devoid of thoughts of men and jobs and just focused on trying to stay sane while I get these jobs done.

So to amuse you this morning, I'll share with you the Night-Blooming Cereus that bloomed last night outside my living room window. These photos were taken at 6:00 a.m. It's now 8:15 a.m. and the blossoms are almost closed. If you've never experienced these flowers, they are simply amazing.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Techno-Savvy Kids

I knew I had one more grandbaby anecdote to share:

As I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, Boston is heavily into Transformers. And last Friday was his sixth birthday, so he was thinking about what gifts he might encourage loved ones to bestow upon him.

Let me level set you by mentioning that this child has been able to point and click since he was about 22 months old.

He went onto and found the Transformers to look at, finding the perfect Transformer for $99.99. He felt firmly that $99.99 was too much to pay, since he expected to have a total of about $46 from his birthday and various chores he's done. So he took his mouse, highlighted the $99.99 price, and attempted to change the price to $45.99.

He couldn't understand what was wrong with his computer that it wouldn't let him change the price.

Gotta love that boy. Is this a hacker-in-the-making?

Young and Beautiful and Full of Life

Tonight I again had the privilege of playing the piano for the Preference Night parties at the Pi Beta Phi house.

These darling Pi Phis, all dressed in white and filled with excitement, wearing their arrow badges and filled with excitement for meeting more beautiful and smart young women who would become their new sorority sisters. And the rushees (I believe they're now called 'recruits'), wearing darling dresses and high high heels and perfect makeup and having polished their personalities before leaving their dorm rooms.

I wanted to tell them to enjoy life. They have no wrinkles. They have sex drives and have never experienced a hot flash. Lots of cleavage was displayed and none of it was crepey. Their breasts were all firm and located at the proper altitude. Gravity was still their friend.

I paused for a few moments and remembered the excitement of pledging Tyes, the only sorority at Florida Technological University. We were smart and powerful and talented and had the world on a string. Now we're aging, closing in on 60. We're still smart and powerful and talented. It's just slightly more scarey when we display our cleavage.

I hope that 35 years from now these darling dressed up and polished young ladies will remember how happy they were tonight. Their dreams may have changed, and life may not have turned out anything like they thought it would, but they'll still be darling.

Tonight's anecdote: Pi Phis are known as angels. For Preference Night, the house is set up with lots of white Christmas tree lights and fresh flowers. One room is the Secret Garden and then they move to the room set up as Pi Phi Heaven.

In past years the living room was set up as heaven. Because of the number of women going through rush, they needed to move the secret garden (bar tables and sparkling grape juice in champagne glasses) to the living room and "heaven" to the normal dining room. But they couldn't move the baby grand piano. So I just played soft background music on the grand in the living room. Then when they moved to "heaven" for the brief program, I used a keyboard that one of the girls had brought down from her room to accompany four young ladies singing "Angels Among Us."

This was an experience unlike anything in my life. This keyboard had some sort of short such that if I played the wrong combination of keys or played too loud or whatever, it would just turn itself off for a moment then spontaneously come back on. So my challenge, during the three times I played this piece, was to not play any triads or any thirds, to play keys as far away from each other as possible, in broken triads and arpeggios. I was able to get through each iteration with the keyboard only turning itself off two or three times.

I felt victorious. I had beaten the system!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Is it the humidity or is it yet another hot flash?

There's one benefit to being in that awful body-enveloping humidity that I experienced in Youngstown last week: You can't tell when you're having a hot flash. You're already dripping with sweat, so what's one more bead of perspiration on your forehead?

Isn't it interesting that all those years I lived in Florida I don't remember ever saying, "boy, it's humid today." When you're surrounded all the time with that moisture, you don't seem to notice it. But after seven-and-a-half years in the desert, I notice it. Boy, do I notice it.

Of course, the morning after I arrived back in Tucson, my heel cracked again.

Woe is me.

Why Am I Here?

All weekend I was consumed with the question of "why am I here?"

