Monday, March 31, 2008

Woo Hoo! Warmth!

I went out Sunday afternoon to put some bird seed in the feeder, and saw flowers. Really, bulb-sprouting, popping up from the ground flowers. Snowdrops and crocii. (Okay, so they're really crocuses, but John loved calling them crocii, so crocii they will be.)

Tonight as I got ready for bed, my bedroom was warm enough that I didn't have to resort to flannel pajamas. I ran to the armoire and dug out my favorite silk pajamas.

Maybe there is light at the end of the tunnel and it's not an oncoming train.

Hurrah for spring!

Sunday, March 30, 2008


I woke at 5:00 with a headache this morning. Got my Excedrin. Got my icepack. Slithered back under the sheets.

Moments later Rudi jumped up on the bed and confidently walked across my chest, snuggling down with his hindquarters on my right hip and his front paws on my left shoulder. He was home and he knew it.

Now why can't I find a human who wants to do the same thing?! That's one of the great mysteries of life: why are we singles who want someone in our lives incapable of finding that someone, that snuggler?

Lightning Striking the Piano

Last night I went to a restaurant in Canfield to sit at the bar and listen to the jazz. How different for me to be on the other side of the piano. I've written in the recent past about my feeling of lightning striking the table on a first date where I felt I'd be seeing that particular man again and again. Last night I felt like lightning was striking the piano. I want to hear this music over and over again. This could become an addiction!

Tyler and Ron and I have all talked about being on the other side of the "stick". Ron doesn't attend church very frequently any more, partly because of his American Guild of Organists travel schedule, but also because he's used to sitting on the organ bench and directing all the music in the service. Sitting in a pew and participating is very different from sitting on a bench and leading. Likewise, I tried to get Tyler to sing in Tucson Symphony Chorus with me, but he was too used to leading choruses. Singing under someone else's baton would not have been the same thrill for him as leading that chorus, that production.

Of course I've gone to restaurants in the past where there were pianists. And they were okay. The PianoLady and I spent over an hour after a late Broadway night listening to the pianist at the lounge in the Marriott Marquis, trying to analyze where he was going with his harmonizations, singing along with his chosen tunes.

But to sit and listen to someone so musical, so skilled, so intuitive. Heaven on earth. I've had men propose to me after listening to me play the piano. Now I know how they felt.

I feel excited when I think what I might learn, how I might progress musically, if I were to sit for an hour every Friday or Saturday night listening to this music, taking it all in.

Strike me again!


Every time I traveled back east during my eight years in Tucson, I would wander from gate to gate at the airports drooling over all the good looking, well-dressed men.

I think even an ordinary looking man, when he bothers with his appearance, can grab a woman's eyes. Conversely, a good looking man, when he dresses haphazardly, as so many Tucson men are prone to do, is rendered far less striking, far less compelling.

When I went to Easter brunch with Ron and Marcia at the Youngstown Country Club last week, I thought I had reached heaven. Truly: so many men, so little time. And yet they were all there with their families, with their rings prominently displayed. Where's my handsome well-dressed man? I want to be draped on the arm of one of these gorgeous men!

I'm so glad to be back in the eastern half of the country, to be away from the veritable wasteland that is Tucson couture. Even if I can't have my own man who knows how to tie a tie, at least I can enjoy the eye candy.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Friendly Thoughts

The Traveler and I are having a couple of ongoing dating-related conversations, via wordy e-mails and lengthy drive-time phone conversations.

One relates to Dr. Laura Berman's Passion Files post on dating without feeling the "spark", the chemistry we all long for.

I love old Meg Ryan romantic comedies, particularly "You've Got Mail", but also "When Harry Met Sally". Every single adult woman knows, I believe, Harry's schtick on men and women not being able to be friends because "it's always out there."

I mentioned this friendship thing a week ago. I had another first date last night, a very nice man. Again, yet again in my life, I think this man could be a good friend. We have a lot in common, not the least of which is that we both play or have played accordian, for God's sake! That's rather uncommon. I can see taking day trips with him or doing fun activities, but I really don't foresee a romantic relationship. And I didn't sense that he felt that potential either.

Here's the problem when one person at a two-person table sees the potential for a friendship and nothing else. Both people have to agree that that's okay. There are times a man has said that to me and I've wanted to shout in my best Southern drawl, "You wanna be my friend?" There are times I think I've got enough friends. And then there are times I think one can never have enough friends.

Two friends I miss right now are Richard and Eduardo at Rio Café. For a year, I spent at least one dinner hour a week sitting at their bar, talking to them. Anytime I had a new date, a potential mate, I would take him in to Rio for my boys to check him out. I knew the next time I came in by myself, they would tell me exactly what they thought of him. And, to a man, they never thought he was good enough for me. He was either too old or too dull or too short. It's nice to have some friends who think you hung the moon, and who will give you the straight scoop whenever you need to hear it.

The Traveler's take on the whole dating without spark discussion was this:

I don't subscribe to the notion that men and women cannot be friends. That is probably true though after a breakup or when one party is in love without reciprocity.

There are women that I don't have strong romantic feelings for but, their personality, charm and charisma fascinates me. I really enjoy their companionship (presence) and conversation. In my case, if a woman is enthusiastic about her interests, and life is wonderful for her, then I pick up on those positive vibrations and it makes me feel deliciously good inside.

If both people feel the same connectivity of spirit that is tinged with ambivalence de amour, by all means, they should use the opportunity to get something out of the deal. It's more fun to socialize at events accompanied by a friend who is not a paramour, than to go solo.

Then, there is also networking opportunities socializing with a friend of the opposite sex. He or she might introduce a friend that "causes lightning to strike the table" as you have said previously.

One of the worst facets of dating at this age is the insecurities that pop up again. You thought you outgrew your insecurities when you donned that high school cap and gown? Nope.

