Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Are We There Yet?

A year ago I remember thinking that the hardship would go away with 2007 and 2008 would be easy sailing. I couldn't have been more wrong. Rather than bore you with the details here, I'll refer you back to my posts of January 1, 2008: here and here.

This year has been challenging, difficult, rewarding, and unnerving. I've packed and moved, had a Last Supper with scores of Tucson friends, driven cross-country with only my cat and XMRadio for company, begun a job where I frequently feel I don't fit in, begun a daily 120-mile round trip commute, short-sold both my houses in Tucson at an out-of-pocket cost of $70K, made offers on three Youngstown houses, driven to Asheville for my mother's 95th birthday party, enjoyed my annual Broadway weekend with PianoLady, had a handful of forgettable dates, and enjoyed daily hugs and kisses from my darling grandchildren.

Next week I'll close on my new house and begin again the process of settling and making a home for myself, alone. It's scary. It's exciting. It's daunting.

May 2009 be better than 2008.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Surf and Sand


I am in heaven on earth for the first time in nine years. In 1989, John and I bought our two weeks at Marriott's Harbour Club timeshare on Hilton Head Island, SC. Since then, it has been one of my favorite places in the U.S. John and I spent many delightful weeks here, and I was happy to introduce the area to Tyler and Jaci nine years ago.

This week I am introducing it to my grandbabes. Boston saw the Pacific Ocean about five years ago when his parents took him from Tucson to San Diego. But he has no memory of that visit, so this visit is, effectively, the first ocean vacation for both Boston and Ridley.

We arrived late Sunday night. Monday, after breakfast, Tyler and I took the babes for their first walk on the beach. They rolled up their jeans, slipped off their shoes, and dug their toes in the sand. To watch their bodies race across the sand and see the expressions on their faces was an experience I'll probably never forget.

Ridley ran down the beach at the edge of the water, arms spread wide, with her smile possessing her face. I think the best descriptor is Sheer Glee.

Boston walked deeper and deeper into the water until his jeans were three-quarters wet. I think if he had fallen down, he would have stood up giggling.

This morning after breakfast, we ran into CVS to get pails and buckets. Once the outside temperature reached the upper 60s, we headed for the beach. Tyler and the babes built sand castles and the babes ran back and forth to the water. The water was a little cold for Boston, and I had to promise to bring him and his sister back next year when it's warmer.

This vacation has been everything I've hoped for since we began the planning six months ago.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Evolution of Relationships

Tyler and I drove from Youngstown to Hilton Head Island yesterday. The babes were happily and quietly settled in the back seat, content with their dual-screen DVD player. I believe it was a six-video trip. Boston was thrilled to have been allowed to watch that many movies, back-to-back.

That long a drive yields a lot of time for thinking. As usual, my thoughts wandered to relationships and my lack of a significant relationship in my life.

I wonder if this is what we come to in our 50s and 60s. It seems to me that all the good men are being held by their women. The only available men are widowers, those never-marrieds that we're afraid of, and the divorced men who, for some reason, just cannot find the right woman. Oh yeah, and the Jacques Arses who, by some twist of fate, just don't understand how to be a good man.

I have a handful of male friends whom I adore. The Gardener, the Traveler, the Professor—these are all men with whom I share the most wonderful, if platonic, relationships. Sometimes I wish it were more, but it is what it is.

And I wonder if that's the ultimate state for second-half-of-life: lots of friends whom you hold in the highest esteem, and a house of your own that holds no arguments over who's going to do the dishes.

Still, it sounds lonely to me.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Community

Oprah's quote for today is from Terry Tempest Williams:
I have inherited a belief in community, the promise that a gathering of the spirit can both create and change culture. In the desert, change is nurtured even in stone by wind, by water, through time.

I believe that bloggers are creating the 21st Century community by our regular use of the Internet as our gathering place to express, through our written words, our hopes, dreams, fears, and beliefs.

In the Youngstown blogosphere, local writers—with a heart for what was and what can be—are railing against those who would tear down what remains and leave us with nothing. These writers encourage and praise and admonish and seek to bring out the best in the community leaders and those who would be community leaders. The writers seek, and are striving for, renaissance.

Ms. Williams, who writes about and lives in the American Southwest, notes that change takes time. I believe that the dedication of the Mahoning Valley activists will bring the area back, not to its former glory, but to a greater glory that will nurture generations to come. I'm nearing 60 years of age; I don't necessarily believe it will happen in my lifetime. But I believe with all my heart that it will happen.

With that statement as preface, my question for you today is this: why do you read blogs? And what should be your response to what you're reading?

I become disturbed when I read blogs, especially the community blogs in the Vindicator, where readers feel compelled to express their opinions about what was written, and to attack each other's words. (Anyone who knows me well knows that I'm the most non-confrontational person in the universe.) I don't mind a healthy exchange of ideas, including disagreement, but it upsets me greatly when people put on their helmets and pick up their verbal swords and call each other names.

The wonderful thing about reading a blog is your ability to close the browser page. If you don't like what you're reading, don't read it. Close your browser. Go do something else. Start your own blog to express your opinions! But don't attack, don't be ugly. What is the point of writing the author and making snarky comments and digs about her writing?

Does treating a writer in an antisocial manner make you feel better? If so, there's something wrong with you. Go volunteer at a homeless shelter. You'll see how good your life really is. Go tutor a child (or an adult) who is having difficulty reading. Be grateful your first grade teacher taught you to read. Go take out your anger by planting a tree or repairing a damaged building or painting a wall.

I have told my children countless times that I will consider my life to have been a success if someone stands up at my memorial service and says, simply, "She was kind."

Life is too short to fill it with ugly words and deeds.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Ho, Ho, Ouch!

How did you spend your Christmas Eve day? I was up at 6:30 in order to be at the Acura dealer at 8:00 for service. I have put 37,000 miles on my TL since leaving Tucson on the 22nd of February. It needed some tender loving care.

For the past three days, I would hear a creaking, cranking, knocking noise anytime I tried to adjust the seat, especially if I opened the door with the Driver #2 fob and it tried to adjust to the #2 setting. I asked the service tech about it, and he said something was caught in the track that the electric seat runs along. I asked them to go ahead and remove the seat, hoping against hope that it was my missing gold earring, a gift from John many years ago and lost now for about a month.

When the techs finished with all the work on the car, I asked what they had found. "Oh, a penny."

Would you care to guess how much that penny cost me?

$85.00

Ho, ho, ho.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Magic Gloves

I promised the other day to tell you more about magic gloves. Here's the story:

My work colleague was born with only three fingers on his left hand.
At our company holiday party a week ago, he won a winter gift
basket that included two pairs of "Magic Gloves" - super stretchy one-
size-fits-all black knit gloves. In the office on Monday morning, he
slipped them on and made a fist with his left hand, showing us how
the second and fifth fingers of the glove stood straight up. After we
joked about what it would look like if he had second and fourth
fingers instead of third and fourth, I said, "You know, I can fix
those gloves."

I took the left glove home and ran a seam from the base of the fourth
finger to the cuff, and from the base of the third finger to the base
of the thumb. It took me no more than five minutes.

After he donned the redesigned glove yesterday morning, he wrote me
the nicest thank-you note. He's thirty years old, and this is the
first time in his life he has had a glove that fit his unique hand.

Can you imagine? Can you imagine how much my small effort meant to
him, what a great impact? He tells about being a "fry boy" at a fast
food restaurant for his first job and having to tie the second and
fifth fingers of the rubber glove together to keep them out of the
food preparation.

I felt so honored to be able to give him this small/big gift. I've
been learning to knit, and now I want to try knitting him a custom
glove. This episode of my life just makes me feel good!

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all. May your smallest gifts be the most precious.

Thinking about Fear

Bedlam Farm Journal is my morning dose of humanity, and I share with you this morning Jon's writing on the concept of fear, especially as it pertains to current events.

My new house is sixteen days away. I find that my real estate trauma this past summer has instilled in me a fear of real estate. (Domatophobia? Oikophobia? Eicophobia? Orthophobia?) I want this transaction to go well, to be manageable, to not reduce me to sobbing. I want this to be the last house I buy in my life. I want the transaction and the next year of settling into the house to be devoid of nasty surprises (like Jaci having to call the furnace man yesterday and say, "The house is toasty warm and cozy. What's wrong?") I want no financial surprises, and I want to take my time deciding how to transform this house into a bricks-and-mortar reflection of me. (If you haven't seen the pics and would like to, send me an e-mail and I'll share the link with you.)

Drawing on Jon's morning words, the closing on the 9th and the next year should be just a passage through which I walk to attain the home-for-the-rest-of-my-life.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

All I Want . . . (part 2)


Note the Merry Christmas wishes in both cursive and block printing, to accommodate Santa's reading skills. This photo will make me smile the rest of my life, I'm sure.

All I Want . . .