I see no purpose in and have no control over my job or my home or my relationships. I feel totally adrift in the sea and find no joy in anything having to do with home or job or basic Tucson existence. I know I need to get over this, but am not doing a very good job. It's like post-partum depression after leaving the wonderful week with the babies in Ohio.

This morning I decided I would redouble my efforts to smile and speak to strangers—maybe I could make their day a little brighter in the midst of my gloom. And I'm going to get serious about Weight Watchers again. At least that's something I can control!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A House is Not a Home

Remember that old Dionne Warwick song (actually Bacharach/David, but originally recorded by D.W., covered by many singers since) "A House is Not a Home"?

A chair is still a chair, even when there's no one sittin' there
But a chair is not a house and a house is not a home
When there's no one there to hold you tight
And no one there you can kiss goodnight

That's how I'm feeling. I'm home three days from Youngstown where it was hot and humid to Tucson where it's hotter and almost as humid. It ain't no dry heat this week!

I feel overwhelmed with sadness and depression. I feel alone. I wonder what's the point of having a big beautiful house when you just knock around it by yourself, or with one emotionally needy cat. Rudi lays on my chest when I go to sleep and again as soon as I wake up, but it ain't the same thing, if you get my drift. And when I talk to him, he meows back. I have to intuit what he might mean. (Oh, right, he means "feed me".)

I feel alone and despairing of ever finding another job that will get me closer to Youngstown and absent of hope of having someone in my life (other than children and grandchildren) to love and be loved by.

And I'm overwhelmed by tasks for Pi Beta Phi and Tucson Chamber Artists. I must learn to say "no"!

Gotta run. One newsletter down, one to go.

Friday, August 17, 2007

But It's a Dry Heat

Note to self: The next time you leave town for a week and turn your air conditioning off in the house, hire someone to come in five hours before your scheduled arrival and turn it back on! Arriving home at 12:30 a.m. to a 92 degree inside temperature (and an 82 degree outside temperature) is no fun.

A couple of anecdotes before I call it a morning:

Riah lost her first tooth yesterday. (Yes, she's only four years and three months, but then she was ten-and-a-half pounds at birth and walked out of her mother's womb.) This morning Boston reached under her pillow and retrieved the tooth fairy's reward and woke her up to show it to her. They were both sleeping in my room and I had been lying there for half an hour trying to wake up, trying to keep an eye on him to make sure he didn't pull a stunt like this. I got up to go to the bathroom, certain that he was still asleep. In the time it took me to empty my bladder, he was up, hand under pillow, and shaking her awake. And then he told his mother some sort of lie about the whole incident.

I've been kicking myself all day, trying to figure out how I could have prevented it. Only after 12 hours of kicking myself, somewhere in the air between Dallas and Tucson, did I realize that if they had been sleeping in their own room, he would have done the same thing and there would have been nothing I could have done to prevent it.

The continual competition between these two is something to behold. May they both grow up to be Olympic athletes and turn that competition into something good.

Last night we went out for a farewell dinner before I left town. Ty and I have been reading "The Four-Hour Work Week" and absolutely love this book. We're both trying to come up with the ideas that will enable us to accomplish what we want while still supporting our families. We were talking about the book as we drove to dinner. Tyler ended a statement with the words, "pursue our passion." Ridley, in her somewhat awkward manner of speech due to the configuration of her top and bottom teeth, asked, "what's 'sue passion'?" Tyler gave a layman's definition for her. Then as she jumped out of the van to go into the restaurant, she exclaimed, "I want to pursue my passion!"

May her wish come true!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

More Mill Creek Park Activities

Our afternoon activities again focused on Mill Creek Park. Jaci packed PB&J sandwiches and string cheese for the babies, I grabbed bottles of water, and we drove to Lanterman's Mill, a place Jaci enjoyed as a girl growing up in Youngstown.

We sat on a bench overlooking the falls and ate our lunch, then walked over to the covered bridge after the docent in the Mill shop told us there were lots of ducks to watch. We saw no ducks, but the view from inside the covered bridge was absolutely peaceful.