You go home after a date. You review and relive every word and action from the date. You draw up your mental pro and con checklist. You make a preliminary decision of whather or not you want to see him again. And then you wonder what he thought. And the longer he waits to call you or e-mail you or text you, the more convinced you are that he had a horrible or boring time and never wants to see you again. It doesn't matter which way your preliminary decision went. Even if you think you don't want to see him again, you're suddenly disecting all your moves, wondering what you did wrong, why you said that foolish thing, and whether you'll get a do-over.

Honestly, the angst and anxiety is enough to make a person sit back and wait for friends to introduce her to "this friend who'll be perfect for you."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Slaving Over a Hot Steering Wheel

If you know me, you know I don't cook. I can, if I have to. But I prefer not to. I cooked when my boys were little. But nowadays, I grab a sandwich for lunch while running errands, and am perfectly happy with a bowl of cereal for dinner. Anytime I cook, I spend a great deal of time apologizing to those who will eat the fruits of my labor.

My oft-repeated phrase is that I'd rather slave over a hot sewing machine or a hot computer than a hot stove.

An anonymous commenter (who I think is a creative girlfriend in California) asked about the second dates and if there would be third dates. I've come to realize over the past handful of days that I'm tired. I'm just plain tired.

I have no chance to slave over a hot sewing machine or a hot computer (or, even, a hot stove) as I'm spending so much time slaving over a hot steering wheel. The only exercise I'm getting lately is hopping out of the car at the gas station to fill up the tank.

I've met three very nice men, with whom I enjoyed sharing tales and anecdotes over random restaurant tables. But I don't know how to keep up the pace I've set for the past two weeks. I think I'm going to say no more weeknight dates. And my weekends are, for the most part, filled with my grandbabies. So where does that leave very nice men? I'm afraid that leaves them scouring the profiles on Match to find some other nice woman with whom to dine.

I joined the Akron General Lifestyles gym yesterday. They have a deal with my employer, and for $5 per pay period I get a full gym membership. Truthfully? It's in my best interest to spend an hour at noon or after work toiling at the gym. Three hours a week at the gym now may help ensure that I can still walk without a cane or a walker at age 80. Three hours over dinner tables with nice men will do nothing of the sort.

They're nice. I'm tired.

I don't know the answer to the commenter's question.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Why We're Single

I have had two second dates this week and have another first date tomorrow night. In the middle of trying to fit these dates in with my commute and my work day and my racing home to feed the dogs, I have come to a conclusion:

The reason many of us over-50s are single is it takes too much time and energy to date!

When I get home at night, I'm tired. I've just been speeding and watching for median-sitting, radar-bearing white cars and dodging inept drivers and very big trucks (not, mind you, inept drivers of really big trucks). What I really want to do is sit quietly, let my brain relax, let my eyes rest, and just recover from the day for 15 minutes. I don't want to be hitting the road again to meet someone for whom I have no feelings but the respect of one human being for another.

If life were upside down and it was up to the aging Boomers to procreate and preserve the species, it just wouldn't happen. Trust me!

There's a First Time for Everything

I changed a fuse this morning. Wow! For the first time in my life.

I thought I had turned off the space heater before drying my hair. Oops. Fortunately I know my kids' organizational methods well enough that I could discern the location of the replacement fuses, even in the family's absence.

Welcome to the early 20th century. Let there be light.

Mars vs. Venus

There are guys who know how to talk to women. Take the Gardener, for example. I don't know if it's because he had several sisters, or because he's dated so many women through the years and took very good notes. But he could teach "How to Talk [or Not Talk] to Women" and become very wealthy doing so.

He knew that when I told him I was thinking about something, about buying something or doing something or going somewhere, I wasn't asking for him to instruct me in how to do it. He knew that women talk, that women need to mull things over and that by talking about these things—to themselves, to their girlfriends, to their men friends, to anyone who will listen—they work these things out.

He knew, on the other hand, that when I said to him, "I'm having problems with my lights/water/heat/car/whatever. What do I need to do about it?", when I asked a direct question, that I was asking for his help, for his expertise, and that I would welcome whatever advice he could give. I would listen carefully to and heed that advice.

I wonder if that's why he has so many women friends. He has, probably, ten women whom he can call any hour of the day, any day of the week, and they'll drop what they're doing to spend time with him. He is the ultimate Good Guy.

I miss him horribly. I miss having someone to whom I can say, "I'm thinking of buying a [whatever]", who will appropriately respond with probing questions rather than directives of where I should go to find and how much I should pay for my [whatever].

You want to keep your women around? Don't would/should them.

And to the Gardener, on the off-chance that he's still reading here: "You're missed. Enormously."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Small Blessings

1) The first light view out my 2nd floor bathroom window of my car not covered by new snow.

2) My heated car seats.

Note to self: don gloves before walking out of the house, or else drop the surprise when your fingers are frozen by the time you reach the car!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Mother's Right

Does a mother ever stop worrying about her kids?

I don't think I've mentioned that TJ was laid off by Verizon last Thursday. He's been on the job close to ten years.

He doesn't have his college degree, which gets under my skin, but he's smart and has worked his way up from his first PCjr back in 1985 or so to become very knowledgeable in networking.

I'm certain, beyond a reasonable doubt, that he will find a job quickly. But I still think about him every couple of hours or so, and am sorry that he had to go through this kick in the pants.

I'm hopeful that his life will work out as mine continues to: something better is right around the corner.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Lifestyles of the Mature and Wise

I've been thinking a lot about relationships since my dining experience with Ron and Marcia yesterday at Youngstown Country Club.

Over the years, as I provided background piano music at elegant parties, I would frequently think to myself, "I should be a guest here, not the hired help." And yet I would continue accepting the gigs and enjoying the praise, with the knowledge that I was assisting the hostess in staging a memorable evening. Because I'm a helper, always a helper.

