Thursday, April 30, 2009

Oops! Thursday

My Oops! today is an almost-Oops! If you follow me on the various social media, you know this is hell week. I've been in chorus rehearsals in Akron everey night until 9:30 or 10:00. Last night I turned into my driveway at 11:00 p.m.

Today I'm meeting my old boss for lunch, then another late rehearsal tonight. Tomorrow we have our final AkronReads event with the kids at Judith Resnick school, and I've ordered books from Amazon as gifts for my two tutees. Tomorrow night we have dress rehearsal for the Brahms German Requiem, in preparation for our Saturday night performance.

As you can imagine, I'm exhausted. Somewhere between last night and this morning, I decided to get a hotel room in Akron tonight. This morning I was packing my overnight bag and opening the computer to go to the Marriott Rewards site and reserve a room.

All of a sudden it hit me—the books from Amazon had not arrived. I have to drive back to Youngstown tonight to pick up the gift books, then do my normal drive back to Akron in the morning for work.

The good part of this averted-Oops!? At least I remembered this fact this morning, not as I was slipping between the sheets in the Akron Marriott COurtyard at 10:15 tonight!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Jan Mode

My colleague at work, a smart young woman who is working on a master's degree in technical communication, is passionate about her work. Everything matters to her, from the fonts used in our documents to the number of levels a numbered list is nested. And she will argue vehemently to make her point understood by developers or QA engineers or our manager.

She and I do not share that passion. We shop at the same stores, favor the same designers, and both love Germany. But I'm very easy-going at work. You think your way of doing something is better than mine? Fine, we'll do it your way. I don't care. I'm very adaptable. (By the way, that adaptability is also why I think eHarmony would never accept me as a member, although I applied three times!)

She has tried lately to become less passionate, to let water roll off her back. She refers to this new way of being as "Jan Mode".

Last Friday we had a situation in the office where she and I were moved into cubicles in a large room filled with support engineers. This room roars at a constant din, absolutely not conducive to concentrating on writing and editing. This move prompted in me one of the worst days I've had on this job. My colleague said I was in "Nicole Mode" and needed to get out of it.

As we were discussing "Jan Mode", I shared with her how determined Boston is (we called it "hard-headed" in his father). I told her about the incident where he refused to put the hood on his jacket down at dinner. I told her I was going to try to teach him to "pick his battles", something John taught me at 40. She said I needed to teach Boston about "Jan Mode".

Will this be what I'm famous for, the refusal to get wrapped around the axle about a document that may or may not even be read?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Wanna Go Shopping With Me?

(No, I'm not going to leave it there and plant flowers in it!)

I love old houses. Really, I do. I don't like old appliances or fixtures, but I do love old houses with tons o' character and a history of their own.

So yesterday the circa 1959 toilet in the main bathroom started running, squealing, and—ultimately—not flushing. I took the day off today to bring in a plumber. He looked at the old toilet, a Case, and told me the parts would be very hard to find, and would probably cost more than a new toilet. So I rescheduled him to come back in the afternoon, and headed out to Lowe's, 10%-off coupon in hand.

I quickly found the toilet that I thought would be a suitable replacement. Then I wandered through the washer and dryer department, after realizing my 40-year-old dryer is not drying the laundry. Oh, and my washer, that Ty and Jaci let me take from their stash of old, unused appliances? It makes horrible noises and doesn't have a gentle-enough cycle to handle my silk yardages and cashmere sweaters.

The salesman pointed me to a 12-months-same-as-cash deal. Then he helped me find the right appliances, not the GE model that Consumer Reports had encouraged me to buy. Twenty minutes later I walked out of Lowe's, the proud owner of a new Bosch front-loading washer and dryer (to be installed next Saturday) and a new toilet.

Hannah Homeowner, that's my name. Spending money, that's my game. (Ugh. Let the games end!)

Trash Talk

The more I watch Youngstown sanitation workers pick up the trash, the more I think there must be a better way to collect the detritus of life that's deposited at the curb weekly.

In Tucson we had standardized trash cans—large, rolling, available from the City. No deviation from the standard. They were to be placed at the curb so there was a three-foot clearance on either side of the can.

The truck was driven by a sanitation worker who never left the driver's seat. He drove up alongside the can and pulled a lever that extended the truck arms. The arms grabbed the can securely, lifted it into the air over the truck, and emptied it into the open top of the truck. Bam. Boom. Done!

The last time I was home when the Youngstown truck came by, I noticed the driver put the truck into park, get out and walk around the truck to the curb. His routine: He picks up any bags that have been left there, then he opens up any existing cans. The cans are all mismatched; there is no standard. If there are bags in the cans, he lifts them out of the cans and throws into the truck. Once the bags are light enough to lift, he dumps the contents into the truck. Then he gets back into the cab and drives to the next house.

Okay, let's do a little time study. Think about the amount of time it takes the Tucson truck to grab and dump the can and then move on to the the next house. Now compare that to the amount of time it takes to shift the truck into park, get out (while successfully dodging oncoming cars), walk around and pick up five or six bags and several cans, then dodge cars again and get back into the cab to drive to the next house.