It's so easy to see why Tyler and Jaci love Youngstown.

Influences on Parenting Styles

You who are long-time readers know that I do not have an ideal relationship with my mother. I wish it were different, but it is what it is.

As the years have passed in my life, I have noted those people I know who had worse — much worse — mothers. Steve Pink (EEFFH) is one of those. One of the regular readers of this blog who shall remain nameless is another. And my daughter-in-law is a third. And she is also the winner in this informal poll.

Some mothers are dysfunctional out of ignorance; others out of some chemical imbalance in the brain; still others out of pure malice. I don't know why my DIL's mother is the way she is and treats her daughter the way she does but, again, it is what it is. She has a wonderful daughter, a smart, talented, motivated, devoted-to-her-family-and-friends, drop-dead gorgeous daughter. And she doesn't have a clue.

My relationship with my mother and lack of relationship with my birthmother caused me to shy away from women. It has taught me to be careful of trusting any woman. It made it hard for me to form lasting bonds with loved ones. And it taught me not to have daughters. (Mother said, "You don't want to have a daughter. She'd be just like you and no one would want that.")

By all rights, my daughter-in-law should have similar attitudes toward girl-children. But I watch her interact with her daughter, our darling 4yo Ridley, and I am amazed and in awe. It's as if she wants to make sure Ridley has all the emotional support that Jaci never got from her own mother. She is supportive, caring, loving, patient. Incredibly patient with a little girl who can emote tears at the snap of a finger. Where I would roll my eyes, Jaci would whisper just the right calming phrase. Where I would pull back, Jaci moves forward, encompassing Ridley's inner demons with brilliant affection.

Said it before and will say it again: if I searched the world over to find the perfect wife for Tyler, I could never have found someone as wonderful as Jaci.

My sons are lucky they were boys. And my granddaughter (and grandson, too, of course) is lucky to have Jaci Clark for her "Rara."

Most Magnificent McDonald's, Revisited

With apologies to TJ, I couldn't find a photo online of the piano-playing Hamburglar at the World's Most Magnificent McDonald's, located in Warren, OH. A little Googling informed me that that franchise was formerly owned by Sam Covelli, who now owns over 100 Panera Bread Bakery-Cafes and over 50 O'Charly's Restaurants.

I was, however, able to find a photo of a postcard of the restaurant.

I also learned that in March of 1995, when the YSU Penguins football team were Division I-AA Champions, they were invited to the White House, where among the gifts they bestowed on the Clintons were:

- YSU No. 1 Jersey
- YSU Warmup to Mr. and Mrs. Clinton and Chelsea Clinton
- YSU Autographed football
- Crystal Penguin donated by Clarence Smith of Adamas Jewelry and Gems
- YSU Watches to Mr. and Mrs. Clinton
- Framed Picture of the World's Most Magnificent McDonald's
- Set of Championship Glasses
- Hand-Hammered YSU Championship Bronze Plate donated by Wendell August Forge
- Commemorative Ohio License Plate "IM4YSU"

So there!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Parenting Styles

I'm enjoying the time with les bebes, but I will be glad when their parents return late tonight.

My mother was very strict with me, therefore I thought that was the way parenting had to be done. Never mind that how she treated me didn't work on me. I still used that rigid form of parenting on my boys.

Before he and Jaci left on Friday, Tyler said to me, "we try to say 'no' as little as possible." Well, for me that's very difficult. When I hear one of them teasing the other, it makes me crazy. It takes me back to the horrors of my brothers (seeming) incessant teasing of me and my mother's refusal to make them stop.

In my mind, if I get them to understand the havoc they're wreaking on each other's sweet little psyches, maybe they'll stop and be more self-assured adults. Okay, I can dream, can't I?

I believe every parent acts in his or her perceived best interest of the child. I make an exception for drug- or alcohol-addicted parents, who are so self-involved they cannot even act in their own best interest, much else their child's.