As I sat in the ambiance of that lovely dining room, I remember many lunches and dinners with John at Hidden Creek Country Club in Reston. I have many warm memories of hours spent in that environment where people knew us, where we belonged. Our wedding was beautifully staged there, and we fit very easily into that lifestyle.

In the past, when I would have a first date or first few dates with a new man, I would consider, fleetingly, how I might fit into his life or how he might fit into mine. More importantly, I would consider whether my children would like him, whether he'd fit into our "We are an American family." (Remember Joe Fox in "You've Got Mail"?)

In the past I've always just assumed my potential mate would be able to adjust to fit into my lifestyle. Isn't everyone as adaptable as I am?

The Traveler and I were talking about this today. I've told him so much about the Moveable Musical Feasts staged by Shawn Campbell and her staff at the Tucson Symphony that he's decided he wants to attend one. And I'm not there to accompany him, so he has to find a date who likes classical music. And as much as I'd like to think everyone on earth appreciates Bach and Tchaikovsky and Mahler and Britten and Fauré and and and, it's a sad fact of civilization in 2008 that fewer and fewer people appreciate and want to experience live classical music.

Will I be able to take my date to an office party without worrying that he'll embarrass me? Will I be able to walk into a party with him and not worry about the amount of alcohol he's imbibing? Will I be able to take him to a symphony concert and not worry about him falling asleep and snoring? (Trust me; these are not idle concerns. These are experiences I've lived through.)

The bottom line of my conversation with the Traveler this afternoon was our agreement that people who have achieved and surpassed the age of 50 have the tendency to be set in their ways and rather averse to change. Not for nobody. Not for nothin'.

Maybe it's time, as I'm searching for one or some man/men with whom to spend some of my precious time, that I consider more carefully whether and how they will fit into my chosen lifestyle.

I Met Myself

Yesterday as Ron and Marcia and I walked into Youngstown Country Club, I heard piano music in the background. (Think Nordstrom!) A few minutes later, after being seated overlooking the snow-covered expanses of greens, we walked into the room where the buffet table was situated and I saw a grand piano with a man at the keyboard. I smiled and nodded at him, as we pianists do to each other. Then I leaned over to Ron and said, "A job opportunity!"

The more I listened, the more impressed I was.

I have to confess I'm pretty impressed with myself. I'm a darned good pianist. I have a unique style that relies a lot on inner voices and out-of-the-ordinary harmonic progressions. I can't stand being bored, so I rarely play a piece the same way twice. I'm good and I know it, but I'm also acutely aware that it's a gift from God or the Universe or whencever such things are gifted.

It's common for me to hear a local solo pianist and think he or she is good. Sometimes very good. It's uncommon for me to stop and listen because the pianist is doing the same sorts of things I do. It's rare for me to hear someone I acknowledge is better than I am.

Yesterday I heard the latter. His name is Joe Augustine and he's good. Really good. He and I could be twins. Almost. He's jazzier than I am. And he's very good at that. But the core of how we approach a tune is very similar.

A thousand years ago (around 1975) I took a jazz improv class in Winter Park, FL, to learn how I could improve my sense of the jazz genre. The teacher had each student sit down and play something so he could get a sense of where we were all coming from. I played something and the other students just stared at me. It turns out what they came to class to learn was what I already knew how to do.

What I was doing wasn't jazz, but it was creative. I've used that experience over the years to illustrate the thought that people have different definitions for standard words. To my classmates, what I was doing was jazz. To me, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson were jazz and I hadn't yet mastered that.

I still haven't mastered it, but sometimes I can stand at the door and knock. And I love how it feels. Now if I could just quit all my other jobs and activities and spend several hours a day seriously practicing, I might be able to walk through the door.

But yesterday, for a moment, I got a sense of how other less-skilled pianists must feel when they hear me.

(And if you're reading this and saying, "Boy, she's got a big ego," then you don't really know me. So don't post a comment saying I should learn humility. I've got plenty of humility. What I'm writing is just reality.)

I'm jazzed over having met Joe Augustine, and I'm gonna get more jazzed and jazzy when we get the opportunity to play together.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy Happy Everything

When TJ was four months old I got him an Easter card. It was one of those fold-out cards that opened out to four bunnies. I taped it to his playpen so he could look up at it. (Whatever happened to playpens? How come you never see or hear about playpens anymore? Are they now considered child abuse?) I've never forgotten the verse that was on the card, even though that was 34 years ago. "Happy Easter, Happy Spring, Happy Happy Everything." I loved that verse—obviously!

This morning I looked out my bathroom window and saw a robin hop from the fence down to the driveway by my car. Eureka! It's spring!

As a child growing up in Florida, I always read about robins being the harbingers of spring. I'm convinced that all children's educational literature that talks about the seasons is written by Yankees. Those damned Yankees just don't understand how we Suthun (that's "Southern", for those of you who can't hear my drawl) people think. We have a frame of reference that's all about water and sand, oceans and lakes, heat and humidity. There's about a month of autumn, three days of winter, and a couple months of spring. That leaves nine months for summer. Every year.

We don't know snow and daffodils and fall leaves. I remember having to write an essay in Freshman English at Southern Missionary College. (Okay, I rarely admit to having spent a year at Southern Missionary College. I did. I hated it.) I wrote about how ugly the brown leaves were, and my teacher gave me a bad grade. Damned Yankee.

But today, many years after those second- and third-grade verses about robins and spring, I saw a robin and got the spring thing.

Today I went with the Goulds to St. John's Episcopal and saw faces I remembered from Tyler's college days when he was Ron Gould's assistant at St. John's. Then we went to the Youngstown Country Club for brunch and had a delightful time visiting, with a beautiful vista of snow-covered greens over our shoulders.

If you're religious, I hope you had a blessed hope-filled Easter.
If you're not, I hope you had a fun eggy day.
If you don't believe in any of that stuff, I hope you had a quiet non-commercial day.

I had all of those!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Easter Snow

Things to Do Today:
Express deepest appreciation to next-door neighbor John for plowing my driveway.