If I were voting on the smartest way to pick up the city garbage, I'd vote for the techniques Tucson employs.

Friday, April 24, 2009


As spring settles in, I have loved discovering the violets and grape hyacinths that had escaped from the flower beds and come to grow in the lawn. The ever-heightening blades of grass.

I've got to buy a lawnmower. Among the numerous items I need (better washer and dryer, rug for the bathroom, . . .), the lawnmower is at the top of the list. The rain keeps coming and the grass keeps growing.

The other day I was trying to remember the last time I bought a lawnmower. I think it was 1972, when FOMC and I bought our first house in Oviedo, Florida. After our divorce, I lived in apartments until I moved into Second Husband's townhouse in Montgomery Village, MD. Then I moved into DC, where the "lawns" could be cut with a WeedWhacker. Then I moved to Third Husband's 27 acres in Western Loudoun County. Three to five of those acres were mowable, the rest wooded. He had a lawn tractor. And, of course, being the good Mormon husband, he took care of everything outside the house and nothing inside. Nothing! Then I moved back into the city, and Good Husband and I had only gardens, not grass, in the house overlooking the zoo. When I lived in Tucson, all landscaping was rocks and cactus. Now, here I am with a lawn again.

I would like to find a good used mower that I could get for, maybe, less than $200. But I've got my eye on a new Black & Decker at Lowe's that is a cordless electric model. Gas fumes are a migraine trigger for me. Right now, I have the kind and helpful Brad who has said he'll mow the yard. But someday (probably too soon!), he's going to decide he wants to have his own space and privacy, and then I'm left to mow the lawn. I'm not willing to risk a migraine every time I mow, so I think I'll be stopping by Lowe's on the way home from work tonight.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Oops! Thursday

Early on the morning of 9/11/01, the phone rang. I was living in Tucson, three hours behind the East Coast, and it was about 5:00 a.m. EEFFH and I looked at each other and asked, "who on earth would be calling at this hour." He was awake, sitting in the easy chair, watching some talking heads he had TiVo'd from the night before. I was just waking.

When I answered the phone, PianoLady said, "A plane just crashed into the World Trade Center. Turn on the television." We quickly hung up and I asked Steve to switch the channel, thinking she meant a Cessna or some similar small plane had made a fatal error.

For the next two hours, we sat, transfixed, staring at the horror that was occurring before our eyes. At various times, I thought of calling Tyler and Jaci. But I was sure they would have turned on the television as soon as they woke, and with a three-week-old baby in the house, surely they'd be awake.

Two hours later, when he was on his way to work, Tyler called me and asked me if I knew what was happening. I told him of PianoLady's call and that we'd seen the whole thing. He and Jaci were completely unaware until he tuned to NPR on the car radio on the way to work.

I have relived my thoughtlessness several thousand times since that day. I'm so sorry I didn't go ahead and call them to ensure they knew what was happening. For every major piece of news since then, I've asked myself if it was important enough to call them.

My instinct was to call. The lesson I learned was to trust my instinct!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Consequences of All That Driving

In case you're new to my blog, or have been living under a rock for 14 months, my life is all about commuting. I drive 60 miles each way every day. On good days, the total commute is two hours. On rainy or snowy or foggy days, or days when drivers with cell phones plastered to their ears are sitting in front of me in the fast lane, the total drive can take up to 3.5 hours. That's my record, so far.

When I left Tucson 14 months ago, my odometer read 52xxx.

Tonight, around 9:50 p.m., as I was driving home from rehearsal, my odometer rolled over to 100000.

That's just a whole lotta miles!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

When Little Girls Play

Last Friday night, Boston and Ridley had a sleepover with Grandma that coincided with one of Makayla's nights with her dad. Brad organized a pick-up game of football, but the girls quickly tired of that action and started devising girly things to do. Their activity of choice? Making a bird's nest to help out all the birds in the 'hood who are looking for places to start their families.

When I came out to check up on the outdoor action, the girls showed me their "bird's nests". Ever the wise seven-and-a-half-year-old, Boston leaned up to me and whispered, "I don't think the birds will really come live there."

Love these kids!

Sewing Update

Do you sometimes wish I adhered to a theme on this blog?! I'm afraid my life is too unfocused for that to happen.

The knickerbockers for Boston are a polyester (yuck!) gray stripe suiting from Jo-Ann's. They look like menswear suiting. I wanted something washable and inexpensive. I prefer natural fibers, but a linen would wrinkle too much, and wool wouldn't be washable. Well, there are washable wools, but that would be more money than I wanted to put into this project.

I actually learned a lesson on Ridley's dress. I bought a $2/yard solid cotton in the quilting department, and it did not sew well. Every stitch mark where I unsewed was visible. It was better after washing, but I won't buy that cheap a fabric again for any project. I put too much work into these garments!