But I think we each do the best we know how to do, and by the Grace of the Unknowable, we all grow up anyway. My daddy always said a child's two greatest obstacles to growing up were his or her parents.

My goal is not to be an obstacle in the lives of my children or my grandchildren.

One Tired Grandma

Tyler and Jaci are in Chicago while he works a trade show and she gets some much needed R&R. I'm trying to give the babies their own vacation experience so they will not equate their parents' absence with sadness.

Saturday was the Cleveland Zoo and Pizza Hut. Sunday was Bob Evans' and Wagon Trails and playing in the pool and dinner on the deck with John and Sherry next door. Monday we cleaned their room (fun for their parents, but not so much for me!), then went to Fellows Riverside Garden where Boston and Riah ran up and down the lawn, explored the secret paths, and camped under a weeping something-or-other tree (fig, I think). Then we drove up to Warren to the "Most Magnificent McDonald's" in the world, which includes a white grand piano being played by, who else, the Hamburglar.

I share with you some photos of this magnificent garden in Youngstown.

It's very interesting for me being back in this climate among the trees and flowers that I remember from many, many summer visits to my aunt's home in Wilmette, outside Chicago. The days last until 9:30 or so, the breeze whips through the leaves, the trees are enormous. Nothing like Orlando, where I grew up, and nothing at all like Tucson. Yes, I love the monsoons, but I'm really getting tired of the heat and the dust. Oh, and my heels aren't cracked. That will last about two days after I return to Tucson.

I think I'm ready. I could give up Tucson. I'll miss my friends, but I think that's all. (But you can ask me again in February!!!)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Hot, Humid . . . and Lonely

How does lonely keep slipping in there?

I flew to Pittsburgh on Thursday and arrived at Tyler and Jaci's around 8:00. Friday I ran to look at a few houses with my realtor here and encouraged Tyler and Jaci to leave on Friday rather than Saturday for their vacation. I mean, the whole point of my trip up here this week was to babysit while they vacationed. So they should take advantage of my being here and go-go-go.

We drove up around Niles, OH, on Friday afternoon to put their names on my Hertz contract and they took my Hertz car with the GPS for their trip. I'm driving their minivan and just looking like an aged soccer mom.

Yesterday (Saturday) the babies and I went to the Cleveland Zoo, where we met up with my Tucson Symphony friend Ashley Smith, who now works for Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra. It was wonderful to see her again, and she was very patient with my grandchildren, especially Boston who gets so interested in what he's observing that he can't even hear his name being called.

I attempted to use my ATM card from Bank of America to get lunch at the zoo, but the transaction was refused. I had spoken with BA on Friday afternoon when they noticed a few questionable transactions, but we agreed all was okay, I was travelling, and out-of-state transactions would be expected and approved.

This morning I wanted to take the babies to Wagon Trails Animal Park which only takes cash. So I drove through a Chase Bank (no BA in this part of the world) to get enough cash to let us on the safari ride. Again the transaction was refused. I was livid. I pulled over to a shady spot in the Chase parking lot to get on the phone with BA. After screaming at the automated phone-hell system, I finally got through to the risk management department and explained I was on vacation. The CSR said, "Oh, you're in Canada?" Umm, no. I'm in Ohio. Seems someone lifted my card number, made a $1 purchase online at Sears/K-Mart and then a $700 purchase at EBToys and a purchase at McAfee. Okay, I take back every nasty thought I had about Bank of America.

Here's the weird thing. I never use that card online. It's my checkcard, and I only use it at ATMs or McDonald's, Wendy's and the like. I can't imagine how someone lifted the number. But they did, and for once I appreciate the hyper-vigilance of the fraud prevention department.

Okay, back to the title of this post. I'm having a hard time with the humidity. Tyler and Jaci's house doesn't have air conditioning, as you would expect for a house built in 1927 or thereabouts. Let me make sure we're clear on one thing: air conditioning was an absolutely brilliant invention. Hurray for whoever invented air conditioning. Ty and Jaci and I have decided that the house I buy up here must have air conditioning.