Things to Do Before This Event Recurs:
Get our snowblower fixed!

Friends and Lovers

Maybe I've been going about this effort the wrong way. Ever since John's death, I've been looking for the "love [for the rest] of my life". Maybe I should have just been looking for friends.

I met the Gardener and the Traveler face-to-face on the same day in October of 2006. The Traveler quickly blossomed into a treasured friend. The Gardener zoomed into "significant other" status, which lasted for three months until he saw some other skirt that interested him more than my skirt. But we have remained friends and he is one of the first people I call when I need or want someone whom I trust to share my pain or happiness.

The year 2006 was, in fact, all about three-month relationships: Mike from El Paso, whose bushy eyebrows and protruding nose hair were more important to him than our relationship; the Lemonade Tycoon, who broke up with me via e-mail; Mr. Match, who went out with someone else off Match (dot) com after telling me he was in love with me and predicting we'd be married a year hence (and whose presence in my life prompted this blog); and the Gardener. In 2007, activity dropped to one six-week relationship - the Professor.

But first dates. Ah, innumerable first dates. I'm sure I'm not the Queen of First Dates, but there have been enough that I feel I can knowledgeably state that the level of one's cynicism rises in direct proportion to the number of first (and no subsequent) dates one has endured.

Which brings me to yesterday. I had two first dates yesterday: breakfast with (oooh, pressure to come up with appropriate descriptive titles) PhillyGuy and a late drink with the Athlete. (It's my blog; I can call 'em what I want!)

PhillyGuy lives about 20 minutes NE of Ytown; the Athlete lives about 30 minutes SE. Both have jobs that I would say aren't really "careers", although one or the other might dispute that statement. The jobs they have chosen give them a degree of freedom that my current M-F 7-7 situation prevents. PhillyGuy (who grew up in Philly, hence the name) would have liked to spend his whole day with me yesterday, but as my weekdays-off-so-I-can-accomplish-things are few and far between, I wasn't giving that amount of time to nobody (she said in her best Southern drawl). The Athlete said to me in a late e-mail that he hadn't wanted the evening to end—that's a good sign. It was only my rigid body clock that shut things down at the two hour mark.

So my take on things? These were not first-and-only dates. I like both these men very much. Easy conversation; pleasant to look at across a table or along the bar; educated, skilled, talented, multi-faceted men with brains inside their skulls. What will develop? I have no idea. And I'm not going to worry about it. I'm at the beginning of tons o' things in my life, and anxiety is not something I need to mix into the stew. So I'm just going to enjoy it.

(Writing and re-reading that paragraph made me realize the things that are important for me in finding the man for the rest of my life: easy conversation and multi-faceted interests, plus nice looks. Interesting!)

Aren't I lucky? Two nice guys in one day!

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go shovel snow.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


When I said I could make my 60-mile commute in 60 minutes, I failed to allow for the time required to scrape and brush ice and snow off the car.

I woke this morning to another blanket of snow. Yes, it's beautiful. Yes, I enjoy looking at it. Yes, I've had enough.

A colleague said yesterday that we were probably at the end of the snow. Yeah, right. In November of 2006, almost 17 months ago, my doctor told me my hot flashes would only last about two months. I'm still having them! And last night it snowed again!

This too shall pass, right? One can only hope.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The White Crust of Time

I spend a lot of time these days thinking about snow and blue skies and choices made and major life changes. People tell me how courageous I am. I tend to look at it as putting one foot in front of the other and doing what must be done. But when I stop and think about the enormity of the change I have just made, I have to admit I'm a little bit awestruck.

I love the work of the poet and writer Marge Piercy. Yesterday's Writer's Almanac includes one of her works, and I excerpt it here for you, as it seems on point.

I have worn the faces, the masks
of hieroglyphs, gods and demons,
bat-faced ghosts, sibyls and thieves,
lover, loser, red rose and ragweed,
these are the tracks I have left
on the white crust of time.

I miss my several men friends in Tucson upon whom I could call to take in a movie or try a new or old favorite restaurant. All of these friendships developed out of a once-upon-a-time notice of a profile on Match or Cupid or Plentyoffish. They were men who were perfectly enjoyable across a cup of coffee or a glass of Chardonnay, but lightning did not strike the table. In all cases I knew before the end of the first half hour or so that lightning simply was not going to strike the table, but that these were men with whom I could develop lovely friendships.

The next two weeks are my family vacation, my time to make some new friends. (Ty, Jaci and the babes are off to Denver tomorrow for time with Ty's dad and his family and a few days of skiing, so I'm all alone with my four-legged housemates.) I have no expectations for the several dates I've arranged.

I have hopes. I hope there is easy, pleasant conversation. I hope I don't get nervous and spill whatever I'm eating or drinking. I hope I don't turn into a teenager again.

I truly hate dating at 57. I want a magic wand that can, poof!, bring the man who will understand my idiosyncrasies and pat me on the head when the Little Adoptee rears her ugly head; who can find my physical beauty despite my post-menopausal tummy; who will tolerate and appreciate and respect my devotion to my grandchildren; who will be willing to go to classical concerts with me, without complaining that he doesn't understand what the singers are singing. He can cook? He golfs? He has his own interests and doesn't want to be joined at the hip? Hallelujah! All the better. In my perfect world, the magic wand would deliver this man into my life and we'd both know instantly and could settle into a nurturing, supportive relationship without all the insecurities of teenage dating all over again.

I didn't do dating well as a teenager, and I don't enjoy trying to be a teenager all over again.

I've made my share of less-than-wise decisions in my life. I've left the footprints that I wish might be covered over with a new blanket of snow.

Wouldn't it be grand if I could just make one wise choice after another from here on out? Doesn't wisdom come with age? Well, here I am!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It's A Dog's World

We're trying to get Rudi acclimated to the multi-animal household, and it's a slow process. Pepper, the younger cat, is Mr. Feisty and loves causing trouble. And he's not to be outdone by Zabu, the shepherd-mix who is about the same age.