I learned the g'babes have asked Santa for magic gloves that will enable their wishes when they wave their hands. For example, they could stand in their room, wave their hands wearing the magic gloves, and their room would magically be cleaned, neat, and orderly.

Y'know, I can do a lot of cool things on my sewing machines, but I'm thinking I can't do magic gloves!

Friday was our department holiday lunch and I told the magic glove story to a colleague who got a pair of "Magic Gloves"—really!—in the Winter Basket he won at the company party. (More on that tomorrow.)

We were talking about the power of belief—"I believe these gloves are magic" and therefore they are. He said Ty and Jaci could tell the children that the gloves were magic but had to be trained. So if you clean your room every day for a year wearing the magic gloves, the gloves will then be trained and will do the cleaning automatically. If you miss one day, you have to start the training period over again. It takes 365 consecutive days of doing something for the gloves to be trained.

You think it will work? I think it's magic all right—a magic way for the parents to get something done on a regular basis.

I think it was an inspired suggestion!

I arrived home at 11:00 last night after our final holiday pops concert. Boston greeted me at the door, wide awake. He said he had been putting things on the tree. (His mom was having girls' night out with Lucy, his sister had fallen asleep on the couch, and his dad was upstairs, asleep in the recliner.)

As Boston was helping me get all my things upstairs, he said, "I put a reminder note on the tree. I wrote one in cursive and one in block printing in case Santa can only read one kind of writing. I told him I hope he didn't forget the magic gloves."

(Have I mentioned that my grandchildren are precious?!)

Friday, December 19, 2008

The Definition of a Successful Concert

Last night's concert was fun and, for me, successful. Wanna know what that means?

That means my hot flashes occurred: a) during the warm-up; b) five minutes before curtain; and c) during intermission. Woo hoo. No hot flash disruption while singing. No having to sit down in the middle of a piece.

Now if I can repeat that pattern for tonight's concert, I'll be one happy singer.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pet Peeves for an (Almost-)Winter's Day

I'm tired this morning. Our dress rehearsal last night concluded after 10:00, so I got home after 11:00. This morning I had to gather dress and accoutrements, music, and normal work stuff to get out the door, while racing up and down the attic stairs to deposit@home a couple of checks so nothing would bounce today. (Love USAA Federal Savings Bank and their deposit@home feature!)

Tired in me manifests itself as grumpy, so this morning I will share a couple of current pet peeves.

1) Drivers on I-76 who insist on sitting in the left lane while talking on the phone and not paying attention to their gas pedal (and therefore driving about 60mph). If you're gonna talk and daydream, move over. Or put another way: get the hell out of my way!

2) Singers who sing wrong notes loudly. Or who can't sing on pitch. The alto next to me last night was loudly singing about 1/8 step low, every note, every song. I have perfect pitch, so I'm always right on. But when someone is next to me singing wrong and loudly, I can't hear the correct pitch in my ear. Get it right or sing softer!

3) Singers who insist on talking while the director is trying to say something. Shut the duck up. Really. What tidbit about your life do you absolutely have to share with your seatmate at that precise moment, thus prohibiting me from hearing the conductor's instructions? What makes your words more important than his words?

4) Singers who can't count. Let me give you a little tip, Music School Dropout. When an eight note is followed by a quarter note, in a triplet pattern, you don't sing them evenly! Their sounds are not the same duration! Pay ducking attention!

Okay, that's all my grousing for today. I think I'll go take a nap now.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

It's *Not* Only Money!

I'm fond of saying "it's only money" when I'm doing things for my kids.

The other day I heard someone on CNN talking about Caroline Kennedy's bid for Hillary Clinton's Senate seat. The speaker said that Kennedy had the ability to raise the $70 Million it would take to keep the seat in the next election.

Seventy million dollars?

Why has the political process in this country come to this? Why must one be wealthy or have wealthy friends and supporters to govern? Wisdom and money do not go hand in hand.

I think it's a horrible state of affairs for this to be so. Look what could be done with seventy million dollars. (And we're only talking one race/one seat here. Multiply that by the number of people who raise that kind of money to be able to serve in Washington.)

Wouldn't you rather see all those dollars go to people who are losing their homes and people who are out of a job and don't have money for gas or food; wouldn't you rather see it go to wipe out all sorts of horrors than for one person to win a political race?

I'm appalled!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Simplicity

Sharing with you, today, from Jon Katz's Bedlam Farm Journal, which I absolutely adore:

[Simplicity] is about choosing what you will focus on, make room for, allow into your life. I have often been guilty of cluttering up my mind and my life with too many things to absorb, rushing from one to another.
. . .
Simplicity is, I think, about learning what I need, not what I can get. Tough lesson, hard-earned. Lessons often come at a high cost, to me, or to others. A sad thing about them.

As I move toward having my own home again, a month from now, I want to do this right. I want to live simply, be organized, feel a sense of peace rather than constant frenetic angst.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Favorite Quote of the Day

From this week's NPR broadcast of Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me:

[Blagojevich] puts the goober in gubernatorial.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Breathe a Sigh of Relief

Woo hoo! A day with no responsibilities. No music to practice or organize or perform.

I have long said that December is the worst month of the year for musicians, and that there should be an alternate Christmas in January just for those of us who work all month to make beautiful music for the rest of you!

Yesterday I had the honor of working with Craig Raymaley and Amanda Beagle, along with drums, bass, and the incredible Teddy Pantelas on jazz guitar. We drove two-and-a-half hours to Fairmont, WV, where it was about 33 degrees. We played in a heated tent for the Feast of the Seven Fishes Italian festival. While the son was shining, we were warm enough in the tent, but once the sunshine waned, it was frickin' freezing in the tent. After every song, I was rubbing my hands together to try to keep them usable!

We left Youngstown about 10:45 yesterday morning, and got home 10:00 last night. A very long day, but much fun. I really enjoy playing for this couple, and hope we can do it again.

Hell Week for the Akron Symphony holiday pops begins on Tuesday. I have rehearsals on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, and performances on Thursday and Friday.

Next Saturday can't come soon enough!

Friday, December 12, 2008

We Are Thankful

I follow the Coach blog at Zappo's blogs. Some days he posts exactly the uplifting note I need.

Today's post is one of those:

We are Thankful...

For our part in paying the rent, it keeps a roof over our heads and keeps us dry.

For our utility bills, it will help keep us warm with heating and water.

For the low gasoline prices, it lets us have more money for what we want, instead of what we need.

For our tight clothes, it means we have enough to eat.

For our lives, for the other option is inevitable, which reminds us how precious our future is.

For Everything...it's all part of Our Wonderful Life.

Yours in "Perspective" - Coach

The Geography of Bliss

I've always enjoyed watching Rick Steves' Europe on PBS. Just last week I discovered a Rick Steves podcast!

One of the episodes I just listened to included an interview with NPR correspondent Eric Weiner about his new book, The Geography of Bliss.

This is one of the most thought-provoking podcasts I’ve listened to in quite a while. Weiner explores happiness—in what countries are the citizens the happiest (and unhappiest!); what contributes to happiness; are wealth or cost of living factors; does belonging to an organized religion make you happier; and so on.

The religion discussion struck me as interesting, because I tend to associate organized religions with group-think, with not having one’s own thoughts and opinions. But of course my thoughts are severely impacted by my [negative] upbringing as an Adventist.

Rick Steves references Maslow’s Hierarchy several times, and I’ve always found that theory interesting since the first time I heard about it in my thirties. (If you're interested, I tend to stay pretty low on the triangle. I'm all about security—tell me my Little Adoptee doesn't sit on my shoulder all the time!)

Steves mentions the U.S. and the number of people who take “happy drugs”, and whether we as a people are happier as a result. Do we take happy drugs, or do we take anti-unhappy drugs? I do not think these are the same. When I have taken antidepressants in the past, they didn’t make me happy. They just took the edge off my unhappiness. And they made me want to sleep all the time. Sleeping isn’t happiness; it’s nothing.

Weiner talks about the World Database of Happiness. Are you kidding me?! Who compiled a database of happiness? I love databases – would this be a great job or what?!

I highly recommend this podcast. I’d love to get all my friends together for a glass of wine and a discussion of this topic. As our geography won’t allow that, how about posting your thoughts here after listening.

The Joy of Music, Part 2

Last night I experienced the real joy of music, not the agony.

Tomorrow I will have the honor and pleasure of accompanying Amanda Beagle and Craig Raymaley at the Feast of the Seven Fishes in Fairmont, WV. Craig was a classmate of Tyler's at Youngstown State. He and Amanda are enormously talented and awfully nice. They've put together an assortment of Italian and Christmas tunes that should please the audience.

Last night we had a very productive rehearsal, and I went home with the joy that comes from making beautiful music with other talented musicians.

This is why I continue to pursue music!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

You Like Me. You Really Like Me.

Remember the Sally Field Oscar moment? I need to do my research and see if she was adopted. Maybe she just had poor parenting that disabled her ability to develop self esteem.