I looked at a house on Friday that is across the street and a few doors north. It's fabulous — the old Wick mansion. Built around 1927 and just oozing charm.

Ty and Jaci's next-door neighbors, John and Sherry, invited me for dinner tonight, thinking I'd be ravenous for adult conversation. We were talking about the various houses I've reviewed, and John said, "Oh, I used to live in that house."

What I'm finding that I love is either very old or very contemporary. And being adorned with a deck or patio. I want to be outside, curled in a comfortable wooden chair, with a book and a cup of tea or glass of wine. Actually, even with the heat and humidity, it's not bad outside in the shade.

So that's the hot and the humid. But the lonely? I think my phone has only rung once since I arrived. And that was just an acquaintance seeking information to further his own station in life. Not someone who cares about me asking how the visit is going or what houses I've seen or if I'm happy to be here. I am happy to be here. But I miss having someone who cares, who is concerned, who misses me.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Heaven. I'm in Heaven . . .

Arrived in Youngstown around 8:00 tonight. It's hot and humid. Very hot and humid. But I was welcomed with open arms and hugs and kisses all around.

Just didn't want any regular readers to wonder where I had disappeared to. I'll post over the next week as thoughts strike me, and be back in Tucson the night of the 16th.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Reading Between the Lines

If you haven't read between the lines of the past week of posts, I'll make an explicit statement.

The Professor decided it wasn't the right time in his life to be in a relationship.

Tonight I played at Raz for the final time. I have gotten very used to looking across the piano at the Professor during these piano nights. Tonight I sat there knowing he wasn't going to come in and listen to me play and feed me tunes — all the while hoping against hope that he would come in anyway.

Sitting there tonight, completely aware of his absence, I felt sad-sad-sad. Yet another death of a dream.

I don't have a pithy closing statement to this post. I miss him horribly. I had six weeks of happiness spent with a terrifically interesting, affectionate and handsome man.

I guess I can say a year from now I'll have some wonderful memories of the Summer of 2007.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Ultimate in Retail Experiences

I knew I had another grandbaby anecdote to share, and I just remembered it.

I gave Riah a bracelet a couple of weeks ago, and it has broken. Jaci asked if I could repair it and I gladly agreed to do so. A few minutes later I was in Boston and Ridley's room helping him get ready for bed. He was putting on a pair of pajamas I had made for him.

He said, "Grandma, you're such a good sewer and beader. You should go work at Sam's Club and sell your beads."

I loved that he thought my work was good enough to sell. I doubly loved that, to him, Sam's Club is the epitome of shopping excellence!

Hmmm, if I sold my house(s) in Tucson and worked at Sam's Club in Boardman, could I afford to live in Youngstown??

Monday, August 06, 2007

Perception of Distance

On my weekly call to les bebes yesterday, Riah said, "Grandma, can you come look at my boo-boo?" When I told her I couldn't come until Thursday, she said, "Grandma, when you come on Thursday, can you look at my boo-boo? And bring band-aids."

I live for the day I can be there within 30 minutes when she makes a request like this!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Outsourcing Nightmares

I recently bought a new laptop and installed my copy of Dreamweaver. When asked for my serial number to activate it, I entered the correct number. Because this was an upgrade version, the next screen asked me for the serial number of the previous version. I entered the serial number I thought was the previous version, but got no reaction from Dreamweaver.

I spent the next twenty minutes on the phone with a nice young lady in Adobe tech support in India. She could see that I had purchased three versions of Dreamweaver since March of 2004 and that the serial number I was entering as the previous version was, alas, two versions previous. And she couldn't look up the missing serial number.

She transferred me to the customer service department who, she assured me, could look up my missing serial number. Polite Young Man #1 answered the phone and got my e-mail address and phone number and so on. We then went through the history of the account and the two existing serial numbers. We had been on the phone about 10 minutes when he asked me to hold so he could go look up the missing number. And then I was disconnected.