While Boston and Ridley and I were at playing at the mall this afternoon, making new friends, Rudi was at home in the living room. There are no clear eyewitness accounts of exactly what happened (and neither Zabu nor Pepper are talking), but Tyler said the living room floor lamp went flying and barely missed the piano, and Zabu had a mouthful of Rudi's hair. Tonight I noticed Rudi was favoring his left paw, and when Jaci and I put him on the floor, he limped away.

Sometimes a fat cat gets no respect!

Rudi, recuperating from his hard day.

My Best Grown-up

I have to preface this post by telling you the babies call their mother "Rara" (rhymes with "Mama"). When Boston was learning to talk, "Mama" came out "Rara" and Jaci liked it so much it stuck. Her Arizona personalized license plate even said "IM RARA".

Yesterday I watched a bit of "The Actor's Studio" with Tyler. Last night Ty and Jaci had a date (rare pre-Grandma-residing-in-house; now to become commonplace). I took the babies to McDonald's for dinner and play, then they had a sleepover in Grandma's room.

As we were falling asleep, I decided to use James Lipton's end-of-show quiz with them instead of my normal "what was your favorite part of the day".

I said to Ridley, "What is your favorite word?"

She thought for a moment and then said, "Rara". When I asked her why, she said, "Because Rara is my best [pause while thinking of word -- I expected "friend"] grown-up and I help her brush her hair."

Ah, memories to last a lifetime.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Friends in Space

This morning I drove to Akron. (Yes, I know I drive there every day and this is the weekend, but this was for fun!) A Facebook cyberfriend had flown to Ohio to stay with her aunt in Akron and visit her son, who is a junior at Kent State. Barbara and I were members of Tyes sorority at Florida Technological University (now University of Central Florida) about ten years apart a thousand years ago. We have much in common, including a love of words and an utter devotion to our bright, talented sons.

We met at an interesting restaurant, Hattie's Café, for lunch, then went to Don Drumm Studios & Gallery for an hour of admiring beautiful hand-crafted things. Oh my gosh. If you're ever within fifty miles of Akron, the Drumm gallery is a must-drive, must-see.

If my checkbook wasn't in so much pain from the move, there are several hand-crafted ceramic mugs I would have loved to add to my collection. And the jewelry. Oh, my gosh, the jewelry. I'm a connoisseur, but there were pieces there unlike anything I've ever seen or dreamed.

You can bet Barbara and I will be meeting up at Don Drumm's again on her next visit.

I'm glad I live in an era where I can make friends around the world online and then have the opportunity to meet them in person. I was absolutely not born after my time!

A Foggy Day in Yo-Town

I've seen more fog in the past week than in the past eight years! There's such a sense of quiet and foreboding in all this fog.

Driving through it is not fun for me, especially when the traffic gets heavy and I have to slow down. One morning last week the visibility was about 50 yards in front of the car, and it made for anxious driving.

I'm trying to love the drive, but I'm learning I need to go to bed at 10:00 to be awake enough in the morning for the drive.

I'm getting lots of audio reading down: the latest book is "Born on a Blue Day" by Daniel Tammet. This memoir gives a fascinating look into the life of someone with high-functioning Asperger's.

I wanted this job. I love this company. I need to be with my family in Youngstown. Therefore, I must drive every morning.

In time I'll get used to the drive and find something else to kvetch about.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Raindrops Are Fallin' On My Head

As I stepped out that back door in the dark this morning, I heard the rain falling. Driving my morning sixty miles, trying to stay alert and avoid any need to slam on the brakes, I thought about Tucson rainfall.

Rain in Tucson is a rare treat. When I would wake in the morning to rain in Tucson, I would be overwhelmed by the desire to call in sick to work, find a book that needed reading, and curl up on the couch with Rudi and my book, next to the living room window that looked out on a stand of night-blooming cereus, and just visually drink in the rain.

I loved Tucson rains.

All I could think this morning was, "Yea! The snow will be washed away by tonight."

Quite a different viewpoint!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Tramp! tramp! tramp! The boys are marching . . .

Some of my favorite memories of childhood are sitting at the coffee table in the living room, afternoons after school, working a jigsaw puzzle and listening to recordings of operettas and Broadway shows. Those lyrics come back to me, even now, at the oddest times.

Today I tutored at Fairlawn Elementary again, this time helping a sweet little third-grader with her health worksheet. My whole life I've thought I could never be a teacher, as I envisioned obstinate, disrespectful, willful children and couldn't imagine how I could get along with them and guide them without throwing my hands up in despair and running from the room. Oh, wait. That's me as a child whom I'm describing! The children with whom I've worked at Fairlawn are all just darlings: sweet children who are happy to get one-on-one attention from me.

As you know, we have received blanket upon blanket of snow almost since I arrived in Ohio. For an elementary school principal, that means day after day of children being blocked from playing on the playground and working out their excess energy.

When I arrived today, the principal had just made the brilliant decision to let the children march around the empty visitor parking lot during recess time. The kids would get fresh air, sunshine, and a break from staring at four walls.

It's a whole level of planning that one who has never lived around this much snow never imagines having to resort to.

I salute creative teachers and administrators who fall back and punt when the weather is uncooperative.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

So Little, So Precious

I [finally] unloaded the car trunk tonight, a mere two weeks post-arrival. Tyler will take my GPS system and the car that surrounds it for his trip to D.C. tomorrow, thus forcing me to get my act together. The mesh bag that I had thrown things into at the last minute before walking out of the Chula Vista house held - ta da - my thumb drive. On that drive are all the Pi Phi files that the alum club needs to plan for Founders Day.

I feel great relief!

Let the Games Begin

We sat as a family after dinner last night and played a new game Tyler had gotten off Amazon—"Ticket to Ride." Although the babies were a little antsy with the length of time to play the game, the adults enjoyed the time together.