Sunday night I took the knickers over for Boston to try on. The Burda pattern had them ankle length! That's not quite what the lyrics mean when they say "does he rebutton his knickerbockers below the knee?" So Jaci and I determined what the length should be. Back home they came, and the cuff was removed and about 8 inches removed from the length of the leg. I cut and interfaced new cuffs. Tomorrow night I'll attach those cuffs, finish, and make buttonholes. I'll also had a trouser hook to the waistband to supplement the button and make it align better.

I ordered suspenders from and will sew buttons on the knickers for the braces when they arrive. Every photo I see from the period shows boys wearing braces. The knickers also have belt loops, in case that's the preference.

By Friday, the knickers will be finished and I'll be on to another dress to give Jaci some choices.

I'm really loving this project!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Border issues

After having lived eight years in Tucson, I hear stories about Mexican border issues with a higher interest level than when I lived elsewhere. Much of the high crime rate in Tucson is attributed to the drug traffic and traffickers dealing in Mexican "imports", both human and pharmacological. Now that the former governor of Arizona is Secretary of Homeland Security, these stories have double the interest to me.

The other morning I was listening to NPR on my commute, and a story came on about Napolitano working with the president of Mexico and his administration to find ways to stop illegal border crossings and drug traffic..

But I am of the opinion that the Mexican government really doesn't care. Why should they? In the U.S., we care about people moving out of our area, because it means a lower tax base for supporting our city/county infrastructure. We want residents to occupy homes in Youngstown. Yes, we want to get rid of abandoned, delapidated-beyond-repair homes, but the fact that those homes will no longer bring in tax revenue, multiplied by the number of homes that stand abandoned, is a major concern.

But why should the Mexican government care if hundreds of people cross the border to trek across the Arizona desert, leaving their detritus behind? Doesn't that just mean a hundred more people that the Mexican government doesn't have to care for, doesn't have to provide services for?

And why should they care about the drug trade? Aren't their bribes to be collected, friends to be made for ignoring it?

Really, what is the incentive for the Mexican government to try to stop drug trafficking? There's such an incredible amount—mind-boggling, really—of money to be made in that "industry". Isn't trying to stop it a bigger job than that government is up to? Just try to break the problem down to the component issues; it's not just about the drugs themselves. There are issues of money, power, control, ….

I don't know how the U.S. government can stop either of these problems. Bigger minds than mine have failed in trying to halt it. But sometimes I just find the concept of the U.S. government trying to work with the Mexican government laughable.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

On Our Way to River City

My sewing room clock is ticking very loudly. I need to get Boston's and Ridley's costumes for "The Music Man" finished as soon as possible, to allow time for any adjustments that need to be made.

Jaci found a pattern she loved, but it only was available in size 4, and Ridley is a size 7. So I've made a test dress first. I will use the pattern pieces from this dress to alter the size 4 pattern to come up with the "real" dress.

First there's an outer dress, with pearl buttons at the closure and decorating the pockets. A ½" tie snugs the dress around the waist of our little darling.

The underdress is a simple sleeveless dress with a sweet ruffle on the hem.

When Ridley puts on the underdress and then the outerdress, this is what you'll see. The sweet little ruffle peaking out of the outerdress.

The color did not show up clearly in these photos. Here's the real color of the outerdress.

Writing on Writing

I subscribe to Tom Johnson's "I'd Rather Be Writing" blog. Tom earns his living as a technical writer, as I do, and I frequently find good tips in his writing.

People have asked me what a technical writer is. Basically, I tell people how to do things. My field is computers and technology; I write and edit manuals telling people how to install, upgrade, and use Virtual Hold software and its many components. I install and uninstall our software over and over again on one of our servers, and I make sure the documentation matches, step by step, the actions required to install it correctly and make sure it works. My job requires logical thinking skills, an attention to detail, and a lot of patience.

I did a lot of technical writing before law school, but law school honed my knowledge of how to focus, and how to break complex topics down to the core issues. My previous job, as editor-in-chief of, came to me specifically because of my law degree and my ability to think like a lawyer.

Tom Johnson's post earlier this week, What to Blog/Write About, rang true to me. My job isn't all that creative. But my blog fills me with contentment.

I look back at the early posts, and read samples from various points throughout the years—It will be two years old the first of July!—and I'm amazed at how much my writing style as grown and improved through daily use.

The blog started out with a theme—dating, and specifically online dating, over age 50—but over time has just turned into random musings in the life of a lonely pushing-60 widow.

The blog and the writing process feed themselves. I have thoughts throughout the day of posts I want to write. A book I'm listening to, something I hear on the radio during my commute, a movie I watch, a conversation I overhear—all these spawn topics for blog posts. And at almost-59, with no estrogen, I have little short-term memory, so I have to write them down. I use the Notes application on my iPhone to keep a running list of topics I want to blog about.

Motivation? The desire to feel the thrill of creativity and the kind comments from readers. Not many people actually write comments on the blog itself, but I get lots of e-mails. And if I don't write a post for several days, I get e-mails asking if I'm okay.