Smart Nice Young Lady had, brilliantly, given me the direct dial number, which I called and got Polite Young Man #2, Roger, somewhere in India. I again told my story and Roger started trying to walk me through the installation and activation. I told him exactly what I needed: I needed him to look up my serial number for Dreamweaver MX 2004. He tried again to walk me through the activation, saying he was going to unlock it. He said "now your screen says . . ." and that was not what my screen was saying. After spending about 25 minutes on the phone with him, and listening to horrible syncopated music on a loop every time he asked, oh so politely, if he could put me on hold, he told me there was nothing he could do and the installation department was closed on the weekend. I would have to call back tomorrow.

He then asked, "Is there anything else I can do for you?" I started to say no, then I said, "Can you just look up that serial number for me?" The very first thing I had asked him 25 minutes earlier. He again put me on hold and came back a few minutes with the serial number, after telling me I had bought a lot of products under a lot of different e-mail addresses over the years. I asked him to hold while I keyed this new serial number in. Voila! It worked.

Why do tech support and customer service people always assume you don't know what you're talking about? Or am I generalizing too much?

Saturday, August 04, 2007

If That Mockingbird Don't Sing

I have to preface this anecdote by reminding you that my 94-year-old mother has been a Seventh-day Adventist since she was about six years old. What that means, if you don't know, is a lifetime without—among other things—meat, alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, dancing, anything "untrue" (i.e. novels), anything secular on the Sabbath and—the point of this story—movies.

When I was in elementary school, every Saturday night we would go to Orlando Church School for various activities. There would be skating or kickball on the "slab", softball on the ballfield and a nature movie in the choir/band room. Nature movies and true-life movies would be okay, but never in a movie theatre. "Be in the world but not of the world."

My mother has seen, I'm sure, fewer than 100 movies in her life.

When I spoke with her yesterday, she told me the residents of her retirement community had watched "To Kill a Mockingbird" yesterday afternoon. "But," she said, "there was no mockingbird in the movie."

I guess she thought this movie was going to be about the life and death of mockingbirds.

My sons sometimes wonder why symbolism is lost on me. I rest my case.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Success: Achievement of Goals

Tyler was interviewed today on Louie Free's radio show on WGFT AM and streamed on Through the magic of the Internet, I was able to listen. (I will post the interview when it is made available on Louie's archives.)

The topic was an aspect of the development and redevelopment of Youngstown, most specifically the plan to destroy tree-studded medians on Federal Street to put in diagonal parking on the street. (How 1950s is that?!) He handled himself beautifully, speaking on his feet, answering questions quickly and easily. The petition to which he refers is here, if you wish to read it and add your signature.

Louie not only asked him about the primary issue, but also asked him about himself. One of the things Tyler mentioned was that his parents had divorced when he was five. Louie said how tough that must have been, going back and forth between mother and father. Tyler said yes, but that he was able to see different ways to live.

My heart swelled. I left that marriage both to save my own life, but because I felt — in my circumstances at that time — that I was acting in the best interest of TJ and Tyler. What I always tried to show them was that there were other ways to live, other than their father's hyper-religious lifestyle.

Tyler's statement today affirmed that, at age 32, he has been able to see what I was trying to show him. TJ has previously made similar statements to me.

Today I'm feeling that one of my primary goals in life has been achieved.

My Bad Attitude

Ever since I returned to work on Tuesday from my last trip to Youngstown, I have had a horrible attitude toward work.

The fact that started this downward spiral is my inability to telecommute, thanks to a manager in Raleigh who values control more than he values the good of the enterprise. Because of that, I had to take Monday as leave without pay and am behind in my work, dancing as fast as I can every day this week to catch up on the tasks that lead to the next set of product announcements.

Then I walk to the ladies' room and sit down in a stall for a moment's peace and quiet, and I'm faced with a sign (8½ by 11 in a sheet protector) on the back of the stall door:

Just a brief line to
gently remind you.
Be nice, flush twice.
(Maybe thrice)
And always look behind you.