We have always been a game-playing family. When TJ and Tyler were little, their father and I used to have people over for dinner-and-games every Saturday night. Card games, board games. Once we rode through Europe on a train playing a three-letter word-guessing game where you have to keep everything in your head. I loved it. Once I divorced him, there were no games evenings. And in the 27 years since that split, I've never found anyone to play games with.

I'm honored that my son would say to me, "Hey, Mom, you wanna play a game?"

Birds and Birdseed

Yesterday as I was coming back to the office from lunch, I saw a cardinal fly across the road. His brilliant red coloring was a stark contrast to the blanket of snow across the landscape.

This morning I heard a bird singing as I locked the back door of the house and walked across a newly fallen inch of snow (on top of the existing six inches of snow/ice/mess).

There's hope. Spring will be here in nine days. Along I-77 as I drive to work I see billboards with rotating signs on them. This morning I noticed one of the signs is a golden yellow background with the words "Spring begins March 21." You think people are so distraught from the cold that they have to be reminded? I don't have to be reminded! It's indelibly etched in my memory. Spring is almost here. The enervating snow will be gone soon.

I have not yet mastered getting out of the house quickly, but I did hit upon one solution this morning. I poured a serving of Optimum Slim cereal into a bowl and sliced an apple on top. That and a bottle of water makes the perfect portable breakfast. I have taken this cereal to work as a snack in the past and find it almost as good as Chex Mix. I can't handle a spoon and a bowl of granola or oatmeal at 75 mph, but I can handle birdseed in a dish in my lap.

Who cares what my fellow drivers think when they see me eating this way? I'm saving time and I'm getting my nutrition.

Works for me!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008


The eeriest part of my cross-country trip was the experience of waking up each morning. I wouldn't know where I was, nor what day it was, nor why I was there or where I was going that day.

It would take me several minutes of concentration to remember where I was. From the "where" I could slowly determine the "when" and the "why."

I'm still in that mode in my new "suite" at the Clarks. The additional challenge here is to remember what time I need to get to the office (8:00), and what time I need to leave the house to arrive at the office at that time (7:00), and what time I need to get butt-out-of-bed to achieve that goal (6:00). When I factor in the fact that I like to read my e-mail in bed before I roll out, that means I must wake at 5:30.

This morning I needed to send out bulletin announcements to several Tucson churches for the April performance of Tucson Chamber Artists. Okay, back the clock up to 5:15.

Now I can understand why I'm fighting sleep as I drive to Akron each morning and why I'm always tired.

I don't love being cold. I want to get out and do things, but the ground is snow-covered and I don't want to schlep things from the car to the house. Inertia takes over. I need to visit the storage unit: where's my bedside clock? where on earth is my thumb drive containing the Pi Phi database? I want to get these cardboard boxes out of my bedroom so it can feel more like a home. And last night when I got home Jaci was folding laundry. Guilt! That's my job. I've only been here two weeks and already I have failed at carrying my share of the load.

And still I sit, paralyzed by the cold and the change and the feeling of so much to do.

Maybe I'll feel warmer when I can get into the garage to find more of my clothes. Maybe once the weather warms up I'll feel more like getting out and taking a load to the recycle facility.

Right now I feel like I'm on a treadmill: wake, prep, drive, work, run errand at lunch, work, drive, eat dinner with family, try to find my life again, fall into bed exhausted. Gotta change this atmosphere! Gotta find my space!

I always want everything to be right, and right now.

Monday, March 10, 2008

All In the Family

It's been a very long time since I've shared a house with family members, whether related by blood or by choice.

Three years ago I dated a man for four months. He spent a handful of weekends at my house, during which we would grocery shop, fix California BLTs for lunch, and watch sports on television. (Okay, you know me too well. He would watch sports; I would do needlework or work on a beading project or play with databases on my laptop.) But it was nice to have someone around. I've missed that connection.

Suddenly I'm part of a family again and I have to relearn those family techniques. I have to remember to say good night to family members when I retire to my quarters; I have to consider the needs of other people; I have to occupy my own space, not everyone's. For example, one of my self-assigned tasks is laundry. When I live alone, I shop for groceries when Rudi is out of cat food. When I live alone, I do laundry when I run out of clean undies—maybe every two weeks. In a family of four (now five), that strategy is unacceptable. If I don't run a load or two every couple of days, the basement explodes with laundry. I have to do what needs to be done, rather than what I feel like doing. It's a bit of déjà vu all over again.

It's fortunate that Ty and Jaci and I have done this before, successfully. The learning curve should be shorter.

Stop Hiding!

Tyler asked me yesterday whom I was hiding my blog from. I told him potential employers. He suggested now that I had only present employers and no need for potential employers, I might unlock the site so he could get the RSS feed.

Done. Enjoy.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

It's Still Winter!

Today is only the 8th. Spring arrives on the 20th. That's twelve long days.

I had a delightful experience on Friday morning with Michael and Naija, third graders at Fairlawn Elementary in Akron. Then I stopped by Starbucks for a delicious TGIF mug o' mocha. As I was driving to the office, the snow began falling. First very gently, then faster and faster and denser and denser. I left the office at 3:45 and arrived home at 5:45. For a good portion of the journey on I-76 and I-77, I was traveling 5-10 miles per hour. Jaci was just finishing shoveling the driveway when I arrived.

Boston, being very sick, skipped dinner and went to sleep in Ridley's bed (the lower bunk) in case he got urpy in the night. I watched a little television with Tyler then took Ridley to bed with me so she wouldn't have to sleep in the top bunk. Ridley moves around a lot in her sleep and also talks. Even though she started out two-thirds of the way across my king-sized bed, by about 11:00 pm, I had about 13 inches of bed for myself and she was snugged up against me—and stayed that way all night.

This morning there was sleet, then rain, then snow. And more snow. And even more snow.