I encourage you to develop a writing habit. Whether it's a daily two-sentence entry in a journal, a pattern of writing a letter to someone every day, or a blog, I believe the exercise will feed your soul, as it does mine.

Thanks for reading my writing!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Oops! Thursday

Throughout high school, my mother would tell me on a regular basis what horrible handwriting I had. Always wanting to please her, I spent the entire Christmas break of my junior year recreating my handwriting style. I vividly remember lying on the floor next to the record player, testing loops and curves, starting with A, moving on to B, painstakingly developing a handwriting style that I liked. I would listen to operettas and musical soundtracks singing along at the top of my lungs. I didn't stop until I had a Z that I liked.

When I was done and school started again, I utilized my new handwriting and was quite proud of it.

My mother never noticed and never said a word.

The lesson that came out of that exercise: If you're going to improve something about yourself, do it for yourself, not for anyone else. No one else cares!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Taxman Cometh

I've been smiling throughout the day today as I remembered that it was April 15. John, who always referred to himself as the grasshopper and me as the ant, loved to procrastinate on his taxes (along with many other things). He prided himself on finishing them at 10:30 or so on the evening of the 15th. He would hop in the car and drive down to the main post office, next door to Union Station, and get in the line of cars whose drivers were handing their tax envelopes out the window to friendly postal workers standing in the street.

In those years, the D.C. television stations would always have cameras posted at the main station, and John would hope he could get on TV, then race home to see if he could see himself.

Me? I'd finish them on January 2 if I could, but since I can't, I procrastinate until the first of April. My accountant said I brought them in at just the right time—between the wave of very organized people and that of super-procrastinators.

I mailed the last return off yesterday. Whew! And the refunds I'm getting are greater than the underpayments I had to make good.

May all your returns yield refunds!

My Famous Babes

Ty and Jaci were interviewed for a Marketplace segment, which was broadcast today.

Music to My Ears

The sun teased us for an hour yesterday morning, then ducked behind the heavy cloud cover. The rain has been virtually non-stop ever since.

Whenever I woke through last night, I lay here listening to the glorious sound of the rain. This morning, before daybreak, I heard twenty or so birds outside my window, chirping along with the plinking sound of the raindrops on the pavement.

I adore sitting quietly and listening to the rain. Eight years of living in the desert will create that craving in you. There's a peacefulness—a feeling of restoration—that accompanies the rain. (Oh, and if you've never experienced the monsoon rains in the desert—well, they're a sight to behold. Unbelievable and unforgettable.)

If you're sick of the rain around here, just move to the desert for a couple of years!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Colors, Words, Notes

I loved yesteday's Real Simple Daily Thought from artist Joan Miró:

I try to apply colors like words that shape poems, like notes that shape music.

The [good] painter is coming back today to apply some more finishing touches, and I love the colors I've chosen for the house—warm, classic, elegant.

Tonight is another rehearsal of the Brahms Requiem, so today I'll be preparing by listening to its lush notes while at work.

I continue my work on a dress for Ridley, and every time I sit at the sewing machine, I am grateful for the knowledge and skill I've amassed over 45 years of sewing.

And as I get ready to head out the door, the sun is shining. That's like music to my eyes!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Good Holiday; Glad It's Over

This morning the scale attested to the fact that I've consumed way too many Cadbury Mini-Eggs over the past few weeks. I'm thankful that Easter is gone and all the candy will be out of the stores! Maybe I'll develop some mini-egg will power before next Easter.

Included in my thankfulness today is a daughter-in-law who is a fabulous cook and loves to entertain.

Hope you had a nice Easter weekend.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Real Estate Mysteries

My wonderful Tucson realtor, Bill Gaul, e-mailed me yesterday and included a link to the listing for my sweet little mid-town charmer. I wrote here and here last summer about selling this house.

What on earth was this guy thinking? Was this a house flip? He buys it for $282K, forcing me to come up with $45K at closing—from which I sometimes think I'll only recover in death!—and turns around seven months later and lists it for $289K? Neighbors tell me it looks like he's never moved in.

But look at the pictures. I had the most beautiful stand of Night-Blooming Cereus outside the living room window. I would sit for hours on the couch by the window, staring at those unique blossoms. I would open the windows to drink in their incredible fragrance. His improvements to the house? Removing all but one of the Night-Blooming Cereus. Oh, and removing the fence around the pool. Unless he has now locked the gates to the backyard, he no longer meets code. Oh, and look at the photo of the adobe playhouse at the back corner of the yard and notice all the weeds in the backyard. It didn't look that way when I lived there!

Let it gooooooo.

And may he get killed in the real estate market for the pain he inflicted on me.

That lovely old settled neighborhood deserves a far better resident that this boy turned out to be.

What's Next?

As I age (here we are again on this same theme), I'm aware that I frequently sound negative. FOMC used to say, 30+ years ago, that I complained all the time. I never considered it complaining. I thought I was just stating the truth. But when I look at my Tweets and my Facebook statuses (stati?) and my blog posts, I'm aware that readers could interpret these words as negative.