What the fuck?! (Excuse me if my language offends you.) How old are we? I've been potty-trained since I was less than a year old (my mother brags), and my mama taught me how to flush! And really, if you're the type to skip flushing, the fanciest sign and most clever prose in the world is not going to cause you to flush.

(This reminds me of husband #3, out in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, who used to complain that family members didn't turn out the light when they left the basement. So he printed a small sign that he affixed to the light switch reminding people to turn out the light. Excuse me. If I don't remember to turn out the light, a sign on the light switch is not going to change that!)

I got ticked off a couple of weeks ago and stole the sign off my favorite stall. I tucked it inside my sweater to get it back to the office, then put it in my purse and threw it away when I got home. A few days later it had been replaced. Then I wrote on a sticky note "I find this sign demeaning and insulting" and stuck it on the sign. The next time I went into the bathroom, my sticky note was missing. But when I exited the bathroom, I noticed someone had stuck it on another sign — the one on the door that says "Please wash before exiting rest room".

Geez! Do I work with imbeciles?

I took my virtual headache home three hours early yesterday and immediately went into my sewing studio to work on a nightgown for Riah. Frank called at 4:30 and came to get me with the top down, taking me to dinner at Vivace and then for an hour of sitting in his garden watching the Tucson sunset. A truer friend has never been born. He helped my attitude enormously, at least for yesterday.

I'm moving quickly to the point of wanting to figure out my finances so I can quit work and move to Youngstown and sew and learn and teach others about arty things.

Oh, and I gave notice on my gig at Raz. The final straw was when the "agent" (I use the term very loosely) told me "the doctor" (this is what she calls the owner, a podiatrist whose middle-eastern last name she's too lazy or too stupid to learn to pronounce) said I wasn't bringing enough people with me to Raz each week. This is not cocktail-piano-as-Tupperware-party! Enough! Basta! Treat me with the respect to which I'm due!

Dreams of Dinosaur-Addicted Babes

Last Friday I took Riah and Boston to the Pittsburgh Zoo. As we left the outdoor elephant yard, Boston said, "I love that elephant. When he grows up he's going to be a woolly mammoth. I've always wanted to see a woolly mammoth."

Oh, for a button on my brain's hard drive to be able to record every cute thing these babies say.

This is Boston's elephant that will grow up to be a woolly mammoth. I don't know how he got that big tree limb lodged under his arm, but that's a topic for a whole 'nother blog.

Boston, Ridley and Grandma at the Pittsburgh Zoo

Boston insisted on photographing this bug who was "struggling in the water", to quote the photographer.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

My Musical Family

Last Wednesday, Tyler and I were IMing in preparation for my trip to Youngstown on Thursday. He told me he had an audition on Saturday afternoon and asked if I would mind rehearsing with him to prepare for it. Mind?! I felt honored that he would ask! I told him if he had the option of bringing his own accompanist, I would be happy to accompany his audition.

Saturday morning he and I, accompanied by Boston who wanted to observe the action, climbed the stairs to his attic office, where he keeps a Kurzweil keyboard. Tyler pulled out the score to "Beauty and the Beast" and opened it to Gaston's solo, "Me!".

We started rehearsing and Boston wanted to get into the act. So I taught him how to turn pages, how to listen for me to say "Now" or "Okay" or "Turn". The last two beats of the piece are triplet eighth notes followed by a quarter note — all on F, in triple octaves. Boston heard that a couple times, then went down to the bottom of the keyboard and played the lowest F right along with me - rhythmically perfect. I taught him how to look for the fermatas and the three lines of text that indicated we were on the last page. When he saw that, he would know he didn't have any more pages to turn and he could move to the bottom of the keyboard to play the last two beats with me.

Each time he played the notes, usually with accurate rhythm and note, he ended with a flourish and a shout of "I did it just like you." As he got more and more comfortable with the music, he would sing along with his daddy. Tyler and I were starting to think he could go to the audition with us.

Boston had been begging me for money all weekend to buy a transformer. I told him if he did this job well, including not singing along, not talking, and not shouting in triumph at the end, I would pay him $5. He agreed, willingly.