I was thinking yesterday about the thousands, well tens, of men I've dated over the past five years. (Geez, it's been five years since EEFFH broke up with me. Where does the time go? Why am I still alone?)

I don't see a man and set my cap for him. I notice someone paying attention to me, and then—because he likes me—I start liking him. And I make all sorts of adaptations in lifestyle just so he'll continue to like me and like me more.

So he'll adopt me.

I think my whole life has been about trying to get adopted over and over again. And always keeping a mental fix on the location of my suitcase, in preparation for being abandoned again.

Is it possible, at 58, with knowledge, to finally recover from the horror of the original abandonment and the hypercritical adoptive mother? One step at a time.

I think I like me. I think I really like me. Maybe.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Joy of Music

I'm thinking this week about the quality of choral performances and what rehearsal techniques are required to produce that quality.

I sang, off and on for fifteen years, with Oratorio Society of Washington/The Washington Chorus, under Robert Shafer's baton. I had first sung with him in Fontainebleau, France, in 1971 while studying with Nadia Boulanger. He is a musical perfectionist and I love that about him. Yes, he could go off on us during rehearsal, but if a singer is paying attention and working hard, she shouldn't mind that. If all the singers were paying attention and working hard, he wouldn't have had to go off on us. In my humble opinion.

Then I moved to Tucson and was one of the charter members of the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus, led by Dr. Bruce Chamberlain. Bruce's rehearsal were like sitting in a graduate musicology class without having to pay the tuition. He, also, is a perfectionist. It was a joy to sit in those rehearsals.

With both these men, when I would drive home late at night, I knew I had just participated in a music-making session of the highest quality.

The chorus with which I'm singing now doesn't leave me with that feeling. The conductor, a dear friend, has inherited this chorus; he is in his first year in this position. We haven't discussed the situation, but I believe he feels he must tread lightly this first year. He did not walk in with a big broom and sweep the place clean. The rehearsals are lovefests, not intensive fix-everything sessions.

It's frustrating for me to be surrounded by people who insist on chatting with each other when the director is speaking, or who don't know how to sing with a chorus. A chorus is about blending and supporting each other—again, in my humble opinion. If your voice is aging and you can no longer control your vibrato, please excuse yourself from the symphony chorus and go sing with a community chorus.

And as I sit through these rehearsals, giving my time in a city an hour's commute away from home (meaning I don't get home on rehearsal nights until 10:30-11:00), I think about quitting. Last night I wondered what it would be like not to sing with a chorus. I've done it for so long and love it so much, but this organization is not meeting my needs.

I even thought about asking Tyler to start a small vocal group, maybe eight or twelve voices. We could do the classical repertoire or a cappella jazz or pop. And we could bring in the highest calibre singers who do it for the love and because they have great abilities and ears.

In the meantime, I keep going to rehearsals. And as I sit there, agonizing over the singers around me, biting my tongue, I remember Tucson rehearsals. And I sing the Hallelujah Chorus without looking at the music because I've sung it 50 times over the past five years! (Thanks, Bruce)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

The Piano as Blanket

Yes, I've been quiet lately. I've been learning a ton o' music, practicing up on my sight-reading, and getting my fingers back in shape.

I was privileged this afternoon to accompany the students of Craig Raymaley and Amanda Beagle in their studio Christmas recital. The children, ranging in age from seven through high school, were darling and all did a fabulous job.j

I love accompanying. I feel it's my gift—to be sensitive to what the vocalist is doing and support him or her.

In one of our rehearsals this weekend, Amanda said to one of her students, "Just think of that piano as a big blanket, keeping you warm." What a lovely way to put it (especially in this frigid, snowy weather).

To do what I love doing, what I've very good at doing, and get paid for it? Life doesn't get any better than this!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Sing a Song of Christmas

Yesterday morning I stopped in to Starbucks to do my part for World AIDS Day, and—on impulse—picked up the Yo-Yo Ma & Friends Songs of Joy & Peace CD that was languishing on the counter, ready to ease my morning commute.

What a fabulous collection of songs! It is eclectic, filled with the highest caliber performances my all sorts of musicians—classical, jazz, country; even a bit of bagpipe. Diana Krall, Alison Krauss, James Taylor, Renée Fleming, Chris Botti and Dave Brubeck all make appearances on the disc. The core piece that keeps reappearing in many different forms is the traditional Dona Nobis Pacem—Grant Us Peace.

I highly recommend this disc. There's also a deluxe version that includes a 60-minute DVD showing some of the recording sessions. I purchased mine at Starbucks, and it came with two free iTunes downloads from the collection.

This is not in-your-face Christmas music. It's simply a mixed bag of gorgeous music that will have you tapping your foot and smiling.

Listening to this disc yesterday and to the XM Holiday Pops station made me start thinking about what Christmas music is my favorite.

Of course, I love all the traditional carols that I grew up singing. From my years of Christmas concerts with The Washington Chorus and the Tucson Symphony Orchestra Chorus, I just love "In the Bleak Midwinter", written by Harold Darke. And John Rutter's "What Sweeter Music" just blows me away. Simple carols? The French carol "Il est né le divin enfant" is charming, especially when sung in French.

My other new fave holiday CD came out last year. Mario Vacho and Hugh Campion, as Duo Campion-Vachon, 50ish duo-pianists from Quebec, are wonderful. They are what Piano Lady and I could have been if we hadn't been raised in the South in the 50s and 60s, if we hadn't been so focused on getting married and raising a family.

Duo Campion-Vachon's arrangements are out of the ordinary, lush, interesting—everything I love in an arrangement. Their disc is Noël Pianissimo. Every time one of their tunes would come on Holiday Pops, I would instantly look up to see who the artist was. After I did this six or seven times, I realized I had to buy the disc.

(Oh Piano Lady—it will be in your mailbox tomorrow. You're welcome.)

So what's your favorite holiday music? What are you listening to this month?

Monday, December 01, 2008

Walking Backwards Through the Cobwebs of My Mind

My kids and g'kids are at Walt Disney World today. I'm so jealous. For seven years of my life I was associated with WDW, both as a staff accompanist (that's a pianist, if you didn't know) and as a Dickens Caroler. I have so many warm memories of that association.

By the time they were two and four years old, my sons had been to the Magic Kingdom at least 100 times. Back in the days before you had to watch your child every moment, I would find a bench in Tomorrowland and TJ (The Child Formerly Known as Scott) would just run back and forth across that open plaza, as fast as his little legs would carry him. When his dad stage-managed the Kids of the Kingdom singer-dancer troupe, he knew all the songs and all the choreography.

Oh, how I would love to see the looks on Boston's and Ridley's faces today. How I would love to ride on Peter Pan's Flight with them (my fave ride!). And for them to see it for the first time when all the Christmas decorations are up—it's just too magical for words.

I searched for a WDW webcam today and found one. I quickly texted Tyler to let me know when they were standing at Town Square on Main Street so I could look at them. Then I reread the home page and realized the webcam was only virtual. It was only a simulation of being live. Ha ha, the joke's on me.

A simulation of being live, of having a life: that's how I'm feeling with them gone for all this time!

Come Home to Mama

My laptop came home last Monday, after a six week illness and hospitalization. In the interim, I had broken a second, very old laptop, and set up my five-year-old tower in the bedroom. The tower was inconveniently positioned, so I was disinclined to spend much time on it. And I certainly couldn't reach over and pull it into bed with me when I woke up, as is my pattern.

As a result, I was blogging less frequently and reading e-mail on the fly.

I had the weekend alone (the kids are on a two week Thanksgiving vacation - giving thanks that they're not tied to jobs and schools that would prevent such a luxury!) and left the laptop downstairs all weekend. It's interesting not being so tied to e-mail/Twitter/Facebook/etc. I get out of bed and out the door faster in the morning, but I also don't read friends' e-mails with the same depth I do when I'm not rushed.

And it leaves me to ponder whether I want to resume my old ways or be a regular social being and stop being so tied to my cyberworld.

(The other interesting insight of having the kids gone is feeling so alone again, like I did in Tucson after they left. I realize that being with them and caring for them is the center of my life. I feel like a rubber dinghy floating on the ocean when I'm alone. Interesting!)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

A Quiet Day

Today is a rare gift—a quiet day to do whatever I want. Yesterday I visited Designing Woman in Fairlawn and got some beautiful wool yarn in dark brown, orange, and coffee. This morning I'm sitting in front of the television, making a scarf to go with my rust Eileen Fisher short coat.

I watched Citizen Kane, but didn't get as much out of it as most people do. Last night I went to the WYSU Members' Movie Night and saw Nights in Rodanthe. (By the way, I didn't see any good-looking, age-appropriate single men there, contrary to my hopes. I guess if I had seen the Western instead of the Romance, my chances would have been greater.)

Watching two movies in such a short period of time made me think about my favorite movie scenes. So, today I'll give you a meme of five of my favorite movie scenes. (I'm sure there are many more, but these are what come to mind right now.)