So I feel the need to elucidate what is good about my life.
  • I live three blocks away from my beloved grandchildren and get to spend lots of time with them.

  • In spending lots of time with my g'babes, I am able to help their parents—giving them the ability to enjoy unfettered adult time without worrying about their children.

  • I have a good job that pays me appropriately and feels fairly secure in this uncertain climate.

  • I have a lovely house that I'm slowly turning into a home.

  • I have occasional opportunities to use my musical abilities. (Currently I'm helping the barbershop quartet from "The Music Man" in their rehearsals.)

  • I have, finally, time to sew and a fabric stash that could carry me through the next two years without re-entering a fabric store.

  • I have some wonderful friends. Alas, most of them live many miles away. Which leads me to:

  • I am technologically savvy and can use the Internet and my high-tech cell phone to keep in touch with my friends-in-far-places.

  • I am healthy.

So I may not have a life that's structured as I would like, but I have a good life.

Things could be much worse!

The Deterioration of Hope

As each day passes between "today" and my next birthday, I'm more and more aware of getting older. And of my loneliness. I glance into the cars I pass on my daily 120-mile drive. I notice men and women traveling together, especially those who can be identified as husband-and-wife or long-term partners.

I've been out of a relationship for six years. I've been out of a lovely marriage for eleven years. I getting to the point where I can no longer remember what it's like to be with someone, to [have to] care about what someone else thinks or wants.

I see people kissing, and I can't remember what that feels like. I vaguely remember a flutter in the pit of one's stomach, a feeling of lightness, a glow emanating from one's very being. But I can no longer remember how you get to that point, what attracts you to the other person, what makes you want to hold hands or lock lips.

My cubemate terminated the contract to buy a house this week. She and her husband had found a lovely repossessed home on four acres along a lakeshore. They were thrilled at this find. But the bank chose not to cooperate, to act badly. The result was water damage to the house that will cost $120K to repair. After looking for so long, after finally deciding on this one house of many reviewed, my colleague is very depressed and sad. She must now start over from scratch.

My colleagues and I have been trying to boost her spirits, to assure her that there's an even better house waiting for her. And when one colleague came by our end of the hall to encourage her, I told him I'd been saying that to myself about finding a man, and it hadn't worked yet. He joked that maybe my man was a woman.

I told him that, with my new supershort hairstyle, I've been concerned that any man I might meet will think I'm a Lesbian, especially when most of my women friends in Youngstown are Lesbian. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. I love being with these women friends. It's just not me.)

We laughed and he assured me that his words didn't mean anything—had no hidden meaning. He said he thinks men would be intimidated by me, by my education and my talent and all I've accomplished or experienced in my life. Well, that's a good line, and a thoughtstream I have pondered many times in the past.

Really, wouldn't you rather have a man deserving of all the wonderfulness that is you, rather than just a man?

I would. I agree. But that doesn't assuage the loneliness.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Mystical Ancestors

At the suggestion of my sister-in-law, Molly, I'm reading (listening to) David McCullough's biography of John Adams.

My birthmother lived in Gloucester from birth until retirement, when she and her husband moved to Orlando. I found her when I was 33, in 1983. She had no interest in getting to know me or having any connection with me. We exchanged letters once, and she asked me never to contact her again. I respected her wishes, but I so missed knowing her, at least a little. My personal solution to this great sadness was to research her genealogy.

I remember vividly the first time I saw her family on paper—specifically, on microfiche at the National Archives in Washington, DC. When I walked out of the Archives carrying a paper copy of the 1910 census record, I felt like I was sitting on a cloud. I felt, for the very first time in my life, like I had a connection to the Universe. Up until that moment, for the first 33 years of my life, I felt like I didn't belong anywhere. Now I had connections, I had ancestors, I had an identity. It was a breathtaking moment in my life, and still brings tears to my eyes when I remember that revelation.

I spent bits of time over the next few years continuing to dig into my past. I would get one ancestor's death certificate, then write to an office in Gloucester requesting that person's marriage certificate or birth certificate. A month or so later, a handwritten copy would arrive in my mail box. Then I would go search around in the Archives or in the Mormon library in Kensington, MD, find another name, and send off for that death or birth or marriage certificate. It was a slow, tedious process, and I loved every minute of it. Part of the reason I decided to go to law school was my love of the research process.

The farthest back I was able to go—the first person I was able to find in the Colonies—was a man named Osmun Dutch, who settled in Essex, MA, in 1622. He moved to Gloucester a few years later, and all his descendants and my ancestors lived in Gloucester from that point forward. I've visited Gloucester twice; to drive around that city and see streets named for my ancestors simply fills my soul. You may remember that I drove to Chicago last year for the weekend, just to see the Edward Hopper exhibition at the Art Institute. His "Hodgkins House" was the house my grandmother lived in. I imagined sitting at Hopper's easel as he gazed at my family's home and interpreted it in oils.

I listen to "John Adams" and hear of events in the Boston area and points east during the mid-1700s. I imagine what my family members were doing in that time period. I learn what life was like for them—the hardships, the joys, the challenges.