The audition was challenging because of the space and setup of the keyboard, chair and music stand. Nevertheless, we mastered the awkward situation. (Thank God I automatically memorize things after three repetitions — the music was too far away for me to read!) Boston turned all the pages perfectly, then at the appropriate time moved to the end of the keyboard, watched me, and played his four notes exactly right. He looked at me and grinned and said nothing. And Maureen and Todd, running the audition, applauded him.

Maureen turned to Tyler and said, "Tyler, I knew you were a musician, but I didn't know you were a singer." He and I laughed about that all night long.

And in a private conversation with Maureen afterwards, Boston confided that he was being paid for his work. Maureen told him he should ask Grandma for an extra dollar on account of the applause.

Of course Grandma agreed. It was a memorable experience.

Before I left on Sunday, Tyler set up the video camera and we taped a repeat performance. I can't wait to see that video!

Company Loves Misery

I was talking to the Traveler this morning about the state of all we over-50 singles in Tucson who look and look and just can't find that Certain Someone with whom to live out the rest of our lives.

I told him Frank and I had been talking about all of us moving into Frank's darling old condominium complex in the Foothills. Surrounded by un-emotionally-involved male and female friends, one could always find a companion for dinner or a movie or whatever.

The Traveler responded, "Company loves misery -- err, misery loves company."

I think he got it right the first time!

Backing Up Lombard Street

Why can't I just get in my lifecar and drive? Why are there so many twists and turns, seemingly never a straight, flat stretch of road? And where is the off-ramp? As I was looking for analogies last night after another dissatisfying day, all I could think of was Lombard Street in San Francisco. But Lombard Street is relatively short and the nerve-wracking nature of driving there is over quickly. My personal Lombard Street seems to be never-ending.

I'm having a hard time getting over the fact that I had to take leave without pay on Monday for my forced day of relaxation in Dallas. If Ken weren't such a control freak manager, I could have worked remotely from my hotel and then TJ's living room. Instead, my paycheck next week will be thinner and I'm really scrambling this week to catch up three days of missed work rather than two.

That's the work-side of my trauma.

Then the Professor made a statement on Tuesday that threw me into a tailspin. It all began innocently enough, with my probing for his attitude about Frank coming into my house and taking care of Rudi while I'm gone. The Professor stated, "You're entitled to have all the friends and lovers you want." Darn it, I don't want a ton o' lovers. I want one. And I want one who doesn't want me to have any others but him. I want to matter. I want some man to want me all for himself, to recognize the wonder of the amount of love I have to give and what an exquisite relationship we could have together.

I mentioned something about the Professor to Tyler and Jaci. Jaci — so good at cutting right to the core issue of a matter — asked, "Are you and the Professor dating?" I paused for a very long time before replying, "I don't know."

So that's the dating side of my trauma.

And then for a final blow, a sharp knife-blade inserted into the heart of yesterday's depression, I noticed yet another Tucson driver on the interstate had thrown yet another stone at my windshield and now I must have my windshield replaced. Yes, I know insurance will pay for it. Yes, I know they'll come right to your office to replace it. But I have to spend time on the phone making the arrangements with USAA. And when it's all over, I have to find the time to go stand in line at Davis-Monthan to get a new base pass for my windshield.

It's always something. I would like for it to be nothing for a while. I'd like this blog to be a Seinfeld episode for a while — "it's all about nothing."

Or for Glinda to hover over me with her wand and just wave it to pull everything back into order. Whatever "order" is.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

New tools I'll need

This is the Youngstown house I'm currently interested in, located at 1818 Fifth Avenue. One look at the birds-eye view of that yard and sidewalk tells me I'll need both a riding mower and a snow blower!

It's currently being offered at $60,900. Reasonably priced, yes? Well, there's the small issue of a couple of floor-to-ceiling windows having been broken out and all the copper pipes and appliances in the house having been stolen.

Did I mention that a homeowner trying to sell a lovely old home in Youngstown will not place a For Sale sign in front of the house to prevent such vandalism?