I was supposed to go to dinner at the Youngstown Club and to the Symphony with Ron and Marcia. Around 3:00 p.m. Ron called to tell me the YSO and the Youngstown Club had called to cancel, and the Youngstown Country Club was also closed. The kids have shoveled a little more today, and as I type Jaci is in the garage trying to figure out how to run the snow blower.

Cold. Cold. Cold.

Yes, I asked for this. And yes, it's fun. But I will be glad when it stops.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Second Verse, Same As the First

Another good day, more favorable impressions of this company. Another class in the workings of the software. Spent lunchtime gassing up the car (which will probably be a twice-a-week occurrence) and grabbing a Wendy's single. Edited "Understanding Virtual Hold" in the afternoon and learned how to store it in the online document library.

Rushed home to a pot luck dinner party Tyler and Jaci had planned to introduce some of their friends to me. It was wonderful to see Ron and Marcia again, the first time since last summer. John and Sherry came from next door; they became friends last summer when they invited me and the babes over while Ty and Jaci were in Chicago. Also in attendance were Deb, another late-in-life lawyer I'd been wanting to meet, and Susie and Ray, who live one street west. There were four or five Ph.D.s and two J.D.s in the room and lots of lively conversation (along with lots of great food). I loved that I could put the babies to bed and neither Tyler nor Jaci had to leave their guests. By the time it was over, I could barely hold my eyes open.

This morning I had to get up early as I'm tutoring a couple of students in reading at an elementary school near the office. This is part of the AkronReads program, which a number of companies support with volunteers from their staff. I'm pleased to have been asked if I wanted to participate, so I'm running out early this morning.

I woke at 5:30, then set my alarm for 6:30 so I could sleep a little more. Alas, at 5:40 I heard my door open and this awful hacking cough preceded Boston down my hall. He appears to have caught his sister's cold.

I only like and miss and want my mother when I'm sick. Something about those bowls of tomato soup as a child imprinted her into my mind as good to have around when I'm sick. Maybe that's the only time she really paid attention to me. In any event, I was surprised that Boston came to me this morning rather than his mother or daddy. I was glad to be able to get up and find some things in the kitchen to help him feel better. I was glad to be able to take some of the load of T&J, to let them sleep after they worked so hard yesterday afternoon and evening to welcome me.

Boston asked me if I'd get him a Vitamin C and some cold milk. "Not hot milk. I don't like hot milk anymore. Hot milk tastes like macaroni and cheese but somebody left something out."

Now off to help a couple of struggling readers.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho

Yesterday was my first day at Virtual Hold Technology. I wanted to write about it last night, but I was completely brain-dead and exhausted by the time I got home.

When I arrived at the office yesterday morning, my desk was preloaded with VHT goodies: a fabulous travel mug, two coffee cups, a water cup, a VHT pen, two pocket packs of mints, a clock, a little skooshie thing that I don't even know what to call, and a little teddy bear wearing a VHT t-shirt. Later in the afternoon, the VHT gear lady arrived, and I was outfitted with a great monogrammed shirt and fleece jacket. The motto emblazoned on all of these goods: "Virtual Hold Technology: the world won't wait." Cute.

I've been very favorably impressed with this company and all the people I've met from day one. There are about 70 employees, and they hope to grow to 100 this year. They've got it all figured out. At IBM, I had to wait three days for my userid; At VHT, my userid was put in place and my Outlook mailbox set up three weeks ago so I could see the e-mails that have been going around before I arrived. A brand new Dell laptop was waiting for me, including all the software I'll need. Impressive.

And education. I spent yesterday in classes, learning what virtual queuing is, how it works, what the Virtual Hold product is and the process that is utilized whenever we get a new customer—to sell, to install, to follow-up. Impressive.

Whenever a customer signs a sales contract, an e-mail is sent to the entire staff. The subject line on the e-mail is "Ding Ding Ding." In the early days, when there were only a few employees, there was a small bell that would be rung whenever they made a sale. So that tradition continued, and new a cyber bell rings to signal further growth.

The drive was not bad, even though it was raining and snowing when I left in the morning. I made it easily in one hour, with time to explore and find the nearest Starbucks. As I ordered a muffin, Liz (behind the register) noted she hadn't seen me there before and asked my name. She said she hoped to see me frequently. Ah, heaven.

So all in all, a Very Good Day for a Very New Employee at Virtual Hold Technology. I'm pleased.

Oh, and the marketing director took my boss, the Tech Pubs Manager, and me to lunch at the Mexican restaurant around the corner. Mexican in Ohio? Sorry, kiddies, it was just as good as any Mexican restaurant I routinely visited in Tucson.

By all appearances, this is the start of a beautiful relationship.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

It's Raining, It's Pouring

Well, it wasn't exactly pouring. Just a steady rain. A steady cold rain. The temperature was about 35 degrees, and the rain just kept on keeping on.

I had rented a 10'x20' storage unit at U-Store-It in Boardman. The first unit I had was in a long building that the moving van would have had great difficulty navigating. I saw that unit on Saturday and worried about it all day. Then I went back on Monday and got a temperature-controlled unit. Access was very easy. My guy Phil was able to pull the big rig right up to the door and then there was a schlep of maybe twelve feet to put the boxes and furniture into the space.

Midway through the four hour unload, we started worrying that we would run out of space. I went up to the office and determined there was another 9'x9' unit adjacent to the first unit, so I stopped worrying. When Jim and Mike finished unloading, we had about one square foot of floor space left and didn't need the extra unit.

After offloading everything that was going into storage, we trekked to the house to offload the piano, television and clothing.

The guys reassembled the piano, then realized that the piano bench was in storage, along with the two braces for the pedals. I had not seen them come off the truck and come out of a blanket, and the local guys didn't know what to look for. Phil felt strongly that they would just have been lying on top of something.