I'll never be able to know, factually, what kind of people I'm descended from. I know my musicality came from somewhere back there. I choose to believe that my dedication and motivation and hard-working nature came from them also. I'll never know them, but I love imagining them.

What are you reading?

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Oops! Thursday

Wayyy back in 1969, PianoLady and I were freshmen music majors at Florida Technological University. Yes, I know, not the expected place to go for a music degree, but it was a brand new university and it was on the east side of Orlando, convenient for Orlando residents. (It is now known as University of Central Florida.)

I believe there were four piano majors at the time, plus a handful of other musicians who took private lessons, sang in the choir, or played in the orchestra. On a lightning-striking kind of day, PianoLady and I sat down at side-by-side pianos and started playing "If Ever I Would Leave You", from the then-in-theatres movie Camelot (which she adored!). As fate would have it, we played the exact same arrangement with the exact same timing and the exact same tag on the end. We just looked at each other and grinned. A musical match made in heaven had been formed.

We each took private lessons from Dr. Leonidas Sarakatsannis, and we took a duo-piano lesson each week, as I recall. That fall, we were to perform in one of the marathon concerts that the FTU music department was known for. You know the kind—every music student performs something and the concert lasts for about two-and-a-half hours. It was held in the "Multi-Purpose Room" (i.e. cafeteria during the day, dance venue on Saturday nights, concert hall for the fledgling university). We were playing the third and fourth movements, "Tears" and "Russian Easter" from the Rachmaninoff Fantaisie-tableaux, Op. 5.

The audience at FTU was no more well-versed in the ways of classical music than many concertgoers of the present day. Looking at the program to determine how many movements were in a work was an unknown practice.

PianoLady and I played the third movement impeccably, then paused for a moment to gather our fingers before diving into the next movement. Alas, the audience started clapping. Dr. Sarakatsannis had not instructed us on what to do if this occurred. I think he assumed the audience would not be that ignorant (or that Cheryl and I would be less ignorant!). The applause continued. We looked at each other, got up from our twin piano benches, met on the audience side of the front piano, and bowed, then returned to our benches and sat down to start again.

That was forty years ago, and I still can feel the embarrassment when I realized what we had done wrong and how we should have handled the situation.

Lesson learned: turn your head to look at the audience, smile and nod in acknowledgement, and turn back to your keyboard. Wait for them to stop clapping. Start the next movement.

Isn't hindsight wonderful?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Shout Yo!

This morning I'd like to give a Youngstown shout out to a fabulous medical service provider.

I've noticed a drop in my visual acuity lately, and decided it was time for a new prescription. I checked my health insurance provider's website, asked my kids where they went, and made an appointment at Eye Care Associates with Dr. Robert Gerberry, their optometrist.

The entire visit ran smoothly, from start to finish. The office was spacious, clean and bright. (I went to the Western Reserve office as I needed a Saturday appointment.) The assistant who took all my information to enter into the computer was pleasant and thorough. Then I was taken to a comfortable waiting area where I waited only three or four minutes. The technician took me to an area where they had all the latest machines to test for glaucoma and to take eye measurements. She put the dilation drops in my eyes, and led me back to the waiting area for ten minutes or so, then took me to the examining room. The technician did the preliminary tests for the new prescription, then the doctor came in. He had a genteel chairside manner. He's been in practice for over 30 years. He knows his science, but he is also up-to-date on the latest findings in the field. He confirmed the technician's findings. In addition, he satisfactorily answered a question I've been posing to my previous optometrist for 20 years, explaining about sinus cavities and tear production and dry eyes. And he gave me some sample drops to try for this nagging condition.

He wrote the prescription for new glasses, and I walked across the hall to the optical showroom. I looked around on my own for about five minutes, then an optical technician came to help me find new glasses. He was friendly and kind, listening to my concerns. He helped me find a pair of frameless glasses that can still be plopped up on my head—just what I wanted! The office assistant wrote up the order efficiently, took my deposit, and gave me an extra copy of the invoice to file with my insurance company. I will return in a week to pick up the finished glasses.

Every person I dealt with on this visit was happy and friendly. There was not a frown or strident voice in the entire busy office.

Since my visit, I've heard messages on WYSU stating that Eye Care Associates is a supporter of public radio. I always like patronizing businesses that support public radio and television.

Do you have an eye situation that needs attention? I highly recommend Dr. Gerberry and Eye Care Associates. The Mahoning Valley is richer for having medical professionals like them in the area.

The Greatest Gift

I heard from my mother yesterday that her second-younger sister, Louise, is swiftly approaching the end of her life. Aunt Louise, who has always been my favorite of the four Gleason girls, has Parkinson's and has been in a hospital bed in her home for, probably, six months. Mother lives 150 yards away from Louise, but only goes to visit when my sister-in-law, Molly, or I harangue her. My last successful urging went to Mother in the form of, "Put yourself in her shoes. How would you feel if you were lying there in your bed and no one came to visit?" Mother walked up the hill that afternoon.