  1. The West Side Story dance scene with water hose from Sleeping With the Enemy. Love that music, loved the creativity of that scene.

  2. From Joe Versus the Volcano, the scene in the California restaurant where Angelica, the ditzy California blond Meg Ryan character, says, "I have no response to that." Love that line—it covers a multitude of uncomfortable situations.

  3. Another Meg Ryan fave: In You've Got Mail, when Joe tells Kathleen he wishes they could be together, and says, "And then all we'd ever argue about is what movie to rent on a Saturday night." I love that line. I had that kind of marriage. Oh, how I miss it.

  4. The Housesitter is another favorite movie to watch while sewing. I love the scene where Newton brings home Chinese takeout, fulfilling Gwen's dream.

  5. A new fave, from last night's Nights in Rodanthe is when Adrienne is telling her daughter, about the man she loved and lost. "There's another kind of love." She talks about the kind of love that makes us want to be our best selves. (I can't find the exact quote; I may have to rent this movie when it's released to capture that line.) It made me compare and constrast my four marriages. Numbers one through three were to men who cared more about themselves than anyone else. Marriage number four was between two people who put each other first and cared more about their partner's comfort and happiness than their own.


What are some of your faves?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why I Hate Wednesdays

By the time I get home from chorus rehearsal on Tuesday nights, it's 10:30 or later. By the time I settle down enough to sleep, it's after midnight.

This morning I woke up and pulled my laptop into bed. I had looked at the clock and it said 5:45. Or so I thought. The next time I looked at the clock it was 7:15. I said, "Oh shit", and raced for the shower.

I walked into the office at 9:00:59. (I have to be in the office no later than 9:00.)

I hate Wednesdays.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Happy Birthday, Darling Jaci

One of the great gifts of my life was Tyler having walked into The Cooker twelve or thirteen years ago and meeting Jaci.

My beautiful daughter-in-law is 40 today, and she wears it with style and grace. The past year has been pivotal in her life, as she started her photography business. Each time she aims and shoots, she demonstrates what a gifted artist she is. Spend a few minutes with her blog, if you have any doubts.

I've tried to be a supportive and caring mother-in-law—I've tried to be the kind of mother-in-law I'd want to have. I think the fact that Tyler and Jaci invited me to move in with them is evidence that I succeeded.

Happy Birthday, my darling Jaci. You're one in a million and I'm privileged to know you.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Am I That Old?

The kid are leaving on vacation tomorrow, leaving me alone for two weeks.

Ridley said she was going to draw me a card so I wouldn't forget her. I said, "I could never forget you." She replied that she wasn't sure I could remember, 'cause I was so old.

I guess it's all perspective, huh?

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A Short Week

It's been a busy weekend filled with music and dance. The babes had their monthly Suzuki recital on Saturday morning, where Ridley "graduated" with her Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star performance. In the afternoon, we all went to Powers Auditorium to see Ballet Western Reserve's performance of The Nutcracker Ballet. Ridley was one of the angels, and did an excellent job. As you watch her perform, it's easy to see that she just exudes dance.

When she was two-and-a-half or three, she would dance in front of the television and watch her reflection in the darkened screen. If you asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, she would respond that she was going to dance in front of the television. Don't you wish we could all be young and innocent and not have to focus so much on our need to earn an income?!

Today Jaci fixed a lovely dinner and we had several friends over. It wasn't billed as a birthday party, but will be the closest thing we get to a birthday party for this year. On Tuesday, Tyler and Jaci and the babes will leave for their winter vacation—a family reunion in South Carolina, then the babes first trip to Walt Disney World. All day Tuesday, as they are traveling, they will be celebrating Jaci's 40th birthday.

I am constantly thankful that Tyler came to Youngstown State and ultimately met our darling Jaci. She is a fabulous mother, wife, daughter, artist, humanitarian—and drop-dead gorgeous, to boot. Our family is richer for her being a part of it.
. . .
Tomorrow I will meet an electrician at the house to find out how much it will cost to make the electrical system in the house safe for me. I also need to find a mold person to learn how much mold remediation will cost.

And before we know it, it will be Thanksgiving. How quickly this year has passed!

As the week begins, I'm thankful there are only three workdays in this week. And I'm thankful my manager said I could work from home tomorrow so I can go meet the electrician without taking a vacation day.

Small pleasures!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Do What Now?

I'm reading David Giffels's All The Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House. (I'm loving it. I can hardly put it down.) There's a bit of synchronicity in my reading this book, about the restoration of a 1913 mansion in Akron, while I'm trying to buy a 1927 mini-mansion in Youngstown.

The home inspection took place yesterday. I haven't spoken to the inspector, but have read all his words, and they made me pause. Am I getting in over my head? Here I am, a 58yo widow with no handyman who sleeps next to me. And the real estate fiasco of this past summer has left me with severely limited funds and an immense desire to get out of debt. Am I crazy to take on this house?

The electrical system needs to be replaced. The basement has mold. The chimney needs tuck pointing. (What the hell is tuck pointing and why has this phrase suddenly come into my life?)

Okay, Mrs. V has lived there for years and years and years, plugging in electrical appliances. The house still stands. How many years could I live there before I'd Absolutely Have To replace the electrical system?

The mold. How much to remediate? When Tyler texted me that the inspection report had been delivered and the man told Jaci that it would cost "a couple thousand dollars," I thought, that's okay. I had been thinking of offering to pay all the closing costs. Now I'll just split the closing costs and pay for the mold remediation.

But when I spoke with Jaci at dinner, she said, "he told me at least a couple of thousand dollars." Uh oh. "At least" means "no less than and maybe/probably a whole damned lot more than."

There were many other items on the list, those items conveniently printed in red ink. Red means Stop. Shit.

At the same time, the house I made an offer on six weeks ago but was snatched out from under me is rumored to be back on the market. The darling neighbor across the street from the house said he thought I could get it for less than $50K. The new owner got it for $37K. Bastahd. Probably has done nothing to it in the interim, nothing to justify a $13K profit in six weeks. Oh well.

I went to sleep with whorls of "what shall I do" in my head. Oh for a significant other to knock this around with, someone who is going to take this great adventure with me. Memories of making an offer on a 1915 rowhouse in D.C. with John, of planning for our short-lived future.

Can I live with the electricity the way it is?

At midnight I was awakened by Tyler clomping down the stairs from his attic office to the mudroom, then turning on the light in my hallway as he replaced a blown fuse. An omen? An omen of months and months of making sure not to use the toaster and the microwave simultaneously. Months of drying my hair in a dark bathroom because I'm afraid of using the bathroom light and the hair dryer at the same time?

Argh. I need a psychic. What do I do now?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Man, I thought I was a musician nerd!

What Be Your Nerd Type?
Your Result: Literature Nerd
 

Does sitting by a nice cozy fire, with a cup of hot tea/chocolate, and a book you can read for hours even when your eyes grow red and dry and you look sort of scary sitting there with your insomniac appearance? Then you fit this category perfectly! You love the power of the written word and it's eloquence; and you may like to read/write poetry or novels. You contribute to the smart people of today's society, however you can probably be overly-critical of works.

It's okay. I understand.

Musician
 
Artistic Nerd
 
Science/Math Nerd
 
Drama Nerd
 
Gamer/Computer Nerd
 
Social Nerd
 
Anime Nerd
 
What Be Your Nerd Type?
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz

(Thanks to Ann at Gorgeous Things' Blog for forcing me inspiring me to kill ten minutes on this test!)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Trying Not to Get Excited

And yet thinking about the possibilities, in two months, of:
  1. finding the box containing my journal and the stack of ten waiting-to-be-read books that were on my nightstand before the movers arrived;

  2. unpacking all my books and being able to decide where to put them;

  3. having all my clothes in one location;

and so on.

White Stuff Comin' At Ya

The drive home from rehearsal last night was, at times, downright scary. From the point at which I drove onto I-76 until just past the Mahoning County line, the flakes were driving at me. I had to sit up like an old lady, gripping the steering wheel, trying to keep the light of the cars behind me out of my eyes in the rearview mirror, and desparately trying to see the lane lines. For that entire portion of the drive, these big ol' flakes were just streaming right at me.

I wanted to get home safely, while simultaneously wanting to just pull into the rest area and wait for it to pass. (Does it ever pass here?) I fantasized about taking Wednesday off and just hiding under the covers, but I remembered Wednesday is my AkronReads day, and two kindergartners would be waiting for me to help them with their reading. (I'm taking one of my boss's AR shifts, so now I have two days a month with third graders and one day with kindergartners.) I kept plowing forward.

When I got home and into my flannel jammies (I hate flannel jammies!) and turned out the light, all I could see inside my eyelids were tiny dots of light coming at me, like stars or pinpoints of light. This continued for about ten minutes until I could figure out how to trick my brain not to see them long enough to fall asleep.

The first thing I did when I woke up this morning was head for the window to see if more snow had fallen on my car overnight. It hadn't.