So, back I went. Promising Boston and Ridley a trip to the mall so Jaci could go vote, I tucked a step stool into the car and drove the ten miles back down to Boardman. I stood on a stool and could see the foot of the piano bench in the far corner of the unit, about as far away and inaccessible as one piece of furniture could be. And the pedal braces? Nowhere to be found. I'll have to see if Steinway makes replacement braces available or if I'll have to find a woodworker to copy them from a similar piano.

The only damage was one leg of an antique chair, which had obviously been broken and repaired earlier in its life. And the crown on my antique armoire jiggled apart in the move. Once I get my own place, a furniture repair person can easily repair that damage.

Phil was a sweetheart, the kind of workman that you just want to hug. I'm relieved to have this task accomplished, but aghast that I have so much stuff. How did I accumulate that much stuff? And how much of that stuff do I really need?!

Okay, we won't discuss how much of it was books and fabric.

I have a bumper sticker I got at Waechter's Silk Shop in Asheville years ago. It says, "I have the most fabric and I'm not dying until I sew it."

Tomorrow: The first day on the new job.

Toto, We're Not In Tucson Anymore

I've been spending lots of time at the mall. I haven't spent time in malls since I worked at Nordstrom and would make a quick lap from Nordie's to Macy's and back on my break.

The children are trapped inside the house with the cold and snow and rain, so I've packaged trips to the play area at the mall with my errand trips, or a Sunday morning trip to McDonald's to let the babies play while their parents sleep or relax over a quiet breakfast.

You know how I love clothes and people-watching. I have to tell you it's astonishing to see men in suits. Tucson is so low-key where fashion is concerned. There are some very expensive shops in the foothills, and plenty of high society fund-raisers where people dress to the "nines." But the norm is ultra-casual, jeans, Ts, sandals. It is not unusual to see an IBM or Raytheon engineer wearing shorts and sandals to work in January.

The other thing that's a shock to see is that there are actually people walking around the mall midday midweek. I guess they're retired or students or housewives, but it just feels so odd to see people who spend time at the mall.

Of course, this is being written by someone who has spent no less than half an hour at either the mall or McDonald's play room every day for the past four days!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

That's Why I'm Here

The title of a beloved James Taylor song occurred to me this afternoon as I sat in the Ford Family Recital Center at the DeYor Performing Arts Center with Boston, Ridley and Jaci. We were watching Tyler perform in "Forever Plaid."

My history of watching Tyler perform goes back to Georgetown Day High School when he was the dentist in "Little Shop of Horrors." I attended many performances at Interlochen Arts Camp and Interlochen Arts Academy. Then came Youngstown State University and performances at St. John's Episcopal and the Youngstown Playhouse and Dana School of Music.

Now everything has come full circle. Tyler is back on stage and I'm back in the audience—smiling, laughing, clapping, singing along under my breath.

If you're not familiar with the title song of today's post, here are the opening lyrics:
Person to person and man to man
I'm back in touch with my long lost friend
Listen to reason and understand
Think of me from way back when

I'm back in touch with my long lost grandbabies and we are enjoying every minute of our time.

- - -
Edited several hours later:
After the show, we all went to Maureen and Todd's (the founders of Easy Street Productions) for a cast and crew party, including pizza, sandwiches, beverages, and a replay of the show tape recorded during this afternoon's performance.

At one point I called Boston over to remind him of an incident from this afternoon that he had missed. He climbed up in my lap to sit and watch with me. After a while he ran off to tell his sister something, then came back to me and sat on my lap again for another ten minutes.

There were thirty chairs in the room, including those occupied my his mother and father. But he chose to come sit on my lap and lean up against me.

I am blessed.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Post Peragro Depression

I've got a bit of the-trip-is-over depression. For one solid year I have been traveling to see my babies, looking for a job, angsting over the challenges with my IBM manager, and generally wishing I was ABH (anywhere but "here"). Suddenly, I have accomplished everything I set out to do and have to learn how to move forward while figuring out where forward is!

Last night I learned that the horrible IBM manager—whose objection to my telecommuting caused me to have to leave a job I love—has been removed from management, quite possibly (in large part) because of the way he treated me. I feel somewhat vindicated, but at the same time just sick to my stomach. Why did I have to be the lamb that was slaughtered? Yes, the new salary is great, but I'm a smidge scared about starting a new job. I've mastered (and beautifully, thank you very much) every job I've ever undertaken, but as my first day of the new job draws closer, I'm a little frightened. And if this man had been removed earlier in the game, I probably wouldn't have had to leave.

Last night as I slid under the covers and turned out the light, I wanted to cry for all the losses in my life and for the unknown of what's ahead. I always say there's something better around the corner ahead and I just can't see it yet. I need to be in less of a hurry to reach the corner.

I need to learn how to live where I am now. I need to learn how to be a part of a family—after being so alone for so long—while still giving Tyler and Jaci enough space to still be themselves. I need to keep my mouth shut or to quickly close it when it pops open to correct the children. I'm not their mother; Jaci does a damned fine job with that role. I'm simply their grandmother: here to support them and encourage them and love them; here to help build wonderful memories of their childhood. Tyler and Jaci don't need a mother, they need a helper, an aide, a personal assistant.

I walked into the kitchen at 5:00 this morning to get a cracker and my icepack to go with my Excedrin. I looked around and the kitchen was clean. I felt good about my love of order and my ability to clean up after Jaci's cooking, to give them that bit of order in their lives. Maybe this afternoon I'll do some laundry and I can feel good about my ability to take that burden off Jaci.

It snowed all day yesterday. It was beautiful and I love watching it out the window. The night was bright out my window with the reflection off the accumulated snow. I need to relearn how to get out in it and navigate and not feel intimidated.

I need to learn to find a happy medium between the level of activity I had in Tucson and a reasonable level of activity.

And I need to make some new friends so I won't feel so adrift in the sea.

I spent one whole day doing nothing. Now it's time to start over again.