Thinking this morning about Aunt Louise, who always understood me and the little-adoptee hole in my soul when no one else could understand, I remembered John's deterioration toward death.

Our friend, Bill Elcome, lived on 16th Street a mile north of the White House. He loved to take long bicycle rides through the Washington area. His path would take him across Rock Creek Park and onto Irving Street, past our hilltop house overlooking the National Zoo. He knew he didn't need to call first. If he was riding by, he would drag his bike up on the porch, ring the doorbell, and be welcomed into our home.

John would be sitting in his recliner in the second floor family room. Bill would go up and sit with him. They'd talk—about golf, about sailing, about singing with The Washington Chorus. Or they'd sit quietly and watch some sports on television. I never knew exactly what went on, as this was their guy time.

These unannounced visits were the most precious time of John's final three months. Bill gave him the greatest gift that could be given: Bill treated John like he was a normal guy. He treated him like he was the same old John that Bill had known and sung with in the bass section for 10+ years. He treated him like he was a normal person, not a Cancer Victim.

To my dying day, I will be grateful to Bill for this gift. And I will try to pay it forward to everyone I know who is dying.

I wish I were in North Carolina so I could go sit with Aunt Louise for an hour. She would tell me again, as she does every time I visit, about the time when I was seven or eight years old and my cousin and I were playing hide-and-seek. They couldn't find me anywhere and finally looked up to see me on top of the refrigerator.

She lies in her bed now, twenty-four hours a day, alone with her memories. I hope they are all happy. And I wish her a smooth and easy passing.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

A Stitch in Time

To prepare for Brad and Makayla's arrival on Coronado Ave., I moved my sewing room to the basement. One of the things that prompted me to buy the house was the size of the bedrooms and the thought of having my sewing room on the same level as the bedroom. I was hopeful that accessibility would encourage me to do more sewing.

But now I love having the sewing room in the basement. There are two decent windows in the basement room. It's toasty on cold almost-spring days because the furnace is in the next room. And it's got lots of space. It does not have any electrical outlets, but right now I'm solving that riddle with a couple of long extension cords strong across the basement.

So what am I sewing? Did I mention my babes are appearing in The Music Man, staged by Easy Street Productions the second weekend in May? The costumes are outrageously expensive for the company to rent, so sewists are being called in to help.

Jaci found a vintage dress (1912) for Ridley, but it's not in the right size. I haven't yet learned how to slash-and-spread to get alter to the pattern to the right size, so I've found a similar modern pattern and I'm making it as a test. Once I know this fits, I'll work on the vintage pattern with the shape and size of this new pattern. If my plan works, we'll have a correctly fitting vintage-design dress.

My test pattern is a dress with a slip dress underneath. The slip dress is made in a small floral print on an off-white ground. The flowers are pink, orange, and purple. The overdress is purple. The slip dress has a ruffle on the bottom that just peeks out from under the overdress. I finished the slip dress on Sunday night (and it's darling!), and will finish the overdress tonight or tomorrow night.

Then it's on to knickerbockers for Boston. You remember how Harold Hill sings, ". . . rebutton his knickerbockers below the knee"? I found a Burda pattern and some gray striped [polyester - ugh] suiting. I'll make a test pair to see where I need to cut them off. This pattern illustration looks like they're ankle-length and that's just wrong.

I'm searching all the online stores, after cancelling my G Street run on Sunday. The polyester suiting doesn't feel like suit-weight. I'd like something a little heavier for the real pair of knickerbockers, and something containing some natural fibers. Polyester just isn't right for any year—1920 or 2009!

This project may be my greatest challenge this year. The vintage dress pattern has minimal instructions, so I've got to figure the whole thing out by drawing on my 45 years of sewing experience. And I've never sewn with a Burda pattern before. They're said to be more difficult to follow than American patterns. We'll see if this prompts me to explore the World of Burda, or to swear off them forever.

What are you doing with your hands this week?

Monday, April 06, 2009

Thank You, Helen

Moving into a new house before spring is a little like waiting for the hand-dyed silk to come out of the rinse, or waiting for the kiln to open after an overnight firing—you have no idea what's going to pop out of the ground.

I love*Love*LOVE daffodils. I grew up in a part of the country where daffodils don't grow. When I first moved to Washington in 1983, I fell in love with all the spring bulbs, but especially daffodils. Imagine my joy at finding lots of daffodils around my new house and in the lot next door.

I'm grateful to the former owner, Helen, for all the planting she did over the years.

In other signs of spring, a robin is building a nest outside my kitchen window. And a wild turkey strolled past my back porch yesterday and wandered across Jean and Marilyn's garden. We think he might live behind their garage.

It looks like living in this house might be just as much fun as living in a house with a view of National Zoo.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Job Hunting

A few days ago I heard from a girl with whom I was friends in elementary school and high school. We've recently become friends on Facebook, and she had posted some pictures from alumni weekend, which was held at the end of March.