I'm hopeful for a sane one-hour drive this morning!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Wintery Weather Welcome

I walked out of the house at 7:15 this morning. I walked into the office at 9:10. I came very close, several times, to just taking the next exit and turning around to spend the day at home, eating up one of my few remaining vacation days. But I kept on.

The Mahoning County stretch was the worst. The Youngstown bypass, 711, was—for the second snowy morning in a row—untreated, treacherous and scary as hell. I could not see the lane divider lines. When I got to 680, however, the road was clear. Then the snow picked up in earnest and I couldn't see 50 yards in front of the car.

Shortly after crossing Lake Milton and nearing the Mahoning County line, I could see blue skies ahead, and I had about 15 miles of clear and easy driving. Then, as I approached Tallmadge, the traffic slowed to a crawl and I drove probably 10 miles at 5 mph or less.

I've heard people forecast a tough winter this year, so this is probably not the last time I'll have a two-hour commute, one way. At 9:30 tonight I'll hit the road again after rehearsal. I only hope it's not still snowing by then.

And here's a shout-out to the stupid drivers who refuse to brush the snow off the roofs of their cars before leaving their driveways: Don't we have enough problems with snow on the roads? Leave your snow in your own ducking driveway and cut the rest of us a little break!

11:00 p.m. update: I went into Panera to kill 45 minutes before rehearsal. While I was drinking my mocha and reading a great book, and inch-and-a-half of snow accumulated on my car! Enough already!! (And it's only November 18th!)

Beginning to Tell the Story

I have a contract on a house. I'm scared to say too much about this, as I don't want anything to happen and harm the deal. I've had my heart broken by too many houses this year.

I'm taking it as a good sign that the nephew who is acting for the 92yo widow owner wants to close next year. I think any CPA that I contact for tax assistance next year would refuse to work with me once I revealed I had sold two houses and bought one in the same year!

Today I'll tell you about the first floor. I have never come in the front door, only the kitchen door, so I'll use that orientation. The kitchen is a decent size, but dated by about 30 years. In a few years, when I recover from my real estate hell, I'll rehab the kitchen. Next to the kitchen is a breakfast room with built-in cupboards. Remember, the house dates from 1927 and has all those lovely little touches that were being installed in Youngstown homes of that era. The breakfast room floor is linoleum, not gorgeous tile like Tyler and Jaci's. When I redo the kitchen, I'll redo that floor. in the interim, I think this will be my computer room. Then a nice sized dining room, with doors out to the porch on the north side. I foresee summer Sunday morning tea-and-novel or tea-and-beading on that porch.

Turning right from the dining room is the large foyer, that leads to the staircase. Behind the staircase is a half bath.

Through the foyer is the living room. At the back of the living room, on the same wall as the kitchen door, is a small library with built-in barrister bookcases. I can see a small television and comfortable chair here.

On the south side of the living room, opposite the outside porch, is a sun porch. This will be for winter Sunday morning tea-and-novel.

The owner was an immaculate housekeeper. I might pull up the wall-to-wall carpet before moving in, but quite possibly all I'll do is have the downstairs painted before hanging "The King and the Queen of the Prom" on the living room wall.

Fireplaces? In the living room and in the large bedroom directly over the living room.

Oh, and a back stairs from the kitchen up to the small bedroom and bath at the back of the second floor.

Trying not to, but getting excited.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Intimate Morning Conversations

Boston woke up way too early this morning after his sleepover at Grandma's "house". It was 6:20 and he was ready to go downstairs for breakfast, but I tried to stall him as long as I could.

Oh, the sweet conversations we had.

He started singing two songs he had learned in music class at school. He couldn't fully remember one of them and said he needed to ask Ridley. He said, "She stuck it to her forehead with invisible glue so she wouldn't forget it."

What a concept! I said, "Ridley has a very good imagination, doesn't she?"

He replied, "Yes, she likes to pretend things. I think imagination is her favorite toy."

I loved that statement and just had to share it with you this lovely rainy morning.

Friday, November 14, 2008

A House?

TJ cyberslapped my hand yesterday for not telling him I was trying to buy a house. So here's the update:

I've had my eye on a 1950s contemporary a mile up the road for a year now and last weekend it came on the market. It was repossessed, and needed some work. The plumbing had been stolen off the heat pump, and there is serious mold in the basement. But it is a gorgeous house and would fit my furniture and artwork very well, as well as give me significant sewing space.

The rule of thumb when buying a repo is to look at what the bank has in it and offer half of that. That's the starting point and you negotiate from there. The house was listed at $99,900, the bank bought it at the sheriff's sale for $86,000, and I opened the negotiations at $45,000. The bank responded, through their agent, that the offer wasn't even high enough to counter. Whatever. I guess they're enjoying having this house in their portfolio. At least I won't have to deal with removing that mold.

Onward: there's a precious 1927 two-story house three blocks away that I'm working on now. The owner is a 92-year-old widow, in a nursing home after suffering a fall. She has no children and her nephews are trying to sell the house. The nephew who is functioning as the spokesman has agreed to sell the house to me at the price I want. Today I will talk to the banks where I have mortgage pre-approvals and see which one wants my business.

By New Year's, I might be in my own home again.

A Day of Mourning

Yesterday was so long and so traumatic that when I got in the shower this morning, it seemed like about 72 hours had elapsed since the last time I was in the shower.

About 10:30 yesterday morning, the director of development asked the other technical writer and me to come into a conference room. I thought I was going to get my hand slapped for accessing the internet for non-work-related stuff. Instead he told us that our boss had just been fired. Seriously? My boss is brilliant. He's an excellent technical writer, a compassionate manager, and an all-around good guy. He was able to bring a note of humor to every drudge job we did. (And there's a lot of drudge to technical writing—trust me!)

The director also told us that three other people were being let go. In fact, as we were sitting there, my best buddy was also being let go. Oh, stab me again. There was only one person at that company who was anywhere near being in my generation and with whom I could talk classical music and what it's like to live in the National Capital area. Every Friday morning for the last few months I've bought two of my Friday morning pastry and delivered one to my buddy's desk as a pat on the head for having lived through another week in an environment that wasn't real friendly to him. Each night as I left I told him good-night. As I walked past his cube on the way out last night, I had to steel myself to not cry.

So of our workforce of about eighty people, we're now about 5% lighter. The workplace was very strange yesterday. Very little work got done in the afternoon; most people were standing around outside their cubes just chatting, and no manager objected. It seemed like the HR types were wandering around telling jokes, trying to distract everyone from the death in our midst.

(The other two guys who were let go? One I knew by name; the other just got married a couple of months ago. Talk about inserting stress into a new marriage. Oh, and my buddy? Has a new baby daughter, about three months old, along with three boys and a stay-at-home wife. Have I said enough to alert you to his stress level?)

My two newly-jobless friends will find work quickly, I'm sure (I hope)(I pray). But my worklife will not be the same.

I'm in mourning.

Your Friday Giggle

Yesterday morning during my commute, Gayle King commented on a lawsuit a woman filed against L'Oreal cosmetics.

The thing that struck me as funny was the woman's statement that she could never go back to being a natural blonde. Wait—if you're coloring your hair, it's technically not "natural", right?

Enjoy—and Happy Friday!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Where Do They Learn These Things?

Boston told me last night that he and Claire are friends again.

This was a little girl who was his best friend on day 1 of second grade. Then she said something mean to him (who can remember what it was?!) and a few more mean things thereafter. He quickly learned to dislike her. And then she was seated next to him in class, so it became a problem.

I suggested to him that he try to be as kind to her as he could. Say nice things to her. Tell her she looked nice that day, or compliment something she said. Ignore any perceived meanness.

He sounded greatly relieved last night when he told me he has passed her a note in class that said, "Are you not my friend?" She passed the note back and whatever she wrote assuaged his concern. He wrote back, "Thank you." And she responded, "No, thank you."

My little diplomat!

(When, where, and how do kids learn to pass notes in class? I can't imagine how that starts!)

And later he told me he had asked the teacher to back up in a lesson as one little boy was falling behind.

This child has an enormous, giving, loving heart. How lucky I am to have him in my life!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Doing It Right

Although I'm not happy about the XMRadio/Sirius merger and losing a couple of favorite stations, I am impressed that Sirius put redirects on the channels that moved. I got into the car this morning and pushed the button for Channel 110, XM Classics. It automatically settled on channel 78, Symphony Hall.

I'm not happy, but I'm placated. And impressed with their tech staff!

(An aside to the Sirius people: SIRIOUSLY Sinatra is not the same as High Standards! Boo.

Oh, yeah, and if you wanna get rid of Dr. Laura from xL SIRIUS XM Stars, I wouldn't quarrel with that [brilliantly intelligent] move.)

Lovely Music for Veterans Day

At last night's Akron Symphony Chorus rehearsal, we did some more work on the Vaughan Williams Dona Nobis Pacem that we will perform in February. We performed one movement of this work, the Dirge for Two Veterans, in our concert a week ago.

The words are drawn from the writings of Walt Whitman.

The last movement brought tears to my eyes each time we sang it. I envision the moon shining down over the columbarium at Arlington National Cemetery, where John's ashes are inurned.

The moon gives you light,
And the bugles and the drums give you music;
And my heart, O my soldiers, my veterans,
My heart gives you love.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Favorite Veteran

I've already told you I'm a softie where my country is concerned. Tears well in my eyes when I sing the National Anthem or God Bless America. Walking across the acres of Arlington National Cemetery leaves me speechless in awe for the sacrifices of the men and women who have served their country.

As John was nearing his death, I asked him what he had hoped to accomplish in his life. He—who was loath to enter into such a discussion—freely said, "To serve my country; to be a good citizen; and to be a good father." I told him that if those were his criteria, he had lived a successful life.

So, today I tip my hat to Lt.Col. John R. Ross (USAF Ret.) whose service in Vietnam and exposure to Agent Orange led ultimately to his death of prostate cancer. He loved his country and his children and all three of his wives, during their respective tenures. He loved fast airplanes. He loved golf more than life. He loved to run down to the Mall to watch fireworks celebrating any occasion. He was proud of his service in Defense Intelligence Agency. He loved walking the halls of the Pentagon.

He loved his country.

He loved me unconditionally.

Monday, November 10, 2008

There's More to a Man Than Looks

I stopped in Starbucks this morning for my mocha and sat for a few minutes with a crossword puzzle.

There were three men sitting with their coffee. One was reading the newspaper; the other two were talking. Talking about how horrible the Obama win was, and how detrimental for our area and the nation.

Listening to them made me realize that I may see someone who is attractive, and may learn he's single and looking, but that doesn't give me a clue to what goes on inside his brain.

It's such a long, tortuous journey to find someone compatible to spend time with.

In the long run, is it worth the effort.

I no longer know the answer to that question.

Friendship is Hard Work!

Again this morning Jon Katz has touched me with his Bedlam Farm post.

This has been on my mind lately, as my "Man In My Dreams" post prompted a couple of dear friends to wish church on me.

Anyone who wishes me to sit on a church pew on a Saturday or Sunday morning doesn't understand the abuse I have taken through my life from Christians-in-name-only. One cannot truly be a Christian and treat me as I have been treated in my life.

And if you think I'm going to ever again in my life put that amount of trust in someone, in the name of wasting two hours on a Saturday or Sunday morning, then you truly don't appreciate the abuse I've suffered.

I'm just saying: Your lifestyle works for you. Good. I'm happy for you and respect your choices. Please don't minimize my pain and loss by wishing your lifestyle on me.

Deal?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Create Something!

I've become quite enamored lately by the blog entitled Bedlam Farm Journal. Each day I anxiously await Jon Katz's frequent posts, always accompanied by gorgeous photography.

Last Thursday he posted about his seventh anniversary on Bedlam Farm. I was touched by his closing words in that post:
"So I enter my Seventh Year on Bedlam Farm, and I ask myself what it is that I want? What does it mean to me to be here? I want the same things I've always wanted, and sometimes found, sometimes not: love, truth, creativity, change, growth. To write about animals and life. To take photos that reflect the world around me. To feel that each day counted for something, and that every single day, without fail, I created something."

This weekend I created a vinyl mesh tote bag and small zippered bag for the Montessori School of Mahoning Valley's fundraiser. As I was digging through my plastic storage containers of fabric for just the right animal-themed fabric for the tote, I was humbled and embarrassed by the quantity of fabric I have.

When I was a young sewer, I would buy a pattern and a piece of fabric and sew it. I would never buy a piece of fabric when I hadn't finished the last piece I bought. Then, fifteen years ago, when I started quilting, that pattern changed. Quilters can never have too large of a fabric stash—you always need one little bit of some color that can be found in your stash, without an interrupting drive to the store.

The first year I lived in Tucson, I traveled to Europe eight times. I had my favorite fabric store in Stockholm, and in every other town I visited, I managed to search out the good fabric stores and come home with a meter or two of fabric.

Now that stash-building is haunting me. I have enough fabric that I could sew something every day for a year, with only occasional trips to the store for thread. It's overwhelming.

But when I read Jon's words, "To feel that each day counted for something, and that every single day, without fail, I created something," I was inspired.

This weekend I made a new blankie for Boston, at his design and request. On the front of the blankie is a zippered pocket to hold his favorite pocket-size stuffed tiger. I helped him make two 6.5" square mini-blankies. He made one for himself. Then he was so proud of what he did, he decided to make one for his sister. Her's instantly became a blankie for her favorite stuffed kitten. He's adept with my Bernina 1630—all I have to do is thread the needle. He's happy when he's sitting in my sewing room, searching through my stash, deciding what he wants to do next. Now he's decided his tiger needs a pillow, so that will be next weekend's project.

The upside for me? I reduced my stash by about three yards of red polyester satin, one white zipper, a yard or so of batting, and a scrap of brilliant blue China silk that had been sitting around for four years. And I helped a child create.

I also made two items that will encourage the Montessori School's pasta dinner attendees to buy more tickets for the Chinese auction so they can have a better chance at my great mesh bags.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

The Male of the Species

I'm convinced that the over-50 male of the species is a subspecies, with the accent on sub.

I mentioned yesterday that I saw a hyperhandsome man at Starbucks, but I didn't walk over and scope him out. I merely obsessed on the entire drive to Akron about possible opportunities. Then I did what any techsavvy woman of the 00s would do: I posted a Missed Connections ad on Craigslist. A couple of hours later I received an e-mail from a man who said he had been at the Canfield Starbucks and made eye contact with a "mature woman" (his words, not mine—doesn't he know how that sounds?!) and wondered if he was the man I seen [sic].

We exchanged a couple of e-mails and a handful of facts (where he was standing, what I was wearing) and determined that we were not the ones making eyes with each other. Then came the clincher—a final note from him saying he wouldn't mind seeing me. "I am married, to long, not looking for a divorse, just having fun..Love is grand, Divorse is a 100 Grand!!! Cheaper to keep her!!"

Are you kidding me?

I quickly responded, "I don't do married."

BTW, I also don't date men who can't spell and/or don't bother to proofread their communications.

About three hours later I got an e-mail from another man. His cryptic message was, "hey im not him but id love to get coffee with you and im very handsome." His e-mail included a photo of a man, presumably him, shirtless and striking a flexed-biceps pose.

Wait, you know nothing about me except that I state that I'm 58 and that I stopped at Starbucks yesterday morning? And based on those two facts you want to have coffee with me?

Maybe meeting a suitable man of an appropriate age and with adequate education to write well is impossible.

But just in case my guy-by-the-window is a possibility, I'll probably stop a couple of mornings next week for a mocha. Just in case.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Travelin' Music

I stopped at the Canfield Starbucks this morning and, on a whim, picked up the new James Taylor "Covers" album, which turns out to be great music for driving miles and miles at oh-dark-thirty.

While waiting for my mocha to hit the counter, I glanced around the dining room and made significant eye contact with a hyperhandsome age-appropriate man (ring finger status: unknown). I think I'll be stopping at this S'bux again next week to see if he's a frequent patron.

Hmmmm.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The Timely

Daylight Saving Time is gone for another season. I love and hate this change.

The Good: I'm an hour closer to all my friends in Tucson, and find it much easier to chat by phone with them at two hours in time difference than at three.

The Bad: It's not yet mid-November and already dark if I leave the office anytime after, oh say, 5:10. And I have an hour-long commute, so it's pitch-black by the time I get home. I hate driving in the dark, especially this boring 60-mile commute. Hate it.

The Moderately Good? When I get up at 6:00, it's already somewhat light, although I know that will change within a couple of weeks.

I can deal with the snow (I think). But I don't like dealing with the dark.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

An Anniversary, Of Sorts

Two years ago this week I visited my doctor to complain about a migraine that masqueraded as a mini-stroke. She promptly took me off my hormone replacement therapy (and my Imitrex for migraines). When I expressed alarm at having to endure hot flashes, she said, "Oh, you don't have ovaries. The hot flashes, if you get them, should only last two months."

When I went back to see her in three months and told her I was still having hot flashes, she said, "Six months, tops."

Alas. Two years have passed, and I'm still getting the damned hot flashes. I perceived myself as Understated Elegance. Well, trust me, it doesn't feel very elegant to sit at a table with someone and suddenly have perspiration (okay, sweat) pouring off my forehead and my cheeks turning beet red.

I'm hopeful that, before the third anniversary of this event, I will be able to report a cessation of my own personal year-round summer.

In the meantime, please excuse me while I go mop my brow.

Monday, November 03, 2008

The Man Of In My Dreams

Just when I think I'll be perfectly fine being alone, sans a significant other, for the rest of my life, I have a dream that makes me sad to wake up.