She was a year behind me in school, and one of the photos showed her with a guy from my class. He was the nicest, sweetest guy, and I was good friends with his older sister, who was a singer. I commented on the photo that I was happy to see the photo of Sam, as he was such a good guy. In response, she e-mailed me that they had gotten engaged the night before the photo was taken.

Honestly, my initial reaction was some combination of envy and jealousy. It was not that I ever had a "thing" for Sam. It's that I'm lonely and long to have someone to love. The farther away I get from having loved someone, the less I can remember what it feels like.

Sometimes I think maybe there's a quota on the number of Significant Others one can have in her life. I had four husbands and one long-term relationship[-from-hell]. Is five the max? Am I now barred by the Universe from ever having another S.O.?

<Sidenote to cyberfriend FiveHusbands on>
Don't you hate it when people compare you to Elizabeth Taylor?
<Sidenote to cyberfriend FiveHusbands off>

I never went into marriage thinking, "I'm gonna see if I can hold the record for Most Husbands in One Lifetime." My childhood dreams were not of travel or education or stellar career. I planned for my career to be wife and mother. I knew my parents had not had a happy marriage. (Well, my mother did. My daddy didn't. It's all about perception, I guess.) I wanted to have a long and happy marriage, identified as the wife, best friend, and partner of some successful [probably doctor—that was the life I knew]. I wanted to love and be loved.

I am loved. I'm loved by my sons and daughter-in-law and grandchildren. But as far as someone who thinks of me in his quiet times, who longs to come home to our lovely together-space…; well, that died almost eleven years ago. And I miss it dearly. My kids are wonderful, but you don't go to your kids with your fears and sadnesses and tears. With your kids, you are the support system, the believer, the enricher. It takes a Significant Other to dry yours tears. Or a therapist.

If hunting for a mate can be analogyzed to hunting for a job, I've got the experience. I have five "previous employers" on my résumé, (plus about a hundred-and-seventy-three first dates). I know what to do and what not to do. Based on the photo taken last weekend by my older son, I'm not lookin' too bad for my age. I'm smart. I'm compassionate. I'm non-confrontational and adaptable.

It's a friggin' job hunt. Why can't I get the job?!

Should I just get a therapist?

Heart of My Heart

I was looking through some papers to find something for my new little housemate to draw on, and found a notebook I had used for a creativity workshop about six years ago, when Boston was about a year old and before his sister arrived.

On the first page of the notebook I found this verse:

        who laughs
        who splashes in the water
        who sings
        who loves the cat
            and the dog
            and the Diamondbacks
        who awakens with a smile

I love my sons, but grandchildren are something very special. Beyond measure.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Two Much Fun

With a tip of my cyberhat to our friend Janko, I share with you a delightful new toy, Wordle.

I thought it was particularly clever to pick up "Two Much Information" as the centerpiece for my blog.


Tax Friday

Directly on the heels of the first weekly Oops! Thursday is the first annual Tax Friday. My situation this year is made much more complicated by the sales of two—count 'em, two—houses last summer, at *e*n*o*r*m*o*u*s* cost.

Packer Thomas CPAs, conveniently located in downtown Youngstown, has a great online Tax Notebook. You enter all your information and push a button to send it to them. Then they review your paperwork, massage your numbers, and file the return.

I took the day off of work to finish this onerous task. I'm almost there. I promised myself a reward if I can complete this task today. The reward? I'm going to run down to Washington on Sunday to shop for fabric, attend a performance of my beloved Verdi Requiem at the KenCen in the afternoon, and have a bite with friends before I head back.

Oh, and as a side note, if there's any justice in the world, the windows will be back in place in Brad's room this afternoon. Two of the windows are back; the other two should be back in an hour or two. The door jambs may not get finished today, but at this point I just want those windows put back and a sense of semi-completion!

Hooray! Two triumphs in one day.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Oops! Thursday

I'm instituting a new activity on Amazing Adventures. I've seen a lot of blogs that have TMI (Too Much Information) Thursdays. I'm going to have Oops! Thursday. These will be incidents in my past where I made a fool of myself, or holes I wish I could take a Mulligan on. These sorts of days tend to hang in my brain for years and years. I'm hopeful that by writing about them, I can diminish their presence in my brain and learn from them, decreasing the likelihood of similar incidents in the future.

For the initial installment of Oops! Thursday, I'm remembering a day in my third year of law school. I was sitting in class and the fans were rotating overhead. They were noisy and disruptive, and the longer I sat there, the more obsessed I became with those fans, and the more I wanted them to stop. About 2/3 of the way through the class, I got up to go to the bathroom. As I passed the fan switch on the wall by the door, I quickly rotated it clockwise to turn them down, to slow their rotation and noise. (Righty tighty, lefty loosy, correct?) When I re-entered the classroom, I noted with pleasure that the fans were slower.

After class I felt the need to apologize to the professor for any disruption. I actually had no idea what disruption I had caused. Instead of a clockwise motion turning the fans down, it actually turned them up to the highest speed.

To do: figure out why I become so obsessed with things such as noisy fans, and learn how to turn the obsession down, rather than turning the fans down!