Last night I dreamed I had applied for a job at IBM and been invited to an interview. When I met the man who was to interview me, lightning struck and we both recognized it immediately. He quickly assigned my interview to someone else and we started a wonderful relationship. At some point in the dream we went out to eat and he paused to say grace before he ate. That concerned me. He had a son, around 10yo, and I knew I'd be going to church every Sunday if we were a family. I wondered if I could get used to that again, but—ever adaptable—was willing to make that concession, to give up my leisurely Sunday mornings, to have a love in my life.

And then I woke up and was back to real life.

Ho hum.

(No, I don't know if I got the job. That didn't matter. I had a man.) ;-)

Friday, October 31, 2008

It's Over For Another Year

Now that all the costumes are finished, worn, and deemed successful, I'm not sure what to do with all my time! I keep thinking I need to head back to my sewing room.

I do have lots more projects to work on, and am happy to have some time to work on them.

And for your viewing pleasure, the costumes and trick-or-treaters:




Jaci's blog has more photos.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Just an Old Softie

My friend, Kathy, invited me to join her tonight to hear the U.S. Marine Band in concert at Stambaugh Auditorium. In a year where performing arts organizations are crying for attendees, Stambaugh was packed.

I had heard this organization in concert many times during the years I lived in D.C. As always, their music is of the highest quality. Of course, hearing them brings John back to me, making me remember how much he loved concerts like this, and making me miss him—always and again.

The "Salute to the Armed Forces" medley brought tears to my eyes, and when they started into "God Bless America" for their encore, I was so choked up I could hardly sing.

How nice to hear rousing music in a beautiful venue surrounded by listeners who are enjoying every minute of the concert.

Impulse Purchases Gone Right

I salute the merchandisers at Barnes & Noble. Every so often they put just the right book on display near the register.

A few weeks ago I was in B&N purchasing a few puzzle books to tuck into the boxes Virtual Hold was sending to an Army National Guard troop in Kuwait. As I was preparing to pay for my purchases, I saw Thad Carhart's The Piano Shop on the Left Bank: Discovering a Forgotten Passion in a Paris Atelier.

There are two items at the top of my long list of things-I-love. Those items are Paris and music. To find a book that encompassed both of them—well, I just had to buy it.

I've just now started reading it, and I'm in love with this book. Mr. Carhart talks about seeing a piano shop as he walked his children to and from school in Paris. He deftly describes what it's like to deal with small store owners in France. He describes his childhood piano lessons in Fontainebleau, a city that is very dear to my heart. This book has turned into something I don't want to put down.

The most astonishing section I've read so far was his description of the mover who delivered his piano to his second floor apartment in Paris. He describes how the piano was strapped to the man's back and he muscled it up the stairs, all alone. My shoulders ached after reading this account.

If you love either Paris or music, I think you would enjoy this book.

Now, what are you reading?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Mason and Dixon

This is only my second experience living above the Mason-Dixon Line. When FOMC and I were first married, we lived in Madison, WI, where he was studying for a Master's in choral conducting. If I remember correctly, the first snow came at Thanksgiving. That's the end of November. That's okay.

Today is October 29. True, all the Christmas decorations are out in the stores, and have been for a month, but it's only October! When I got up in the middle of the night to answer Nature's call, I glanced out the window and noticed the cars were covered with a light blanket of snow.

October!

I'm thinking it's going to be a very long winter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Arts of Random Kindness

My former IBM boss, Donna, told me about her daughters' new business and mentioned a story was going to be broadcast on television. She didn't tell me I would be referred to, anonymously, in the story.

I like helping people out, but always in the background. How nice that these young ladies have taken my gift and run with it.

You can see (and buy) their work here.

Update: Donna called me today to tell me that Channel 4 used me (anonymously) as the focus for the story, sort of a pay-it-forward view. Because of the kindness of my heart in giving Donna all this glass and equipment, these two young girls have started a business focusing on kindness toward others.

Not all skunks stink!

I thought you might like to see the skunk Hallowe'en costume I made for this little doll, Landen. He didn't like the headpiece at all, but all the adults who saw him were quite smitten with this little "stinker".

Monday, October 27, 2008

Country Roads

Saturday morning I drove down to Berkeley Springs, WV, to spend time with my Tucson friends, Maureen and George, at their summer cottage. They will leave this week to drive back to Tucson for the winter. Maureen is a writer and a Pi Beta Phi alum. We became good friends while working together on various Pi Phi activities.

They have a darling cottage in Great Cacapon, WV. I wished I had a week to sit on the deck, staring into the woods and listening to the Cacapon River gurgling by in the valley. But this trip was scheduled to coincide with the fall Berkeley Springs Studio Tour.

I am passionate about handcrafted items, whether from my hand or the hands of artists whose time is dedicated to creating art. Maureen and I met up at the Ice House Artists Co-op Gallery. The Ice House is the sort of place which I would like to open in Youngstown. There is gallery space, education space, and in the future plan, studio space. I saw many lovely things here, most especially the stained glass of Ralph Gonzales.

The rain was pouring, but we determined to see everything we wanted to see. We went next to the fiber art studio and gallery of Kim Potter. Kim is a very personable guy, and we spent half an hour with him, chatting and petting his gorgeous handwoven coats.

Next came Heath Studio Gallery, where I purchased one of Jan Heath's linocuts. The black-faced sheep with pink tongue reminded me of John's and my honeymoon/chorus concert tour through the Cotswolds. When I again get a home, it will be one of the first pieces I hang there.

Lunch followed at Tari's Premiere Café, where the walls are covered with local art. Then we headed east on Route 9 to Pocket Meadow Farm. Ellen Kardell is an artist of many talents, and she and I spent time chatting about stained glass. (Her work hanging in the windows is fabulous—think Christmas bonus and new house.) They dye some of their wool with natural dyes, and know some of the same people I've studied with. I bought some beads and ribbon for a bead crochet necklace, and some bamboo yarn for kumihimo. Ellen makes fabulous felted wool bags, and I bought a small bag for Jaci to tuck into her purse or her camera case. Maureen got some beautiful wool/silk yarn for a knitted scarf.

Heading back toward town, we continued west on Route 9 and then turned down a windy road to find Frog Valley Artisans. We spent an hour or so here. A visiting artist, Laughlin, lives in Akron and comes down for this show every year to help demonstrate. These artists all have pieces in Don Drumm Gallery in Akron, so that was a nice connection to make. I got a handcrafted soup bowl to hold Tyler's daily lunch, and Maureen got some fused and slumped glass candleholders.

We were finished for the day, and went to Maureen's to show George our treasures.

Sunday morning we headed down Route 522 to Hsu Studios. Oh My Gosh. You've seen the Hsu's pieces in upscale shops around the nation, but to see a large selection of their work all in one place was almost overwhelming. Jean-Pierre spent time showing me how they produce their work and, of course, I had to buy a pair of earrings. Anne Larsen, of Deer Light Studio, is sharing space with them while her new space is being finished. When I mentioned Interlochen to Carol Hsu, she told me Anne was an Interlochen alum. I introduced myself to Anne and told her of our connection, and she spent half an hour demonstrating her fabulous gold- and silversmithing work to me.

The Hsu's told me there's another studio tour on Memorial Day weekend. The Traveler and I may have to fit this in to our Run For the Wall/Rolling Thunder activities next year.

Friday, October 24, 2008

What? Did the Bed Bite You?

Longtime readers know how much I love my cat, Rudi. He's the man in my life.

In my little house in Tucson, he would jump up on my bed once I settled in for the evening. When I turned the light out, I would pat my chest and he would immediately walk over and curl up on my chest, purring me to sleep. He'd move to the foot of the bed or the top of the dresser during the night, but the instant I woke and patted my chest, he was right back there, purring and wishing me "good morning".

He had a hard time settling in once we moved into our new digs. There are two other male cats in the house, and he and the younger one, Pepper, have a love/hate/let's-pretend-we're-killing-each-other relationship.

Rudi still slept with me much of the time in my new "house". But lately he's nowhere to be found.

I was concerned that there was something wrong such that he couldn't jump up onto my bed any more. I e-mailed Tyler and Jaci to keep an eye on him during the day, to notice if they saw him on any high surfaces. A couple of hours later, Jaci e-mailed back that he was happily lying on top of the piano. There went the Rudi-can't-jump theory.

Two nights ago, in my never-ending effort to again enjoy the comfort of this "man" in my bed, I brought him upstairs with me. I placed him on my bed and petted him for a couple of minutes. The minute I took my hand off his head, he leapt out of the bed. He jumped up onto the rocker, curled up, and slept there all night. Last night was a replay of this behavior—place him on the bed; he jumps down; he gets into rocker and sleeps all night.

What on earth happened in that bed while I wasn't looking that made him loathe to lie there? What little gremlins are running around his tiny mind?

I miss having a companion in my bed. (And yes, you may read between all the words in that sentence and assume hidden meaning.) (Some things never change.)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Hating Hewlett-Packard

I'll make this short. Dealing with HP's customer non-service department to get them to agree to let me send my laptop in to see if they can fix it (not even just "agree to fix it"), has been brutal. They are slow. They don't communicate clearly. Sometimes I'll send them information they request, then twenty-four hours later I'll write back to them and say "Did you get that?" Then they'll respond.

I bought my extended warranty from them, but the customer service people can't see that. They needed me to send them (hp.com) a copy of the receipt (from hp.com) so they could update the database with that information. And it takes them two days to update the database? Give me a ducking break. I could have written the SQL code to update that puppy in 90 seconds.

It almost makes me wish I hadn't bought my beloved 12.5" HP laptop. It especially makes me wish I hadn't bought the $265 2-year extended warranty! I'd go down and throw it in the Mahoning River and buy a Mac. To hell with the environment on this one (with appropriate apologies to the tree huggers in the audience). Yes, I'm a former IBMer and I'm ready to buy a Mac. I have hated and despised Windows Vista since I bought a machine that included that O/S. I now hate HP (except I like their printers, so I can be bought).

The icing on the cake? They had the nerve/courage to send me one of those feedback surveys. Y'know, "How did we do, on a scale of zero to ten?" Most of my responses were in the zero range.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Death to Laptops

I'm not posting because I have now killed my second laptop in two weeks and have no Internet access at home until my new adapter arrives to convert my old tower to a WiFi machine.

I'm almost afraid to touch my work laptop. But at least if that one breaks, the fix doesn't come out of my pocket!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Finally!

Ron and Marcia invited me to dinner and the Symphony with them tonight. Their guest was organist William Whitehead, who is in town to give a concert tomorrow. We had a lovely dinner at the Youngstown Country Club, looking out across the golf course at the brilliantly colored leaves.

I was pleased as we entered the concert hall to see a large number of young people, high school and college age along with the 20s-30s. Someone is doing a good job of public relations and marketing. Any orchestra, to be able to survive from this current economic crisis forward, has got to bring in younger people and get them accustomed to attending the Symphony as a matter of course. It's got to be the norm in their lives.

But at the same time, we have to educate them. How do we teach them, gently and lovingly so as not to scare them off, that one doesn't clap between movements? I know there's talk in the music community about getting away from the clapping ban—if something moves you, you should express those feelings. But this wasn't that kind of clapping (except for after the Jupiter movement of The Planets). This was "the piece is over; it's time for me to clap" clapping. If you wrote about the history of not clapping, about how clapping in the middle of a piece destroys its mood and feel, and placed that essay on a FAQ page on a Symphony's Web site, would anyone read it? Would anyone who needs to read it, read it?

The most fun I had all evening? Standing next to Ron, both of us in full voice, singing the national anthem.

And the Finally I referred to in the heading? I ran into someone I knew. A gentleman who is a bass player, with whom I had coffee several months ago in Akron, was in the audience. It made me feel like I was back in my milieu: all those nights at TSO concerts, where I knew so many people.

I'm home.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Loveliness

I avidly listen to Broadminded on XMRadio from noon to 3:00 Monday through Friday, whenever I can. The Broads, Molly and Christine, are outrageously funny and rude and thoroughly thought-provoking for me. They have guests, both serious and silly, that help my afternoons pass quickly.

Earlier this week they hosted author Jon Katz. I was fascinated listening to him talk about his life and work with animals and hospice. (You may remember that John and I had a very positive experience with Hospice of Washington in his final six months. I support the hospice movement totally.)

During their conversation, Jon mentioned his website and blog, Bedlam Farm Journal, and of course I had to click right over there. What a treat!

Look at those incredible photos. I want to reach into the photos and touch the animals, pet the dogs. Click on the Slate archives and read some of those essays. Turn to the Hospice Journal and look at those achingly beautiful photographs. This website and blog are inspired and the author/artist is truly gifted.

This is one of those sites that I will return to again and again—probably daily—as I need a dose of loveliness in my life.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

You Think That's All It Takes?

I watched about half of the debate with Tyler and Jaci last night. Jaci and I kept looking at each other and shaking our heads. We wanted to jump into the television and slap the smirk off McCain's face. I felt Obama was poised, erudite, and informed. I felt McCain was rude, disruptive, and condescending. Isn't that just what you want in a president?

There was one thing McCain said that grabbed me, and I haven't seen anyone else blog about it, so I must mention it here.

Did you hear McCain say we have an obesity epidemic and all employers need to offer inexpensive gym memberships to their employees?
  1. Not everybody is employed, Ding Dong.
  2. You think having the membership is all it takes to lose weight?

This man has clearly never owned an extra pound he needed to shed. My company provided me a gym membership that cost $5 per pay period. That's pretty damned reasonable. I still couldn't get there, partially because I would have had to leave the house at 6:00 or not get home until 8:00 or later to take advantage of it. I dropped my membership this month in favor of putting that $5 towards my debts.

There are lots of reasons people put on weight, and lack of a gym membership is not at the core of those reasons.

Hey, give us all free therapy. I put my weight on eating my way through a horrible relationship. I keep it on out of sheer laziness and poor scheduling. When it becomes important, I'll start walking every day and the rest of the weight will come off. I don't need a McCain-mandated gym membership for that. I just need motivation. You think McCain can mandate motivation? Hey—I'll vote for that!

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

I've been tagged!

My darling daughter-in-law, the brilliant photographer Jaci Clark, has tagged me.

Here's how it works:


  • Grab the nearest book.
  • Open to page 56.
  • Find the fifth sentence.
  • Post the next two to five sentences in your blog with these instructions.
  • Don't dig for your favorite book, the cool book, or the intellectual one - pick the CLOSEST.
  • Tag five other people to do the same.

Easy for me. I love books and always have a book in progress, both reading and writing. I reached into my purse, thinking I had my book club book, but—alas, all I had was my new crossword book, Will Shortz Presents Crosswords for 365 Days. I didn’t think giving you the 5th clue would be any fun. I reached to the bookshelf over my head and grabbed Microsoft Office Word 2007 Bible. When I turned to page 56, I found only four sentences.

I moved one book to the left and pulled down Technical Editing: The Practical Guide for Editors and Writers, by Judith A Tarutz. Page 56 is in Chapter 5, Working with Writers: Ten Lessons I Had to Unlearn. Here’s sentence number five, and a few following sentences, which I thought were kinda fun:

In technical manuals we often say things like, “What you do depends on the number of frobnitzes in the framistam” or “The maximum number of frizzlechips you can have is 64.” I think that the word number in a technical manual should signal the reader to be ready to receive numerical data, so I reserve a number of for those contents. When I explained this reasoning to a writer who had been thinking, “Here goes another quirky editor,” she immediately agreed—and helped spread the word among the other writers that seemingly arbitrary changes weren’t necessarily arbitrary. Then she encouraged them to ask the editor, a radical idea at the time.


(You now totally want my job, don't you?!)

Now to tag five others:
1) Fivehusbands (Judy)
2) Jenn L.
3) PianoLady (Cheryl)
4) The Traveler (Lee)
5) The newest employee of KUAT/KUAZ (Jill)

Only Judy has a blog, so the others will have to add their book excerpts in comments here, and the tagging will end with them. I look forward to seeing what everyone has to add.

And keep reading!

Blog Action Day 2008 - Poverty

I am blessed. I don't know poverty. I have known the speed bumps of life. I have started over four-five-ten times, walking out of untenable marriages and jobs. I have always carried around the fear of being a bag lady. But, always, the stars have been aligned or the gods have smiled or God has been gracious. I have landed on my feet.

I often say that everywhere I have been has led to where I am now. Every job, every marriage, every experience—whether positive or negative—has been a building block that's led me to where I am now.

I am not wealthy. Because of the current economic situation in the United States, I am living paycheck to paycheck. I spend a portion of each day looking at my debts and figuring out how much of the next paycheck I can put towards each of them. But I have a job and it feels pretty secure, knock wood.

All around me, in Youngstown, I see evidence of poverty and hurting. I wish I could help more people. Given unlimited wealth, I would be Dolly Levi and spread it around like manure, helping things to grow. But, given limited wealth in a struggling community, I try to live locally, eating at local establishments, buying at locally owned stores first before turning to national chains. It's not much, but every little bit helps.

I'm grateful for the roof over my head, for my generous son and daughter-in-law who so graciously provide that roof, and for coming home every night to grandchildren racing to the door, calling my name, and throwing their arms around me.

And now I ask you to read a beautifully written post sharing the flip side of life. The writer, who blogs under the name "fivehusbands", is my separated-at-birth twin. We are of the same generation, are both educated in the law, have been married more times than we care to remember, and are very smart women. Somewhere along the way, Judy's magic wand broke. What she doesn't tell you in this post is that she applies to every job she sees that she feels she might be able to get—some she is perfectly qualified for, some she is obscenely overqualified for, many fall in the middle of that spectrum. Most employers don't even acknowledge her applications. Her life has become her worst nightmare.

Poverty. It exists. We, as Americans, must rise up and do something to change the situation.